Thursday, January 31, 2013

Xtreme X-men #9 - Dazzler vs. Zombie Killer Dazzler

I used to know a guy whose sole mission in life was to try and upstage me at every possible turn. If I drank six beers, he tried to drink seven. If I did three lines of blow, he tried to do four. If I dated a girl and broke up with her after she found out I used her credit card to buy $800 in porn, then he tried to bang his girlfriend's sister and mother simultaneously. Needless to say, he pissed me off to no end. Granted, it all worked out. One time he thought I chugged a gallon of gasoline that was just wine smuggled in a gas tank. I don't know if they ever found a liver doner, but I think he learned his lesson. But the point of the story is that sometimes you're going to have to deal with assholes trying to upstage you and you can't always rely on their stupidity or their inability to discern wine from gasoline.

In the pages of Xtreme X-men, Dazzler has recently encountered some competition for her leadership position in her team of dimensionally displaced X-men. If she had balls, they would already be partially busted because she only recently proved her ability to lead the team when she, Wolverine, and Sage visited Kid Nightcrawler's universe and rescued him from killer robots and still had time to make a pit stop in 616 to get the blessing of Cyclops (although his blessing is worth about as much as Vanilla Ice's street cred these days). Yet when she returned to the Xavier-in-a-Jar, she found out he already replaced her with another more badass Dazzler that came from a universe where she led her own X-Force team against zombie hoards for a living. You can beat all the killer robots you want and get all the blessings from Cyclops you want, but you just can't beat zombie killers.

In Xtreme X-men #8, Greg Pak delivered yet another fucked up incarnation of Charles Xavier that was akin to an episode of My Little Pony on a bad acid trip. Both Dazzler teams were able to beat him, but Zombie Killer Dazzler understands that having two hot blondes on the same team just doesn't work in a non-porno situation. Xavier-in-a-Jar made up his mind. He wants the Zombie Killer Dazzler. And to prove it, the two fought each other in what should have been a bra and panties match in mud. But I guess Pak ran out of time and just had Zombie Killer Dazzler apparently kill her. I say that with the least urgent tone possible because it's painfully obvious that she's not dead. She's a pretty blond in a major comic book. Unlike slasher movies, they don't die. Marvel knows they need all the hot blonds for their fans to masturbate to as possible. So it's a given she'll survive, but it's not a given how she'll take on her zombie killing counterpart.

But before Dazzler can begin to contemplate how she’ll become more Paris Hilton and less Nichole Richie, we’re first introduced to the latest threat her team. The first pages of Xtreme X-men #9 introduce yet another douche-bag version of Charles Xavier that the multi-verse can do without. While Greg Pak has introduced many such Xaviers over the course of this series, he’s usually done a good job of mixing it up a little. We’ve had old West evil Xavier, we’ve had an Asgardian manipulating wannabe Xavier, and even a My Little Pony Xavier (that turned out to be a demon, but that’s besides the point). Pak knows how to mix this shit up is what I’m saying. So when the Xavier in this issue turns out to be your standard evil wizard in a setting that could be the backdrop for every major Lord of the Rings ripoff, it’s a little bland. It’s basically as standard an evil Xavier as you can get. That just makes the main antagonist in this comic less imposing if you're reading the comic sober.

The non-zombie killing Dazzler wakes up in this world, having been seriously wounded at the end of the last issue when her zombie killing counterpart fucking stabbed her. She has a nasty bandage over her chest, yet for some reason doesn’t seem all that woozy. I know there are some wounds that the tough and the ballsy shake off. Football players shake off concussions, boxers shake off broken jaws, and Chuck Norris shakes off gunshot wounds. But Dazzler woke up from being stabbed in the just as if it were a mild hangover. Having had my share of hangovers, I can say definitively that even the toughest don’t look that chipper even if they wake up in Megan Fox’s bath tub.

