Thursday, March 26, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Guardians of the Galaxy #25

Cosmic power in the Marvel universe is like tequila. It’s incredibly potent and can make all sorts of wonderful shit happen. But it’s also extremely easy to abuse and can cause a world of pain. In the same way most people can’t handle tequila, most can’t handle cosmic power either. And something like the Black Vortex is akin to making tequila more potent while tasting as good as a chocolate milkshake with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles on top. There are very few ways that shit can’t be abused to a horrible degree. And so far, the Black Vortex crossover has done plenty to make the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy swear off cosmic power and tequila for the foreseeable future.

However, they haven’t quite reached the point where the nasty hangover kicks in just yet. They’re still in the midst of the kind of cosmic bar fight that usually ends with cracked skulls and multiple concussions. Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel have already caused the kind of mess that’s usually reserved for a Spring Break holiday in Cancun by a bunch of frat boys armed with Donald Trump’s credit card. At some point, the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy have to play the part of the asshole bartender that cuts them off. Guardians of the Galaxy #25 takes them one step closer to that nasty hangover, but it also shows that they would probably make shitty bartenders.

That hangover can’t come soon enough for Hank McCoy. This is a guy who has been drunk on his douche-baggery for way too long. He’s so smart, but he can’t see the omega level asshole he’s become. He bitches about Cyclops, but offers no solutions. He whines about tapping immense power, but fucks up the space-time continuum to bring the O5 X-men back from the past. If his hypocrisy were any worse, Ted Haggard would try to buy meth from him. At some point, he has to see how badly he’s fucked up. Well that time has finally come. It just took cosmic level power for him to do it. That’s both ironic and hypocritical.

He laments to Gamora how he stuck his dick in the sadistic bitch that is hypocrisy, thinking he was doing the right thing. And just like Cyclops, the guy he can’t stop bitching about, he thought he could handle the power and the responsibility. Now that he has the power of the Black Vortex, he realizes he’s fucked. Even with cosmic power, he can’t undo the damage he did. It’s still too late to make him less of an asshole, but that doesn’t make this any less refreshing. Like someone lost in the desert, this feels like a nice cold beer. It’s still not enough, but it’s more progress than Hank McCoy has had in years.

Beast’s overdue humility still doesn’t help the friends he’s screwed over. A team of X-men, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Nova attempted to get to Hala to retrieve the Black Vortex from Ronan. They arrived on a planet that Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel did a damn good job of fucking up. And Ronan even got in on the act, using the Black Vortex for himself and deciding to give the finger to his home world as well. I guess he understands that he has a lot of catching up to do if he wants to reach Hank McCoy’s level of douche-baggery. The X-men and the Guardians understand this and they want to use the Black Vortex to return their friends to a state that’s slightly less overpowered.

It’s a perfectly reasonable request. It’s in the universe’s best interest to have fewer cosmic-powered assholes running around. So of course the Supreme Intelligence tells them to piss off. He’s okay with just sealing it away and using the Kree’s might to subdue these cosmic-powered renegades. That has some merit on some levels. And by that, I mean it has as much merit as a war plan organized by Dick Cheney. But it’s at least somewhat balanced. That’s something this whole story has been pretty good at maintaining, even when characters like Ronan and Beast are involved. That alone is quite an accomplishment.

Balance or not, the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t inclined to be overly diplomatic. They came expecting to resort to Jack Baur’s tactics, knowing that the Supreme Intelligence was never going to be overly generous. So Starlord decides intelligence is overrated and starts shooting while Nova takes the Black Vortex. It makes for a pretty epic escape, complete with Captain Marvel punching the Supreme Intelligence in the face. For her, that’s like me kicking my old gym teacher in the balls. It’s just that satisfying.

It’s also satisfying to see Nova finally do something meaningful. His presence in this story was a bit forced, but he’s finally found a way to contribute. He’s still an immature kid who has seen Indiana Jones one times too many, but that only makes his battle against the Kree Accusers more entertaining. I’ve never been much of a Nova fan because he comes off as the teenage Peter Parker that Andrew Garfield failed to be, but I will give him credit here. Any kid who can go up against the Kree and pwn them appropriately deserves respect.

