Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Xtreme X-men #10 - Axis of Awesome
A few years ago, some asshole judge thought I had anger management issues because beating up the brain-dead hipster who gave me a decafe mocha late instead of a double shot espresso at Starbucks was a symptom of “serious issues.” His words, not mine. I can safely say that the experience was akin to being strapped to a chair and being forced to listen to Barney the Dinosaur sodomize an elf for three weeks. The problem wasn’t the information itself. I honestly didn’t know visualizing Santa Claus could help calm someone down. It was the burned out hippie running the class who made me want to shove my balls into a broiler. He was this annoying, touchy feely type guy who wanted every man in the room to surrender their testicles, put on a dress, and slow dance to classical music for the rest of the day. Needless to say, I punched the guy in the face the last day of the class and my anger issues were solved.
This kind of touchy feely leadership, if done with the same incompetence as the anger management teacher that now has a black eye, is almost infuriating enough to make someone want to vote for Rick Santorum. On the flip side, those uptight drill-sergeant leaders that grow up to be drill instructors or gym teachers are just as infuriating, except you probably won’t get away with punching them in the face. These are the extremes of leadership and for the most part, leaders not named after a dictator or a cult leader are somewhere in between. For a new leader like Dazzler in the pages of Xtreme X-men, it’s a matter of determining where in that spectrum she wants to be and how willing she is to risk getting punched in the face.
Since Greg Pak revitalized Xtreme X-men from the ashes of Chris Claremont’s genius, he’s made this inter-dimensional mission to hunt down evil Charles Xaviers a Dazzler-centric story. Because why the hell shouldn’t a story revolve around a hot blond who can sing, kick ass, and put on her own light show without having to smear glitter on her tits? As the mission has unfolded, she has been thrust into a leadership position and must lead a ragtag collection of displaced alternate X-men against deranged Charles Xaviers that range from evil wizards to cute little ponies. It sounds pretty fucked up and it is. But Pak has found a way to make it awesome and he’s also found a way to make Dazzler more compelling than most generic blonds can ever hope to be without marrying Hugh Hefner.
In the previous issue, Dazzler successfully wrestled away a leadership role from an alternate version of her that was far more qualified on the basis of her zombie-killing skills. She even found time to knock off another evil Xavier. Now in Xtreme X-men #10, she’s free to exercise her new leadership skills. So what does she do first? Perhaps drill the hell out of her team, make them do push-ups, and threaten to unscrew their heads and shit down their neck? Nope! She orders that they all take a break from killing evil Xaviers and go swimming. Hell, if this is how my anger management classes were run, I might have actually come to a few meetings sober.
But not everybody chooses to partake in Dazzler's fun-loving leadership. Black Cyclops apparently wasn't forced into bullshit anger management classes in his universe so he basically stays back until Kid Nightcrawler teleports his clothes off and prompts him to take a dip. This sounds a lot less gay than you think because as soon as he's in his skivvies, Dazzler's mouth goes dry and all the moisture goes to her other mouth (by that I mean her vagina). I won't make a once you go black, you never go back joke. But it's the kind of scene that would piss off a member of the KKK so for that I find it extra enjoyable.
But the appeal isn't just seeing a pretty blond get moist for a big, strong black man not named Denzel Washington. In this suggestive scene that involves frolicking around in underwear, we actually get some long overdue details about who this Black Cyclops is. He showed up pretty abruptly with zombie killer Dazzler in the previous issue and his backstory really wasn't explored. But now that he's in his underwear and has a chance to bone a hot blond, he explains to Dazzler that he comes from a world where mutants were enlisted to help win a Civil War from a History Channel version of Nick Fury and Charles Xavier. He and another team of mutant powered soldiers were so effective at winning the war that both racists and his own allies started to fear him. He claims he killed 6,000 men. I'm sure that sounds like a lot, but I'm sure Wolverine would probably laugh at that figure. He kills that many people when his favorite hockey team loses.
And it isn't just Black Cyclops that gets some time to build his story. Hercules, who also showed up with Zombie Killer Dazzler, takes some time to discuss where he comes from as well. His story isn't exactly as big a mystery. We already know he comes from the same world as Wolverine and that he's playing hide the flesh rocket in the peanut butter cavern with him. We also know that he comes from a world where people like Rick Santorum are actually taken seriously because two men loving each other just doesn't fly. In his world, he and Wolverine were the best warriors, but they had to work under a Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. It was only after they killed the most powerful creature in their world, which appeared to be a T-Rex on crystal meth, that they revealed their love. Shit didn't exactly go over well. Hercules's father, Zeus, ended up throwing their bleached asses into Tartarus. I guess in his world Zeus wants his sons to favor vaginas or he's a registered republican from Texas.
Now I like that Greg Pak is taking some time to flesh out these characters. They all manage to really open up here, letting each other and the readers know they come from worlds that are pretty fucked up in their own unique way but still not as fucked up as a world where Cyclops is thrown in jail for making the world a global utopia. However, a lot of these details feel like details that it should have been revealed a few issues ago. It's nice that they can open up to one another while swimming in their underwear. I guess that may be part of Dazzler's team-building exercise, but it still seems out of place to the point of it being filler and filler belongs in a burger. Not a comic.