This somewhat contrived wake-up call forces Dazzler to catch up with the shit that’s going on around her. Apparently, the rest of her team is in the middle of a Lord of the Rings style battle. But instead of Orc, they’re fighting evil Beasts. Given what a monumental douche Beast has been in the comics lately, that’s a pretty terrifying threat. But zombie killer Dazzler, who apparently doesn’t give half a nanogram of shit about stabbing her counterpart, is leading them into battle. She doesn’t have much strategy. She’s just telling her team that there are monsters in front of them so killing them must somehow solve the problem. For some reason, Dazzler has a problem with that. And for a reason that’s even more fucked up, she doesn’t seem to care about the stab wound in her chest. It’s never even explained how serious the wound is. I’m all for X-men looking badass, but a fucking stab wound is not something that should be glossed over.

Regardless of how wounded she is, Dazzler is not about to let some bitch that just stabbed her take over her team and lead them with the ability of a relapsed drunk. She confronts her counterpart, but again the whole stabbing thing is brushed aside. I assume she was about to slowly explain to her why just running into an army of angry Beasts is a shitty battle tactic, but I guess she figured she can’t rationalize a situation she can’t stab. So with that in mind, Dazzler forcibly takes some of her dignity back by using her powers to effectively nuke the army in front of her. It’s the kind of dazzling display that few attractive blonds not named Lady Gaga can match. And for a girl who was recently stabbed, it’s pretty impressive and actually gets her team to stop following the crazy bitch that doesn’t look before crossing the street and listen to her. It’s not just badass, but it demonstrates that Dazzler is taking this whole leadership shit pretty seriously and isn’t going to let some stab-happy counterpart take that away from her.

Having proven her capabilities in the most blinding way possible, she gathers the team and some of the natives who happen to look like mini-Nightcrawlers. I guess with him being dead and/or an evil, traitorous prick Marvel has to make entire races of rip-offs to fill the void. But they’re actually pretty useful in that they provide Dazzler with a layout of the stronghold of the Witch King, aka the Evil Sauron-style Xavier. Armed with this information, she formulates a plan that involves Wolverine and Hercules infiltrating the castle from one end while attacking from another. It’s not as glorious as charging head-first into the front end of his army, but it has a better chance of actually doing more than just laughing his ass off at how stupid their tactics are.

Pak also uses this little planning phase to play up the dynamic between Wolverine and Hercules. In case your priest, imam, or Fox News anchor didn’t bitch about it recently, this version of Wolverine is gay and he’s swapping man meat with Hercules. And part of Dazzler’s plan involve them dressing up as Orcs, but in a way that would be more fitting in a gay pride parade than a Lord of the Rings style battle. I’m not saying that’s wrong. Hell, I think it’s awesome that Pak is making it clear that these two are hot for each other and are willing to dress up in ways that would make Pat Robertson’s head explode. And anything that disgusts Pat Robertson and men like him is awesome in my book!

So without anyone stabbing anybody this time, the plan is put into action. It’s not as epic a battle as it could have been. It actually feels a little rushed. But the point of the battle is to show that there are more efficient ways to take down an evil Xavier that don’t involve trying to go through his armies of monstrous Beasts. And much to the chagrin of the zombie killer Dazzler, it actually works. Wolverine and Hercules are able to draw the attention of Wizard Xavier’s armies away with their overwhelming strength and powerful man-love that puts anything Stephanie Meyer ever wrote to shame. This leaves Wizard Xavier’s stronghold more exposed than Pamela Anderson’s tits in bikini, thus Dazzler, Black Cyclops, Nightcrawler, and zombie killer Dazzler to slip inside. It’s not the most elaborate strategy in the history of warfare, but it works. They also blow up the bridge in the process because what’s a little strategy without a little “fuck you” thrown into the mix?

While this strategy allows Dazzler and her team to get around Wizard Xavier’s armies, the process of actually kicking his ass is a lot more difficult. Apparently, Dazzler didn’t have any strategy for that. But since she’s so new at this whole leadership thing, I’m willing to cut her some slack. The same can’t be said for Wizard Xavier, who exercises a mix of Harry Potter and Darth Vadar in how he takes on Dazzler and her team. He’s not gentle, he’s not merciful, and he really doesn’t try to do anything you wouldn’t expect a completely unapologetic douche-bag to do. It’s as overly basic as it sounds, which is somewhat disappointing given how Greg Pak has thrown in plenty of twists in the past with evil Xaviers. This is no pony Xavier like in the last arc, not by a long shot. So if you were hoping to be shocked again, stop holding your breath. Unless you’re doing a bong hit, that shit isn’t healthy.