Nova’s efforts to escape with the Black Vortex are still dependent on the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy’s ability to keep the Supreme Intelligence from using Nova as chewing gum. They have to take part in another epic battle in a story that has already had plenty. But like a nap on a beach in Maui, it’s one of those things that’s hard to overdo.

The battle is intense, but brief. However, it’s not rushed because it’s brief for a damn good reason. Even though the X-men and the Guardians are surrounded by Kree Accusers and a very pissed off Supreme Intelligence, they still have O5 Jean Grey on their side. That’s like bringing the Death Star to a knife fight. They have the edge. And O5 Jean even uses this as a chance to exercise the powers she gained during her last adventure with the Guardians of the Galaxy, turning the psychic energy around her into an unstoppable wave of pants-shitting awesome. The Supreme Intelligence is the lucky one here because it doesn’t wear pants, but I’m sure it wished it did.

With the Supreme Intelligence down for the count, the X-men and the Guardians can escape. They just have to trust that Nova found a way to escape with the Black Vortex. That’s right. They trust that an immature teenager who only recently got access to the power of the Nova corps can protect the Black Vortex from the Kree. That’s like trusting Russian teenagers with a crate of grenades and an unlimited supply of vodka. It’s not going to work.

The result is somewhat predictable. Nova eventually does fuck up, but it’s not from the Kree. One of the Slaughter Lords that had been sent to Hala to retrieve the Black Vortex for Mr. Knife finally joined the party. Since the Kree couldn’t get the job done, he decides to show them how it’s done. I hope the Kree took notes. Nova is the one who gets pwned this time and he doesn’t have the luxury of a pissed off Jean Grey to back him up. So while he did show some competence against the Kree, the Slaughter Lords remind us that he’s still a teenager.

But neither the Slaughter Lords nor Mr. Knife are content to just rough up some whiney teenager and take the Black Vortex. That just seems too half-assed. Mr. Knife decides he has to go the extra distance to prove he’s now the biggest asshole in the universe, leapfrogging Hank McCoy and Iceman by several light-years. To do that, he decides to turn his ship on Hala and finish what Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel only started. He destroys the whole fucking planet.

It’s not clean or swift like the Death Star either. Mr. Knife is the kind of asshole who likes to rip the wings off a bug and torture it for a while before he crushes it. He bombards the planet with missiles, so much so that he rips out a chunk of the planet. It’s every bit as epic as it sounds and then some. It forces the X-men and the Guardians, as well as most of the Kree, to get the fuck off that planet as if it were the site of an upcoming Justin Bieber concert. It shocks even Starlord, who already knew his father was an asshole, just not on this scale.

Now it was a given that a few planets would get fucked up during this story. Any story involving cosmic-powered characters is bound to rearrange a few solar systems. But Mr. Knife did this shit without the aid of the Black Vortex. He just had to be a total douche-bag with a big ass ship and a complete disregard for life in general. It’s another example, albeit terrifying, of the balance this story has maintained. But that only adds to the overall awesome.

Mr. Knife has now firmly established himself as the last person in the universe who should have the power of the Black Vortex. He doesn’t just order the destruction of Hala. He takes pleasure in it like a guy jerking off to animal porn. He paints it as a good thing for the galaxy, although he doesn’t hide that he blames the Kree for him losing his world. So there’s also an element of vindictive douche-baggery at work here, as if he needed.

The thought of this guy having the Black Vortex should make the universe as a whole shit itself. And for a moment, it looks like he has it. The Slaughter Lords roughed up Nova and took it. They should be preparing for the party when Mr. Knife takes a big cosmic shit on the ruins of Hala. However, one of them reveals they lost the Black Vortex. It’s not entirely clear how it happened, but it is revealed that it’s still with Nova. Somehow he managed to wrestle it away when he wasn’t busy looking like an immature teenager. It’s a bit of an oversight that could be easily addressed in another issue. Or it could just be one of those cases where an immature teenager gets lucky. If it’s ever going to happen, it should happen at a time like this to keep an asshole like Mr. Knife from getting the Black Vortex.

