Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Avengers and X-men AXIS #1

If there’s one thing that history and Call of Duty games have taught us, it’s that very little good ever comes from Nazis. There aren’t enough dick and fart jokes in the world to make Nazi caliber atrocities, racism, and violence palpable. So I’m not even going to try. I’ll only say that if there is any good that can come from Nazi-level douche-baggery, it’s that it rallies others together. It rallied countries that would later try to blow each other up, like the United States and the Soviet union, to work together. I won’t say the bitterness between the Avengers and X-men was quite that bad after the events of Avengers vs. X-men, but I think it was close. Overnight, Cyclops became the anti-Christ for killing Charles Xavier. And I guess the rule of thumb in Marvel is that unless someone like Cyclops is destroying a whole universe, committing genocide against the mutant race, or murdering siblings and sons, they’ve somehow become evil. Well now they’re going to have to go up against real, pound-me-in-the-ass style evil in the Red Skull. And I think they can finally agree that as much an asshole Cyclops can be at times, he’s not even in the same universe as the Red Skull.

Now after a couple years of trying to rebuild the bridges that Wanda Maximoff and the Phoenix Force burned between the Avengers and the X-men, they’re going to try and team up again to combat the Red Skull. He’s been working behind the scenes since Uncanny Avengers began and he didn’t waste time showing off his Nazi-caliber douche-baggery. He desecrated the body of Charles Xavier, stealing his brain and using it to gain his powers. I’m sure some would’ve felt better if he had just desecrated it like a good, upstanding necrophiliac. But he’s a Nazi. He doesn’t do any of this shit halfway. He now has gone old school, starting concentration camps and treating mutants in ways that would make everyone in the ACLU throw up. Magneto tried to stop him, but he only ended up turning the Red Skull into the Red Skull/Onslaught. He might as well have given Hitler the fucking Death Star. Now this horribly overmatched battle is set to begin in Avengers and X-men AXIS #1. I guess it’ll help the Avengers and X-men come together and set aside their differences, but I’m sure the Icemans and Beasts of the world will find a way to blame Cyclops for this shit anyways.

Blaming Cyclops still hasn’t stopped the Avengers from doing what they do best when they’re not buying diamond-encrusted dildos from their movie revenue. They take on needlessly elaborate villains who probably could still make a very comfortable living using their charisma in infomercials. This time, they encounter Plantman. He’s exactly as generic as his name implies. It’s pretty typical shit for the Avengers. Then shit starts to get a little strange when somebody starts projecting psychic thoughts into their minds. They don’t tempt them to sneak into Emma Frost’s underwear drawer or steal Tony Stark’s credit card. They just tempt them to channel the spirit of Fred Phelps and start hating everything around them that seems too gay or too happy. It’s nothing elaborate. These are the same Avengers that turned a spat into Civil War. This might make the Christmas party awkward and it might get them suspended from the NFL, but it’s not going to be all that epic.

Being the brains and the guy with extremely deep pockets on the team, Iron Man picks up on the psychic projections and use some gizmo he probably conjured in between three-ways with Japanese twins to filter it out. I want to say it’s right up there with Bat Shark Repellant, but given the Avengers’ experience with psychics during Avengers vs. X-men, I can believe that he would make something like this. I’m sure there are plenty of perverse thoughts guys like Iron Man need to guard. This allows the Avengers to stop strangling each other long enough to figure out that this wave of psychic hate is being broadcast all over the whole damn world. And unlike the efforts of the KKK, terrorists, and Fox News this shit is actually working.

The source shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who has been following the prelude in the pages of Magneto’s solo series. It was because of Magneto’s insatiable desire to crush the Red Skull’s head with a pile of bricks that this new Uber-Nazi Onslaught was released. Not going to say he was wrong in wanting to crush a Nazi’s head, but it did sort of fuck things up. And Havok was right there at ground zero when the shit storm began. Since tormenting Havok still hasn’t gotten boring, the Red Onslaught mind-fucks him a bit before waking him up to remind him that he’s still in a Nazi concentration camp. The rotting corpse of Charles Xavier tries to reach out to him, but that doesn’t make waking up in a Nazi concentration camp less shitty.

But it’s no big deal mind-fucking Havok. That’s like beating the Oakland Raiders. It doesn’t mean much. Rogue and the Scarlet Witch try to put up more of a fight. Let’s face it, two beautiful women will always be more powerful than guy like Havok who thinks banning words will actually make people stop hating mutants. But as powerful as two beautiful women like Rogue and the Scarlet Witch are, they’re basically pissing into the wind with the Red Onslaught. And the Red Onslaught hasn’t forgotten that the Scarlet Witch has the power to warp reality to her will. Since this world isn’t Nazi-fied enough, she’s basically the equivalent of a cheat code to win this battle. In that sense, I can’t blame the Red Onslaught for mind-fucking with her. Anyone who has ever played Contra on Nintendo knows it’s not cheating if it makes the game easier.

