Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny X-men #18
Every so often, I take what I think is just an aspirin and later find out that it’s a hit of acid. It may still cure my headache, but it also gives me visions of Elvis riding a unicorn while an army of naked Megan Fox’s follow him. It’s not always that pleasant though. Sometimes those naked Megan Fox’s turn out to be elves with the face of Gary Busey. That’s why I really need to learn to label all my shit. But sometimes I’m perfectly okay with being that surprised. That’s why when I saw the cover for Uncanny X-men #18, I was okay with the idea of it being yet another story about how Cyclops finds a new way to piss off SHIELD, Wolverine, or the NRA. But that’s actually not what the issue is about. Sorry NRA supporters, but there are no guns in this story. It actually does something different in the sense that it probably should’ve done something like this several issues ago. I know that sounds confusing and me being drunk sure doesn’t help. But I’ll try to put my review of Uncanny X-men #18 in the right context. But if elves start appearing, then take that as a sign that I’ve fucked it up.
For the past few issues, Uncanny X-men has been focusing on its own affairs, namely helping the new students for the New Xavier School to grow up real fucking fast and learn that the their performance in the X-men won’t be graded on a curve. It already led to Hijack being expelled. But these harsh lessons were fairly detached from the events of All New X-men, which is in the middle of an interstellar version of Law and Order Shi’ar style. It hasn’t kept the series from being awesome, but it has made it feel somewhat disconnected, which was okay until Kitty Pryde and the O5 X-men decided to ditch the Jean Grey Institute and join them. Ignoring them would be sort of like ignoring the hobo that takes a shit in the living room at least twice a day.
But as soon as they get back from expelling Hijack, the events of The Trial of Jean Grey are officially acknowledged. It may seem like the most logical thing in the world, the O5 disappearing after a full frontal assault by the Shi’ar. But can anyone say with a sober mind and a straight face that they would be surprised if this was just glossed over in Uncanny? I sure as hell can’t, even with an unsober mind. It creates a moment of perfect convergence where Uncanny X-men and All New X-men really feel like they’re the part of the same saga. It may not carry much weight for some and it may even disrupt the ongoing plot with the new students at the New Xavier School, but it creates a special kind of coherence for this series. And for someone like me where coherence is usually in short supply, and often overrated, that goes a long ways.
The team starts scrambling for answers and they quickly surmise that they were the victims of a Shi’ar style house party, complete with property damage and missing teenagers. In fact, a Shi’ar house party sounds a whole lot like some of the frat parties I went to in college, but with more beer and more property damage. But in figuring out that the Shi’ar just paid them an unexpected and unpleasant visit, another act of convergence unfolds. But this time, it’s not quite as satisfying.
Just when seeing Cyclops act so shell-shocked at the disappearance of the O5 X-men, it cuts to a flashback of a very unusual kind. It’s two weeks ago. Cyclops is still struggling with his powers and trying to run a school with an ex-girlfriend who won’t let him see her naked anymore. Then while he’s clearly not in the mood to see anyone, Magik drops in and brings Kitty Pryde with her. And apparently, this happens before she and the O5 joined the New Xavier School so she’s not on friendly terms with him to say the very least. Her first instinct is the same as Wolverine’s in that she wants to strangle him like Rush Limbaugh wants to strangle Sandra Fluke, albeit in a non-sexual way.
Now this may sound a bit random and out of place. It is to a certain extent. I sure as hell felt that way when I first saw it, but then again I don’t read comics sober so it takes me more time to see the context. And thankfully, I haven’t killed enough brain cells to forget the events of X-men Battle of the Atom. In that story, Kitty Pryde actually does seek Cyclops out for help when she decides to aid the O5 X-men rather than give them over to what turned out to be the future Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. It was a critical moment in X-men Battle of the Atom, but one that left a lot of shit happening off-panel, including Kitty actually confronting Cyclops for help. But does it really make sense that she would trust him to help her when not long ago, she was calling him a fucking psychopath? The simple answer is fuck no, but I admit the thought honestly hadn’t crossed my mind. I just shrugged it off as one of the many details that Battle of the Atom glossed over. So seeing that fateful encounter take place here finally fills in that not-so-gaping plot-hole. It’s late, but I’m okay with something being late, so long as it doesn’t involve one of my ex-girlfriend’s periods.
