Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Scanned Thoughts: Wolverine and the X-men #37
I admit I've used my share of cheat codes over the years. There's something inherently awesome about playing every mission in Goldeneye with infinite ammo and a grenade launcher. But like masturbation, there's a time and a place for cheat codes. Sometimes they can be fun and sometimes they can just be a dick move. Marvel has used their share of cheat codes over the years to fix shit they didn't like. The Spider-Man/Mary Jane cheat code that was done with Mephisto is the kind of shit that would get Nintendo to hire a hit man, but Marvel seems to think it's okay so long as they can regress the story to circumstances of their choosing. X-men Battle of the Atom is dangerously close to that kind of regression, but with two issues left there's a lot of room to make it less shitty. What follows is my review of Wolverine and the X-men #37, the penultimate issue of this 50th anniversary event. If at any point it sounds as fucked up as the Windows Vista beta version, then that's a sign that the cheat codes Marvel is using have fucked up the whole game.
But in some instances, playing by the rules just isn’t viable. Like being outnumbered in a bar fight, sometimes it’s necessary to sneak some pepper spray and brass knuckles past the bouncer. When Cyclops and his team of present and future X-men confronted the phony X-men, they had just bitch slapped most of their allies. It left only goat Beast and Xorna to oppose them and since the space time continuum just gave them the finger, they’re pretty much outgunned. So Xorna decided to fight dirty. I wouldn’t say she uses cheat codes, but she does the next best thing.
In a moment that was both a great act of pwnage and downright sexy, Xorna/Jean confronted Cyclops in his mind. While he was determined to stop her, she made sure his penis was equally determined to slow him down. She tempted him, playing on the same emotions that have been highlighted throughout Battle of the Atom. It’s still a dick move on her part, but in the best possible way. She also proves once again that bad girls are awesome kissers and when she uses this to escape, Cyclops is probably as pissed off as he is turned on.
The phony X-men’s escape (or Brotherhood as they’re now calling them) leaves in its wake another awkward moment and not just because Cyclops probably has a boner. He and his team of revolutionaries are still inside the Jean Grey Institute and facing down a bunch of other X-men who were all too eager to throw him in jail for such horrible crimes as creating a global utopia with the Phoenix Force and killing a man who kept attacking him. The hostility between the two teams is not glossed over and that’s refreshing in a story that fucked a lot of things up with time paradoxes. But it still has to take a back seat to this future Brotherhood escaping and taking the O5 X-men with them.
Speaking of that paradox, there is at least some attempt to explain it. And by attempt I mean an effort similar to that given by a grounded 4th grader on overdue homework. The only thing that is explained is how Wolverine managed to heal so fast and why he trusts these new X-men claiming to be the real X-men. One of them, Wiccan, used his Sorcerer Supreme powers to heal Wolverine. And while he’s trying hard not to vomit out his internal organs at the thought of having a kid with Mystique, he says that’s enough to earn his trust. But beyond that, the future X-men don’t offer much explanation. The future Kid Omega seems to know something. He says that they can’t go back because something is preventing them. So that gives some hope that it’s not just some time paradox that turned the O5 into glorified clones. There is an actual force preventing them from going back and it’s implied that what happens to the O5 could still affect the timeline. But it’s still pretty fucking vague and I can only do so many bong hits to wrap my head around it.
The future Brotherhood seems just as confused as me. They still don’t have a fucking clue about why they couldn’t send the O5 X-men back. However, they do have a backup plan. After Xorna and Beast escaped, they gathered the rest of their team, except Deadpool who is dead. It seems like a teenage boy on his prom night, I jumped the gun in assuming they were killed in the previous issue. Even Xavier, who got fucking impaled by the soul sword, survived. Granted, he’s in a wheelchair now that makes him even more like his grandfather. But they’re only one man short now and armed with an X-jet. And since they can’t send them back, they’re doing what they call “Plan B.” But I’m sure that’s code for, “We’re frustrated as hell so we’re just going to wing it.”
In addition to the ambiguity about the so-called paradox, it still isn’t clear what the fuck the Brotherhood hoped to accomplish by sending the O5 X-men back in the first place. They say that sending them back was the plan all along. Yet there’s still no clue as to why, leaving only the same WTFs to fill the void. But it is clear that they’re trying to change the timeline. Sending the O5 back was supposed to accomplish this, but now they can’t do that so they need to try something else. Since they’re already in the past, they’re in a great position to do so. I won’t say it makes perfect sense. Their reasons are still fucked up, but at least their motivation is clearer.
The only ones more confused than me at this point are the O5 X-men and they have the luxury of being sober. They’re still strapped with power dampeners and handcuffs, not knowing what the fuck the future Brotherhood is going to do to them. They only know they can’t go back in time. This is also an area where there’s an effort to reduce the amount of WTFs. O5 Cyclops asked O5 Jean what she saw when she looked into Xorna’s mind that was so terrifying that she changed her mind about staying in the future. All she said was that one of them would do something terrible. But that could mean way too many things. Something terrible could mean blowing up Mount Rushmore or stealing Wolverine’s whiskey. Even O5 Iceman points out that shit is incredibly vague. It offers a tantalizing clue, but only tantalizing in the sense that cold pizza is tantalizing when stoned.
