Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wolverine and the X-men #24 - Romantically Charming Awesome

What is it about romance in superhero comics that get fans so up in arms? It's not enough to care about our favorite heroes saving the world from unspeakable evil. We must also scrutinize who they are or aren't boning. It began with the likes of Superman and Lois Lane. It has since become a collection of cults where fans of all colors play the part of Team Edward and Team Jacob while never admitting they're basically behaving like crazed Twilight fans with respect to certain relationships. I admit I'm guilty myself of having certain preferences for romance in comics. But I try to maintain perspective.

Now all my ex-girlfriends will disagree with me here, but I do consider myself a sentimental person and not just to the person who gives me a beer. I think it's actually important for characters to have meaningful relationships, romantic and otherwise. Even the most noble of superheroes needs to get their dick or pussy wet from time to time. They're heroes. Not monks. And there are few comics that generate more online flame wars than romance in X-men comics.

It goes all the way back to the days where Cyclops and Jean Grey were the only couple in town. There are now parts of the internet where fans of the Wolverine/Jean Grey romance try to place voodoo curses on fans who support the Wolverine/Storm romance and pretty much everyone likes to shit on the Cyclops/Jean Grey relationship because Odin forbid that a relationship actually becomes serious. And it's not just the fans either. Marvel and DC have a history of horribly butchering relationships, sometimes even selling them to the devil to get rid of them. I can't think of a good example off the top of my head while I'm drunk, but I'm sure you get the idea.

For those reasons, I'm always a little excited and a little anxious when Marvel decides to dedicate an issue to romance. Wolverine and the X-men is not the comic you would expect to explore that kind of romance. This is a comic that just ended an arc involving homicidal clowns, Frankenstein monsters, and witches. It's about as fitting an environment for romance as a Chanukah ceremony on Mel Gibsons's front yard. But in the same way I can't turn down a bottle of exotic liquor given to me by some one-eyed Russian at a crack house, I can't help but be curious as to what sort of romance will unfold in the X-books in wake of the Marvel NOW! relaunch.

Wolverine and the X-men #24 marks the first real arc that takes place after the relaunch. We catch up with Storm, who recently joined the Jean Grey Institute after Cyclops got hauled off to jail and her husband annulled their marriage. But unlike other marriages that crash and burn after an epic fight, Storm somehow manages to stay on good terms with Black Panther. They even share some games of chess and video chats while she’s gardening. For all I know, there are court-appointed lawyers in the background making sure shit stays calm. Maybe it helps that they didn’t have to hire Judge Judy to handle their annulment, but I’m pretty sure this is the most civil two ex’s have ever been with one another, fictional or otherwise. However, Black Panther makes clear to Storm that while he will respect her renewed right to fuck indiscriminately, he urges her to NOT fuck one man in particular. And anyone who has ever dealt with an ex before knows that when you give them a chance to fuck with you, they’ll usually take it and enjoy it all the more. Guess Black Panther will have to find that shit out the hard way.

For Wolverine, he enters the new Marvel NOW! era of this book the same way he enters any new era and that’s by getting shit faced at a bar. I can think of no instance where that’s not appropriate. However, Rachel Grey sees fit to deny him because she and the rest of the Jean Grey Institute staff are going out for some much needed downtime and possibly some “indiscriminate coupling” as Warbird puts it. That means Wolverine is stuck babysitting the students. It sucks because it means he can’t get drunk, but he of all people knows the value of indiscriminate coupling.

But sadly, not everybody is engaging in indiscriminate coupling on their off night. Iceman and Kitty Pryde have also used this opportunity to go on their first real date. Now this is actually a development that has been quite some time in the making. Iceman and Kitty flirted as far back as the first arc of Wolverine and the X-men. After Colossus went Phoenix crazy and forced Kitty to break up with him, she and Iceman agreed to give it a try. However, right off the bat shit is pretty weird. Kitty even points it out and why shouldn’t she? She just broke up with a guy that was a vessel for a cosmic force and an unstoppable force. She also was a side-show act in a circus. How the fuck does anyone live normally after shit like that? It’s not an unreasonable question to ask when you’re trying to establish a new relationship that you hope won’t end with somebody getting fucked up on cosmic power.

