Thursday, August 2, 2012

X-men #33 - Backfiring Awesome

Here's something to do if you're bored on a Sunday. Quick question, how do you fuck with a creationist? It's as easy as claiming god gave you a special golden tablet that explained in graphic detail all the reasons why evolution was true. And in order for the creationist to see it, they have to do everything you say and take your word on faith. If they're even partially as gullible as the average creationist, you can get them to do some pretty twisted shit. I'm still waiting for this one creationist to finish counting the blades of grass in the state of Montana. I know it's a little cruel, but it just keeps getting funnier with every passing second.

Brian Wood's adjectiveless X-men isn't quite as satisfying as fucking with a creationist direction, but the indirect approach works just as well. Since he began his run on this series, he's taken a different approach compared to Victor Gischler. Rather than big flashy events that capitalize on the Twilight and True Blood crowds, he favors a more steady approach by building up a story gradually while teaching a lesson in evolution in the process. Somewhere out there, Bill Nye the Science Guy is smiling and Kirk Cameron is shitting himself.

The story involves Storm trying to subvert Cyclops while her security team seeks to uncover a mystery surrounding a group of resurrected proto-mutants. Someone with too much free time and too many PHDs is using proto-mutant DNA to resurrect them and attack random parts of the world for shits and giggles. In X-men #32, Storm continued to play hardball with her team despite their incessant desire to whine to Cyclops. Her stubbornness paid off when they managed to find out the name and location of the asshole that's behind these attacks. Now Wood's inaugural arc finally has the promise of some classic X-men ass-kicking.

X-men #33 has the security team putting that intel they uncovered in the previous issue to good use. They know who's behind these proto-mutant attacks. His name is David Michael Gray. You couldn't find a duller name outside of a Mormon temple so you would be forgiven for not expecting much on the initial attack. Storm, who still hasn't called Cyclops, leads her security team on an attack in the facility over the Mediterranean. They don't walk up to the front door and ring the bell either. They're the X-men. If they're not jumping out of a plane and giving gravity the finger, they're not trying very hard. Unfortunately, Gray is ready for them. He throws another proto-mutant at them in the form of another rock monster. This ensures that the ride down will be rough and gravity has a chance to get back at them.

When the X-men do land, they're welcomed with the same warmth that Richard Dawkins is when he visits the Vatican. Some more proto-mutant monsters are down there waiting for them. They're not too similar to the monsters they've faced in previous issue. It's your standard monster dog with three heads and swamp creature with a vagina-like face. There's some decent action here, but it's not all that epic. That's not as disappointing as it sounds because pretty much none of the battles against the proto-mutants have been on the level of Cyclops kicking Sinister in the balls. That's not how they've been developed by Wood. So while it may still keep in line with the characterization he's done for these proto-mutants thus far, it's still somewhat underwhelming.

It gets a bit more exotic if that's the right word when Colossus fights off the giant shit ball that attacked him in the sky. Once again giving the finger to gravity, he falls towards the surface and literally comes crashing right into Dr. Gray's lab. Like everywhere Colossus goes when he's in his Juggernaut form, he makes quite a mess. But Dr. Gray is no Gordon Ramsey when it comes to the neatness of his lab. In fact, he's no more intimidated than an unneutered pit-bull at a poodle grooming contest. Even with a Juggernaut powered Colossus approaching him, he claimed he just didn't have the parental instincts or give enough fucks to make these proto-mutants anything more than shitty science experiments. So rather than let Colossus kick his ass, he pulls a fucking gun on turns it on himself. Then before Colossus can knock his skull out through his colon, he blows his brains out.

It's not the most unexpected twist Wood could have thrown into the mix. It's not even the most gruesome. There are far more gruesome things in half the pages of a single issue of Uncanny X-Force. While it won't shock the readers, it will raise a few eyebrows because Dr. Gray didn't seem all that broken up about offing himself. Hell, he did it with the same smile most guys get when they manage to sneak a channel in the cheerleaders dressing room. It implies that this story isn't done, but this part of it sure is. It doesn't end in a very epic manner, but it doesn't end in an overly traditional manner either. So again, it's underwhelming without being disappointing.

After Dr. Gray offs himself, Colossus does a little scavenging throughout the lab. He finds out that the typical array of papers, materials, and hard drives (most of which are presumably loaded with Russian porn) have already been removed from the lab. So not only are they too late, they don't have any data to help them figure out why Dr. Gray would start dry-humping the crazy whore. But Dr. Gray does manage to leave them something that probably doubles as another "fuck you" of sorts. In the last issue, we got a quick glimpse into the history of the proto-mutants, namely from a figure known as Ister. He's the reason why the X-men were able to find Dr. Gray. Ister also had a sister. Well, Dr. Gray wasn't content to just fuck up Ister, he left his dead sister behind as well. Colossus takes her in his arms and reflects a bit on how she was ill-suited for both worlds she was a part of. It's tragic, but in a more poetic way than just saying "Fuck, she's dead." So I credit Brian Wood for trying to inject a little Shakespearean class.

