Sunday, July 8, 2012
X-men #31 - Monsters, Evolution, and Awesome
There are a handful of people for which I have absolutely no respect for and would laugh my ass off if I saw them passed out in the middle of the road with dicks painted on their face in permanent marker. Hypocrites are one of them. Whether it's in comics or real life, hypocrisy tends to make the biggest assholes that spew the smelliest shit. But coming in at a close second are creationists. Now I know I tend to make jokes about religion here every now and then, but for the most part I try to respect religious beliefs even if they are pretty ridiculous. But I can't respect creationists. There's having a sincerely held belief and then there's just being willfully retarded. If you have to work that hard to ignore reality, then you don't deserve a brain.
One of the appeals that I often find with the X-men comics is that they take evolution and shove it in the face of people for whom evolution might as well be synonymous with Naziism. Granted, comics get evolution wrong in the same way they get pretty much all of physics wrong, but at least comics don't claim to be science textbooks and people don't cite them the same way creationists cite Bronze Age mythology as if it were a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Marvel has never claimed to be scientifically accurate in the stories it tells. However, it does try to bring some elements of facts into the mix. They seem to understand that the education system in America is fucked and kids need to get their information somewhere. Better they get it from a comic than from a priest that tells them Jesus wants altarboys to pose naked in a windowless room.
The adjectiveless X-men series, which was recently taken over by Brian Wood, has become a series that focuses mostly on the basics of X-men comics. You've got a team of mutants that have a certain amount of sex appeal going up against threats that involve monsters that would make Darwin shit himself. In X-men #30, the X-men's security team began investigating a series of monster attacks. In the process they uncovered something that prompted Storm to go behind Cyclops's back. She understands that unlike the bullshit creation stories that Michelle Bachmann probably reads to her kids while her husband is seeing a gay prostitute, monsters don't just come out of nowhere.
X-men #31 has the security team taking on another monster, this time one that looks like Cthulhu on a bad hair day. It's a lot more imposing than the monster they faced in the last issue. This one requires more than jut a few kicks in the ass. In fact, it requires a special little surprise that Madison Jefferies built into their plane. It's probably something similar to what Sean Penn has built into his car (or wishes he did). It delivers a nice shock to the creature while Colossus flexes those Juggernat powers of his.
The battle doesn't last much longer than the one in the previous issue, which basically mean the monster falls apart like Tony Romo in the playoffs. For reasons that were only slightly explored in the previous issue this creature isn't exactly built to harass superheroes or even rip-off Godzilla. Psylocke tries to get in touch with the creature's mind to see if maybe it would consider taking a job as the new mascot for Fox News. It's probably more appealing than Rupert Murdoch anyhow. But in doing so, Psylocke uncovers a rather disturbing secret and orders the X-men to pull back. They do so just in time to see the creature self-destruct. It's as much of a WTF moment as it sounds, but at least Wood tries to infuse some mystery by making this a lot more flashy than the one in the previous issue.
After they finish adjusting to the notion of monsters blowing themselves up before they have a chance to attack them, the security team returns to a base where they meet up with one of Storm's contacts. Her name is Sabra and she looks and awful lot like this female cop that beat me over the head with her night-stick when I asked if she was a stripper (I can't be the only one who has made that mistake). She gives Storm's team sanctuary in a private facility (ie away from Cyclops's prying eyes) that is run by Mossad (basically a more competent version of the CIA). Where Storm meets these women is beyond me. I guess when you marry a king, you have all the excuses you need to crash in someone's secret base. That shit probably comes in real handy when trying to attend one of Puff Daddy's parties.
While the rest of the team is enjoying their time on Mossad's payroll, Storm meets up with the geeky yet oddly doable researcher that she met in the last issue. In that issue, Storm gave her a sample of the gunk left over from the first monster they faced. She could have given her the remnants of the creature's colon for all she knew, but it was enough for her to uncover some pretty interesting revelations that would have made science class way less boring in college. Turns out these creatures are actually a new breed of mutant. Or more accurately, they're a kind of proto-mutant. They're not as advanced or as sexy as modern mutants, but they're still the kind of animal that would give creationists seizures.
Naturally, Storm doesn't see how nature or a god drunk on power could be behind these creatures. She and her brainy gal pal begin to speculate that someone with straight As in biology and too much free time is behind this. It's a far more likely possibility than simply assuming these creatures had just been overlooked by the mutants after all these years. Together they surmise that someone has been gathering all this ancient proto-mutant DNA and using it in the same way North Korea uses cheap labor. It may just be because playing god is the only thing that gets them a boner anymore. Or it may be because a new breed of mutant may be a valuable resource that could make them enough money to buy an army of supermodels. I tend to lean more towards the latter.
