Wednesday, January 2, 2013
All New X-men #5 - Foresight For Awesome
I've been accused of saying some pretty sexist things on this blog. I can understand how my god-given compulsion to apply breasts, tits, ass, lips, and pussy to every conversation may rub some the wrong way. I don't understand why those same people don't get as upset whenever I exercise my other god-given compulsion to make dick jokes, but I guess that's besides the point. I say this because the recent events of All New X-men have reminded me of how vindictive a scorned woman can be. Now don't think of me as a Todd Akin on women's issues. I'm all for equality, but I understand that there are certain traits that define a gender that goes beyond being able to fill out a bra. Having been on the receiving end of some pretty vindictive women, I think I can safely say that women are a few leagues above most men.
Within those leagues are special conferences reserved for teenagers, who are often intoxicated by hormones that systematically choke the rational portion of their brain. For that reason, the Original Five X-men coming to the present is akin to bringing a recently divorced woman with bad PMS to a chocolate factory and giving her an assault rifle. I think that's exactly why Brian Michael Bendis and the big wigs at Marvel have decided to base All New X-men around the Original Five coming to the present. While the team is understandably shell shocked by what they've seen in terms of who is dead, who is a douche-bag, and who has just fucking lost their minds (or a combination of all three), one character is getting most of the focus. That character is Jean Grey and for someone who has been dead for nearly a decade in the comics, it's a welcome development and it has made All New X-men worth its weight in pure Wakandan vibrainium.
All New X-men #4 finally brought together a number of different forces that Bendis had spent three issues developing. It put the Original Five and Cyclops's Extinction Team in the same scene together. Within that scene, there were some pretty fucked up reactions. None was more volatile than Jean Grey. Not only did she get confirmation that Cyclops killed Charles Xavier, she also gained a reason to question all those teenage hormones that were urging her to jump his bone. It led to a very dramatic and very awesome moment where the Original Five return to the Jean Grey Institute where Beast is dying, Jean is keeping her distance from Cyclops, and both Cyclops's have to deal with the sudden collapse of their scrotum. It's created an atmosphere of drama the likes of which only Brian Michael Bendis can create in a comic and it's helped make All New X-men one of the best new series in quite some time.
All New X-men #5 doesn't slow down in the slightest because as shell shocked as the Original Five may be, they still have other pressing concerns. Chief among them is Beast's health. Now I've given Hank McCoy a lot of shit on this blog for being a total asshole who loves to point out how other people screw up while offering absolutely no solutions. He's almost as bad as a hippie in some respects. That said, I would never wish to have him endure the horrors of a Marvel sanctioned death. After the shit that's been happening with Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man, nobody deserves that.
So in order to save his life, his Original Five counterpart ditches the whole no-solutions douche-bag role and decides to fix this shit. This requires that Jean Grey use the telepathic powers that she’s had for less than a fucking day to enter Beast’s mind. Never mind the disturbing fantasies he must have about bananas, balls of yarn, and Stephen Hawkings banging Marie Curie. The man is dying and when Jean is inside his mind, she’s wearing her old Marvel Girl uniform. He claims that was his favorite, but we all know that’s just code for “It allowed me to look up your skirt when you weren’t looking.” But Jean doesn’t hold that against him. Instead, she acts as a moderator of sorts for O5 Beast to figure out why his older self is dying. And wouldn’t you know it? He figures it out. Apparently, this had nothing to do with the Phoenix Force and everything to do with Beast fucking with his own mutation. For once, he can’t blame Scott Summers for his shit. Somebody check and see if Hell froze over and Charlie Sheen became a Mormon while reading this comic because I couldn’t believe it either.
Chances are he would still find a way to blame Cyclops for his shit because there’s nothing he can do that he’ll ever approve of for some reason. That probably includes reaching out to new mutants whose powers have caused their lives to crash head first into a shit factory. In the previous issue, we were introduced to a new mutant named Benjamin. He’s basically like Mystique, but without the awesome rack and the ability to give me boners I could build a shed with. He really never got a chance to do much after the Original Five showed up in the previous issue, but that whole incident get recorded by drunk college students with their cell phones so his status as a mutant is now right up there with Lindsey Lohan’s latest arrest. It led him to get kicked out of school and his parents to conveniently forget to return his calls. It is Texas after all. If the Rick Perry supporters of that state can’t stand gays or women who like to do more than pump out babies, I can’t imagine them accepting mutants. With few options and a state that’s more behind the times than a hipster’s dress sense, Cyclops offers him a chance to join his team.
This is where Bendis’s dramatic storytelling gets a little inconsistent. This kid, Benjamin, was essentially caught in the crossfire of the epic Original Five/Extinction Team clash. He flat out says he knows what Cyclops has done as well. Apparently, using cosmic power to create a global utopia is something college students frown upon when they’re not stoned. Moreover, Cyclops basically shrugs it off. This is pretty fucked up because in the last issue Bendis spent more than one page depicting Cyclops reacting in a very un-Cyclops like way when he saw Jean Grey. In this scene it looks like that shit didn’t even happen. He’s still doing what he did in the previous two issues. I’m not sure if I missed something or if I inhaled too many paint fumes as a kid, but this comes off as the kind of scene that Bendis just glossed over. Because despite Cyclops having a shitty sales pitch, Benjamin actually goes with him. He doesn’t give much of an explanation. He just decides to tag along and join Cyclops at his new Weapon X based Xavier Institute. I know college students are naïve as hell, but even the guys who set fires to couches during a frat party at least partially think shit through when strange people offer them a fresh start.
