Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Uncanny X-men #1 - A Revolution In Awesome
A few years back I was at a funeral and after I had a few glasses of wine in me (or 20), I made a joke about a guy who put fire crackers in his ass and walked into a gay bar. I don't remember the details, but I do remember pissing a lot of people off because the deceased in question had died from an unfortunate accident at a fireworks stand. The guy's brother, who also had some wine in him, yelled, "Too soon!" and threw an empty wine bottle at me. The resulting bar fight got us kicked out of the funeral home/pool hall/tire care center. But a valid point was made. Sometimes you do have to wait a bit before you can be politically incorrect with your sense of humor again. I don't agree with it, but it spares us the indignity of being sued and a hefty bar tab.
The same logic applies to relaunched comic books. Like a bad joke about fireworks at a funeral, a relaunched series can come way too fucking soon if it was recently ended in a way that was anything but definitive. This goes double for when a series was already relaunched in the same span of time that can be covered by a couple of seasons of the Walking Dead. Ever since DC made relaunching the sexy thing to do, everyone seems to be trying to whore themselves out to the trend. Like parachute pants, the macarana, and the crocs certain trends in comics are a slave to gimmicks.
This is why I couldn't help but roll my eyes when I heard that Marvel was relaunching Uncanny X-men again. It really wasn't that long ago, even to a drunk that blacks out ever Friday night, that Marvel ended one of its longest running ongoing books with Uncanny X-men #544. I actually reviewed the damn book and thought it was a beautifully definitive ending to a landmark series. And when it was relaunched again as Uncanny X-men #1 under Kieron Gillen, I also reviewed that shit and thought the bar was raised even higher. But after only 20 fucking issues, it ended again so that it could be relaunched yet again as part of Marvel NOW!
Now let's not kid ourselves. Marvel wouldn't do this shit if it didn't work on some levels. They noticed with DC that comic fans are stupid enough to buy extra copies of any book so long as it has that magical #1 on the cover. I don't like it and it speaks very poorly of fanboys everywhere, but the sales speak for themselves and I'm not in a position to bitch about the basic rules of economics. Marvel and DC need to turn a profit and if these bullshit gimmicks work, they would be irresponsible to their yuppie shareholders if they didn't milk that teat until it was whithered and dry.
Relaunching Uncanny X-men again really isn't necessary. Uncanny X-men #20 ended with Cyclops and his Extinction Team in ruin. But since then, he's busted out of prison and rebuilt his team under a new revolutionary motto. It's put him on the shit list of the Avengers and his own fellow X-men, so much so that Beast fucked with the space time continuum to bring back the Original Five X-men. It suddenly make Cyclops admit that he was a douche, but it did set the stage for a new direction for his team. It could easily be a continuation of what Kieron Gillen started. However, I know and Marvel knows that they'll make a fuckton more money by relaunching it. So I guess for the sake of Marvel's profits and the cocaine-fueled orgies it provides for, Marvel is relaunching a new era of Uncanny X-men and Cyclops has yet another new team to lead.
Uncanny X-men #1 begins this new era by reminding readers that the X-men were fucked over with a cosmic sized dildo by the events of Avengers vs. X-men. SHIELD and the Avengers still consider Cyclops a fugitive because for some reason making a global utopia became a crime at some point. And to find him, they’ve found a mysterious and unrevealed figure who was captured and is willing to talk without their lawyer present. Apparently, this person hasn’t been arrested for public intoxication enough to know that the constitution can be your friend and can piss off those in uniform. But this person doesn’t seem to give a shit. After Maria Hill makes doubly sure that this person has been checked and searched in ways that even the TSA would find intrusive, she sits down with him to have a little chat. We don’t know who this person is, but since Bendis did indicate in earlier teasers that someone would betray Cyclops, readers should have a tiny inkling. Whether that inkling is correct or the result of sniffing too much paint thinner remains to be seen, but will be revealed soon enough.
The ominous figure basically gives Maria Hill and the readers by default an overview of their situation. The mutant population is growing faster than herpes at a Tijuana crack house and since the world is ill-equipped to deal with them, Cyclops has taken charge as the de-facto voice of this new generation. He’s no self-loathing Kurt Cobain either, despite being a fugitive and having killed Charles Xavier. He’s taking on a very revolutionary role, seeking to confront those who get boners from harassing mutants and forcing them to find other ways to jerk off. And while Cyclops may be a criminal in the eyes of SHIELD and the Avengers, he’s seen as a hero by many mutants and even a few humans.
