Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: All New X-men #21
I've long since accepted that religiously motivated psycopaths are capable of a unique kind of douche-baggery. It's one thing to just slit the throats of puppies, throw babies in blenders, and take a shit all over Mother Teresa's grave. But to do it because someone thinks a magic man in the sky told them to is an entirely new level of fucked up that no amount of medication can treat. Sadly, this kind of religiously motivated bullshit is very real. There are people who gladly blow themselves up because they believe they'll get to bone 72 virgins in the afterlife and there are people who gladly abuse their children because they think Jesus will love them more that way. So in a sense the Purifiers are way more real than any of the other villains in X-men. We've yet to create anything close to a Sentinel, although I'm sure DARPA is working on it. And it's this kind of unique douche-baggery that the O5 X-men are up against in their first mission with Cyclops's revolutionary team. They already managed to get themselves captured in the previous issue. Now in all New X-men #21 they're about to see firsthand just how evil religiously motivated bullshit can be. If it doesn't destroy their faith in humanity, it should at least make them an atheist. So if anyone out there is really religious, expect this review to be offensive on at least several different levels.
The most offensive part for anyone who didn’t vote for Rick Santorum is actually a flashback taken from the classic X-men story, God Loves, Man Kills. It’s a nice bonus, akin to pictures of the first girl who ever flashed her breasts. It nicely details how Reverend Stryker was an unholy asshole who talked about mutants the same way Pat Robertson talks about gay people. He basically wants to do to them what Uganda, Saudi Arabia, and Iran does to homosexuals. But beyond the horrendous bigotry, they also get help from the fine assholes at AIM to accomplish their goals. And AIM also happens to be assisting Reverend Stryker’s sick son, who has eagerly taken up the mantel. It’s both great fan service and a nice connection to what is happening in the presence. And a connection like that is like knowing Robert Downey Jr.’s pharmacist. It leads to all sorts of amazing shit.
It makes for a perfect transition to the present where Reverend Stryker Jr. is like a kid swimming in a pool of melted chocolate. He just knocked out X-23, Kitty Pryde, and the O5 X-men. So he has a chance to not just pwn them. There’s now nothing stopping him from going all Spanish Inquisition on their asses, slitting their throats, and pissing on their corpses. I would be shocked if Stryker didn’t jerk off to this dream when he was a kid because let’s face it. His father wasn’t going to let him sneak any porno under his bed.
Then one of his followers stops him for reasons that are surprisingly logical and scientific, something that isn’t associated with religious zealots. He must have seen that shitty Ashton Kutcher movie, The Butterfly Effect, because he kindly points out that killing the O5 X-men would fuck up the entire space-time continuum. And these guys don’t even know how fucked up it is after Age of Ultron. They’re okay with fucking with mutants, but undermining the entire fabric of reality is probably something any God would frown upon, much more so than sodomy or working on the Sabbath. So he asks that they consult someone who didn’t get their science education from Jerry Farwell.
But Stryker Jr. may have other outlets for his bloodlust boner. Not every mutant they captured threatens to undermine the timeline. X-23 is fresh off an extended stay through the hellish battles in Avengers Arena. And since she was a ruthless killer for most of that show, the Purifiers were fans. They wake her up in a separate cell and show her that all that torment she endured was nothing more than a fucking reality show. It’s one thing for someone to stage these conflicts, but turning it into a fucking reality show is like making World War II into one big car commercial. It’s beyond cruel, showing once again that reality TV is a modern day atrocity.
What makes this scene even more compelling is that it offers another connection. When X-23 joined up with the O5, she didn’t say much about her experience with Avengers Arena. In fact, it probably would’ve been easier to just shrug it off as so often happens when characters change series. But that’s not what happened. X-23 has to face what she was a part of. Not only that, she has to consider how her new time displaced friends will see her, including a cute de-aged Cyclops who we already know “fancies” her. Having been so guarded with her thoughts and experiences, this is probably the worst kind of torture X-23 could endure without being forced to watch the extended cut of Wolverine Origins.
While X-23’s torment is already underway, the Purifiers enlist help in finding out how to torment the O5. In yet another glorious connection to the flashback, an AIM scientist that happens to be a hot chick visits to give them some scientific advice that hopefully doesn’t involve evolution. And her advice is surprising. Stryker and his Purifiers should not harm a hair on the O5, let them go, and get the fuck out of town before the X-men that aren’t time-displaced hunt them down and give their asses a firm dose of enlightenment. Stryker Jr. hates it, but AIM says it beats tearing a new asshole into the fabric of reality.
It’s a frustrating moment for Stryker. It also adds a few important details to the story. One of my biggest concerns after X-men: Battle of the Atom was that by not being able to back to their own time, the O5 X-men’s activities wouldn’t have the same effect in the present. Well now AIM has come out and said that harming them in the present will still royally fuck up the past. Even though they don’t know the details surrounding the events of X-men: Battle of the Atom, I’m inclined to trust a bunch of people who are proficient enough at science to try and take over the world on a weekly basis.
