Thursday, December 13, 2012
Xtreme X-men #7.1 - Full Circle Awesome
I'm a firm believer in the whole parallel universe concept that some egghead scientists have plagiarized from science fiction to explain the universe. Sometimes I wonder what sort of fucked up incarnations of myself may exist on a parallel universe. Maybe in one universe I'm a born again Christian, registered Republican, and closeted homosexual that secretly hangs out in gay bath houses when the wife and kids are out of town. Or maybe there's another universe where I'm as smart as Reed Richards, as handsome as Captain America, and have a Nobel Prize for each day of the week. Or maybe one of my parallel selves is the same drunk who just reviews different comics every week. Whatever the case, I imagine that meeting would make for some pretty fucked up conversations. In Xtreme X-men, Greg Pak has been vividly imagining those fucked up conversations and telling some pretty awesome stories from them.
Since Dazzler's parallel universe-hopping journey began, she's encountered some pretty fucked up incarnations of the X-men we know and love. We've seen them as X-gods. We've seen them as John Wayne cos-players. We've seen them as extras in a Terminator-style post-apocalyptic world. Hell, we've even seen a version of Wolverine that isn't obsessed with redheaded married women and prefers the intimate company of Ricky Martin, Jim Parsons, and Elton John. You're not going to get that kind of shit without the aid of powerful drugs anywhere else and since my dealer recently skipped town, Xtreme X-men has been a great source of mind-fucks.
But as fun as Xtreme X-men has been, there are some elments Pak hasn't explored yet. We've encounterd numerous versions of Charles Xavier, Danger, and Wolverine. But to date Dazzler hasn't come face-to-face with another version of herself. You have to believe that Greg pak has been fooling around with that idea since he started this series. It's just been a matter of finding the right moment so that it fucks with Dazzler to the greatest possible extent. Well in the previous issue, Dazzler and her team managed to rescue Kid Nightcrawler from his world after ditching Xavier-in-a-Jar in a Savage Land universe. It was a dramatic and emotional issue, but it ended with the prospect of Dazzler having to meet up with another version of herself. Because apparently Xavier-in-a-Jar got board of waiting and recruited a new team of alternate X-men. And as it just so happens, one of those X-men is another Dazzler. Because let's face it, you can't have too many pretty blonds in comic books.
Xtreme X-men #7.1 attempts to do what every other .1 issue is supposed to do (and often fails miserably at, mind you) and establish a twisted set of circumstances meant to be new-reader friendly. I shutter to think how confused some readers will be when they try to digest all this alternate universe crap with a gay Wolverine, but at least Marvel is making a concerted effort. The issue takes place right after the events of Xtreme X-men #7 where Sage helped Dazzler, Wolverine, and Kid Nightcrawler escape a Terminator-esque world where the machines won and weren't stupid enough to keep a few humans alive to do menial work. Since Sage isn't up to speed on the whole Xavier-in-a-Jar conflcit, Dazzler gives her a quick update while trying her best to maintain a straight face. Most people would be rightfully skeptical if a hot blond told you all about her struggles against evil bald men in jars, X-gods, and old west cos-players. We would probably write that off as a metaphor for going on a cocaine bender with a guy that slipped her a few too many roofies. But Sage doesn't have the luxury of laughing it off and encouraging Dazzler to get the morning after pill because their ship is attacked by a hoard of Brood, who have overtaken a giant space whale-version of Xavier. Suddenly, the story about X-gods and the old west seems much more believable.
The motivations of the Brood aren't very different no matter what universe they're in. They want to overtake a host, maul them horribly, and laugh while singing Disco Inferno as they burn the corpses. The problem is Charles Xavier, who is one of the few telepaths strong enough to fuck with the hive's collective psyche. So upon seeing that the world of Terminator rip-offs is devoid of vulnerable fleshy creatures to maul, they seek another world where Xavier is not a factor. Guess which world comes to mind?
