Thursday, December 18, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Avengers and X-men: AXIS #8


We've become so accustomed to the whole good vs. evil struggle that we're practically numb to it. If this concept were heroin, it would take all the dope in Southeast Asia to get us the least bit high. That's why we've seen stories try more and more fucked up methods to make that struggle compelling. They could just come up with new ideas entirely. Isn't that the kind of shit they get paid for anyways? But that might make too much sense. They would rather find new ways to tell the same old story that's been told since the days when shitting in a ditch was considered sufficient plumbing. As inane as that is, Avengers and X-men: AXIS has found a way to make it interesting.

Setting aside for a moment the Hulk-level rage of fans regarding the Quicksilver/Scarlet Witch revelation, this story has explored new territory by inverting the roles of heroes and villains. It's still the same struggle we've seen since the Bronze Age. It's just turned on its head in a way that has a lot of appeal, but not a lot of refinement. And as the story has progressed, it continues to intrigue, albeit never as much as it could. But it's getting close to the end and Avengers and X-men: AXIS #8 is supposed to set up the final showdown between inverted heroes and inverted villains. It's already a foregone conclusion that most of the inversions will be reversed and we'll be right back where we started, but there are also supposed to be significant ramifications. I don't usually count anything other than Emma Frost coming out as a lesbian as significant, but I'll try to temper my expectations accordingly. Whenever bullshit magic spells that undo continuity, family ties and marriages are involved, there's really no other way to deal with it in a sober mind.

But before these inversions are reversed, there is still an opportunity for these inverted characters to do something with lasting impact. Now these are usually the opportunities Marvel throws away in the same way Donald Trump throws away one dollar bills, but some characters do take advantage of it. And remarkably, the character that makes the most of their inversion is the one who's crazier than a toilet of Gary Busey's shit.

At the end of the previous issue, Apocalypse and the X-men were set to ignite the Gene Bomb, thereby wiping out all of those annoying homo sapians who only ever seemed to sic giant robots on them. Spider-Man, being unable to fix his marriage and his reputation, had no chance of fixing the bomb. But Carnage, despite probably dropping out of high school, is able to stop it with a heroic sacrifice that involves surrounding it with his symbiote body. It's a powerful moment, yet at no point does Carnage seem out of character. It's by far the most powerful example of just how far this inversion has gone. Carnage, a character defined by his inability to take the right meds, made a heroic sacrifice. Something about that should put a smile on everyone's face in a way only matched by a good fart joke.


This powerful moment disrupts Apocalypse and the X-men's plan and they deal with it in the same way hockey players deal with disagreements. They fight. That's really as deep as it gets. They don't try to fix the Gene Bomb. They don't try to implement a backup plan. That might actually require some strategy and that shit's for World of Warcraft players only it seems. All they do is keep fighting the Astonishing Avengers/Inverted Villains and rough up Spider-Man. It's as effective as it sounds.

That ineffectiveness is further enhanced when the inverted Avengers show up. They already committed to killing the X-men in the previous issue. Now they're just getting around to it, completely ignoring the inverted villains that beat them to the punch. It sounds like one of those battles that should actually be pretty awesome because it means Thor is getting another chance to take on Apocalypse. And we saw in Uncanny Avengers just how awesome that shit could be. However, this rematch is about as pay-per-view worthy as a David Hasselhoff concert. All he does is say he's got a fancy axe that can crack Apocalypse's armor and that's about it. That's like Clint Eastwood giving a physics lecture on how a gun works before he shoots it. It's not information any of us need to know in a situation like this.


The fighting quickly becomes painfully generic. Most of it focuses on Thor dealing with his overwhelming rage boner. First he fights Apocalypse. Then he fights the X-men. Then he fights Absorbing Man. Then he fights Loki and the Enchantress. There's no rhyme or rhythm do it. If it were a rap battle, he'd have already lost. At the very least, it does have some sense of impact. As generic as the action is here, it's still pretty fucking visceral. There's a real sense of damage and impact. That in and of itself is pretty satisfying, but nothing that can't be found in a God of War game or a Mission Impossible movie.


Eventually, there is some method to the mindless fighting, but not on the part of Thor. In the end it's Loki and the Enchantress that end up utilizing the most effective strategy. Let me say that again for the sake of emphasis. Loki and the Enchantress are actually the most competent ones here. While that does help emphasize the impact of the inversion, it's still pretty fucking pathetic. And it's not like their strategy is worthy of a Bond villain. All they do is piss Thor enough to chase them into a portal that takes him to the moon. I guess it would've made too much sense to send him to the other side of the universe. I only said that Loki and the Enchantress were the most competent. I didn't mean to imply that competence went far.

This is the biggest shortcoming of all this fighting. It might be visceral, but it's lacking in depth. It's focusing on all the wrong things. This battle was supposed to be about stopping the X-men. Why the fuck does so much attention need to be paid to Thor? I get that he's one of the most powerful members of the team, but it's not like he steals the show in the Mel Gibson sense. There are so many other conflicts going on. Focusing on this just seems misguided. It doesn't help that they don't say much either other than, "I'm pissed! You pissed me off! You must die!" That might work during a Call of Duty co-op mission, but not during a battle like this.


There's still plenty of action unfolding beyond the fight. It's just the kind of action that's way too fucking late. So much of this began when someone broke the Red Skull out of SHIELD custody. But at this point, who the fuck remembers that? Eventually, the old and un-inverted Steve Rogers remembers. I guess old age hasn't fucked up his memory just yet. He also gets help from Jarvis, who has also been MIA since the Red Skull disappeared. It's taken way too fucking long for him to finally contribute to the story again. I guess he just had to wait until that gene bomb went off. Anything else would've made too much sense.