It’s looking pretty bad for Dazzler, but once again her zombie killing counterpart just can’t stand to be upstaged. She already saw how her charge-the-massive-army-of-monsters tactics was proven to be fucking stupid. She needs to redeem herself somehow and what better way than to use the same tactic her counterpart used earlier and push her powers to eye-melting limits. Zombie killer Dazzler effectively ditches any notion of self-preservation and attacks Wizard Xavier with the kind of blinding force you won’t see outside a fireworks show on an LSD trip. She ends up pushing herself so far that she not only kills Wizard Xavier. She effectively burns out her own body until she’s nothing more than a figure of light that eventually fades.

This is yet another gaping plot hole that isn’t really explained. So if Dazzler pushes her powers that hard, she just turns into a walking hologram that eventually fades out? When the fuck did that become a potential problem for her? It makes sense on some levels, but not enough to prevent sober minds from asking WTF? Drunk minds may only be concerned with there being one less hot blond, but no matter how intoxicated a reader might be it is still a moment that should leave plenty of confusion.

Even if you are more confused by zombie killing Dazzler’s little display than a transvestite in a public restroom, it still makes for a powerful moment. This issue and the previous issue introduced some heavy competition for Dazzler’s leadership and now it’s safe to say that she’s channeled her inner Charlie Sheen and come out a winner. Her zombie killing counterpart isn’t even a sore loser either. She expresses confidence that she’ll do whatever crazy shit she needs to do in order to take down the rest of the evil Charles Xaviers. She even leaves Dazzler with her more badass uniform, which she greatly accepts. It doesn’t show quite as much cleavage, but the two gay men in the group voice no complaints about her fashion sense so it must be okay.

Anyone who puts his or her socks on one at a time admits on some level that it feels pretty damn good to upstage someone who was a complete asshole to you. There are few greater dick moves than just stabbing someone in the chest and not even apologizing for it. Yet for reasons that only Jesus Christ himself would understand, Dazzler didn’t make a big deal of it in this issue. Rather than bitch and moan about how begin stabbed hurts, she spent the bulk of this comic proving that she was a better leader and better equipped to take down evil Xaviers. And she fucking proved it in a way that would shrivel the scrotum of nearly every self-righteous douche-bag who ever owned a Prius or listened to Rush Limbaugh.

This has been the challenge of Xtreme X-men since it began. Pretty much every arc revolves around Dazzler and her team hunting down evil Charles Xaviers. Shit like that can get old pretty fast. X-men fans have been used to Charles Xavier being a douche since Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-men run. So Greg Pak has to inject more elements into these stories to make them interesting. And damn it, he succeeds. Although this issue was a bit overly basic at times and didn’t really throw in any huge twists like some of the previous arcs, it took events from a previous story and added a new element to the story. Dazzler only recently earned her role as leader of the team. Now she’s solidified it in a way that nobody who enjoys eating solid food or not being blind will ever dare question.

This issue was solid, but it was a bit more condensed than previous issues and in some instances that proved detrimental. It glossed over that little fact about Alison being stabbed in the previous issue and being more than capable of winning a battle against an army of Beasts. It also didn’t really develop the new black Cyclops all that much, nor did it explain clearly what happened with X-Force Dazzler when she faded. There were one too many blanks to fill in. It would have helped to have some narration at some points and dialog that was a bit more detailed, but in the end the story still succeeded in its primary goal to bitch slap all doubts about Dazzler’s leadership.

I liken the gaps in this issue to those nasty potholes on the highway. You can’t avoid them and they’re annoying as hell, but unless you’re a whiney little bitch you don’t complain about them. You just acknowledge them and keep driving until you reach the bar and/or strip club. This issue got readers to said bar and/or strip club, albeit in a less-than-smooth ride. Greg Pak continues to find ways to make a series centered around killing evil Charles Xaviers compelling and finds yet another way to make an attractive blonde badass in a way that you can still masturbate to. I give Xtreme X-men #9 a 3.5 out of 5. Yes, it has gaps. But it also has goblins, wizards, muscular gay men, demons, beasts, and two hot blonds trying to upstage one another. If that shit isn’t enough for you, then you’re an asshole or a Mormon. Nuff said!

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