Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: All-New X-men #30
Teenage love stories are like boy bands. Nobody ever admits to enjoying them, but many secretly like their songs. I know I don’t come off as a romantic, being a guy who jokes about strippers, ex-girlfriends, and Emma Frost’s boobs all the time. But I’m man enough to admit that I have a soft spot for teen love stories and by man enough, I mean I still have to have a few shots of vodka to say that honestly. All-New X-men has had more than its share of teen love stories. Some have been very well-done (see O5 Cyclops and X-23). Some have made me want to surgically remove my stomach (see O5 Jean and O5 Big Furry Douche). But Brian Michael Bendis has a strong history of developing teen romance in a compelling way and for that reason, I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt when he introduces a concept that leaves some fans with moderate to severe concussions. I know that sounds way too reasonable for any self-respecting comic book fan to say on the internet, but I think that Bendis and every writer like him knows that there’s nothing he can do at this point that won’t piss off certain fans. For some, they have this strange version of pissed off diabetes. They need an injection of utter fan outrage they’ll die. I’m sure the cover of All-New X-men #30 alone is enough to give some fans seizures. I certainly have my doubts that O5 Angel and X-23 can be anything more than one of those random teenage romps that are more forgotten than high school algebra class. But I’m a reasonable drunk so I’m willing to give it a chance.
Whatever O5 Angel and X-23 end up becoming, they’re certainly doing better than most prom dates. X-23 wakes up in a nice bed in a nice bedroom, still fully clothed and not covered in vomit and used condoms. O5 Angel shows up too, still wearing pants and not trying to sneak away before she can ask him when he’ll call her. It’s remarkably pleasant and tame for a couple of teenagers. The family values crowd would probably assume they spent all night having an orgy, shooting heroine, and listening to Slayer. These might be the things the family value crowd secretly jerks off to, but that’s not what happened with these two. X-23, being a clone of Wolverine, doesn’t have a good memory whenever she goes out to get fucked up. So O5 Angel has to fill in the blanks. The fact that they have this conversation with their clothes on makes it more mature than half the conversations in every episode of Saved By The Bell.
At its most basic level, O5 Angel and X-23 went out on a date. They didn’t go on a cocaine bender in Columbia. They didn’t join a Satanic cult and sacrifice baby seals. They went on a fucking date like a couple of normal teenagers. It’s actually the most normal thing either character has done since All-New X-men began. X-23 has been too busy stabbing shit and hugging O5 Cyclops. O5 Angel has been too busy bitching and moaning about wanting to go back to the past. This shows that they are still capable of carrying themselves as normal teenagers. What a fucking concept, right?
That’s not to say it’s some innocent night at bible study. They go to a club and X-23 being her father’s clone, gets into a fight with a bunch of punks that just looked at her ass the wrong way. She fights them, a few other girls flirt with O5 Angel, and some Pantera fan loses a nipple ring. It’s still more innocent than half the dates I ever went on as a teenager. They end up ditching the club with their clothes still on and no roofies in their system. No killer robots attacked. No time-displaced Brotherhood showed up. They just had fun like a couple of teenagers should. And let’s face it, they could have gotten into way more trouble. I’m sure they left more mailboxes intact than I did after my prom date.
After recalling the events of the previous night, X-23 and O5 Angel continue to talk seriously. Some might assume for teenagers that means stealing beer, hiding weed, and negotiating condom use. But actually, these two have a more mature conversation than that. They just talk like a couple of young kids who are attracted to one another and had fun together. It’s the kind of shit that happens every day, yet for some reason it still horrifies some parents. That’s not to say they get too personal. X-23 still doesn’t talk much about her past or the horrible shit that’s happened to her. O5 Angel still talks to her like she’s that girl in Spanish class who wears a thong and smells like fresh roses. They purposefully avoid the serious shit they’ve been dealing with lately. They just share a nice moment of happiness, something neither of them have had since Peyton Manning was still an Indianapolis Colt.
It’s by no means the beginning of a new epic love story. X-23 and O5 Angel don’t profess their undying love for each other or anything else from the last four Julia Roberts movies. They just went out on a date, hung out, and let their hormones do the rest. Given their respective circumstances, it works. It’s cute yet meaningful. They even admit it’s something they need. And they’re right. After battling aliens and a time-displaced Brotherhood, they need this shit.
But the date between X-23 and O5 Angel is actually not the most emotionally charged conflict of the story. It’s not even the one with the most tension. At the beginning of the previous arc, O5 Jean had a nice conversation with adult Cyclops. It was so nice that it made Kitty Pryde nervous about them ever being alone in a room together again without taking some “To Catch A Predator” precautions. During that conversation, Cyclops encouraged O5 Jean to get training from Emma Frost, his ex-girlfriend. I know Cyclops is supposed to be the one that makes the hard decisions, but putting his time-displaced wife under the tutelage of his ex-girlfriend is like putting a bear in charge of a butcher shop. Nothing good could come of it.
Now Emma Frost seeks to begin O5 Jean’s training. And true to her tradition of intimidating/arousing her students, she demands that O5 Jean attack her. It’s such a tense situation that O5 Iceman and O5 Beast have gotten together with the Cuckoos to watch. I admit I’d watch too and record the whole damn thing in IMAX. It doesn’t take long for shit to get tense. O5 Jean points out that no matter how much Emma Frost loved Cyclops, he still loved her future self more. It’s something that Emma herself admitted in Uncanny X-men #2. It’s a pretty dick move, even for a teenager, and one that can’t end well. Unlike most public school teachers, Emma Frost is not afraid to use the kind of discipline that even Catholic Nuns would disapprove of.
