Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: All-New X-men #31

There's a reason the uptight, embittered adult population of the world is weary of leaving teenagers alone. Some of it has to do with the fact that they weren't trusted to take care of themselves and have fun when they were young so naturally, they feel inclined to do that to every other teenager they come across. But most of it has to do with the paralyzing fear that they're going to fuck up in ways that can't always be attributed to alcohol. This is not a completely unfounded fear. Teenagers have neither the experience nor the understanding to make sense of how fucked up the world is, no matter how mature they tend to be. Their brains just haven't made the necessary connections. They might as well be going through life partially blindfolded. Give those teenagers superpowers and that same embittered population is prepared to shit itself. That's part of what makes All-New X-men so much fun. It's a bunch of time-displaced teenagers who are utterly ill-equipped to deal with their world trying function within it. That's like being both blindfolded, handcuffed, and pumped with crystal meth. Now the adults of the New Xavier School are getting caught up in the events of Original Sin, which means they have to leave the O5 X-men on their own in All-New X-men #31. That's like giving an unlimited supply of napalm to Michael Bay. No good can possibly come of it.

No good can also ever come from trying to make the Ultimate universe feel relevant again. It has been tried many times over the past five years and the extent of the failures involved would make Waterworld and Catwoman seem worthy of an Oscar. But the O5 X-men need to stay somewhere while the adults fuck up their own universe with another big event like AXIS so they might as well hunker down in a universe that really can't get more fucked than it already has.

To do this, there is actually a nice touch of convergence in the sense that the events of Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand is referenced. In that story, the Ultimate version of Amadeus Cho and Tony Stark discovered the gateway to 616 that Galactus used to attack their world and turn New Jersey into his personal toilet. That alone is reason enough to close the gateway, burn the plans, and nuke the ashes. But Cho, who happens to be a bald 15-year-old with three PHDs in Ultimate, is against it. Sadly, that's not even the top 10 of the most fucked up versions of an Ultimate character. At least his character doesn't involve incest. And like most 15-year-olds, it doesn't really matter what he thinks because something from the 616 side of things fucks the portal up. It has the Ultimate side of the world confused and nervous. But honestly, given how fucked they already are, how nervous can they bother to be?

From one act of convergence to another, there's also a solid transition from the events of the previous issue and from Original Sin. X-23 and O5 Angel return from their date just as the adults of the New Xavier School run off with their frienemies at the Jean Grey Institute to read Xavier's will. They have a little chat before they arrive, but it's nowhere nearly as cute or as fun as their last conversation. For one, X-23 is in more than just a pair of panties and a T-shirt. But that's not the most jarring shift sadly.

The tone considerably different compared to the bubbly teen romance shit that dominated the previous issue. X-23 insists that O5 Angel be a gentleman and not brag about how he got to see what kind of panties she wears or claim they reenacted every scene from a Ron Jeremy movie. He doesn't make any promises because it's biologically impossible for a teenage boy to be coy when he hooks up with a cute girl, but X-23 does remind him that she has adamantium claws and can kill him in a billion different ways. So I guess O5 Angel has plenty of reasons to keep his biology in check.

O5 Angel and X-23's return is met with the same fanfare as another arrest for Suge Knight. There's not a whole lot of shock or intrigue. The only one who wants the juicy details is O5 Iceman and he asks for them while X-23 is still within castration distance. I guess that's another part of teenage biology that they have to fight, being incapable of waiting when it comes to stories that might or might not involve exposed breasts. But to O5 Angel's credit, he does know that X-23 is still close enough to peel his dick like a banana if he says the wrong thing so he wisely stays quiet.

O5 Jean Grey doesn't ask for any juicy details, but she does catch up with X-23 and notes how she seems slightly less pissed off than usual. It actually leads to a nice little conversation where O5 Jean actually encourages X-23 to hang out with O5 Angel. He's a nice guy who hasn't been turned into Apocalypse's prison bitch yet. The concept of being with a nice guy is still an alien concept to X-23, but for once romantic entanglements don't result in more tension. That or I'm guess O5 Jean is just glad X-23 isn't looking to jump O5 Cyclops' bone anymore.

It's still a very different tone compared to all the high emotions that had dominated the previous issue. It also feels underdeveloped. But the mere fact that X-23 and O5 Jean are able to have a conversation without one of them threatening to stab something or eat a star shows progress in their growth as teammates. And progress for teenagers is a rare and beautiful thing. And it didn't even take an extended suspension or a night in jail either. If only my freshman year could have been this productive.

So now the O5 X-men and the rest of the teenage mutants of the New Xavier School are alone and unsupervised. At this point it's just a matter of time before something starts going horribly wrong. And once again, it begins with Hank fucking McCoy. Now to be fair to Beast (which feels like a strange concept to even think about at this point), he wasn't looking to screw something up and blame on Cyclops again. He was just monitoring Cerebro for new mutant signatures. Then for reasons that aren't explained, it goes ape-shit over a new mutant and that's reason enough for the X-men to suit up and investigate. Do they take a moment to think things through? Fuck no, that's something responsible adults might do. They entertain the possibility of informing the others, but that would require more thought than teenagers are biologically capable of so they just leave.

