Saturday, September 1, 2012

Xtreme X-men #2 - Ungodly Awesome

When you give anyone too much power, they eventually start to think their shit doesn't stink. Just look at North Korea, a country ruled by men more delusional than Gary Busey on an acid trip. Pretty much anyone with that much authority is going to find an exceedingly creative/batshit crazy way to abuse it. It's like people in power keep trying to one-up each other to prove who is the most insane. This twisted contest has taken many different forms in comics. When Greg Pak wrote his Astonishing X-men arc, Exhaulted, he raised the bar for everyone outside of North Korea by creating a version of Charles Xavier that held a world together using the disembodied heads of alternate version realities of himself. You have to believe that if Kim Jong Ill lived long enough, he would have done something similar.

The return of Xtreme X-men has continued that story and I admit I was intrigued by this twisted madness. Maybe that's also why I like to hook up with girls who take no fewer than three anti-psychotics, but it also helps that the story has been developed in an undeniably awesome new way. Once again, the world Pak created linked up with 616. But instead of drawing Cyclops into the mix and having him swap spit with an alternate Storm, Dazzler got dragged into the conflict. Now she's with alternate versions of Emma Frost, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler as they follow the whims of one of the disembodied Xavier heads through a maze of twisted alternate realities. It's as twisted and awesome as it sounds.

Xtreme X-men #2 picks up where the last issue left off with Dazzler and the alternate X-men landing right in the cross-hairs of a group of X-men that happen to be Asgardian gods in this particular universe. As such, they sound like divine assholes when they demand that Dazzler, Emmeline, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler submit. Emmeline decides to play it smart and do as they ask. Dazzler, having hung out in San Francisco for way too fucking long, says fuck that and decides to fight back. This pisses off Storm (who happens to be married to Thor), and Asgardian versions of Namor, Iceman, and Sabretooth. While being a god probably doesn't make people assholes in every universe, I imagine it's pretty damn rare to find one that doesn't.

As such, the battle between four renegade X-men from alternate universes and a floating Charles Xavier head doesn't measure up that well against X-men who think they're gods. Dazzler does manage to rough up Thor a bit and Wolverine does draw his share of attention from what's probably the best dressed Sabretooth in any alternate universe to date. However, they're still facing a Storm who is regularly fucks Thor and gives an exceedingly limited number of fucks. So rather than test their luck, Emmeline actually turns on her own teammates and uses her powers to knock them out. It's debatable whether it's a smart move or a dick move. In any universe you can always expect Emma Frost to be less than ethical in her judgments. It also shows that while these may be X-men from other worlds, they're not exactly on the same page. It's not the most spine-busting twist, but it does add an interesting element of dissent.

When Dazzler wakes up, she finds out she's not in some hellish dungeon. Since she's a pretty blonde and apparently they're practically currency for gods in most universes, she's given a chance to live a life that's slightly less shitty than torture and slave labor. She's given a chance to become a slave girl. And I'm not talking about the slave girls that Mitt Romney employs to clean his mansions. I'm talking about the slave girls Flavor Flav recruits in exchange for 15 minutes of media recognition. She's given the choice to do it in a clothing optional manner. Unfortunately, she chooses clothes. Just once I would like one X-woman to take advantage of this option, but I suppose Dazzler in a Slave Leia outfit is the next best thing. She better hope that Storm is bicurious because she's giving her and her X-men exiles a chance to prove they're worth keeping alive.

As they go to meet up with Storm and her godly X-men posse, they get a quick glimpse of the kind of world these godly X-men watch over. Despite having plenty of power and enough free time to torment extra-dimensional travelers, the mortals they watch over live a pretty shitty life. They toil endlessly through drought and famine. The X-men gods have more than enough power to make it easier for them. They just choose not to or don't give enough of a damn. They're basically Old Testament style gods, minus the circumcision requirement. It offers a nice little insight into this alternate world and may even have a hidden message about what happens when you give god-like power to beings that clearly don't give a damn. And that message is the world is every bit as shitty. Somebody should tell Pat Robertson.

In order to appease these gods, Dazzler's task is somewhat less daunting than Abraham and doesn't involve animal sacrifice. Storm tells her to sing, which is basically her job in 616 in addition to being a walking light show. If her singing pleases the gods, she'll be allowed to live as a slave girl rather than target practice. It's not much of an incentive, especially for a group that gives the same number of fucks about the fate of the X-men as Michelle Bauchman does about gay rights. But never one to miss an opportunity to channel her inner American Idol, Dazzler rises to the challenge. She even uses the cries of a baby to channel her powers. It may sound like a hidden message from pro-lifers, but it definitely adds something to the scene.

