Thursday, October 16, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Avengers and X-men: AXIS #2


We all get to a point in our lives when we're in the middle of a fight, at a job interview, or taking an exam where we think to ourselves, "I'm fucked." And shortly after that moment, our natural instinct is to start looking for someone to blame. Most of the time, it's our own damn fault for screwing up. But every now and then, there is one particular asshole who is deserving of our boiling hatred. Back in Avengers vs. X-men, Tony Stark was in that deserving role. He tried to solve the problem of the Phoenix Force by shooting it with a big fucking gun. That sounds like a solution by Dick Cheny, not the Avengers. Yet because he's rich and probably has way better lawyers anyone could effort hope to afford, he didn't get nearly as much shit as Cyclops. Now in Avengers and X-men: AXIS, the divide between the two teams has been bridged. They stand united against the Red Onslaught, as they kind of have to because any team that tries to take him on is pretty well fucked. But just when it seems they're coming together, Tony Stark takes a nose-dive into that asshole role again. Turns out, he was expecting Avengers vs. X-men to get a Dark Knight style sequel. And once again, he's an asshole for it. Now in Avengers and X-men: AXIS #2, they have to deal with that shit. However, I remain confident that somebody is going to find a way to blame Cyclops for this shit storm when all is said and done.

Even if they do, they'll still have to cast at least some of the blame on Tony Stark because it's his handiwork that dumped a Sentinel-sized shit into an already raging shit storm. He actually spends the first part of this shit storm in a state of shell-shock while these Sentinels make quick work of that massive Avengers/X-men coalition that joined them in the previous issue. Captain America (the new black one) has to save his miserable ass before he shell shocks them all to death. As his pampered ass is getting saved, he starts musing over what a little shit he was growing up. He actually used to make a list of enemies Richard Nixon style and study their weaknesses as though they were plans for the Death Star. It really shouldn't surprise anyone that a former alcoholic turned hero would have some serious problems. Yet because he's Tony freakin' Stark, he'll never get blamed for it. His lawyers won't let him.

Once he gets his shit together, Iron Man figures out what the Adamantium Sentinels are doing. They're not just killing the Avengers and X-men. They're hitting them with some blue beam and making them disappear. Being the tech whiz that was also smart enough to make money and get laid, he surmises that the Sentinels are just containing them and not killing them. The Red Skull would never just stop at a quick and painless death. That wouldn't make him a very good Nazi now would it? But it's still worth noting that these Sentinels are Tony Stark's design. This is what he designed them to do. The Red Onslaught is just borrowing them like a guy borrowing his roommate's car to do a beer run.


There's really no ambiguity in Iron Man's thoughts. He makes clear that as much as he tried to give up the ways that made him the chief asshole during Civil War, he never truly let go of them. And it's because he couldn't that the Red Skull was able to turn his assholery against him. I don't like admiring Nazis in any capacity, but even I have to admit that's pretty damn smart and a much more satisfying kind of pwnage.

It leaves Iron Man humbled and humiliated in a way that he's not equipped to process. But his ass gets saved courtesy of Dr. Strange. Magic saves the tech wizard. For him, that must be like pouring acid on an open rectal wart. He's able to meet up with Rogue, Magneto, and the Scarlet Witch. They're still in the fight and they think they actually have a plan. Rogue reveals that Charles Xavier's mind is still alive in some capacity, as was revealed in the previous issue. All they need to do is "invert" the personalities and hope it doesn't backfire horribly. That's like giving a trillion dollars to Bernie Madoff and hoping they don't lose too much of it. But I guess when the Red Skull teams up with Onslaught, they're kind of stuck with these batshit crazy desperate plans.


Even if it is crazy, it makes for a pretty awesome battle scene. There's nothing underdone or flat about it. The battle against the Sentinels and the Red Onslaught still feels as epic and satisfying as a porno marathon in an IMAX theater. And even as they battle, Magneto still takes some time to get in a few potshots at Iron Man for making another mutant-killing Sentinel. That might not be all that productive when going up against someone like the Red Onslaught, but since Tony Stark's lawyers are nowhere in sight, why not bust his balls a little? He sure as hell won't get this outside a high-end BDSM club in Germany.

That's not to say that Iron Man doesn't bring some strategy to the table. He also reveals that these Sentinels are programmed to only go after villains. So they'll be a little more reluctant chasing him rather than traditional villains like Magneto. While I'm sure that makes Magneto want to bust Iron man's balls even more, he goes along with it. And while the Sentinels are busy, Rogue throws in a much deserved blow against the Red Onslaught. Honestly, what could be sexier than a beautiful woman armed with Wonder Man's powers hurting a Nazi? Anyone who doesn't get horny by something like that is probably a Nazi themselves. She even manages to save Nova in the process and since this version is a teenage boy, she's also ensured he'll have the most awesome wet dreams until his 21st birthday.


For a moment, it seems that Iron Man's plan is working. They're able to hit the Red Onslaught and disorient the Sentinels. Then, like the last two seasons of Two and Half Men, everything turns to shit in ways that couldn't be worse without Ashton Kutcher becoming Iron Man. The Sentinel manages to take Magneto out of the fight. Then Dr. Strange and the Scarlet Witch get captured. That means their whole "inversion" plot goes right down the shitter. It happens pretty fast. In fact, it happens too damn fast at times. It still lacks the details to make it feel as visceral as Jet Li fight scene. It's the same problem the first issue had, although this part of the battle is definitely an improvement. I still think it could've benefited from ripping off a few more Jet Li movies.


