Thursday, June 4, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: All-New X-men #41


Everyone’s capacity to give a shit is different. Some people have a bullshit tolerance that allows them to become lawyers, politicians, and daytime talk show hosts. Others have a tolerance that allows them to barely hold down a job as a barista at Starbucks. For the X-men, a high bullshit tolerance is a major prerequisite. Anybody who has to live in close quarters with the likes of Wolverine, Hank McCoy, and Kid Omega needs to be able to tolerate plenty of bullshit. But even X-men have limits.

That’s the gust that kicked up the shit storm in All-New X-men. A group of embittered X-men whose bullshit tolerance ran out decided to give the middle finger to the whole schism ordeal and strike out on their own. This group contains familiar faces like Tabitha Smith and Karma. They’ve appeared in various secondary X-men titles, but they didn’t care much for picking between Team Cyclops and Team Wolverine. Now they’re venting their pent up frustration as the Utopians, having set up shop on the small hunk of rock where Cyclops once told Norman Osborn to go fuck himself. SHIELD isn’t equipped to deal with pissed off mutants, as always. So in All-New X-men #41, they enlist help from the O5 X-men. The results make me question whether Maria Hill is qualified to be within 100 miles of mutant issues.

At the very least, she comes off as the most reasonable government bureaucrat who isn’t a cast member on Parks and Recreation. She arrives unarmed and without a squad of masked men carrying guns. For the X-men, that counts for something. However, the fact that she knows where the New Xavier School still reeks of bullshit. She at least offers an explanation for how she found it. But if it were that easy, it makes me wonder why she didn’t bust down Cyclops’ front door while he was taking a shit or something. Maybe she just wanted to hold off until she could get close to him without her panties getting moist. Whatever her reasons, it casts further doubt on her ability to handle mutant issues.


After convincing Magik not to chop her head off, she tells them about the shit that went down in the ruins of Utopia. She could probably send a few helicarriers and a team of highly trained mutant-fighting personnel to deal with this issue, but I think she’s done proving how much she sucks at dealing with mutants. So she wants to send a bunch of under-trained, time-displaced mutant teenagers to deal with this issue. Actually, when I say that out loud, it makes me wonder whether Maria Hill drinks on the job. What kind of person encounters a dangerous situation and says, “Why don’t I send a team of teenagers to deal with this issue?” That kind of logic might work for an executive with FIFA, but it shouldn’t work for SHIELD.


As fucked up as Maria Hill’s logic might be, the O5 X-men agree to help SHIELD out. They don’t even ask for task breaks or legal weed. I guess that makes them patriots. Captain America would be proud. They head to Utopia, a place that is still in ruin after the Avengers and X-men had a cosmic-powered bar fight a while back. They expect they’ll have to track down enemies from the future or team up with a talking raccoon to get through this. That ends up being unnecessary because the Utopians find them.

They show up unceremoniously. They’re not all that intimidating either, especially to a team that recently battled the Kree and Starlord’s asshole father. I’m not saying that Random, Masque, Elixer, Boom Boom, Karma, and Madison Jefferies are weak. I’m just saying that they’re basically the undrafted class of the X-men.

That said, they do try and be reasonable in a way that’s only semi-sober. They claim they’re sick of being targets of damn near everything and everyone, from SHIELD to killer robots. It’s not an unreasonable excuse. But roughing up a bunch of SHIELD agents? What the fuck did they think was going to happen? That they would just shrug it off? This is why they’re on the D-list for the X-men. They really don’t think their shit through and the O5 X-men aren’t inclined to argue with them. They may be teenagers, but they can smell bullshit when it stinks at a certain level.


O5 Jean Grey tries to end it quickly and quietly, using her telepathy to make them all go to sleep. It appears to work at first. It might end up being the single most efficient and painless mission the X-men have ever been on. They didn’t even attract killer robots. It would’ve been so momentous. That’s exactly why it nobody should be surprised when they encounter a complication.

