Thursday, February 13, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Wolverine and the X-men #41

I’m convinced that most teenagers who go to high school have only two goals. The first is to be popular and/or get laid, whichever comes first. The second is to just fucking survive. There are county jails that are less hostile than some public schools and there are cops less tyrannical than some of the school administrators. That’s why when I read Wolverine and the X-men, I envy the young mutants who get to attend this school. Sure, they’re lives are fucked up and they can never live a normal life again. But they actually go to a school that doesn’t suck where the teachers actually give more than half a damn about them. In this day and age that’s like finding a unicorn that shits gold bricks. While Wolverine and the X-men is getting set for a re-launch, it has provided a refreshing look at how young mutants learn to be X-men. But they’re not the only ones who have to deal with living in a school where it’s not uncommon to see a bunch of miniature blue Nightcrawlers stealing whiskey. The staff and everyone else at the Jean Grey Institute is always on the brink of losing their fucking mind. And like any school, some get screwed over more than others. And in Wolverine and the X-men #41, that’s just what happens and for once it’s not some sexy female teacher that seduced her male students. It’s fucking Toad.

That’s right. This issue puts Toad in the spotlight. That’s like commercials for toilet paper. It’s not necessary because who the fuck needs to know that much about toilet paper? But is in a unique situation and by unique, I mean shitty even by his standards. When the Jean Grey Institute opened, the only role the X-men gave him is that of a janitor. Seeing as how he’s a former villain who used to fight the X-men all the time, that’s not the worst role they could give him. I’m pretty sure shaving Wolverine’s back would be worse than that. However, he’s still one of those characters that can be sympathetic at times, but only to a point.

Well during the Hellfire Academy arc, he sort of pissed all over any chance at sympathy because he actually helped the Hellfire Brats. To be fair, he did it because he fell in love with a beautiful blond, Paige Guthrie. I’ll be the first to admit that a beautiful blond can justify a fuckton of petty crimes. Sure, Paige is more mentally unstable than a meth addict at a Breaking Bad convention, but Toad seems to understand that the craziest blonds are the most fun. Yet because of his desire to help her, he betrayed the X-men and the Jean Grey Institute. So their recourse for that is to fire him. And in the spirit of appeasing feminazis, they don’t fire Paige. She’s doesn’t have a history of being one of the X-men’s enemies and she’s a hot blond. That’s how the world works I’m afraid. Hot blonds get preferential treatment.

While the X-men show little sympathy or compassion for Toad (which is a dick move on their part), Paige does go out of her way to reach out to him. She actually is willing to forgive him for betraying the X-men, probably because he did it mostly for her. But the problem with regularly losing her fucking mind is that it’s hard for her to keep up with her emotions. So it’s hard for her to remember whether she felt anything genuine for Toad. That’s not as creepy as it sounds either. If Anna Nichole Smith can be attracted to some 80-year-old, why can’t a hot blonde be attracted to someone like Toad? There are blonds out there with stranger fetishes. I would know. I’ve dated and/or gotten lap dances from a few of them.

There seems to be a sincere effort on Paige’s part to reach out to Toad. And every step of the way, Toad comes off as humble and sympathetic. He’s sad that he lost his job and for whatever reason, he enjoyed being a janitor, so much so that he struck up a friendship with Karoka. It almost makes me want to root for Toad in his effort to find a special place in Pagie’s panties. But the keyword is almost. The effort still falls flat because Paige is struggling to remember the emotions they shared, if any at all. And given Toad’s history and his inability to really make up for it, I just can’t bring myself to cheer him on in his efforts to bang a hot blond.

Regardless of my support, Paige is willing to give Toad another chance. She asks him out on a lunch date. For any guy, that’s just one step away from copping a feel. And Paige seems perfectly sincere. She wants to see if it’s possible to rekindle those earlier emotions she felt when she was losing her fucking mind. That’s a bit like getting drunk to remember who won a bar fight. But like alcohol, love is not dictated by logic and reason.

