Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: Avengers and X-men: AXIS #9
In certain movies, there comes a point where some people just go, "Fuck it, I'm sneaking into the theater next door." These days, it takes a lot to get people to ditch a movie. Between the cost of a ticket and the challenge of smuggling in bottles of whiskey, nobody wants to admit they pissed away their hard earned money on this crap. I get the sense that if Avengers and X-men: AXIS were a movie, a sizable chunk of the audience would've left the theater by now. Between shitty retcons and disorganized pacing, it's been a hard story to like. But I would be among those who stuck around until the ending. That's because that while Avengers and X-men: AXIS hasn't exactly lit a fire of awesome under my ass, it has explored some pretty awesome concepts and even developed a few that are still pretty interesting. But even I'll concede that at this point in the story, it's unlikely that its flaws will be resolved in the final issue.
Avengers and X-men: AXIS is one of those stories that thrives on concept, but struggles with execution. If it were a football team, it wouldn't be in the playoffs. But it would still be playing meaningful games in December. The inversion stirred up a lot of crazy shit. It's lacked depth most of the time, but it's already leaving some pretty big impacts. And while it may be a foregone conclusion that many of these inversions will be reversed, there's plenty of aftermath to explore. Avengers and X-men: AXIS #9 is set to reveal the scope and scale of these impacts. While I understand and sympathize with those who already left this story for dead, I feel like I've got enough whiskey in me to absorb the impact, however big it might be. I still may end up feeling ripped off, but if I'm drunk in the end, I still consider it a win.
It's usually worth the price of a comic to see two versions of Captain America beating the shit out of each other. Sure, I would prefer it if they were two hot girls in a mud-wrestling pit, but I understand that's asking for too much. Instead, I'll settle for Sam Wilson beating up the old and grizzled Steve Rogers, who is trying to save an inverted Red Skull. The fight is actually more satisfying than it sounds. Sam Wilson is still pissing and moaning about how much he enjoys being a selfish inverted douche-bag. He's basically repeating the same speech that all the inverted heroes have been giving since this story began. It helps that Steve Rogers keeps on fighting as we would expect Captain America to fight. Considering what an asshole he was in Avengers vs. X-men, I find this refreshing and overdue.
While Steve Rogers is still fighting with a noble, non-inverted mind, he's still horribly under-equipped to battle Sam Wilson. This is a guy who is in his prime. He's like Aaron Rogers beating the shit out of Brett Favre. They're two heavyweights in their field, but one is way fucking past his prime and Steve doesn't have the luxury of going back to selling jeans. However, he does have the luxury of having an inverted Red Skull who happens to be a powerful telepath. That power allows them to sneak away with a nice psychic trick. There's even a nice moment where the Red Skull, who is now whiter than an albino's ass, to lament about all the horrible Nazi shit he's done. But that's one of the many details that gets glossed over. At this point, nobody should be surprised by that.
This leads Sam Wilson even more pissed off and maybe a little emasculated. While he's pondering the sudden shrinkage of his testicles, he catches up with some of his other inverted heroes. They've apparently succeeded in subduing most of the X-men and the inverted villains. Now they know that with Steve Rogers teaming up with an inverted Red Skull, he's planning to revert them back to the way they were. And they don't want that. They still want to keep being total assholes.
If anyone else is having a fuckton of WTFs going through their head right now, calm down. That's not the weed talking. That's just another one of those details this story has glossed over yet again. It's way too fucking rushed and a bit of a "fuck you" to the X-men and the villains that tried to be heroes. But that should surprise nobody. Marvel has already shown that they have a strong preference for the characters that their Disney overlords have movie rights to. So the best we can do is suck it up and take another bong hit.
