Wednesday, December 5, 2012
All New X-men #3 - Confusing Yet Awesome
Being pleasantly surprised by a comic book is a lot like being into sadomasochism. You're willing to endure so much pain and degradation until at some point in your own fucked up mind it becomes pleasure. Now I don't mean to imply that all comic book fans all have secret S&M fetishes that act out scenes from 50 Shades of Grey in their spare time, but having had to review many disappointing and sometimes painfully shitty comics on this blog I almost prefer being tied up, gagged, and repeatedly spanked with a leather whip at times.
But enough about my last trip to a German whore house. This is a great time to have an X-men blog because despite Avengers vs. X-men ending in the kind of crushing disappointment that would ruin the buzz of an entire ecstasy fueled rave. Brian Michael Bendis has ditched the Avengers after eight years and set up shop in the X-books with All New X-men (and later a relaunched Uncanny X-men). He already endeared himself to legions of X-men fans when he dared to bring back Jean fucking Grey from the dead. Granted, he had to use a shitty time travel gimmick to do it, but given all the bullshit teases Jean Grey fans have endured over the years they're more than happy to accept it.
And Bendis hasn't wasted any time reminding X-men fans why Jean Grey is awesome and why the Original Five X-men will always be the best, regardless of the lengths Beast goes to be a complete douche-bag. She and the rest of the Original Five X-men didn't just return to the present with Beast in an effort to stop what he claimed was a Cyclops whose balls became too big for even Emma Frost to handle. They returned to humiliate Wolverine as well. This picture alone shall endear in the hearts of Jean Grey fans and Wolverine haters for the rest of time.
But it isn't just about humiliating some creepy, old guy obsessed with swapping body fluids with Jean Grey. The Original Five X-men have returned to the present in the pages of All New X-men to uncover a future more fucked up than any future ruled by killer robots. They have the world being repopulated with mutants at an alarming rate and Cyclops has grown into a guy who is essentially pissing on the face of human/mutant peace by becoming a new Magneto-lite revolutionary. After having coming to see Magneto as the anti-Christ in their early years, it's just too fucked up to see Cyclops working alongside him so the Original Five are committed to giving the finger to the space time continuum and confronting this new Cyclops.
All New X-men #3 sets the stage for that confrontation by having the new Revolutionary Cyclops set up shop at a new Xavier Institute. Well, it's actually and old Weapon X facility. Setting up an Xavier Institute there would be like having a Christmas party at a mosque in Iran. It's just awkward as hell. But to his credit, Cyclops does attempt to justify his odd choice of base. For one, it's probably the last place anyone would look for him. He clearly hasn't forgotten that he's a wanted fugitive and on the Avenger's shit list. It helps to have a good place to hide. Also, it would turn a place once used to torture mutants into a place where mutants could stand up and say, "We're not going to take it, motherfuckers!" I think there's something very poetic about that. Hell, it could be a lost Nirvana song for all I know.
But between him, Magneto, and Magik, Cyclops knows that he could barely sell any girl scout cookies with his team, let alone start a mutant revolution. So he sets out to add to their ranks by freeing another mutant that happens to be a fugitive on the shit list of one too many Avengers. The problem is that they're being transported under heavy guard. But that's never stopped the X-men before. It's the kind of shit they can handle while hung over if they had to, but for some rather mysterious reasons this rescue gets a little messy. Instead of just subduing the trucks, transports, and drivers they find out that Magneto's powers are out of whack. He's unable to subdue them while waving his dick in their face laughing like he's often prone to do. Cyclops has issues to because when he tries to use his powers, his visor starts to fuck up like an old Windows Vista computer. It leads to a much messier (albiet much more entertaining) rescue operation for everyone except the poor souls driving that shit. Guess that's what you get for signing a contract with Halliburton and Black Water.
Messiness aside, they do succeed in their mission. They free a prisoner that was deemed so dangerous it probably required multiple bribes from Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld to put together. That prisoner was Emma Frost, which is painfully obvious and painfully logical as well because we never got a full explanation as to how Emma Frost was no longer in prison and hanging out with Cyclops and Magneto again. Now I had assumed she had just sucked enough dicks to get paroled, but this works just as well and is a more thorough explanation.
