Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: Avengers and X-men: AXIS #4
On paper, the Avengers and X-men should be able to get along. Then again, on paper I’m sure movies like “Battlefield Earth” and “Waterworld” were good ideas. For decades, the two teams have operated on their own accord within the same world. Their different methods of doing things and the different way that the public saw them was kind of like Will Smith. They respect the work, the image, and the legacy. However, nobody has the guts to tell them how much they suck when it comes to important details. Avengers vs. X-men was like 1,000 kicks in the balls in that it showed just what could happen if the Avengers and X-men fail to work together. It could actually lead to a global utopia and heavens knows we can’t have that. For a brief moment, Avengers and X-men AXIS brought the teams together again in a way that bridged the divide that Avengers vs. X-men created. But it was short lived. When the dust settled and the Red Onslaught was defeated, both sides were just aching for an excuse to make a shitty sequel to Avengers vs. X-men. Those aches are set to become stabbing pains in Avengers and X-men: AXIS #4. I’m going to try and not pick sides here, but I can’t forget that one side in particular thought it was a good idea to shoot the Phoenix Force with a big ass gun. Some have more credibility than others. There’s no way around it.
Much to the relief of many, nobody proposes to deal with the aftermath of the Red Skull’s shit storm with a giant gun. The big epic battle that was so nicely detailed is over, but the Red Skull is still breathing so nobody is going to change their underwear just yet. This leads to a rather contentious debate between Captain America (the Sam Wilson one) and SHIELD. For some reason, SHIELD has a problem with the Avengers being the ones keeping the Red Skull locked up. They seem to have this crazy idea that the same Tony Stark who made these big ass adamantium Sentinels can’t be trusted to make a sufficient prison cell for someone like the Red Skull. And Captain America has this crazy idea that SHIELD’s track records for keeping dangerous prisoners in prison just isn’t that great. I know it sounds crazy, but it succeeds in pissing both sides off.
It leads to a pretty powerful moment when Sam Wilson makes clear that SHIELD isn’t dealing with the same Captain America they’re used to. He gives the government about as much credibility as he gives the DEA on their marijuana studies. He goes so far as to deck Nick Fury in the face, something Steve Rogers would’ve at least given a fair warning for. And he makes clear that the Avengers aren’t turning the Red Skull over to anyone. So if there is going to be another Avengers/X-men clash, the Avengers can’t count on SHIELD’s support and it’s too late to make friends with the Koch brothers.
It’s a tense situation between the Avengers and SHIELD. After a battle with the Red Skull, I think everyone is in need of at least some reprieve. A good old fashioned hostage situation seems like just the kind of medicine these heroes need. Compared to battling the Red Skull, this might as well count as a personal day from work. Some ugly ass guy named the Squid has taken a bunch of hostages after he fucked up a bank robbery. So he makes clear from the beginning he’s one of those bad guys that’s used to getting his ass kicked. Granted, it’s not as epic as the previous battle against the Red Skull, but someone like Spider-Man should be able to take care of something like this without enduring another mind swap.
This is where a little tequila gets mixed in with the punch. Spider-Man is in the neighborhood, but that’s not who shows up to beat the shit out of the Squid. Instead, it’s Carnage. He’s about as friendly a hungry wolf in a slaughterhouse, but he was among the army of villains that Magneto assembled to take on the Red Skull in the previous issue. He must have liked being a hero because now he’s hooked. He beats up the Squid, webs up his men, and doesn’t even try to gouge their eyes out. Sure, he still looks like an inside out vagina on PMS, but he does exactly what Spider-Man would do.
Now I’m not going to try and make sense of the thought processes of someone like Carnage, who regularly dry-humps his psychosis like a compulsive masturbator. I’m sure in every psycho’s mind they’ve entertained being a hero at least once, if only because it’s the last thing anyone would expect. But in wake of the big battle in the previous issue, it adds a little more intrigue. It gives the impression that this isn’t a passing fad for Carnage, like Beanie Babies or razor scooters. Not much is really revealed why he’s opting to do this, but there is at least some context with his role in the battle against the Red Skull so it doesn’t feel completely forced. Plus, the idea of a psycho like Carnage outshining the always-regressing Peter Parker has plenty of appeal.
In the same way Carnage is channeling his inner hero, some heroes are reconnecting with their inner Donald Trump. Iron Man, whose credibility is on the level of George W. Bush after the revelations about the Adamantium Sentinels, drops in on a baseball game with the San Francisco Giants to make an announcement and he even brings along some beautiful women. Why? He’s rich. Does he really need a reason?
And he’s not there to talk about his penis or his bank account. Here’s there to announce that he’s just released a new form of Extremis on the masses. And the lucky folks of San Francisco are the first who get to enjoy its benefits. Sure, Extremis does have a history of causing a fuckton of property damage, but this version promises to make every man as sexy as Brad Pitt and every woman as hot as Jennifer Lawrence. He says it’s a way for everybody to become their ideal self. It’s shallow, selfish, and obscenely egotistical. It’s also awesome as hell.
This may or may not be working off the same twisted line of thinking that turned Carnage into a hero. But what Iron Man is offering here is pretty damn groundbreaking. For once, a hero isn’t just helping people survive an attack from the Red Skull. He’s giving the people something that’ll make them happier and healthier. Sure, it’s painfully superficial and it’s definitely driven by his ego. But it’s way more than any hero has ever dared and that’s what makes it so intriguing. And it’s definitely going to warp Iron Man’s ego because to celebrate, he decides to start drinking again. For a guy who has a well-documented problem with alcohol, that’s like Steven Baldwin going on a trip to Amsterdam with Charlie Sheen.
