Thursday, September 20, 2012
Xtreme X-men #3 - Divinely Deceptive Awesome
We all like pleasant surprises and despite the unpleasant ones. To me, a pleasant surprise is like finding an extra bag of weed between my couch cushion or finding a whole bottle of vodka in the back of the freezer. But unpleasant surprises are less fickle. They are usually variations of a bad hangover. Sometimes it's as simple as a kick in the nuts from a hooker after you pay them for a quick hummer in a gas station bathroom. Other times it's as complex as an overhyped comic event falling flatter than Kristen Stewart's acting. I've practically run out of shit analogies for Avengers vs. X-men, but I try to take some comfort in that the X-books are a big, overbloated property that Marvel does anything and everything to exploit in order to suck out every last cent from consumers. It may get the Occupy Wall Street crowd's panties in several knots, but for fans like me it just means more opportunities for those pleasant surprises.
One X-book that has been largely unaffected by the shit tornado that is Avengers vs. X-men is Greg Pak's Xtreme X-men. This comic is a lot like that guy at a party who would just grab the prettiest drunk girl he could find, slip out the back, and say "So long you drunk dumb-asses!" before banging the girl in the back of a pickup truck. It's just as fun, but without noise and potential liver damage of the big events.
And as luck would have it, Xtreme X-men is a series based entirely around a pretty girl that isn't even drunk (okay, so nobody's perfect). Dazzler has been mixing it up in the Marvel multi-verse, rubbing elbows with alternate versions of Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Emma Frost. They team up with a disembodied head of Charles Xavier on a universe-hopping adventure to keep the space time continuum from collapsing worse than the Libyan government. The last issue had Dazzler cross paths with a version of X-men that believe they're actual gods and act like divine assholes to prove it. It wasn't a terrible story, but it was no line of blow off a strippers tits. However, Greg Pak has been known to shine in unexpected ways before so I'm always willing to give him a chance, provided he doesn't do some crazy shit like send Rogue to a world of cat-people...okay, bad example.
Xtreme X-men #3 picks up shortly after Dazzler, Wolverine, and Kid Nightcrawler escape Storm and the X-gods wrath. In the last issue they made the mistake of not making them less bored so they decided to attack. It was a lopsided battle, but thankfully they got an assist from this world's version of Magneto and Xavier. Apparently in this universe, they're still BFF's and not in the slash fiction sort of way. They help Dazzler and her pals escape while creating a psychic illusion that has the X-gods take their divine douche-baggery on an unpopulated area. But Xavier and Magneto are keen to point out that these X-gods have killed millions in this world and have probably can't even get boners anymore without some mortal begging for mercy. Whether it's a guilt trip or a revelation, they make sure that Dazzler, Wolverine, and Kid Nightcrawler aren't comfortable letting that shit stand.
These alternate BFF versions of Xavier and Magneto take Dazzler and her team to an alternate version of utopia. However, it's about as utopian as downtown Detroit. It essentially contains the small minority of people who the X-gods haven't fucked over with their divine dicks. They're only about 5,000 strong and contain some familiar faces like Reed Richards and Hercules. It's somewhat tense because in this world Hercules is still part god, but he's only a demigod so he's cool. It's like being quarter Cherokee on a college admissions application. It's not much and it amounts to jack shit in the grand scheme of things, but it suffices. It also ensures that they have some muscle on their side to take on the X-gods.
But Dazzler and her team's arrival isn't all about forging inter-dimensional Facebook friends. Their presence has actually seriously fucked up a status quo that has already been gang banged more than Jenna Jameson. Not only that, they lost their Xavier head in a jar and they kind of need him back in order to ditch this Clash of the Titans knock-off X-men. But while using their own version of Cerebro to scan the X-god's Olympus-like palace, they learn that when Emmeline betrayed them in the previous issue she fucking meant it. She uses her own powers to give Xavier the psychic finger and that's a big fucking problem for reasons that go beyond Xavier getting schooled by a hot blonde. Now that the X-gods have a psychic, they can find Utopia and pretty much wipe their asses with if it they want. For that reason, Xavier says they have to kill all the telepaths working for the X-gods. Dazzler has a slight problem with that, but then he coyly points out that their pet Xavier in a jar tasked them with killing this universe's version of Xavier so that puts them in a pretty awkward position. It seems the least they could to maintain some form of dignity is to help out. Arriving in a universe to find out you're trying to kill the last hope for humanity to avoid being nothing more than a mild rectal itch to these gods kind of makes you obligated.
A night goes by and Xavier prepares to rally what's left of Utopia's army. They know they're basically akin to a bunch of grasshoppers trying to take down Mike Tyson wearing clown shoes so morale isn't exactly high. So Hercules gets Dazzler to do a little singing to inspire them. It's not much, but I think most people feel better about fighting to the death after hearing a hot chick sing. That seems to be another constant in most universes, comic book or otherwise.
But in addition to her singing, Dazzler also takes time to have a little chit-chat with Kid Nightcrawler. She actually tries to encourage him to sit out this battle because he's just a fucking kid. Throwing him into a battle against gods is a parenting tip right out of Michael Jackson's book. But Kid Nightcrawler isn't going to take that shit. He's going to partake in the battle regardless of how much it makes Dazzler's tummy hurt. It seems mundane, but it's actually a compelling scene in the sense that it shows Dazzler developing a kinship with these alternate reality X-men. To this point they really haven't developed much of a bond. Dazzler just got tossed in with them in the first issue. Now they're starting to get more friendly and that helps make for a more compelling narrative. It's like getting drunk with your best friend. It always beats getting drunk with a stranger that may try to pick a fight the moment you say something about their mother.
