We like to think that mankind has made a shit ton of progress since the days we burned witches at the stake, thought the sun was a guy in a chariot, and sacrificed animals to gods that looked like other animals to protect from all sorts of crazy shit...including animals. Looking back on history, it's hard to believe that people were once that stupid. But I'm of the opinion that gap of stupidity isn't as wide as we would like to believe. The only difference between us and our ancestors is that we have shit like Google and Wikipedia to check facts whenever someone comes at us with some crazy shit about some guy being born of a virgin or snakes talking. I'm sure if Socrates had an Iphone, he could have made everyone in Ancient Greece kiss his ass and sing a song about it afterward.
This narrow gap of stupidity extends into comics where it also extends beyond universes. Marvel comics, the X-men in particular, have never been shy about hopping universes with the same regularity that I make beer runs on a Friday night. Greg Pak has based his Xtreme X-men series entirely on this premise and for the most part, it has been pretty damn awesome. Dazzler and a team of alternate universe X-men have traveled to some pretty exotic universes, but for the most part the stupidity gap is the same. By that I mean in multiple universes, people are stupid enough to trust an evil Charles Xavier to solve all their problems.
The latest arc of Xtreme X-men has Dazzler's team traveling to a world of old west cliches where Charles Xavier is the anti-John Wayne. Rather than hold shootouts and let whiskey-fueled bar brawls rule the day, he used the same tactic that the Charles Xavier used with the X-gods in the previous universe they visited. He mind fucked everybody and probably jerked off while doing it. He managed to capture Wolverine while Dazzler and Kid Nightcrawler freed the guy who looks like Wolverine's father, minus the bottle of whiskey. While this series may have a pretty simple premise, it has found ways to be awesome and surprising. We know the Xavier of this universe is a total douche. So what kind of twists can we expect from such douchiness?
Xtreme X-men #5 attempts to answer that call by having the Xavier-in-a-Jar belittle Dazzler by pointing out that the cute guy she was just itching to bone in the X-gods universe ditched her for Emma Frost the moment she flashed her boobs at him. To be fair, a celibate priest would ditch Jesus at the sight of Emma Frost's boobs. But that doesn't stop Xavier-in-a-Jar from pointing out that Dazzler has been burned to the point where she enjoys universe hopping. I'm not sure if that's just him being a douche or a motivational tactic. Either works because she leads the charge against Sheriff Xavier's forces, which now include a mind-wiped Wolverine. It's as flashy as you would expect Dazzler aside from wanting her to do it topless, you can't ask for much more.
It's not a fair fight in the slightest and Sheriff Xavier knows that and won't wipe that goofy grin off his face either. He's got his own Wolverine, Colossus, Steampunk Danger, and Sabreooth to throw at a wannabe pop star and a kid Nightcrawler. You couldn't get a more unfair fight if you put Stephen Hawkings in an MMA ring. But Sheriff Xavier reveals that he's not just out to kill them. That would make too much sense. He wants the Xavier-in-a-Jar. Why? Hell, I don't know. But if you found an alternate version of your head in a jar, you would be curious too I imagine. But still, it would be nice if there was another reason aside from being curious, bored, and overly sober.
And once Sheriff Xavier has the Xavier-in-a-Jar in hand he does what he does best and tries to mind-fuck him. But in doing so, he actually does the readers a service of sorts. He reveals the circumstances in which this Xavier-in-a-Jar lost his head both literally and figuratively. Thanks to some telepathic flashbacks, we get some solid insight. Apparently, he wasn't all that different from the non-psychotic Xavier. But instead of taking five gifted mutants and forming the X-men, he took five gifted mutants and made them into a reality show. Okay, so he was psychotic after all. If not in part. But even if it was only partially, he went full psychotic when a bunch of guys dressed as Sentinel cos-players showed up and killed his cast. And the destruction of his reality show sent him over the edge and had him start mind fucking people.
It may not be the most elaborate story surrounding an alternate universe Xavier, but it does fill a blank that's been lingering in Xtreme X-men for a while now. While characters like Nightcrawler and Wolverine have had some backstory hinted at, not much has been done with the Xavier-in-a-Jar. So it was nice to finally get some insight into this disembodied head case. It took a while and it isn't the most ground-breaking twist, but it work without having Xavier look too much of a douche.
That's probably a good thing because the battle doesn't let up. Nightcrawler manages to get the Xavier-in-a-Jar back and teleport him away, leaving Dazzler to fight off Sheriff Xavier's mind-fucked army by herself. But she manages to hold her own, showing off a level of firepower and sex appeal that will keep you warm and give you a boner. Again, it's flashy and not overly drawn out. But it's still a sight to behold and a testament to what a hot blond chick with superpowers can do. God help us all of Miley Cyrus ever gets powers like this. It gets to the point where Sheriff Xavier's forces end up retreating. Despite all his "I'm awesome and you're just a hot chick who teenage boys with no internet connection jerk off to" speech, he just retreats before countering. It doesn't make a lot of sense. After Avengers vs. X-men, you would think I would be used to that shit. But sadly, it still hurts a story even if it involves a flashy hot chick.
