Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: X-men #18
I’m no stranger to awkward situations. Give me someone else who has answered the door at three in the morning in pair of women’s underwear and explained to a police officer why there’s a goat in the front yard and I’ll have someone who has at least a faint understanding of dealing with awkward situations. The X-men certainly have more than their share, albeit without farm animals and inappropriate uses of women’s underwear. Hell, they live with time displaced versions of themselves and their future children. That shit has to be awkward to the point of therapy. It’s because of that I wonder just how much therapy someone like Rachel Grey has had since arriving from a shitty, dystopian future. She could probably put several families of psychologists through college. But it must work because she has managed to keep her shit together, even after some awkward moments with her time-displaced mother. She’s an active contributor on Storm’s all-female X-men squad, but she hasn’t had too many awkward situations to deal with. Now with a new arc and a new era in X-men #18, she has a chance to be very uncomfortable. At least in her case, wearing women’s underwear won’t add to the awkwardness.
As it just so happens, I’m not the only one who doesn’t care for unexpected visitors. A while back, Rachel Grey lost all her appetite for unexpected visitors not delivering pizza. In the infamous “End of Greys” storyline by Chris Claremont, the Shi’ar dropped in unexpectedly and without any pizza to exterminate Jean Grey’s entire family. It was a dick move of cosmic proportions, akin to burning down the whole Amazon rain forest over a splinter. But it was a defining moment for Rachel Grey and for reasons not entirely clear, that painful moment is revisited in the form of a flashback. The purpose isn’t clear, but it’s by far the most dramatic moment Rachel Grey has had since returning from space. That alone is pretty fucking sad. She’s the daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey for crying out loud. She should be way more than another pretty redhead that Wolverine has yet to bone.
The flashback doesn’t really relate to anything Rachel and her fellow X-women are doing initially. She’s still basically the beta telepath on a team that already has Monet and Psylocke. She’s not even the cutest because Jubilee is on the team as well. All she does is point out that they’re about to fly into a cloud of giant super-viruses, courtesy of AIM. They weren’t content being watered down in Iron Man 3 so they’re taking it out on the X-women. That’s like trading a punch in the jaw for a kick in the balls.
It makes for a generic battle that’s fun and full of nice quips. Every X-women here has their own voice and they all come off as distinct, something that has been somewhat erratic throughout this series. I still don’t know what the fuck this has to do with an “End of Greys” flashback, but it’s still a team of beautiful X-women taking down a cloud of greenish goop in an entertaining if not unspectacular sort of way. And I’m all for that.
But fighting a cloud of AIM cast-offs is the kind of shit the X-women do on a weekend when there are no good movies out. Another more pressing conflict happens to be unfolding and, semi-fittingly enough, it involves aliens. And since it involves aliens, it’s going to have to involve Agent Abigail Brand and the fine folks at SWORD. It’s been a while since Brand showed up with her uncanny ability to induce boners and make all the assholes within a five mile radius clench. She even reveals herself to be a Game of Thrones fan, thus making her even sexier and more intimidating. My penis is happy to see her again is all I’m saying.
Agent Brand, however, is not happy to have her Game of Thrones time interrupted by an unannounced alien that showed up unconscious at SWORD’s doorstep. The alien issue in this case is Deathbird and she’s not crashing their base because she got too drunk and forgot where her car was parked. This is a Shi’ar woman who likes to throw parties in the middle of inter-stellar wars. She also has a history with Rachel Grey, which helps provide a connection to the “End of Greys” flashback. It’s a weak connection, but like a nipple slip from Jessica Alba, it’s better than nothing.
SWORD contacts the X-women specifically because Rachel has a history with her. She’s actually Rachel’s aunt, but only by marriage thanks to Deathbird’s ability to exploit Vulcan’s fondness for alien pussy. I’m not judging here. I can only say that in Vulcan’s defense, dangerous alien women have a special allure that some men can’t resist.
That’s not to say Rachel is on good terms with her Aunt. It’s hard to be on good terms with someone who had a hand in the slaughter of her whole family. But she’s remarkably casual about agreeing to help out, going along with her fellow X-women to SWORD’s sub-orbital base, Peak. They even meet Cecilia Reyes there so she can give Deathbird a free assessment and not even charge a co-pay. This is somewhat confusing and not just because I had to wrestle with my insurance company just to see a doctor for a case of strep throat. They’re treating this alien like she’s just some cute college girl who got too crazy at a frat party and passed out in front of an emergency room. This is a woman who would probably arm-wrestle Gladiator for saying her ass looks fat. I just can’t wrap my head around it.
