Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Uncanny X-Force #34 - Descending Into Awesome
The concept of X-Force often strikes me as the kind of concept most police officers and state troopers only wish they could operate under. The notion of being proactive in brutalizing the kinds of threats you just know are going to fuck with you in the long run makes a remarkable bit of sense. I know my share of police officers (although I wouldn't say we're on friendly terms), but I'm fairly certain that if they knew for a fact that some douche-bag in the Ferarri was going to drive 125 mph in a school zone while a two hookers jerked him off they wouldn't mind being allowed to shoot an RPG at that asshole before any kids were harmed. X-Force is basically the RPG and the deadly threats to mutant kind are the douche-bags in the Ferarri. On paper, it sounds like a very satisfying way to do business. In practice, however, shit tends to get messy.
Rick Remender has spent a good chunk of his ball-bustingly awesome run on X-Force demonstrating just how messy this shit can get when you adopt this proactive killing policy against the douche-bags of the Marvel universe. Sooner or later, those same douche-bags are going to take notice and find a way to fight back. The final arc of Remender's Uncanny X-Force run has a newly formed Brotherhood of Mutants using X-Force's proactive policy to give them rectal exam with a boxing glove laced with barb wire. The likes of Mystique, Daken, Shadowking, and AOA Blob have all joined forces to fuck with X-Force in the worst possible way. Part of this process involves taking the first act of proactive killing they committed, namely the murder of kid Apocalypse and Fantomex subsequently trying to make up for it while banging Psylocke, and turning it against them. And so far it's worked in ways so disturbingly effective it would almost make Dick Cheny smile.
The Brotherhood went to great lengths to set this shit up, going so far as to try and blow X-Force up by making Ultimaton explode while they abduct Genesis, aka the other Kid Apocalypse that's only somewhat less creepy than the first one. They went to equally great (and sadistic) lengths to reveal to Genesis that his whole life was just a ripped off piece of Smallville fanfiction. Now he's being encouraged to take his anger out on X-Force. But just to make sure that they've been extra screwed over, the Brotherhood also killed Fantomex and Mystique turned AOA Nightcrawler against them. The result has been X-Force getting their asses kicked in ways that overkill doesn't begin to describe. But it's the Brotherhood. If they're not going for overkill, they're not trying very hard.
So with Rick Remender's amazing run nearing it's zenith, we're left to grasp at whatever remaining awesome he can provide. Uncanny X-Force #33 ended with Genesis dawning his Apocalypse armor and preparing to throw a little celestial powered whoop-ass against X-Force, the Brotherhood, and the world as a whole. Again, it's overkill, but for a Rick Remender book that shit's just a typical Wednesday.
Uncanny X-Force #34 has the overkill turned up to 11 with Daken watching his father drown while Genesis (or Kid Apocalypse as we can now call him) begins his rampage. All the while, the rest of X-Force is fighting a losing battle on all fronts. Psylocke is getting her mind ripped apart like Sean Hannity in a Michael Moore movie and AOA Nightcrawler is escaping EVA's wrath after he so gleefully screwed his team over. And Daken goes so far as to try and make a point of this. He basically tells his father, "See? People are assholes!" He could just have easily proved that by showing him reruns of the Jersey Shore, but I guess that would have been too much overkill.
Genesis has also adopted the overkill philosophy. Now in his Apocalypse armor, he's free to vent his anger in ways that most teenagers can only fantasize about less they get put on medications and forced to go into therapy. I'm not sure if most teenagers would fantasize about attacking a guy like Skinless Man, but I imagine it's somewhere in between punching their gym teacher in the balls and banging Carmen Electra. But Skinless Man just can't resist fucking with Genesis even more. He shows him a jar of Fantomex's heart and tempts him with the ability to revive him. Really? You think he wants to revive the guy who made his whole life into a piece of Smallville fanfiction? Either Skinless Man had his brain burned off her he just doesn't understand how sadistic your typical teenager is.
Even if Genesis is that sadistic, he is tempted at first. But Skinless Man just can't resist waving his dick just a little bit closer to that hungry shark. He crushes the heart, adding to Genesis's rage. Now he's motivated to rip off more than just his skin. He might as well have taken a teenage girl's cell phone, thongs, and pictures of Robert Pattinson. He's bound to get butchered in ways that would make Jeffery Dahlmer sick, but Deadpool beats him to it. Despite being roughed up in the previous issue, he manages to pull his exceedingly fucked up mind together and stab Skinless Man through the neck. It's not a very dramatic moment, but for a guy with a name like Skinless Man it's sort of a relief. There are just some villains that are better off stabbed.
