Thursday, September 27, 2012

Xtreme X-men #4 - Old West Awesome

I've never been a fan of old westerns. There are only so many times I pay attention to a story that involves to cowboys standing in a dirt road, ready to shoot each other, and not realizing how utterly retarded it is to be standing directly in front of one another. All I know about old westerns is that there's a good cowboy meant to represent all the virtues that the Christian Right has been trying to shove down our throats for three decades and a bad cowboy meant to be Charlie Sheen's distant ancestor. It's fun the first time, but like jerking off to the same porno it eventually fails to get your dick hard again. So when Xtreme X-men is poised to go from a world of X-men demigods to a world of John Wayne ripoffs, I wasn't exactly thrilled.

That said, I'm usually willing to give cliched themes a shot just like I'm usually willing to give that old porno I mentioned a shot at getting my dick hard again. Sometimes it work. Sometimes it doesn't and I have to spend the next two hours on youporn finding something that will get me off when the blow still hasn't worn off. But given the recent success of Xtreme X-men, I think Greg Pak has earned the trust of both my dick and my tastes in X-men comics. He's done something that's not entirely novel by taking a B-list character in Dazzler and sending her on a universe-hopping adventure where she rubs elbows with all sorts of alternate reality X-men. However, he does it in a way that's just fun and enjoyable. It's not some radically stupid idea like trying to make an entire story about the Phoenix Force that doesn't involve Jean Grey. Okay, bad example.

Thankfully, Greg Pak is both able and willing to move a story forward in a coherent way without resorting to ADHD medications. The previous issue ended with Dazzler's X-men revealing that the Xavier in the world of X-gods was actually a divinely inspired douche-bag in that he cast an epic mind-fuck that made the X-men into holy assholes and the world into an unholy toilet. It's yet another instance of Charles Xavier being a universal douche-bag in a multi-verse of possibilities. Is it at all possible Dazzler and co. will EVER find a universe where Xavier doesn't make the reader want Cyclops to go Dark Phoenix and end his shit? Okay, another bad example. But you get the idea.

Xtreme X-men #4 introduces us to a world where the X-men live in a bad John Wayne movie. It's the old west complete with dusty roads, drinking, gambling, and presumably plenty of prostitutes. And like the old west, there's plenty of lawless shit going on. And wouldn't you know it? This world's version of Charles Xavier is the overbloated source of it all. He apparently still has telepathic powers in this world and rather than using them to get free blowjobs from the prostitutes, he uses them to cheat at cards. That in and of itself is pretty inane until he uses those same powers to make everybody's brain leak out of their ears when someone calls him out. Some men just aren't satisfied with blow jobs and in almost every instance, they tend to be evil.

Flash forward in time a bit so that evil Xavier has plenty of time to mind-fuck an entire town and time period. It's nowhere nearly as impressive as mind fucking a bunch of demigods, but I guess we can't expect every version of Xavier to be that badass. Dazzler, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and their pet Xavier in a jar arrive just long enough to channel their inner Clint Eastwood. They also have time to steal some clothes that just happen to fit perfectly because apparently the old west offered a better selection than your average modern Wal-Mart. And after rolling into town doing their best to not look like inter-dimensional time travelers, they begin their mission to hunt down this world's evil Xavier. But wouldn't you know it? The old west tends to attract a lot of assholes and the X-men just aren't inclined to ignore assholes.

This time it comes in the form of a familiar looking kid named Jamie with a familiar set of claws. He and his mother get harassed by an old west style version of the Brotherhood, complete with a version of Toad that easily gets his ass kicked. They don't give much reason for harassing the kid and his mother. But the mere fact he has claws and a bad temper is enough to rouse Wolverine's inner Hamlet and attack these old west knock-offs.

It's a battle that's a fuckton more exciting than your typical shootout. Dazzler makes dueling look sexy for the first time since John Wayne's death by turning her light-show into a mini-gun. It gives Wolverine plenty of time to beat the shit out of this world's version of Sabretooth, which never gets old no matter what universe he's in. They also pick up on a few ominous quips about there being big bad boss of sorts. And since they've yet to come across a universe where Xavier isn't a douche, it's a pretty safe assumption who it may be. But since this version of Wolverine also happens to have childhood issues, he insists on taking on the whole damn down while Dazzler and Nightcrawler get the boy and his mother to safety. It's badass, but pretty damn stupid.