Having seen this movie before and demanded a refund from the studio, Magneto is able to prevent the Red Onslaught from mind-fucking his daughter. He saw what happened when Dr. Doom tried it. He doesn’t need to see what happens when a Nazi tries it. He takes a few licks, but in doing so he ends up at another part of the camp where Kid Omega, Cyclops, and Genesis are being held. If it sounds exceedingly convenient and random, then don’t call in poison control. It’s exactly as convenient and random as it sounds.

For anyone who didn’t follow the prelude issues to this event, it’s going to be confusing. That alone is to be expected for any event that is big enough to warrant a prelude. But I did follow the prelude through Magneto and Uncanny Avengers. I was even sober enough to remember it. And at no point was it ever even hinted at that these three got abducted, attacked, or mind-fucked. These aren’t random hostages on 24. This is Kid Omega, Cyclops, and a mini-me of Apocalypse. A fight like that is probably worth detailing. But here, it’s just placed there for reasons I can only ascribe to someone having a bad hangover. Given how richly detailed books like Magneto and Uncanny Avengers have been, this is pretty disappointing.

It’s even more disappointing when Havok adds to the randomness. He just got mind-fucked by the Red Onslaught and what’s his first inclination? He attacks Cyclops. That’s like hating the New York Yankees and attacking the Boston Red Sox to spite them. And he’s still whining about Cyclops killing Xavier, even though Xavier’s mind actually spoke to him. So I guess I was right when I suspected that somebody would blame Cyclops for this shit. Never mind the Red Supremacy is still on a fucking rampage. Attacking Cyclops just seems to make more sense to Havok. And people wonder why they consider him the lamer Summers brother.

The one who ends up breaking up the fight is Genesis. And it’s definitely a bad sign when a miniature version of Apocalypse has to step in to break up a fight. He actually says things that make him way more likable than Havok will ever be, lecturing them on how much they suck at actually doing what Charles Xavier taught them to do. He probably would’ve thrown in a few extra details like the Red Onslaught still being on the loose, but that might’ve made too much sense. But in his defense, Ahab decided to take over the role as chief non-Nazi asshole and fucking impaled Genesis with a harpoon. I still say Havok is the bigger asshole here.

While this shit storm is raging for the X-men, the Avengers are still horribly lagging behind. I guess plant creatures in Los Angeles have a higher priority than Nazi concentration camps for mutants. But while they’re assessing how fucked the world is and how they’re going to catch up, Iron Man has a nice moment with Wasp. She reveals to him that painful little detail about her having a daughter with Havok in an alternate future. It makes for a somewhat emotional moment. But it ends up being pretty hallow.

Anyone who hasn’t been following Uncanny Avengers for the past few months would never have even known Wasp and Havok had such an epic love affair. That’s what makes this moment feel so weak. She’s so sad and weepy about a daughter who might as well have been a clone in the story she showed up in. I want to feel bad for her, but then she starts whining about whether being a hero is worth it. That might carry some weight if this story about her daughter and Havok had more depth. Right now, it has about as much depth as a rerun of the Simpsons.

Wasp would probably have far more valid reasons to cry if the Red Supremacy succeeds in mind-fucking the Scarlet Witch. Her lost daughter would be the least of her worries in a world dominated by Nazis. He ends up getting pretty close to succeeding. He talks to her the same way a dominatrix talks to a client armed with Warren Buffet’s credit card. He actually goes so far as to make her love him. It sounds fucked up, but Dr. Doom did the same thing and made it work pretty damn well. If it works, why find another way.

Since nobody wants to read House of M again with Nazis, Rogue steps in. She actually absorbs some of the Red Onslaught, which sounds like weapons grade stupidity. However, in doing so she’s able to locate that final remaining sliver of Charles Xavier’s mind. That ends up being pretty handy because it by absorbing him, she can both use his powers to guard the Scarlet Witch’s mind and tell Havok and Beast to shut the fuck up. So for those who hated House of M and never want to see that story again, take a deep breath. We’re not walking that road again.

