Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Amazing X-men #16

The lure of power is like the lure of a big-titted woman with Pamela Anderson’s breasts and Nicki Minaj’s ass. It’ll attract the right kind of people and the wrong kind of people, but it’s the wrong kind of people who will do the craziest shit to get it. Following that logic, the power of Juggernaut is like an entire army of nymphomaniac clones of Jessica Alba, Hallie Berry, and Scarlett Johannson. It’s been unleashed on the world and will only serve one. Cyttorak is like a crack addict and a compulsive gambler on a bender in Vegas who needs a new avatar to scratch that itch, but he’s willing to offer takers way more than a blowjob. Colossus already had a bad experience with this guy and he barely managed to escape without getting crabs. Now in Amazing X-men #16, a long list of new Juggernauts that range from a typical sociopath to the kind of person who would’ve participated in a circle jerk with Pol Pot and Hitler are lining up to be the new Juggernaut. I don’t have any crack at the moment, but I’ve got plenty of popcorn so I can enjoy the show.

Even crack might not be as strong as the lure of Juggernaut’s power. While the X-men are trying to prevent anyone from wearing that goofy helmet again, Cyttorak is calling out to every power-hungry asshole in the world. To them, the lure of Juggernaut’s unstoppability is like catnip dipped in crystal meth. They don’t need to understand it or obsess over the risks. They just need to know it’s there for the taking and how many people they’ll have to kill to get it. It’s not like Cain Marko set the bar that high anyways. If nothing else, being Juggernaut gives them the ability to bang She-Hulk and that alone should provide extra incentive.

This certainly promises to complicate the X-men’s efforts to stop Cyttorak. That shit has already become pretty damn complicated thanks to some big demonic creature that looks like it got cut from the last Devil May Cry game. It’s basically a guard dog for the Temple of Cyttorak. But instead of harassing postal workers, it tries to rip intruders to shreds and pick its teeth with their bones. I guess for Cytorrak, it’s an appropriate defense mechanism. I still would like to have something like this to keep the Jehovah’s Witnesses from visiting, but that might be asking for too much.

Being so appropriate, it makes for a nice battle with the X-men. It’s not epic on the level of a drinking contest between Wolverine and Ozzy Osborne, but it fits the scope of the conflict. Nobody is going to think that the X-men having to fight a giant monster guarding Juggernaut’s power is underwhelming. It also doesn’t try to do anything beyond that and it shouldn’t. We’ve seen what happens when stories go beyond their scale. The last two Transformers movies are proof of that.

This battle against the monster actually ends up being a secondary concern because some of those power-hungry psychopaths that Cyttorak called out to show up. In fact, it turns out they were there before the X-men. They just waited for the X-men to occupy the big ass creature inside because they didn’t want to waste any bullets or manpower. That, my friends, is called working smart and not hard.

This forces the X-men to leave Rockslide to take care of the monster. Yes, that’s the same Rockslide that has the maturity of a high school freshman with an attitude problem. Maybe this counts as his detention for his shitty grades. I still say it’s better than having to take study hall with my old algebra teacher. But now we’ve got a more complicated battle between the X-men and a diverse set of enemies. I’m going to need more popcorn for this.

As enjoyable as this unfolding battle has been, there’s still room for a little melodrama. Even the last Godzilla movie took the time to add a personal touch. And this one is actually pretty damn relevant. Colossus, who happened to be the previous Juggernaut, was ordered by Storm to sit this battle out in the previous issue. She made clear that he’s still on a short leash and she hasn’t forgotten that he has a nasty history with Cyttorak. He didn’t take it well to say the least, but he did honor Storm’s request.

By that I mean he honored it for no more than 15 minutes. After the team leaves, he decides Storm’s orders are fucked and tries to convince Pixie to teleport him to the temple. At first, she refuses. She’s not exactly inclined to help Colossus, whose sister once took part of her soul. That would be alike agreeing to help clean an ex-girlfriend’s gutters. It ends up making for a nice moment of vulnerability with Colossus. He shows his weakness in the face of so much strength. It’s part of what makes him so likable as a character. Pixie, despite being a teenage girl, is still capable of being reasonable. So long as nobody tries to take another piece of her soul, she’s willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

That bit of melodrama isn’t any longer than it has to be. That’s a good thing because there are still way too many awesome battles going on to waste time hearing Pixie whine. These battles aren’t mindless slap fights either. There’s even an attempt to explore other issues, like when Nightcrawler confronts Northstar about being pissed at the Scarlet Witch’s earlier presence at the Institute. It’s not an unreasonable issue to have, even during a battle. It’s just one that doesn’t get resolved because they end up getting their asses kicked by a woman named Man-Killer, who is basically a less charming version of She-Hulk.

