Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: All-New X-men #37

Anyone who has spent more than ten minutes on an X-men message board while sober will quickly stumble into an angry debate amongst a certain segment of fans. I'm talking about a segments of fans that made Twilight so annoying. I'm talking Team Jean and Team Emma, a divide that might as well be the X-men equivalent of Red Sox versus Yankees. I know the intensity of this rivalry because I participated in it on more than one occasion. I'm not proud of it because it took way too fucking long for me to realize that trying to win an argument on a message board is like pissing into the wind while standing in a pile of donkey shit. There's just no way anyone can come out smelling good.

But All-New X-men has offered something intriguing and I'm not just talking about the potential for awesome lesbian porn. This series changes the nature of their rivalry. O5 Jean doesn't have the same baggage as her adult counterpart. It helps that she hasn't had to go through the inconvenience of dying yet. And Emma Frost is no longer romantically involved with Jean Grey. A while back, they seemed to patch things up in a way that made my penis very happy. Then the O5 X-men had to get stuck in the shit storm that is Ultimate Marvel for a while. Now they're back and we can see if this rivalry will continue to change. Either they'll go back to hating each other or they'll start sharing tampons. It could go either way. That's what All-New X-men #37 is supposed to reveal. My penis is anxious, but prepared.

The same can't be said for O5 Jean. She's in no way prepared for training at the hands of Emma Frost, which is kind of the point I guess. Emma doesn't ease her into it either or even offer some lube. She just plunges her into the wretched hole that is Madripoor. Anal sex jokes aside, it's the one place in the Marvel universe where no telepath, teenage girl, or Mormon wants to be. Naturally, Emma has Magik teleport them there and insist that this be a strictly private session between her and O5 Jean. Magik is only too happy to oblige. My penis would insist that I stick around to watch, but in a place like Madripoor I'd be inclined not to listen. I want to say I feel bad for O5 Jean Grey, but she gets to learn from Emma Frost in the toughest possible way. If she doesn't learn anything else in the future other than how much gas prices suck, then she needs to learn how to be both tough and sexy. And who better to teach her than Emma Frost?

That said, Emma Frost doesn't grade on a curve. She doesn't hide Madripoor's shithole reputation from her. She takes her right through the nasty parts where fights break out, most likely over a cock fight that went bad or hidden hotel fees charged at a whore house. She then explains that Madripoor is supposed to be the new mutant utopia where mutants could come and leave in peace while exercising the utmost decadence. It's like Las Vegas if Las Vegas was run by Hugh Hefner.

This is actually part of another ongoing story that is still unfolding. Madripoor was once Hyrda's territory. But in a previous arc in Uncanny X-men, it was revealed that Mystique bought it from them with the intention to turn it into a mutant haven. Magneto didn't approve, but that didn't stop Mystique's vision from becoming a reality. That and she abducted Dazzler and used her to make MGH, but that's just the fine print. I'm sure pretty blondes get fucked up in places like Madripoor at least twice a week. What makes this work is that it nicely incorporates events from Uncanny into this story. It's the kind of convergence that shows some actual effort being put into creating a coherent narrative. I know. What a concept, right?

It's a concept that gives O5 Jean and Emma Frost an actual mission because this is the kind of mutant utopia that can only end up totally fucked the first time an angry mutant gets ripped off by a hooker. So in addition to training O5 Jean Grey, Emma intends to investigate and fuck up Mystique's utopian vision as only she can. And she's going to do it while teaching O5 Jean Grey. That, my friends, is why Emma Frost is as competent as she is sexy.

She also has exceedingly high standards, as the cost of her lingerie probably bears out. In teaching O5 Jean, she does the equivalent of making her practice with lead weights strapped to her ankles. She does this by shutting off her telepathic powers. She even finds a way to be coy about it. My penis and I couldn't stop laughing, amongst other things. Now how did she do this with broken powers? She claims they're slowly coming back. And yes, that is a rather gross oversight in the sense that this whole issue of broken powers has not been resolved. And yes, it is somewhat forced for the sake of making the conflict harder for O5 Jean. But does it make this moment less awesome? Fuck no.

What Emma Frost teaches O5 Jean by doing this is actually really relevant. Since her telepathic powers kicked in, she's been using them the same way old school Nintendo fans once used Game Genie. It's helped her cheat her way through certain conflicts, even fucking with the minds of her own friends in the process. Emma Frost sees this as a problem and for once she's entirely reasonable about it. By shutting it off, she says it'll help her be the best possible version of herself. Again, it sounds way more reasonable than Emma Frost usually sounds, but that only makes it more meaningful.

But she's still Emma Frost. She's still going to push peoples' buttons and look damn sexy doing it. This is no exception. She blatantly hints that Professor Xavier suppressed her telepathic powers. It wouldn't be the first time he's pulled off a few dick moves with his powers and influence over the X-men. O5 Jean doesn't appreciate this, but Emma just laughs it off. It's actually a pretty relevant observation and helps explain how O5 Jean was able to use her telepathy so soon after arriving in the future. It's another moment that proves convergence can be a beautiful thing, especially when Emma Frost is the one steering the ship. Who else could teach so masterfully and look so good in a thong?

Emma continues to list every one of O5 Jean Grey's deficiencies as a psychic and a telekinetic, probably doing so in the same tone my old algebra teacher used when grading my mid-terms. She makes clear that to hone these skills, she can't rely on the Danger Room or on mind-fucking her friends. She needs some real-world experience and Madripoor will give her that experience and possibly a few rare diseases if she's not careful.

That experience involves her taking on Blob, an enemy O5 Jean has faced numerous times before in the past. But this Blob is different and not because he's on the Atkins diet or anything. As part of the earlier Madripoor story with Mystique, it was revealed that Blob got his powers back after M-Day by getting himself addicted to MGH. So not only does O5 Jean Grey have to fight Blob. She has to fight Blob when he's on crack. In terms of training, even Rocky Balboa would find this shit excessive.

