Saturday, December 22, 2012
Wolverine and the X-men #22 - Freakshow of Awesome
Mind control is a very common plot in comics. Some might say it's more worn out than a German crack whore, but it's used and reused for a reason. There's just so much fun you can have with a hero or a villain that's having their mind fucked up. It can make for a pretty lousy story, like Avengers vs. X-men. But it can make for a pretty awesome story, like the Phoenix Saga. Admit it, if you could control the mind of a superhero you would have all sorts of fun with it. You could rob a bank, overthrow a government, or make really hot superhero porn. And no, that last one isn't just an idea from my own perverse mind. DC comics actually did that shit with Superman and Big Barda. I shit you not!
But regardless of how much porno a story may involve, mind control can still be made to work. Aside from those with very severe clown fetishes, I doubt that most people would think of using mind-controlled superheroes to start circus. Well Jason Aaron has shown repeatedly that he is not most people and his kind of thinking essentially gives the concept of normal a big middle finger. In Wolverine and the X-men #21 he had the entire staff of the Jean Grey Institute take the plunge into the circus business. It came courtesy of Dr. Frankenstein, who happens to be related to one of the Hellfire brats. Apparently, his first inclination when he got his hands on a bunch of mind controlled X-men was to put on a show. It's not quite as perverse as a Superman/Big Barda porno, but I admit I'd sure as hell pay to see that shit. So I can't call it a lousy idea by any stretch.
But as is the case with all mind control stories, at some point that control is going to hit a snag. In the previous issue it was the Jean Grey Institute students who stumbled into Frankenstein's circus. While Kid Omega was shitting himself with excitement, the others thought that this was just too cruel so they tried to free them. That led to a teacher on student battle. Almost makes me wish we could just go back to the days when all we had to worry about was hot female teachers boning teenage boys.
Wolverine and the X-men #22 keeps the show going by taking the time to fill in some of the glaring plot holes from the previous issue, namely how the hell a circus this fucked up can be organized without Rob Zombie getting excessively drunk. In the previous issue we found out that there was a connection between Maximillian, who happened to be one of the Hellfire Brats, and Frankenstein, who happened to have enough free time on his hands to join a circus. In this issue we find out the soul-stealing bitch from the previous issue is Calcabrina, who Frankenstein helped with an old-town lynching back in the day and probably bumped uglies with at one point. And somehow helping him hunt down the last of the Frankenstein bloodline helps make them even. I guess a date and a blowjob just doesn’t cut it these days.
As for the rest of the Jean Grey Institute students who were understandably confused in the last issue to see their teachers joining a psycho circus, they at least try to be the heroes they were trained to be. However, they fail miserably and laughably. It’s best epitomized by Kid Omega actually being silenced by Wolverine in a clown suit while some of the other students show why pussies make lousy superheroes. Granted, these are students and they haven’t learned to sufficiently flexed their balls yet. That doesn’t make it any less pathetic (or entertaining) to see them fail.
As much as young Maximilian doesn't deserve any help from a homicidal Frankenstein monster, he gets it anyways courtesy of Idie. Having been called a monster from her part of the world, she's not all that reluctant to give Frankenstein the Epic Mealtime treatment. Now this is a moment of pathetic yet entertaining irony because Idie doesn't know about the Hellfire Brats. She's never really encountered them and even if she did, how would she, teenage girl, determine that a Frankenstein monster isn't the threat and the kid that's being tormented is part of the same group that shot Broo in the head? Short answer is, she can't. Long answer is teenagers are just fucking gullible.
But some teenagers are a lot more resourceful than others. While most of the Jean Grey Institute students get their asses handed to them deep fried on a stick like most circus foods, students like Genesis are much better equipped to take on the whole X-men. He manages to channel his inner Apocalypse, minus the genocidal inclinations, and take on the likes of Iceman and Storm. While beating Iceman ranks right up there with beating Andy Dick in an arm wrestling match while on steroids, he doesn't fare as well against Storm. At the very least, Genesis shows he can be a pretty good hero when he needs to. For anyone who saw the end of Uncanny X-men #35 (and the shame of a thousand drunk photos depicting your shaved eyebrows if you don't), this is a good development and some solid action to help balance out the insanity. I suppose even Jason Aaron can't make a story that's too fucked up.
