Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Scanned Thoughts: All-New X-men #39
Maybe I've had one too many shitty family reunions that end in drunken brawls and/or trips to the emergency room, but I think reunions are overrated. Whenever I see a show or comic built around a reunion, my first instinct is to assume that some producer didn't get blown enough or some editor had a stick up their ass about a certain story. I know that sounds cynical, but reunions don't carry much weight when the departure was never that sincere.
That said, I make an exception for how O5 Cyclops parted ways with the rest of his team after the Trail of Jean Grey. That actually felt sincere. He just learned his father was alive. He wanted to spend time with him, especially after finding out he's a badass space pirate. He was always going to reunite with his friends at some point. It was just a matter of how it would happen. And I can't think of a way more fitting than a crisis involving Hank McCoy, cosmic power, and space pirates. That's the crisis O5 Cyclops walks into in All-New X-men #39. He arrives just in time to see Hank McCoy being a douche again and put O5 Jean Grey in a very awkward position. I can't think of how a reunion would be better without free whiskey and blow.
That said, the first part of the reunion doesn't involve O5 Jean Grey at all. It doesn't even involve Hank McCoy being a douche, as crazy as that sounds. It involves O5 Cyclops and X-23, which is another notable reunion in and of itself. Even though X-23 got cozy with O5 Angel in his absence, I'm sure she still gets all warm and fuzzy inside when she thinks about O5 Cyclops' hugs. She wakes up after a pretty fucked up nightmare involving O5 Angel and what appears to be a fire fetish, but she sees O5 Cyclops with her so that helps balance shit out.
There were a lot of unresolved issues between O5 Cyclops and X-23, but some of those issues became a moot point when she hooked up with O5 Angel. She makes it clear she's still pissed that he left, even if he did have a semi-valid excuse. But it doesn't get more emotional than it needs to get. She's not ready to hug again, but she is content to tell him he needs to fix shit with O5 Jean. That in and of itself is pretty telling. It means she either understands the kind of strain his absence had on her or she just needs him to get away before she jumps his bone. Given how often Wolverine was inclined to jump Jean Grey's bone, I imagine it's a combination of both.
The reunion between Thane and Mr. Knife isn't nearly as emotional, but it is still an important part of the story. It's important because it establishes that Mr. Knife is an impatient asshole who thinks he can talk down to the son of Thanos. There's balls, there's bravado, and then there's just being a cosmic ass. Chuck Norris can get away with balls. Bruce Willis can have the bravado. But Mr. Knife comes off as a cosmic version of Donald Trump. He wants the Black Vortex the same way Donald Trump wants a private jet entrusted in gold and maintained by female elves with big tits. Thane, despite his asshole father, actually comes off as the bigger man here. He's tempted to just snap Mr. Knife's neck and nobody in the universe would blame them. Instead, he just opts to give him the finger and leave. A man truly does sink to a new low when he's now a bigger asshole than the son of Thanos.
That's not to say that Mr. Knife is now incapable of spreading his douche-baggery to the farthest parts of the galaxy. He still has the Slaughter Lords under his control and they're still looking for the Black Vortex on Spartax's moon. They're at least several steps behind, completely unaware that the Black Vortex is gone and being used to fuck up the Kree home world. They might as well be those guys that keep looking for the Loch Ness Monster even after the rest of the world has come to understand that it's basically just a tourist scam. But they are still a problem in that they can fuck up the X-men and the Guardians' efforts to make a move. So in that sense, they're just a step above a few speed bumps in a badly paved road.
But who gives a shit about the Slaughter Lords or how big a douche-bag Mr. Knife can be at this point? The main appeal of this issue is the reunion of O5 Cyclops and the X-men. That's what should have everybody's panties soaked with anticipation. And when he finally confronts O5 Jean Grey, it's worth having to do an extra load of laundry.
The reunion isn't ripped off from every romantic comedy in the 90s. It's not rushed or forced either, like the plot of every Mission Impossible movie. It's a simple, genuine reaction between two characters who have a metric fuckton of issues on top of being teenagers. They don't get right into how badly they want to bone each other. They actually make meaningful small talk at first. They don't try to avoid the issues, which even some adults can't seem to do in a serious conversation. Their maturity here puts them at least six levels above Peter Parker in that respect. But what makes it so powerful is how torn they still are.
For a good chunk of All-New X-men, O5 Cyclops and O5 Jean have been torn over their emotions. They still clearly care for one another, but they don't want to be doomed to this fate where they get married, she dies, and one of them starts hooking up with clones. That's entirely understandable. Teenagers love clinging to the idea that they can forge a magical future where they have the love of Russian gymnast and the wealth of Bill Gates. But sometimes there are forces they can't escape and I'm not just talking about the high failure rate of nearly every goal that every teenager ever makes. There are still real emotions between these two. Those emotions draw them together, even when they make clear that they are very different now as a result of being in the future. And that's what makes it so meaningful.
Despite being so different, O5 Cyclops and O5 Jean are still drawn together. There's something fitting and sincere about that. And it's not just because teenage emotions make about as much sense as a quantum physics lecture in Swahili. These two characters have such a long history and that history still feels relevant despite all these changes. The one constant, however, is that O5 Beast still ends up cock-blocking them. They probably would've jumped each others' bone if they hadn't. They're teenagers. It's always a distinct possibility. Even though they don't get a chance, it's still a powerful moment that should require another change in panties.
