Wednesday, March 20, 2013
All New X-men #9 - Setting The Stage For Awesome
Before I go into my typical drunken rant, let me say one thing for the record. Being a teenager sucks every kind of ass that has ever existed. Unless your rich, beautiful, and a complete sociopath, being a teenager is like having your asshole being operated on by a blind doctor wearing a boxing glove. I’ve made this point many times in many different reviews, but I think it’s worth reinforcing in the context of All New X-men.
Brian Michael Bendis made it clear from the beginning that the X-men he’s dealing with are teenagers. It doesn’t matter whether they’re time-displaced or pathetic rip-off characters meant to replace someone that was killed off (looking at you, Miles fucking Morales), being a teenager is central to the theme. It has already played a big part in the events of All New X-men. Cyclops is no longer the large and in charge leader who gets to bone Emma Frost every night. He’s an awkward teenager who isn’t sure of himself and isn’t sure of his future. Jean Grey isn’t the loving, compassionate woman that men can’t help but fall in love with and try to bone. She’s also an awkward teenager trying to figure out new powers while wrapping her head around the fact that she’s died multiple times and has been replaced by a shitty rip-off character in Hope Summers.
And then there’s Angel. Oh Lord have mercy, there’s Angel and he feels like he’s in hell. The entire previous issue was basically dedicated to Angel freaking out on a level usually reserved for teenagers that find out the girl they boned in a drunken stupor is pregnant and has a father with a licensed shotgun in his possession. The Avengers finding out about Beast’s time travel shenanigans was secondary. Angel’s freak-out was sort of a microcosm of how the Original Five X-men are dealing with being in the present. That is to say they’re dealing with it in a way you would expect of a bunch of hormonal, emotional, and utterly irrational teenagers.
Yet they’re intent on changing the future so that it doesn’t suck so damn much and they’ve enlisted help from Kitty Pryde to train them. I guess she can take some comfort in the knowledge that teenagers are easily bored and need shit to stimulate that underdeveloped mind of theirs. After freaking the fuck out in the last issue, they still have to get their shit together if they’re to have any impact on the future. I normally have sympathy for teenagers going through their own personal hell, but Bendis has made this so entertaining that it’s almost masochistic in a non-porno sort of way.
The masochism in All New X-men #9 continues in that it doesn’t just focus on the physical rigors. Kitty Pryde goes so far as to call out Jean Grey for the mind-fucking she did to Angel in the previous issue. Jean’s response is typical of any teenager who thinks they can solve all the world’s problems by legalizing pot and having hippies run the government. She claims it was the right thing to do and Kitty Pryde calls bullshit. However, not much else is made of it. Last I checked, teenagers don’t just change their mind when you call their actions bullshit. Tell someone not to do something and it usually has the opposite effect. Just ask the Catholic Church.
While it would have been nice to see Kitty Pryde or anyone for that matter give Jean Grey a crash course in the ethics of mind-fucking other people, instead the O5 X-men get a crash course in X-men basics. That means they need to start fighting giant robots and go about it the same way most people go about taking a shit. Kitty Pryde treats them like virgin schoolgirls in Japanese anime porn in that she throws them into a den of tentacle monsters by having them fight sentinels in the streets of New York City. It’s a classic scenario that anyone with a nostalgic fetish should be able to jerk off to. But it’s important to keep in mind that what seems so basic to X-men veterans is actually akin to having an intern with cerebral palsy perform open heart surgery on their first day.
The battle between the O5 X-men and the sentinels is a classic struggle, but one that once again reveals just how inexperienced these teenagers are compared to the X-men we know and love. They start off as you would expect a bunch of teenagers, just charging head first into the problem without giving much thought to teamwork and trying to conceal their boners. Cyclops attempts to be the leader that Mystique told him he should have been in previous issues, but it works about as well as a Mormon missionary at a crack house.
