Saturday, October 13, 2012

X-men #37 - Respectfully Awesome

For the past few weeks as Avengers vs. X-men has taken a tailspin into a lake of raw sewage, I've tried to take solace in other comics that haven't required a comparison to human excrement. Last week I had Uncanny X-Force to help soften the blow of the stool sample that was Avengers vs. X-men. This week, I have a comic that has actually been on an upswing lately. I know I come off as a hateful, spiteful, bitter drunk in my reviews and as accurate as that may be to an extent, I'm still capable of deriving pleasure from other areas of the Marvel universe and it doesn't always require that I ingest a certain amount of LSD (although it sure does help).

Brian Wood's adjectiveless X-men has been to Avengers vs. X-men what ethical journalism has been to Fox News. It's not flashy. It's not big. It's not a huge fucking event that requires everyone working at Marvel to proclaim it's awesome from the top of every building in New York City. It's a story that follows a select group of X-men on missions that don't involve shameless crossovers or gimmicks. Brian Wood's subtle approach was slow at first in how he introduced the concept of proto-mutants. But in the past few issues, he's made it more compelling and thrown in a few twists along the way. It hasn't been action packed, but it has led to a creepy guy blowing a hole in the side of a plane and jumping out. It's not global catastrophe, but it's still pretty awesome.

Part of what has made Brian Wood's adjectiveless X-men so compelling is the sense of progression. Aside from books like Uncanny X-Force, not a lot of comics follow that kind of progression. The proto-mutants started off as an anomaly. But then Storm's security team did some digging and uncovered some rather disturbing trends, including a creepy cult based around proto-mutant DNA and a Jesus wannabe. Then in the previous issue, they met up with a proto-mutant who actually doesn't look like a monster, a ball of shit, or something out of a Japanese anime porn. And when they upset him by mentioning that proto-mutants were being used like dirty needles in a crack house. He responded completely logically by blowing a hole in their plane (when it was in mid air) and flying out. It's only slightly less outrageous than Lindsey Lohan's last meltdown.

In X-men #37, Storm's team has to deal with the immediate aftermath of a powerful proto-mutant jumping out of a plane and flying around in anger. Also in the previous issue, Pixie jumped out after him. This issue begins by showing how their proto-mutant friend, Gabriel Sheppard, caused such a raucous with his tirade that he attacked the fucking air force. And since military budgets are overbloated and certain pilots are trigger happy, their first inclination was to shoot it with a missile. Thankfully, Pixie manages to teleport him away before Joe Biden can convince the President to throw nukes at the situation.

As for the plane Mr. Sheppard flat out ruined, Storm and her team had to make an emergency landing and somehow explain to the airport workers why there was a big hole in their plane without them laughing their ass off. But a far more serious conversation was had between Cyclops and Storm. Now for the past few issues, conversations between Cyclops and Storm have been more volatile than the presidential debates. Storm has been keeping secrets from Cyclops about her little operation and Cyclops has been understandably paranoid about her secrets. This time there's no beating around the bush. Storm tells him (using the secret channel that Colossus was using to chat with Cyclops no less) that she's ditching her mission and coming back to utopia. And since this happens before Avengers vs. X-men, we know how that shit is going to end. It doesn't have the same impact as some of the previous debates, but the tension here makes for a nice prelude to what happens in Avengers vs. X-men.

We then switch from a volatile conversation to one that should give readers a warm and fuzzy feeling. After escaping a clearly confused Air Force that's probably still operating under Dick Cheney's rules, Pixie transports Sheppard to Antarctica to escape. When that proves to be too cold and cause too much shinkage (she is a teenage girl), she transports them to a deserted island. Because nothing bad could possibly happen by putting an old man and a teenage girl on a desert island with no supervision. I'm pretty sure that's how certain anime porn begins.

But even if it has the makings of anime porn, the conversation they have is very deep and very heartfelt. It's the exact opposite of Storm's conversation with Cyclops. It's like exchanging a line of blow for a shot of heroine, minus the vomiting. Pixie basically gets a sense for why Sheppard is so isolated. He's been alive for 700 years and done jack shit. He basically explains why he chooses solitude and it's not a bad reason. He says he's seen his entire race of proto-mutants live and die. That would give most people anti-social tendencies. As for him being overly pissed and busting out of their plane, he justifies that by not being comfortable with the X-men and assholes like David Gray fighting over the remains of his people like a couple of necrophiliacs fighting over a corpse. Wood does a great job of making his plight understandable here. It may not be as flashy as battle where he uses his shitty luck to justify beating the shit out of babies, but it still has an impact.

