Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: All New X-men #22
Crossover events are like mixed drinks. They can bring out a unique flavor that can’t be tasted otherwise. It’s a beautiful thing. But there’s a fine line between mixing rum and coke and mixing gasoline with battery acid. Some will lead to good times and mildly damaged organs. Others will lead to uncontrollable vomiting, arrests for public intoxication, and permanently damaged organs. Like that guy that keeps trying to grow new strains of weed, Marvel has been hit or miss with their crossovers. Stories like Fear Itself and Avengers vs. X-men ended up being as appealing as expired milk. But Age of Ultron and Infinity ended up being like fresh whiskey. Now the All New X-men are crossing over with the Guardians of the Galaxy in the Trial of Jean Grey. It’s an event that will have O5 Jean confront the most pivotal moment of her future life and she’ll have to do it alongside a machine gun wielding raccoon. The premise itself makes it sound difficult to fuck up, but it is possible. I’m going to try and keep that in mind as I review All New X-men #22 and I’ll need to write down more reminders in between bong hits in order to remember for the ending.
That said, the O5 X-men have much healthier ways of reminding themselves than I do and none of them involve risk another public intoxication charge on their rap sheet. With X-23 having joined the team, they seem to have settled into a steady regiment. X-23 trains. O5 Beast scribbles convoluted physics problems on a chalkboard. And O5 Iceman takes some time out of his day to make snow angels and sing Run DMC songs from the 80s. Okay, so it’s not exactly a logical regiment, but at least they have good tastes in music. It would be a lot more ominous if O5 Iceman was humming Kanye West or Chris Brown. There’s enough violence in comic books as it stands. So this bit of insight into the less hectic part of the O5’s time-displaced lives is refreshing.
But not everyone can cope with the aid of physics, training, and Run DMC. Those people are generally the same people who need to improve their coping skills, but I think O5 Jean and O5 Cyclops are the exception. Between O5 Jean seeing an evil version of herself try to nullify her existence and O5 Cyclops getting all horny around Wolverine’s female teenage clone, they deserve a pass when it comes to poor coping skills. But they don’t get a pass for dragging O5 Angel into it. The kid was just enjoying a greasy, artery clogging burger when they sat down and decided to snap at each other. I feel sorry for the guy and for everyone who ever just wanted to enjoy a good burger. O5 Cyclops and O5 Jean have a sizable shit platter to deal with. That doesn’t mean they should make someone else shove their face in it.
It seems like another immature teenage outburst at first, on par with a blood feud over who gave that creepy kid in gym class their phone number. But there is a more serious issue to discuss here that has been developing for 22 fucking issues. O5 Cyclops and O5 Jean know how their future plays out and they know how their relationship plays out. Yet since the early days of All New X-men, they haven’t really confronted it. At times, O5 Cyclops has tried. And O5 Jean has been content to treat those attempts the same way Charlie Sheen treats a drug test. They had their chances during X-men Battle of the Atom, but crazy shit kept getting in the way, namely a homicidal older version of Jean. But like a tumor on their forehead, they can’t ignore it forever.
The hostility eventually gives way to a more serious discussion. Lost in the teenage melodrama is that little detail that O5 Jean knows about what happens to herself and her relationship with Cyclops in the future. But O5 Cyclops doesn’t know. He just knows from a wedding invitation and unscrupulous internet searches that he and Jean get married, have a kid, and die on each other at least once. And the shit he doesn’t know that O5 Jean knows is bad enough that she wants nothing to do with him and is more than willing to let her other teammates soak her panties. O5 Cyclops is understandably curious, but at the end of the day he prefers not to know and that might be for the best. Even his balls might not be able to take the strain.
Debate about the future eventually gives way to concern about the present. In a moment that may upset those looking for a new reason to hate Cyclops, he at least reminds O5 Jean that he still cares about her, regardless of whether she’ll ever let him see her naked. And she reminds him just how much shit she has to cope with. It’s a nice summation of the long ass list of issues that these two are dealing with. It’s full of teenage melodrama, but not the kind that made Twilight a godsend for bulimics.
Some may be tired at this point of the overly dramatic Cyclops/Jean side-plot that has been unfolding in All New X-men since it started, but I prefer to take the longview here and I usually don’t do that in anything that doesn’t involve finding a new weed dealer. It’s easy for younger X-men fans to forget that for most of their history, the Cyclops/Jean melodrama was flatter than Kristen Stewart’s acting. So much of it was built around the love-at-first-sight shit that Shakespeare plays and Hugh Grant movies made so agonizing. It didn’t really get a lot of depth until the Phoenix Saga came along. And now All New X-men is forcing Cyclops and Jean Grey to relate to one another on a very different level. They can’t just rely on the shit the Beatles sang about. They have to deal with some very tough emotional issues that most adults aren’t qualified to handle. And given that they’re the most iconic relationship in the history of X-men, I think that’s good for them and good for the X-men mythos as a whole.