Bendis is far more consistent with his handling of the Original Five and not just because he has a red haired, green-eyed mutant NOT named Hope Summers to lean on. One of the other joys of seeing the Original Five back in action again is that we get to reconnect with the characters that we know and love before some of them became douche-bags. Now I don't want to list the many, many reasons why Beast has become a complete fucking asshat in recent years. It can basically be boiled down to bitching, whining, moaning, and generally being so unlikable that even a tiger in heat wouldn't fuck him. But his younger, non-fuzzy version is actually different. He actually embodies the traits that once made Hank McCoy awesome and he demonstrates it fully by doing what his older counterpart couldn't and curing his condition. Even when Kitty Pryde tries to get in his way, he makes it clear that he knows his shit and he's not going to be talked down to. But unlike his older counterpart, he isn't a douche about it because he's actually fixing a fucking problem rather than whining about it. It may be the only instance in the history of literature where a teenager shows more competence than an adult.
But while Beast's younger and smoother-skinned counterpart is busy fixing the shit he couldn't, he's still chatting with Jean inside his mind. She's also still in her Marvel Girl outfit so I'm assuming he tried to sneak a peak at her panties at some point. But as they chat, Beast tells Jean why he doesn't regret fucking with the space time continuum to bring the Original Five to the present. He sincerely believes that either young Cyclops will change his decisions or the Cyclops he knows will realize what an ass he's become (he's still an ass who got to fuck both Jean and Emma Frost so I doubt he'll come around anytime soon). Moreover, he shows a willingness to fuck with time even more by letting Jean read his mind so she can recall all the events of her future life, including her multiple deaths. I'm not sure if this is the dumbest thing anybody ever did with a teenage girl short of hitting on her sister while hiding her birth control pills, but I think it's right up there.
In revealing his memories, we get a very nice and very detailed depiction of the major events in Jean Grey's life. Everything from the Phoenix to X-Factor to Apocalypse to her marriage with Cyclops to her second death at the hands of Xorneto is shown and she looks at it in the same way a teenager looks at an old porno video featuring their mother, grandmother, and a midget. It's a huge moment because now Jean has something the others don't. She has actual memories to go along with all these nasty revelations. I'm sure Beast had to leave out some details like her pushing Cyclops to bone Emma Frost after her second death from the Here Comes Tomorrow future (as if anyone should need a push to bone Emma Frost). But the impact here is huge because now Jean doesn't need to ask questions. She knows how shit gets fucked up in the future.
While Jean understandably freaks out over these revelations, the rest of the team is out front debating how the handle these time displaced X-men. Wolverine's solution is simple. He wants to kill Cyclops where he stands and jerk off with his entrails so that he won't kill Charles Xavier. He even asks the others who they would rather have, douche-bag Cyclops or Xavier. Never mind the fact that it was Cyclops who led the team to victory in a shit ton of other conflicts and never mind the fact that he was right all along in Avengers vs. X-men about the Phoenix saving the mutant race. Wolverine hates his guts and wants to kill him, regardless of how much O5 Cyclops promises to not be like his future self. I'm sure Wolverine is also thinking that without Cyclops he has a better shot at tapping Jean Grey's pussy, but he's careful to not be too overt about it. He still comes off as a bigger douche than anyone else in this comic, but after the shit he's done in recent years that shouldn't shock anyone.
But what is shocking (at least to characters) is that Beast's horrendously stupid plan worked out in one way. His younger self was actually able to cure his ailment. Now he's not only as healthy as ever. He's sporting a new non-feline look. I feel it's necessary to highlight this because I've been among those who can't stand the fucking cat-Beast look. I get that tigers and lions are vicious predators, but how the fuck do you go from being an ape-man to a cat-man outside of anime porn? I loved ape Beast back in the day and while this version looks more like Hellboy took a dip in a vat a blueberries, it's a billion times more awesome than a fucking cat-beast. So in addition to bringing Jean Grey back, Bendis has made Beast more appealing at least on a visual level. So for that, he deserves an extra lap dance and a maybe even half a blowjob from fanboys.
Despite Beast's good health and Wolverine's itch to slit Cyclops's throat, the debate still rages. What the fuck do they do with the time displaced X-men. The initial inclination is to send them back to the present and hope what they know will change the present. But Jean Grey, now armed with in depth knowledge of the future, says, "Fuck that! We're staying!" They argue that if they go back, Xavier will just wipe their minds and nothing will change. For that reason, they need to stay in the future and fix it first. She calls on a vote and everyone except Warren agrees to stay. Apparently, Warren is a bit anxious about a future where he's MIA yet not dead. But that's his fucking problem. The Original Five X-men are here to stay motherfuckers!