As it just so happens, Charles Xavier murdered by Cyclops and his brain was cut out by the Red Skull in the good old 616 universe. That's not only convenient for the Brood. It most likely makes them uncontrollably horny as well. So they venture to 616 where we don't just catch up with a world that has been utterly ignored since the beginning of Xtreme X-men. We actually catch up with the events of Avengers vs. X-men. It comes in just after Avengers vs. X-men Consequences and in the midsts of a story that's unfolding in All New X-men. Cyclops is struggling to control his new powers and still dealing with the guilt of having killed Xavier. It creates the perfect set of circumstances for Dazzler's story with the alternate universe X-men to continue. Cyclops happens to be combing through the ruins of Utopia when the Brood attack his ripe, guilt ridden mind. This may be a dick move on most levels, but it's still an amazingly awesome moment because it effectively re-establishes the Xtreme X-men conflict in 616. It may not sound like much, but if you were sober enough to remember all this shit did essentially start with 616. So I applaud Greg Pak for having the foresight to include that in this series, less he get too comfortable telling stories about alternate universes where Wolverine is gay.
We find out that in trying to locate Xavier-in-a-Jar across universes, Dazzler and her X-men team of alternate renegades tore a few holes in the multiverse for the Brood and their Whale Xavier to exploit. Using one of those holes, they find their way back to the 616 universe where Cyclops is emotionally fragile and ripe for exploiting. They essentially see him the same way tentacle monsters see cute Japanese school girls with big breasts. As is their nature, the Brood start fucking with him using Xavier's powers by giving him visions of Xavier.
It's not overly emotional because it isn't real, but Pak still does a decent job at giving Cyclops a reaction. Hell, he had a more emotional reaction here than he did in Avengers vs. X-men Consequences or All New X-men. I know that's not saying much for a guy like Cyclops, but it certainly adds weight to the scene. Even after Dazzler and her team show up, following the Brood through the rips in the multiverse, the impact is still there even though Dazzler finds a way to make light of it in an absurdly insensitive way. But since she wasn't around to see how Avengers vs. X-men became so obscenely fucked up, I give her a pass.
After clashing with Cyclops, he passes out and Dazzler's team scrambles for answers as to what fucked up universe they're in now. It's a rather humorous, albeit eye-rolling, situation because Dazzler doesn't know she's back in her home universe. After Kid Nightcrawler uncovers the events of Avengers vs. X-men on an old computer, Dazzler thinks is on the same level as a universe where the X-men think their gods or where Xavier is a giant whale. But once Cyclops wakes up, he confirms it. He informs Dazzler that in the time since she left, he killed Xavier. She still refuses to believe it, thinking he must have been evil or something. But if evil means talking down to your first student like a dog while he's packing Phoenix heat, then I guess that qualifies. It shouldn't be this bemusing that Dazzler doesn't want this to believe it's her world and yet it is. You almost feel sorry for her. There are a long list of dumb blond jokes I could tell her, but I'll refrain out of sympathy.
Lucky for Dazzler, Cyclops doesn't get the chance to convince her that this is the world she left behind and missed out on all the action. The Whale Xavier arrives, complete with its hoard of flesh-ripping Brood. Knowing Cyclops mauled this universe's Charles Xavier so they wouldn't have to, they unleash an unholy cosmic hell that would probably have some people wishing for a derange Dark Phoenix. Personally, I would rather be instantly torched rather than eaten alive by aliens that look like mounds of horse shit. But that's just me. Cyclops in turn joins Dazzler's team as they fight the Brood in a nice action scene that has them trying to protect nearby civilians, including the hot guy that Dazzler was trying to fuck in the first issue. I'm pretty the threat of being mauled by aliens has killed his boner, but she still goes out of her way to save him and Cyclops sets his self-loathing aside to help out. He's already killed one Xavier. Why not kill a giant Whale Xavier?
As the battle is unfolding, Sage uses her telepathy to make contact with the Whale Xavier. Unfortunately, she doesn't get a chance to explore all the twisted thoughts a Whale Xavier may have. Instead, she finds out that the Brood have burrowed into the Whale Xavier's brain stem where they've been essentially throwing a non-stop keg party, gorging on brain matter in the same way drunks gorge on Taco Bell at three in the morning. Dazzler manages to coordinate with Wolverine enough to get him inside where he could bust up the party in a way the assholes at the DEA could only dream of. This Wolverine may be gay, but he can still rip through alien monsters the same way an army of PMSing women rip through a chocolate factory. Somewhere out there, the members of Westboro Baptist Church are shitting themselves and it's a glorious stench!
