Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: All-New X-men #33
I have a lot of bad memories about certain places, many of which I try to nullify with a healthy dose of weed and alcohol. Most of them come from my experience in high school. Some come from vacations that went bad, some of which ended up in different time zones. But all these experiences have one thing in common. They leave such nasty scars that the idea of going back makes me want to reach for the nearest bottle of whiskey.
The Ultimate universe has become to Marvel what my junior year in high school is to me. It’s a malignant tumor on the face of Marvel comics that has been withering deeper into obscurity with each passing year. And since the O5 X-men think their future sucks so badly in 616, I guess it might actually be therapeutic to take a trip to Ultimate to see just how fucked they could’ve been. Sure, it’s the kind of therapy that would probably get barred in every medical circle in the world, including Uganda. But it promises to get the point across. The O5 X-men now find themselves neck deep in the massive rectal wart that is Ultimate in All-New X-men #33 and they’re set to uncover just how good they’ve got it in 616.
That’s not to say some things don’t suck just as much in Ultimate as they do in 616 (although it is a very short list). One thing that sucks in every universe is Mole Man. There just aren’t too many ways a sewer-dwelling psychopath can’t suck. Maybe it’s fitting that this is where O5 Iceman ended up in Ultimate, if only to pay for the bullshit his older counterpart. It’s also fitting that he’s able to start kicking ass the second Mole Man gives him the kind of hospitality usually reserved for a North Korean prison camp.
There’s even a nice little bonus where O5 Iceman takes a page from the lessons he learned in Battle of the Atom, minus those that come along with fucking up the timeline. He used his powers to form Ice Hulks. Now this isn’t exactly as groundbreaking as the new iPhone, but it offers a nice connection to events like Battle of the Atom and details like that help give this story and this series a level of refinement. And as every drunk knows, refinement is the difference between light beer and single malt scotch.
O5 Iceman’s badassery does help get him out of the sewer and away from Mole Man, but it doesn’t get him away from just how much Ultimate sucks. As soon as he frees himself, he’s immediately greeted with the same kindness as the KKK would greet Al Sharpton. This is O5 Iceman’s way of realizing that in Ultimate, being a mutant is the same as being a carrier of Ebola. Maybe Ultimate hates mutants that much. Or maybe it’s because another one of Mole Man’s monsters show up to scare the shit out of the people even more. I’m not sure which it is, but I’m going to assume it’s a mixture of both.
While O5 Iceman definitely drew one of the short straws when he and the team got transported to Ultimate, others didn’t do much better. O5 Angel ended up in the Savage Land and X-23 had to cross paths with Jimmy Hudson, aka the most pathetic attempt to replace Wolverine in the history of the multiverse. They somehow managed to get their asses out of that shit storm and make their way back to their home/abandoned Weapon X base in Canada. While this seems incredibly logical, it is the antithesis of the refinement we saw with O5 Iceman.
It might not bother those who were too drunk and/or stoned when reading the previous issue, but there are some circumstances to consider here. X-23 appeared on some random football field in some random state. For all we know, it was in Texas. So how the fuck did she get all the way to Canada? Now maybe I would be willing to get stoned enough to believe that she could hitch a ride or steal a car and drive it to Canada. But when O5 Angel shows up, that’s where it starts to get messy.
For the non-sober crowd, O5 Angel appeared in the fucking Savage Land, which is in Antarctica. It’s one thing to hitchhike all the way from Texas to Canada, but Antarctica? Even a big-tittied blond who shits gold bricks couldn’t hitchhike that distance. Yet somehow O5 Angel makes that flight just in time to meet up with X-23? I get that it’s tricky to get into that level of detail, but without at least some detail, no amount of weed can make sense of this.
That lack of refinement extends to the way X-23 greets O5 Angel. Not only does she not ask how the fuck he flew all the way to Canada from Antarctica, but she doesn’t exactly greet him very warmly. This is a guy she just went out on a date with and by all accounts, they enjoyed each other’s company. That’s not to say she told him to piss off, but it comes off as somewhat cold. Maybe that’s to be expected after a long ass trip. But again, it’s hard to tell without details.
The only detail we get comes from Jimmy “Hillbilly Wolverine” Hudson. He somehow managed to track down O5 Angel. Keep in mind, he was in the Savage Land as well. So for those who argue he just flew all the way to Canada, it’s worth noting that this kid doesn’t have wings. So how the fuck does he track him from the Savage Land to Canada? Wolverine’s nose is good, but not that good. It’s another gaping plot hole that, like Ultimate as a whole, is best left ignored.
The only detail this piss-poor rip-off character does offer is access to the old Weapon X facility that they think is their school. He opens it to reveal that not only is it not their school, it hasn’t been touched in decades. He then drops another Ultimate shit stain on them. Mutants aren’t part of evolution in Ultimate. They’re just a failed science experiment. It’s every bit as effective as getting French kissed by Mole Man in demonstrating how much Ultimate sucks.
