Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Uncanny X-men #17 - Containing Cosmic Awesome

How do you contain a power that's far greater than your own? And I'm not talking about the kind of power an overprotective father has for his hot, sexually repressed daughter with a loaded shotgun wields. That kind of shit can be dealt with easily by just buying the guy a beer, stealing the firing pin of his guns, and making sure his daughter isn't too rough when she breaks out the handcuffs (I did say she was repressed). Shit like cosmic entities that torches planets and corrupts pretty redheads for fun are a bit tougher to handle. The events of Avengers vs. X-men have shown that in graphic detail. In fact, the entire premise of Act 3 is based on the notion that the Phoenix Force is like that devious nerd we all knew back in high school who liked to Photoshop naked pictures of people and spread them throughout the school, ruining relationships, reputations, and in some cases incurring the wrath of republican politicians. We can all assume that nerd is still laughing his ass off somewhere. We don't quite know what the Phoenix Force is doing behind the scenes, but we can be pretty sure it's getting quite a cosmic boner from the shit storm it's causing.

But if ever there was a time in Avengers vs. X-men where the Phoenix actually had a reason to feel threatened, it would definitely be at the hands of Sinister. This is a guy crazy enough to make himself a fucking species and smart enough to hot-wire a Celestial and use it to make his own subterranean tribute to Victorian era London. There's probably a lot of awesome shit you could do with a Celestial, but like I said Sinister is crazy. Making an army of hot robot chicks in the mold of Carmen Electra and Scarlett Johanssen just doesn't appeal to him. Furthermore, we learned in the previous two issues of Uncanny X-men that he had been using this Celestial tech for far more pragmatic purposes. He was using it to prepare for an eventual attack by the Phoenix. And as the events of Uncanny X-men #16 showed, he prepared pretty fucking well.

Now this little side-quest for the Phoenix Five took place early on in Act 2 before Namor couldn't hold his wad anymore and gave Wakanda a cosmic money shot. For reasons that weren't explained and I can only assume involved an artist, distributor, or editor getting drunk and losing a bar fight, this arc was delayed. Despite Avengers vs. X-men entering Act 3 with only two remaining Phoenix wielders, this story takes place when the Phoenix Five are still the Phoenix Five. I bring this up because it has an unfortunate side-effect on the story that I'll explain a bit later. But first, I need to take a few shots of tequila and detail what has gone down with Sinister and his twisted troops in this late yet welcome installment.

Uncanny X-men #17 begins with Sinister enjoying a full fledged victory boner. In the last issue, he actually managed to subdue the Phoenix Five with a potent mix of Celestial tech, clone armies, and balls almost as big as Donald Trump's ego. The Phoenix Five are understandably annoyed, but even a menacing cosmic force isn't enough to stop Sinister from gloating. Like the pimp referenced in every Ice-T song, he celebrates how awesome he is with a fine glass of whine and a symphony. If that's all he wanted to do, I think there are easier ways to go about it. I'm pretty sure certain mixes of drugs can help, but I guess Sinister thinks this is less boring.

In addition to flexing his Sinister balls, he reveals that Extinction Team including Storm, Psylocke, and Magneto followed them into his tribute twisted Victorian domain. In the previous issue, they reasoned that even a cosmic force would have difficulty in dealing with Sinister. It's not an unreasonable assertion. This is a guy who if you sent him to hell, he might end up date raping Satan himself if it meant screwing with the X-men. They followed the Phoenix Five down into Sinister's lair (against Cyclops's orders mind you) and arrive to find some of Sinister's various clone armies hungry to kill them. Unfortunately, Sinister's standards for clones are lower than that for a supporting role in a movie starring Tom Arnold. He cloned Sabretooth, whose mind is easily fucked with by hot Asian psychics like Psylocke.

Once Sinister's pets are effectively chasing their tales and/or humping the nearest couch, they're left to confront the same forces that Sinister used to take down the Phoenix Five. They seem to understand fully how stupid that is, but they do come up with a plan. Or at least Unit does, who has been hijacking Danger for a number of issues now. But don't tell Congressman Akin. He'll probably argue it's not a "legitimate hijacking." But even if Unit is a douche, he's reasonable enough to conclude that allowing Sinister to wield the Phoenix Force is like giving crystal meth to a pack of angry wolves. So using Danger, they formulate a plan to infiltrate Sinister's lair and disrupt his clone army. To do this Danger does a little robot/hot chick action and turns into a kick ass ninja suit for Psylocke. I'm not sure if this counts as lesbian porn, but if it does I want to see more.

It sounds like a good plan, at least for Psylocke and Danger. Unfortunately for Storm and Magneto, they're stuck providing the distraction. That's like being the first doctor that rejects a prescription for Charlie Sheen. You're going to be a big target and you're going to be overwhelmed in ways that'll make your ass hurt. Storm and Magneto do fine against Sinister's army of Vitorian style minions, but then Sinister throws a very volatile redhead NOT named Jean Grey OR Hope Summers. Remember those Madelyne Pryor clones? Well it turns out (without too much of an explanation mind you), that they were the ones that subdued the Phoenix Five and now they're using their cosmic flames to carry out Sinister's whims. And since Sinister is parading around like the top pimp, that means the Pryor clones are the hos which means Storm nor Magneto last about as long as a line of cocaine at Lindsey Lohan's house.

