Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny Avengers #20
I know this is supposed to be a time when we're celebrating the X-men's history of time travel and setting the future straight. With X-men: Days of Futures Past now in theaters, time travel is supposed to be somewhat less frustrating, if only for a few weeks. I'm sorry, but I just can't get into the spirit. Between Age of Ultron, All-New X-men, and the events of Uncanny Avengers, I can't bring myself to be this excited about time travel. I still believe that time travel stories lost a good chunk of their appeal after Hollywood stopped making Back to the Future movies. That said, Uncanny Avengers has been doing a great job of making a time travel story feel at least somewhat less cliched. To stop the Apocalypse Twins from destroying the planet, the surviving members of the Unity Squad along with some displaced AU versions of major Marvel heroes are going to try and send their consciousness back to the past to undo these events. Yes, it is a blatant Days of Future Past ripoff, but if a time travel story is going to rip off anything, it might as well be one of the best time travel stories ever. Uncanny Avengers #20 doesn't have Jennifer Lawrence running around as Mystique in it, but it still has a lot of momentum from recent issues fueling it. Still, I would much rather see Jennifer Lawrence running around as Mystique.
That said, watching two versions of Psylocke fight to the death is a close second. The future X-men and Kang's dimensionally displaced heroes clash in a battle to save the remaining members of the Unity Squad so they can effectively exploit Chris Clarmeont's second most brilliant story after the Phoenix Saga. It's as epic as it sounds. A tough version of Psylocke goes up against an even tougher version that looks like the wife of my old gym teacher, who I'm convinced was a dominatrix by trade. Stryfe isn't so terrifying, at least to Cable. But what makes this epic is that even though there are assholes on both sides, they're both fighting for a similar goal. They want to stop their futures from being nullified. I'm sure they feel that if anyone is going to erase their existence, it'll be by editorial mandate and not because of Alex fucking Summers.
Now I know I give Havok a hard time on this blog and I still stand by my ball-busting criticisms. He's done plenty to deserve it. However, the guy is still fully capable of being a total badass. He's a fucking Summers. Badass runs through his veins, along with the ability to bang hot telepaths. He makes this abundantly clear when Magneto has him at his mercy while Blob stands over his unconscious wife, ready to treat her the same way he treats a bucket of fried chicken. Magneto has even more incentive than usual to be exceedingly cruel. He doesn't just have a world free of those pesky, genocidal humans. This is a world his daughter sacrificed his life to create. He's more than happy to snap the neck of anyone willing to undo it all and burn the corpse.
On the surface, it may be a classic Magneto-caliber dick move. But what makes it awesome is the emotional depth of his struggle and Havok's. They both have such a high emotional stake in the outcome of this battle. Havok seeks to both save his daughter and undo the deception that the Apocalypse Twins inflicted to destroy the Earth. Magneto seeks to save the entire mutant race and preserve his daughter's sacrifice. It's not a matter of Captain America shooting a Nazi in the brain stem. These are two individuals with actual, emotional weight to their battle. What a concept, right? Take note, Brett Ratner's of the world.
Another reason I regularly bust Havok's balls is because of how he treats Cyclops. He'll gladly throw him under the bus and conveniently forget about everything he ever did for the mutant race the moment the opportunity comes along. I get that brothers are supposed to rough house and I'm not saying that Cyclops hasn't given Havok a reason to hate him, but the way made a complete judgement on his brother after Avengers vs. X-men is so egregious that even Judge Judy would say it's bullshit. It has been a big problem for him in that it's hard to take him seriously or respect him when he can't capture a fraction of his brother's leadership and comes off as a major douche in the process.
That's why it's so satisfying when Cyclops decides to side with his brother and not Magneto. Even though he has plenty of reasons as well to save his world, he trusts that his brother knows what he's doing in undoing this future. It leads to a moment that should have happened way sooner. It took the destruction of an entire planet and some convoluted time travel plot, but the two brothers finally come together. It's an emotionally satisfying moment that's right up there with getting a kiss from Scarlet Johannsen. Even if it is overdue, it's very fitting and it makes me hate Havok just a little bit less, although I'm sure he'll find other reasons in the future/past.