It still fucks with Genesis though, who laments at how people could be this evil. But that's like standing in downtown Detroit and whining about how fucked the economy is. It's all about perspective. But for a kid like him, it's still a powerful moment and one that helps capture the emotional journey that Remender has done with Genesis. It shows that even with all those pleasant memories of his life in Smallville rip-off world, he hasn't gone full Apocalypse just yet.
The tide is definitely starting to turn against the Brotherhood at this point. Skinless Man is dead and Genesis still hasn't embraced the full power of his inner douche. And the Omega Clan, who have done such a great job of pretending X-Force has butchered their loved ones, are finally starting to falter. While it makes sense to have an army that believes their enemies fucked them in the worst possible way, it doesn't exactly make them think clearly. Anyone who has been so pissed off at their little brother and chased him without realizing you had no pants on knows this. And against an omega powered telepath, thinking is kind of important. So when Omega White, who feeds on psychic energy, tried to gorge on Psylocke's mind he failed miserably. And he ended up being the key to beating Shadowking, who is all psychic energy to begin with. So after Omega White stuffs his face, Psylocke does the merciful thing and beats him into a coma. It may sound excessive, but make no mistake. Anyone whose girlfriend caught him with a Brazilian hooker and some blow knows that being knocked into a coma is getting off easy...in more ways than one.
To their credit, the Brotherhood tries to reign in Genesis. Mystique tries to catch up with him in Psylocke's form in an effort to at least get him to settle the fuck down. But after a Skinless Man crushes the heart of a loved one for shits and giggles, settling down is the last thing on your mind. Genesis casually gives Mystique an omega powered bitch slap. She probably would have gotten a lot worse, but we know Marvel is never going to rough up one of the women that they know their fans masturbate to. As such, it's not too surprising when AOA Nightcrawler teleports her away. He reminds her that this who plan of theirs has gone to hell. And he's right. If there was a plan here, it failed miserably and for once it wasn't because of X-Force.
On paper, it sounds reasonable. Kidnap Genesis, get him to hate X-Force, and then turn him against them. It's not like Fantomex didn't already set that shit up when he tried to make up for shooting Kid Apocalypse in the eyes, but their plan to just use Shadowking to control his mind while assuming they could beat back an omega level telepath like Psylocke doesn't even sound good on paper. That in essence is what sort of softens the impact of this conflict. X-Force really didn't do anything awesome to fuck it up. It just sort of fell apart on it's own. Even if the violence is as awesome as we've come to expect, it's just the kind of violence that you see happen at an Eagles game. It's just shit that becomes chaotic on it's own and that's not much of a plot.
But there is a much more compelling aspect of the story to be told, although it has nothing to do with the whole Genesis plot. As this elaborate good-on-paper plan starts to unravel, Daken tries to run away. Deadpool has since saved Wolverine from drowning by giving him mouth-to-mouth, something I'm sure will inspire a new wave of slash fanfiction. But before Wolverine can get too disgusted and before Deadpool can make a few lame gay jokes, Wolverine goes after Daken to give his son some long overdue discipline.
What follows is an elaborate, richly detailed fight that most fathers probably only wish they could have with their asshole teenage sons and not get arrested for it. But beyond the battle, there's an interesting flashback here with a touch of narration that ponders what would have happened if Wolverine had been there to raise Daken. Would he have become such a douche-bag? We go through a few panels that show Daken and Wolverine essentially reenacting re-runs from 50s sitcoms, minus the subtle racism and misogyny. It raises the profound question of what could have been and makes it all the more emotional when Wolverine essentially steals his son's idea and drowns him to beat him. It's one of those old nature vs. nurture arguments that will probably never be resolved outside a What If comic...except that it actually was a fucking What If comic and it ended horribly.
But the What Ifs are besides the point here. Wolverine is still forced to take his son down. Does this mean Daken is dead and the assholes of countless men and women are safe? In comics where death is as minor as the common cold, that's debatable. But the impact of having to "kill" his son wounds Wolverine in a way he can't heal from and Sabretooth knows this. He comes out of the woodwork and essentially rubs this in Wolverine's face, claiming this was all just an elaborate way to hurt him. I'm assuming the pussy he got from Mystique was a bonus. It's a somewhat cliched plot twist, the revelation that this was the plan all along. And Rick Remender usually doesn't do cliches, but when Sabretooth is involved I guess it's impossible to resist. Going to fucked up lengths like this is well within Sabretooth's character. Genesis is inclined to rip him all the assholes that Daken would have fucked, but Wolverine pulls him back. He finally gets Genesis to settle by explaining that getting pissed doesn't change the fact that people are assholes. It just helps make you an asshole and makes for a pretty awesome battle. So in that sense I guess it's a toss-up.