That’s a detail that’s sure to piss the O5 X-men off on plenty of levels. But it’s not like Ultimate has a shortage in details. O5 Beast was almost as unlucky as O5 Iceman in that he wound up in Ultimate Latveria. I won’t say it sucks as much as Mole Man’s sewer, but it’s close. And remarkably, Dr. Doom shows O5 Beast some hospitality. Then again, hospitality has a very different meaning for Dr. Doom, regardless of which universe he’s in.
Naturally, O5 Beast tries to escape. He fails because he’s in fucking Latveria all by himself with an incredibly resourceful Dr. Doom and no sane Reed Richards to stop him. At least this time he doesn’t get a chance to ask any inappropriate questions about women’s periods. Dr. Doom restrains him and demands that he tell him about the alternate universe he comes from. How he knows about this alternate universe is another detail left unresolved, but he’s fucking Dr. Doom. I’d be surprised if he didn’t know Sue Storm’s bra size.
A lack of knowledge is still the O5 X-men’s greatest weakness. Some of them don’t even know they’re in a fucked up alternate universe. In that sense, O5 Jean has the greatest advantage. She had the benefit of crossing paths with Miles Morales, who gave her an unofficial cheat sheet for Ultimate. Now he’s offered to help her. While the meeting with Amadeus Cho didn’t pan out, they still have options. That means asking wholly unreasonable favors of friends, a common trait among all those who become Spider-Man.
But this is where we do get some nice details that add some much-needed entertainment value to distract from the stench that Ultimate still exudes. O5 Jean meets up with Miles’ hetero-life mate, Genke. She even shows off her new deception trick. There’s even some juvenile humor about teenage boys guarding their impure thoughts in the presence of a pretty psychic girl. It actually harkens back to a time in Ultimate where it didn’t suck so badly and Spider-Man picturing Jean Grey naked was one of those fun little asides. For some reason, Ultimate exchanged that for making Reed Richards a psychopath. It’s only a fair trade by the Bernie Madoff definition.
Aside from the perverse preoccupations of teenage boys, O5 Jean manages to convince Genke to let them borrow his mom’s car. I would say that’s another overlooked detail since these are teenagers we’re talking about here, but I know from experience that cute teenage can get away with shit like that and they don’t even need telepathy. It has just enough refinement to be fun, which is saying something in any story that involves Ultimate.
Now equipped with a car, O5 Jean and Miles take a trip to Westchester where they think the X-men still live. Ignoring for a second how disappointed they’ll be, there’s some nice conversation between O5 Jean and Miles. She talks about how she got stuck in the present and how she’s dealing with her future being so shitty. It’s something she has been dealing with since the first few issues of this series and it’s still one of the best emotional drivers for this story. She worries about screwing up her second chance and now she’s stuck in a world where she can’t even enjoy that chance. It makes for a compelling moment that explores the emotional depth that O5 Jean has gained in this series.
Those emotions aren’t going to get much better for her when she arrives at Westchester though. She shows up to find that while the school isn’t named after her, it’s completely abandoned. This is another one of those poor details that would be easily overlooked by those who never read Ultimate or killed one too many brain cells in college, but the Xavier Institute in Ultimate is supposed to be destroyed. It was destroyed after the X-men disbanded. Now it’s back up again? And O5 Jean expects to find functioning Cerebro within it to locate her friends? It’s a strategy that would make sense if it didn’t completely conflict with reality, but that’s never stopped Marvel before I guess.
What may stop her, however, is the arrival of the former Ultimate Mutant Team. I refuse to call them the X-men because in Ultimate, they’re as qualified to be X-men as I’m qualified to be a drug rehab counselor. They are just mutants. There’s nothing about them that’s consistent with being X-men. That’s why them showing up, including O5 Jean’s ultimate counterpart, can only make everything a lot worse. It’s still a nice revelation and one that isn’t entirely random since Miles already hinted that he contacted them. But it’s one of those moments where the shortcomings of Ultimate limit the potential for awesome.
In the end, this issue felt like the first issue where the O5 X-men weren’t stumbling around the Ultimate universe like a drunk streaking naked through the woods. Before, they were neck-deep in the steaming pile of shit that is Ultimate. Now they’re about chest-deep. They’re starting to find each other. They’re starting to learn why this universe has become so fucked that three failed re-launches and crossover gimmicks have failed to make it more than just a festering rectal wart on the ass of Marvel Comics. They’re still lacking a clear plan on how to deal with it, but at least they’re putting themselves in a position to do more than just stand around looking shell shocked.
The strength of this story is in the personal touches. That’s what makes the struggles meaningful. That said, there are a lot of details lacking. Despite this, the core concept and underlying theme of the story is still strong. It’ll have to stay that way if O5 Jean is to interact with her Ultimate counterpart without throwing up. I give All-New X-men #33 a 6 out of 10. It’s good. It’s even insightful and entertaining at times, something that we haven’t had in Ultimate since the Bush administration. It just needs to find a way make all these elements come together within the shit tornado that is Ultimate. I won’t say it’s impossible, but I might have better luck passing a physics test while drunk. Nuff said!