If the conversation with Sheppard was heartfelt, the conversation that followed with Colossus and Storm was akin to Terrel Owens trash talk minus the popcorn. For much of this arc, Colossus has been chatting with Cyclops behind Storm's back. She finally confronts him about it and Colossus goes off, explaining to her in a not-so-friendly tone why he thinks she's been treating him like some mindless battering ram that can be thrown out of a jet without so much as a shrug. Being forced to lie to his friends and go behind the back of Cyclops just doesn't sit well with him. Storm is smart enough to know this, yet she's done it anyways and for what? She's tried to do her own thing and what has it gained her?

It culminates in the biggest (and only) fight of the issue. Colossus, still drunk on Juggernaut power and not happy with being thought of as a mindless muscle, lashes out at Storm. She calls it a temper tantrum. He probably calls it saying, "Fuck you!" But Storm isn't one to take a temper tantrum lightly. Once Colossus starts implying that Cyclops would have handled this better and with enough time to get a couple of blow jobs from Emma Frost on the side, Storm shuts his ass up with a big ass bolt of lightning. It's not a very effective way of proving that she was right, but it is an effective way of winning an argument. It's like walking into a debate with a shotgun and Chuck Norris. You're not going to lose.

However, that battle with Storm and Colossus is the only battle in the book. It's personal and it's intense, but it really doesn't feel that action-packed. I know not every comic can have an epic battle, but it felt like this battle was just underplayed. It didn't have the impact that it could have, even if the argument was a good argument to have.

Without any fighting or arguments, Pixie and Sheppard part ways. Sheppard decides that with the proto-mutants extinct, he has no place in this world. So he decides to just leave. He doesn't say where he's going. That's probably just a subtle hint that the editors at Marvel don't care to see any more stories about him. It's like killing off a character whose actor has a contract dispute. But before he goes, he makes Pixie promise to destroy the remaining samples of the proto-mutant DNA that everyone has been fighting over. He just doesn't feel comfortable with more necrophiliacs trying to dry hump the corpse of his people. And that's a completely understandable request.

Pixie does as she asks, having a nice moment to herself as she revisits the area where David Michael Gray got this shit ball rolling in the first place. She essentially buries what's left of the proto-mutant arc. It's like an epilogue of sorts, showing that whatever potential the proto-mutants may have had is now lost along with Sheppard. It can also be seen as a prelude of sorts because Pixie describes how lost mutants are and with the coming events of Avengers vs. X-men, it's only bound to get more fucked up. It's not so much the calm before the storm. It's more like the wet fart before the onslaught of explosive diarrhea.

Some stories or arcs have a natural, definitive end while others are dragged out in a way that's so overblown and so convoluted that the Wachowskis will try to make it into a trilogy. This story surrounding the proto-mutants was the former thankfully. Brian Wood probably could have dragged this story out for as long as he damn well pleased, but he chose not to. He didn't end it with an overly spectacular final battle between X-men and a hoard of monsters or some other mad scientist that went off his meds. In fact, the climactic battle for this story was between two X-men who were supposed to be on the same side. It may not have been spectacular, but it had a solid impact. It may not have resolved itself in the most satisfying way, but it worked.

For once, the biggest flaw in a story isn't that a writer did way too fucking much. It was that Wood stopped it rather abruptly. He opted for subtlety and personal dramas rather than giant monsters that shit fire. In a market of comics that has that every other week, that helps set his proto-mutant story apart. He also emphasized the more personal connections in this story, such as Pixie and Sheppard as well as the much more volatile connection with Storm and Colossus. They emotions didn't run as high as one would hope, but they were there and they fit the situation.

That said, some may take Wood's subtle approach as a more boring approach. And that's not entirely wrong. Not a lot happens here aside from the fight between Colossus and Storm. The team basically decides to stop pursuing the proto-mutants and leave them alone. That's really not much of a resolution and it leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Yet Wood does find a way to make it feel fitting. It just isn't going to knock your socks off or make your dick hard.

Brian Wood's run on adjectiveless X-men has definitely grown on me. It started off rather slow, but he's found a way to make it worthwhile in a way that's hard to do with any comic. Reading this book left me satisfied with the progression of his run, but disappointed with the abrupt manner that it ended. Wood clearly knows how to write an X-book. His style may not be fore everyone, just as magnum sized condoms aren't for everyone. But they have their place. For that, I give X-men #37 a 3.5 out of 5. If you want a comic where shit blows up and makes no fucking sense, read Avengers vs. X-men. If you want a comic that focuses more on character relationships and subtle moments that you can read with your girlfriend before the ecstasy kicks in, this book is for you. Nuff said!

No comments:

Post a Comment