Keep in mind, this is just a simple sentinel. The O5 opted to stay in the future so they could fix all the shit that’s wrong with it. And if they are struggling with one fucking sentinel, they might as well go back to the past and ask Charles Xavier to both wipe their minds and give them diapers. It shows just how inexperienced this team really is. Maybe it’s because I still get a kick out of any story of a teenager fucking up hilariously, but I took a special satisfaction in this scene.
In the end the team fails the mission and fails it badly. Kitty Pryde ends up stopping the simulation early and calmly explains to the O5 the extent to which they fucked up. Granted, she’s pretty generous about it. And O5 Iceman even goes so far as to say that this is way more fucked up than the Danger Room sessions they did in the past. While it’s still as satisfying as ever to see teenagers fail, it does make an important point. It identifies the gap in training between the O5 X-men and the modern X-men. They need to adjust to this fucked up future and they need to adjust fast. It's a message every other teenager would be wise heed, but we know they're not. So we might as well just sit back, grab a beer, and laugh our ass off as they continue to learn the hard way.
But in the same way it is in the nature of teenagers to fuck up and not heed good advice, it is also in their nature to challenge authority. Some, like the recently mind-fucked Angel, haven’t forgotten that they were roped into visiting the future because Beast told them Cyclops was going to commit mass mutant genocide. Well he’s been in the future long enough to be mind-fucked, but so far he hasn’t seen any genocide. And he’s not sure how this sort of training is going to help them prevent it, if it even is a threat. I usually don’t agree with any teenagers I’m not trying to bone, but O5 Angel makes a damn good point.
And he’s not the only one fucking with team dynamics. Jean Grey, who still can’t seem to understand why it’s wrong to poke around someone else’s mind without their permission, finds out that O5 Cyclops was hanging out with another redhead who may or may not have given him an erection. She asks him about Mystique. And naturally, he’s not too happy with her being in his mind again. Even if he does still want to bone her, a man has his limits. It offers both a nice connection to the recent comics and a nice segway into other issues that involve shit blowing up.
Mystique made it clear in All New X-men #7 that she had a good reason for fucking with the O5 and playing on O5 Cyclops’s hormones. She has a plan of her own and it doesn’t involve the X-men interfering. She encouraged O5 Cyclops to take more initiative than any teenager should and while it’s hard to tell how much influence she’s had, she’s carrying on as if the X-men are too occupied to stop her plans.
And these plans involve her disguising herself as Maria Hill, pretending that Sabretooth can be restrained outside her bedroom, and casually strolling into a high security prison. It’s pretty basic. It’s the kind of shit you would expect Mystique to do on her typical Thursday afternoon, but it adds an element of action that doesn’t involve fucking holograms. In a series like All New X-men where teen drama supersedes action, it adds some much needed balance. If an X-men comic goes too many issues without blowing shit up, I feel the same way the military probably does when they go a few too many days without an illegal drone strike.
Mystique’s plans quickly progress as she proceed to break out a prisoner that she believes can help her plan. That prisoner is our old friend, Lady Mastermind. Now maybe I killed one too many brain cells last weekend, but I can’t for the life of me remember how Lady Mastermind ended up in a prison cell. I know she was part of the Sisterhood of Evil Mutants and got her ass kicked by Emma Frost while she was in her underwear (you don’t forget shit like that). But after that, she ends up in prison? Well, whatever the reason, she’s a hot blond and we all know hot blonds never stay in prison for very long. Just ask Paris Hilton.
While I’m all for Mystique having a hot blond on her team, her plan is anything but ambitious. After reading All New X-men #7, you got the sense she was planning the kind of shit that would make sentinel manufacturers cum in their pants. But instead, her plan involves gathering a few powerful mutants, using their powers to make fucktons of money, and using that money to live in luxury while the rest of the world sorts out this shit. Granted, that’s probably the most logical plan any villain in any comic has ever come up with. However, for someone like Mystique, it’s pretty fucking underwhelming. Maybe I just miss a Mystique that had ambition, but it if this was reason enough to fuck with the O5 then it’s a pretty shitty reason.
