Wednesday, September 19, 2012
X-men #35 - Brainwashing Awesome
At some point in our lives, we all join a cult of some kind. It may not be the kind of cult that requires you to shave your head, eat nothing but grass, and give your daughters and sisters to some charismatic leader that claims salvation flows through his penis. But it can be every bit as irrational. When I was a kid, I spent times in cults such as Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I'm pretty sure there were fans that would have waged a second civil war on the merits of why Rapheal was cooler than Leonardo or why the Green Ranger could kick the ass of every Red Ranger that ever existed. Maybe we're just wired to take a nose dive into Lake Bullshit and savor the stench before it threatens to give us permanent brain damage. Unfortunately, there are cults out there like the aformentioned cult leader who tries to base an entire religion around his penis. And those peoples' brains are damaged beyond repair.
Brian Wood introduced us to a cult with more than their share of brain damage in his last issue. Fresh off the mediocre yet enjoyable proto-mutants arc, he has Storm and her security team investigating this freaky cult that's being run by this guy who looks uncomfortably similar to Jesus Christ. I'm sure Brian Wood has gotten his share of death threats from devout Christians with too much free time on their hands, but probably no more than I get on a weekly basis for the religion jokes I tell on this blog. This cult is basically a mix of Heaven's Gate, Mormonism, and Rastafarianism. They believe in seeking perfection with a capital P. And for some reason that Wood hasn't explored just yet, Domino has a history with them. Both she and Psylocke infiltrated a cruise ship full of followers in hopes of tracking down the leader and the exotic substances he's seeking to exploit thanks to guys you probably don't find on Craigslist. Now they have to channel their inner blasphemy to end this shit so these people can go back to slightly less crazy cults that only demand you worship books written by Bronze Age goat herders with epilepsy.
X-men #35 depicts a volatile situation involving a volatile guy with gullible followers and a shit ton of guys with guns. It's essentially David Koresh and the Branch Davidians all over again, minus any apparent polygamy. And in the post 9/11 world, the United States government is a little wary when it comes to crazy religious cults that don't fund the Family Research Council or support Rick Santorum. Storm tells Psylocke, who managed to tap the cult leader's Asian fetish in the last issue, that cruise missiles are on their way. And the cult leader doesn't seem to give a shit. He claims he'll become immortal by using the samples from the proto-mutants that Wood introduced in the previous issue as an energy drink. It's not unlike Pat Robertson's energy drink, but in this case it actually works without having to send him money. It sounds pretty fucked up, but it actually fits nicely because it ties this arc into Wood's first arc. And like having pot dealers that know good hookers, those connections go a long ways.
Whoever this cult leader is, he must have really done something to piss off the American government. Apparently, politicians and military folk are a bunch of pussies in the sense that a crazy cult leader with a bio-weapon derived from proto-mutants gives them a tummy ache. Rather than chug some Pepto Bismal like most normal people, they decide to fire a cruise missile at the cruise ship with all those innocent people who were just too gullible to stick to traditional Bronze Age mythology. Because if there's one thing George W. Bush taught us, it's that no problem can't be solved with the proper application of cruise missiles and children's do learn.
This forces Pixie to once again upstage every teenage girl who ever lived by flying out of the comforts of the plane and getting to the missile before it reaches the ship. Meanwhile, Domino managed to work her way up to the deck and look damn sexy while doing it. She's quite eager to shoot the cult leader, but Storm reminds them that they need that proto-mutant sample. And since the son-of-a-bitch drank it, they can't go blowing his brains out. I'm pretty sure Domino is thinking Storm is the biggest killjoy since Mitt Romney.
As you would expect, chugging a bunch of proto-mutant DNA like jello shots tends to fuck a guy up. The cult leader pulls a gun on Psylocke and points it right at her while boasting how creepy glowing eyes are his idea of perfection. Makes me wonder what he considers to be a the perfect size for a pair of breasts. But the man is clearly undergoing a fucked up transformation and Domino's plan to blow his brains out becomes increasingly more appealing. However, Storm reminds them that they need that sample of proto-mutant DNA. She talks about how this shit could do more than just give cult leaders boners after they're tired of marrying underaged girls. It could actually help mutants in the same way stem cells help the people who don't give money to radical anti-abortion nutjobs. So they have to be gentle with this deranged zealot and get a sample of his blood.
It turns out not to be quite as difficult as it sounds. Domino is probably disappointed that she didn't get to use her gun. I'm sure that dries her pussy up faster than a picture of Rick Santorum's anus. But with Psylocke, this battle is over with a quick psionic blade to the head. The cult leader demonstrates no crazy powers. He doesn't shoot fire from his nose or fart energy blasts. He just boasts for a while how this proto-mutant stuff has made his dick bigger, but then Psylocke takes him out. But while the fight itself may not be very exciting, something intriguing does happen along the way. It's not as fun as watching two beautiful women beat the shit out a Jesus wannabe, but it's still compelling.