Not all the inverted villains are completely down for the count though. Sabretooth and Mystique are still in it, albeit they both look like Rocky Balboa after one too many rounds with a meth-fueled Ivan Drago. They actually share a nice moment, one that speaks to their history of sharing the joys of being total assholes and fucking each others' brains out in the end. I still count that as a nice moment in the comics. These days, that's the most comprehensive romance we can expect from Marvel. But it's a moment that's short lived and a bit hallow because they both seem to know that they're about to get reverted. That doesn't stop Sabretooth from making one last romantic gesture by battling Rogue while Mystique gets away. It's not a box of chocolates and a new pair of lingerie, but it's fitting. I'm sure Mystique will pleasure herself to it for as long as her inversion lasts, which won't be much longer sadly.
Havok tries to throw in a romantic gesture of his own. Through this whole "take over New York City and exterminate the human race" endeavor that the X-men have undertaken, they've kept Wasp prisoner. Well Havok, who still harbors some love and a boner for her after the events of Planet X, decides that letting her die with the humans is too inverted for his tastes. So while the rest of the team is fighting the inverted Avengers and villains, he frees her.
There's just one big fucking problem with following his penis and his brain. And this time it doesn't involve cheap hookers and crack. She finds out that she and the X-men actually did try to detonate the gene bomb. They really did try to wipe out all of humanity. Needless to say, this pisses of Wasp and ensures Havok will never see her naked again. It's probably for the best. Given how forced and poorly developed this relationship has been, it couldn't have happened sooner. It only could've been better if Wasp kicked Havok in the balls and dry-humped Cyclops.
There are other far less romantic struggles going on. Hippie Deadpool, who stole the show in the last issue is still trying to get through to Apocalypse. Unlike the other X-men, an inversion with him might or might not make him evil. If I were to channel my inner asshole lawyer, I could technically argue that Apocalypse was inherently evil and the inversion actually made him good. There's still that issue of him making a fucking bomb to kill off humanity, but technicalities are supposed to be messy. It still doesn't make Hippie Deadpool's efforts to reach Apocalypse feel less forced.
But when it comes to the struggle between Thor and Loki, it rarely has to be forced. These two have fought in ways that have helped create two awesome Marvel movies. There really aren't too many ways it can't be awesome on some levels at this point. An inverted Loki follows Thor to the moon and tries to beat him without being a total asshole. This proves difficult so he finds Mjolnir, which is still on the moon and still has nobody worthy of lifting it (this takes place before Lady Thor took that title, I'm assuming). It might be the only time he gets to know what it feels like to wield a badass hammer and have the power to crush mountains and make the Enchantress horny. Inverted or not, he better fucking take that chance.
And he does. In his inverted form, Loki is worthy of lifting Thor's hammer and he puts it to good use. I want to say it's satisfying. It certainly is on some levels. However, it still feels somewhat hollow. Anyone who has seen the movies can probably surmise that it's not going to last. But like seeing Tom Cruise not come off as batshit crazy, it's something to enjoy and appreciate for however long it lasts. Just try to imagine Tom Hiddleston doing this while making out with Natalie Portman. It helps convey a much stronger message.
Back on Earth and without the aid of Tom Hiddleston's charisma, Steve Rogers gets the inverted Red Skull back to Avengers Mansion where they hope to undo the inversion with Onslaught's omega-level mind-fuck. However, the inverted Avengers find them first and decide to royally fuck that plan up as only they could. It gets messy and brutal to say the least. The same visceral action that began with Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson battling continues. It lacks the same emotional impact as Civil War did, but it's still somewhat satisfying. I won't say it's like the final battle in Lord of the Rings, but it's serviceable. It's not like every shot of whiskey has to come from the personal stash of the king of Scotland.
There's still some effort on Steve Rogers' part to get through to the inverted heroes. Apparently, he suffered a severe concussion because even a dictionary from the 1940s has a good definition of what inverted means. There was never a chance that he could touch Sam Wilson's inverted heart and make everything all peaches, cream, and whiskey again. But when Apocalypse and hippie Deadpool show up to fuck up the fight even more, that proves to be just as effective.