It becomes even more confusing when Rachel Grey agrees to help read Deathbird’s mind to figure out how the hell she ended up at SWORD in the first place. As the earlier flashback showed, this is someone who had a hand in the complete eradication of her entire family bloodline. Yet that seems to bother her less than having to wear a dirty pair of sox. It’s completely devoid of drama in a situation where there should at least be some. She could have at least tattooed a few dicks on Deathbird’s face to show she’s at least somewhat upset with the shit she’s done.
Instead, she just shrugs that shit off and teams up with Monet and Psylocke to read Deathbird’s mind. It makes for some colorful and interesting memories. It shows that Deathbird is a functional rageaholic, pitching fights and getting into plenty of trouble that a typical 12-step program won’t help with. It’s flashy, but lacking on details. I’m all for a story about a hot alien woman getting into trouble. It’s the basis of some of my favorite pornos. But even those need a little detail to spark my intrigue.
Rachel and her fellow telepaths are just as confused. They know Deathbird has gotten herself into a few too many bar fights. They just don’t know the circumstances and assume it had nothing to do with someone pinching her ass. Before they can even get a few helpful hints, SWORD is hit with more alien visitors in the form of a massive swarm of alien bugs. It’s almost like a metaphor for beautiful women that show up at a doorstep. They usually are there because some really fucked up shit is chasing them. I contend that a swarm of alien bugs isn’t quite as daunting as an ex-cop father with anger management issues, but it’s close. These little pests are called Sidrian Hunters. Since SWORD and the X-men are almost as used to killer aliens as they are killer robots, they don’t start shitting themselves. They just know this is going to be more frustrating than they thought. It still would help to have at least some drama, but I guess that’s asking for too much.
Things go to shit pretty quickly, but Agent Brand and the X-women still play it as cool as Tom Brady in the fourth quarter of a close game. The lights go out and the Sidrian Hunters infiltrate the base. It’s another flashy and fairly satisfying dose of action. It’s not all that different from the big green cloud of AIM goop from earlier, but at least these bugs have more personality. It’s still just as fun watching Storm hit them with lightning while Agent Brand unleashes her Game of Throne style violence. It doesn’t have to have a lot of drama to be satisfying, but it’s about as memorable as Rob Schneider’s acting career.
That doesn’t keep the battle from intensifying. The Sidrian Hunters are still able to get in pretty deep, making their way through SWORD’s defenses and a pissed off Agent Brand. It has much more detail than the earlier battle, making it a more enjoyable spectacle. These are not Sentinels or Skrulls. They didn’t even bring anal probes or attack Independence Day style. They came directly to SWORD, right on the heels of Deathbird. That means they’re not there to land on the White House lawn and demand that they be allowed to impregnate Sigorney Weaver. They’re there because of Deathbird. It’s a logical connection, but one that is also lacking details. I know I sound like one of my old English teachers, but I don’t grade on a fucking curve or force anyone to read boring ass books from the Victorian era that nobody cares about.
What finally gives this battle some weight is a revelation at the end from Cecilia Reyes. She doesn’t begin to speculate why these Sidrian Hunters are after Deathbird, but she does reveal that Deathbird is pregnant. That definitely adds a new dimension to this otherwise generic battle against a bunch of killer space bugs. It’s still lacking in details with respect to why anyone in the X-men should give a shit, but at this point I don’t think that should surprise anybody. That theme has already been well-established. That doesn’t mean I’m not intrigued. Anytime a beautiful alien women shows up pregnant, there’s usually an interesting story about it and sometimes it can be as sexy as it is disturbing. What? I can’t be the only guy who finds alien women sexy.
A lot of interesting new concepts emerged in this comic, but they were only slightly fleshed out. It’s like throwing ice cream, chocolate fudge, and whiskey into a blender, but not turning it on. It’s basically partial cock-blocking because only to the extent that it delays rather than hinders a chance at awesome. The tone, characterizations, and setting all work fairly nicely, albeit not in a particularly spectacular manner. Those who got real sick of the Shi’ar after The Trial of Jean Grey will probably start dry heaving, but those who missed Abigail Brand’s crass yet bonerific personality will rejoice. The lack of drama and follow-through are the two major shortcomings in this issue, but all the minor details and overall setting are spot on. I give X-men #18 a 6 out of 10. I’m all for beautiful women fighting an invasion of killer aliens. I’m even for plugging Game of Thrones. I’m even for beautiful alien women getting knocked up. But for the love of Odin, could Rachel Grey get at least somewhat pissed at the assholes that killed her family? Nuff said!