Thursday, February 28, 2013

Uncanny Avengers #4 - Propoganda-Filled Awesome

I try not to read too deeply into my comics. I'm not the kind of guy who will claim that Iron Man is a metaphor for Atlas Shrugged, mainly because Paul Ryan hasn't admitted to jerking off to it in the past. I'm also not one to argue that Batman: The Dark Knight was a metaphor for President Bush's policies of fuck-the-Constitution-let's-kill-bad-guys policies. When I read comics, I see male models and female porn stars kicking ass in awesome stories. But I understand comics can have a deeper meaning like any other form of literature.

That said, I'm really not sure what the deeper meaning of Uncanny Avengers is so far other than Nazis are assholes and so is Havok. This series from Rick Remender and John Cassaday was billed as the alpha dog of the Marvel NOW! relaunch. Aside from frustrating delays, it hasn't really done too much to establish itself in the new status quo other than assemble a rather hasty collection of X-men and Avengers just in time to see the Red Skull return. That's not to say it hasn't be awesome in its own right. A book that involves Nazis digging up the body of a fresh corpse and ripping out the brain is something that is meant to let you know that some serious shit is happening. The problem is that this book still feels too much like just another team book and not like a new series that involves a genuinely new team.

Uncanny Avengers has been slow at time, but Rick Remender raised the stakes in the previous issue when the Red Skull and his new team of bigots/Rush Limbaugh fans, the S-men, confronted the new X-Avengers in a big way. Armed with Charles Xavier's telepathy, the Red Skull began turning ordinary citizens against one another in a way not seen since Karl Rove was running George W. Bush's re-election campaign. He did such a good job of controlling the minds of others that he managed to make Thor his ideal Aryan agent of fuck-all-inferior-races. So if this really is supposed to be a new team, they're demonstrating the kind of incompetence you won't find outside of the post office or AT&T's tech support.

With the team pretty roughed up, the challenge now falls upon the douchy shoulders of Havok. He was anointed the leader of the team by Captain America and already he’s showing why his brother got to hook up with the hot telepaths and he didn't. Uncanny Avengers #4 has him wounded and severely concussed while the Scarlet Witch is left to take on a mind-controlled Thor, who the Red Skull mind-fucked into becoming his Aryan superman/bitch. It’s a very volatile fight between two obscenely powerful characters. One fucks reality on a whim. One has a big ass hammer that isn’t a metaphor for his dick. It’s a battle Havok has no business being in, especially while injured and concussed. But since he was tasked by Captain America to try and compensate for what a dick-cheese his brother was, he doesn’t have the option being the same whiney little bitch.

In a move that gives the finger to the NFL’s concussion policies, Havok flexes his nuts and helps the Scarlet Witch by hitting him with a healthy dose of cosmic ass-kicking. It’s nowhere near enough to subdue the freakin’ God of Thunder and he admits this. At the very least, it shows that Havok is capable of stepping up when his own teammates are being used against him. For the more inept leaders, they would just whine about how their enemy is not playing fair. Back in grade school, we referred to those people as “easy targets” in dodge ball. While this shot allows Havok to better coordinate with the Scarlet Witch, the Red Skull isn’t even mildly annoyed as he continues to mind-fuck regular people into brutalizing others for reasons that only registered members of the KKK can understand.

But the Red Skull doesn’t just use his talents to mind-fuck living gods into doing his bidding. He’s a fucking Nazi. If he’s not going for overkill with his douche-baggery, then he’s spitting in the face of the Furor. Instead, he opts to just mentally fuck with Captain America’s treasured ideals about America and democracy by using his psychic talents to paint a painfully vivid picture that most won’t see outside of a typical reality TV show. He talks of creating an eternal Riche, peaceful and orderly, while pointing out that the America he treasures has failed. He says that by rallying humans against mutants, they elevate the common man to something greater than the random bag of flesh he is. And if Captain America rallies with them, then ruling over them will be as easy as Mitt Romney winning the Mormon vote.