Don't panic. That new round of WTFs is to be expected. I'm just as confused as to how hippie Deadpool was able to reach Apocalypse and get him to help. I'm okay with that. I'm used to being confused. Normally it happens after I wake up in a crack house in another state, but it's still disorienting. It's another element that's more forced than Kelly Clarkson's continued relevance, but it helps keep the fight from getting too lopsided if nothing else.
Steve Rogers and the inverted Red Skull try to get away, using Apocalypse's contributions to their advantage. That doesn't last long. They barely make it far enough to take a bathroom break before the Superior Iron Man shows up. In another battle that's trying way too hard to copy Civil War, he battles Steve Rogers in an effort to prevent the reversion. He makes clear that he likes being superior. He likes being the kind of guy who turns an entire city into a population of addict supermodels full of orgies, drinking binges, and irresponsibility. Who among us here could blame him? It actually does ring with a touch of emotion because Tony Stark is one of those characters who has been most effected by the inversion. It just doesn't make up for all the other moments that were more forgettable than the True Blood finale.
It's now painfully clear that Steve Rogers is not equipped to protect the Red Skull or anyone to get an reversion spell going. Lucky for him, Dr. Doom shows up and he's got a mind-controlled Scarlet Witch at his disposal once more. He's there with Magneto and Quicksilver, which I imagine is still awkward as fuck considering the whole "You are NOT the father" issue that still has so many fans pissed off. But unlike last time, Dr. Doom isn't as inclined to use a mind-controlled Scarlet Witch to tear reality a new asshole and make Wanda Maximoff guilty of genocide.
With their arrival, Magneto subdues the Superior Iron Man. It's a lot more satisfying when Tony Stark is a bigger douche than usual. This even leads to another powerful moment where the inverted Red Skull helps hold Magneto back. It's a hell of a concept, a repentant Nazi telling Magneto not to kill a guy threatening to make Iron Man level mutant hunting Sentinels. It shows the true power of the inversion. It actually makes a Nazi opposed to killing. Let that sink in for a moment before bitching and moaning about the story as a whole.
With nobody left to stop them, Dr. Doom helps cast the reversion spell. It's not nearly as big a spectacle as it was early on in the story. But it's still plenty flashy for the stoner crowd to enjoy. However, there are some complications, as though spells cast by Dr. Doom and the Scarlet Witch are ever short of them. The Superior Iron Man, being the superior asshole he is, prepared for this and took precautions to make sure that he would stay superior. The details are lacking, but everybody who has been reading this story should be used to that shit at this point.
But it isn't just Iron Man who protects himself from the spell. Sabretooth and Havok are caught in his superior shit storm as well. That means these two aren't going to have the luxury of being reverted. So that ensures that everything won't go back to the way it was with Sabretooth taking a shit on Wolverine's grave and Havok looking for new opportunities to tell his brother to fuck off. It also means Iron Man will continue to be a lovably superior asshole. That may upset some, but I'd be way more upset if shit just went back to normal. That's too much like getting blackout drunk and not waking up safely in bed with no scars, strange smells, or naked women. It just defeats the purpose.
The spell is apparently successful. The heroes snap out of their inverted mind-fuck. Some don't even remember the crazy inverted shit they did. And villains like Loki go back to being assholes unworthy of lifting Mjolnir. There aren't a whole lot of details here in terms of showing how all the characters snap out of it. Nobody should expect something that refined and competent at this point in the story. But it does help make clear that Sabretooth is still inverted. And it makes painfully clear that Havok is still a bigger asshole than he was before, going so far as to threaten to kill Wasp if she doesn't get him out of this shit. So if anybody out there was a Wasp/Havok fan (all three of them I'm guessing), don't reach this scene. It essentially means their love is more dead than Hayden Christian's career as a Star Wars icon.