While Iron Man is kicking off the sexiest party since Hugh Hefner’s last birthday, the X-men are dealing with a much more serious issue. Their experience with the Red Skull hit them on a very personal level because it was exactly what they had spent their whole lives trying to prevent. Despite all their heroics and all their efforts, innocent mutants still ended up in a concentration camp. And when people start showing up in concentration camps, that’s a clear sign that not much progress is being made.
So Storm gathers all the students together at the Jean Grey Institute, including a few from Cyclops’ school, and makes clear they can’t keep letting this shit happened. All those warnings about mutant concentration camps aren’t just warnings. They actually fucking happened. With both Charles Xavier and Wolverine dead, they really can’t afford to keep being this inept. They need to do something bigger.
So naturally, they decide to team up with Apocalypse. Wait, did I just smoke some crack by accident? That can’t possibly be right, can it? Well, I let myself sober up long enough to realize that I wasn’t as fucked up as I thought because that’s exactly what the X-men did. Storm, as in the same Storm who is so loving and understanding that she can get Wolverine to fall in love with her, announces that the X-men have teamed up with Apocalypse. I’ll give everyone a moment to bang their heads against the wall.
Now after sobering up and letting the concussion wear off, I can understand the context here. It’s not completely forced. After what the X-men saw on Genosha and after being denied justice against the Red Skull by the Avengers, they have a right to be pretty pissed off. Even so, teaming up with Apocalypse is still like one of those decisions where it starts with someone buying one pet cat and the next thing they know, they’re running their own petting zoo. Like with Carnage, it is understandable on some levels. It’s just missing some insight into that decision-making process.
Well it turns out there might actually be some unseen forces behind that process. When Captain America meets with the Avengers, minus permission from Steve Rogers, they talk about this “fog” being lifted from their minds. Suddenly, they’re not stressing out over trivial shit like putting the needs of others before their own. Because for some reason, that kind of shit holds heroes back. Sure, it’s a big fucking part of being a hero, but it does reveal that something fucked up happened on Genosha and it could be driving these odd behaviors. Unfortunately, it’s way too subtle to really make sense of. Is this a result of the Red Skull’s mind-fuck or is it part of the Scarlet Witch’s inversion spell? It’s impossible to tell, but I guess it’s going to be the excuse the Avengers use to be assholes moving forward.
Armed with this new douche-baggery, the Avengers seek to exercise this feeling by killing the Red Skull. Okay, that’s not exactly a dick move. Hell, killing the ultimate Nazi is supposed to be the most basic kind of heroic act. What makes it a dick move is their reasons for doing it. They want to kill the Red Skull so that the X-men can’t use him against them on the off-chance that Xavier’s mind is still there. And if they have a problem with the Avengers killing the ultimate Nazi, then that would make them the assholes. So even though it’s a dick move, it’s a damn smart dick move.
The only problem is that Jarvis and the Hulk aren’t entirely on board with it. Jarvis doesn’t present much of an issue. He’s a butler. He’s not equipped to fight off the avengers. Hulk, on the other hand, can at least frustrate them. This is where shit gets a little less detailed and a lot more fucked up. Because by turning against him, the Avengers make the Hulk sad and when the Hulk gets sad he doesn’t run off to listen to old Linken Park songs. He turns into Kluh. No, that’s not a typo. That’s really what he is.
Again, I had to make sure I didn’t smoke crack by accident. This really did happen. And unlike the X-men joining forces with Apocalypse, this has no context. It feels entirely forced. Kluh claims to be the Hulk’s Hulk. He’s basically the Hulk mixed with Charles Manson. Now maybe this is also part of whatever has suddenly turned the Avengers into assholes, but it’s still more confusing than awesome. Kluh still has a ways to go before he cans tart inspiring cos-players at the next Comic Con.
What Hulk/Kluh does fails to make a piss stain’s worth of difference in the end. He doesn’t fight them. He just runs off. And when the Avengers then attempt to retrieve the Red Skull, they find out he’s escaped. So apparently the Avengers’ ability to keep a dangerous villain imprisoned is as lousy as SHIELD. There aren’t any details as to how the Red Skull escaped, although it is hinted that Jarvis might have played a part. But after all the shit the Red Skull caused the last time, it’s safe to assume he just made everything way fucking worse.
If nothing else, this issue alleviated one of my concerns. I won’t have to be picking sides in another Avengers vs. X-men battle. That’s one weight lifted off my shoulders. Unfortunately, I now have ten more that are making my back feel worse than Tony Romo’s. Something has clearly flipped the switch within the Avengers and X-men. They inversion that Marvel has been teasing is officially in play. The Avengers are becoming assholes. The X-men are giving a big middle finger to Charles Xavier’s dream. However, it still comes off in a way that feels intriguing, albeit in the same way that Michael Jackson’s medicine cabinet is intriguing. There is some effort to hint that there’s something more complex fueling this sudden change in personality, but it’s way too subtle. It still feels abrupt. And the new development with Kluh just feels way too forced. AXIS still has a problem with providing those little details that make a decent story awesome, but there is still an effort here and unlike my old gym teachers, I do give points for trying.
There are still no flaws in this story that can’t be resolved in future issues. It’s just too disorganized and forced. It’s like an episode of Family Guy, minus the fart jokes, in that it shifts way too quickly. Those shifts still create meaningful developments in the story and the overall picture is still pretty concise. It just needs refinement so that seeing the Avengers and X-men act like assholes doesn’t feel more fucked up than it already is. Avengers and X-men AXIS: #4 gets a 7 out of 10. It’s improving. It’s getting more and more intriguing. And it’s doing this without resorting to shooting problems with big ass guns. Maybe the bar for the last Avengers/X-men team-up was set really fucking low, but this story still has a lot going for it. Like Jenna Jameson before her first boob job, it all depends on how dedicated it is to getting the job done. Nuff said!