So everything seems set. Kitty Pryde even agrees to watch over the Original Five to make sure they don't fuck up the time stream more than they need to. Hell, after she dumped Colossus's ass, she needs a new hobby. But before all is said and done, Cyclops tries to confront Jean. He's definitely in a fucked up place because now Jean knows what he becomes and he's trying to not be that asshole. Yet her first response to him trying to not be that asshole is to tell him to stay the fuck away from her. It's a powerful moment and one that leaves Cyclops in almost as bad a shape as he was at the end of the third X-men movie. But it's a powerful indicator that Jean Grey can't look at Cyclops as she once did.
This concerns me because as I've said before, fucking with the Cyclops/Jean relationship could fuck up more than just one of the most iconic comic book couples of all time. These two have had a huge influence on the history of the X-men and so has their relationship. Without their love, the Phoenix Saga doesn't happen. Without their love, Cable doesn't happen. Without Cable, Hope and the mutant messiah doesn't happen. And without the mutant messiah, Avengers vs. X-men ends with the world getting torched. There are serious fucking implications and given how Marvel has shown a willingness to soil established relationships with the filthiest of shit (see Peter/Mary Jane) there aren't many ways it can't end badly. And does the Marvel universe really need that shit at a time like this? Conversely, Bendis could find a way to expand this drama like he did with Peter and Mary Jane in Ultimate. But that's a big fucking if because when usually given the choice between the happy ending and the sad ending, Marvel loves to err on the side of pissing off their fans. Just ask Spider-Man fans how that shit is working out for them.
So the introduction arc is officially complete. Usually, this is either the high point or the low point of a series. A comic could be like one of those ingenious get-rich-quick plans you had as a teenager where you didn’t plan beyond the first step so you just ended up winging it before failing miserably. The awesome of an introduction arc is only as epic as the number of equally awesome stories that stem from it. For every Batman Begins, there’s a Daredevil. For every Christian Bale, there's a Ben Affleck. As such, for every Ultimates 2, there’s an Ultimates 3. You get the idea. All New X-men #5 capped off a new beginning and a new status quo for the X-books. It had to date rape Father Time, but after reading this issue I can officially say it was worth it!
Brian Michael Bendis is not the kind of writer that relies on having giant robots and monsters from land of Fuckitstan for every issue. He likes to draw shit out and play up the dramatics. He’s basically the anti-Michael Bay of comics. This issue really didn’t have a lot of action aside from Beast giving Jean Grey the cliff-notes version of how Marvel has fucked her over since the late 70s and Wolverine threatening to turn O5 Cyclops into relish for his hot dog in a completely non-gay way. But it didn’t need that much action. The impact of this issue revolved around the Original Five X-men choosing to stay in the present rather than go back to the past, have Charles Xavier mind-wipe them, and return to playing Pokemon games and listening to the Backstreet Boys. It’s not enough to just bring them to the future. Bendis gave them a damn good reason for staying in the present and everything made sense, was perfectly in character, and felt utterly genuine. Sure, it probably made Father Time’s asshole hurt, but to hell with that old bastard! Such is the price of awesome comics.
While the characterization of the Original Five and the dialog between the X-men was spot on, some areas were still a bit inconsistent. Cyclops and his Extinction Team really didn’t seem that impacted by the Original Five. In the previous issue, Cyclops visited Benjamin at his school in hopes of recruiting him. The Original Five showing up did precisely dick to change that. Not only that, Cyclops seemed completely unfazed by what happened in the previous issue. That’s a real WTF moment because Bendis made it pretty clear in the last issue that seeing Jean Grey again fucked him up in ways you can’t get without generous tipping inside a German S&M club. Yet that seemed to be completely lost in this issue.
Not only that, Benjamin comes off as a kid who smoked the wrong kind of weed because he went from trashing Cyclops’s track record to going along for the ride. I’m willing to give any college student a pass for making stupid decisions, depending on the amount of property damage done. However, even the most brazen of stoners aren’t fucked up enough to follow up with a guy they think is an asshole. Or maybe the stoners I know actually took that whole Stranger Danger bullshit too seriously.
This issue didn’t resolve some of the previous concerns I had about how fucked up the Cyclops/Jean relationship will fuck up Father Time even further (the man’s asshole can only take so much). However, Brian Michael Bendis succeeded establishing All New X-men as a new kind of X-book where the past and the present strip naked and engage in the most awesome kind of orgy. It won’t just give you a boner. It’ll bring a tear to your eyes with the level of drama, heart, and depth it portrays. Not only that, it actually has an alive, non-rip off Jean Grey that actually behaves like the Jean Grey we know and love. All New X-men #5 may have fallen flat with Cyclops and the Extinction Team, but it definitely does enough to get readers excited about the Original Five in the future. For that reason, I give this issue a 4 out of 5. So the Original Five are here to stay. They now have to live in a world where Steve Jobs is dead, Charlie Sheen has been fired from Two and a Half Men, One Direction has a hit album, the Saints have won a superbowl, Kim Kardashian still has a TV show, and a black man has been elected President of the United States. They’ll either find a way to wrap their heads around it or shit themselves to death trying. Nuff said!