Saturday, June 14, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny X-men Special #1
For whatever reason, there’s this strange trend that has taken hold over the past 20 years and it needs to stop this instant. It involves entire sub-groups emerging online and in real life who dedicate time and energy they could be using to solve the world’s problems and/or get shit-faced towards bashing something that happens to be popular. Now don’t get me wrong. I hate Twilight and every Hugh Grant movie ever made, but I don’t craft entire fucking monuments to that hatred. Some shit is popular for reasons we don’t understand. Get over it. And the powers that be at Marvel are just as guilty of this in their recent efforts to make Cyclops a criminal anti-hero rather than an uptight boy scout. Grant Morrison started it. Every writer since then has taken it way too fucking far. After Avengers vs. X-men, it has gone so far that it might as well be rock at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. That’s not to say that the stories that have followed haven’t been awesome. I’m just saying that the foundation they’re built on has a thick layer of bullshit. And that bullshit has seeped to the surface in Uncanny X-men Special #1, but not in the way it has in other comics. Luckily for the fine patrons of this humble digital pit I call a blog, I’ve got some air fresheners handy.
Like every Die Hard movie ever made, it all starts with some sinister-looking guy crafting some evil plot. But unlike the Die Hard movies, this guy isn’t some Eastern European douchebag who didn’t get the memo that the Cold War was over. He looks more like a cross between a Star Trek fan and a World of Warcraft cos-player. Plus, he’s drinking wine instead of whiskey. For a villain, that’s like drinking light beer at a frat party. Aside from his shitty tastes in alcohol, we know he’s looking for someone and for once, it isn’t a Kardashian. He’s trying to come off as menacing, but he’s not Hans Gruber. Not by a long shot.
That said, the students at the New Xavier School aren’t John McClane either so I guess it balances out. They’re still novices when it comes to X-men. That doesn’t just mean they’re not quite as proficient at destroying killer robots just yet. That means they don’t know the history of the X-men and how some end up getting pretty fucked up by it. They find this out by accident when they bring up an old picture of Magik when she was just a sweet little Russian girl in the New Mutants. It’s a nice little reminder of where some of these characters have come from and just how fucked up they’ve become.
It’s a nice aside, but it’s also a reminder that Magik hasn’t been that innocent since Run DMC and the Beastie Boys were still relevant. A lot has changed since then. Since Avengers vs. X-men, Magik has undergone more changes. However, these changes have been underdeveloped or poorly developed, hence the shitty Dormammu arc. It could be construed as a bad sign for the students at the New Xavier School. If this is what happens to a cute little Russian girl, how fucked up could they end up?
They don’t get to ask her. They’re still students at the New Xavier School and that means they have classes. But instead of calculus, their classes involve learning how to fly the X-jet. Now I know what some Texas republicans are thinking. What kind of school teaches teenagers to fly high tech jets instead of making them love Ronald Reagan? The awesome kind, that’s what. Flying a jet sounds way more useful than calculus. Unfortunately, the lesson ends abruptly as many lessons with the X-men often do with an unexpected attack which results in a plane crash. But I think this could just as easily count as another lesson because given how often the X-men get attacked, these students might as well learn how to deal with being shot out of the sky. I still say that’s way more useful than calculus.
When they crash land on a farm that has probably had its share of UFO sightings already, they’re attacked by three Robocop wannabes, one of which is wearing a badass helmet that looks like a cross between a Viking and the Borg from Star Trek. It’s menacing, but still goofy as fuck. I guess this could count as another lesson as well. The battle that follows isn’t all that epic, but it’s not boring either. Like a bottle of lube and a box of tissues, it gets the job done.
It also counts as another lesson of sorts. In seeing this battle, I realized something. The students of the New Xavier School have fought killer robots, evil inter-dimensional creatures, renegade time travelers, and a pissed off Maria Hill. However, they haven’t fought killer cyborgs yet. That feels like a gross oversight. The New Xavier School may have its faults, but nobody can accuse them of not being comprehensive.
As lessons go, this one fails in a number of ways and not just because the teacher showed up to class stoned. The three cyborgs, despite taking a few optic blasts, manage to subdue Cyclops with some fancy mask contraption. It’s basically a more stylish version of the mask Cyclops was forced to wear in Avengers vs. X-men: Consequences. But in subduing Cyclops, they completely ignore the other students. I’m sure the find that just a little bit insulting. To be fair, Cyclops is one of the most experienced X-men in history and he’s banged Emma Frost and Jean Grey. That still doesn’t stop him from getting captured. If only these cyborgs were telepaths then this battle would have been much shorter and much sexier.
Once Cyclops is subdued, they take Cyclops and fly off with him in their ship, leaving the students of the New Xavier School behind and probably wondering if this is just some elaborate pop quiz. I would still prefer it more than a Calculus quiz. Their only real choice is to call in Magik for help. They know they’re fucked on some level when they have to call in a temperamental Russian teenage girl that once rubbed shoulders with Dormammu. I suppose that’s something else they have to learn at the New Xavier School, working with teammates that will jam a giant fucking sword up their asses if they piss her off.
So Cyclops has been abducted. The most wanted mutant in the entire Marvel Universe and the subject of Maria Hill’s wet dreams is now in the custody of a bunch of renegade cyborgs. It sounds like the kind of circumstances that promise to expand Cyclops’s growing reputation as former Boy Scout turned anti-hero that hooked up with Emma Frost. Anybody that would be surprised by such circumstances is either brain damaged, too high, or not high enough. But this is where the whole plot takes the kind of fucked up turn that can turn a typical road trip into the premise of a shitty slasher movie.