And even though his appearance is overdue, he only reminds Steve Rogers what has already been made painfully clear. The inversion has fucked everybody up. At this point, we don't another reminder. We need more details about how they're going to actually do something about it. Nobody needs to set the mood at this point. If this were a romance novel, it would be too much even for the Twilight books. Their role in this battle might be late, but at least they're not completely forgotten. Given the ADHD nature of these stories, it at least shows there's something of actual depth to explore here.


That depth still gets lost with more fighting. At this point, the Astonishing Avengers are even less relevant than before. More attention is paid to the battle between the inverted heroes because I guess Avengers vs. X-men didn't make us all sick enough of hero vs. hero battles. Some contributions are squeezed in, like Mystique shifting into Charles Xavier to try and convince Apocalypse to stand down. Seriously, did she really think that shit was going to work? Apocalypse is about as reasonable as Sean Hannity. She might have had a better effect by flashing her boobs at him. That would've made the fighting a lot more entertaining to say the least, but I guess that also would've made too much sense while being too sexy. And there's only so much of that my penis can take.


The fighting in Latveria is decidedly less sexy. This was the site of Marvel's latest bullshit retcon. Nobody's marriage got sold to the devil, but Marvel's lawyers did find a way to squeeze in a not-so-subtle "Fuck you!" to Fox when they completely rewrote the Maximoff twins' history. The Scarlet Witch seems to be the only one happy about it. And I guess happiness for her means going into a more murderous rampage. There are no more crazy revelations or retcons here. There's not even a hint at what the Maximoff twins' new history entails. It's just Wanda Maximoff being really pissed off and trying to kill her family while her brother pleads with her. It's as interesting as it sounds, but at least it won't crash the message boards.


It's easy to forget that this latest retcon shit storm began when the Scarlet Witch came to Latveria hoping to royally fuck Dr. Doom up for all the shit he did to her. I guess family issues take priority. I can respect that to some extent. But in doing so, she basically forgot about Dr. Doom and even in his inverted form, that's pretty fucking dumb. Somehow, while the Scarlet Witch was busy bitching and moaning at Magneto, Dr. Doom found the time to strike a deal to resurrect Dr. Voodoo so he could possess the Scarlet Witch. I'm not saying it's smart, getting someone to possess an overpowered and pissed off young woman who can fuck reality with a sentence fragment. I'm just saying that the bar for competence and strategy is very low at this point.

Again, it says a lot that the most competent characters here are villains like Carnage and Dr. Doom. That helps give the whole inversion concept its power. And while it had an emotional impact with Carnage, this one just feels a bit more contrived. Somehow in the middle of this battle, Dr. Doom is able to step away and cut a deal with one of Marvel's many mystical characters? That's a gross oversight that I would usually expect of George W. Bush, but not the Scarlet Witch. Maybe I'm giving her too much credit in her inverted state, but it still makes for an overly contrived strategy.


At this point, any kind of strategy would help the ongoing battle between the inverted heroes and the inverted villains. It's still painfully disorganized in that's only focusing on a few characters at a time and not giving a better understanding of the scope and scale of the battle, but it does move the story forward. At this point, the inverted Avengers are fighting both the X-men and the inverted villains. It's hard to really keep track of anyone. It's like paintball match that gets way out of hand once someone decides to use dog piss instead of paint, but far less entertaining.

Despite this lack of strategy and scope, the story still moves forward. At one point, Captain America (still Sam Wilson) finds out from Iron Man that they have a lead on the Red Skull. They're just now finding out that the X-men don't have him. So Iron Man decides to occupy himself with the Summers brothers while Captain America goes after the asshole who started this whole shit storm. I won't say it feels forced, but it's still way fucking overdue.


He eventually finds the Red Skull, but he's not so red anymore and he's made a new friend in the overly aged Steve Rogers. Now he's sporting a dull, gray look. He's now about as intimidating as a dust bunny, but that may only hint at the effect of the inversion on him. It may or may not be Charles Xavier. It may or may not be a guy who just had his Nazi-style douche-baggery inverted. At the very least, this chaotic battle is returning back to the source of the chaos. Sure, shit got way off track for a while. And sure, the entire human race almost got wiped out by a bomb that they needed Carnage to stop. But unless it involves Snooki's period, being really late is still better than being glossed over.


In my vast experience with bar fights and drunken brawls, I understand there's a fine line between fighting because someone made a "Yo' mama's so fat joke" that hit too close to home and fighting for the sake of fighting. The only thing the latter accomplishes is pissing off probation officers and jacking up health insurance premiums. As much as I hated how Avengers vs. X-men played out, I'll at least say the fighting was fairly meaningful to varying degrees. Some of those degrees were more contrived than the plot to the last Ninja Turtles movie, but that's besides the point. With this comic, the fighting isn't wholly contrived. But it's hard to understand the reasoning behind it.

I won't say it's as pointless as that time I picked a fight with a statue of Stonewall Jackson. In my defense, the statue was giving me a dirty look. But there really was no strategy or intrigue with this battle. The Astonishing Avengers really didn't do jack shit. The inverted Avengers just jacked up more insurance rates by getting involved. There were some powerful moments with Carnage's sacrifice. But beyond that, this kind of fighting only moved the story along ever so slightly. Not much really came of it. There was nothing about it that was egregiously wrong and there were no ball-busting retcons either. It was just mindless violence. I'm not against that, provided it's in a Michael Bay movie or a football game. I just like it to have a bit more depth and trash talk in a comic. I give Avengers and X-men AXIS #8 a 5 out of 10. It's not terrible. It's not going to soak anyone's panties either. Maybe for the finale, the inverted Avengers and X-men should get some trash talking advice from Richard Sherman. Nuff said!

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