Thursday, April 23, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-men: Black Vortex Omega #1

Maybe I've become a jaded drunk over the years or maybe my expectations have just become more realistic, but I've become numb to these big crossover events. I've seen too many of them amount to the comic book equivalent of a used tampon. Stories like the Fear Itself and Avengers vs. X-men show that it's unreasonable to expect that these stories end with unbroken spirits and intact assholes. For that very reason, crossover stories that are done right are all the more precious. They're like getting an extra lap dance at a strip club or a free blowjob from a Hooters waitress. It's something to cherish and enjoy for all its worth.

I freely admit I was not expecting the Black Vortex crossover to be anything special. But damn it, this story has found a way to inject so many awesome concepts into something that sounds like a story Chris Claremont told during the mid-80s. It took what the Trial of Jean Grey successfully established, showing that a decent crossover story between the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy isn't a fluke. It turns out that a story that involves mutants, talking trees, and cosmic-powered shit storms is a winning formula. I guess if a movie like Frozen and the Hangover can be a hit, why not?

This crossover story has spanned multiple titles and explored multiple characters. Yet it has found a way to remain coherent and awesome. It would be like me passing a sobriety test during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. So many characters have found ways to shine. Even Nova has had his moments. That alone is an accomplishment that I doubt Secret Wars will match. But after all these tie-ins and diverging conflicts, the final clash has arrived. The X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy have to beat Mr. Knife before he tears the universe one too many assholes. Can Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-men: Black Vortex Omega #1 provide a satisfying conclusion worthy of a Bankok massage parlor? The answer is a bit complicated, but in the best possible way.

Fittingly enough, Kitty Pryde sets the stage. She lays out the simple yet epic scenario. Spartax is encased in amber, thanks to Mr. Knife and Thane's douche-baggery. A group of cosmic-powered X-men and Guardians of the Galaxy are fighting off the Slaughter Lords to keep them from the Black Vortex. And the Brood are trying to turn the entire population of Spartax into all-you-can-eat alien buffet. It's as epic as it sounds. With so many characters involved and cosmic power in the mix, it should be utterly fucked up like the last three Phoenix Force retcons. But it wasn't. I read this drunk and I still understood it. For all the crossovers and tie-ins, this story has found a way to be concise enough for a drunk to follow. That alone is an accomplishment.

Also fittingly, it's Kitty Pryde who has to save Spartax, the planet her boyfriend's father tried to screw over in ways that even Richard Nixon would find excessive. She embraced the Black Vortex, becoming this uber cosmic spirit that looks like something Richard Gere would pray to. It's eerie, yet elegant. It's ominous, yet still sexy in a cosmic way. It's not Jean Grey level sexy, but it still has that epic cosmic scale. There's also some amazing inner monologue that helps Kitty describe what she's experiencing. Some of it sounds like what I thought the last time I took one too many hits of LSD, but most is completely genuine.

This has been one of the biggest strengths of the Black Vortex crossover. It has given every character a voice at some point. So many have had a chance to assess what it means to battle cosmic power and how it feels to either embrace or reject it. For a story that involves fighting Starlord's asshole father and Thanos' asshole son, it's amazingly profound. The fact it's so profound without the aid of weed is a hell of an accomplishment.

The stakes of the battle are never undersold. It isn't just the Slaughter Lords the X-men and Guardians have to deal with either. Even Ronan the Accuser has flown head-first into this cosmic shit storm. It already led to battle that laid waste to the Kree home planet, but that's never stopped him before. Even though it's his own damn fault for stealing the Black Vortex in the first place, he's blaming the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy for it. That sounds like an excuse that a corrupt police officer working for the LAPD would use, but it works just as well for Ronan.

The battle here is undeniably epic. However, it's lacking in details. Every character is just thrown into the mix. There are no individual struggles. And maybe that might be asking for too much when cosmic power is involved. A battle like that can only get so personal. When there's a cosmic power Ronan and a cosmic powered Groot in the same battle, there can't be too many intricacies. That's like asking someone at a Coldstone to strategically place every sprinkle on top of a hot fudge sundae. It doesn't matter how the sprinkles are ordered. It still tastes pretty damn good.