While Stryker Jr. and AIM debate on what to do, it gives O5 Jean time to wake up and start coordinating with the others. They must not have given her a big enough shot of ketamine because she is able to effectively rouse the thoughts of her teammates, some of which were already conscious. The only one she doesn’t connect with is X-23, who is still pretty intent on keeping everyone the fuck out of her head. But that’s still more than enough to break out and kick these religious zealots back to the dark ages. Actually, they probably might like that. Maybe they should kick them to the future where more of their religious bullshit has been disproven. Or into an alternate universe where Richard Dawkins is kind of the world. That would piss them off.
However, the battle that unfolds isn’t nearly as epic as it was built up to be. In fact, it feels downright rushed. Whereas there were some nice connections and details to past events earlier on, the fight against the Purifiers is really poorly drawn out. It’s poorly organized in that it doesn’t show how O5 Iceman or O5 Beast get free. It also does a very poor job of showing what happened to O5 Angel and where he is in all this. And while there is some explanation given to the abilities that Stryker Jr. has, which are apparently gifts from AIM, it’s bland and unassuming. It detracts from any tension the battle may have had. If it were a beer, it would be cheap light beer and there’s really not much difference between cheap light beer and fucking water.
The only satisfying part of the battle is how O5 Jean Grey takes down Stryker Jr. She probably could have easily just telekinetically pinned his ass to the wall and made him listen to Christopher Hitchens read all his books. She goes a step further, using the same tricks she learned in earlier issues of All New X-men to project an image of Reverend Stryker Sr. And like most fathers who try to have their kids succeed where they failed miserably, he’s a real dick to Stryker Jr. It fucks with Stryker Jr. just long enough for O5 Jean to take him out. But again, the impact is subdued. In the end it too felt rushed. Like there was a chance for this to be much more dramatic than it turned out to be. It’s still an appropriate way to defeat Stryker, giving O5 Jean yet another opportunity to mind-fuck someone who deserves it.
That’s not to say there isn’t some drama thrown into the mix. As the O5 try to meet up with the others, O5 Cyclops finds X-23 in her cell. She has already made quick work of the assholes trying to torture her with reality TV. I imagine that battle was way too violent and gruesome to show on-panel. Marvel is owned by Disney last I checked. But now X-23 is more than a little fucked up. And when O5 Cyclops approaches her, she surprises him with a big emotional hug. Now that’s pretty surprising because in the previous issue, X-23 said outright that she was not a hugger. Yet here she is, hugging O5 Cyclops. I want to say it’s another example of the power of Cyclops’s penis, but it seems more personal in this context.
And to make it just a little more dramatic, O5 Jean happened to see this. However, not much really comes of it. It’s hard to tell whether she’s outraged or just uncomfortable. She was the one that said that O5 Cyclops fancied X-23 in the previous issue. Maybe she just didn’t make a big deal of it because she didn’t think X-23 would fancy him in return. Whatever the case, it adds a little more to the continuing tension between O5 Cyclops and O5 Jean Grey. It just doesn’t add much.
In the end, they defeat the Purifiers. Kitty Pryde even makes a nice courtesy call to Maria Hill at SHIELD to let them know the X-men were nice enough to do the hard part for them. So it’s successful in the sense that they rough them up and hand them over to the authorities. Granted, these are the same authorities that attacked them with a Sentinel army during X-men: Battle of the Atom, but when they’re harboring time-displaced teenagers, it’s a clear instance of beggers can’t be choosers. They do stick around long enough to admire Stryker Jr. in defeat. He still calls them devils, but I imagine they look at it the same way most people look at a TV show that One Million Moms complains about. If it’s something that a bunch of overly religious zealots think is terrible, then it must be awesome by default.
This comic should make a lot of people feel a bit less guilty about falling asleep in church. For all they know, the same nuns that beat students with rulers like it was an Olympic sport also had a long-standing partnership with AIM. And it was very satisfying to see Kitty, X-23, and the O5 X-men kick their asses. The details may have been a bit subdued and the drama wasn’t quite as intense as it has been in recent issues, but it ended the battle against the Purifiers in a satisfying way that could’ve been a lot more disturbing. We should all be thankful that Stryker Jr. didn’t get his preaching training from Ted Haggard. It wasn’t overly epic and the details were lacking in certain areas, but it was satisfying. It’s like a mid-priced hooker in New York. It’s not the best, but she gets the job done. All New X-men #21 gets a 7 out of 10. After reading an issue like this, I’m a believer in the power of hugs. Too bad that costs extra for some of the women I know. Nuff said!