And the scene that unfolds in this encounter would’ve made X-men Battle of the Atom a lot more dramatic and a lot more awesome. As soon as Kitty Pryde sees Cyclops, her first instinct is to phase her hand into his brain and threaten to turn it into dripping chunks that can only be found in cheap hot dogs. It’s not the first time someone’s first instinct has been to kill Cyclops after Avengers vs. X-men. In fact, I don’t think it’s even the third. I’m too drunk to keep count. But even though Kitty Pryde is supposed to be asking for help, she hasn’t forgotten that this is the guy who killed Charles Xavier. And like vehement Hillary Clinton haters, she tends to hold a grudge.
Now this would have been a lot more dramatic if this little hissy fit unfolded in a way that was slightly less predictable. But as understandable as Kitty’s outburst may be, what plays out should give anyone who doesn’t smoke as much weed as me a major case of déjà vu. Cyclops essentially repeats the same speech he repeated when he recruited O5 Angel and in Avengers vs. X-men Consequences. Cyclops loved Charles Xavier like a father, but he did die by his hands. He admits responsibility for his actions. He admits it haunts him every day. None of this is anything he hasn’t said or implied before. The only difference is that he has Kitty Pryde threatening to phase his brain out of his skull. And that’s really not much of a difference in the grand scheme of things.
His speech has a fairly predictable effect. If Wolverine couldn’t bring himself to kill the man who both murdered Charles Xavier and made sure he never got to touch Jean Grey’s boobs, then how could Kitty Pryde ever bring herself to do it? It still makes for a nice emotional moment where she laments on how much she misses Xavier. Cyclops even shares it with her, reminding her that he felt the same way when she went missing after being trapped in a giant fucking bullet for so long. It’s another nice reminder that it’s not unusual for characters to go missing/die. But they eventually come back. They even entertain the thought that he might come back. And unless Xavier changes his name to Gwen Stacy, that’s always a possibility.
In the end, Kitty Pryde accepts that she’s not going to be able to kill Cyclops. She also accepts that he’s not full of shit when he says he regrets what he did. Yes, it was predictable as hell, but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful. In fact, it helps put a number of things into context. Kitty Pryde has been remarkably friendly with Cyclops in recent issues, especially since X-men Battle of the Atom. Some speculated that it was because Kitty wanted to jump Cyclops’s bone. That may in fact be a distinct possibility, but I guess that could be said about any woman in the X-men comics. The main point of this little hissy fit is that it puts them in good terms so that they can trust each other. That means that when Kitty Pryde asks Cyclops to help her save the O5 X-men from being sent back to the past, he’s more inclined to do so without worrying that she’ll phase his spine out through his urethra. It’s still late and out of place, but it works.
Flash forward a week or so and Kitty Pryde joins Cyclops’s team having already worked through all that melodramatic bullshit. It makes for a much smoother transition. It shows her adjusting to her new surroundings nicely. She has already gotten around to annoying the hell out of Emma Frost, which at one point was her favorite pastime. Now Emma Frost is a little melodramatic here, claiming that Kitty Pryde joining the team is part of some elaborate plot to piss her off. She even claims that she conspired to bring Jean Grey back into the picture. She calls it a happy accident, but I can’t say I blame Emma for feeling that way. Plus, her not being able to mind fuck Kitty is a nice bonus. So in the end, this helps make for both an easy transition and a pissed off Emma Frost. For her, that’s as big a win-win without Colossus and Pete Wisdom dressing up as male strippers.