From one shitty reason to another, O5 Angel shows that he’s not dropping this whole genocide bullshit that Beast pulled on them. He confronts Beast, who is now healthy and no longer looking like Thundercats cos-player, and calls him out. He basically demands he explain why he told them that Cyclops was going to commit mass genocide on mutants. He dances around the question for the most part. All he does is say Cyclops is going to provoke human fears and that’s going to cause some shit. But genocide? He claims that by just being here the O5 could prevent it, but he doesn’t admit he may have been pushing it when he used that excuse to draw the O5 to the future. That’s akin to telling Republicans that President Obama is amassing a secret Kenyan army to take over the White House. It’s obviously bullshit, but the Michelle Bachmann’s of the world will take it seriously and that’s just a dick move.
There’s plenty more dick moves to discuss, including O5 Cyclops’s encounter with Mystique. But before anyone can start pissing and moaning about it, a more pressing issue emerges and it takes the form of sweet, beautiful convergence. In Uncanny X-men #3, Brian Michael Bendis penned another issue that was light on action yet heavy on drama of the most awesome variety. It ended with Cyclops pwning the Avengers in a gloriously fitting way and taking a trip to the Jean Grey Institute for a recruitment run. Well that’s exactly how this issue ends as well. Rather than come off as repetitive, it comes off as two comics in perfect harmony in terms of events. In the world of Marvel comics where time is often more flexible and fucked up than a Russian gymnast on crack, this kind of convergence is a true thing of beauty.
After reading this issue, I’m compelled to say it again and say it with the certainty of the most annoying creationist. Being a teenager sucks. Now I’m not sure if Brian Michael Bendis is just belaboring a point or if there’s a larger message in this story, but at this point he’s hitting readers upside the head with this concept so hard that the NFL would give him a lifetime suspension for inducing concussions. It’s not enough for it to just suck. In All New X-men, it has to suck and involve getting your ass kicked by killer robots. It’s like high school, a prostate exam, and being arrested at the same time. While it may evoke some traumatic memories in some readers, it’s still a fucking awesome comic.
This issue took a break from the drama in some respects to explore the finer details about how the Original Five are being conditioned for this mission of theirs. For a series that has been so heavy on the drama and subtle with the action, this issue added some much needed balance. We didn’t just get to see the Original Five fuck up their first Danger Room session. We also got to see Mystique fuck up life for a group of unlucky SHIELD agents while gaining a new member to her plan. And yes, it helps that said member is a hot blond. And no, it doesn’t help that her plan is basically the same as every white collar criminal that ever gave the finger to the SEC. So in that sense it balances out in more than one way.
But as much as I enjoyed seeing Mystique blow shit up while giving me a boner, some dramatic elements seem to be getting lost in the mix. The impact of Jean mind-fucking Angel was only lightly touched on, but other elements like Cyclops giving Jean that wedding invitation a few issues ago seems to be completely lost. These are issues that have serious personal implications for these characters, but Bendis has basically cast them aside.
However, the seamless convergence at the end with the events of Uncanny X-men #3 provided the perfect excuse for such oversight. I mean how can you squeeze that sort of shit in when you know shit is going to be hitting the fan when Cyclops shows up with his revolutionary team? I understand that Bendis takes his sweet fucking time when it comes to developing certain sub-plots. For a guy like me who only has so much weed to pass the time, that can be frustrating. But he always finds a way to move shit forward and make it awesome. This issue is no exception.
If there is a flaw here, it’s that this issue is built mostly on potential. Lady Mastermind joining Mystique and Cyclops’s revolutionary team showing up didn’t really move the plot forward. For the most part, all it did was set things up for future issues. It’s frustrating in that it leaves readers like me foaming at the mouth to see more sexual tension between Mystique and Lady Mastermind and more Angel calling out Beast on his bullshit. Maybe I’m just getting greedy or I’m way too fucking sober while I’m writing this, but I give All New X-men #9 a 4 out of 5. This issue just left me wanting more and wanting it bad! I mean come on, Bendis! This throbbing erection I’ve got isn’t going to go away on its own! Nuff said.