I know I’m pretty harsh on my old high school teachers on this blog. Perhaps I am too harsh. But for any of my old teachers who may be reading this blog, I can only say to most of them…fuck you. I’m sorry, but I just can’t be kind to the people who made school feel like getting circumcised by a great white shark on daily basis. Some people just aren’t meant to be teachers and some students just aren’t meant to be taught. There are a lot of teachers in the X-men comics. The X-men were founded as a school initially. And despite the constant threat of being blown up or hunted by giant robot sentinels, I would gladly take the New Xavier School over my old high school any day. And the events of Uncanny X-men #14 only reinforce that notion.
I don’t think the current students at the New Xavier school would agree with my sentiment. They’re still young and inexperienced and Cyclops is intent on training them. However, training for him means climbing a muddy hill in the middle of the rain while Emma Frost and Illyana watch it like a re-run of Breaking Bad. It’s tough going for most of the students, even for those who had shitty gym teachers like I did. Is it a dick move? Yes, but considering they’ll be fighting killer sentinels, it’s not unreasonable for them to have this kind of harsh training.
Most of the students make it up, yet still do plenty of bitching and moaning. However, Ben Deeds, the so-called mutant chameleon, does more than most. He struggles to reach the top. He gives the impression that the most strenuous activity he ever did was wake up before nine in the morning to attend a class. And Cyclops doesn’t tolerate that slackers like that so he gives him an extra hash lesson, shoving him back down the hill and forcing him to climb back up. Yes, it’s another dick move. But at least he’s nice enough to let Ben hit him back. However, he fucks that up too, further proving that he’s behind the curve.
Now this isn’t the first time Ben Deeds has proven himself to be whiney and inept. Since he was introduced in the pages of All New X-men, he hasn’t done much other than bitch and moan. Everyone in the team has complained, but he does it on a professional level. It’s left him with very little development and because of that, it’s hard to sympathize with him. He’s like spoiled rich kid who whines every time he has to use a public toilet. There’s just no sympathy for assholes like that.
He’s badly in need of some extra tutoring and as it just so happens, Emma Frost is bored seeing him fail and takes it upon herself to give him some extra lessons. She’s even waiting for him the moment he returns to his room wearing only a towel. Granted, there are far worse things a teenage boy could face than Emma Frost in a sexy Punisher-style dress while in a towel, but Ben gives the impression that his penis can’t hide that he’s ill-prepared for such tutoring. Well too bad, because he’s getting it anyway. Emma fucking Frost is teaching him and now that she doesn’t have to waste time being Cyclops’s arm candy, she can dedicate more time to students like him.
It’s awkward as hell at first, which I’m sure was Emma’s intent. But when she confronts him, she discovers something about his powers that make him less like a glorified Mystique rip-off. Since he was introduced, he has been billed as just a mutant chameleon. That’s about as useful as a bucket of piss in the middle of a desert. But that’s not all he can do. Emma senses that he also has a strange ability to instill a sense of trust and good feeling in those around him. When he takes the shape of someone near him, that’s sort of a signal that his power is working. It’s pretty poorly defined, especially to anyone who reads comics while high. But it is unique, even to a drunk and something that needs to be explored.
So in order to explore it, Emma and Magik take Ben to Atlantic City, which is basically Las Vegas-lite for those who can’t handle seeing fully exposed breasts. To test his abilities, Emma has Ben try to hook up with some random girl at a bar. It’s a pretty simple test. Hell, it seems like one of those skills that should have been an elective in high school. That class would have had a waiting list. But even if Ben Deeds managed to get into that class, he would have flunked miserably because he fails to impress the girl. He might have even taken a shit in her purse for all we know because she calls security on him, leaving Emma Frost to be patient and like making the Hulk angry, nobody likes Emma Frost when she’s impatient.