But those attempts aren’t overdone. The focus is still on the fighting and the new enemies the X-men are up against. That’s refreshing because it usually takes a gentle breeze or a strong cup of coffee to make these kinds of stories go way off-track. Not only does it stay cohesive, there’s still an effort to mix in a little humor when Iceman points out just how many villains have mental shields now. It’s like telepaths have saturated the market like Frozen and too many people are sick of it to be affected anymore.

Most of these battles against these new enemies result in the X-men getting pwned, but it’s not completely unbalanced. Firestar manages to avoid becoming another Princess Peach with her new enemy. It helps keep the battle from getting too predictable while still being something I guy like me can follow while stoned. It’s still not overly epic, but it doesn’t have to be. Firestar punching Crossbones in the face should be entertaining enough for anybody.

As these battles against these new enemies unfold, Rockslide is still stuck dealing with the temple’s oversized guard dog. He’s still an immature dick about it, but that’ to be expected. He is a little overwhelmed at first, but he eventually lets his balls hang a bit and gets in a few shots. It’s another way to keep the fight properly balanced. It even impresses the creature, who tries to tempt Rockslide with Juggernaut’s power. Because what could possibly go wrong with giving unstoppable power to an immature teenage boy? He might as well give him an unlimited supply of illegal fireworks.

It all makes for a balanced struggle on both fronts and when something like the power of Juggernaut is at stake, that’s exactly how it should be. Some of the new enemies got in a few lucky blows early on, but the X-men fight respond as they so often do. Nobody says or does anything too memorable though. This is where not trying to be too epic has its drawbacks. Nobody is going to look at this as an iconic moment 25 years in the future. It’s like vanilla ice cream. It doesn’t have any exotic flavors, but it’s still good.

There are also other twists that help mix things up a bit. More hideous Devil May Cry rejects swarm the intruders, attacking anyone who was hoping that seizing unstoppable power would be as easy as picking up a pizza. It shows that the new enemies responding to Cyttorak’s call didn’t work smart enough, leaving Storm as the one who has to take care of these beasts. It complicates the struggle for both sides, but helps add to overall the entertainment value because who doesn’t love watching Storm pwn a swarm of hideous monsters? That’s what goddesses do every other Sunday.

Before the battle starts to drag, the situation escalates. The X-men are able to subdue some of the would-be Juggernauts, but some have more trouble than others. Nightcrawler and Northstar are dangerously overmatched by Man-Killer. I’m pretty sure their balls shrank just by being near her. And Iceman and Rachel have a hard time subduing Jinn. They’re all starting to get impatient. They know if that they keep dicking around, someone is just going to take Juggernaut’s power and laugh their ass off all the way to the nearest bank.

This ends up happening, courtesy of an all-too familiar figure. Of all these potential Juggernauts to make a grab for this unstoppable power, one manages to outsmart them all. And his name is Cain Marko. Yeah, he’s a douche-bag who holds a grudge, but there’s a reason why he was such an effective Juggernaut. He was both strong and smart. In this case, that means using Vanisher, a mutant who has stayed as far away from this sort of shit as possible, to appear in the temple. I want to say that’s cheating, but I can’t argue with results. As Bill Belichick has shown, cheaters do sometimes win.

There was a lot of action and a lot of fighting here. In some cases, it felt like the last half-hour of a Jackie Chan movie. That’s no at all a bad thing. There were a lot of enemies attacking all at once, hoping to get a taste of that sweet Juggernaut nectar. It’s easy for a battle like this to become more mindless and chaotic than a Power Rangers rerun. But that didn’t happen here. Everything remained concise and focused. It never went overboard. It never tried too hard to be epic. It was plenty perfectly balanced and as satisfying as a cold beer on a hot summer day.

It shouldn’t sound like such a novel concept. It really shouldn’t. But with so many comics these days trying to be the next Phoenix Saga, few are content with just focusing on making the story as awesome as it needs to be. It’s like they’re trying to cook a steak for Gordon Ramsey and put so much care into the presentation that they never took the time to make sure the steak actually tasted good. I think if Gordon Ramsey tasted this story, he wouldn’t break any dishes. He wouldn’t give it its own restaurant either. This story is still lacking and a bit disorganized at times, but it’s still as satisfying as a juicy steak can be. I give Amazing X-men #16 an 8 out of 10. This book just plain worked and sometimes that’s the most reasonable standard we can have in this age of reboots, re-launches, and retcons. The only serious flaw this book had was that it made me hungry for a steak. Nuff said!


  1. This is really the only X-Men series right now that feels like the X-Men during the 90s when I was a kid.

    Thumbs up.

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