The next day, Xavier and Magneto march their army into battle. It looks to be a typical battle royal between a bunch of underdog mortals and gods who can't be bothered to listen to their bitching in between orgies. Storm and Thor don't seem too concerned, but as the army approaches the Xavier in a jar that they kept from Dazzler's team mentions some strange psychic interference. It may not sound like much and even if it means something, it's quickly lost once the battle begins. It's pretty standard at first. Kid Nightcrawler teleports them into the X-gods's domain while the main army harasses the rest of their godly army that is completely unlike what Pat Robertson probably imagines. Dazzler tries to get back at Storm for dressing her up like a stripper and trying to make her a Slave Leia of sorts. It seems like your typical battle where those underdog X-men reach deep down, channel their inner Braveheart, and overcome impossible odds. Well I'm sorry to say if you want that shit, you'll have to stick to Mighty Ducks movies because that ain't how this plays out.
Remember that point I made earlier about pleasant surprises? I'm asking because I don't remember it much either. You smoke enough weed and you forget the shit you write. It happens. But part of what goes into a pleasant surprise is a plot twist that's not so twisted that it gives the impression that the writer was stoned. It's a plot twist that's so unexpected yet so fitting that makes you feel like the hooker you paid to blow you didn't realize you paid her in monopoly money. I usually don't expect such twists from Greg Pak, but here he pulls something off that leaves me almost as shocked as the aforementioned hooker.
That minor warning from the Xavier in a jar that was glossed over earlier wasn't just a warning. It was a sign that something in this universe was more fucked up than your typical X-men as gods ordeal. It turns out that Storm, Thor, and the rest of her X-god buddies weren't just acting like douche-bags because it got their dicks hard. It turns out the Charles Xavier in this world was actually as big an asshole as they expected and then some. The Xavier in a jar reveals that this universe's Xavier drove the X-gods to being the assholes that took a giant shit on the world. And why would he do that? Well, he says it's because by having gods to oppose, he and Magneto could be the best they could be. Okay, that's about the second worse reason anybody ever went to war. At least George W. Bush only fucked over a country and not the world. Magneto didn't care for that reason either. He snapped this universe's Xavier's neck, which effectively frees the world from his douche-baggery while accomplishing the mission Dazzler's team set out to do. It's like a three-way at a whore house in that it accomplishes two goals at once.
Once this universe's asshole Xavier is dead, the X-gods begin the tedious process of unfucking the world. And in a shakeup that's expected in some ways and surprising than others, Emmeline decides to stay. Seeing as how she turned on Dazzler's team in the last issue, I figure it would be pretty damn hard to trust her at this point. Plus, the X-gods are nice enough to grant her a wish of not giving a damn anymore so she's pretty much bound to this universe. But even though she's Emma Frost from another world, she's still an Emma that gives only so many fucks. Not to leave on a sour note, Dazzler throws in a quick smooch on a hot guy before leaving with Wolverine, Kid Nightcrawler, and Xavier in a jar. They're not exactly leaving Las Vegas with a full bag of chips, but they're not leaving flat broke anyways. In terms of inter-dimensional hopping, I think this qualifies as a win.
This issue offered far more than I expected. From the get go, I've branded Xtreme X-men as a novelty that helps fill the void left by Exiles. It's a void not easily filled and one that I've done my best to fill with certain cocktails of alcohol and a few other exotic substances I dare not name less the fine folks at the DEA are X-men fans. But this issue goes beyond merely filling a void. This issue doesn't just carry the story forward. It throws in a remarkable twist that you won't find outside a Christopher Nolan movie, minus subtle anti-liberal propaganda. The issue began with one set of assumptions about Storm, Thor, and the rest of these X-men wannabe gods. Greg Pak effectively took those assumption, choked them with a piece of barb wire, and shot them with a 12-gauge shotgun in the head. Not only that, it tweaked the line-up in the story by having Emmeline stay while Dazzler continued her journey with Howlett and Kid Nightcrawler. That ensures the next arc won't follow the same formula. Now Dazzler and co. have to function without a hot blonde telepath on their side. Fuck if that isn't a challenge.
As great as the twist was, I still found Xavier's little justification for his deception pretty weak. And it wouldn't be the first time a version of Charles Xavier has had a bullshit reason to mind-fuck people. It appeaars to be another one of those trends that spans multiple universes on top of the trend that ensures Deadpool will always be batshit crazy. Charles Xavier comes off as this shining beacon of virtue, but behind the scenes he's a scheming, sleazy asshole who would gladly make you shit out your own brain cells if it made his mission a little easier. I probably shouldn't be too disappointed that Dazzler's crew came across yet another Xavier who spent too much time in Gary Busey's head. That is, after all, what set the stage for this crazy multi-verse spanning adventure going all the way back to Pak's Astonishing X-men run. But still, in a multi-verse that's infinitely big, is it too much to ask for at least one Charles Xavier that's not a total douche-bag?
Maybe Dazzler will find a universe like that in her journey. For now, her trip in this issue and the series as a whole continues to be wildly entertaining. Greg Pak continues to write her as a solid character, utilizing solid dialog while setting up some pretty amazing battles that involve gods, demi-gods, and psychics with way too much free time on their hands. Xtreme X-men is still a very different kind of book that some people will still bitch about because it doesn't really tie in with the other X-books. I consider these people to be the same assholes that double park their Hummers in handicap spots and refuse to take off that Bush/Cheney bumper sticker fron the back. These are comic fans that this series can do without. I give Xtreme X-men #3 a 4.5 out of 5. How can I give a book any less when it demonstrates an ability to twist my perceptions in a way that's entirely legal...for now. Mr. Pak, if you're watching this, keep an eye out for the DEA. You never know what kind of shit they'll ban next. Nuff said!