Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: All-New X-men #35

There comes a point in our lives where we have to walk through a bad neighborhood or two to get where we want to go. And I’m not just talking about the neighborhoods that have more graffiti artists and crack dealers than high school graduates. I’m talking about the kind of neighborhoods that look normal, but have something really fucked up about them. Maybe some of the neighbors nudists when they really shouldn’t be. Maybe some of them have way too many pit bulls roaming the front yards than they should. Or maybe one of them just has this strange smell from the basement that nobody besides the DEA would want to fuck with. But we can’t always avoid these places. They often teach us about ourselves in some profound ways.

The Ultimate Universe is the Marvel equivalent of a crack house, a meth lab, an abandoned sewage plant, and an IRS branch office all rolled into one. It embodies everything that the characters of the Marvel universe hope to avoid. The O5 X-men have been learning this the hard way by getting trapped in this ever-deepening shithole while trying to help a young mutant. They’ve made contact with their counterparts, Mole Man, and Dr. Doom. The sad part is that every encounter showed them that this was not a universe they wanted to be. All-New X-men #35 begins the process of getting the fuck out of Ultimate and never looking back. And if they make it out while avoiding getting pissed on by a drunk bum at three in the morning, they should consider themselves lucky.

Even if they do, they probably won’t feel very lucky because at some point in their trip, the have to battle Dr. fucking Doom. And if there is one constant between Marvel universes, no matter how shitty they may be, it’s that Dr. Doom is an omega level douche-bag. The only difference in Ultimate Marvel is that he looks fucking ridiculous with goat legs. But then again, goat legs are hardly the most fucked up thing about a universe that deals heavily in incest and cannibalism.

It’s going to be jarring and confusing for those who took one too many bong hits. How the fuck did the O5 X-men get to the point where they meet up, agree with their Ultimate counterparts that Doom is an asshole, and launch an assault on Castle Doom? Well don’t throw the bong or the weed away. That will get addressed. This is just a flash forward/movie trailer of what can be expected. It’s not exactly as awesome as the Age of Ultron trailer, but it doesn’t have the aid of James Spader’s creep voice so I’m willing to cut it some slack.

It’s not a very epic battle. It’s not exactly a pillow fight between a couple of kittens either. It’s got some snappy dialog that shows how the Ultimate X-men have been more negated than Homer Simpson’s health. They don’t say much, they get injured, and they really don’t shine in any way. That pretty much sums up everything wrong with Ultimate in a nutshell.

It’s up to the one character who hasn’t been more marginalized than democrats in Texas to actually do something meaningful in this fight. Miles Morales, the one character left in Ultimate that anybody gives half an ounce of shit about, decides to go after Dr. Doom himself rather than waste time with his Doombots. It’s ballsy for a kid who probably can count all the pubic hairs he has on one hand, but it’s pretty fucking dumb as well. Then again, dumb and awesome can sometimes be one in the same.

That ends the teaser trailer. Let’s get back to how the X-men ended up in the worst possible destination in any Marvel universe that doesn’t involve the Hulk’s toilet. After sharing a much-needed hug with her ultimate counterpart, O5 Jean Grey fired up the dormant Cerebro to locate the mutant that sent them to this ultimate mutant hell. And she succeeds. She does manage to find the mutant the same way she found her before. It sounds easy, but it’s not like I was expecting her to solve a crossword puzzle or something.

In addition, she even located the rest of her team. That makes sense. She can’t exactly go home without them unless she’s a total asshole. And she hasn’t spent quite enough time around Emma Frost yet so she’s going to find them and Ultimate Jean is going to help. They even have a nice moment together. They don’t hug, but they do get along. Considering how fucked up her Ultimate counterpart is, this alone is quite an accomplishment and a pretty fitting one as well.

It’s not quite as pleasant for X-23 and O5 Angel. Like O5 Jean, they’ve been getting a crash course in some of the many reasons why Ultimate sucks worse than Paris Hilton at a blowjob tournament. They just found out that unlike 616, mutants are just a failed experiment in Ultimate. It’s a hell of a downgrade, going from the next stage in evolution to something on par with the SEC. X-23 doesn’t take it very well. She decides to take her frustrations out on a tree. While some hippies might find this disturbing, it’s entirely appropriate. It’s akin to the reaction that every former Ultimate fan has had regarding Ultimate’s obscene decline. X-23 is just venting for us and for that, I thank her.

She ends up not having to vent for very long. O5 Jean and Ultimate Jean drop by to pick her, O5 Angel, and Hillbilly Wolverine up in the X-jet. It’s not exactly a tearful reunion, but I guess X-23 sees it as a way to help her find something else to stab. It also gives some of the Ultimate cast a chance to react to seeing another version of Angel. Unlike O5 Jean, their version was one of the many that died in Ultimate’s relentless effort to purge itself of anything that might make it appealing to anybody who isn’t being written by Brian Michael Bendis. There is a reaction and there is some emotion. It’s just not a very memorable one.