It comes courtesy of Karma, who manages to protect her mind from O5 Jean Grey and use her powers to mind-fuck O5 Cyclops and X-23. She makes them attack their friends, which is a dick move. But it’s still pretty effective. Both O5 Cyclops and X-23 demand that someone subdue them. O5 Beast is only too happy to oblige, being the massive douche he’s destined to become. X-23 proves to be a bit trickier. She’s Wolverine’s clone. Subduing her is like trying to shave a cat that’s on meth.


A tough, but fairly standard battle unfolds. The O5 X-men struggle to contain X-23, which is perfectly appropriate. They may have just gotten done dealing with the Black Vortex and Starlord’s father, but no amount of cosmic shit can equip them to deal with a clone of Wolverine. There’s just no training or experience that can ever prepare them for that. It nicely shows that they’re still inexperienced and they can still be overwhelmed, even by a bunch of D-list mutants.

However, Karma is no Charles Xavier. And the O5 X-men happen to have a Jean Grey on their team. That gives them an unfair advantage by default. And after getting a bit roughed up, O5 Jean ensures they get their shit together in a nice, flashy display that brings out the best in Mahmud Asrar’s artwork. On behalf of stoner’s everywhere, I’d like to thank him for this style because it creates great visuals for the O5 X-men’s struggle. While the Utopians do wake up and try to fight back, they still don’t have a Jean Grey on their side. That means if this battle had refs, they would’ve called this game by now.


After subduing the rest of the Utopians, O5 Jean Grey has a nice psychic chat with Karma. It’s much nicer and more civil than a psychic chat with Emma Frost and a lot less pornographic. While it’s hard to jerk off to, the chat they have is pretty insightful. Karma reveals that the Utopians weren’t just looking to pick a fight and piss off SHIELD, as much fun as that is. They were genuinely scared. She goes on about how no matter what they do, mutants just keep getting screwed over. No matter where they go, regardless of whether they’re X-men or not, people just keep fucking with them. Every other minority has a sanctuary of some sort. Mutants have jack shit.

It’s pretty damn telling because it’s entirely valid. It’s not like mutants haven’t tried to create a sanctuary before. They’ve tried the Xavier Institute, Genosha, and Utopia. In every case, someone ended up attacking or sending giant killer robots. It’s been happening to mutants all their lives and they’re getting pretty sick of it. Nobody sees giant robots attacking the Inhumans.


And O5 Jean gets to see things from this perspective, which is big because she hasn’t experienced these many failures yet. She looks into Karma’s mind to get a nice crash course in the history of how mutants get screwed over. Now she gets to see just how fucked mutants are, despite their sincere, concerted efforts. She’s not even the first mutant to point this out. Even sociopaths like Mystique have pointed out that despite their best efforts, mutants haven’t achieved a damn bit of peace no matter what they’ve tried.

It’s not just about the X-men’s failures either. Magneto’s approach didn’t work. Xavier’s approach didn’t work. Cyclops’ approach didn’t work. Fuck, even having a cosmic entity on their side didn’t work. Nobody can claim they’re full of shit when they said they hadn’t made an effort to live peacefully. The Utopians just tried to get away from all this shit and someone still fucked with them. Maybe they should just claim to be Inhumans and hope nobody knows the difference. It isn’t like the last Agents of SHIELD isn’t trying.


After seeing Karma’s thoughts, O5 Jean comes up with a plan. It gets a little rushed here, but it’s not completely contrived. She just goes back to Maria Hill and tells them the Utopians have disappeared. That’s right. She essentially lies to SHIELD. It’s only slightly less dangerous than lying to the IRS, but like Goldman Sachs they get away with it. And Maria Hill knew on some levels that they were lying. She just doesn’t have the energy to deal with more mutant shit at this point and I don’t blame her.

But what makes this moment feel more relevant than a typical cop-out is that the O5 X-men go out of their way ask some important questions. They ask why these mutants couldn’t live on Utopia. They ask why they were harassed when they didn’t harm anyone. They asked why it’s okay for the Avengers to set up shop wherever they damn well please, but mutants can’t go anywhere without someone throwing killer robots at them. They don’t need to say it, but they make a pretty clear point. Give a bunch of beleaguered mutants a reason to be paranoid and at some point they’ll act on it. And unlike the paranoia some experience on weed, it’s perfectly legitimate. So while I do still question Maria Hill’s competence on mutant affairs, I applaud her for not throwing weapons grade plutonium on the fire.