Usually, these kinds of cosmic battles end up tearing the universe a few extra assholes before someone gains the upper hand. But for once, that doesn't happen. Instead, a cosmic powered Kitty Pryde tips the scale. It doesn't take a tragic sacrifice. It doesn't require Tony Stark to shoot something with a big fucking gun. She just takes this vast power that she's been granted and uses it to remove the big amber shell around Spartax, thereby saving every living soul on that world and her friends.

I want to emphasize this again. Kitty Pryde used this cosmic power to save an entire world and nobody had to die as a result. That's pretty fucking remarkable considering how often cosmic-powered characters tend to die or sacrifice themselves. It's almost like a perverse tradition at Marvel that's second only to frat initiation rituals. Some might find it bland, but I think it's a welcome change after seeing one too many tragic outcomes from cosmic powered stories.

I'm not the only one who feels this way either. Everyone on Spartax, including the X-men and Guardians who were trapped, rejoice at Kitty Pryde's act of cosmic-level badassery. Nobody dies. Nobody is sacrificed. Everybody is saved and everybody cheers. Anyone who can't find satisfaction in that needs to go back to their goth music and shitty makeup. It's especially satisfying for Starlord, who saw earlier that he was too much of a dick to handle the power of the Black Vortex. But Kitty Pryde could handle it and she saved his world. That act should give him the least awkward boner in the history of the Marvel universe.

After this massive display of planetary justice, the Slaughter Lords wisely decide to cut their losses. Someone who can rip a planet-sized shell of amber away and crush a swarm of Brood is someone they don't want to fuck with. Even Ronan decided there's only so much accusing he can do for someone at that power level. He might as well be a traffic cop trying to give Vin Disel a parking ticket. And since Mr. Knife already managed to get his ass trapped in amber, they decide they've had enough cosmic mojo for one day. And since the Black Votex is still around, they figure they'll have other chances.

Now this is somewhat abrupt. The way the Slaughter Lords and Ronan retreat feels a bit rushed, even if it is understandable. They're smart for cutting their losses. They Slaughter Lords and Ronan have proven they're not the kind of thugs that a James Bond villain would hire. They got something out of this and were okay with how it panned out. However, the lack of a definitive defeat for them is still a bit disappointing even if it is logical on paper. Sometimes we can't expect logic to be epic unless Bill Nye is the one teaching it.

Now the Slaughter Lords are gone and so are the Brood. Spartax is safe and so are its people. So what's left for the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy? Some of them still have cosmic power that could corrupt them at any second. Then there's Gara, the ancient Dragonball Z ripoff who first got screwed over by the Black Vortex. She's fought hard to get it back and neither the X-men nor the Guardians are inclined to fight her for it. However, she understands that it's not good for the universe to have one too many cosmic characters running around.

So she makes an offer to those who submitted. They can give up their cosmic power and avoid further corruption, but warns them that rejecting it is kind of like spitting in the face of a Celestial. It may come back to bite them in the ass. And this kind of power does have a way of leaving scars, as though anyone who has ever known Jean Grey has to be warned of that shit. It still makes for an interesting dilemma in a series that has had plenty of them.

This leads to some internal debate, although not nearly on the same levels as we saw earlier in the series. There is some discussion among certain characters about whether to keep their cosmic enhancements. But some, like O5 Cyclops, don't need to discuss it. He already saw what happened to him when he embraced cosmic power. He has all the reason in the world to give it up. But the decisions for characters like Groot and O5 Iceman aren't as obvious. There's not a lot of discussions with them.

But what makes those decisions worthwhile is that some choose to keep their cosmic power, O5 Angel and Gamora being the most notable. This is actually pretty remarkable in the sense that it ensures this story will have a lasting impact. This isn't one of those stories that end like an episode of the Friends where everything goes back to normal at the end. There are going to be some lasting impacts. Some have already been revealed in other comics. It easily could've been undone so as not to fuck things up too much before Secret Wars. But that's not what happened and that makes these decisions more meaningful.

The one who probably has the most to lose is Beast, who is finally beginning to see that he might have been the omega level asshole by fucking with the timeline. He saw with his cosmic enhancements just how much he fucked up. Him keeping his cosmic power would be like Lance Armstrong keeping his medals. It just wouldn't be right. So he joins O5 Iceman, O5 Cyclops, and Groot in removing their cosmic enhancements. They don't seem to have any lasting scars initially, but I guess that's the benefit of Tony Stark not shooting it with a big ass gun.