The same could be said for every Kree living on Hala right now, albeit for an entirely different reason. While O5 Cyclops and O5 Jean are trying find some time to swap spit, amongst other bodily fluids, the Black Vortex is tearing Hala a new asshole thanks to Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel. The destruction here is epic. It's the kind of destruction that would make Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich so horny. But it's not really adding anything new to the mix. We already knew from the second that Ronan tried to take the Black Vortex that Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel would fuck his world up. This is just confirming what we already suspected. While confirmation is nice, it's not portrayed as an epic struggle on part with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But it does get the point across. If only someone challenged Ronan to a dance-off like in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Maybe Hala could've been spared. We may never know.
Even with all the destruction and the raging teenage hormones, there's still a conflict here. The X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy can't just sit on their asses and hope Tony Stark doesn't try to solve this problem with a big fucking gun. Now that the Starjammers are in the picture, they try to formulate a plan. It's not necessarily an ambitious plan that would make for a good Ocean's 11 movie. They understand they're overmatched against the Slaughter Lords. They also understand that Mr. Knife is going to keep fucking up their day so long as he thinks they'll keep him from the Black Vortex. So if they're to have any shot at getting out of this with their asses intact, they need help from their cosmic-powered friends.
That's a lot like hiring the Hells Angels to police a church bake sale, but I guess overkill is necessary when dealing with Starlord's asshole father. O5 Cyclops even offers to contribute by heading back to Spartax's moon to distract the Slaughter Lords so they can get away. He may just be trying to make O5 Jean hornier, but that doesn't make it any less tactically sound. In addition, they also have to help some of the fine folk on Spartax that their former king fucked over. So this is quickly becoming one of those crossovers where the extra manpower is a necessity and not just a novelty.
But getting away from the Slaughter Lords and Mr. Knife is actually the easy part. They also find out that in order to carry out the next part of their plan, they'll have to go to Hala while it's in the process of being burnt to a crisp like a rain forest in an oil field owned by Koch Industries. So that means they'll have to deal with both the effects Black Vortex and a pissed off Kree Empire in order to get help from their cosmic powered friends. They might as well chop off a limb, get drunk on tequila, and blindfold themselves in the process. It couldn't possibly make the situation any more fucked.
This is where the pacing of the story stalls somewhat, but for good reason. The X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy actually have to take more than five minutes to assess the situation they're stuck in. That actually helps provide some logic to their plan. That shouldn't be such a novel concept. It really shouldn't. But all too often, it's one of those details that is so convenient to forget. It keeps the story cohesive, even though it moves things forward slower. And for those who like to read comics stoned, that's can be an issue.
The pacing picks up again when the teams split up to carry out their respective missions. I imagine they're all bracing themselves and will likely keep their assholes clenched until its over. And the first part of that mission involves O5 Cyclops, O5 Iceman, and Groot heading to Spartax's moon to distract the Slaughter Lords. That's right. They send two teenagers and a talking tree to distract the Slaughter Lords. Tweak that a bit and it's the perfect premise for the next Disney movie. Although this fight unfolds in a way that's not exactly G-rated.
Naturally, the Slaughter Lords ambush them and kick their asses. Again, it's not an overly epic battle. It's not intended to be either. Their job was to just distract the Slaughter Lords so the others could get away. In that respect, they succeeded. They still got their asses kicked, but they succeeded. I don't claim to be a tactical genius in anything that doesn't involve getting kick-ass weed at a discount, but it still works. And I guess Cyclops or Iceman haters can jerk off to this. However, I find it hard to imagine anyone could ever hate Groot. Seriously, if someone hates Groot, they're in need of therapy.
It doesn't end well for O5 Cyclops, O5 Iceman, and Groot. They get roughed up and dragged away, but they're still alive. That's because Mr. Knife wants them alive. He must not watch the Walking Dead that much because he seems to be working under the assumption that keeping enemies alive means they can't screw him over. And now he's just roughed up O5 Cyclops, who spent a good deal of time learning to be a badass space pirate. And since he nearly got to bang a hot alien girl, I'd say he's pretty damn good at it. Screwing over Mr. Knife isn't going to be enough to stop the Black Vortex, but it would be a good start.
In the end, this issue added a new dimension to a story that already had plenty to begin with. The underlying crisis still revolves around the Black Vortex and all the horrible shit the Gamora, O5 Angels, Hank McCoys of the universe could do with it. But now there are also some more emotional stakes that have little to do with saving the Kree's undeserving asses. And those emotional stakes are what makes this issue a solid contribution to the story.
O5 Cyclops' return to the X-men was not glossed over, rushed, or forced. The lingering issues surrounding his departure were not ignored and that counts for a lot in an era where too many comics are eager to skip over the details to get to the parts where the X-men battle killer robots. Even porn tries to offer some segway. This issue offered plenty of that (segway not porn) by adding some emotional undertones for O5 Cyclops, O5 Jean, and the team as a whole. But overall, it didn't really move the plot forward that much. That's not entirely a bad thing.
For a story on this scale, there is a little leeway. But there was also room to do a lot more. Aside from the emotional undertones, there wasn't much else to push the story forward. They came up with a plan, that plan got fucked up, and that's about it. Still counts as progress though, which is more than anyone can say for the past decade of Spider-Man comics. I give All-New X-men #39 a 7 out of 10. The reunion was sweet, even though O5 Beast cock-blocked it again. The conflict with the Black Vortex is still compelling. It's just a matter of how more I want kick Hank McCoy in the balls when all is said and done. Nuff said!