We already saw hints of this in All New X-men #7 when a cute little bank teller showed her support for mutants by helping O5 Cyclops (and possibly wanting to bone him). But the whole notion that not everyone agrees with the Avenger’s official story of “Cyclops is evil because he tried to make a global utopia.” He’s still a hero in the eyes of many and that’s a good thing because the way Avengers vs. X-men ended made so little sense that the NFL has placed it in the same category as a concussion in terms of head injuries. It also adds some balance to Cyclops’s revolutionary approach. It shows that his approach actually is resonating with people and there’s not a damn thing that SHIELD or the Avengers can do about it.
As the mysterious traitor is explaining to SHIELD how fucked they are, we shift to events that apparently happened before this little interview. It’s a fairly typical scene in terms of an X-men story. A young mutant named Fabio (not to be confused with the guy women in the 90s fantasized about during sex) has manifested new powers that involve him shooting these strange looking balls from his body. There are just so many dick jokes I can make from that so I’ll take an extra shot of whiskey to hold back for now. The point here is that like the other new mutants in All New X-men, this unfortunate young man can’t control his powers and rather than help him the police decide to taze his unlucky ass. It’s the kind of thing we’ve seen in X-men comics many times before, but since this is a new #1 for Uncanny X-men it isn’t just appropriate for this issue. It’s almost as necessary as a beautiful woman with kinky sexual proclivities in a James Bond movie.
Since these cops have clearly decided that shit like due process and justice doesn’t apply to mutants, Cyclops and his team of revolutionaries show up to give them a brief lesson in the constitution. And unlike the boring civics classes we all took in high school, this one involves a hot Australian chick fucking with time. This is the same hot Australian chick from the first issue of All New X-men. Only now, she goes by the code-name Tempus and under Cyclops’s guidance she’s learned to control her powers to the point where she can create a big ass dome of space that would make Einstein himself proud. It allows them to subdue the authorities without making it hurt, which may be disappointing to anyone who ever got one too many bullshit traffic tickets. But at least it’s more efficient than their previous methods of just blowing shit up and it helps make a better impression on Fabio, who Cyclops attempts to help.
But as is often the case in any mission involving the X-men, killer robots show up. Now it’s not even hinted at by the mysterious traitor or anything for that matter where the fuck these sentinels came from and who sent them. I guess they’re available in every Wal-Mart or something because for some reason they’re able to just show up right where the X-men happen to be and fuck with them. This wouldn’t be too big a deal under most circumstances, but as was also revealed in All New X-men and repeatedly mentioned in the issue itself Cyclops’s team is operating with powers that have been utterly shat on by the Phoenix Force. Emma doesn’t have her telepathy. Cyclops can’t control his blasts. And Magneto doesn’t have the power to turn these robots into giant dildoes anymore.
It’s an important detail to reinforce because not only was this story first mentioned in All New X-men, but it adds a very difficult complication to Cyclops’s mission. It’s also a very stark shift from what they dealt with under Kieron Gillen. Before Avengers vs. X-men, Cyclops’s team wielded the kind of power that could take on a Celestial that had been hot wired by Sinister and come out largely intact. Now they’re powers are fucked up and they can barely handle typical sentinels, which forces them to improvise in the battle. Yet they still remain focused on helping the mutant. It provides a very different set of circumstances that helps make this book truly feel like a new #1.
Yet while their powers may be fucked up, that doesn’t mean they can’t pack a punch. As the mysterious traitor so eloquently narrates, Cyclops’s team was able to subdue to Sentinel attack and in a way so flashy you won’t find it outside a Lady Gaga concert. Cyclops, despite his powers being fucked up, manages to unleash a massive optic blast that effectively destroys the Sentinels and leaves him feeling like he just had a three way with Emma Frost and Jean Grey. He says it felt good and why shouldn’t it? When did destroying giant robots stop feeling good? But it does hint that his powers are more messed up than we think and if it can somehow lead to the destruction of more Sentinels, then the folks at SHIELD are even more fucked than they initially thought.
But enough with the ominous hints! Who the fuck is this traitor that knows so much about this battle? Well first off, he makes a clear point that it would be stupid to try and just kill Cyclops with your typical unwarranted, illegal drone strike. That would only make him a martyr to mutants everywhere. The only way to beat him is to humiliate him publically in a way that can only be matched by having him shit himself while wearing a dress during the halftime show at the Superbowl. And who is in the best position to do that? How about fucking Magneto?