And like Susan Boyle when she auditioned in front of Simon Cowell, her voice moves the gods in ways they haven't been moved before. Either she rose the spirit of Whitney Huston or the gods in this universe have shitty tastes. But it's enough to bring Storm to tears and as a result, she finally gives enough of a damn to make some rain for the starving people of her world. Is it a bit melodramatic? Of course. Does it really have anything to do with the mission Dazzler and her alternate universe X-men took on in the last issue? Well, pretty much nothing in this issue serves that. But it's still a moment with heart.

It's also the perfect distraction as well. When a beautiful woman is singing in an equally beautiful way, even gods get distracted. That allows Dazzler to sneak in a few blasts to led Storm and the X-gods know she cares as much for their mercy as they do for the suffering of their people. This triggers round two of the brawl between these X-men renegades and these X-men demigods. It still doesn't feel like a fair fight, but it's not like residing themselves to lives as Princess Leia cosplayers wasn't much more appealing.

While the fight not be fair, Dazzler and her renegade X-men buddies get lucky this time in that the Charles Xavier in this world isn't a complete douche or a head in a jar. He's a guy who likes to drive fancy hover cars and harass gods. He's like James Bond meets Richard Dawkins. He offers Dazzler and the rest of the mortals that the X-gods fuck with a chance at freedom. They need about as little convincing as Mitt Romney on a tax loophole. Again, it's a little random. But it's a world where the X-men are gods and Xavier drives a hover car. In any other book that would be fucked up. In Xtreme X-men, it's just Tuesday and Tuesdays were never this fun.

While Xavier's appearance in this world helped even the odds, it didn't even them enough because Thor and Storm don't take that kind of shit lightly. Like the Old Testament god and sodomy, they get extra pissed and hit the X-men with a few healthy doses of thunder and lightning. At this point, they're done showing what little mercy they're capable of. They gave Dazzler and her buddies a chance to live life as peaceful slaves. Now they're just going to kill them. And that, my friends, is pretty much what ever Sunday School lesson boils down to. When a god gets pissed, they don't give a holy fuck about slaughter.

A book like Xtreme X-men is a book that caters to unique tastes in comics and I'm not talking about the tastes you only find in Turkish bath houses after hours. I'm talking about tastes that used to be filled regularly by books like Exiles where good writers got to get high and come up with unique alternate universes for the X-men without having to go through whatever hoops Marvel made them jump through to create a What If comic. Some of the concepts were pretty fucked up and I wish I knew where some of those writers got their weed. Whatever their source, Greg Pak has shown over the past two issues that he has way better contacts. Unlike those charming Exiles comics, he's taken this crazy world he's created and linked it closely with 616 in a way that doesn't restrict him from exploring crazy ideas like the X-men being Old Testament style gods. It's the kind of perfect balance you won't find out of the Ukrainian Olympic gymnastic team.

Xtreme X-men #2 is like a sample at a buffalo wing tasting contest that offers a glimpse as to what this series is capable of. And if the end result of this issue is any indication, I think I can reasonably conclude in my drunken logic that this series is capable of some pretty awesome shit. Granted, the underlying mission that Dazzler, Emmaline, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler initially set up to accomplish was lost in the midst of facing X-men demigods. However, the story itself was still entertaining that once again allowed Dazzler to shine in a way she couldn't do without pouring glitter on her tits. It also puts some rather disturbing yet intriguing images in the reader's head like a demigod Sabretooth chowing down on a female version of Wolverine. If such elements intrigue the reader as much as they nauseate them, I think that's a good sign this series is onto something.

Xtreme X-men isn't for everyone. While it is linked to the other 616 X-books, that link is exceedingly weak. There's still plenty of flashy action and little twists that give this book a unique feel. It's not a basic X-men vs. evil X-men brawl. Some of the X-men aren't actually keen on fighting, like Emmaline. It shows that this alternate universe team isn't exactly on the same page, making for some rather tenuous dynamics. There's plenty to explore and Greg Pak has done a lot to establish the potential of this book. It has just yet to be realized. For that I give Xtreme X-men #2 a 3.5 out of 5. The choice is clear. You can read a story where the X-men only get to act like gods in Avengers vs. X-men or you can read a story where the X-men actually travel to a universe where they are gods. Plus, Dazzler and Emma are in sexy slave girl garb. I think that more than anything makes the decision clear. Nuff said!

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