Since the future Brotherhood is still intent on fucking up time, the present and future X-men have to make a concerted effort to unfuck it. That means putting aside the hostility between the Jean Grey Institute and Cyclops’s revolutionary team until they find themselves in a more appropriate time to needlessly bitch over who deserves to get thrown in jail. It also leads to a nice little aside between Kid Omega and his Phoenix-wielding future counterpart. With future X-men in the present, it would be a capital offense not to squeeze in an awkward moment with time displaced counterparts. But the main concern here is working together to stop the future Brotherhood before they make yet another apocalyptic future. Even they probably understand they have way too much of those.
And the setting for this potential apocalypse couldn’t be more appropriate. Newer X-men fans may not be able to appreciate it, but anyone who takes the time to Google the history of the X-men in between bong hits knows that the X-men’s first battle was what set the stage for their 50-year history. Back in the days when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were using their legendary comic book alchemy to create a generation of superheroes, they pitted the Uncanny X-men against the Brotherhood in their first battle at the Cape Citadel military base. The plot was pretty basic, even for the 60s. Magneto was going to launch a missile attack to proclaim that mutants were awesome and humans needed to fuck off. Now at that same base, which is still in operation for reasons that could only be blamed on aggressive bribes and lobbying, the future Brotherhood invite the X-men to join them in the ultimate battle between eras.
It’s a battle that actually feels meaningful, which is a step up considering all the shit they did to send the O5 back in previous clashes were for nothing. They don’t just attract the X-men. They attract SHIELD and every law enforcement branch that George W. Bush pretended that he created. The future Brotherhood acts like the cruelest cock-tease, tempting them with the opportunity to kick their ass by just blindly attacking the base and letting the shit storm come to them. As soon as the X-men arrive, they free the O5 X-men and they start fighting in a battle that can only be described as an orgy of X-men level awesome from multiple eras. It couldn’t be more appealing if they stripped down to their underwear, covered themselves in chocolate, and fought on top of a mountain of fresh bacon.
The battle is intense and emotional. Some have to fight future foes they don’t even know in the present like Molly. Others, like Beast, actually have to fight their future selves, taking the concept of self-immolation to a disturbing new level. If only they would use this as motivation to stop being such a total douchebag, but I guess that would be asking too much. The biggest target by far is still Xorna/Jean. She seems to be the one leading this attack now. And as the team around her starts to fall, she’s looking increasingly fucked and not in the way Cyclops was probably fantasizing about earlier. Yet even with that creepy mask on, she looks as confident as a woman who just convinced Donald Trump to not sign a pre-nup.
Despite getting their asses kicked, everything seems to be playing into the future Brotherhood’s hands. SHIELD arrives, late as usual. And Maria Hill is also as pissed off as usual. Since they showed up several issues ago, it’s easy to forget that they were even part of this story at any point. And while their presence finally gives a valid reason for them being mentioned in the first place, their arrival only promises to fuck things up even more. In a moment that will surely give anti-government Libertarians a boner, their presence only gives Xorna some extra firepower. So through means that are either horribly contrived or a testament to just how powerful she is, she launches a massive missile attack against the X-men. Yes, it’s incredibly basic for any superhero comic. But it’s the most appropriate attack possible.
Now the X-men of each era are staring down the same threat the O5 did during their first battle with the Brotherhood. A shower of missiles is coming right at them and they’re the main targets. But as fitting as this attack is, it still isn’t clear what the future Brotherhood hopes to accomplish with this. Xorna says that this is their future. They also mention that SHIELD doesn’t even exist in their future, indicating that they either got blown the fuck up or had their funding cut when Sarah Palin was elected President. It’s not like SHIELD has been very friendly with mutants lately. This could only speed up what ended up happening in the future, which is the authorities turning on mutants and making them the equivalent of deer on Ted Nugant’s front lawn. That’s still assuming way too fucking much and for those who don’t read comics sober, it leaves the door open to too many other confusing or disturbing conclusions. And with one issue left, it still feels like there are way too many details to addess.
This issue improved on the previous issue simply by not using any more cheat codes. It at least attempted to explain some of the WTF moments that occurred in the previous issue and the ones before it. It was just painfully vague at doing so. None-the-less, it set the stage for the final battle and used the same stage that was used all those years ago when I was just a glint in my father’s eyes, comics still cost a nickel, and weed wasn’t nearly as potent. And it did so in a way that was pretty damn awesome. If ever there was going to be a big battle for the X-men’s 50th anniversary, this is how it’s fucking done. I give Wolverine and the X-men #37 a 7 out of 10. I’m okay with there being loose ends in the penultimate issue. I just hope that in the end it doesn’t leave fans hanging like a twisted sex act gone horribly wrong. And until this “vagueness” is addressed, I’ll be keeping my pants around my ankles just in case. Nuff said!