It puts Iron Man in a position where he basically feels like Ben Stiller does for most of his movies. He's now without any support and completely at the mercy of his own creations. It's like one of Dr. Frankenstein's monsters making him his prison bitch. Instead of trapping him like the others, his Sentinels look to crush him like a cockroach. For someone with such a rich history of being a total dick, that's almost merciful. It's probably for that very reason that Magneto refuses to come to his aid. And as big a dick move as that is, I can hardly blame him. Iron Man muses about how much an asshole he was for dreaming up these things, but like Tony Romo in elimination games, he keeps falling short. Lucky for him, Nightcrawler isn't nearly as big a dick as Magneto and he saves his miserable ass, even though he doesn't deserve it.


When Iron Man wakes up, he finds himself trapped in a bunker with what's left of this once powerful Avengers/X-men coalition. And since the Red Onslaught turned the whole planet into hate-filled extras from a Quentin Tarantino movie, they can't expect any backup from other heroes. For some reason, they were able to hide themselves from the Red Onslaught. Kid Omega, who usually doesn't make such meaningful contributions, is nice enough to protect their minds. Iron Man then finds out that a whole night has passed. It gave the Avengers and X-men enough time to evacuate the prisoners and somehow avoid the Red Onslaught in the process. I'm not even sure how the fuck that's possible, but I guess I'll have to chalk that up to another one of those details that got skipped or forgotten in between bong hits.

In addition to being low on details, it's also pretty damn bleak. They horribly outmatched by the Red Onslaught. Because of that, they really don't have the luxury of bickering or whining about past exploits. That means nobody is able to pin this on Cyclops directly, although I'm sure some are thinking it. It also leads Iron Man to give a very half-hearted Braveheart style speech. It really doesn't say much other than they just need to do the right thing because it's the right thing. It's basically the kind of shit Superman has been doing since the 1930s. So it's nothing novel. It's enough to make them willing to fight alongside Cyclops again and it makes for another moment between Havok and Wasp. But again, the utter lack of depth of their relationship makes it a meaningless aside that adds no honest emotion to the struggle.


That makes it all the more refreshing when the fighting finally resumes. The details on how they get the ball rolling again still isn't that clear. The lack of refinement is now starting to be a pattern and not an anomaly. It's annoying, but it doesn't make the action less satisfying. It's especially satisfying to see Cyclops and Havok working together again. There's even a very honest, insightful musing from Havok where he tries to reach out to what's left of Professor Xavier to let him know that as much an ass Cyclops was while under control of the Phoenix, he still cares enough to save his legacy from the Red Skull. He doesn't blame Cyclops or even demean him, which he did a damn good job of during Uncanny Avengers. It's probably the most likable that Havok has been since he beat up Kang the Conqueror and after the shit Iron Man has pulled, we need someone to start being likable.


As nice as it is to see Cyclops and Havok fighting together, this united struggle of good vs. evil doesn't exactly go their way. It doesn't end as badly as it did for Braveheart, but it sure wasn't as valiant as they probably hoped it would be. One-by-one, the Sentinels are able to capture them. They disappear from the fight so that the Red Onslaught can torment them in a more meaningful, Nazi-style manner later on. It leaves only Iron Man left to stop the Red Onslaught and his creations. Looking back on it, he probably should've come up with a more inspiring speech. Because just doing the right thing and fighting together as heroes got them precisely dick this time. Sure, they were able to fight alongside Cyclops without hating themselves. But it didn't help them win the day.


So with Iron Man now at the mercy of what he created, the Red Onslaught looks to really savor this moment. Not only is he going to crush Iron Man, he taunts him about how he's read his mind. And in between the memories of the orgies and drunken three-ways he's had with the entire Victoria's Secret catalog, he claims Iron Man has just as big a god complex as the Red Skull. I would say it's a bit of a stretch, but it's not wholly inaccurate. This is the same guy who tried to shoot a god-like power with a big as gun and hope for the best. So maybe he needs to have someone like the Red Onslaught shove this in his face.

It could've made for the most humiliating defeat Iron Man could've suffered with his pants on. But before that happens, Magneto shows up again. This time, he brings backup in the form of a whole team of villains. Apparently, even they don't like Nazis all that much. They would much rather fight like heroes than let an asshole Nazi mind-rape the entire planet. They have limits to their villainy and they just aren't willing to cross that Nazi line. Given how not crossing lines worked out for the heroes, it promises to make for a much more interesting battle.


There weren't many subtleties in this issue to say the least. There was no subtext or deeper meaning. It was just a collection of various Marvel heroes battling the Red Onslaught while Tony Stark played the part of narrator. It was basically the antithesis of Lost. The story began in the middle of a battle. That battle continued and took a crazy turn at the end, but not so crazy that it would warrant a DUI. There was some effort to add a little depth. It wasn't a complete waste, but it really didn't accomplish much. All it did was put Tony Stark in a position to confront the fruits of his douche-baggery. Not much changed with the Red Onslaught. Not much changed with the unity team as well. There were some great moments between characters like Cyclops and Havok. But there were a lot of other moments that felt skipped or missed. That didn't make it any less entertaining. Yes, there was balls-to-the-wall action, but it didn't feel like the kind of mindless action that belongs in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. It still lacks refinement, but it's getting more intriguing. I give Avengers and X-men: AXIS #2 a 7 out of 10. It still has a ways to go, but it's already gotten to the part where Tony Stark is an asshole and everyone stops blaming Cyclops, at least temporarily. I'd say that puts this story ahead of schedule. Nuff said!

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