But Kitty Pryde may be alone in having an easy transition to the New Xavier School. One of the other more glaring plot-holes of this change was how Cyclops never really interacted much with the O5. Again, most would shrug at this oversight because it meant taking time away from X-23 and hugs. But in fact, there was a point where Cyclops did at least make an effort to open up to O5 Jean and O5 Cyclops. It didn’t really amount to much though. His talk with O5 Jean basically amounted to an awkward hello, not unlike the one I had to do the last time my parole officer showed up at my front door and I answered stoned, drunk, and high on cocaine. I just got my tax refund. I’m not apologizing.
There’s still some interesting hints offered by this interaction. O5 Jean reveals that she still has the wedding invitation that O5 Cyclops gave her and she kept when she could have easily left it back at the Jean Grey Institute. She also reveals that Beast showed her pieces of their future together, but Cyclops made it clear that he didn’t know the full story. He also probably implied that Beast was a total douche-bag, but I think that goes without saying at this point. O5 Jean still has a hard time digesting it. And maybe that’s to be expected. She still is at that stage where she’s trying to avoid her future and doesn’t have X-23 competing with her for hugs. It feels incomplete, but hopefully that only means they’ll get to have another chat after the Trial of Jean Grey.
Cyclops also has a chance to catch up with his younger self as well. But again, it’s a very short and very incomplete conversation. At least this time, O5 Cyclops doesn’t just walk off and leave him with a bruised ego and sore balls. He actually asks for advice. Cyclops only tells him to stay away from women because they will be the source of so many problems. He probably only says that jokingly because I imagine the memories he has of Jean Grey’s ass and Emma Frost’s tits make all the crap they put him through more than worth it. I mean can’t every man say that to some degree? Women do frustrate the living hell out of us, but fuck they’re worth it. And I’m not just saying that because I’m drunk and horny. It still felt like they had a chance to talk about more, like the death of Charles Xavier. But that’s something else that gets cut off and hopefully they’ll have another chance to deal with that after the Trial of Jean Grey. But by then, O5 Cyclops may be asking about how much hugging with X-23 is too much.
All these flashbacks and overdue moments are nice and all, but in the end they don’t do jack shit to help the current crisis at hand. Being more stoned than usual, I almost forgot that this issue began with Cyclops and his team finding out that Kitty and the O5 X-men are missing and the Shi’ar attacked. He starts formulating plans, assuming they’ll need to be rescued at some point. He probably has no idea they’ve now teamed up with his father, who is now miraculously alive, and a team that consists of a talking tree and a gun-toting raccoon. But not much really comes from these plans. It’s not clear if they’ll even follow them. Magik even suggests they just shrug it off and trust that a bunch of time-displaced teenagers will be able to handle a hostile race of advanced aliens. The sad thing is that this is probably what will end up happening.
This issue was an unexpected surprise in that it explored some of the moments that were seemingly glossed prior to Kitty Pryde and the O5 X-men joining Cyclops’s team. Now maybe I was just more drunk than usual, but it didn’t really bother me that they joined his team and didn’t really sit down to discuss all the bad blood that was still between them. Okay, maybe I was really drunk because this shit did bother me. I just didn’t expect it to be addressed in this issue. The problem was that Cyclops really didn’t make any new arguments to Kitty Pryde that he hasn’t made before. I get it. He regrets what happened to Xavier and his former teammates, like Kitty Pryde, hate his guts for it. But we’ve seen this shit before and there’s nothing new about it. At the very least, it shows that Kitty Pryde did enough venting to tolerate the idea of being on Cyclops’s team. While her hissy fit was overblown, the interactions with O5 Cyclops and O5 Jean were very under-developed. And maybe that’s by design so that finding out the Shi’ar may have abducted them has more impact. Uncanny X-men #18 does a nice job of essentially reconnecting this series with the events of All New X-men. It just cut and paste way too much shit from other issues. If it were paper in college, it might raise a few red flags from professors looking for an excuse to screw their students over. But at a time when everything is a reboot or a remake, I can’t be too harsh. I give Uncanny X-men #18 a 6 out of 10. Maybe Cyclops should just do what Hillary Clinton does and rehearse all his speeches ahead of time. It’ll be annoying and it’ll sound painfully insincere, but it would make dealing with the pissed off Kitty Prydes of the Marvel Universe that much easier.