This leads Emma Frost to skip the part where she lectures O5 Jean on the dangers of talking down to her and goes right for the head shot. This involves broadcasting to her vivid recollections of the psychic affair that ended up undermining her future marriage with Cyclops. These are details that Beast never had when he shared the details of her life with her back in All-New X-men #5. These are the uncut, rated NC-17 versions that she sees. It’s probably more vivid than any of the porn she could get in the internet. O5 Jean will probably have to change her panties after seeing it for all the wrong reasons. But it definitely does the trick. O5 Jean claims that seeing this shit isn’t pissing her off, but anyone who has dealt with an emotional teenage girl knows that’s bullshit.
O5 Jean finally lashes out at Emma, which is pretty telling in and of itself. For someone who claims to not be in love with Cyclops anymore, she gets pretty worked up about seeing vivid images of him being seduced by another woman. She even takes it a step beyond just hitting back with her telekinesis. For a moment, she takes the form of her older self to explain to Emma Frost in a way she’ll remember that she doesn’t need this extra push to make her lash out with her powers. She’s already sufficiently pissed off to do it on her own. It’s not an unreasonable point to make.
That doesn’t make the way she got it across any less satisfying. It’s a nice summation of where O5 Jean is at right now. It’s also a nice summation of how Emma Frost sees her in the context of what happened between them and Cyclops. It’s the first time they’ve really been able to confront each other about this shit they never got to resolve before adult Jean arrived. I want to say it’s overdue, but it’s hard to adequately articulate with a throbbing erection.
At this point, shit is getting so tense between Emma and O5 Jean that the rest of the students hoping to see a little nude oil wrestling run to get help from Kitty Pryde. As it turns out, she’s following X-23 and O5 Angel’s lead. She’s going out on a cyber-date with Peter Quill, who she got cute with during The Trial of Jean Grey. It’s another relationship that was overlooked and under-developed, but one that gives both characters an opportunity to stop running from killer robots and just be themselves. I’ll say it again just to reinforce my earlier point. What a fucking concept, right?
They carry themselves a bit more seriously than X-23 and O5 Angel. However, they’re still not being presented as some epic love story from a made-for-TV movie on Lifetime. It’s a new relationship they’re both exploring and while they’re not at the point where they’re having cybersex, they are getting comfortable with talking via hologram. And in this day and age, I think that counts as progress in a relationship.
They all gather around Emma and O5 Jean, who are now locked in another psychic battle. They all probably assume they’re trying to gouge each other’s eyes out with a spork and a paperclip. For all they know, they’re on the verge of peeling off their skin and chewing on each other’s organs. These are two characters who have such a bitter rivalry that it kept heating up even after one of them died. It should be pretty fucking intense and require the psychic equivalent of an ICU for both of them.
Then, the second to last thing anyone expected happens. I say second-to-last because I’m sure the last thing they would expect at this point is for the O5 Jean and Emma to start making out in a way that would make every man’s dick within a 100 mile radius explode. I certainly made sure I was wearing an athletic cup when I got to this part. But instead, they did the second most fucked up thing. They started laughing. We don’t get to see what they saw. Even the Cuckoos can’t sense it. But whatever happened, it was so fucked up that they started laughing and the next thing we know, they’re hugging it out like BFFs.
Now if anyone is expecting me to go on a drunken rant at this point about how fucked up this is, I’m going to have to disappoint. My drunken rant has been overwhelmed by drunken laughter. That’s because this scene isn’t just fitting. It’s pretty fucking hilarious. These two characters, who have been at each other’s throats even beyond the grave, suddenly manage to connect in a way that doesn’t involve strangulation. It’s the first time Jean Grey and Emma Frost have ever shown an inclination to be friends. While it is disappointing that we don’t see what it is that got them laughing, it’s a welcome change of pace from the endless bitch fest that we’ve had since George W. Bush’s first term. It still freaks everyone else the fuck out, but that only makes it more satisfying.
It would have been nice to end the story on such a happy note, but we can’t have comics being too happy in this day and age. The hipster douche cynical attitudes of an entire generation won’t allow it. But instead of killer robots attacking, this issue ends by connecting itself nicely with the ongoing events in Uncanny X-men. In Uncanny X-men #23, the Jean Grey Institute traveled to the New Xavier School to get Cyclops so they could go over the will. Since All-New X-men takes place in the same locale, it makes sense to throw in a little convergence. It’s not entirely necessary, but it’s one of those details that shows people are actually putting some fucking effort into these books, despite what douche-bags on message boards may claim.
So it looks like I’m going to have to use the F-word an awful lot to describe this issue. That’s right, it’s the word that should give everyone pause: fun. See what I did there? I used the word “fun” to describe a comic book. It’s a word not often associated with comics that don’t involve Deadpool or weren’t published before 1977. But that’s exactly what this issue was. There was no epic battle against Sentinels or fucked up/time-displaced versions of old enemies. Yet there was some awesome (and really fucking overdue) progress with these characters. X-23 did more than just stab things. Emma Frost and Jean Grey did more than just bitch towards one another. Kitty Pryde did more than just throw in a little Yiddish when she’s pissed off. It shows that killer robots need not be present for a comic book to be fun. Terminator fans might faint at reading that, but I stand by my use of the F-word. This comic did leave a little too much to the imagination at times and was a bit rushed, but it offered quality and enjoyable character development instead of more bullshit time travel stories. That’s a big upgrade in my book. I give All New X-men #30 an 8 out of 10. X-23 is actually smiling. Emma Frost and Jean Grey are becoming friends. Kitty Pryde is dating yet another guy named Peter. It’s not the sign of the Apocalypse, but it is a sign that my next bag of weed will be all the more enjoyable. Nuff said!