Thursday, December 6, 2012

Xtreme X-men #7 - Robot Apocalyptic Awesome

We all have fond memories of our homes or where we come from, but later on in life they're never as awesome as we recall. For instance, there was this one amazing bar less than five blocks from where I grew up. It was a shitty, hole-in-the-wall type bar that looked like a motel where only crack heads would sleep if they couldn't blow enough guys for rent money. But the booze was always fresh, the women were always friendly (after a few drinks), and they didn't play any shitty country music. Years later, that bar became a fucking Starbucks and the only thing that bar reminds me of now is how much I hate hipsters.

I imagine Kid Nightcrawler understands where I'm coming from. In the previous issue of Xtreme X-men, he ditched Dazzler and Wolverine when he saw what he thought were his parents from his world. So while Dazzler and Wolverine had to leave Xavier-in-a-Jar behind with hungry dinosaurs to go after him, Kid Nightcrawler ventured into his world in hopes of finding his parents. Unfortunately, he found out that his world had since gone the ways of the Terminator movies. Machines, tired of being used as databases for cat photos and porn, rose up and wiped out most of humanity. So when Kid Nightcrawler showed up, he was most definitely saddened and that was before they threw his ass in a jail cell. It makes me wonder if this universe had its own version of Cyberdyne or a very evil Steve Jobs.

But beyond the childhood trauma, Xtreme X-men has been throwing in a few more bonus features. When it started out, the team was a bit larger in that it had an alternate Emma Frost on the team. She since decided to stick around in a world where the X-men were Asgardian gods and now she looks like the smart one because this new world of killer robots make pissed off X-gods seem tame. But in the previous issue, Greg Pak tapped into some classic Xtreme X-men elements when he brought Sage into the mix. She's been MIA in the X-books for nearly a decade, but now she back as an ambassador for SWORD. It's the perfect job for her. She's part computer and if Apple made an irobot, Sage would be first in line to fuck it. For a cast that's been low on numbers lately, it's a great way to give Xtreme a new flavor of awesome.

Xtreme X-men #7 picks up with Kid Nightcrawler's traumatic situation. He's already finding out what it feels like to be a porn star in Charlie Sheen's hotel room, trapped in a cell and unable to use his abilities to free himself. He's stuck with in inhibitor collar to keep him from teleporting and the robots that now run this world are looking at him the same way a kid looks at retarded squirrel. It shows that this universe has a really shitty version of Cyberdyne because Kid Nightcrawler is able to make contact with his parents, who claim they helped build these robots and were able to avoid them. So despite the trauma, he still has some hope. He may just end up slightly worse off than Angus T. Jones from Two and a Half Men.

Lucky for Kid Nightcrawler, the trauma isn't drawn out over the course of 10 seasons, a very public meltdown, and Ashton Kutcher. Dazzler and Wolverine break through and free him from his cell, fighting through a world run by killer robots in the process. While Kid Nightcrawler is intent on finding his parents, Dazzler and Wolverine are intent on not having their flesh used as robot lubricant. The battle isn't as exciting as you would expect it to be. It's more Terminator 3 and less Terminator 4, unfortunately. It feels a bit rushed despite there being some amazing potential for X-men vs. Killer Robot action. Now some at Marvel may think that shit has been more overdone than deep fried turkey, but some shit just never get old and X-men fighting killer robots is one of them.

While we don't get to see too many X-men vs. killer robot battles, we do get to see Sage enter the picture once more and rescue Dazzler, Wolverine, and Kid Nightcrawler. She was the big wild card in the previous issue that overjoyed the many fans that were wondering, "What the fuck happened to Sage and how much longer will we have to wait to see her in skin tight outfits again?!" Well the wait ended in the last issue and in this issue, their paths finally cross. It's not as emotional a reunion as one might hope, but I guess you can only squeeze in so much melodrama when there are killer robots attacking. Again, the action scenes here are pretty underwhelming and the dialog is pretty light. We don't even get any thought bubbles to indicate what Alison was thinking. We can only assume it's something like, "Where the fuck has she been and where can I get a pair of those awesome glasses!"

This has been somewhat of an issue since Xtreme X-men began, but it was never too noticeable until now. Greg Pak is great when it comes to setting up a situation and putting all the right elements into the story. It's the added depth that is often missing. That depth was there during the Exhaulted arc in Astonishing X-men and some of it was present in the first few issues, but for the past few issues that depth has been lacking. We don't get much feel for emotions or thoughts in these characters. I get that Pak is trying to have their actions do most of the thinking, but that shit only goes so far even with killer robots.

After a short lived reunion, Sage calmly explains to Dazzler that they're dealing with some rather fragile issues in robot diplomacy. As we learned in the previous issue, Sage is trying to uphold a treaty between the robots and SWORD. This treaty has allowed a whole new generation of robots to build themselves in a world where they don't have to slaughter mutants or cater to perverse Japanese sex fetishes. It seems outrageous for the X-men, who have made a name for themselves destroying giant robots. But Sage makes it clear that robots aren't just for smashing in this universe. They need to be a bit more tactful and that involves cooperating with the robot overlords, which in this universe happens to be a version of Danger. I suppose one of those few multi-universe constants is that whoever has the boobs has the power.

