Sunday, July 22, 2012
X-men #32 - Secrets, Lies, and Awesome
When I was in middle school, there was this gym teacher that everyone agreed was a complete douche-bag. For the sake of argument, let's call him Coach Babydick. Every day at gym class, Coach Babydick would find new ways to torment us. He made us do push-ups over piles of dog shit. He made us run laps while he blared Barny songs from a boom box. He made us throw eggs at the car of the cute history teacher that wouldn't go out with him. I'm pretty sure there was no information whatsoever regarding the value of physical fitness, but I also know that every now and then a student wouldn't take his shit. That student often got punished, sent to the principal's office, or humiliated by having to sing "We Built This City" while wearing a dress. But our class always looked up to that student because we knew they were doing what was right and just. I'm not sure if Coach Babydick is still teaching, but I would be shocked if nobody planted weed in his office yet.
Now I wouldn't go so far as to say that Cyclops is worse than Coach Babydick in the X-men comics. However, I think it's more than reasonable to say that he's let his leadership role and the constant influx of Emma Frost's pussy that he enjoys has gone to his head. Sometimes, it's not a bad idea to go behind his back and do what you think is right. Sometimes that's a piss poor idea as well because as I said, this guy is boning Emma Frost so he has the balls and the resources to royally fuck your shit up. Someone has to have a damn good reason and Olympian sized balls to do that. That's exactly what Storm has in abundance in Brian Wood's ongoing adjectiveless X-men run.
Wood's first arc has taken this series into a different direction. No longer the series that Marvel uses to shamelessly milk withering teat of vampires. Instead, Wood has been telling a story using a unique cast of X-men led by Storm. They're supposed to make up Utopia's security team. However, they're also Utopia's de-facto CIA, minus the illegal torture facilities. For the past few issues, they've been investigating an unusual uptick in mutant activity in the form of monsters that crumble faster than Mitt Romney's support with the NAACP. That activity yielded the discovery of an entire new race of proto-mutants that for some reason are pissed off at natural selection for not picking them. Now they seek to take it out on the X-men and anything that gets in their way.
X-men #32 has Psylocke chasing down a suspected proto-mutant that looks like a guy who lost a battle with a blow torch and wants to take it out on the nearest den of baby rabbits. He also happens to be 80-feet tall, but since the X-men regularly battle giant robots his name might as well be John Smith. Storm uses her powers to create a little cover from nearby populated areas, hoping that these people don't get their power from Pepco. Then Psylocke tries to attack the creature and to her surprise, it actually shrinks to that of a normal-sized man who just looks like his ex-girlfriend threw him out and burned all his shit. But unlike the other proto-mutants they've encountered, this one doesn't turn into mush. He actually remains intact long enough to meet up with the rest of the X-men for a little chat.
Now when monsters start threatening to stomp over major cities, that is usually a good time to contact your fellow X-men buddies and let them know they should have their spandex cleaned and pressed for action. But just as she did in the previous issue, Storm makes it clear that Cyclops is not to know. She makes this clear even as Colossus, who has the power of the fucking Juggernaut mind you, tells her that it's a bad idea. It's another great scene that shows Storm asserting herself in a way that reminds readers that she was once and probably still is considered a top level leader with the X-men on the same level as Cyclops. But she does make a compelling argument in that she's not trying to serve Cyclops with this team. She's trying to serve the cause. And Cyclops is NOT the cause even if he is boning Emma Frost.
This is a great moment for Storm fans of all stripes and for all the Cyclops haters out there that would French kiss a goat if that goat somehow undermined Cyclops. However, at this point in the story it still doesn't quite explain why the hell Storm has it out for Cyclops. I get that she's trying to lead her own team, but at this point in the arc just fighting for the cause doesn't exactly explain why she's doing this. Is it just because she wants to prove she can lead as well as he can? Fine, I can get behind that. But at least make that shit clear. Don't make us just assume that she's doing this because Black Panther isn't buying her enough Wakandan brand panties.
This rather extreme aversion to enlisting help from Cyclops is made even more apparent when she gets a call from her human buddy, Dr. Hunter. In the last issue, she was enlisted by Storm to study some of the gunk they gathered from the dissolved monsters they faced. She was the one that helped them uncover that these creatures were actually proto-mutants. Well now it turns out that someone doesn't like her helping Storm. She tells her that her lab was trashed like a frat house on St. Patrick's Day. It sounds like another good reason to call Cyclops and Colossus points that out yet again, but Storm continues to refuse his assistance. She goes so far as to tell Dr. Hunter to keep working, lay low, and put herself in even more danger with no guarantee that they'll be able to protect her. There's undermining Cyclops and then there's just being reckless and Storm is dry humping it.
When she's not undermining Cyclops, however, Storm is still investigating these proto-mutants. At first she thought Pixie would be able to talk to the creature because let's face it. No matter what type of humanoid you are, the presence of a teenage girl helps you relax in a way directly proportional to the size of the thong she's wearing. But it turns out this creature speaks Russian so Colossus takes a stab at it, eventually getting Magik involved as well. As in, the same Magik that has to be locked up in a cell when she's not helping the Extinction Team. I would ask whether Storm was willing to call Cyclops now, but I'm pretty sure she would use a bolt of lightning to give me a circumcision.