As the Brood are killed, this creates another emotional moment. The Whale Xavier, now free from the Queen Brood's influence, asks Cyclops and Dazzler to kill him. Now that the queen is dead, the rest of the Brood will be more pissed than an angry grizzly that just found out someone shot her cubs. It's emotional because Cyclops makes it clear he wants to save this Xavier in the way he couldn't save his Charles Xavier. But it's no use. This Whale Xavier knows there's no other way. But this time, Cyclops doesn't have to bear the burden. Dazzler takes care of it. She doesn't need to go Dark Phoenix this time. She just does what he asks and accepts the burden.
Now this is an emotional moment that could have definitely been drawn out, but the impact is still strong. Cyclops killed Xavier and now he has to watch another one die. It adds some extra challenges to the journey he's been on in other comics, but it also continues Dazzler's mission of Xavier-hunting. It's a perfect way to entwine Xtreme X-men with the other X-books. Such synergy is brilliant in its own right and appropriate in the grand scheme of the X-books. For a title that's been basically akin to an X-men LSD trip, that's pretty damn awesome.
In the end, Dazzler still has to fess up that this world where Cyclops killed Charles Xavier is her world. She claims she's not dumb, but again you could probably insert any dumb blond joke you wanted for this scene and it would still be just as appropriate. But beyond the blond jokes, Cyclops gives Dazzler a few last words of wisdom. She proved that she could handle leading a team of misfits through some pretty fucked up scenarios that involves Whale Xaviers, aliens monsters, and a gay Wolverine. He says those are all marks of a great leader. Now I'm tempted to say his standards for a great leader are pretty fucked up, but for a guy who boned both Jean Grey and Emma Frost who am I to judge? Dazzler accepts his advice and decides to continue her journey with her misfit team of alternate universe renegades. Somehow that seems more appealing than hanging out in the post Avengers vs. X-men world and I can't say I blame her.
Anyone who has dropped enough acid or smoked enough joints will tell you that after a while it's easy to forget how you started the night hanging out with a couple of friends and ended up face down in a hotel bathroom wearing women's underwear with a tattoo of a donkey fucking a goose on your back. Stories that are really out there are easy to lose track of, so much so that you flat out forget how the fuck they began in the first place. This is usually remedied with a few extra bong hits, but Xtreme X-men #7.1 provides an alternative that won't get you on the DEA's shit list. It doesn't just effectively remind the reader that the events of Xtreme X-men still have an effect on the good old 616 universe, but it actaully succeeds in doing what a .1 issue is supposed to do. It's taken Marvel way too many tries, but they finally got it right. As someone who has failed way more breathalizer tests than he's passed, I'm okay with that.
This comic didn't just move the story of Dazzler and her universe-hopping X-men froward. It established her as a competent leader of the pack while helping Xtreme X-men as a whole catch up with current events in 616. It would have been easier (hell, it would have been expected) for Marvel to just ignore the overall scope of Xtreme X-men and just carry on as if Dazzler would never be curious about her home universe again. But that didn't happen here. Greg Pak went back to the beginning here while still moving the story forward. That's like a stripper giving you a lap dance while she does your taxes for next year. It's the kind of multi-tasking, all-encompassing story telling that separates good comics from the awesome comics you remember even while stoned. In one issue Xtreme x-men went from being excessively out there to actually being relevant with the other X-books. That's a hell of an accomplishment in a world where comic companies regularly give only half a damn about making sure shit actually makes sense.
Xtreme X-men #7.1 had all the right elements and they came together in all the right ways. It didn't just help new readers catch up with the shit that's been going on in this universe-hopping story. It established Dazzler as a strong leader that's more than just a hot blond meant to appeal to the Katy Perry crowd of comic fans. The only major complaint I have about this issue is that we never got to see Dazzler's full reaction to the events of Avengers vs. X-men. That aspect seemed glossed over. While it didn't take away from the story too much, it did feel like it was avoided on purpose and that's a shame. If for no other reason than to see Dazzler slap Cyclops across the face. But I guess that's just have to assume that Dazzler wanted to bone Cyclops more than she wanted to slap him. I still give Xtreme X-men #7.1 a 4.5 out of 5. You may or may not think there's a place for an X-men comic that spans alternate universes and follows a team led by a hot blond chick. You many not even think the premise of Xtreme X-men is all that appealing. But to quote the immortal Samuel L. Jackson, I say, "Hell no, motherfucker!" In this universe, this comic still qualifies as awesome. Nuff said!