Then there are some of the established couples, like Beast and Agent Brand. I still think Beast is a complete douche-bag, but I’ve already gone on record as saying I approve of his new non-cat look. Since this takes place after the first arc in All New X-men, Beast gets to show it off with Agent Brand. She’s perfectly inclined to enjoy their off night with some wine and a little exercise of her fur fetish. However, Beast is apparently tired of being a douche to Cyclops so he’s a douche to his girlfriend by allowing himself to be distracted by the autopsy of Broo, who was shot in the head recently by the Hellfire brats. If that’s his idea of a romantic night, I don’t even want to think about what Brand has to do to give him a boner.

Now this sounds like a dick move and it is, but it does actually have a purpose in the sense that it ties into another ongoing plot. The Broo story has not been resolved and it too has romantic undertones because Idie had expressed an interest in Broo. I have no idea why, but who am I to judge the proclivities of a teenage girl? Beyond crazy alien fetishes, it adds a certain level of coherence and continuity to Wolverine and the X-men that has been lacking since Avengers vs. X-men. It’s the kind of attention to detail that may not sound like much, but goes a long fucking way in a comic.

Continuing with this theme of effective tie-ins, Jason Aaron takes some time to work the events of All New X-men into the story even more by throwing Jean Grey into the mix. Hey, she’s been dead for nearly a decade. She deserves every fucking scene she gets at this point. Whereas the adults are pursuing their various romantic proclivities, Kid Omega does a little angry teenage venting at the grave of Charles Xavier. There, he meets Jean Grey and he instinctively tries to hook up with her. I admit, I would do the same thing. But he’s a total douche about it. Thankfully, Jean Grey rejects him. Even as a wide-eyed teenager stuck in the future, she’s smart enough not to entertain the loins of narcissistic teenagers like Kid Omega. Any woman who ever saw someone like Kid Omega take advantage of na├»ve girls should burst into tears for this scene.

Meanwhile, Wolverine is the odd man out not getting his dick wet for once. I’m sure it’s a strange feeling, not being able to get drunk and fuck any woman with bad boy fetish. So he takes it out with his second favorite anger management tactic after drinking, and that’s tearing the Danger Room to pieces.

But what should be a fairly typical tirade of self-loathing for a guy with so few reasons to do so takes a turn for the better when Storm joins him. Somehow a beautiful woman always finds a reasons to hang out with him. That may make most men hate him even more, but Storm has just as good a reason for wanting to tear some shit up. She’s a recent divorcee in need of some venting. She also wants to talk to Wolverine about assuming the role as headmistress while Kitty Pryde is handling the Original Five. Given Wolverine’s uncanny ability to fuck things up with friends, enemies, and teenagers alike it’s always a good idea to have someone who can shove a lightning bolt up his ass when he needs it.

As for Kitty and Iceman’s date, things take a new twist when they finally come to conclusion that they can’t just pretend they’re a normal couple on a normal date. They’re fucking X-men for crying out loud! They fight killer robots and cosmic forces every other week. Normal just is too boring for them. So rather than pretend, they say “Fuck it, we’ll do it our own way!” and go on a little excursion that involves riding tornados and bringing blocks of ice to poor desert dwellers. It’s the kind of shit most people can’t do on a date. Yet they can and it serves the same purpose. It doesn’t seem romantic to us normal folk, but to them it works and Jason Aaron shows this. It actually taps into a larger issue about how superheroes even go about normal activities like dating. I mean if you can have a good time with ice powers and tornado riding, why shouldn’t that count as romantic?

In the end Kitty and Iceman’s date is a success. They call it the greatest date ever, which is why it’s pretty fucked up when Kitty Pryde thinks they should just break up and leave it at this. Now this is a case study in fucked up logic. It makes perfect sense to retire from professional sports after winning a championship, but you don’t end a relationship that’s going well. That’s basically an admission that you would rather take a beat up old used car through the desert rather than a brand new Lexus. But that doesn’t matter to Iceman. He still gets a kiss out of it. Not sure if he gets a some of Kitty’s “other” kitty, but I’m sure fanfiction writers will fill in the blanks.

But Iceman isn’t the only one to swap some spit. In accepting her role as headmistress to the Jean Grey Institute, Storm gave Wolverine a caveat of sorts. She asked that he cut her hair so that she’s in her old mohawk style once more. I know a lot of recently divorced women go through some pretty fucked up things when their marriage ends. But since this doesn’t involve throwing Molotov cocktails through the windows of her ex, cutting her hair into a mohawk isn’t even top ten. But she doesn’t stop there. When it’s over, she does exactly what Black Panther told her not to do and kisses Wolverine. So for once that cover wasn’t a fucking ruse. They actually did kiss and it didn’t involve alternate reality versions of themselves for once. It’s even implied they humped in the shower. I’m pretty sure this also counts as a huge “Fuck you!” to Black Panther and as someone who despised that relationship from the beginning it’s oh so satisfying!

