Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Amazing X-men #11

I don’t claim to exercise the best judgment. I don’t advertise this blog as the end-all and be-all of comic book reviews. I understand that my standards for assessing a comic are very different compared to others in that they’re incredibly fucked, a product of drunken rants and stoned musings. But I like to think I still have enough brain cells to accurately judge a situation. The difference between a functioning drunk and one that ends up dead or a prison bitch is the ability to assess a situation. By that standard, I think I can say with a fair degree of objective certainty that the situation in Amazing X-men is neck deep in Shits Creek.

This crossover arc between the X-men and Alpha Flight, which may end up being Wolverine’s last ever mission with them, has been one of those stories where things just keep finding ways to get worse. Not that it’s hard when the Wendigo are involved or anything, but the X-men and Alpha Flight’s collective efforts have been as inept as they’ve been entertaining. That’s why I’m going to try and not take too much pleasure in watching how they continue this ineptitude in Amazing X-men #11. Since this is probably Wolverine’s last ride with Alpha Flight, I’m willing to be a bit more restrained than usual.

Since Wolverine stumbled ass first into this Wendigo crap, the conflict has spread faster than semen stains on a porno set. The only thing keeping it from turning everyone in the world into the kind of mindless beasts that tend to populate Raiders games is that the Wendigo curse is still restricted to Canada. As soon as people are tired of having free health care and cross the border, they turn right back to their human forms. Northstar and Aurora help remind the Avengers of this, who have been patrolling the border in ways Lou Dobbs thinks should be done for Mexico. They keep them from getting too bloody. They need to save that kind of shit for the Red Skull anyhow. They know this isn’t a permanent solution. If Canada becomes just another den for Wendigos, then where else where the world get its star hockey players and cheap pharmaceuticals?

Across the border, the action is a lot less diplomatic. Colossus, Nightcrawler, Sasquatch, and Rachel Grey have been tasked with fighting the Wendigo and guarding the entrance to the Spirit Realm the others used. It’s pretty basic, but what makes it fun is the sharp dialog and strong characterization. It’s not enough to just have these characters beat up monsters. That’s something every superhero does in between meals, romantic sub-plots, and shopping for spandex. Having them carry out this task in a way that feels unique and distinct helps give it that refined polish of awesome. That and it’s nice to see Colossus kicking ass with the X-men again. Sure, they still don’t give him any of the shit they gave Cyclops for his role during Avengers vs. X-men, but I guess that’s just because he was never married to a woman Wolverine wanted to bone.

The entrance to the Spirit Realm is in good hands. That means Rockslide, Firestar, Storm, Snowbird, Iceman, and Guardian have to do theirs. Again, there’s some sharp dialog to keep things fun and interesting. It kind of has to be because their mission has basically been about as exciting as a Mormon frat party. Sure it gives them a chance to catch their breath, but it also gives characters like Rockslide a chance to bitch and moan. I guess there has to be someone like that in every mission and Iceman and Beast have probably worn themselves out after the shit they’ve done lately.

They eventually do reach their destination, which in this case takes them to right to the asshole responsible for spreading the curse of the Wendigo. There’s nothing all that distinct about him. His name is Tanaraq and he looks like a rejected enemy from World of Warcraft. He’s somehow using the power of the Wendigo to overthrow other mythical beasts that might question the size of his mythical dick. It’s all painfully basic, but it does finally offer insight into what triggered this Wendigo-level shit storm.

It’s all dire as hell and has the potential to be a global catastrophe, which happens at least once a week in the Marvel universe anyways. It’s about as novel as it sounds. There is to say there’s not much to add to Snowbird’s detailed yet bland explanation. Tanaraq is enjoying himself way too fucking much beating up mythical beasts in the Spirit Realm. Eventually, he’s going to get bored and do the same to their world. It doesn’t exactly make him an ominous threat. Any character whose primary motivation is to escape boredom isn’t much of a character. It’s just someone in need of Adderall.

That’s not to say Snowbird doesn’t try to throw in something extra. After her thorough dissertation on Tanaraq, they encounter a hoard of dead dog-like creatures called Shilohs. They’re supposed to be the offspring of the beasts, but for some reason they love Iceman. Now in most instances, that might be adorable. Dog lovers will certainly appreciate this, but dog lovers who have followed Iceman’s recent bullshit in Uncanny X-men might already be on the phone with PETA. At the very least, it puts Iceman in an awkward position. And if I can go to bed tonight knowing he’ll be shoveling Shiloh shit, I’ll sleep well.