While they're attempting to get a blood sample, Domino suggests they just throw the sample in the ocean and let sharks shit all over it. Now why would they want to do that after going through all this trouble and dressing like New Age nuns? Well Domino points out that Storm hasn't exactly been too honest lately. She's been lying to Cyclops and the rest of the team has gone along with her because she's fucking Storm. She's also a competent leader and can shoot a lightning bolt up your ass if you don't get with the program. But Domino points out that by continuing this lie, they'll only doom themselves to more missions like this. So it may be best to just nip it in ass right now and ditch the sample, despite all the help it could do. It may sound extreme, but it actually shows signs that Storm's lies and deception are having an effect. It's a different kind of drama that goes beyond which character is trying to bone the other. It hints at a larger internal conflict with Storm's team and one I hope Brian Wood pursues, if for no other reason than to see Domino, Psylocke, and Storm fighting each other, preferably while naked and covered in oil. What? Don't tell me that thought hasn't crossed your mind.
Eventually, Psylocke decides to risk taking the sample. That pretty much guarantees that Domino will get to say "I told you so, bitch" in a later issue. But once this little debate is done, we do get some more classic action in the form of Pixie stopping the cruise missile. It's not as visually appealing as seeing two beautiful women beat the shit out of crazy cults, but it helps fill the action void. Brian Wood may favor more subtle means of action, but there will never be a substitute for seeing a teenage girl teleport a cruise missile to the arctic circle and watching it blow up. It's like stoners with aluminum foil, minus the lower sperm count.
When all is said and done, Storm's team returns and they give a quick report to Cyclops. Storm continues to follow the same theme established since Wood took over in that she doesn't give Cyclops the full story or even hint at what her intentions will be from here on out. She only tells him they have the sample and aren't returning to utopia. But she does it in a coy, playful manner that any man with a functioning dick would find hard to ignore. It still confirms what Domino pointed out earlier. They're now pretty much stuck in Storm's little personal vendetta here and that's bound to get them neck deep in more shit. She already seems to have the next round planned as she contacts Sabra, who has been helping her since the previous arc. Now she wants to invite more shit into this conflict. Apparently, being neck deep just isn't enough for her.
The comic could have easily ended there, but Wood throws in a few juicy extras. It's not a coupon for a free lap dance at a strip club, but it's right up there. He shows that while Storm may have succeeded in her mission, she's starting to lose the loyalty of her team. Domino, who has never been one to just let shit slide be it a mission or a chance to get laid, is shown confronting Colossus who also hasn't been too fond of Storm keeping Cyclops out of the loop. Storm believes she's missing a piece of the puzzle and Domino knows they're going to be the ones that have to find it. So whatever this piece may be, someone is going to try and screw someone over and the money shot is bound to be extra messy.
For most new writers on a series, they try to start things out with a bang. They're like that guy that yells, "Sex! Now that I have your attention..." to open a speech. Wood didn't use those tactics. At times, I think he should have. In reviewing his issues, I've often been underwhelmed. His proto-mutant arc wasn't bad, but it wasn't going to give anyone a boner they couldn't get from watching reruns of Nip Tuck. It never crashed and burned, but Wood clearly had a plan and he stuck to that plan. I think I can finally say it has paid off with this issue.
The story surrounding the proto-mutants linked up nicely in this short two-issue arc. It wasn't apparent in the previous issue, but Wood did a good job of tying up the loose ends in this issue. He didn't go light on the action either like he's done in previous issues. This issue had Domino fighting her way through a cruise ship, Pixie diverting cruise missiles, and Psylocke showing cult leaders that they'll need to find some other creative way to get gullible people to give them money and pussy. It all makes for a very satisfying conclusion that also continued Storm's growing theme of keeping Cyclops out of the loop. Since this shit happens before Avengers vs. X-men, it's clearly a prelude of sorts that Storm is prepared to turn on Cyclops, her husband, and pretty much anyone she damn well pleases.
The issue isn't without its faults. The ending was left a bit overly ambiguous. Wood is clearly not done with the proto-mutant story, but he doesn't really set anything up here. And overall, the mystery surrounding the proto-mutants really hasn't been explored any further other than showing that cult leaders love to take short cuts to becoming more crazy. Moreover, the cult leader was pretty damn inept. You never got the sense that he was a real threat that the X-men were going to struggle with. So while there was plenty of insight, there wasn't a whole lot of suspense. Your bladder and your colon are pretty much intact with every page.
None-the-less, this is by far the best issue of X-men that Brian Wood has written to date. He continues to show that while he may start slow, he's capable of catching up for those who have patience. In this day and age where peoples' attention span is only as long as their last Twitter post, that may not be a good long-term strategy. But for this issue, it works. I give X-men #35 a 4 out of 5. Let this be a lesson to all you folks out there looking to join a new shady religious group. If he demands complete devotion, walks around with body guards, and talks about perfecting the human spirit or some shit like that, he's either crazy or just wants to fuck you and is too cheap to get a hooker. Nuff said!