For Idie, the irony continues as she helps Maximilian take on Frankenstein. She still has no idea that this kid is a Hellfire Brat who would not lose an ounce of sleep if he hid a sentinel inside a box of tampons. The action here is still solid, but Jason Aaron also mixes in a few inner musings with Maximilian. It continues what he began in the first issue, namely giving one of the Hellfire Brats a bit more backstory. It would be nice if the whole concept of the Hellfire Brats wasn't so fucked up to begin with. Never-the-less, it still indicates that this kid came from some fucked up circumstances, as if we would expect anything less from Jason Aaron. He even gives hints that he might have some sympathy for Idie. That or his teenage hormones are just urging him to save something he could possibly bone.
Now I'm all for giving an undeveloped character some development in the same way I'm all for adding more bacon to a bacon cheeseburger. But more development really doesn't help when there's no bacon or the concept is fucked up to begin with. I can tell Jason Aaron has been trying to make the Hellfire Brats more palpable with recent issues. He did it with Kade Kildare a few issues ago. But it still doesn't make the Hellfire Brats any less a fucked up concept. I'm not saying it can't be done, I'm just saying that Aaron has yet to find a way and this sure as hell didn't work.
Another thing that doesn't usually work is mind-controlling the X-men. Sooner or later, someone is going to remember that they don't like being a meat puppet. The first one to remember this little tidbit is Storm and she's the kind of woman you don't want to piss off. It's like dating the daughter of an ex Navy SEAL. No good can come from it and you're not usually going to come out intact. After her bout with Genesis, she looks into a house of mirrors and sees how ridiculous she looks. And that's enough to break the witch's hold on her. And once she's free, she unleashes the kind of holy hell that soaks the panties of Mother Nature herself.
Soon after, Wolverine breaks free as well. While watching a few other clowns beat up on one of the Jean Grey Institute students that probably slept through combat training, he remembers how much it sucked to be a meat puppet as well. He also remembers that he has claws in his hands and these clowns don't. So it's pretty clear at this point that the witch's control is failing miserably and the X-men are going to be looking for someone to take their anger out on. Hell, if someone dressed me up in ridiculous circus clothes, I would be pretty pissed too. Although to be fair, it's not the most embarrassing thing I've woken up wearing in my life. But that's a story for another blog post.
While the X-men are emerging from Calcabrina's control, the battle between Frankenstein, Idie, and Maximilian is still going on and not going as well. Frankenstein, seeing as how he's already dead, doesn't burn as easily as Idie probably thought he would. He's able to fight through the fires and attack her. All the while, Maximilian is hiding like the cowardly douche he is. But at the end of the comic he appears to be in a position to help Idie. Again, Idie doesn't know that this kid played a part in shooting Broo in the head and didn't seem to give three tenths of a fuck when he unleashed a sentinel on Utopia. Yet he's still in a position to save her ass and fuck with an angry relative. It's not exactly a win-win situation, but it's one of those take-the-good-with-the-bad moments. If certain annoying relatives get pwned while a casual enemy is saved, I say that's as fair a compromise as you can hope for in this day and age.
I don’t expect Shakespearean-level brilliance from slasher movies. For the same reason, I don’t expect Alan Moore-level dramatics from a book that involves homicidal circus freaks and mind-controlling witches. Yet that doesn’t mean my expectations can’t be exceeded. This particular issue of Wolverine and the X-men and the arc as a whole had me scratching my head in ways I usually reserve for my ass after a night in a German whorehouse. However, it was still as wildly entertaining as I expect an issue of Wolverine and the X-men to be. And honestly, I really can’t ask for much more than that from a comic like this.
Jason Aaron has developed this series with a unique theme and this arc has epitomized that theme in many ways. It’s fucked up, incoherent at times, goofy, yet a fuckton of fun. This issue did help fill in some of the blanks left by the previous issue. However, it was a bit sloppy in some areas and even a little confusing. I get what Aaron was trying to do with Idie and Kid Frankenstein. But given how eye-rollingly stupid the Hellfire Brats have been since they were introduced I found it hard to really feel anything for this moment. I won’t say Aaron was wrong to try and throw in a few dramatics, but it just didn’t mix well in a story that dressed Wolverine up like a clown and got a Wicked Witch of the West knock-off involved.
It was still an entertaining issue in an entertaining arc that will make you laugh even if your only partially stoned. Seeing the X-men fight as circus freaks while the students of the Jean Grey Institute show how laughably inexperienced they are at playing hero makes for a good way to pass the time while you’re on the toilet. It’s a little insane at times, but if you expect something less from Jason Aaron in this series then you’ve either been recently lobotomized or need to up your Adderall dosage. I give Wolverine and the X-men #22 a 3 out of 5. I’m still too traumatized to ever contemplate going back to a circus again thanks to a seeing a drunk clown do things with a balloon animal I can never unsee. But at the very least, this issue shows that even a fucked up evil circus can still be fun. Nuff said!