It gives Toad a golden opportunity to stay connected with Paige. Most newly unemployed men have a hard time attracting pretty blonds without any crack or blow to offer so he would be the dumbest guy since that guy that tried to tea-bag a lion if he didn’t take advantage of it. But before he can count his blessings, he notices the X-men flying off to take on another crisis. While he should be focusing on the prospects of seeing a pretty blond naked, he decides to check it out and even has Karoka throw him into the action. This is one case where a man thinking with his penis might be the smart move, but Toad has never been known for being smart.

The crisis that’s unfolding is one that the X-men have no one to blame but themselves. At the end of the Hellfire Saga, they took two of the Hellfire Brats into the Jean Grey Institute because someone would probably laugh their ass off if they tried to throw them in jail. That or they knew they would pull that bullshit affluenza defense. But keeping them at the institute is every bit as stupid because they used all that fancy alien technology they have at their disposal to make a bunch of killer beach balls to terrorize Westchester while they make their escape. I don’t know what’s more inexcusable, thinking they could let the Hellfire Brats attend their school or not keeping a close enough eye on them to prevent them from building this shit. They’re like those kids in shop class that build a bong and set the school on fire. Except in this case, the teachers gave them the matches and napalm.

There’s really not much notable action to speak of here. Toad gets to be a little heroic, saving a civilian while the rest of the X-men focus on destroying these killer balls. I could make a dick joke about that, but in a comic about Toad that might be pushing it. The battle really has nothing to offer and is effectively glossed over, something that further diminishes the impact. But it serve some purpose. It allows the two Hellfire Brats to get away. Now I haven’t forgotten about the Hellfire Brats, but I’ve been desperately trying. Unfortunately, there’s only so much weed I can smoke and these two only remind me of those limits. They’re not doing anything fancy or cunning. They’re just using their gizmos to distract the X-men while they jack a car and make their escape. Their plan couldn’t be more generic if it being a Simpson rerun.

They probably should expect the X-men to fuck up their plan, but I doubt they expected Toad to try and fuck it up. That still shouldn’t concern them. They have a gun and the ability to build killer balls. Again, a dick joke in this context just wouldn’t work. But for whatever reason, they don’t take Toad down. One of the brats is in position to shoot him, but they don’t. And the reason he doesn’t is a pretty steaming pile of shit in that he gives the impression that the Jean Grey Institute made him soft. So he helps build a bunch of killer balls to distract the X-men and escape, but having a chance to shoot the Jean Grey Institute’s former janitor reminds him he’s soft? The amount of WTFs in this situation would make the plot to a bad gay porno look like Shakespeare.

But this isn’t meant to be the part that the most impact. While one Hellfire Brat might have gone soft, the other figures out that Toad didn’t track them down just to get his job back. That might actually be noble and heroic, which are two qualities that are not associated with Toad, sort of like hygiene and sex appeal. He’s got another motive and it actually takes priority over having coffee with a hot blond. It’s either that important or that fucking stupid.

It’s sad for Paige because unlike some vindictive blonds I know, she actually meant it when she asked Toad on a coffee date. Like Jenna Jameson on crack, she traverses a trail of dangerous balls to do what she promised. But when she arrives at the coffee shop, Toad is nowhere to be found. Now to be fair, the whole fucking coffee shop is in ruin and she’s the only one who thinks it’s open. She may not be a typical dumb blond, but she does have a history of being crazy so this isn’t completely out of character. It also sends the message that Toad has made a decision that will effectively piss away any remaining chance he has at being one of the good guys or getting laid for that matter. It’s both devious and stupid as shit. If it were anyone other than Toad, it would be surprising. Since it isn’t, it just fails to have much of an impact.

Part of that dumb decision involved Toad being up one of the Hellfire Brats. So even if it is stupid, there’s still something to enjoy. And the unlucky brat he roughs up ends up getting sent back to the Jean Grey Institute, patched up like a kid that just fell off his bicycle at a few too many times, and put into therapy. And his guidance counselor happens to be Paige of all people. And while having her as a guidance counselor is like having Keith Richards as a physician, it does add at least some emotional weight to the moment.