It's not yet clear whether this anomaly is connected to the one felt by the Ultimate side of the shit storm. But like the Cleveland Browns failing to make the playoffs, it's a pretty safe bet. This anomaly, like many unexplained anomalies, begins with a teenage girl named Carmen. She's busy taking what appears to be a school class photo, also known as a preliminary mug shot to those who attended shitty public schools. Whereas most teenagers would just try desperately not to fart or hide their boners, Carmen starts glowing like squirrel that just caught on fire and starts seeing visions of other worlds. She even starts shooting strange portals into these worlds out through her breasts, which would be so fucking sexy if one of those portals didn't lead to the Ultimate universe. Even boobs can't make that piece of shit more appealing at this point.

The poor girl is obviously confused and probably not all that concerned with any zits that might show up in her school photo. The O5 X-men and X-23 then show up and try to calm her down. Because what calms a confused teenage girl down more than seeing a bunch of other super-powered teenagers in tight spandex outfits? I'm not going to claim it doesn't work, given the irrational nature of teenage biology. I'm just going to say it's a bit of a stretch. Even so, they do manage to get Carmen to calm down. She even reveals that she has an internet connection and knows who the X-men are. But she's still a long ways away from not shitting herself.

Unfortunately, this is where the O5 X-men's inexperience is pretty damn glaring. There's nothing inherently irrational about what they're doing and for a bunch of teenagers, that's saying something. They detected a mutant in danger. They decided to go help that mutant. This is basic X-men 101 and after 50 years, nobody has an excuse for not passing that final exam at this point. But even though the O5 pioneered this tactic, they're still like Peyton Manning in his rookie year. They don't have the stats or the Superbowl ring to lean on.

The O5 do their best to not let their inexperience show. Then O5 Beast completely fucks that up by asking this scared teenage girl if she's on her period. That's like someone facing a DUI asking a female traffic cop if she's PMSing when she asks if he's been drinking. Even O5 Iceman thinks that shit is immature. Maybe Bill Murray could get away with that shit in Ghostbusters, but O5 Beast is the exact opposite of Bill fucking Murray and O5 Jean even points this out to him. I would have thrown in a psychic sledge hammer to the balls, but that's just me. I think this means they can all safely blame O5 Beast for what happens next because as soon as the cops show up, Carmen freaks the fuck out and does the mutant equivalent of PMS.

It's not as big a spectacle as it sounds and it's not nearly as bloody. It's actually pretty bland. There's just another big blue flash that's indistinguishable from the flash I probably see when I wake up after getting my stomach pumped. Then the O5 start showing up in another universe. It's a bit convenient, a mutant who just happens to have the power to send them to another universe. I still say that's not nearly as crazy a power as having a mutant that shoots out gold balls from his body, but it feels more like a plot device than an actual power. This could have just have easily been accomplished by tinkering with one of Reed Richards' old gadgets or pissing off Magik. Instead, it turned a typical X-men mission to help a mutant in need into a crossover event. It's like a traffic stop that turns into an OJ Simpson style police chase.

The first one to wake up in ultimate is O5 Iceman. Now there aren't a lot of nice places to wake up in with Ultimate that don't involve Tony Stark's guest room, but Mole Man's sewer is definitely up there in terms of shitty locations to enter this shitty universe. It's not the worst either. He could have ended up in New Jersey. But in Ultimate, every shitty circumstance is graded on a significant curve.

By comparison, O5 Jean Grey might as well have cheated on her test. She appears in the middle of the street in New York City during rush hour. That's only a slight upgrade over being trapped in Mole Man's sewer. But O5 Jean, having the power that New Yorkers stuck in a traffic jam only wish they had, is able to get away without causing a four hour traffic delay. That alone is an act of unmitigated heroism. At the same time, she's understandably confused because she was in Austin, Texas just a few moments ago. Now she's in New York and face-to-face with a version of Spider-Man that she's never encountered before. I want to say O5 Jean is a little concerned at this point. But after being abducted by the Shi'ar and mind-fucked by Charles Xavier Jr., I'm just wondering if she's going to get bored this time around.

Once again, a bunch of unsupervised teenagers have gotten themselves into a fuckton of trouble by trying to take on something they're horribly ill-equipped to take on. There are a lot of horror movies that have this kind of premise. There are also a lot of porno movies that have this same premise, but that's besides the point. This issue didn't have the O5 X-men do anything they don't normally do. A strange mutant manifested in a way that felt like the first gust in a shit storm. The O5 X-men went to investigate and help any mutant that happened to be in need. This is the shit they've been doing since aliens and lizard people teamed up to kill Kennedy. This time it just had them end up in the Ultimate universe. It's not particularly groundbreaking. Nobody is going to be picking their jaws up off the floor after reading this. But nobody is going to have much to bitch about in terms of characterization and plot structure. The tone compared to the previous issue is somewhat jarring, but not in a way that makes me want to drink more than I already do.

If the goal of this issue was to get the O5 X-men to the Ultimate universe, it succeeded. If the goal was to get them to the Ultimate universe in a novel and interesting way, it didn't. But it's still a bunch of unsupervised teenagers trying to play hero. It has plenty of entertainment value, despite the jokes about women's periods. I give All-New X-men #31 a 7 out of 10. I'm not going to say that this issue somehow justifies the way adults treat teenagers. I'll just say that when a bunch of teenagers end up in the fucking Ultimate universe when they try to strike out on their own, a little extra supervision is entirely warranted. Nuff said!


  1. I think there was a lot to like about this issue. I particularly loved how Jean really wants to step up and do real X-Men work even without adult supervision, even if this issue proved none of them have the first clue about how to do it yet.

    And Hank...Oh Hank...

  2. Thanks for review