With the decisions made, Gara leaves with the Black Vortex. Then the Guardians of the Galaxy do what they did on their last team-up with the X-men and take them home. But along the way, Kitty Pryde and Starlord have a nice moment. It turns out Kitty didn't give up her cosmic power. Why would she after she proved she was more than qualified to handle it? She passed the test that Jean Grey failed on multiple occasions, saving a world and not losing her fucking mind. She's earned the right to embrace these powers, if only for a while. And Starlord, having watched his girlfriend save his home planet, has every reason to romance the shit out of her. Any woman who saves a man's home planet and makes his asshole father look like a dick has earned a man's unconditional love. That's just a fact.

Starlord seems to understand this rule well because he does more than just share a few kisses and offer to take her on a fancy date. He actually does something that the editors at DC Comics swore they would never let their characters do. He gets down on one knee and asks Kitty Pryde to marry him. I'll give all the tweens a moment to squee as much as they need to. Men, feel free to squee as well. There's no shame in it.

Now I know the topic of marriage in comics has a permanent shit stain thanks to Peter fucking Parker, but I think there's still a place for it. And while I know the relationship between Starlord and Kitty Pryde is fairly new, having only begun after the Trial of Jean Grey, it's a relationship that has hit all the right chords. And let's face it, after Kitty Pryde saved his world, Starlord would be a total asshat if he didn't propose to Kitty. And in her cosmic state, she knows he's not just trying to get on her insurance plan so she says yes.

This is a beautiful moment for the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy. For Thane, Mr. Knife, and Ronan the Accuser, this is right up there with working late on a Saturday night. Mr. Knife is still encased in amber, which makes him a perfect addition for the Collector. Ronan is still pissed off that his planet was decimated, even though it was his own damn fault. But he's now a cosmic-powered douche so he has even fewer reasons to give a shit. These are some simple loose ends that are resolved in a very quick way, but at least they're not glossed over. These days, that alone counts for a lot.

And Thane, the son of Thanos, still wants to succeed where his father constantly fucked up. However, he knows he can't do that without the Black Vortex. He's going to keep looking for it, even though Gara has it now. It leaves open the possibility that we'll get something else out of this story down the line. Given the extent of its awesome, I can't say that's a bad thing.

But fuck Thane. Fuck Ronan the Accuser. And fuck Mr. Knife from here until the end of the multiverse. The X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy won the day and they deserve this happy moment. There's nothing ominous or dark about this ending. There's no eerie post-credits scene. We just get to see the X-men and the Guardians cheering as they hear that Starlord and Kitty Pryde are getting married. It's a beautiful moment. Even Magik smiles and she's got a fucking demon realm in her. Storm is so happy that she even asks Rocket Racoon to be her date to the wedding. It sounds like such a fucked up concept, but admit it. You want to see that and some of you might even want to jerk off to it.

There's no tragedy. There's no heartbreak. Kitty Pryde and Starlord have the happy ending that so few outside of a Disney movie get these days. It's basically the anti-Dark Phoenix Saga. Cosmic power corrupts some, but it also helps save the day. Kitty and Starlord were already at a crossroads with their relationship before this story began. Now they're getting married. It's the end of an epic journey that has a very satisfying conclusion. And an ending where nobody's heart gets broken or nobody's balls gets busted is epic in its own right.

Let me put this into perspective before my drunken ranting gets too slurred. This crossover story, the Black Vortex, did something pretty amazing. It told a big crossover story that involved cosmic power and it didn't involve someone dying or sacrificing themselves. Let me repeat that. This story involved cosmic power without someone having to make a sacrifice or get needlessly killed. I think everyone who has been burned out on stories like the Phoenix Saga can appreciate just how remarkable an accomplishment that is. Not only did nobody die here, but there's actually going to be a wedding now and Storm might actually take Rocket Racoon as a date. I dare anybody to say with a straight face they don't want to see that.

As remarkable an achievement as the Black Vortex crossover was, it still isn't on the same epic scale as the Phoenix Saga. Very few stories are. This story succeeded in telling a story that covered a lot of characters and utilized cosmic forces, but it did so in a way that never got too chaotic. I never felt the need to sober up in order to follow along and for a story this big, that's saying a lot. As a drunk, I thank Sam Humphries for being so considerate.

There were plenty of successes here and Kitty Pryde being the one that ended this conflict was by far the best. However, the end result was a bit rushed. And while there was some debate over giving up the power of the Black Vortex, it wasn't as passionate as earlier discussions over it's power. Some still gave it up and some still kept it so at the very least, the impact of this story will be felt beyond Kitty Pryde and Starlords pending nuptials. It's a cosmic story that ended on a happy note, something that helps make this crossover story something to be cherished. That's why I give Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-men: Black Vortex Omega #1 a 9 out of 10. It's a story that has exceeded expectations and proved once again that the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy are a winning combination. I guess it's just hard to go wrong with stories involving space pirates, talking raccoons, and inter-stellar romance. Nuff said!


  1. I never been so glad that in my X-men headcannon Starlord died heroic death and took Thanos with him. Cause after this, i would definitly let him die in most stupidest, siliest, and maybe paifuliest death i could came with.

  2. Great review. I think you were a little too kind, though, Jack.

    Over all, this was a fun crossover with a solid story that didn't try too hard to be anything more than that. That's also its fatal flaw here at its ending, though.

    Yeah, there's a few lasting consequences (Mr. Knife is out of the picture; Thane is more powerful; O5 Cyclops is back on Earth; O5 Angel now makes Archangel look like an embarrassment; Gamora is still snorting cosmic power too; Kitty is now Star-Kitty and will be leaving to marry Star-Lord), but there are a number of things in which it falls painfully short -- most notably in that there's apparently no consequences facing Gamora, O5 Angel and Hank for what they did to Hala.

    Yeah, Mr. Knife came along and did most of the damage, but those three must have killed a large number of people before he got there. Not to mention generally being dicks for half of the crossover.

    Now, maybe their actions can be excused since they were under the influence of the Black Vortex to some extent, but we really could do with someone at least clarifying that point. It's almost like the notion of the artifact's corrupting influence was forgotten three quarters of the way through the story. Sure, it's still paid lip service, but we see no one take it all that seriously after O5 Cyclops, O5 Iceman and Groot dip into the power and don't go nuts.

    Seriously, no one objects to two of the three people who started the attack on Hala keeping these powers? In not taking itself too seriously, the ending to this story fails to adequately address the big issues it did raise.

    Speaking of Hala, where are the ramifications of what happened there in other books? The Supreme Intelligence died here. Ronan became Mega Ronan. Over in Jonathan Hickman's "Time Runs Out" storyline (set after all of this), though, the Supreme Intelligence is alive and Ronan is just his ordinary (but still powerful) self.

    And that's not even getting into the non-concern that is the matter of the Celestial's possible retribution. We've already seen the Celestial Host annihilated in "Time Runs Out."

    And, hell, with "Secret Wars" and the destruction of the 616 universe coming anyway, couldn't we at least have gotten a dead Thane out of this too? Just to give this something to claim later?

    All in all, a good crossover -- the kind of good, fun hijinks crossover I thought Marvel had forgotten how to do -- but it just rings hollow for me in the end.

  3. So Bendis broke up Iceman and Kitty. Got her to hook up with Star lord and get married. Then after his cross over , has him outted as gay.....? Not saying Iceman and Kitty was written well or was a well loved ship, but the breakup made no sense..I see you Bendis...

  4. Kitty and (movie version) Star Lord will break up eventually. Mark my words...

  5. what did jean mean by Cyclops heart has changed?he doesn't like here anymore?

    1. It's Humphries. He's not writing "All New X-men".

    2. I think you mean to say if he doesn't like her anymore.this whole scott jean thing has been dangling for 40 issues now.marvel needs to make a decision on if there relationship is going to be retconned.i guess it doesn't even matter with the clusterfuck of secret wars coming soon.

  6. Ugh, that dialogue. I can't believe I'm saying that even BENDIS could write a better X-23. It's actually a GOOD thing she ended up being mostly wallpaper in this event.

    1. not just that; under Humphries, Magik's character was just awful, and I'm a Magik fan.

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