Filler aside, there's one aspect to Xtreme X-men that still sets it apart from every other X-book. It's one of those books where you can see twists on certain characters that aren't just unique, but they piss off the Fox News crowd. That's what happens when you make Cyclops black and Wolverine gay. But Pak isn't done pissing off the assholes who voted for Mitt Romney. He's fucked up the ethnicity and race of another beloved Marvel character. He made Namor Japanese! Okay, so maybe he's not beloved as much as he is desired by hot blondes, but it's yet another twist in a book that has had many good ones.
A Japanese Namor is just what Dazzler's team faces when their little bonding swim is interrupted by Sage, who informs them that they've discovered that this world has a nasty little alternate history that involves London being flooded. Before they could figure out how the fuck this could have happened, they're attacked by a Japanese Namor who has a hate-boner for Xavier. It marks the first solid bout of action in the comic and when Namor is involved, you can expect it to be destructive, egoistical, and panty soaking. So while he may be Japanese, he's still the same Namor. He may just care less for blondes and more for cute girls in revealing school-girl uniforms.
So if Namor is Japanese in this universe, what about Xavier himself? What could he be? What he possibly be in a series that has already had him appear as a freakin' pony? How about a fucking Nazi? If that revelation shocks you an any way, then clearly you haven't been reading this series or you've been reading it stoned. Because considering all the crazy, twisted version of an evil Charles Xavier we've seen, a Nazi Xavier actually isn't all that ground breaking.
He makes his big Naziriffic entrance after Dazzler's team battle Namor and manage to convince him that the Xavier-in-a-Jar that has been guiding them isn't the on he wants to rip apart. He shows up looking like every boss battle in every Wolfenstein game ever. Naturally, Dazzler's team reacts in the same way anyone would react if they saw a real Nazi. They try to murder his Hitler-loving ass. It becomes another glorious spectacle of a battle where Nazi Xavier flexes his Aryan superiority in ways that should make any hippie vomit. It's a fun scene, but feels a little condensed after the filler from the earlier parts of the issue.
But just like we saw with the creepy My Little Pony Xavier, this Nazi Xavier may not be what he seems. He uses his telepathy to inform Dazzler's team that he's not the same sinister Nazi that eats babies for breakfast and the innocence of little children for lunch. He claims Nazi's in this world aren't all that bad and he's trying to save the last remaining innocent survivors of a world that was drowned, presumably by Namor. It puts Dazzler's team in an awkward position because now they have to choose between helping a Nazi and helping Namor when he's got a rage boner. If ever there was a "we're fucked" situation, this was it. However, Dazzler is the leader now. She just showed she can be the nice, touchy feely leader by letting her teammates go for a swim. Now she has to show that she's also the kind of leader that can make a tough decision and make sure it's the right one. So what's it going to be Dazzler? A Nazi or a Namor? Even her tits can't help her escape this one and we won't find out what she decides until the next issue sadly.
There are only so many stories you can tell about killing Nazis before shit starts to get old. The video game industry has yet to reach this point and comics can’t seem to get enough of it either. However, as clichéd as it may be, it can still be a lot of fun and this issue proves it. The sheer diversity of Greg Pak’s universe-hopping Xtreme X-men makes it possible to create yet another world where a Japanese Namor and a Nazi Charles Xavier don’t feel like something a writer came up with while playing Call of Duty stoned one too many times. Like the evil pony of Charles Xavier, Pak is able to give this theme a unique charm that is just plain fun.
The only problem with that special charm is that it is somewhat buried in this issue. While it was nice to see Dazzler and her team get a little downtime, it had too much of a filler-like taste to it. This quiet moment was essentially used to help catch the readers up with some of the characters that hadn’t really been explored yet, namely Hercules and black Cyclops. I’m all for filling in the blanks. I’ve said numerous times before in a perfectly sober mindset on this blog that those kinds of details are what separate good comics from awesome comics. But another thing those awesome comics do is find a way to fit these details into the story. In this instance it just seemed squeezed into the story and really didn’t affect the plot with Nazi Xavier or Japanese Namor.
Because of this, Xtreme X-men #10 feels like two halves of a different book. One half is exposition and the other is the actual story. Both by themselves are decent, but putting them in the same book makes it feel disorganized. Plus, it’s a lot harder to read while stoned and I do think that’s an important issue to consider. And while the concept of a Nazi Xavier and Japanese Namor fits nicely with the theme of this series, it still comes off as more flat when compared to stories about pony Xavier’s and evil wizard Xavier’s.
But I’m still perfectly comfortable saying this book is pretty awesome. Greg Pak continues to make Xtreme X-men an entertaining interlude from the regular X-books. Where else will you find shit like Nazi Xavier’s, black Cyclopses, and Wolverine swapping spit with someone who isn’t a redhead with a nice rack? The artwork is consistently solid. The dialog is smooth and conversational. And the touch of drama adds a few extra sprinkles on the top. For that, I give Xtreme X-men #10 a non-racist, anti-Nazi 3.5 out of 5. There may never come a day where stories about killing Nazis gets old. There may never come a day where I don’t meet an anger management teacher I don’t want to punch in the face. But even if that day doesn’t come, we can still find ways to enjoy it every chance we get. Nuff said!