The Pryor clones easily subdue them both while removing Magneto's helmet in the process, allowing them to psychically control him. Now using him as a meat puppet, they hunt down Psylocke. This seems a bit redundant. They're tapping the power of the fucking Phoenix Force for crying out loud. Wouldn't it be easier to just subdue her by telekinetically tightening her thong until it splits her in half? But since Sinister is controlling them, you can't rely on that kind of logic. But once again, Psylocke reminds Sinister and the entire comic world that she's not just a hot Asian chick. She's a fucking ninja and she evades the onslaught while taking out Magneto. We get it, Psylocke. You're a ninja. Now can you let my balls go so I can finish jerking off?

Unfortunately, the plan to attack Sinister's control over his clones falls apart. Danger, who is still hijacked by Unit, finds out that Sinister's tech is every bit as awesome as he claims. Unlike Donald Trump, the shit he builds is actually as awesome as he thinks it is. He orders that the X-men run away because they have no such hope against ego like that. It gives Sinister even more reason to gloat, which at this point is becoming so overblown that he could inflate all the tits in Las Vegas. But in that gloating, he leaves himself vulnerable because let's face it. There's only so much you an focus on when you're effectively proving to the world that you've got the biggest dick in the universe.

Utilizing that snide attitude that makes scrotums shrivel and cosmic forces take notice, Emma Frost uses her telepathy to reach out to the Phoenix Force. She basically points out that being used by Sinister is only slightly more humiliating than having that video of yourself humping a statue of Ronald McDonald uploaded to youtube. Even a cosmic force seems to understand that shit and finally gets off its ass to do something.

At last, Sinister has to stop gloating and start shitting himself. The Phoenix Force starts breaking free of Sinister's control, causing the Pryor clones to mess up in ways that probably makes Emma's panties wet. Sinister does his best to try and fix it. Finally, he fails miserably. Maybe if he wasn't so busy gloating and sipping wine he would have figured out that Emma Frost's influence on the Phoenix would catch up with him. At last, he actually looks like he's not the ultimate pimp and starts looking like a kid watching his older brother flush his stash of Playboys down the toilet.

This is all very satisfying, but it does leave one detail out. What the fuck was Sinister trying to do with the Phoenix anyways? Did he think he could control it forever? I get the guy has an ego, but he can't be that fucking stupid. If he did have a plan, it's never hinted at or explored. He just wanted to have a cosmic force swinging from his nuts for a while and that was it.

The Phoenix reminds him in a very painfully spectacular manner that they don't appreciate being ornaments for his balls. Once they break free from his control, they remind them that the Phoenix Force is capable of taking and entire planet and wiping it's ass with it. It doesn't really care for shit that it thinks doesn't work or is in it's way. And unfortunately for Sinister, he happens to be both. So in a glorious attack of cosmic flame, they burn Sinister to a crisp like a deep fried turkey. At last, that gloating grin has been wiped off his face and all it took was a little cosmic mojo.

The Phoenix Five and the Extinction Team return to the surface. Cyclops claims Sinister is dead, but for a guy that turned himself entire an entire fucking species that's about as likely as Rick Santorum becoming a Muslim. Even if he isn't dead, he's no longer in a position to fuck with them. That means the Phoenix Five can go back to fucking with the Avengers. Damn, I miss Sinister already. Excuse me while I take another shot of tequila.

Every time there's a story where a big name villain is apparently defeated, most fans yawn. Like whenever Jean Grey dies, you know it's only a matter of time before they're brought back or replaced by shitty replacement characters. Fans know that comic companies aren't in the business of throwing away awesome characters. Sinister may be creepier than Michael Jackson's parenting skills, but there's no denying his awesome or his legacy. He's the kind of guy who will watch a bunch of Phoenix-wielding superheroes attack him while sipping a glass of imported Pinot Noir. He showed that special level of classy evil in this arc, so his defeat really didn't feel that final. That's why his defeat in this comic felt so satisfying.

What made this arc and the plot with Sinister so intriguing was that he was able to give the Phoenix Five a serious challenge that didn't involve a mindless superhero mash-up. There were no Avengers or innocent bystanders in this battle. It was all Sinister, showing how he could organize himself into an entire fucking species and coordinate that species to at least temporarily control the Phoenix Force. But he wasn't the only one who shined. Psylocke showed on two different occasions that there may be something to the stereotype of hot Asian women in tight outfits being ninjas. Both she and Danger were able to kick ass in that special way that'll make you smile and give you a boner. It helped make the story feel like it was about the Extinction Team and not just the Phoenix Five. Given how the seeds of this story were sewn way back in the first arc, it comes together beautifully here and is capped off in spectacular cosmic fashion.

The only lingering flaw in this arc is the extent of Sinister's plan. I get that Sinister is more mentally unstable than Tom Cruise at a psychiatry convention. But the overall plot was left feeling somewhat incomplete even after Sinister was defeated. We still don't know what the hell he was trying to do with controlling the Phoenix Force. Was he just doing it for shits and giggles? Or was he just sick of paying his electric bill and wanted to use the Phoenix Force as a free source of lighting? Either way is equally likely because his intentions really weren't clear. It just comes off as a basic, "I'm an evil asshole and I want to control the forces of a god so the world can suck my big, holy cock" type story. That's okay in some instances, but given Kieron Gillen's level of skill it's somewhat of a disappointment.

Never-the-less, Uncanny X-men #17 was a fun, entertaining conclusion to an arc that took a break from all this bullshit superhero ball busting. It continued Kieron Gillen's legacy of telling compelling, cohesive X-men stories. While I'm excited about Brian Bendis's role on All New X-men, books like this make me sad and in need of another shot of heroin because they remind me he's leaving. I give Uncanny X-men #17 a 4 out of 5. So once again, Sinister is defeated. But like herpes, he always finds a way to come back. Nuff said!

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