Wednesday, December 19, 2012
All New X-men #4 - Raw Emotions of Awesome
I've poked fun at the anti-Cyclops crowd on many occasions in my reviews. I look at them the same way I look at the fat kids in high school who constantly bitched about the athletes getting all the praise and adulation, conveniently ignoring all the work those athletes put in and all the shitty circumstances they have to go through. I doubt any of those fat fucks have ever had to work their ass off at mastering a game that didn't involve rolling dice or digital characters on a computer screen, willingly subjecting themselves to coaches, critics, and competition whose sole intent is to make them losers. I'm not saying all Cyclops-haters are fat fucks, but they share a few things in common with them. That said, they do occasionally make some valid points.
Cyclops has become a bit of a douche over the past few years. Even before he got drunk on the Phoenix Force, he's become the kind of guy that's easy to hate. He's leader of the X-men, he always seems to have his shit together, and he got to regularly put his penis inside Emma Frost. He's basically like Vladimir Putin and whoever happens to be boning Pamela Anderson. And his arrogance has showed at times. It started when he began psychically fooling around behind Jean Grey's back during New X-men. After pulling the entire mutant race under his wing, he essentially pissed it away during Schism. Granted, it wasn't all his fault. The circumstances were pretty fucked up, even by Marvel standards. But he was still responsible and he damn well knows it. And until recently, he could always drown his sorrow in Emma Frost's boobs.
Avengers vs. X-men sent him over the edge. Now he doesn't have Emma Frost's boobs for consolation anymore. Hell, he doesn't even have the X-men anymore. They basically gave him the finger when he tried to turn the world into a global utopia with the Phoenix Force. I don't get it either. For some reason, the X-men had a problem with that and were willing to team up with the Avengers, who also just can't do the whole utopia thing. And for some reason they were shocked when constantly attacking and provoking a cosmic force made it really upset. Because apparently these so-called heroes don't know what happens when you poke a hungry grizzly bear with a stick one time too many. Cyclops went nuts, he killed Charles Xavier, and got thrown in jail for...I don't know anymore. I've given up trying to make sense of that shit.
Whatever the reason, he's now gone from leader of the X-men to mutant revolutionary. And what choice does he have? It's this or going back to being someone's prison bitch. He's put together what's left of the Extinction Team, freeing Emma Frost in the process, despite her refusal to ever let him see her naked again. He's traveling all over the world, looking for mutants that are in trouble and fucking with the people that end up fucking with them. It's not exactly a dick move, but for some reason the authorities don't like people fucking with them when they're trying to fuck with minorities. So he's a terrorists. Go figure. And he has to do all this while their powers are being fucked up. For some reason, Emma lost her telepathy, Beast is dying, and Cyclops's optic blasts are more volatile. There isn't an explanation yet, but Emma suspects it's the Phoenix basically giving them the finger.
This has led the X-men, who once again can't seem to wrap their head around Cyclops rubbing elbows with Magneto, to take drastic measures. Then again, drastic may not be an appropriate enough word for fucking with the time stream and bringing back the Original Five. Hell, even on my worst bender that ends with me lying face down in a barn with a dead goat lying next to me doesn't get that fucked up. But it happened. The Original Five are in the present, they ditched the X-men, leaving Wolverine in a hilariously gay porno-like pose, and decided to confront future Cyclops and his revolutionary bullshit. All New X-men #3 finally finished setting the stage for this confrontation. Now All New X-men #4 is poised to shovel the shit into the fan.
It starts with Cyclops dealing with the biggest WTF moment since that guy in England found out that he accidentally married his sister. Now usually when an unexpected threat enters a scene when Cyclops is in full I’ve-boned-Emma-Frost bravado mode, shit gets pretty heavy pretty fast. But not this time. Instead, we get a very insightful and very appropriate scene where Cyclops contemplates what he’s seeing, whether or not it’s real, and what he feels when he sees a live Jean Grey again. And not just any Jean Grey either. This is teenage, pre-Phoenix, pre-multiple deaths, pre-Wolverine Jean Grey. That’s the Jean Grey he fell in love with. And since Jean just recently discovered her ability to read the thoughts of dirty old men, it overwhelms her. That or she also found out what happened on her and Cyclops’s honeymoon.