After Dazzler and Nightcrawler get away, Wolverine ends up in the pokey for stirring up so much shit. While he's presumably waiting for a cake with a nail file, he finds out he's got a cell mate that doesn't look inclined to make him his bitch. His mate is actually Jamie's father. This in and of itself isn't too jarring until it gives Wolverine some frat party style flashbacks of his own father. It sounds cheesy, but it actually adds a bit of heart to the scene and the overall plot because to this point there hasn't been much room for melodrama in Xtreme X-men. It's just travel the multi-verse, beat up evil Xavier's, and find reasons to put Dazzler in a sexy costume. That's all well and good, but a story about a kid whose father got wrongfully locked up that also makes Wolverine seem like less of an unfeeling douche-bag also helps.

We learn that this guy made only one mistake that landed him in a prison cell with a festering wound for over a year. He had the balls to tell the big boss in town to go fuck himself. In the old west, that's like a woman going on an ice fishing trip with Scott Peterson. It's not going to end well. But unlike this desperate father, Wolverine is more inclined to bust out. And since he's got a special skeleton that makes him immune to telepaths, he's in a much better position to tell the boss to go fuck himself.

That's actually a problem because in the same way that the Xavier of every world they visit is an asshole, he also happens to be pretty cunning. While the man is pleading with Wolverine to send his son one final message, we finally get to meet this big boss and this time there's no big twist. It is Xavier and he's not looking to pretend he's a nice guy. He just gets his kicks by mind-fucking people. And since Wolverine's skeleton is preventing him from doing that, he needs to employ all the sick shit from every Human Centipede movie to get it out of him, presumably without having to ingest as much shit.

While shit is getting bloody at the big house, Dazzler and Nightcrawler are working on finding Wolverine and Jamie's father. Dazzler employs some fancy tricks that involve her dressing up as a hooker, which is only slightly less revealing than her being in that Slave Leia costume she wore in the previous arc. If the next world they visit doesn't have her in a thong, then it would just be inconsistent at this point. But however slutty her clothes, she manages to find Wolverine using some creative sound tricks. Unfortunately, Xavier and his buddies already had their fun. They're still able to find Jamie's father though, who was more than happy to get paroled. It leads to a nice, emotional reunion with his family. However, they still haven't had a chance to tell this world's Xavier to go fuck himself and they just can't have that.

Whatever horrific shit this world's Xavier did, it seemed to work. Because after Dazzler and Nightcrawler succeed in freeing Jamie's father, Xavier sends his mind-fucked goons after them. And this time that includes Wolverine. This marks the second time one of their universe-hopping buddies has turned on them. Emma Frost did it in the previous arc. Now Wolverine has done it here, albeit after some presumably extreme coercion. But it implies the beginning of a rather disturbing trend. Now Dazzler may have to look for the moment when Kid Nightcrawler turns on her. At least he doesn't have metal claws, daddy issues, and an evil Xavier pulling his strings.

Whereas the previous issue was awesome because of Greg Pak's ability to throw a shocking twist into the mix, this issue found an entirely different way to be awesome. Contrary to popular belief, people are still capable of getting teary-eyed when they read a touching tale about a man trying to save his son and a son trying to save his father. Those tears are all the more sweet when one of them has claws. Pak took a break from showing Dazzler's team fight against gods that like to wash their hands in the blood of the innocent to set up a story that's more grounded, but with mutants and old west prostitutes. There's a struggle here with a family in danger and it offers a compelling pull that gives this issue a solid impact.

That said, the impact is somewhat lessened by the lack of details. We get that the story of Jamie and his father tickles your warm and fuzzy side in a way that probably would require another bypass for Dick Cheney. What we don't get is what the rest of the team should do about it and how this fits into their larger mission. That seems to be a growing theme in this series. It's getting tough to recall or keep track of their mission. And when you smoke as much weed as I do, you're not going to forget or have the necessary motivation to go back and read the earlier issues. I get that it's hard to keep a series coherent in the same way it's hard to beat a drug test while stoned. But that's what separates the good from the awesome.

However, this issue is still sufficiently awesome to rekindle your love of John Wayne movies. There's action, drama, and prostitutes. That's a complete story in my book! However, the increasing lack of coherence in Xtreme X-men is a distressing trend. I certainly hope that Greg Pak is able to throw in a few more twists because as much fun as it is seeing a pretty blonde hop universes and make friends with alternate versions of her friends, it gets old. There are only so many times you can see an alternate Xavier mind-fuck people before it loses its impact. However, that impact is still there and that's why I give Xtreme X-men #4 a 4 out of 5. Now if you'll excuse me, this comic has given me a sudden craving for whiskey and a hooker. Nuff said!

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