While beating up this kid, Toad gives him a message to deliver. He says that he’s turning on the X-men for what may sound like a noble reason. He says that he wants to just quit while he’s ahead and ditch the X-men before he can somehow fuck it up. He frames it as though he’s concerned that Paige will one day see him become that asshole firsthand. But he would rather do it from afar and let a kid he beat up deliver the message that he understands that he’s an intrinsic asshole. Now I usually respect brutal honesty, but an asshole that admits he’s an asshole still stinks just as much. And Paige, being as mentally unstable as a horny brain damaged lion, gets over it pretty fucking fast. So while there is some context given to Toad’s decision, it still doesn’t feel all that meaningful.

The rest of the Jean Grey Institute staff comes off as insensitive assholes. They’re the ones that fired Toad. They’re the ones that put him in his current position. Even if he did end up going bad again, at least they could say they gave him an opportunity to be less an asshole. Now they just finished saving Westchester from the Hellfire Brats, but that’s more of an afterthought than the last three head coaches of the Cleveland Browns. It is somewhat funny to see them deal with not having a janitor. How could it not be funny when there’s talk about bamf shit? But the X-men’s role in this story was really poorly done. They didn’t just come off as the assholes here. They came off as downright inept and unless a certain amount of alcohol or mind control is involved, they have no excuse.

For Toad, it’s back to basics. He’s now a bad guy again. He has teamed up with that one Hellfire Brat that he didn’t beat to a pulp and helped him escape from Westchester. They then have a nice little conversation about what to do now that they’ve pissed off the X-men. The most logical option would be to escape to another planet or dimension, but they claim to know a place. There’s no hint as to where it is or how it could possibly protect them from a bunch of pissed off X-men. But at the very least, it cements Toad’s status as a villain again. He’s still an inept, petty, and downright stupid villain that passed up a chance to bang Paige. But he’s a villain and I guess that adds some semblance of balance to the world of the X-men.

Now the concept of a comic with Toad as the main character sounds a lot like a Star Wars movie with Greedo as the main character. Granted, that would probably be more entertaining than Phantom Menace, but Toad has historically been to the X-men what Storm Troopers have been to Han Solo. He’s basically a meat shield that gets about as much respect as the National Enquirer. But this issue made an effort to explore his personality and his recent actions. And in most respects, it succeeded. Toad got to interact with a pretty girl and be the good guy, at least for a while. But in the end, he’s still an asshole who will take any opportunity to annoy the X-men. It still isn’t clear that the X-men basically pushed him to do this. They still come off assholes, but so does Toad by helping one of the Hellfire Brats. And a comic where everyone comes off as an asshole is hard to enjoy. If I want that, I’ll watch Fox News. I give Wolverine and the X-men #41 a 6 out of 10. This issue won’t make anyone feel sorry for Toad, but it will put him slightly above the class of a Storm Trooper. He beat the shit out of a pre-pubescent brat. That should earn him points in anyone’s book. Nuff said!


  1. Great review! I hope husk stays at the jean grey school when Jason latour takes over, also would like to see blink at the school, she needts to be in the comics more!

  2. It made me feel sorry for him. I saw it as watching a character backpedal into a tragic role and the tears at the end only adding to it. And to be fair, you can't blame him for thinking that a hot girl like Paige would normally be interested in someone who looks like him. He'd just rather leave while the memories were fresh and untainted.

    But yeah, the X-Men were incompetent. Especially when Toad explicitly explained how to clean up the BAMF crap and Wolverine clearly ignored it.

    1. The X-Men are always incompetent whenever the Hellfire Brats are involved. It's one of the reasons why I hate them. They aren't good villains, they're Villain Sues, creators pets.

      And the whole Toad thing is just insulting. After an interesting character arc, it gets tossed away in one shitty issue. Y'know, I'd just about forgotten how much I hated Jason Aaron as an X-men writer. thanks to this issue, I remember. *drops title again* Personally, I'm guessing the new guy said he didn't want Toad, so Aaron wrote him out of the series before he took over.

  3. After all Toad did for them, how could the X-Men be so ungrateful? ... But who knows, Toad might possibly return with that kid to bother the Jean Gray Institute again...