However, she isn't exactly happy for someone that no longer has to wear prison garb and go down on the butch woman in the showers every morning. Before this series even launched, Brian Bendis announced that the Cyclops/Emma relationship was officially over. Well in this scene, it's more than official. Emma is exceedingly pissed at Cyclops and doesn't believe him for a second when he uses the "The Phoenix made me do it," excuse. He still betrayed her, taking her share of the Phoenix. She even claimed he left her for dead, which is bullshit considering he rotted in jail too and wasn't in a position to really come back for her. But even if that is bullshit, she has another perfectly legitimate reason to be pissed, as if scorned women don't have enough between religious extremists and Chris Brown.
Apparently that mysterious glitch in their powers that made this rescue so messy extended to Emma Frost as well. She reveals that she can't read Cyclops's mind anymore to find out if he's being sincere or just wants to see her naked again (although it's probably a little of both). Her powers have been fucked up too. She claims it's because of the Phoenix Force. They fucked with it and like nymphomaniac on amphetamines, it fucked them back. For that reason, Emma Frost says with some exceedingly weak and very un-Emma-like dialog that she's ditching Cyclops. I say it's weak because Bendis clearly doesn't know how to write Emma Frost here. She sounds like a pissy teenage girl who just caught her boyfriend in a three way with her best friend and the girl who once put crazy glue on her tampons. Now I can believe to a degree that prison has hardened Emma's crass demeanor, but by this much? Fuck no! Even though I think it's good that the Cyclops/Emma relationship is over, this hardly gets the right sentiment across. However, Emma does remember eventually that she's a wanted fugitive and doesn't have much of a choice. Either she has to follow her ex and hope he'll fix this or acquire a taste for pussy for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, she picks the option that will deny us the hottest prison porno in the history of the universe.
In addition, the whole powers glitch thing has some problems. Now on some levels, it is logical because this was exactly what Beast had been struggling with in the first issue. He seemed to understand that something was happening to their mutation. And it makes sense that it would extend to other mutants who had been close to the Phoenix Force battle as well. But what doesn't make even a half a shit stain of sense is why they didn't seem at all affected in All New X-men #1. And it had to have taken place after this scene because Emma was with them. So what the fuck happened? How were they able to use their powers so competently if they were being fucked with? It's a pretty glaring flaw. It may be an ongoing mystery, but when the plot holes are that big even a drunk like me can't ignore them.
While established mutants are having their powers fucked with, All New X-men has also been exploring a new generation of mutants. The first issue introduced us to two unfortunate mutants whose powers put them on the wrong side of a gun. And they didn't even have powers that were all that dangerous. Well now we catch up with yet a new mutant named Benjamin, a college student in Texas who presumably was never taught about evolution or condoms. He's hanging out at some pro-mutant protest, which is actually a nice shift from the usual "kill them all with giant robots!" demonstration. But while he's talking to a girl he'll probably end up getting pregnant, he starts to show some mutant powers. It's nothing too explosive. He's a shape shifter who takes on the appearance of his girlfriend. He's basically a reverse Mystique. I'm not expert in mutant powers, but having the ability to shape shift boobs is one of the powers which all sentinels should probably spare.
It may be great for Benjamin, but Cyclops and the rest of his rebuilding Extinction Team are at a loss. Now they have to both kick start their mutant revolution and fix whatever is fucking with their powers. It leads to a rather angry confrontation between Magneto and Cyclops where Magneto blames him for fucking with the powers he loves so much and claims the Phoenix was never responsible for what he did. It was all him. Yeah, because we're all capable of controlling ourselves when we're consumed by a cosmic power or a nasty dose of meth. I can't speak for the Phoenix, but having picked fights with fire hydrants at three in the morning I'm among the few that can say Cyclops's point does have more worth.
Now this is a great scene in some ways because Magneto basically calls Cyclops out, telling him that he's responsible and he shouldn't blame the Phoenix Force. But what keeps it from being great is that again it makes no fucking sense. Cyclops already admitted responsibility in Avengers vs. X-men Consequences. Did Bendis forget there were other X-men books before this? He might have because Cyclops's reaction really doesn't make fall in line with the shit that's been established. Hell, how could he be this insecure in one scene and all "Join the revolution!" in the other like he was in the first issue? Now unless some crazy shit happened in between that wasn't revealed yet, it really fails every logical test going back to Socrates. And the weak dialog doesn't help, although it isn't nearly as bad as some of Fraction's old dialog.