The problem is the Black Vortex is still out there and it’s still vulnerable for any cosmic asshole to exploit. That’s why Magik and Rocket Raccoon were tasked with finding Gamora, Beast, and O5 Angel and hope they’re not too drunk on cosmic power to help. Even they have to agree on some levels that keeping Mr. Knife away from the Black Vortex is in everybody’s best interest.

There’s some funny moments with Rocket Raccoon, but there’s also a meaningful conversation here. There have actually been many of those in a story that has already blown up a planet so that’s saying something. Magik uses her experience with being Dormammu’s mystica; prison bitch to relate to Gamora’s plight. I won’t say it’s a perfect analogy, but it does speak to the same themes of dealing with overwhelming power. And that’s something they’re all dangerously close to failing at.

Then they pick up on the destruction of Hala and now there’s some fucking urgency to not fail. And since cosmic power wasn’t even used to destroy it, Gamora and Beast decide it’s time to stop waving their cosmic-powered dick around and help their friends. It’s another small step towards Hank McCoy’s long road to being likable again. He still has a long fucking ways to go. If it takes the destruction of a whole planet for him to get his shit together, then it might not be worth it.

Even so, Mr. Knife is already going in the opposite direction and he’s well on his way to surpassing Beast’s douche-baggery at an exponential rate. He might not have the Black Vortex, but he does have a few hostages. The Slaughter Lords were able to take O5 Cyclops, O5 Iceman, and Groot prisoner when their teammates were escaping Spartax. Now Mr. Knife wants to use them as bait to get the Black Vortex back. He also makes sure to inform them that he just blew up a planet and got a big fucking boner while doing it. He then makes clear he’s willing to do that to Earth while the surviving Kree give him a hand-job. It’s a fucked up situation that even Groot can’t sufficiently articulate. I get it, Mr. Knife. You’re a bigger asshole than Beast now. I concede. This issue makes that abundantly clear in the most awesome possible way and ensures more planets could blow up before this is over.

When the Black Vortex crossover started, I think everybody got the impression that this was the comic book equivalent of an NFL preseason game. It was meaningless filler meant to bridge the gap to the regular season, which in this case I guess would be Secret Wars. But somehow, the Black Vortex has found a way to be awesome on a truly epic level. It couldn’t be more proficient without being a star quarterback married to a Brazilian supermodel. This issue truly reinforced the epic scale of this story. A fucking planet got blown up and not in the casual Phoenix Force kind of way either. It was a massive, Independence Day style attack that hit all the right emotions without being derailed by a Will Smith character.

Any crossover story can start strong. I’m sure Battlefield Earth felt interesting to some during the first five minutes. But Black Vortex keeps finding a way to build momentum. It’s getting so many great characters involved. The X-men, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Starjammers, and even Nova are all finding a way to be awesome in their own right. The struggle keeps taking new turns. Some are personal and way fucking overdue, as with everything involving Hank McCoy. Some are just epic in a way that blows up half a fucking planet. Mix that shit together and it’s like Jack and Coke. It’s a beautiful, potent combination that’ll get people fucked up in all the right ways. I give Guardians of the Galaxy #25 a 9 out of 10. Fuck the preseason. This story is a playoff contender now. Just hope that it doesn’t fail to complete the process of making the catch or it can end badly. Just ask Dez Bryant. Nuff said!


  1. I think Magik was talking about her demonic side "Darkchilde". Ever since Magik was kidnapped into Limbo as a little girl, Belasco corrupted her through demonic power. Her demonic side is a physical manifestation of her dark half. Dormammu was just relieving a painful memory of her life.

  2. This storyline really has been impressive. I was not expecting such a memorably fun and well-paced event. Just filler, like you said, Jack. But if it's filler, it's some of the best damn filler I've ever seen.

  3. Something just occurred to me -- why is the Supreme Intelligence alive during "Time Runs Out" over in the Avengers books if he died here?

  4. I hope the next issue starts with Young Cyclops laughing in Knife's face. How many times has Earth fended off Galactus by now? And Cyke is supposed to be intimidated by the Slaughter Lords?!? Knife is already struggling against the X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy. By all means, let him go pick a fight with the 100 or so members of the Avengers, while he's at it.