But these robots weren't just content with tormenting Kid Nightcrawler with images of his parents. After he finds out where the robot overlords are holding up, he teleports away from the team just like he did when he first ended up in this place. You would think he had learned his lesson, but then again he is a teenager. If they don't act impulsive, then they're probably overdosing on Ritalin. He avoids more killer robots before he finds what he thinks are his parents. However, he quickly learns they're just holograms. His parents were never there in the first place and those images he saw was just the killer robots fucking with him. It's a sad moment and Pak does a great job of capturing the emotion here. I guess he figures he's overdone the action with X-men gods and old west cliches so the series needs some balance. He's not wrong either because it's a moment that really helps humanize a character that is dead and/or evil in every other X-book.

And it gets even worse, as if robots fucking with Kid Nightcrawler's emotions isn't bad enough. It turns out that Kid Nightcrawler's parents aren't just dead. They were fucking dissected. Or vivisected as Danger put it. I'm not sure what that means. it sounds like a very nasty procedure a guy has done on his urethra. But it turns out that Kid Nightcrawler's parents helped build these robots and they thought it logical to dissect their creators to learn more about them. That and it gave them the opportunity to fuck with him. I'm not sure if that's logic or just a program that requires them to be douche-bags, but it's pretty fucking twisted.

Yet it's twisted in a way that's both awesome and compelling. Greg Pak knows how to torment his characters. He proved that on a regular basis during his Hulk run. This definitely takes it to another level. On some levels, it is shock value on the same level as the Red Skull ripping out the brain of a dead Charles Xavier. But this moment doesn't make you want to run to the toilet and do your best Mary Kate Olson impersonation. You actually feel for Kid Nightcrawler and any comic that can make a drunk like me feel is awesome in its own right.

After laying all this on Kid Nightcrawler, the robots decide they haven't been cruel enough. So they say they aren't going to kill Kid Nightcrawler after already having killed his family and his world. They're going to let him live and let the X-men go so he could live out the rest of his days in torment as punishment for all the disgusting things humans have done to robots. It's so cruel that it's not too surprising that after they leave Kid Nightcrawler hijacks Sage's ship and rains missiles down on his former home city. I guess that's one way to turn trauma into something awesome. It creates a pretty explosive reign of destruction all over a city now run by hippie robots. But since Disney probably won't allow Marvel to get away with that kind of slaughter, we find out all those "innocent" robots had backups and it's not going to hurt them anymore than having your cable go out for a few minutes. It may not hurt them, but it makes for another emotional moment for Kid Nightcrawler that really helps bring the comic full circle.

But all these killer robots and tormenting Kid Nightcrawler hasn't made the mission by the Xavier-in-a-Jar any less pressing. In the previous issue, Dazzler and Wolverine ditched Xavier-in-a-Jar to find Kid Nightcrawler. They left him in a world full of dinosaurs, cave men, and everything else that makes creationists sick to their stomachs. But he didn't just lay around and wait for a T-Rex to shit him out. He apparently met up with some other Marvel alternate reality characters such as Hercules, Dazzler, and what appears to be a black Cyclops. It's pretty random and somewhat distracts from the emotional undertones of the issue. But it promises to make for a rather awkward reunion, especially with Wolverine since we know he's got a thing for Hercules and his demigod caliber ass.

I look at what happened to Kid Nightcrawler in this issue in the same way I look at what fame has done to every child star not named Neil Patrick Harris. They don't just have fucked up childhoods. They have their childhoods desecrated by forces beyond their control, be they killer robots or overbearing parents. Most of the time, the overbearing parents (and the lawyers they hire) impart far more trauma on a child. But in this issue, the robots proved nearly as deadly as any lawyer and Kid Nightcrawler didn't exactly react to it in a mature manner. It was a very emotional moment for a character that just found out his world had been decimated. It's the kind of emotion that Greg Pak hasn't really explored in Xtreme X-men to date, but he really did a great job of capturing here and this is what makes the issue awesome.

While I really like the emotional turn Greg Pak has taken, this arc does seem to veer a bit far off course from the original plot of the previous arcs. The end helped ensure that the readers wouldn't totally forget that the mission remains helping Xavier-in-a-Jar hunt down other evil Xaviers. But the emergence of a new Dazzler and a Hercules and Black Cyclops are a bit random. In addition, not much was explained about how Sage got caught up in this world. Granted, it makes perfect sense that she would be heavily involved in a world where robots rule the world. But there was never an explanation of how she got there and what she's been up to if she is the 616 Sage, which isn't clear.

This lack of clarity and coherence isn't helped by some weak dialog at times. But what this issue lacked in style, it made up for with substance. The emotional journey of Kid Nightcrawler and the heart-wrenching scenes at the end were what made this issue worth reading. It adds a more personal touch to a universe-hopping story with a hot blond and a gay Wolverine. It shows that while Xtreme X-men can be as diverse as ten acid trips, it can still have the same heart that all X-books have. For this reason, I give Xtreme X-men #7 a 3.5 out of 5. Now we have another Dazzler and Gay Wolverine's man crush. I think Mr. Pak knows that there are slash fanfiction writers out there with semi-hard erections just itching to do a story about them! And I'm sure he has every intention of giving them plenty of material to work with. Nuff said!

1 comment:

  1. I felt really bad for Kurt this issue. That world's danger should be deleted strand by strand. Especially since her ideas about Robots being tortured was bullshit.