Remember that pasty-faced, wine-loving, Hans Gruber knock-off from earlier? Well, he’s the one that hired these cyborgs to abduct Cyclops. However, it turns out he never wanted Cyclops in the first place. He wanted to abduct Havok. To me, that’s like asking for tickets to a Marilyn Manson and getting tickets for Justin Bieber instead. But apparently, this guy’s tastes are just that fucked up and the cyborgs he hired are just that incompetent. These villains that looked so menacing earlier now come off as a cross between the Three Stooges and a Married With Children rerun. I’m not saying it’s the most fucked up premise for a story, but it certainly changes the tone. It’s like going from Top Gun to Caddyshack. It’s that jarring.
The wine drinker in this inept villain continues to show. When he demands that the cyborgs abduct Havok, they give him a quick lesson in business with respect to mercenaries. First, they inform him that abducting an Avenger costs more than anyone whose last name isn’t Rockefeller, Buffet, or Stark is way more than his sorry ass can afford. Second, they don’t have money-back guarantees. They’re not fucking General Motors. And being the pussy he is, he pays the cyborgs what they want after they rough him up a bit. In the end, he comes off as more pathetic than Alan Harper on Two and a Half Men. It’s really not clear what this guy can do with Cyclops since he’s not even the Summers he wanted. But I really can’t take this guy too seriously, especially when he’s dealing with a guy who regularly deals with a pissed off Maria Hill.
As if this guy weren’t fucked enough, he’ll also have to deal with Cyclops’ ex-girlfriend. Since Emma Frost probably claimed a monopoly on making Cyclops suffer after they broke up, she’s determined to get him back. The problem is they have no idea who the fuck these glorified Star Trek cos-players were. They gather that they’re some kind of bounty hunters and given their hardware, they’re either alien or one of them has boned Tony Stark or both. They still need to find out more so they formulate a plan and it’s the kind of plan that doesn’t involve lessons. This is the real fucking deal. It’s like having high school freshman play against the New England Patriots. They don’t have the luxury of being amateurs and having the NCAA exploit them.
This plan sounds elaborate, but it’s logical enough to not need an extra joint to appreciate it. Emma and Magik send Ben Deeds and one of the Cuckoos undercover to SWORD. Since they probably know the names, addresses, and sexual fetishes of every alien that ever visited Earth, this is probably the best place to start. Since Ben’s powers involve getting people to trust him in ways that usually involve a bribe and a blowjob, he’s best suited for this mission. Plus, he gets some alone time with Mindee Cuckoo. I’m pretty sure there are teenage boys who would cut off one of their fingers to go on a solo mission with a teenage clone of Emma Frost. It’s an operation that promises to have some Jason Borne style spying. It gives some of the younger mutants of the New Xavier School a chance to be real X-men.
Unfortunately, the operation unfolds a bit less like a James Bond movie and more like an Austin Powers movie, minus the dick jokes. Mindee and Ben show up at SWORD’s headquarters, Peak, where they get the kind of orientation that most people get when they visit a fucking museum. They don’t have to sneak away, charm a guard, or subdue anybody either. Ben just asks to go to the bathroom. It’s basically the same excuse I used in algebra class to smoke a quick joint before lunch. It’s as inane as it sounds.
While it might be a boring tactic that causes the story to drag, it does work. It allows Ben to find a computer where he starts looking up aliens that have a history of abducting people in broad daylight and shooting down high tech planes. It’s not like there’s an alien bounty hunter version of Google, although I’m sure SWORD has been working on that. All the while, Mindee is busting his balls about taking too long since people are now getting suspicious. Again, it’s as thrilling as it sounds. Going on a tour of a museum for pocket protectors would be just as exciting.
In the end, Ben doesn’t even need to do much searching. The answers he’s looking for find him. Iron Man, for reasons that I can only assume involve alien hookers, shows up and tells him that the bounty hunter that abducted Cyclops was Death’s Head. It sounds way more badass than it really is. But he has a history with Iron Man and that’s the only reason he needs to get involved. Never mind that he’s an Avenger and every Avenger wants Cyclops publicly crucified. He’s now involved in this in the least coherent way possible. Since the whole premise of the story has gone from a sci-fi version of Taken to an old Chris Farley movie, I can’t get too excited or too thrilled and for a stoner that’s saying something.
Reading this issue reminded me somewhat of bachelor parties that go horribly wrong or horribly right. It starts off all fun and innocent. Then there are some major misunderstandings, coupled with a few kidnappings, and everything goes to hell from there. At least in this issue, it didn’t involve undercover cops and transvestite hookers. It started out strong, promising to add a new challenge for Cyclops and the students of the New Xavier School. It ended up being a fucked up misunderstanding. Now I’m not saying that story can’t still be interesting. Hell, three Hangover movies were made on that premise. The idea of Cyclops being abducted by mistake is a novel concept, especially since everybody in the Marvel universe has placed a target on his ass. But then the story just started to drag and it’s hard to really know what’s going on or why I should be more excited than I would be for the pizza guy. For a comic that’s a few pages longer and a dollar more expensive, it just doesn’t deliver the value it should. People who want value should stick to the dollar menu at McDonald’s. I give Uncanny X-men Special #1 a 6 out of 10. We all make mistakes. We by the wrong kind of pop tarts, we put too much salt in our French fries, and we accidentally flush our weed down the toilet when we mistake the mail for a DEA raid. But abducting the wrong guy? Fuck, that’s like going to male strip club by mistake and getting a lap dance. There’s just no fucking excuse, no matter how much incompetence/alcohol is involved. Nuff said!