With Magik's help, they find out that this proto-mutant has a name and it's called Ister. It sounds like the name of an 80s metal band, but he's actually a mutant that's over 600 years old that lived in the equivalent of a hippie commune back during a time when people thought that thunder was actually God farting. But like any commune of minorities back then, they were blamed for a plague that swept through a nearby village and probably for bad weather as well. So they were slaughtered, which is basically akin to complaining about it on the internet in medieval times. And Ister's own sister was taken from him so the humans could kill her, drink her blood, and hopefully cure themselves. It's basically akin to pre-modern homeopathy.
While tragic, this whole story was rather cliched. So he's a mutant that was the victim of pre-modern people who didn't know shit about shit. You could say that about every Jewish community in Europe at that time so it's really not all that compelling on the surface. At least it offers some insight on where these creatures came from. In the first issue of this arc, we saw that this shit began in a lab with a scientist of questionable ethics as so many X-men arcs often do. They don't know why someone sees fit to just resurrect these beings and sent them out to die. It may just be for shits and giggles, not unlike the CEOs of major banks when they buy vintage cars they know they'll never drive or marry women they know they'll never willingly fuck. Storm makes it clear their mission is to find that lab. Again, she says no Cyclops and no fucking time travel as Magik suggested. Storm is old school like that. If you can't kick it's ass in the here and now, you might as well put on a dress and sell yourself at the nearest club in Bangkok.
The mention of the lab finally sheds some light on something that was overlooked in the last issue. We even get a brief glimpse into what's going on while the X-men are uncovering more secrets. Apparently, Ister's sister was next in line to rejoin the world of the living and offer more shits and giggles to the nameless lab jockey. We still don't know much about him. He's no Sinister. He looks only mildly more insane than the guy that invented crazy glue and the snuggie. Again, the revelations about why he's doing this isn't as ground-breaking as you wish. He reveals that those first monsters were basically his method of trial and error. I'm sure there are more efficient ways to test your army of monsters, but I guess that's just not as much fun.
At this point he seems to be minimizing the errors because he also reveals that he has control over when the creatures turn into mush. So before Ister's sister can awaken and have a tearful reunion, he uses what looks like an app on his cell phone that's far more devious than the Shake a Baby app that causes Ister to start dissolving. This surprises and frustrates the X-men, who are still trying to get answers form Ister. But before he can return to that cozy little pasture we call death, Psylocke is able to get the necessary answers in a way that's not even as exciting as it sounds. She reveals that the name of the Sinister wannabe is David Michael Gray. She also reveals she knows where his lab is and he's a pretty sick bastard that's in need of therapy that includes a few severe concussions. It's a rather contrived way to get the X-men to source of the conflict and it wasn't all that exciting either. But it offers the promise of more monster battles so I guess we have that to look forward to.
Usually when an issue is more dialog than action, I find plenty to rant about. I tend to have a short attention span, depending on how much weed I have on hand. However, I am capable of enjoying a story that doesn't rely on blowing shit up every third panel. If the dialog is awesome and the story is compelling, I can do without the explosions and bad one-liners. Brian Wood is clearly setting up a very different style for his first arc. He's not relying on big, flashy battles like Gischler did with Curse of the Mutants. He's telling the story that revolves around a mystery and a dramatic struggle with Storm. At times Wood came close to overblowing Storm's intent on keeping Cyclops out of this comic at all costs. However, he was able to walk a fine line here and make this issue extra dramatic by having the proto-mutants do more than just dissolve into mush.
While I like what Wood did with Ister and Storm's leadership dramas, there were still a few areas that left me scratching my head as to why this is part of the story. I get what Storm is trying to do by keeping Cyclops out of the loop. I just don't get why the hell she's doing it. I know this shit takes place before Avengers vs. X-men. I can't recall too many instances where Storm and Cyclops were really at each others' throats and I can't recall when Cyclops really gave Storm a reason for wanting to go behind his back like this. In addition, the whole story with Ister just seems a little cliched. So he was a monster back at a time when even Jews were considered monsters. That's really not much different from every minority the Spanish Inquisition ever assaulted. It could have been more exotic, but Wood still found a way to make Ister lovable even if he's not someone you would want to invite to a baseball game.
Brian Wood's run hasn't been spectacular, but it's been interesting enough to keep me reading. He definitely has demonstrated the ability to tell compelling stories. He's set up plenty of interesting elements here. He just hasn't made them resonate on a sufficient level of awesome. This issue didn't have a lot of action, but it had plenty of melodrama and did fill in a few blanks that had been lingering from the previous issue. It's still a bit too subtle for the sake of being subtle though. I give X-men #32 a 3 out of 5. Now that the enemy is known, this arc has the chance to do more than just fight monsters that dissolve into dust. It also has the potential for Storm to make Cyclops's oversized balls shrivel somewhat and that's always makes for a fun story on some levels. Nuff said!