Since bar fights in Madripoor probably break out over watered down whiskey, Blob doesn't waste time welcoming O5 Jean to this new mutant haven. Emma Frost still helps guide O5 Jean telepathically, instructing her to disable all the armed men around Blob that probably double as taste testers to make sure nobody gave him light beer or anything. She's able to do that just fine, as anyone who took on Magneto probably should. But a crack-head Blob presents a much bigger challenge. He decides to fuck her up, wreck the bar, and probably work up a hell of an appetite in the process. It's Blob being as menacing as he's always been. The only difference this time is that he's addicted to MGH instead of Krispy Kreme donuts. One could argue that MGH is healthier.

A well-developed, nicely detailed fight unfolds while Emma is watching from a far. She's probably pleasuring herself in the process because where else is she going to see O5 Jean Grey get roughed up by an oversized drug addicted Blob? O5 Jean tries to fight back, armed only with her telekinesis. It might not sound like an epic battle on paper, O5 Jean versus Blob. But fuck if it doesn't feel epic. It won't make everyone as horny as it makes Emma Frost, but it gets the point across.

Blob makes that point abundantly clear. O5 Jean, as much as she's grown since she came to the future, is still a work-in-progress. Take away her telepathy and even Blob can fuck her up. But what makes this fight more meaningful than a typical Madripoor bar fight is that O5 Jean tries to reason with him. She mentions how the X-men once tried to recruit Blob and that he's basically selling mutants out for money and drugs. Apparently, she's never dealt with a crack head or seen Miami Vice.

And even Blob makes some good points, pointing out how good the X-men have it. Despite being the world's fattest crack head, he's right to point out the flaws in O5 Jean's words. These are flaws that the X-men deal with time and again as they learn that they didn't know jack shit when they were teenagers. There's a classic sense of conflicting philosophies here. It doesn't matter if one of those philosophies is fueled by drugs and money. That's how medical miracles like Vicodin and Queludes were invented. It challenges both O5 Jean's powers and her understanding of Charles Xavier's dream.

It's an argument neither one of them is equipped to win. The only way this battle is going to end is if one of them gets their ass kicked or a free buffet opens nearby for Blob. Since Madripoor doesn't have a Golden Corral, O5 Jean ends up ending the battle. She finally gets her shit together well enough to take Blob down. He even dares her to be harsher than usual. And since Emma Frost is the one guiding her, she calls his bluff. It's not exactly the kind of shit she wouldn't do if Emma weren't training her, but it still feels like an edgier approach that she probably would've avoided if she were still a teenager that hadn't had all hope beaten out of her yet. It's not the most spectacular way the battle could've ended, but it works.

Emma eventually catches up to her to complete the lesson. She turns O5 Jean's telepathy back on and offers a more comprehensive assessment. She once again calls out O5 Jean's insecurities, saying she holds back out of fear that there's a darkness inside her that'll hurt everyone she loves. While that's usually the kind of shit that helps make Dr. Phil rich, it's a bit more relevant with O5 Jean because it's accurate. Her fear is actually legitimate because she knows she does end up going Dark Phoenix in ways that fuck up whole planets and at least one X-men movie.

But what Emma does here is remarkably insightful, not to mention generous for someone who has a lot of reasons to hate Jean Grey. She basically tells her that she is no Heisenberg. She is not the danger. She is not the darkness. She can be better without holding back. She just has to stop being a whiney little bitch about it. She uses more colorful and sexier words, but that's what it boils down to. She never mentions Cyclops. She doesn't even mention the Phoenix Force by name. She sticks to the basics and it works. Granted, it feels as though she left a lot of shit out. That's to be expected given their history as frenemies. But it still felt like she addressed the most meaningful shortcomings that O5 Jean has been dealing with and she was able to do it in Madripoor. That alone should earn Emma Frost teacher of the millennium.

This is one of those stories where, instead of an epic battle for the fate of the world, the main theme is built around something focused and personal. That kind of story is hard to work because Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich have gotten everyone over the age of seven addicted to epic end-of-the-world battles involving aliens, robots, and Nicholas Cage when he was still relevant. But when it does work, it's special in a unique way. And this story captured that feeling perfectly. It took what was established between O5 Jean Grey and Emma Frost, built it up, and took it in a bold new direction. And it did so in a way that felt genuine that I could both appreciate and masturbate to.

This story was very simple. It had Emma Frost teaching O5 Jean Grey a tough lesson in a tough environment. And it was a valuable lesson that she needed to learn, one that Emma never could've taught an adult Jean Grey. It had nothing to do with Cyclops. At no point did their past rivalry become an issue. That's a problem in some respects, but a strength in others. They didn't tie themselves down with past bitterness. They moved forward and for two women who went out of their ways to torment one another, that's saying something. It made for a balanced story that could be its own mini-series. In some ways it would help because it feels like there's a lot more that can be done with Emma Frost training O5 Jean Grey. But this issue leaves it to our dirty, filthy imaginations to do the rest. And since my imagination is very bad at filling in details with Jean Grey and Emma Frost that don't end in naked mud wrestling, that's a problem.

All-New X-men #37 worked beautifully, but it felt incomplete. I know it sounds greedy, but it left me wanting more than I know I'll be able to get. That's why I give it an 8 out of 10. Emma Frost and O5 Jean Grey are like the extra sexy version of the Karate Kid. They have a lot to teach each other and a lot to learn. This story gave us a taste of just how awesome and sexy that process could be. Anyone looking for them to bust each others balls about the past will be disappointing. But for those who have since moved on from shit that hasn't been relevant since 2004, there's plenty to enjoy here.


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