Not content to just let Dr. Gray have the last laugh, the security team takes Ister's sister and prepares a little ceremony for the both of them on a beach. It's a nice ceremony, but one that only partially distracts the reader from the fact that the battle against the proto-mutants was essentially glossed over. There was no scene showing how the X-men attempted to clean up the mess left by the proto-mutants or look further into Dr. Gray's lab. Hell, we barely got a chance to see any X-man shine against the proto-mutants. Instead, we get an overly dramatic scene where we see Psylocke still struggling with having had Ister's mind in hers. There are some subtle hints about how she's lost her ability to give more than half a fuck in Uncanny X-Force. But she does make clear that learning about the proto-mutants has affected her and will affect mutants as whole. That shit is all well and good until you remember the still haven't fucking told anybody about this shit yet.

Moreover, Storm points out during the ceremony that Dr. Gray was overly prepared for them. In any comic that's both a sign that they have something else up their sleeve that is going to come back to bite them and that they fucked up on some level. You can sense that Colossus is fighting with all his Juggernaut strength to stop himself from telling Ororo "I told you so" with respect to not calling Cyclops. You think if Emma Frost was there that Dr. Gray would have been able to off himself that quickly? Fuck, Emma Frost would make him think he's Paris Hilton's chihuahua before he could pull the trigger. Yet that conversation never comes up, much to Colossus's credit. But Storm does acknowledge it. She talks about how Cyclops trusted her to be the conscious of the team after Schism when his is clearly compromised. Boning Emma Frost will do that. Now I'm not sure how the fuck this story deals with that, but if nothing else it shows that Storm is willing to keep secrets from Cyclops and keep them well.

So much of this story and many of my drunken rants revolve around Storm's utter aversion to calling Cyclops. She seems to be trying to prove a point and the fact they lost Dr. Gray and pretty much got absolutely jack shit from this ploy of hers only proves that keeping secrets in a world with Emma Frost sleeping with Cyclops and Magneto as part of the X-men is not a good idea. So it's pretty fitting in the end that the final panel has Storm actually calling Cyclops. Again, it's almost poetic in a sense that it forces Storm to humble herself somewhat. It's something she's always been good at doing, but this particular scene definitely gives the arc a solid feeling of finality.

Some arcs have all the potential in the world to be awesome, but never fully realize that potential. Most of the time, the story ends up crashing and burning like a binge drinker who foolishly takes up his buddy's dare to enter a drag race. But some of those stories end partially satisfying. They don't qualify as being fully awesome. They're like eating only half a slice of pizza or only getting half a blowjob. It's still good, but not as awesome as you want it to be. I like Brian Wood. I think his writing style is solid and I respect what he's trying to do with this series. I just don't think he succeeds in making it as compelling as it could have been.

The issue is how the story has dragged a bit over the past few issues. There's been a lot of talk, but not much action when you get right down to it. Granted, a lot of that talking has made for some interesting drama and a lot of that drama carried over nicely into this issue. Wood ended the arc in a very appropriate manner, having Storm call Cyclops after having made such a big deal about keeping him out of the loop. The problem was the confrontation with David Michael Gray and how abrupt it was. Granted, it was quite a twist to just have him kill himself. He clearly had other forces at work and I'm not just talking about a chemical imbalance in his brain. But the battle against the X-men and the proto-mutants didn't come off as all that epic. Hell, it wasn't even partially epic like you want the final battle in every arc to be. It just ended. It wasn't sloppy or poorly handled. It was just too short and bland. It's like the diet Coke of endings rather than a Coke Zero.

I kept with this series because I liked how Brian Wood was developing this story, focusing more on character issues rather than just conjuring random conflicts and throwing the X-men into them. This one drew on issues that have been lingering since Schism and highlighted them in a way that probably should have been done six months ago. He still manages to capture the dramatic elements well, but without the kind of action that leaves the desired impact you're still left underwhelmed even if you weren't disappointed. As such, I give X-men #33 a 3 out of 5. The potential is still there. Wood hasn't thrown it away and if nothing else, he showed that he's got a vision for this series and that vision has the potential to be pretty damn awesome. Hopefully the other half of that pizza/blowjob emerges in future arcs. Nuff said!


  1. What would Emma have done that Psylocke can't? Psylocke could have stopped him from killing more ways than Emma because of her TK abilities. I really don't think her "lack of sorrow" was being referenced (hell after the last few issues of Uncanny xforce I don't think it stands at all). It feels very 'eh' like the rest of Marvel's sad excuse for comics. These stories have great potential and they fizzle out. Like getting a bit of cocaine and expecting a nice high, only to discover it's talcum powder.

    1. Well for one, Emma is that much more ruthless when it comes to using her powers. And that part at the end where they're sending Ister and his sister off seemed like a reflection on what happened in Uncanny X-Froce, at least to me. Or maybe I'm just too high. I'll let you be the judge. But this wasn't a bad arc. It just wasn't too mind-blowing either.