Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Spider-Man and the X-men #6


Like peanut butter and jelly or Jack Daniels and coke, there are just some combinations that work. And for a long time, Wolverine and Spider-Man was among those combinations. It was right up there with Emma Frost and She-Hulk as the most fitting team-up. These two were like the ultimate buddy cop movie. They carried themselves so differently, but they found a way to make it work in the most awesome way possible. Then Wolverine had to go get himself killed and like David Spade without Chris Farley, we lost something.

That loss still hurts, but it hasn't stopped Spider-Man from honoring his fallen friend. He's been trying to do just that in Spider-Man and the X-men as a teacher at the Jean Grey School. For the most part, he's either failed miserably or found a way to piss off all of Wolverine's old friends. But he's done it in a way that has been fun and entertaining, even if it has lacked depth and refinement. I admit a part of me reads this and thinks, "I'd much rather see Spider-Man and Wolverine kick the Kingpins ass and then bang a dozen redheaded strippers." Instead, I'm reading about Spider-Man tripping over his ass trying to find a mole in the Jean Grey Institute and continually pissing off Storm in the process. It has been entertaining, but it just hasn't been the same. Spider-Man and the X-men #6 is supposed to up the stakes. But it still has a long ways to go before it can be on the same level as Spidy and Wolverine getting drunk at a bar.

That said, it’s not too many levels down after Spidy finds out who that mole was that Wolverine wanted him to fine. And as it just so happens, that mole was working with Sinister, the only X-men villain who can make Norman Osborn seem less creepy without impregnating Gwen Stacy. At the end of the previous issue, Ernst finally revealed to Spider-Man that she had been the one looking to screw the X-men over. But she didn’t do it just so she could take a nice steaming shit on Wolverine’s grave. She did it for a friend.

I can write that with a straight face because even though she worked with Sinister, she doesn’t come off as a total dick. She reveals that she helped Sinister because he promised to create a new body for her disembodied friends, No Girl. It’s a surprisingly serious and sincere motivation in a story that has been about as serious as a physics lecture by Sarah Palin. It adds some much needed balance, even as Spider-Man jokes with Sinister while he’s tied down to a gurney. Yes, he jokes even in the face of Mr. Sinister. He’s Spider-Man. Even a deal with Mephisto can’t keep him from making these kind of shitty wise-cracks, but that’s a big part of why we still love him despite Andrew Garfield’s attempts to change that.


All joking aside, Spider-Man is exceedingly screwed in ways he probably hasn’t been since the last time he banged Black Cat. The only ones who have any idea he’s in trouble and give enough of a shit to do about it are his students, who he’s been trying to motivate with laughably limited success. But being teenagers, they’re inclined to get a little curious when their teacher disappears. Being curious in a way that would get most teenagers pregnant by their junior year, they decide to do more than just tweet about it and investigate.

They find out that someone roughed Spider-Man up and not with pumpkin bombs or metal arms either. Since one of them has the tracking skills and the head of a shark, they can sniff him out. And since teenagers aren’t prone to thinking things through, hence the prevalence of shitty tattoos and body piercings, they decide to go after it. And since they have mutant powers, they’re less inclined to be stopped. Who the fuck would try to stop a guy with rocky skin and a girl who looks like a shark?


Back at Sinsiter’s lab, Spider-Man is still trapped and still making jokes. He doesn’t even get too pissed at Ernst. Most teachers I know would’ve gone Catholic School on her ass at this point. But all the joking doesn’t make what Sinister reveals any less disturbing. Despite being a pasty-faced dick, he does fulfill his end of the bargain. He gives No Girl a new body. He just does it in a way that makes him both a dick and a dick with a twisted sense of humor.

The new body he gives her happens to be a clone of Storm. Granted, it’s not the worse body he could’ve given her. He could’ve put her in the body of Rosanne if he wanted. Instead, he put her in a badass weather goddess’ body. I would’ve preferred the body with the boobs of Emma Frost and the ass of Captain Marvel, but that’s just me. What makes it a dick move is that he adds something else that he didn’t tell Ernst. He adds a little fine print to the user agreement that allows him to control her. So she has a body, but she might as well be the pinkie toe instead of the brain. It’s not much of an upgrade.


It still puts Spider-Man in a shitty situation. Him against a clone Storm is not a fair fight. Given his history with clones, he’s probably better off trying to fuck her than fight her. But his students are coming to his rescue, albeit with the competence of a Comcast customer service rep. They’re able to track him down to a mall of all places, which I guess is a nice change of pace from the typical abandoned warehouse. But they only find it just in time to see that Sinister cloned more than Storm. He cloned the rest of the Jean Grey Institute staff as well, including Wolverine.

Even though they’re clones, they still present an unfair fight for Spidy’s students. It still sets up a fairly epic clash. That’s not something I usually say when Spider-Man is involved in a fight with clones. That’s usually a good sign. Any battle involving Spider-Man and clones is taboo for the same reason anything involving star athletes and strip clubs is taboo. But it helps that emotions with Ernst and No-Girl add weight to the battle. Otherwise, it would just be a battle about Sinister being a dick.


The battle is nicely detailed and eventually Spider-Man is freed so he can participate. He gets a chance to give his students what amounts to a pop quiz that’s only slightly less nerve-racking than a Calculus quiz. These students that he’s been trying to motivate in a ways that won’t make Wolverine throw up in his grave actually rally behind him. He’s able to guide them in a way that allows them to one-up these rip-off X-men. Hellion and Eye Boy especially shine, turning clone Iceman’s powers against him. It may or may not be a result of Spider-Man’s teaching, but he definitely deserves a gold star.


But the most intense part of the battle is still with No Girl and Ernst. Sinister doesn’t seem to care that much that his clones are getting their asses kicked by a bunch of teenagers who can probably still count the number of Sentinel attacks they’ve experienced on one hand. He’s more than happy to just watch his creations torment Ernst. He’s probably hiding a huge erection. But that boner quickly gets killed when Spider-Man conveniently tricks a clone of Firestar to burning away the DNA samples that Ernst collected for him. Spider-Man even is a dick about it, but in the most satisfying possible way. Given Sinister’s capacity for doing twisted shit, a dick move like this is both warranted and satisfying.


The battle gets a little less detailed from here. The rest of the team doesn’t really do much while what’s left of Sinister’s clone army continues to rampage. The main struggle is still with No Girl and Ernst. It’s here where we find out that Spider-Man’s efforts to teach these renegade, hormonal mutant teenagers actually succeeded on some levels. His preaching about power and responsibility actually resonated with them. Usually, a message doesn’t resonate with a teenager unless food or internet access is involved. That’s what makes it so meaningful.

Ernst, knowing she betrayed the X-men and aided one of their worst enemies, takes responsibility for her shit and does the right thing. She attacks her friend in a beautifully emotional moment. The themes of power and responsibility really shine here, something that teenagers usually don’t say outside of a made-for-TV Disney movie. But it still feels genuine and in a story that involves clones, that’s saying a lot.


Once Ernst subdues No Girl, she joins up with the others to take on Sinister and his clone army. It’s more than a little messy. She just ripped the brain out of the head of a clone of Storm. Sadly, we don’t get any gruesome details. Those with a weak stomach can breathe a sigh of relief. Those who aren’t afraid to eat pizza they find between couch cushions can sigh in disappointment.

It’s even more disappointing when the battle against Sinister is essentially cut off. Once No Girl is back to being a brain in a jar, we don’t get any more details. The story basically just skips ahead to the aftermath. For a battle that had been pretty visceral, despite involving clones, that’s a pretty big disappointment. Then again, Sinister was now facing a team of unified pissed off teenagers. He had to know he was outmatched at that point.


However the battle ends, the aftermath is still somewhat compelling. Spider-Man has a nice chat with Storm, which is saying something in and of itself given how she’s made it clear in this series that she finds Spider-Man only slightly less annoying than head lice. But during this chat, he talks about what he tried to teach these mutant teenagers. More importantly, these mutant teenagers show the Jean Grey Institute that they appreciated this lesson. They even used it in a real-world situation. How many teenagers who appreciate an algebra lesson an say that?

It makes for a nice bit of insight for each character. These are all D-list X-men characters who don’t usually get a chance to be awesome. But the way they talk to Storm and the Jean Grey Institute staff about their experience with Spider-Man makes them worth giving a few fucks about. They actually show that they’re not just teenagers with powers. They’re capable of using these powers to kick Sinister’s ass, beat up clones, and help civilians. That’s way more progress than most teenagers get without getting drafted.


Their heroics genuinely impress the Jean Grey Institute staff. What impresses them even more is that they actually stick up for Ernst. Whether inspired by Spider-Man or just being less dickish than most teenagers, they urge them not to expel Ernst for working with Sinister. Even Storm admits that she wouldn’t have been the first X-men to work with him. Hell, if they can let Emma Frost join the X-men after the shit she’s done, they have no excuse for ditching Ernst. It’s a nice moment and one that highlights the progress these young mutants have made. It’s more progress than they would’ve gotten by just fighting giant robots too. That’s what makes it unique and meaningful.


They still get disciplined, but not in a way that’ll make them drop cherry bombs down toilets. Spider-Man even goes out of his way to commend his students for being so responsible. They managed to be responsible in the face of evil clones. By Spider-Man’s standard, they’re the mutant equivalent of a playoff caliber football team. He gives them a nice speech and even goes out of his way to apologize to No Girl for thinking she was the mole. It’s probably the most serious tone that Spider-Man has used in this series and its fitting.

It’s also fitting that in the spirit of responsibility, they start helping Spider-Man with his patrols. That’s right. As an extra credit assignment of sorts, they get to become the beta version of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. They get to fly with him throughout New York and fight crime. All I’ll say about that is it beats the hell out of study hall.


So in the end, was this series as entertaining as a classic Wolverine/Spider-Man team-up? In my soberish opinion, no. It is not. But then again few things are and this issue came tantalizingly close. It's in the same zip code, even if it isn't in the same neighborhood. This series has been chaotic and uncoordinated at times. It has made a noble effort to capture the fun, entertaining experience that Wolverine and the X-men once had. It only succeeded in part in that respect, but it succeeded in plenty others that helped make up for it.

This issue completed a story that got more side-tracked Keanu Reeves' career. Spider-Man came to the Jean Grey Institute to find a mole. He found that mole, which led to a clash with Sinister and extensive property damage. It wasn't as epic as it could've been, but it was still entertaining. Spider-Man still comes off as the least qualified teacher at the Jean Grey Institute, but that's part of what made it so entertaining. And like a drunken boxer that somehow lands a lucky hit, he managed to get the job done. He got through to his students and even the Jean Grey Institute staff found him less annoying. It may have had the tone of a Looney Toons rerun, but it still had heart and it made for a satisfying conclusion to this series. I give Spider-Man and the X-men #6 a 7 out of 10. I still miss stories about Spider-Man and Wolverine being the ultimate buddy-cop team-up. But if Spider-Man can team-up with shark girls, eye boys, and disembodied brains while Wolverine enjoys his death vacation, I think that'll tide me over in the interim. Nuff said!

5 comments:

  1. So in other words, experienced students Hellion and Rockslide learn lessons they already learned a LONG time ago. Despite having survived Decimation. Stryker blowing up a bus. Stryker attacking the SCHOOL. Nimrod. Impalement by Deathstrike. All-out battle against the Marauders AND Purifiers. Selene. Bastion's attack on Utopia. Etc. Etc. Etc.

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  2. Yeah, I find it odd when Hellion and Rocky are still treated like newbies. These guys are established X-Men, and have been for a while now.

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