This bullshit exchange is only thwarted from becoming more fucked up when Emma Frost breaks it up and tells them a new mutant has emerged. So rather than get into a dick-measuring contest, they head out to track down Benjamin so he can join their little revolution. He's apparently at a kegger celebrating his new powers, which is probably exactly what I would do if I found out I had superpowers. He hasn't had a gun pointed at him by the authorities yet, but since Cyclops feels it's only a matter of time he shows up to recruit him to his revolution. However, the events of this book finally catch up with the events of the previous book because the Original Five shows up as well. So while the limited details, shitty dialog, and plot holes of this book were egregious, you can't say it doesn't set the stage for a pretty awesome battle!
Back when I was reviewing Avengers vs. X-men, one of the major sticking points that had me dipping my balls into a deep fryer was the end not making any damn sense. I like to think I'm not too demanding on my comics. I enjoy the over-the-top action, melodrama, and grossly ill-proportioned tits as much as the next all-American drunk, but I also prefer that all that shit makes sense. The way Avengers vs. X-men was more fucked up than the third Matrix movie and that's not factoring in the Keanu Reeves influence. I was willing to put that shit behind me and lock it away along with the rest of the trauma I've endured over the years, mostly at the hands of underfunded public schools, but seeing that shit again even if it's to a lesser degree has my balls smelling like fried chicken again.
Now to be fair to Brian Michael Bendis, this is the middle of the arc and not the end. There is still plenty of time to tie all this crazy shit together in a way that actually will make sense and won't require the suppression of more trauma. Whether or not Bendis actually follows through is another matter. One of the major criticisms of his Avengers run was that he was more all over the place than a bipolar meth addict at a Chuck-e-Cheese. He introduced so many awesome concepts, but he just couldn't find a way to make that shit fit together in something that wouldn't have readers scratching their heads and/or banging them against the wall. I would like to think that Bendis can avoid those mistakes in All New X-men since it's a smaller, more concentrated cast of characters. I would also like to think a Las Vegas judge would be more sympathetic the next time I'm arrested for walking down the Strip at two in the morning with no pants smelling like cheap whiskey. There's only so much delusion a drunken comic book fan can handle.
There's casual ommissions and then there's gross oversights. The whole situation with Cyclops, Magneto, and Emma Frost's powers is fucked up in and of itself. It would only be a casual oversight if this shit was never touched on or hinted at in Avengers vs. X-men Consequences because it could just be written off as a new development. But when all three of these characters are effectively using their powers in All New X-men #1 without any hint of strain, that's a big ass problem. There's only so much weed I can smoke to make me overlook certain shit and my dealer isn't that well-connected. In addition, the weak dialogue with Emma Frost and Magneto is pretty glaring. It's not the most egregious I've seen in the past. Bendis still has a ways to go before he can say his dick is bigger than Matt Fraction's in that department. But after doing such an amazing job with the voices of each character in All New X-men #2, it's a pretty significant disappointment.
Make no mistake, these are some big ass flaws. However, these flaws aren't as exceedingly damaging to the overall story. While the details don't make sense, the concept works perfectly. The first issue set up the Jean Grey Institute. The second issue set up the Original Five. Now the third issue has set up Cyclops and what's left of his Extinction Team and Bendis has set it up in a way that puts them on a direct and logical collision course with the Original Five. He also made clear in this issue that the post-Avengers vs. X-men Cyclops is still hung over from his Phoenix-fueled bender. He's talking all this revolution and shit, which is a stark difference from his younger self. Now he's going to have to answer to his younger self and see how fucked up that's going to make him. It took three issues, but Bendis set a stage so awesome that it could only be better if it included strippers and Neil Patrick Harris.
So how do I score this book? Well, the inconsistencies are pretty fucking glaring, but the concept is pretty fucking awesome. Also, I can't forget even without the aid of good weed that this issue is the middle of an arc. Not every loose end can be tied up here, nor should I expect it to. But the weak details, utter disregard for the precedent set by Kieron Gillen, and the inconsistent characterization of certain characters like Emma Frost really hurt the issue in ways that should have been easily fixable with the property application of logic. But in the end we're left with a book that feels like a win by the Cleveland Browns. It's ugly, but it's a win. Unfortunately, style points do matter when grading a comic. So I give All New X-men #3 a 3 out of 5. For the sake of my balls and my roommate's deep fryer, I hope Brian Michael Bendis finds a way to have this shit make sense in the end. If nothing else, I'll gladly settle for more scenes of Jean Grey making Wolverine look stupid. Nuff said!