Dazzler and Kid Nightcrawler go after him. They run into the old west version of Cyclops, who apparently was the actual sheriff before this universe's Xavier mind-fucked him. In that sense he actually has a reason to kill Xavier and since this is before that shit hit a great many fans, Dazzler tries to get through Xavier's control. For a moment, it seems to work. But unlike the Cyclops we know and love, he's too much of a pussy to break it. So he still tries to blast Dazzler, but she's able to work around that shit and use his optic blasts to rough up Sabretooth. It makes a slight bit of sense because Sabretooth can never get enough blasting. It's one of those classic X-men elements that need not make sense.
We eventually find out that Sheriff Xavier did have a plan of sorts. In order to get the Xavier-in-a-Jar back, he traveled back to the town where the kid Wolverine had been hiding with his family. He then has non-kid Wolverine in a position to gut them if they don't hand over the Xavier-in-a-Jar. It would be brilliant if it wasn't something they could have easily done beforehand and skip the whole Dazzler fight. Granted, it wouldn't have been as flashy, but it only means they didn't even have a coherent reason to do half the shit they did. And given the recent trends in Marvel comics, that shit is pretty disappointing.
Almost as disappointing is the way this illogical plan turns out. Before there can be any tense negotiations or shit like that, the whole thing just ends when Wolverine suddenly heals from the mind-fuck Sheriff Xavier did to him. And just in time to avoid killing his kid version no less. Once free, he proceeds to quickly end this shit by decapitating Sheriff Xavier. It's not as gruesome as it sounds. It just ends the battle in a way that is supposed to be shocking, but really just comes off as an overly and overly contrived solution.
While the conflict itself didn't end in a very exciting manner, Greg Pak does at least take the time to craft a solid ending to this little visit to the old west. He flashes forward about two weeks. In that time, Cyclops manages to round up all the criminals that Sheriff Xavier mind-fucked. Kid Wolverine's father made a full recovery as well. It seems everything is all hookers and booze again. That means Dazzler, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Xavier-in-a-Jar are ready to just teleport away in search of their next evil Xavier. It would be a rather bland way to end the issue, but thankfully Pak throws in a twist when he has Kid Nightcrawler fuck up their universe hopping. For reasons that also don't make sense, he sees an image of his parents. And like a fat kid that sees an overturned ice cream truck, his first inclination is to go after it.
This turns out about as fucked up as you would expect. That is, of course, if by fucked up you mean him ending up in a universe of bug-like robots. There are any number of crazy universes that Dazzler and her team could visit. They've been to a universe of X-gods. They've been to a universe where everyone acts like they're on the set of a John Wayne movie. Now they're going to a universe with killer robots. It actually seems logical while providing something that feels like a twist of sorts. It's an awkward yet enjoyable feeling. Like being caught jerking off at a porno theater, you feel like you get your money's worth either way.
Lately in my reviews, I've been making a big fucking deal about comics making sense. I know it sounds petty, a guy who regularly sees ninja rabbits fighting giant cockroaches when he's tripping on shrooms criticizing a comic for not making sense. Granted, there's only so much sense a story can make when it involves heads in a jar and people who can shoot lasers from their eyes, but I don't think it's too much to ask the people at Marvel who get paid to do the shit fanfiction writers regularly do for free to have their shit make sense. The premise of Xtreme X-men is as out there as the guy who watches the Matrix stoned. But for the most part it has been coherent. This issue wasn't one of those parts.
It had some good, solid moments. The most pertinent being the insight into the Xavier-in-a-Jar and why drove him to be the disembodied basket case he is now. Greg Pak hasn't explored those elements too much to this point so it was a nice addition to the story that has been unfolding in this book. But the area where it falls flat is the less-than-shocking twist at the end where Wolverine breaks free of Sheriff Xavier's control and cuts his head off. There was a time when decapitation was shit in a comic book. Now it's about as shocking as one of Rush Limbaugh's conspiracy theories about the liberal media. We're used to it. Not only that, the whole Wolverine breaking free from his control made for a rather boring end that didn't make much sense. So he just got mind fucked and healed from it? And Sheriff Xavier didn't even contemplate that it could happen after being competent enough to mind-fuck so many others? It doesn't make sense and there I couldn't do enough bong hits to change that.
It was a rather bland resolution to the arc, but at least it didn't follow the same path the previous arc did. Dazzler and her crew didn't just leave this crazy universe after promising to never watch another western ever again. There was a twist thrown in at the end with Nightcrawler breaking from the group like kids with alcoholic fathers tend to do. It may not have been too startling and his reasons for doing so didn't make much sense either, but it helped ensure that the next arc would have a different set of circumstances and a different set of conflicts that didn't involve horses, saloons, and whore houses. Hopefully, the next arc at least keeps the whore houses.
Xtreme X-men is still a fun ride with plenty of enjoyment elements. Xtreme X-men #5 wasn't the best issue to date, but it didn't fall flat on its ass and Greg Pak did close out this arc rather nicely even if it didn't make much sense. That's why I give the issue a 3 out of 5. It's solid despite its flaws. If you're sober enough, it should get you excited for the next issue. It won't blow your mind, strike your heart, or make love to you in ways that can only be described in a Barry White song. But it will give you something to read while lying naked on your bed with the heater going full blast. Nuff said!