In being so overwhelmed (and maybe a little disgusted) Jean Grey shuts Cyclops up by a quick telekinetic blow that knocks both him and Magneto back. But keep in mind this is happening at a college keg party. This sort of shit isn’t even the fifth most destructive thing that can happen. If no couches have been set on fire, then it’s not much of a party. So it’s somewhat underwhelming when not much of a battle breaks out. I mean why would Cyclops fight against his younger self and a younger version of his wife? But still, all Magneto can do is throw a fucking bike at Iceman. That’s the extent of the action here. Now I’ve been to some pretty lame parties, but this one is right up there.
Even if the party and the battle sucked, this scene did a nice job of establishing of how different Cyclops and Magneto are in the present. It’s easy to forget that to this point, the Original Five only know Magneto for being the stubborn, racists, demigod who would gladly step a litter of kittens in the middle of a battle. Yet here he just retreats with Cyclops before the O5 even have a chance to question them, if that’s even what they want to do. I keep forgetting that the O5 are teenagers. Seeking to understand the context of the situation just isn’t in their nature anymore than not trying to get laid.
While the Original Five are left wondering how Magneto could have become such a pussy and the mutant that attracted this space time continuum fucking chaos (who was pretty much overlooked completely) stands just as confused, Cyclops's team arrives back at their Weapon X base in a state of shock. We also encounter Eva and Chris, the two mutants that Cyclops's team rescued in the first issue and who haven't done jack shit sense. Now I'm glad Bendis is at least acknowledging they're still part of the story and he even takes some time to have both characters reflect on how their previously boring lives are deader than Mike Huckabee's credibility. It's actually a nice moment for these two characters because Bendis gives them a moment to actually develop. However, it seems out of place because at this point most readers are still giddy about seeing Cyclops shit himself at the sight of a teenage version of his dead wife.
These two characters, Chris and Eva, quickly fall to the wayside as Magneto tells Emma about what happened. Naturally, she's not too thrilled. Given her history with Jean Grey and how much incentive she's given her to brutally maim her for kinky tastes in married men, even a teenage version of her is cause for concern. But the best reaction comes from Cyclops, who doesn't even attempt to take comfort in Emma's boobs like he used to. When a man forgoes Emma Frost's boobs in times of crisis, you know he's fucked up.
But Cyclops's Extinction team isn't the only one reeling. After ditching the keg party, the Original Five go somewhere nice and remote to wrap all the shit they just saw around their immature teenage minds. Jean Grey is especially fucked up and not just because she found out the guy she's in love with grows up to be a douche who runs around in a giant condom for a costume. In the second issue, she manifested her telepathy early. And an onslaught of thoughts in conjunction with the mind of a teenage girl is not a good combination to say the least. All the while, some of the others like Warren favor just forgetting this shit and repressing it like normal teenagers. Because when has that shit ever gone wrong?
This scene is probably the most important in the book, aside from seeing Cyclops freak out and seeing Iceman get a bike thrown at him of course. The Original Five clearly didn't come here expecting to say. They were just going to fuck with their future selves, fix it, and be done with it. But like every teenager at some point, the find out shit just isn't that easy. All these grim revelations that Beast told them about have been essentially confirmed. And Jean Grey knows it. It leads her to give Cyclops a scold that would castrate even the ballsiest man. It indicates that the epic love story that Marvel spent so many years developing is getting dangerously close to One More Day territory. However, at this point no one has pointed out to Jean that by not being with Cyclops, there's no Cable and with no Cable there's no Hope Summers and with no Hope Summers the events of Avengers vs. X-men go very badly (see Cable's vision of the future in X-Sanction). So it's not clear what Bendis's intentions are here, but it's clear Jean is now much more reluctant to give Cyclops her virginity.
This strikes future Cyclops in a way that goes beyond his penis now hating him. Emma Frost confronts him about what he saw. Together, they surmise that Beast was the one who brought the Original Five to the present and his reason for doing so involved pissing Cyclops off so he could see what an ass he's become. And since he's no longer letting him see her naked, she doesn't even try to console him. For once, Scott Summers does not have the love of a beautiful woman to comfort him. It's actually a pretty surreal moment and an important moment too because for his character it's a big fucking deal. He's already having to accept that he killed Xavier. So what is he going to do about it? Is he going to keep being a douche-bag or is he going to make an effort to make Jean Grey or Emma Frost at least contemplate letting him cop a feel? It's a great dramatic moment that Bendis captures perfectly. So even if you were disappointed by the action, you shouldn't be disappointed by this.