There are still a few big ass loose ends to deal with. The heroes may be back to normal, but there's still that little issue of the X-men taking over New York City and the Avengers fighting them in a way that caused more property damage than three Man of Steel movies. That's one detail that this story can't gloss over and claim it was One More Day style magic. However, there actually is a nice, semi-coherent explanation that helps absolve both the X-men and the Avengers. Before the battle, the inverted villains made a video claiming they were the ones responsible for taking over New York. They mind-fucked the heroes and got them to act like assholes. Given how mind-fucks are so common in the Marvel universe, it's not that far fetched. I'm sure the DEA comes up with way shittier excuses when doing a drug bust.
It's not the cleanest explanation, but I think it's plenty viable. I think it's even fitting. These villains became heroes. It's hard for anyone with a sober mind to wrap their head around that shit. But they did it and they showed the extent to which they had been inverted by actually making an overly heroic sacrifice to take responsibility for a crime they didn't do. They understood on some levels that if everyone blamed the X-men and the Avengers for what happened in New York, it would cause way more damage than any inverted hero or villain could cause. So they did what may be the most heroic act of all and took the blame. That's what a competent hero does. And more than anything else, I think that helps give this issue and this event some weight.
That's not to say there aren't still some loose ends. Some of them are partially addressed in an epilogue of sorts, which involves a still-inverted Sabretooth writing a letter about what he intended to do next. It's still hard to accept a version of Sabretooth that isn't an unrepentant asshole, especially after the events leading up to the Death of Wolverine. But in light of all these inversion sub-plots, it's somewhat palpable. Nobody should be too sick to their stomach at the idea of Sabretooth joining the Uncanny Avengers and attempting to be the hero that Wolverine was. Some still might require a barf bag and a shot of heroin, but the events of AXIS at least make it sound like an interesting prospect. It's just too bad Mystique couldn't join him because that would've been a way better romance than Havok and Wasp, even if that's not saying much.
So what can we say about Avengers and X-men: AXIS in the end? For an event that had such an interesting concept, but found a way to complicate it by giving a big middle finger to certain characters' history, it was complicated to say the least. Hell, this story was messier at times than a hotel room that Led Zepplin and Motley Crue used for a three-day orgy. But if nothing else, this final issue made AXIS feel like a complete story. It didn't completely revert everything back to the way it was before. Granted, it did have to sling a little bullshit to work around that whole bit about the X-men taking over New York City, but that's to be expected. Anyone not expecting a certain level of bullshit was expecting way too fucking much. But in the end, some of the same problems persisted.
If one flaw brought down AXIS, it was that it was just too damn rushed and too damn disorganized. There was no process to the inversion. There was little intricacy to the plan. And aside from the epic struggle at the end, some of the actions felt forced and unjustified. Maybe if this series had been a few more issues longer, it could've had more to work with. But in the end, it tried to do way too fucking much and had way too many fuck-ups along the way. I can't say it's bad. It was a lot more engaging than Avengers vs. X-men or Secret Wars. But it's not going to soak anyone's panties with its quality.
There are still some loose ends with certain characters, namely the Maximoff twins and Apocalypse. There are still some missed opportunities in that some characters just reverted back to themselves and this event might as well have not happened for them. But overall, I think there's enough gold around the shit stains to make this story worthy. It was lacking in heavy emotion, but it had plenty of ball-busting impact. Some are going to just hate this story because of the revelations surrounding the Maximoff twins. I can understand that, but that's petty. That's like hating the Guardians of the Galaxy movie just because Starlord's awesome mix didn't have any Lynord Skinner. If I were to recommend a big time Marvel event to a newbie, I wouldn't recommend something like Avengers and X-men: AXIS. But I still give Avengers and X-men: AXIS #9 a 6 out of 10. It's just slightly above mediocre. It's not the kind of event that'll make people want to shoot their TVs or gouge their eyes out. It's not the kind of event that'll make people hump their book shelf either. It's just a decent event in Marvel's long line of fucked up events. Take it for what it's worth. Just don't be an overly petty douche-bag about it. Nuff said!