It would be great if this comic could end on a happy note that gets romance lovers all giddy and/or a little horny. But at some point we have to remember that Jason Aaron is the writer of this comic. It just wouldn’t be natural if he didn’t throw in something fucked up. In this case, we revisit the comatose Broo. Idie pays him a visit and there’s a nice little moment at first. But then Broo wakes up from his coma. And instead of a Snow White moment, we get a Freddy Kruger moment because Broo’s first inclination is to attack her and use her bones as a tooth pick. So if you were left sobbing uncontrollably from all the romance, this scene should get you sufficiently sick to your stomach once more. Everybody wins.

I know I don’t come off as much of a romantic on this blog. I guess it’s hard to be romantic when your drunk, stoned, or hung over. But make no mistake. I do have a strong appreciation for romance and an equally strong appreciation for comics that take the time to focus on it. I think every fanboy appreciates it on some level. Even if they’re a hairy chest, steak-eating, whiskey drinking, bear-wrestling manly man, they genuinely care about the love lives of their favorite characters and what they do when they’re not destroying killer robots. And this issue shows how a romance-centric issue can be awesome without being too Twilightish.

Wolverine and the X-men #24 not only fleshes out romantic sub-plots that have been building within the pages of this series for a while now, like Iceman and Kitty Pryde. It establishes new ones that have the potential to set naughty fanfiction writers’ asses ablaze. While romances like Idie and Broo are cute and all, a romance between Wolverine and Storm is a different kind of headline. These are two of the most well-known X-men and now they’re shaving each other’s heads and bumping uglies in the shower. They’re basically doing all the shit fans wish Superman and Wonder Woman would do. This along with all the other personal moments that tie into a solid, well-rounded story that doesn’t need shit blowing up to be awesome.

This issue was a hell of a shift from the previous story, which involved Frankenstein and an army of homicidal clowns. In some ways that shift is a bit jarring. Jason Aaron doesn’t usually focus too heavily on romantic sub-plots and with this issue it’s hard to see why. He’s no Chris Claremont with the romantic tension, but he offers an appropriately subtle approach. He also uses those same romantic sub-plots to move other stories forward, namely the story with Broo and the Original Five X-men showing up. This helps make the comic seem like it isn’t one of those filler issues. It actually is part of a larger story. At times it’s a bit overly subtle, but I think Jason Aaron makes it very effective.

The implications of this issue are pretty damn big. Forget the Iceman/Kitty plot that few fans seemed to give a shit about. Wolverine and Storm is not a new concept. Hell, the original X-men Animated Series had two whole episodes that showed them married, in love, and saving the whole damn future. It’s a relationship that has spawned many fanfiction stories, pornographic and non-pornographic alike. Marvel has teased at their closeness in the past. But they’ve never been all that serious about it. Like Superman and Wonder Woman, it’s an idea that has always been there. It just hasn’t been seriously explored. Could this finally be that moment when they say, “Fuck it, let’s see how this goes?” I don’t know, but at the very least I’m glad that cover wasn’t just another fucking cock tease.

Wolverine and the X-men #24 has appeal that goes beyond the Storm/Wolverine or Iceman/Kitty shippers. This is a book that establishes a new kind of drama and a new kind of conflict in the pages of Wolverine and the X-men. Granted, it’s a very significant shift from previous arcs. It involves no nightmare circuses, alien casinos, or homicidal kids…yet. But if you can ignore Jason Aaron’s history of injecting enemas of pure fucked-up awesome into this series, you’ll find a lot to enjoy about this issue. Wolverine and the X-men #24 gets a 4.5 out of 5. I hope Marvel understands that while Twilight may suck the balls of a billion rabid bulls, it still appeals to a sizable chunk of the population and makes a metric fuckton of money. So they have a vested interest in fleshing out these romantic sub-plots, especially with Wolverine and Storm. If they don’t, perverse fanfiction writers will and I don’t think they want more S&M stories for their characters than they already have. Nuff said!

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