Knowing the nature of the threat is still only part of the story here. It’s easy to forget that the Wendigo have already done their share of damage and not just to US/Canadian relations. Early in the conflict, Talisman got stabbed when Wolverine turned into a Wendigo. This is especially serious because this is the woman Puck was banging. Since short people in comics rarely get laid, it really is sad. It also adds a nice element of drama to a story that could’ve easily turned into a glorified Elder Scrolls quest. Mixing in some more personal elements might not be as flashy as seeing mythical creatures maim one another, but it gives the story the kind of polish that stoners like me appreciate.

These personal elements aren’t just asides either to pander to the Twilight crowd. There other personal moments involving characters that Puck isn’t boning. Earlier in the arc, Northstar pissed off everybody at the Family Research Council by rescuing a small girl named Amber and remarkably she didn’t become a lesbian on the spot. Now as he’s working with the Avengers and the authorities to care for the civilians, he’s able to reunite the girl with his father. I’m sure that’ll piss off the Family Research Council and every other bullshit organization that uses the word family to mask anti-gay bigotry. So it’s not just another nice moment that adds a personal touch to the story. It pisses off homophobic bigots and that’s always a bonus.

But I’m sure some aren’t going to be moved by these personal moments. They still want to see the X-men beat the shit out of some mystical monsters. Well, there’s still plenty of that and like the situation with the little girl, that eventually catches up with events that took place earlier in the arc. One of those events involved Wolverine being turned into a Wendigo. Nightcrawler was able to teleport him away where he couldn’t hurt anything that wasn’t a small animal or a beer, but Wolverine still managed to track them down. Even as a snarling beast, he can smell their farts from a 100 miles away. It helps raise the stakes a little in their efforts to protect the Spirit Realm because they’re not just fighting Wendigo anymore. They’re fighting a Wendigo that happens to be Wolverine. That’s like fighting Mike Tysons after he’s been turned into a vampire. It’s not a fight that can be won on a technicality.

This makes time a factor for Snowbird’s team in the Spirit Realm. She’s finally able to meet up with Tanaraq, but not much comes of it. They talk and that’s about it. Tanaraq basically plagiarizes all the arguments of a Captain Planet villain. There’s really no effort here to make him a more interesting character. He’s just another mythical asshole who would be right at home in a Lord of the Rings book. And he’s supposed to be the source behind all of this shit. For him to be this bland really takes away from the impact of the conflict. It’s just another asshole waving his mystical powered dick in the faces of everyone. Maybe Adderall isn’t enough for this guy after all.

As boring as Tanaraq is as a character, his dick does carry some level of power. Snowbird already warned the X-men that at some point, the curse would not be limited to the borders of Canada. Sooner or later, Tanaraq would become powerful enough to take a nice steaming shit on that pesky rule. Well without providing many details, he does just that. Remember that nice moment between the little girl reuniting with her father? Well that moment is officially fucked because now the girl’s father and everyone else from across the border turns back into a Wendigo. That officially makes it the second worst export from Canada after Justin Bieber.

It’s not enough to just throw the X-men, Alpha Flight, mystical creatures, and a touching family moment or two and expect the story to be awesome. Sure, that sort of half-assed attempt might make for a few profitable Hangover sequels, but it won’t exactly be awesome. There actually has to be an effort into making it all blend together. In that respect, this issue succeeded for the most part. It moved the story forward. The X-men and Alpha Flight kept battling the Wendigo, getting a nice assist from some of the Avengers in the process. Some of the more mystical elements of the Wendigo were explored. We got half-answers, but half-answers are about as satisfying as half a blowjob so I can’t say it’s a total success. It still counts as progress and it’s definitely more progress than Cleveland Browns fans are used to. Not everything came together. But if this comic were a mixed drink, it would still get the job done at a keg party. Amazing X-men #11 gets a 7 out of 10. I don’t claim to know much about mystical monsters I don’t see when I’m tripping balls on LSD, but this arc has already made it clear that Wendigos are the much less sexier version of werewolves and in this post-Twilight era, that goes a long ways. Nuff said!

1 comment:

  1. It's always nice to see Alpha Flight.

    I'm curious about Puck-Talisman though and why Aurora is so bitchy (usually it's her brother).

    But Wolvendigo is terrifying to behold. I wonder how he'll be defeated...