Now no one is ever going to mistake an X-men comic for a biology textbooks, but this is definitely one of Brian Wood's strengths thus far. He's able to tell a somewhat more grounded story aside from the usual giant robots or ancient Egyptian mutant tyrants. He likens these creatures to what neanderthals were to modern humans. It may not be much to those who slept through biology class or refuse to believe in evolution in favor of Bronze Age mythology. But it offers a certain level of refinement to a story that definitely goes a long ways towards being awesome.
While these answers are intriguing, there's a big problem that pisses Storm off. Now that it involves mutants, it means she has to tell Cyclops. And as we saw in the last issue, she's not exactly feeling good about Cyclops's recent trend of being a douche in between boning Emma Frost. She still claims she trusts him, but she says there's a side to Cyclops that she trusts implicitly and one she wouldn't want to be in a windowless room with. Right now she's dealing with the Cyclops that she wouldn't even ask to watch her goldfish, let alone trust. Domino and Pixie protest, but once again Storm makes clear that this is her team and she has a strict no-squealing-to-Cyclops policy. For the anti-Cyclops crowd out there, they should be jerking off happily to this scene.
Storm still insists on hunting down these creatures and finding the source on their own. So once they find another creature taking a stroll in Canada, they head straight for it with no intention of giving Cyclops the satisfaction of getting pissed off. They don't have to go too far to find the creature. Psylocke, the team psychic, picks up on a creature that looks like he spent way too much time in a tanning booth. She says his thoughts are fucked up, but it's really no different than what was implied earlier when she tried to make psychic contact with the Cthullu knock-off. She also claims she knows where he came from. That fantasy of an army of supermodels is definitely set to come crashing down now.
Unfortunately, we don't get any additional details. Just like the previous issue, this one ends with a new giant monster looking to fuck shit up in a major populated center and the X-men's security team are the only ones in a position to do something about it. In fact, it's so similar to the previous issue that you probably could have skipped the last issue and read this one without missing a beat. While I'm glad Brian Wood took some time to explore the secrets behind these new proto-mutants, he didn't do much to move the plot forward. There was a lot of potential here, but none of it was realized. We just have another big monster battle to look forward to in the next issue. Not that I mind big monster battles, but when they become too generic I start to miss the giant killer robots.
I admit I didn't enjoy reading mysteries growing up. If it required too much thinking or didn't have enough boobs or at least description of boobs to compensate, I didn't bother. I like to think my tastes have evolved in accord with my alcohol consumption. As such, I've come to appreciate stories with a well-crafted mystery and Brian Wood has set one up here in the pages of adjectiveless X-men. It's not on the same epic scale as Avengers vs. X-men or Messiah Complex, but it definitely offers a unique feel for the X-men's security team. They may technically be on Team Cyclops, but Storm is definitely making a case to call this series "Storm's Merry Band of Badass Mutant Motherfuckers." I'm sure it's a title that was only rejected because it was too generic.
This issue was loaded with explanations and intrigue, but it didn't have a whole lot to be excited about. The battle in the beginning was flashy and all. However, it really didn't do much more than the battle in the first issue did. A lot of time was spent providing an explanation on this new proto-mutant species. That's not a bad thing in and of itself, but like any good mystery story there need to be some clues dropped along the way and Wood didn't drop nearly enough. We didn't get to learn more about that scientist with a distinct "I Heart Sinister" look in his eyes that was introduced in the last issue. Some additional characters were brought in, but not really explored. The biggest strength of this issue was the setup, but that's been the theme for two issues now and the attention span of most comic fans is at least one issue less than that.
I like what Brian Wood is trying to do with this series. I think it has potential, but potential awesome isn't the same as actual awesome. It's like covered tits. It doesn't matter how nice they are, if they're covered they might as well not exist. I can't be too harsh because he's making Storm look more badass than she's been in ages. She's not just going behind Cyclops's back here. She's taking matters into her own hands in a way she hasn't since Marvel decided to marry her off to Black Panther. She's making this group of X-men her X-men. However, this conflict their a part of doesn't really approach what the Extinction Team or the Jean Grey Institute deal with in their books. Perhaps that will change in the next issue. For this issue, though, it's still just too much filler. That's why I give X-men #31 a 3 out of 5. Wood definitely has the skills here. But like those beautiful breasts I mentioned earlier, he needs to pull the covers off and shove the readers face in them. If it works for boobs it works for comics. Nuff said!