Not all the emotions are so heartfelt. Some are only heartfelt in the same way a bar fight is heartfelt. That's not an entirely inaccurate metaphor either. The destruction of the Earth actually began with a bar fight between Apocalypse and Thor. That's what led to the use of Jarnbjorn, a powerful weapon that's impossible to pronounce while high, which is what Apocalypse used to kill a Celestial. Obviously, Thor is not happy that someone exploited his drunkenness. It's not quite as bad as date rape, but it's right up there. It would have been so nice to see Thor tear into Emin like Mel Gibson when he's off his meds. But then Kang cockblocks him, urging him to not make the same petty mistakes he made as a drunk. It's not bad advice. Besides, they didn't come there to re-enact bar fights. They came to free the rest of the Unity Squad. That doesn't mean Thor should follow that advice because that would mean denying us another epic battle.
So instead of an epic brawl between Thor and Emin, we get a not-so-epic moment between Kang and Emin. At this point in the story, it's almost easy to forget that this all began when Kang went back in time to take the Apocalypse Twins as infants. He planned to raise them and did a very shitty job because they didn't just turn on him. They destroyed the planet he was trying to conquer and utterly nullified his future. There are the kinds of shitty parents that let their kids play in a meth lab and then there's this. So we should expect Kang to give Emin the kind of spanking that would make masochists jizz in their pants, right?
Fuck no, that would make too much sense. Instead, Kang just scolds his adopted daughter. That's right, he just fucking scolds her the same way someone might scold their dog for taking a shit on their new carpet. He claims that he knew what she was doing the second she and her brother started doing it. And somehow, it served his purpose. I admit I get easily confused when I've had a few too many bong hits on a Wednesday morning, but how the fuck does destroying Earth and murdering a Celestial serve Kang's goals? Did he just need something new to jerk off to? That's never explained or even hinted at. So much of what has driven the Apocalypse Twins comes from their hatred of Kang. So why the fuck would their actions serve him? He's either trolling or just trying to mind-fuck her and everyone around her. I guess in that respect, he succeeded in part.
At least, there's still plenty of epic brawling to go around. Thor frees Wolverine and Sunfire, who have been imprisoned and tortured for decades. That makes Wolverine all too eager to murder Daken again and this time, there's no emotional strain behind it. At some point, a father has to understand that his kid has just become too much of an asshole. Even the most ardent pro-lifer would support Wolverine's effort at an extra-late term abortion. Sunfire does the same to Banshee, who is somewhat less an asshole. He's a horsemen so he's not exactly in the right frame of mind. But after decades of torture, Sunfire is pretty light on sympathy and it's hard to feel sorry for him or for the rest of Emin's forces. Not saying revenge is always justified, but sometimes it is appropriate and it will give me an erection. This is one of those times.
For whatever reason, Emin is still too shell shocked by Kang's trolling to do anything. She's still just off to the side, twiddling her thumbs while Kang prepares to undo everything she and her brother did. And she doesn't even have the support of the X-men anymore. When Kang's team of dimensionally displaced heroes gets outmatched by Magneto, Cyclops rallies the rest of the future X-men to oppose them. Even after decades of trusting Emin and being part of a world where he didn't have to lead mutants against armies of killer robots, he's still willing to take the X-men into battle against Magneto. That should bring tears of joy to the eyes of every X-men fan and everyone who hated X3. It makes for another emotional moment with him and Havok, showing that these two brothers are still capable of not annoying each other. For anyone who has ever dealt with an annoying sibling, this should strike all the right chords and even some of the wrong ones. But that's what makes it satisfying.
