Thursday, January 8, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: X-men #23

Some concepts are pretty hard to fuck up. Michael Bay has been trying for years to make people bored of watching shit blow up. He’s yet to succeed and he probably won’t for the foreseeable future. But even if these concepts can’t be fucked up, they can be rendered somewhat boring. Having an all-female cast of X-men is one of those concepts that just looks so inherently awesome on paper that it would take omega level ineptitude or negligence to make it boring. I won’t say that the all-female X-men has gotten quite that bad, but lately it has been less relevant than Rob Schneider’s acting career.

It’s not that the all-female X-men have been boring. They just have been stuck in a state of mediocrity and stagnation. Since X-men: Battle of the Atom, it really hasn’t played a major role in the world of X-men comics. This has rendered it downright forgettable and it hasn’t helped that the stories have fallen short as well. There’s a lot to love about this estrogen-rich cast, but little is done to make that love feel requited. Now G. Willow Wilson, the mastermind that made Ms. Marvel the most lovable thing since smores and hot chocolate, is taking a stab at the all-female X-men. X-men #23 has the same all-female cast of kick-ass X-women. They just need a stage and a story to show off their badassery in a way that will inspire hearts, stimulate minds, and tighten pants.

The stage for this story isn’t exactly exotic, unless I missed a meeting where someone decided that the Blackrock desert in Utah counts as exotic. I’ll just assume I was too drunk to attend that meeting because it’s not just some random desert where hipsters and rave fans like to go to get away from asshole police, overbearing parents, and Mormons. It’s also one of the many places Gambit likes to go and test out his new pick-up lines. It sounds out of place in a comic that’s supposed to be about strong women who don’t need a penis to be badass, but I don’t think the feminazis will be too upset when the women Gambit hits tell him to fuck off. To be fair, he tried to offer them a fucking Chakra massage. Maybe that would’ve worked when Naturo was still big, but these days it’ll get a guy rejected, slapped, and sued.

The shameless flirting for Gambit ends quickly, but it should still give Channing Tatum enough material to work with for the upcoming Gambit movie (I’m sure actresses hoping to play Rogue are already lining up). It goes to shit fast and not because of sexual harassment lawsuit. Out of nowhere, a strange storm that would have everyone at the Weather Channel shitting themselves forms over the desert. It’s the kind of storm that should trigger all kinds of WTFs since this is probably the most fucked up thing to happen to Utah since the Osmond family. But as it just so happens, Gambit knows a woman who can manipulate the weather and, as far as we know, he hasn’t disgusted her to the point where she blocks his phone calls.

He calls the Jean Grey Institute just as Jubilee is having a nice family moment with Shogo. He’s still a baby and he’s just learning to walk. Despite the dire situation, it’s a sweet little moment that has been lacking from this series lately. So when Gambit calls, it actually has more depth than a typical, “We’re fucked! Please send someone to unfuck us!” situation. While it would’ve been nice to see more motherly moments with Jubilee and Shogo, I can understand the sense of urgency.

In addition, Utah isn’t the only place facing environmental anomalies. While Jubilee is on the phone with Gambit, she noticed something wrong with Karoka, aka the institute’s front lawn. On the surface, it feels like one of those random sub-plots that has derailed previous arcs in this series. But this time, it feels like it could be connected since it is dealing with weather anomalies. It helps that it’s not quite as egregious as past issues, but like a bad cold sore on Courtney Love’s mouth, it’s still a sign that some of these flaws aren’t going to go away easy.

The X-women all respond to the call as quickly as possible. This includes Storm, Rachel Grey, Psylocke, and Monet. They arrive just in time to see this storm create a massive sink-hole that looks like something Rush Limbaugh made in his toilet. There have already been casualties, but not enough to make the typical citizen of the Marvel universe change their vacation plans. And they hope to keep it that way.

This is where Storm comes in. Being Marvel’s ultimate weather wizard, she takes to the skies and attempts to use her powers to contain this storm. It’s another chance for her to demonstrate why she’s the most awesome character in X-men and why she alone is better than any shitty Inhumans replacement. But in demonstrating her awesome, she reveals in her thoughts that this is no ordinary storm. She’s like an extra on a Transformers movie, struggling to make sense of it all. It’s confusing, but still a kick-ass spectacle that’s both sexy and empowering. So even feminazis can jerk off to this one as well.