Ben manages to get away from the angry woman and try again with another girl. This time, he finds a girl who happens to be a fan of Stanly Kubrick, proving once again that awesome movies can bring people together almost as good as blow and weed. It’s still not clear how the fuck his powers are working or even if they’re working. But when he takes the appearance of the girl, which she doesn’t fucking notice for some reason, she becomes more attached to him than a horny dog and Megan Fox’s leg. It’s his first real success, which is quite a leap from the ineptitude he showed earlier. From getting shoved down a hill to confronted by Emma Frost while wearing just a towel, he was overdue for a win.
And that first win triggers a winning streak of sorts. He begins exercising his skills with a diverse array of people ranging from a punk rock girl to some hipster douche in a coffee shop to a guy that looks strikingly like Brian Michael Bendis for some reason. They all seem to have the same reaction. Ben manages to endear themselves to him to such an extent that they would tattoo his name on their eyelids if he asked them to. He’s like the world’s best car salesman and would probably make an awesome telemarketer if he was so inclined.
However, the nature of his powers still aren’t defined. Emma Frost said it didn’t involve pheromones or mind control. There’s something else at work and when Marvel doesn’t have details, they tend to take the let’s-not-and-way-we-did approach. That may have worked for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq and health care policy, but it doesn’t work well in comics. At the very least, it shows Ben doing something unique and more novel than just shooting gold balls out of his body. But that’s beside the point.
After so many successes, Emma Frost feels he’s ready for an exam of sorts. This time he’ll have to do more than impress some girl who has a thing for Stanley Kubrick movies. He’ll have to deliver a letter to some guy named Timothy Dugan in a building in the financial district. For all he knows, he’s delivering a picture of Wolverine’s dick to Donald Trump’s office. But he does it anyways. And through his ambiguous powers, he’s able to make it through the building and even play nice with the secretary. He has pretty much no trouble getting to Dugan and delivering the letter. It’s so mundane that it could be a Dilbert comic strip.
It only starts to get fucked up when Dugan opens the letter and finds out it’s basically trolling by Cyclops. He says in the most polite way possible that he knows SHIELD is using Sentinels and if they don’t want to have any problems, they’ll cut that shit out. Naturally, SHIELD responds in the most logical way possible. They break out assault weapons and surround Ben Deeds like he just pissed on Captain America’s boot. He’s probably the only one who doesn’t know what the fuck is going on. All he knows is that he just delivered a “fuck you” message to SHIELD.
It would have been a major dick move on Emma’s part, but she makes sure that Magik is there to get him out before SHIELD starts pissing on Ben’s 5th Amendment rights. But beyond this fucked up test of his powers, this also effectively ties into the end of X-men Battle of the Atom. It was revealed that SHIELD had been dealing in Sentinels and that’s not the kind of shit Cyclops wants to see in a world where mutants are no longer going extinct. This plot was developing even before Battle of the Atom and while this doesn’t move that plot forward by much, it does nicely link it up with the larger narrative.
Ben is understandably shaken and a little pissed off probably. But Emma and Cyclops make it clear that he passed the test and finally did more than just bitch and moan. His powers, as ambiguous as they are, have real use and he could definitely be an asset to the X-men. While Ben is still an underdeveloped character who is still not much more likable than Kanye West at this point. He finally has some personality depth. In addition, it also shows that Emma Frost can do way more than just look great in a thong. She can still teach mutants to life up to their potential and that makes her both awesome and sexy as hell.
This issue wasn’t epic and the action wasn’t much more intense than a game of dodge ball. However, the story itself was still awesome because it explored some important elements that had been somewhat negated in Uncanny X-men. Ben Deeds became more than a whiney little bitch and Emma Frost got to teach and look damn sexy doing it. I couldn’t help but hum the song, “Hot For Teacher” by Van Halen at times. And not only was the lesson effectively taught, but it still tied into the ongoing plots in the post-Battle of the Atom world of Uncanny X-men. Some areas were still somewhat negated and underdeveloped, but it didn’t make the issue any less satisfying. I give Uncanny X-men #14 an 8 out of 10. And for the first time since I snuck a Playboy into my history class, both my penis and my mind were stimulated. Nuff said!