What isn’t good for them or any mythos for that matter is a surprise attack by aliens. It’s one of those things that seems to happen every other Monday in the Marvel universe. It may seem random, but having O5 Jean and O5 Cyclops vent so many emotions only makes it feel more urgent because these aliens came fucking prepared. They interrupt O5 Iceman’s celebration of 80s rap classics and storm the base like the IRS at Willie Nelson’s trailer. It’s not a fair fight and we already knew from the title that it was coming. But O5 Jean’s emotional outburst just makes it harder not to give a few extra fucks about what these aliens have planned for them. There’s an anal probe joke in there somewhere, but I don’t want to make light of O5 Jean’s emotional state.
The team rallies, showing that they haven’t been slacking on their training in the way most teenagers might slack in their algebra homework. The alien attackers aren’t packing tentacles, face raping spores, or oversized heads. They look like Call of Duty cos-players armed with alien death rays. It’s not quite as awesome as it sounds, but it generates the kind of action that will satisfy most casual stoners. Kitty Pryde recognizes them as Shi’ar, which probably doesn’t mean jack shit to the O5 X-men. But it does help make the attack seem less random. Since aliens have been attacking Earth with the same regularity as Rush Limbaugh attacks President Obama, it helps to have context.
But knowing the names of the aliens they’re dealing with doesn’t do jack shit in fighting the Shi’ar off. Like I said, they came prepared. They knew how to counter Kitty’s little trick of phasing through any machine and making it operate like the beta version of Windows Vista. They also knew how to counter their firepower and tactics. It’s a simple matter of trapping them all in glowing energy bubbles. I guess that’s more humane than drugging them with ketamine, but it robs them of the opportunity to have visions of Jessica Alba’s nipples so I still consider it horribly cruel. They probably could have taken everyone on the team hostage, but they only take O5 Jean Grey. The Shi’ar have a lot more reasons to shit themselves when it comes to Jean Grey so once she is contained, it’s mission accomplished as far as their concerned. It’s a very George W. Bush type move on their part, but I guess we can’t expect them to be that prepared.
It’s a pretty generic battle in which the outcome was never in question. The O5 X-men got their asses served to them with a side of fries, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some worthy highlights. O5 Iceman actually put up the best fight. He not only tried to protect the base from the Shi’ar’s initial invasion. He tried to stop them from escaping with O5 Jean, using a little giant ice punch to try and take them down. It’s by far the most badass move O5 Iceman has managed. Maybe singing Run DMC music helped strengthen his balls in a way that was exceedingly overdue. While it didn’t stop the Shi’ar from leaving with O5 Jean, at least it showed O5 Iceman doing more than just being an immature kid.
The rest of the team can’t say they put up as good a fight as O5 Iceman. They can only just pick their sore asses up and recognize how fucked they are. The Shi’ar now have O5 Jean and probably don’t care that anything they do to her could fuck up the entire space-time continuum. The Shi’ar didn’t get to be an inter-steller powerhouse by practicing restraint in the same way Lady Gaga didn’t get so much attention by dressing modestly. It’s very much a “we’re so fucked” moment and because of O5 Jean’s conversation with O5 Cyclops earlier, it has some emotional weight. And that like having a wad of hundred dollar bills at a strip club. It goes a long ways.
They don’t get to kick themselves for too long. Shortly after the Shi’ar leave, the O5 X-men confront another group of alien visitors. This time they’re not quite as hostile and they include two hot alien women. That alone should help soften the blow. It’s the Guardians of the Galaxy, which happens to be Brian Michael Bendis’s other pet series. Coincidence? Fuck no, but at least they now have allies with which to get back at the Shi’ar. And one of them is a giant tree and the other is a raccoon with a machine gun. I would say that’s a pretty fair fight, at least from the perspective of a typical stoner.
Given the complicated premise of this arc, I would have been content if this issue didn’t make it more fucked up than it already was. I ended up being more pleasantly surprised than a fly in a shit factory by how this issue made it happen. It didn’t just throw the Shi’ar and the O5 X-men in a ring, trot out some stripper in a bikini, and let a bunch of drunks take bets on who would get knocked out first. It actually took the time to give some emotional weight to what O5 Jean was going through before the Shi’ar even arrived. I know there is a contingent of X-men fans that wishes that Jean’s only role involve continuing to feed worms. While I usually give the finger to these fans, I think even they would have to agree that this issue made it hard not to care about O5 Jean’s struggles. Those who just wanted to see the O5 X-men react to the Guardians of the Galaxy and a machine-gun toting Raccoon might be disappointed, but those who need more than just shiny pictures and homicidal animals will be satisfied with this. That’s why All New X-men #22 gets an 8 out of 10. And in addition to making me care about what happens to O5 Jean Grey, this issue also gave me the sudden urge to play all my old Run DMC songs while smoking crack. Fuck, I miss the 80s. Nuff said!