The emotions continue even as they escape Magneto and prepare to send themselves back to the past. They're not quite as heartfelt. Wasp still decks Kang and the asshole more than deserves it after taking her daughter. He still refuses, saying that they'll just have to trust him not to screw them over. For some reason, others like Sunfire have a problem with that. This same guy who unleashed the Apocalypse Twins in the first place is now their only hope to save their world. That alone should make them feel sicker than a vegetarian in Ted Nugent's trophy room. But they don't have a choice so they had better hope that Planet X has legal weed.
This is the biggest strength of this issue and this series. There are so many intense emotions involved. Let's face it, we can only see the Avengers beat up Kang so many times or see the X-men rough up Magneto so many times and still feel anything. I'm not saying it's impossible to jerk off to the same porno all the time, but a little variety is necessary to keep things interesting and adding these emotions to the mix really helps give the story weight, even though some of the details are lacking. We may live in a culture where being emotional means being labeled a pussy, but this is also a culture that made shows like the Jersey Shore and Duck Dynasty a success, so I'm not going to give it that much credit.
Beyond the threat of constant nausea, the plan is somewhat overly specific. They're supposed to transport their consciousness back to the time just before Rogue died and before the Scarlet Witch cast her spell. That makes sense. That was the moment where they crossed the point of no return in diving head first into the world ending shit storm. However, it's a pretty inefficient moment. I'm not sure if there are limitations to how far their minds can go back, but wouldn't it be a tad more efficient to just go back even further to when the Apocalypse Twins were still babies? How about when the Unity Squad first formed so they could all have a better reason to not hate each other? It's like going to a brothel and picking the girl most likely to be a transvestite serial killer. It's a bullshit risk that isn't sufficiently explained.
Once they're gone, the impact is pretty quick in a way that would have made Back to the Future a much less dramatic story. Everything around them starts to fade, returning to that vast oblivion that is the Marvel multiverse catalog of dystopian futures. Now I imagine not a lot of people who aren't Magneto will be really upset about the destruction of Planet X, but at least there was plenty of emotion thrown into the mix that makes it more than just another forgettable AU. This is a world where mutants are free and prosperous in a way that doesn't involve Magneto being a king or Apocalypse being an overlord. Sure, it was built on a lie that murdered every human, but it was still a prosperous world for mutants. Given how mutants must always be on the brink of extinction, I can't help but be a little sad to see it go. Oh well, I'm sure Marvel will create plenty more dystopian futures for mutants.
So once again, another semi-dystopian future is being erased utilizing the same method that Chris Claremont pioneered when Ronald Regan was still a fresh face. I can't say it's very creative, especially when a major movie just came out that did the same fucking thing. But unlike X-men: Days of Futures Past, Uncanny Avengers doesn't have the stench of X3, Wolverine Origins, Barakapool, and Brett Ratner holding it back. What does hold it back, however, is the lack of details. And given how Days of Futures Past can't explain how the fuck Moira MacTaggart showed up at the end of X3, that's saying something. The battle between the future X-men and the future Brotherhood was undeniably epic and fitting. The emotions fueling the battle were incredibly potent as well. What's lacking is a better explanation as to what Kang was hoping to accomplish by royally fucking up the Apocalypse Twins or why the Uncanny Avengers don't go back even earlier to deal with this issue. I guess that would just make way too much sense. I know I always get suspicious when I wake up hung over with my pants on and my wallet and keys on my dresser. Even if there is an explanation, it's probably not satisfying enough to justify sending them back to a less emotional point in the story. That's the strength of Uncanny Avengers, building on the emotions and playing on them like Robert Pattinson at a Twilight convention. The strength of those emotions earn Uncanny Avengers #20 a 7 out of 10. The only way to make them stronger at this point would be for a Yankees fan to walking to Fenway Park and punch Ted Williams in the jaw. I don't think this story will go quite that far, but it feels like it's getting dangerously close to doing so. Nuff said!