This was one of those moments that was bound to happen at some point, coming face-to-face with the massive body count that Ultimate has racked up over the years. There are so many emotions and stories to explore here. While I understand that there’s a limit to the scope and scale of a story like this, it just feels like this particular part didn’t try very hard. The meeting between O5 Jean and Ultimate Jean had much more impact. This just felt awkward, like telling a kid their dog just got run over by the garbage truck.

It’s not quite as awkward when the team catches up with O5 Iceman, who is still on the run from a bunch of cops who have apparently run out of minorities to harass. I guess fighting a giant mole monster is a crime in Ultimate. I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t come with a weed possession charge by default. And these cops are especially reckless because they decide to shoot their guns at Iceman even when he’s got a bunch of civilians behind him. Let me say that again for emphasis. These cops shot at someone with no fewer than five innocent civilians behind them. I know cops have had it rough lately, but this shit isn’t helping.

Luckily for police offers and the PR departments that support them, Ultimate Storm shows up to get O5 Iceman out of this jam. He doesn’t need a bullshit arrest on his record. Any teenage boy who gets a criminal record without even enjoying the chance to get high is a real tragedy. And it gets O5 Iceman back with his friends, ensuring that the team is almost completely united again.

That leaves just one member left and it happens to be the one who ended up in the worst possible part of the world outside of Syria. O5 Beast, probably due to the massive debt of karma he’s accumulated in recent times, ended up in Castle Doom where Dr. Doom drugged him to make him the most obedient house guest that’s not a character on Two and a Half Men. And after embarrassing him about his desire to bone Jean Grey, Dr. Doom makes O5 Beast work out a way for him to travel the multiverse and rub elbows with his other selves. Not sure what he hopes to accomplish other than seeing how much shittier his world is compared to theirs, but I’m sure he’ll be pretty embarrassed by being the only Dr. Doom with goat legs.

Despite O5 Beast’s shitty luck, the rest of the team arrives at Castle Doom to rescue him. They even take some time to find out that Iceman is as annoying in Ultimate as he is in 616. I guess there are just some quirks that never change in any Marvel universe. It’s comforting, but still lacks impact beyond just being funny. There’s a much greater impact when O5 Jean and Ultimate Jean team up to help O5 Beast break Dr. Doom’s mind control. That meant having the mind of two Jean Greys in his head for a brief moment. I’m not sure if that counts as a three-way, but I’ll be shocked if he didn’t come out of that with a raging boner.

Once O5 Beast is freed, he lays into Dr. Doom like Ray Lewis in his prime. The rest of the X-men from both worlds arrive to start kicking his ass and the asses of his Doombots. This is where the events of the teaser trailer from earlier catch up with the rest of the story. All the gaps are filled in for the most part. We find out how the team reunites and even how they react to some degree. It’s logical and pragmatic, two concepts that have been lacking in Ultimate to the point of famine.

It’s still the same battle though. Even though all the details effectively converge, there isn’t much added to it. The X-men fight the Doombots, Miles goes after Dr. Doom, the Ultimate X-men do nothing of value, and that’s about it. I still say it’s an accomplishment, moving the story forward and keeping it nice and cohesive. It usually doesn’t take much for a story to go more off-track than a blindfolded drunk, but this story still got to this point without feeling like it took a short cut. There’s something to be said about that, especially after it hasn’t been said in Ultimate for nearly a decade.

Although the Rick Santorum’s of the world may not like it, this issue is full of progress. The story moves forward and becomes more cohesive at a pace that’s not too fast or too slow. It is somewhat disorganized with the flashback/flash-forward elements, but it doesn’t completely derail the story at any point. Nothing is skipped. Nothing is glossed over. The O5 X-men got separated when they arrived in Ultimate. Now they’ve pulled themselves together and they’ve done it without pissing off their Ultimate counterparts. Sure, it was awkward as hell at times, but that only made it more enjoyable. Few things are more enjoyable than seeing Iceman make an ass of himself or see Beast get mind-fucked. Since this issue had both, I enjoyed it in so many levels.

That’s not to say there wasn’t room for improvement. While nothing was glossed over, some details were rushed. The whole revelation about who was dead in Ultimate had some reaction, but not nearly as much as it could’ve. Sure, the massive body count in Ultimate would slow the story down in ways that would probably turn it into a Martin Scorsese movie, but the lack of impact here felt like a missed opportunity. And while the clash against Dr. Doom was decent, it wasn’t exactly epic. However, it still has the potential to be, goat-legs aside. That’s why I give All-New X-men #35 an 8 out of 10. Ultimate still sucks elephant balls and I’m sure the O5 X-men would rather spend a weekend in Michael Moore’s asshole than be stuck in this shithole, but it hasn’t stopped the story from being awesome. Since both worlds are set to merge after Secret Wars anyways, the O5 X-men and Ultimate X-men might as well get ahead of the game and squeeze in a little foreplay while they still can. Nuff said!

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