As Cyclops continues to fume, the Original Five return to the Jean Grey Institute where they still have that little unresolved issue of Beast dying to content with. It's an issue that stems from the ongoing mystery of how certain mutant powers were fucked up by the Phoenix. Emma just lost her telepathy. Beast is dying. How the fuck is that fair? Whatever the case, O5 Beast seems to have some theories and demands he be allowed to handle his own medical situation. Even Dr. House would have few problems with this because who has better motivation to save a dying patient than a guy's past self? That and it helps he's also a genius. But he arrives just in time to find his future self dying. This would be another great dramatic moment if Marvel hadn't already spoiled that Beast was going to be part of future Avengers books. I know in this day and age you can't avoid spoilers, but it would help it Marvel at least made an effort to conceal shit like that. Spoilers have other purposes aside from making Dan Slott's life is more miserable.
There’s a special kind of beauty in a story that takes multiple ongoing plots and brings them together in a harmonious way. It’s the kind of beauty I put somewhere between big tits and sunsets on a nude beach in Europe. And like any beauty, it’s rare for everything to really fall into place in a comic book. I’m not going to say that All New X-men #4 succeeded, but it came pretty damn close. Big tits still has a comfortable lead to say the least.
The confrontation that we all knew was building for three issues was heavy on drama, but light on action. The struggles between the Extinction Team and the Original Five X-men really played up the emotions, but when the most intense action involves Magneto throwing a bicycle at Iceman you can’t help but be underwhelmed. It was the complete opposite of the multi-page brawl between Cyclops and Wolverine in Schism. But what it lacked in graphic images of two grown men beating the shit out of each other, it more than made up for in emotion. The point of the battle and the issue as a whole was not to overplay the conflict. It was to intensify the drama, which Brian Michael Bendis has shown on numerous occasions that he can write that shit with the same skill as Samuel L. Jackson wields all phrases involving the word fuck.
What really makes this issue awesome is how Bendis had it affect the characters. It didn’t leave too many unanswered questions. It’s pretty damn clear that Cyclops will have to seriously re-evaluate the shit he’s doing after seeing Jean Grey alive and not in his wet dreams again. The same goes for O5 Cyclops and especially Jean Grey. It’s painfully clear that she simply can’t look at Cyclops the same way anymore. Granted, she doesn’t know the full story. Hell, none of them know the full story. Jean still hasn’t reacted to the revelation that she murdered 5 billion aliens, shacked up with Mastermind, swapped spit with Wolverine, and was cloned on more than one occasion. Angel hasn’t reacted to going from boning a hot Asian psychic to being an amnesiac hippie. But more than anything else, Bendis gave the O5 a reason to stick around in the present and continue the story.
While Bendis managed to clean up some of the plot holes, the beauty of this issue wasn’t flawless. If it were a hot chick, it would be one of those chicks with a great rack but an ugly birth mark on her ass. The two mutants, Eva and Chris, were somewhat random in their role. Hell, until this issue we didn’t know what the hell they were doing or why they didn’t see fit to help the Extinction Team. In addition, some of the reactions from the characters were a bit vague. While the emotions ran high, too much was left unsaid. That and the impact of the ending was largely underwhelming since we already know that Beast survives. It’s like seeing the Empire Strikes Back after the ending is spoiled. It loses its meaning.
Even so, this issue is a major improvement on the last issue and a perfect example of just how awesome this series can be. We’ve had plenty of X-books that involve exploding celestial shit and insane schoolyard conflicts that make you question what sort of drugs Jason Aaron is on. This is the kind of comic that really explores the emotions of the X-men and what it means to be X-men in a way that hasn’t been done in a long time. It has its flaws, but the beauty is undeniable. I give All New X-men #4 a 4 out of 5. Going back to all the anti-Cyclops fans out there, I’m pretty sure they’ll have plenty to jerk off to from this point forward. And for Jean Grey fans…well, I think they have enough to jerk off to already! Nuff said!