Traditionally, nobody bothers to let Nazis try and justify their lust for carnage. Most people don’t give a shit. They see a Nazi and treat them the same way they are treated in Call of Duty or Indiana Jones movies. They’re target practice. But Rick Remender isn’t content with just making the Red Skull an unapologetic asshat like he’s often portrayed to be. He actually gives the Red Skull a vision and it’s not a vision of 24/7 Hitler worship. He wants to create a more orderly world and mutants are the enemy to that order. It’s a very Nazi-like thing to do, scapegoating a minority. But the vision is not inherently evil. It’s the methods of getting it that makes you want to throw his ass in a Call of Duty game and empty a machine gun into his cranium.

Thanks to his Xavier-level telepathy, the Red Skull has Captain America subdued without lifting a finger. Havok and the Scarlett Witch realize this and figure they need to do something before he gets bored and starts making Cap do Nazi themed porn. There’s still the matter of Thor being in their way and still being mind-fucked. But the Scarlett Witch finally decides it’s time to step up her game and start making up for the whole mutant genocide shit that led to Avengers vs. X-men in the first place. This involves her going the extra mile and hexing Thor’s godly ass into the exosphere. It’s a nice demonstration of how powerful she is, but she’s still a long ways away from being that crazy bitch that nearly wiped out an entire species with a sentence fragment.

And while Havok is taking his sweet time helping the team he’s supposed to be leading, the Red Skull continues to mind-fuck Captain America by vividly pointing out what a shitty place America has become. He describes the culture as greedy, gluttonous, lazy, and wasteful. He basically read the entire first chapter of Ann Coulter’s last book to him. All the while, he’s making Captain America watch as he mind-fucks other civilians into maiming one another. The main point of his message is that the America he idealizes has failed and this is not the shit he fought for.

Let me say right now that I hate Nazis every bit as much as I hate murderers, pedophiles, bigots, and Rick Santorum speeches. I am not in any way making a pro-Nazi statement on this blog or in any of the drunken ramblings I write. But the Red Skull does have a point here and it’s a point that Rick Remender articulates beautifully. The America that Captain America fought for is not the same America he idealizes. All that greed, waste, and bullshit is very real. I look at shit like Congress, terrorism, reality TV, and boy bands and think to myself “This is America?” The Red Skull is not wrong for pointing out the flaws in America and Rick Remender is not wrong for giving the Red Skull a justification for his Hitler-loving bullshit. It helps give a deeper perspective of this unapologetically evil son of a bitch. That perspective won’t make you hate him any less, but at least he has a reason for being such a dick.

Eventually, the Red Skull is knocked off the soap box with help from Rogue and Havok. Rogue, who was completely MIA up to this point in the issue, shows up to reveal that she took the power of one of the S-men to turn off the Red Skull’s telepathy. This allowed Havok to hit him with another blast and I imagine few blasts are more satisfying than one that hits a Nazi. The Red Skull responds by mind-fucking Havok into fighting Rogue for him, but it distracts him long enough to allow Captain America to shrug off his Nazi propaganda and proceed with beating the shit out of him.

It’s classic Cap and a great “America! Fuck yeah!” moment. But the Red Skull isn’t one of those villains that will just throw himself into a battle and wait for it to beat him to death. He’s a Nazi and Nazis love to escape so they can live long enough to keep fucking with minorities. That’s exactly what the Red Skull does, using one of his S-men to transport him away before Captain America can beat that stolen brain out of his school. The whole concept of the villain escaping the hero may be old as fuck, but if it means more battles like this than I’m perfectly fine with it. Especially if it means more Nazis getting their asses kicked over a longer span of time. Like a session with a hooker, you want that shit to last.