With SHIELD now willfully ignorant, the O5 X-men return to the New Xavier School with the Utopians. Since Cyclops basically sent the old students away, they have plenty of room to spare. So long as it gives them protection from killer robots, I think they’re okay with it. It’s not ideal, but it’s not exactly a step down from the ruins of Utopia.

O5 Jean and X-23 also have a nice conversation that sets the stage for Uncanny X-men #600. Unlike the Utopians, the O5 X-men can actually have an impact on the course of the timeline. They came to the future to help make it better and mutants are still getting shot at. At some point, they need to figure out what they can do to stop this shit. They need to figure out what they can change so that mutants are nearly as fucked. It’s a tough question to answer, but at least they’re contemplating it now instead of how they’ll prepare for the next killer robot attack.


Overall, the Utopians arc wasn’t exceedingly epic, but it wasn’t an economics lecture by Ben Stein either. It was a simple, concise story that felt a bit rushed, but still helped move the story forward. The most important thing this arc did was get the O5 X-men to ask the right questions. It also reinforced that SHIELD sucks as dealing with mutant issues, but that’s not a point that needs to be reinforced. It did help set up for the eventual convergence of these issues in Uncanny X-men #600, whenever the hell that comes out. It still felt somewhat predictable, but not in a bad way. If anything, the O5 X-men are demonstrating their growing competence. Hell, they’re outdoing SHIELD at this point and they’re fucking teenagers. That says a lot about them, but it says even more about SHIELD.

There’s really not much to hate about this issue. Even a few hits of meth didn’t make me upset about anything that transpired. All it did was make me pee blood for a day. There’s no startling revelation or massive emotional upheavals for once. Nobody else comes out as gay and nobody else dry-humps a cosmic power. There is some drama with the Utopians, but it’s pretty tame compared to the melodrama that has fueled All-New X-men since its inception. It’s still a solid X-men story. It’s just not much more than that. All-New X-men #41 gets a 7 out of 10. So Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and the Family Research Council can exhale. The world didn’t end by making Iceman gay and the X-men are still competent, even as teenagers. But I’m going to assume they won’t be submitting a statement admitting they’re wrong and they’re full of shit. Nuff said!

8 comments:

  1. It'd be awesome if after 50+ years of this BS, young Jean Grey comes up with an idea that finally changes everything.

    As long as there's still something to fight. Otherwise it'd be a pretty un-awesome comic book.

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    Replies
    1. You're right. It would be awesome if O5 Jean found a way to improve the future. But if it takes 50 years, fuck that.

      Jack

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    2. Well, a very short time for her, of course. The Jean we grew up with was never put in these exact circumstances, so I guess she's excused. And for most of the characters, it's only been a decade or so, I guess. Took much longer than that for homosexuality to be accepted in this country. And it's only been 50 years for people over the age of 55 or so who have followed the comics since the early '60s. And there have been so many writers since then that it's hard to blame any one of them, either. ANYHOW, I'm excited to see what young Jean comes up with...though I'm confused as to how any of this might stick with Secret Wars and all.

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    3. That's a fair point. Jean's situation is very different compared to the rest of the O5. She has a lot more to lose than anyone else. She knows if she doesn't fix something, she's just going to end up dead and that's not how she wants her future to turn out. I think that's a big reason why she's the central guiding force of All-New X-men. The circumstances certainly warrant that. My only concern is that Marvel draws her story out too damn long, so much so that Jean fades into the background. I'd much rather her story have a defined timeframe so that when she goes back to the past, some definitive changes are made. But that might be asking for way too much.

      Jack

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  2. Why the Phoenix fire in her eyes, on the cover ?? For nothing of course.
    The book doesn't deliver. Well, like all Bendis run.

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    Replies
    1. The covers don't always reflect what's in the book. That has always been the case. Just look at the cover for Astonishing X-men #44 for proof of that.

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  3. i hope jean grey survives secret wars and goes to the life raft to survive hopefully she does because she is way to important

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