The problem is that this exotic storm ends up being too much, even for Ororo Munroe’s exotic form of awesome. When winds aren’t enough, she tries to solve the problem with lightning. While this might work for Toad in a shitty X-men movie, it doesn’t work for this and it ends up making shit worse. Then again, it wouldn’t be all that exciting if there weren’t a few complications anyhow so this helps add to the spectacle. There’s even a little slight about Storm being off her game since Wolverine died. It’s a shitty thing to say, but it might be accurate and it helps add some extra drama to the conflict, something else this series has been lacking lately.

Rachel, Psylocke, and Monet attempt to help Storm before this exotic weather system that must have come from Roland Emmerich’s worst nightmare. But in doing so, they make another unfortunate discovery that shows why lightning didn’t work as well as it did against Toad. This storm isn’t just some random effect of Mother Nature having a bad hangover. This storm actually has a mind. That means Storm’s effort to control it might have been the equivalent of someone pouring a bucket of cow piss on a sleeping roommate’s head to wake them up. I know from experience that tends to generate some very nasty reactions. And this one is no different because the storm ends up throwing her into the crater.

It sounds overly simple on paper and it is. A storm with a mind of its own isn’t the most novel concept to come along in X-men. How can it be when this is the same series that gave rise to mutants named Negasonic Teenage Warhead? But it still feels fresher than anything we’ve seen from this series in a while now. It’s not trying to fix previous stories or completely change the tone of the series. It’s just doing something different and making it work. If only the Hangover movies could’ve done the same with the sequels.

But it isn’t just the new ideas and fresh take on old concepts that make this story feel refreshing. There’s some actual drama thrown into the mix, which has been by far this series’ biggest shortcoming as of late. That drama takes the form of a claustrophobia-induced delusion that Storm has of Wolverine. It gives additional weight to the sentiment that Storm has not been the same since his death. It makes for a nice moment that should have Wolverine fans smiling in ways that the Daken and inverted Sabretooths of the world just can’t match.

There’s a real sense of heart and sadness in this moment, something that has always brought out the best in Storm. She’s dealt with a lot of tragedy in the past, especially recently. But she’s always found a way to become stronger as a result. That’s what makes her one of Marvel’s best female characters. Tragedy doesn’t make her weaker. It pisses her off and gives her more incentive to kick ass. That’s something most men can’t say with a straight face and this moment alone is what makes this issue worth buying.

While Storm is clawing her way out of the crater and punching her phobia in the balls, the mystery of this storm is unfolding in other ways. Back at the Jean Grey Institute, Jubilee and Beast are still involved. It’s not yet established that the storm in Utah is affecting Karoka, but since these kinds of coincidences are the comic book equivalent of a shitty poker face, it’s safe to assume there’s a connection. Knowing he’s about to go on trial for his douche-baggery very soon, Beast decides to give Karoka a checkup, but only after he throws up. It’s as disgusting as it sounds. For those not experienced in dry-heaves during a hangover, it might be one of those scenes that’s worth skipping.

Karoka’s health is definitely a concern for the X-men and whoever is unlucky enough to have to mow the front lawn. But Storm’s condition is a much greater concern for the rest of the X-women. After she drags the exotic storm into the crater with her, they conclude she’s probably outmatched now that they’re in an environment that’s not exactly healthy for someone with severe claustrophobia. So Rachel, Monet, and Psylocke go in after her because like the marines, badass X-women don’t leave anyone behind.

This was a fairly solid issue. I’m not going to say my dick was throbbing to the point where I had to picture John Goodman naked, but I was able to walk out of my comic book store with an awkward boner and I think that’s a good enough indicator. This story was cohesive and concise in that it didn’t attempt to do too much. It didn’t get derailed by any WTF moments, which have been plaguing this series for a while now. It didn’t get too bold either. Nobody is going to read this issue and think they took one too many hits of LSD. But considering the precedent, this issue worked as well as it could have.

This comic succeeded in taking these all-female X-men characters and putting them into a conflict. That conflict was still light on details and not every character got a chance to be awesome, but it still felt like a story that hit all the right chords. That’s something haven’t been able to say about this series for a while. The pacing is still a bit slow and some plots were more underdeveloped than others, but this now feels like a series that I can actually look forward to again and not just because badass X-women make my penis happy. I give X-men #23 a 7 out of 10. My penis and I don’t usually agree on much, but I think we’re on the same page with this comic. Nuff said!


  1. The concept of the all female team still buggs, me when gambit. Alls, and, says bring everyone. And only the 4 show, up lol. Beast and, jubes, stay, behind. And don't get me started on the rest of the x men, ie frenzy, iceman, nightcrawler, karma, firestar etc

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