With the Red Skull gone, everyone is freed from his mind-fuck. That includes the countless people who were turned into a blood-thirsty hate mob that would soak the panties of Ann Coulter. They’re all understandably horrified at what they just did. So is Thor when he picks up a very wounded Wolverine, who like Rogue was pretty much just a prop in the battle. Havok, still trying to prove that he can be the same leader as his brother without boning hot telepaths, gives a little speech. It’s basically ripped off from the “It’s not your fault,” speech by Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting. Then again, I’m not sure if being mind-controlled into committing a crime is a valid legal defense in the Marvel universe. So it wasn’t all that moving, but at least Havok tried to contribute something to the battle when in the grand scheme of things he didn’t do dick with his first opportunity as a leader.

I could probably right several pages worth of criticisms for Havok if I had enough time and a few cases of hard liquor, but I’ll save that for another review. In the end my criticisms of Havok don’t mean dick because later on Captain America gives him his seal of approval. And Captain America has way more credibility than a drunk like me. It makes for a fairly standard epilogue where he tells Havok that he can be the leader they need while the Red Skull is on the loose. This whole series began with Cap setting out to choose a new leader to replace the tainted image of Cyclops. And I guess by that standard, he succeeded because Havok has shown he can step up. But he’s still not as good as his brother. At least he can boast he boned both Emma Frost and Jean Grey whereas Havok only got to bone Jean's batshit crazy clone.

We also see some resolution with other members of the team. The Scarlet Witch tries to make amends with Rogue after being a complete bitch to her in previous issues. Rather than forgive and become BFFs, Rogue says she still hates her. However, she’ll stay on the team just to make sure she doesn’t fuck reality again. Wolverine is still more wounded than a guy who went 25 rounds a meth-addicted Mike Tyson, but Thor drops by to let him know their new team has become mainstream. He also tries to give the “It’s not your fault” speech regarding Charles Xavier, but at this point I’m sure even Robin Williams would say that shit is old.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end with the “It’s not your fault” shit. Instead, Rick Remender gives us a brief glimpse into the future in terms of what we can expect. I’m not sure if this is a preview or yet another apocalyptic future for the Marvel universe, but it involves Havok, Sunfire, and the Scarlett Witch running away from Nimrod sentinels run by Tony Stark and confronting a Red Skull and brain-less Charles Xavier in the form of Onslaught. That’s how fucked mutants are now that the Red Skull is back. They have to deal with motherfucking Onslaught. We thought his ass was buried all the other 90s shit like the Spice Girls, dial-up internet, and the Macarana. But it looks like he may be back and mutants may be fucked yet again. So I guess Captain America’s commitment to coordinating with mutants didn’t last.

When Uncanny Avengers was first announced/excessively hyped, it was billed as a different kind of Marvel book. If I were drunk, I would be more inclined to get excited about that. But when I’m sober, I can’t help but wonder how the premise of an Avengers/X-men team-up is any different than your typical team-up book. There have been so many over the years by Marvel, DC, Image, and damn near every other medium that the concept has become too bland for the sober mind. Now maybe it’s because I was somewhat stoned when I read this, but I think it’s safe to say that this issue and this first arc of Uncanny Avengers succeeded at least partially.

One of the lessons Captain America learned after the events of Avengers vs. X-men (in addition to not letting Tony Stark shoot their problems with big ass guns) was that occasional team-ups with mutants just aren’t going to cut it. He began this arc by recruiting Havok to be the face of the new team. And while he was a total dick and clumsy as fuck for most of this issue, he proved he can get the job done. He also proved that there is some merit to this team and it can work beyond being just another casual team-up. They can’t just coax around one another like every NFL player does at the Pro Bowl. They need to work together if they’re to take on threats like an Xavier-powered Red Skull.

Uncanny Avengers #4 proved that the proof of concept behind this series works, but as an individual comic it was inconsistent. The big fight with the Red Skull was clumsy at times and there were too many instances of characters just being thrown into the mix. It was like throwing a bag of weed into cake batter without stirring it. It’ll still make the cake, but not everyone who eats it will get high.

