Thursday, July 23, 2015
Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny X-men #35
There are many non-western cultures that believe time is not linear and that it often flows in this chaotic, meandering path. On a partially related note, there are also many non-western cultures that have way better weed. Just think that’s worth pointing out because there are times when I suspect the man or woman who manages the release schedule is drunk, stoned, or getting a few too many blowjobs on the side. That said, I try not to let it stop me from enjoying the substance of a comic. It’s usually something an extra joint or two will help.
We all know that Secret Wars is in full swing. The worlds of 616 and Ultimate were destroyed in a cosmic clusterfuck. Now there’s only Battleworld. That’s where all the action is. That’s where all the fancy new toys and hookers are showing up. So why would a comic that took place before that have much appeal? Well, that’s a rhetorical question because it doesn’t fucking matter. The only thing that matters is whether or not a comic is awesome.
Uncanny X-men #35 was one of the numerous X-men comics that got delayed due to Secret Wars. It’s another comic that’s meant to help set up the triple sized Uncanny X-men #600 uber-party, which also got delayed due to Secret Wars. Either I’m really high or I’m seeing a pattern here. But there’s still a story worth telling in Uncanny X-men #35. Before the Secret Wars clusterfuck destroyed the world, Cyclops disbanded the New Xavier School and pissed off his ex-girlfriend. Admit it, you want to know what comes of that for the same reason you want to know why 50 Cent filed for bankruptcy.
The story is still following the aftermath of Cyclops disbanding the New Xavier School. But disbanding the school doesn’t mean that young, vulnerable mutants will be any less pissed off. One young mutant whose coping skills are only slightly worse than the average teenager is Blake, the wannabe punk rock girl that kick-started X-men: Battle of the Atom. It turns out being attacked by a Sentinel didn’t set her straight. So she decided to do the most logical thing she can do and blames her father, who happens to be a football coach at a high school. I’m pretty sure this is ripping off the last season of Friday Night Lights, but there’s really nothing here that’s quite as compelling. She and her father argue. He blames her and she blames him. It’s basically a Dr. Phil rerun if the teenager was given access to a flamethrower. It’s as volatile as it sounds.
With or without Dr. Phil, this confrontation was bound to become an omega level clusterfuck. Blake does exactly what she did in Battle of the Atom, summoning raging demons to attack hordes of innocent people. But unlike Madelyne Pryor, she doesn’t look nearly as sexy doing it. Again, there’s nothing new here. She’s a pissed off teenage girl with way too much power at her disposal. Make her rich and she’d have her own reality show.
Enter the young mutants from the disbanded New Xavier School. As in the same young mutants who have had next to no training and very limited experience being X-men. They think they can handle one pissed off mutant girl that they’ve faced before. And that’s not an entirely flawed assumption. This isn’t a fucking Sentinel army powered by Apocalypse. This is one pissed off mutant with serious daddy issues. It’s the mutant equivalent of getting a cat out of a tree.
The battle that unfolds is pretty standard. The mutants fight while the humans run, scream, and shit themselves somewhere in the process. The Stepford Cuckoos go on the psychic offensive. Hijack gets some help from a few buses. Goldballs holds off the monsters by throwing balls at them in what amounts to a glorified dodge ball game. Triage just waits for someone to get wounded to heal them.
Overall, it’s fairly well-organized. But it’s not all that epic. It’s still just them fighting a whiney teenage girl that they’ve already fought before. They’re not exactly playing Contra without cheat codes or something. The ending isn’t much of a spectacle. Ben Deeds uses his powers to convince Blake that this is not a healthy way to deal with her problems. Goldballs knocks her out before she can change her mind. It’s not as boring as watching Ben Stein read poetry, but it’s not going to get anyone’s heart racing like a necrophiliac at a morgue.
The day is now saved. These young X-men successfully fought off a pissed off teenage girl that could control demons. In the X-men’s world, that’s basically Monday. But they manage to do it with a little extra flare. They even take some time to chat with a few kids who recorded this shit on their cell phone. Their lack of maturity, a plan, and a team name is painfully clear. And Goldballs still looks goofy as hell in that uniform, but he’s still the most lovable guy in the group. What’s not to love about a guy who is a walking dick joke who dresses like rejected Star Trek villain? I’m serious. That’s the kind of guy I would buy a beer for.
After they leave, feeling pretty damn good about themselves for defeating a bitchy teenager, they crash at the old Hellfire Club building. Let’s face it, there are way worst places a bunch of teenagers could sleep for the night. It’s still way safer than most motels in Tijuana. They’re all aware that this used to be a club of kinky, megalomaniacal mutants who enjoyed the occasional orgy. Strangely, that doesn’t bother a bunch of teenagers. Maybe if they were Mormon they would be iffy about it, but they’re not so they get over it.
They wake up the next morning, probably hoping that they’ll find another whiney mutant girl with demon summoning powers to fight. But to their surprise, the video from their fight yesterday went viral. But it wasn’t because of a demon attack. That sort of shit probably happens on days when Dr. Strange is hung over or something. It’s Goldballs they all love. Apparently, a goofy Hispanic mutant who shoots gold balls out of his body is a novelty in the Marvel universe. Go figure. It gets so popular that his parents don’t call SHIELD to have his ass arrested like last time. I guess that counts as progress for him on some levels.
What follows next is basically a rerun of every Behind The Music and Where Are They Now rerun ever aired. A teenager suddenly becomes famous for reasons nobody really understands. At least in Goldballs’ case, he doesn’t need to star in a movie with Tim Allen or be in a boy band. He just has to fight crime wearing a goofy costume. I’d argue that’s a lot less demeaning anyways.
That’s not to say it isn’t appealing. There’s something inherently fun about seeing heroes in the Marvel universe being treated like celebrities. It’s a story that is rarely explored in the comics. It makes them feel a bit more real, dealing with the fame and attention their actions bring. And unlike douchebags who only become celebrities because of leaked sex taps, Goldballs and other heroes actually do something meaningful.
It’s fun, but it’s also kind of rushed. He’s like Vanilla Ice in his prime, a guy at the top of the charts with everybody eager for a piece of him. And he doesn’t even get shaken down by Suge Knight. It’s a good time for Goldballs and he clearly enjoys it. So do the others. Who wouldn’t? Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame. It lasts only as long as the next Kardashian scandal.
But like Vanilla Ice and every other child star not named Neil Patrick Harris, it all comes crashing down pretty quickly. And it’s not nearly as spectacular either. One day, he finishes roughing up Ulysses Claw, a D-list Avengers villain. