Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Uncanny X-men #3 - All Talk, All Awesome
I consider myself an atypical American patriot with a drinking problem. I say atypical because even at my most drunk and most sober, I’m not so blinded by the red, white, and blue mantra that I cry uncontrollably when I hear the Star Spangled Banner. I have functioning balls last I checked and a head with a few functioning brain cells that I haven’t damaged yet. That means I’m not going stick my head in the same pit as Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity and say that America’s school system is in the shitter, our health care system is below average at best, and our policy of sending drones to murder people is fucked up. That also means I’m not going to defend the de-facto super-patriot that represents America in Marvel comics, which happens to be Captain America.
When it comes to my sentiment of Cap and the Avengers, I’ve been about as subtle on this blog as a bad hangover. I think their assholes were left way too intact at the end of Avengers vs. X-men. They had the billion-dollar movie. They had Joss fucking Whedon. They had Sam fucking Jackson. Conversely, the X-men had X3, Wolverine Origins, and Brett fucking Ratner. So while I shouldn’t have been terribly surprised that they came out with their shit smelling like French perfume, the extent to which the X-men were screwed simply defies my drunken abilities.
Now I don’t care to go over all the ways in which the Avengers were dead wrong and utter assholes over the course of Avengers vs. X-men. I know I sound like I’m shooting a dead horse with a bazooka here, but this issue is still not resolved in the comics. And it’s still very relevant in the pages of Uncanny X-men. It’s because the Avengers came out on top that Cyclops is a wanted fugitive, Emma Frost no longer lets him see her naked, and Magneto is secretly aiding SHIELD. Now that’s not to say Cyclops is innocent either. He’s still been a straight-A dick-cheese on more than one occasion. But he’s starting a new revolution in the pages of Uncanny X-men and he’s still stuck having to work around all the ways he was screwed over in Avengers vs. X-men.
The first two issues of Uncanny X-men have basically been Brian Michael Bendis showing how Cyclops’s new team functions in this new world where the Avengers have clean assholes and mutants are being shit on all over the world. He hasn’t exactly been subtle (or peaceful) in his efforts to protect a new generation of mutants, but he has succeeded in recruiting a handful of eager young teenagers. And he’s even managed to gain some public support as Cyclops has become sort of the Bill Murray while the Avengers are David Hasselhoff. The world doesn’t know that he killed Charles Xavier and even if they did, him being fucked up on the Phoenix Force still helps his case. Plus, he still can say he boned Emma Frost AND Jean Grey. That alone should earn him respect in any universe.
But ever since he busted out of jail, it has only been a matter of time before his new team crossed paths with the Avengers again. And at the end of Uncanny X-men #2, Magneto hastened that confrontation in the same way giving firecrackers to a 5-year-old hastens a trip to the emergency room. After one of the new mutants, Eva, convinces the team to visit her family in Australia, he called up SHIELD to let the Avengers know where Cyclops was going to be. Now it’s Avengers vs. X-men Part 2: Whose Shit Stinks The Least?
The first thing that happens in Uncanny X-men #3 is we find out that Tempest, the X-men's newest Aussie time-displacing mutant, admires Captain America the most. Hell, she even wrote a school essay about it. And it sounds like she actually wrote it while sober. I never had an essay topic that I felt that passionately about so that says a lot about this girl. But unfortunately, she gets to confront her idol while he and the Avengers are being a douche because once that flashback is over, she and the rest of Cyclops's team are standing face-to-face with the Avengers again. They still have a hard-on for throwing Cyclops in jail for murder. If only they could be as dedicated in throwing third world dictators that use the skulls of their victims as dildos in jail, then maybe they wouldn't come off as total assholes.
What comes next is an argument that should have happened immediately after the end of Avengers vs. X-men, which is someone pointing out that Tony fucking Stark was responsible for fucking up the Phoenix Force in Avengers vs. X-men. And this is pointed out by a woman he once fucked no less, namely Emma Frost. I don't know why, but something about that makes this scene all the more satisfying. It's like a girl telling a guy to fuck off just as he was about to give her herpes. And she's completely right. Iron Man and the Avengers were responsible for the shit that happened with the Phoenix, yet they want Cyclops and Emma to pay for it. That's like having a house party where you burned the house down and making the guy you set on fire pay for a new house.
Even if this scene was way overdue, I found it very satisfying. Bendis once again shows that he's great at playing on tension, especially between characters that have boned. However, the argument is somewhat unbalanced. Everything Emma and Cyclops say is perfectly valid. But all the Avengers respond with is "You killed Charles Xavier. You got to jail, motherfucker." That's the only substance to their argument. They don't address their role in Avengers vs. X-men...again. Iron Man claims he helped fix the Phoenix Force when he broke it with his big micro-dick compensating gun, but he didn't do shit. That was all Hope freakin' Summers. Yet nobody pointed that out. While I'm glad to see the Avengers get pwned in a way they should have long ago, it was still more unbalanced than a bipolar schizophrenic off their meds.
Eventually, the debate shifts away from who fucked up during Avengers vs. X-men the most. Cyclops rightly points out to the Avengers that mutants are being treated in the same way the Vatican treats abused alter boys, namely by ignoring them. They point out that the mutants they've saved were arrested and harassed by the authorities for reasons that essentially boiled down to "They made me shit my pants! Arrest them!" Captain America claims they are doing something about it by hiring Havok for their Uncanny Avengers team. But that's like saying you're going to solve global warming by not farting anymore. It's a hollow gesture that doesn't change how mutants are being treated. Cyclops knows this. Captain America doesn't seem to give enough shits see that as well.
It's a debate the Avengers aren't winning and aren't even trying to win from the looks of it. Everything Cyclops and Emma tell them are valid. And they aren't even assholes about it (well, Emma is still a bitch, but that's besides the point). They even ask some of the Avengers to join them in helping mutants, which is pretty remarkable seeing as how these are the same assholes that threw them in jail. Even Tempest, the girl who said in a flashback that she admired Captain America the most, came out and said that she was arrested for being a mutant. She is living proof that they're not doing dick to help people like her.
The Avengers only have one recourse in the end. It essentially boils down to "Fuck it! Let's just kick their ass and forget all the perfectly valid points they made!" Hawkeye best embodies this spirit of who gives a shit? He and the rest of the Avengers make it clear that Cyclops and Emma can't sweet talk their way out of jail. They still blame them for the death of Charles Xavier and not the assholes who put them in that position in the first place. So does this mean we're going to get yet another round of Avengers vs. X-men? Is this yet another big overhyped event that will give Michael Bay some disturbing new ideas for his movies?
In short, fuck no. There's no need to get it up for that overfucked corpse of a story. Before the Avengers can channel their inner LAPD, Tempest steps in and freezes the Avengers in a time bubble. So even though she says she admired Captain America the most, she's not willing to ignore it when he's responsible for a dick move. I think that adds a little extra drama too the moment, having someone who admitted to admiring Captain America so much be the one that had to stop him. It allows the X-men to avoid another damaging battle and it also gives Tempest time to say goodbye to her mother again. Cyclops even does a little granstanding for the folks with camera phones. Is it shameless? Hell yes. Does it help reinforce the point that mutants are screwed and the Avengers don't give a shit? Fuck the hell yes.
While they leave Australia emboldened and intact, they return to their base with yet another unpleasant confrontation. In the first issue of Uncanny X-men, we found out that Magneto did something really fucked up in that he shaved his head and betrayed the team. In the previous issue, he opted to stay behind and call SHIELD so the Avengers could be there in the first place. That makes it pretty fucking obvious who tipped them off and Cyclops is none too happy about it. The confrontation here has the potential to be way more volatile than the one they had with the Avengers. Cyclops just can't seem to get a break in that he just pwned the Avengers. Now he's being betrayed.
However, Bendis throws in a twist that M. Night Shyamalan would scoff at. Magneto admits to betraying the team, but he claims he does it for a strategic reason. He's actually playing the role of a double agent, earning SHIELD's trust so that the team could have a leg up on the authorities that seem hell bent on throwing them and every mutant like them in jail. Cyclops is not happy with it, but everyone else seems to think it's fucking brilliant. It is on some levels, but in terms of story it effectively nullifies any tension that was established in the first two issues. So Magneto isn't actually betraying them. That was just a ruse and if you fell for it, then tough shit. All that really came of it is Magneto ended up bald.
The team seems fairly eager to forgive Magneto for going behind their backs. Cyclops still doesn't like it, but it does present them with some pretty compelling opportunities. After things settle, they find out from a news broadcast in Australia that the Avengers are still frozen in time. In addition, Tempest's mother says on camera that the Avengers were acting like assholes. It can only be a good thing for Cyclops's team because that means the Avengers can't stop them if they choose to fuck with them. Magik even suggests going to Avengers Tower and clogging all their toilets, probably after binging on expired Mexican food. But Cyclops has something more pragmatic in mind and involves less strain on their assholes. I still would go to the tower and put crazy glue on all the condoms and tampons they have, but I guess Cyclops isn't as willing to push his luck.
Instead of fucking with the Avengers, he and his team choose to pay a visit to the Jean Grey Institute. Since no Avengers are going to be there to arrest them, that means they're free to make their pitch to any of the mutants who have gotten sick of Wolverine's training. It also means they're poised to confront the Original Five again, who they initially encountered in All New X-men. Seeing as how that confrontation was flat out ignored in the first two issues, we may actually see something come of it now. Plus, it means Cyclops will be in a position to shoot Wolverine again. And that can only make any comic more awesome!
I get the sense that this issue of Uncanny X-men was written explicitly for the fans who were pissed off by the end of Avengers vs. X-men. For that, I owe Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Belacho a round of beer, a few joints, and a line of my best blow. This could have easily become one of those comics where they just copied and pasted the battle scenes from Avengers vs. X-men and saved themselves the time and trouble of actually doing some work. But that didn't happen here. Cyclops and his team confronted the Avengers, but they didn't pwn them by just beating them. Everyone from the Red Skull to Thanos knows that shit doesn't work. Instead, they beat them by pointing out how they were just as responsible, if not more so, for fucking up during the events of Avengers vs. X-men. This is something I have pointed out multiple times on this blog, both sober and drunk. It took a while for my arguments to show up in a comic book, but it was worth the wait and the extra liver damage!
Now whenever a comic is mostly talk and not much action, there's always a risk that it's going to turn out boring, lame, or fucked up. Comic fans these days have been raised on a steady supply of mindless action featuring killer robots, macho men, and big-breasted women dominating movies, TV shows, and comics. While this issue had the macho men and big-breasted women part down thanks to the presence of Captain America and Emma Frost, there wasn't much mindless action. You actually had to read and think for most of this issue and for some people, that's just unacceptable. But for me, I say fuck those people! By not having mindless action, this issue was all the more awesome.
Brian Michael Bendis has been very consistent in terms of making the dramatic moments count and taking things slowly over the course of a story. In both All New X-men and Uncanny X-men, the big action scenes that involve shit blowing up actually are pretty rare when you get right down to it. Bendis's greatest strength is his ability to really develop the characters and the circumstances surrounding them. With three issues of Uncanny X-men, he's set up a pretty awesome theme. Cyclops and his team are on the run. They're trying to help the new generation of mutants while the Avengers won't loosen their panties and insist on throwing him in jail while they do jack shit for mutants. Seriously, do they really think they can do as much good as Cyclops could do with Alex freakin' Summers? I think not.
The one issue that may be a buzzkill on par with your parents finding your porno stash is Magneto's so-called betrayal. While I admit it makes perfect sense to work smarter and not harder when your powers are on the fritz, but Magneto pretending to betray the X-men just kills whatever tension there may have been surrounding this plot. It could have made for a very daunting challenge for Cyclops and his team to face. Now it's just another act of pwnage that could blow up in their face and probably will. I get that Magneto's triple-cross was meant to give the team a tactical edge, but it just seemed like another missed opportunity. I actually believed Magneto in the first issue when he said he wanted Cyclops to suffer for killing Charles Xavier. Now he's just shrugging that shit off, continuing to be Cyclops's de-facto lieutenant. It essentially puts Magneto back into the same position he was in before Avengers vs. X-men. The only difference now is that he shaved his head and that rarely works for an old white guy.
But Uncanny X-men #3 wasn't about Magneto's betrayal. It was about pwning the Avengers and in that sense it succeeded. Cyclops and his team didn't have to bitch-slap Captain America to prove their point. They only needed to make his balls shrivel to the point that they could work around him. And now they are. Cyclops's team is in position to get around SHIELD and the Avengers while continuing their goal of helping a new generation of mutants. And now they're also poised to get a few new recruits from the Jean Grey Institute, and maybe cop a feel from a teenage Jean Grey in the process. If that isn't an epic win, then how much close can you possibly get without the use of blow? I give Uncanny X-men #3 a 4.5 out of 5. After reading this issue, I stood up proudly and said "Suck it, Avengers!" Of course, that ended up getting me thrown out of the Starbucks, but one of the baristas was a comic fan so I got her number. Guess that's an epic win for both me and Cyclops! Nuff said!