After Genesis manages to calm down, he joins the rest of X-Force as they leave. They even take the time to retrieve Fantomex's body. It's a somewhat vague moment because Genesis is still in his Apocalypse armor. He just saw all these assholes in the Brotherhood try to turn him into one of them. There's also that whole bit about his life being a complete lie that Fantomex ripped from Superman. I'm assuming he's going to get sued by DC comics before the next issue at some point. But even if the conflict in this issue just basically devolved into a drunken brawl fight that was self-defeating, it did leave Wolverine wounded personally and forced Genesis to re-assess how he looks at the world. It doesn't resolve anything, but it does set the stage nicely for the final issue. The mere knowledge that there's one issue left helps give this ending some impact it wouldn't have had otherwise.
Now if I could get philosophical for a moment here, I'd like to ask some of the profound questions I only usually contemplated when I'm stoned. Like what is all the violence for anyways? Does violence really solve anything? Does vengeance really solve anything? Well this comic only gives us a partial answer. I think if Remender were speaking through it, he would be saying "Fuck yeah! Violence and vengeance solve the problem of there not being enough awesome comics in the world!" And I would fully agree with this. Uncanny X-Force is a violent book that the Jeffery Dahlmers of the world probably jerk off to in their private time. But Rick Remender tries to go further in making this violence actually tell a story and this issue more than anything shows that spilling blood can tell an awesome story in addition to giving massive boners to all the closeted sadists in the world
This issue had a great personal touch just as the last issue did. In the same way AOA Nighcrawler could only call his life complete after he has a shark eat Blob from the inside out, Daken had to prove to his father that he was an asshole and he'll always be inclined to be an asshole. He went to some pretty fucked up lengths, incurring the wrath of Kid Apocalypse in the process. That's like trying to prove that nature will fuck you over by waving your dick in the face of a hungry grizzly. It's fucked up in the sense that it really doesn't prove jack shit, but it does show the depths to which Daken hates his father and the lengths Sabretooth will go to in order to hurt Wolverine.
But as nice as this personal touch was, it also highlighted one of the main flaws of this issue. Everything in this arc just seemed to descend into chaos in the end. It didn't come together in the coherent, satisfying way that other Uncanny X-Force arcs have done. What really just happens here is Kid Apocalypse jumps the gun on Daken's plans and shit just fails from there on out. And in the end Sabretooth reveals that this shit was just some elaborate way to hurt Wolverine and he really didn't give a shit about Daken's daddy issues. That's perfectly in character for Sabretooth, but it still leaves the reader wondering, "Really?! That's all it was? Boning Mystique wasn't even part of what motivated you?! I call bullshit!" Even if it worked in the end, it just doesn't have the impact that it should. Nothing really came along to turn the tide of the battle. The Brotherhood's elaborate plot just started fucking up for no reason like a car some guy tries to fix himself with only a hammer and duct tape at his disposal. It's not very compelling, even if it is entertaining to watch.
Now don't get me wrong. I loved this arc and I love how Remender is tying everything up in the pages of Uncanny X-Force. It hasn't been lost on me that there is only one issue left in this amazing run. My heart sinks, my dick goes limp, and my eyes are filled with tears at the thought. And for once that's not because I ran out of weed. That should give readers an idea of how much I love this series and how sad I'll be to see Rick Remender move on. But this issue wasn't the full extent of his awesome by a long shot. It was still satisfying, full of some very passionate moments that brought this elaborate arc to an end. For that, I give Uncanny X-men #34 a 4 out of 5.
With one issue left, Remender has a chance to end this series in a way that will allow every X-men fan to die happy regardless of how many times Marvel kills Jean Grey, cock blocks Wolverine, or screws over Cyclops. I've been disappointed before with how awesome series end, but for once I have faith that Rick Remender will carve his X-Force legacy in adamantium with his final issue. And I'll be waiting with my best batch of weed and a box of tissues to keep both my eyes and my dick clean. Nuff said!