But what this comic lacked in consistency it made up for in details. Rick Remender showed the kind of gritty details in this issue that helped make Uncanny X-Force an enema of consistent awesome. The narration bits were very well-done and added an element of drama to the struggle. And the Red Skull’s Glen Beck-style rant was beautifully crafted. He seemed less like the typical evil Nazi and more like the kind of guy who listens to Rush Limbaugh too intently. He established the Red Skull as a different kind of threat and one that will definitely be fucking with the team in the future.

I’m still exceedingly disturbed at how valid some of the Red Skull’s points were, but in the end this issue made me more confident on the future of this book. It didn’t just help establish the Red Skull as a threat. It established some of the personal conflicts that this team will face. We have Havok’s inept leadership that will likely leave him pissing and moaning about his brother. We have Rogue hating the Scarlet Witch with a passion, yet still showing a willingness to share a pack of tampons with her. We also have Captain America trying hard not to make the same dick moves that lead to Avengers vs. X-men. Then there’s Onslaught. Fuck, we have to deal with Onslaught again. Like I need another reminder of how much the 90s sucked. But I suppose it could’ve been much more fucked up in a comic that involves Nazis and brain surgery.

Uncanny Avengers #4 firmly established this series as having a unique and appealing theme. It nicely capped off the end of the first arc, which didn’t exactly start out very strongly in the first place. It offered a perfect blend of action and drama. True to Rick Remender’s talents, he’ll blow shit up while making you shed a few tears. It’s a feeling you won’t get without a case of imported fireworks and several bottles of tequila. I give Uncanny Avengers #4 a 4 out of 5. All you need to know about the future of Uncanny Avengers is it involves Nazis, racism, and violent uprisings. And unlike the paranoid ramblings of Alex Jones, this shit will actually make some sense under Rick Remender’s pen. Nuff said!


  1. Cassaday's art is DEFINITELY not worth all these damn delays, which basically killed the momentum for me. I am on the fence about this book, I really could give a fuck about anyone except Rogue (and Sunfire pretty soon).

    She seems to be the only one remembering that Wanda is fucking crazy, and seeing as she was just about to be used as a weapon again you would think the Avengers would be keeping her on a tighter leash given how they treated the P5. Life Force or not, she basically as I understand it based on Unit's story put a stop to evolution on a multiversal level, which is certainly worse than anything anyone else has done under the influence of the PF or something similar. But shit she feigns amnesia and says she's sorry and we're supposed to buy it? Then in #1 she basically says she's tired of mutants and the X-men's shit and asked why there needed to be mutants anyway? I don't know, why do we need females, why can't we all be white eastern european males? What was the point of the Doom retcon if this is how she feels?

    Maybe it's just RR's Wanda but I feel like this bitch should have been the one to die at the end of AvX. She certainly seems to fit the villain role just as well as the Red Skull. Aside from a passing comment from Vision I don't think any of the Avengers even care anymore than she killed a bunch of them. All she had to do was chill at home for a lil bit then wander back all doe-eyed.

    1. I didn't think Cassaday's art was a problem, but it certainly isn't awesome enough to warrant the delays he often brings. Some artists, like Bryan Hitch, are worth the wait. Cassaday, not so much. And I agree that Wanda is still a total bitch that Marvel hasn't addressed. They use the excuse that she was under Doom's control. Well how the fuck is that any different than being under the Phoenix Force's control? How?! It isn't. Yet Wanda was never thrown in jail and she fucking killed Vision and Hawkeye. And Cyclops ended up in jail? That's bullshit on too big of a stick. I don't like her, but I'm glad Rogue is on the team to call her out on her shit. This series will be worth it if she continues doing that on a regular basis.


    2. The thing that really annoys me is that Havok gave the "It's not your fault. You were possessed" speech. Yet he couldn't do the same for his own brother.