At this point, it would be really helpful if Havok and the others came to their aid. But with Havok, I guess that would be too competent. He’s still battling Ahab with Magneto and Cyclops. It’s not nearly as epic a battle between the Red Onslaught, Rogue, and the Scarlet Witch. Then again, it’s hard for any battle to be as epic when it doesn’t involve two beautiful women. Ahab just taunts Havok about his daughter. Then Cyclops shows why he’s still the better Summers brother by taking a harpoon in the shoulder. He might have had a hand in Charles Xavier’s death, but he doesn’t use that as an excuse to be an asshole. It’s still a pretty bland scene. If I want this kind of trash talk, I’ll stick to Richard Sherman.

It’s only now after the Red Onslaught nearly had the Scarlet Witch unleash another M-Day and after people started getting harpooned that the Avengers show up. Sure, they’re later than Michelle Dugger’s last period, but they do help make the fight seem somewhat more balanced. It’s still not that detailed or that epic. I don’t get the sense it’s meant to be that way. This is the first issue of a nine-issue event. It doesn’t make sense to unleash a D-Day style battle before anyone has had a chance to sufficiently bitch and moan about Cyclops. That sort of thing should be saved for Transformer movies and not major crossover events.

To be fair to Havok, which I have a hard time writing with a straight face, he eventually does settle down enough to realize that this might be a good time to not clash with his brother. In addition to the Avengers, more X-men show up to help out. And he’s a little less inclined to be a petty douche-bag when he’s surrounded by so many teammates that are more willing to fight alongside Cyclops against a Nazi. It’s a nice moment where the team comes together. It still feels a bit rushed. It makes me wonder why the hell Havok made such a big deal out of attacking Cyclops in the first place. Then again, I’ve given up trying to justify his bullshit. I’m content to see him actually fight like a decent X-men for once.

It’s a battle that quickly turns into the antithesis of Avengers vs. X-men. Both the Avengers and the X-men come together, with the Inhumans even pitching in, to take on the Red Onslaught. Let’s face it. When a super powerful Nazi shows up and is attempting to remake reality into one of Hitler’s wet dreams, it’s the superhero equivalent of a block party. Everybody wants in on the action. They hear the Red Onslaught’s racist rantings and they understand that their differences with mutants become pretty damn meaningless when Nazis are involved. It’s the first time this comic really feels epic for all the right reasons.

But like an orgasm on meth, it doesn’t last long. The battle doesn’t even begin to get too destructive before the Red Onslaught pulls another nasty psychic trick. This time he goes after Tony Stark, the guy who has the necessary gadgets to block out telepathy. He reveals that at some point that is neither defined nor detailed, he forked over all the Civil War data he made himself forget. It’s another instance of something being pulled out of an unknown ass, but it does make an important point. And that point is Tony Stark is quite the asshole. It takes a special kind of asshole to create two adamantium Sentinels and let someone like the Red Onslaught use them. Now maybe this was something that was wiped from Iron Man’s mind at some point and maybe digging back into the wounds left by Civil War is more than a little contrived, but it definitely complicates the battle. Nazis with adamatium Sentinels is like Homer Simpson and an ocean of beer. Little good can come of it for those that get in their way.

I admit I expected a number of heroes to come out as total assholes at some point in this issue. I had money on Cyclops, Havok, Beast, or the Scarlet Witch. Now I’m pretty sure I’m going to have my legs broken again by my loan shark. Except this time, I probably deserve it because only a dipshit wouldn’t bet on Tony freakin’ Stark being a total ass at some point in a major story. This is the same guy who tried to solve the problem of the Phoenix Force by shooting it with a big ass gun. And somehow Cyclops ended up the asshole in that story? I know I write crazy shit when I review my comics stoned, but I refuse to believe that someone was sober when they came up with that.

Tony Stark being an asshole is kind of a lowlight for this issue. The concept itself is pretty damn awesome. The Red Skull now having the power to fill everyone with hatred that would make the Westboro Baptist Church blush is a pretty big threat and it can’t exactly be solved by shooting a big ass gun at it, although I’m sure Iron Man had designs. The problem was that the details surrounding this concept were bland, contrived, or just plan random. Cyclops, Kid Omega, and Genesis just happen to show up and Tony Stark just happens to have these adamantium Sentinels in storage? I think that’s just further proof that sobriety is at a premium when some of these stories are planned. Even so, it’s still entertaining and fairly concise in terms of plot. It’s just about as refined Courtney Love on a cocaine bender. I give Avengers and X-men: AXIS #1 a 6 out of 10. It has the potential to be much greater. It just needs to sober up a bit and flesh out the details. And when a guy like me says sobering up might help, that’s a clear sign that somebody has a problem. Nuff said!

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