Yep! He’s the traitor. The guy who used to try to kill the X-men at least once a week has betrayed Cyclops. Excuse me while I act more unsurprised than I did when I found out one of the members of N’sync was gay. He claims that he’s pissed at Cyclops for killing Charles Xavier and fucking up his powers. His powers I can understand, but this guy used to torment Xavier like it gave him a hard-on. It’s only now that someone else has succeeded that he’s pissed? I find that to be pretty fucked up logic, but I think him being pissed about his powers more than makes up for it. I won’t say this is a big twist by any stretch because it’s fucking Magneto. But I will say that it is perfectly appropriate given the context of this book.
So in the end this new era of X-men begins with a sentinel attack, fucked up powers, new mutants, a traitor in the team, and a bald Magneto. It’s basically a pretty typical Thursday night in the Marvel universe where someone brought one too many kegs. The challenge for any comic that slaps a #1 on the front cover is to actually make it feel like a #1 and not just another cheap tactic by the Marvel marketing department. I personally don’t mind when a whore takes my money so long as I get something out of it, even if it stains my bed sheets. I know some do and I would tell those people to unclench their assholes because even if it is a shameless gimmick, it can still make for an awesome product. Uncanny X-men #1 succeeded in being worthy of that #1 and it didn’t even leave a stain on my bed sheets!
After reading this issue, it really does feel like a different kind of Uncanny X-men compared to what Kieron Gillen did during his run. This is a different team with a different set of circumstances. Yet on the surface, the mission is beautifully traditional in that it gets to the most basic elements of an X-men story. A new mutant has manifested powers and the authorities only response seems to be shitting themselves and harassing them, hopefully in that order. The X-men show up to help the new mutant and shit gets a little messy when killer robots enter the picture, as they so often do.
But what set this issue apart was twist at the end. Maybe it doesn’t count as a twist because Brian Bendis already pointed out months ago when we were still eating Christmas leftovers that there would be a traitor in Cyclops’s team. Well, this is one instance where the traitor doesn’t exactly make the readers gasp like they just saw their father in a gay porno, but it does make perfect sense. Magneto being the traitor just works and his little narration with SHIELD nicely summarized the current state of mutant affairs. A first issue needs to have some level of exposition and the problem with most comics is it either becomes more boring than a Dick Cheney interview or the writers just say, “Fuck it! Bring in the killer robots!” This issue struck a solid if not poetic balance. However, Magneto being bald still makes him look like a pedophile.
While this issue succeeded in being a worthy first issue of a new era of Uncanny X-men, it did have a few prominent flaws. First and foremost, it basically ignored the events of All New X-men. We already know about Cyclops’s new revolutionary team from what happened in All New X-men. We also saw him look like a baby in a topless bar when he saw his younger self and a young Jean Grey. However, that seemed to have about as much effect on his actions in this comic as another DUI for Lindsey Lohan. Moreover, there was no mention of where the fuck he got that new X-shaped visor. I’m not channeling my inner metrosexual or anything, but he didn’t have that shit in All New X-men. So where the fuck did it come from and why wasn’t it explained? Even if you didn’t read All New X-men before you read this issue (and your tastes in comics are utterly fucked if you skipped that book), there’s still the matter of how Magneto ended up with SHIELD anyways. These are the kinds of plot holes that you just can’t cover in mud and claim it was fucked by a horny grizzly and it does make the comic feel incomplete.
Brian Michael Bendis has taken over the X-men comics in a big way. All New X-men has already established him as the man who brought Jean Grey back into the X-books without using the Phoenix. That alone would earn him free blow jobs from every hot cos-player for the rest of the year. But he’s leaving a much bigger mark with his work on Uncanny X-men. His first issue succeeded in being a first issue and in setting up this new world for Uncanny X-men. It isn’t quite as awesome as what he’s done with All New X-men, but he’s got all the necessary tools to make this every bit as awesome. I give Uncanny X-men #1 a 4 out of 5. So the revolution has begun! Cyclops isn’t boning Emma Frost anymore, but he’s still destroying giant robots and pissing Magneto off to the point where he has to shave his head. I’ve never been much for revolutions that don’t offer free booze, but I’m ready to sign up for this one! Nuff said!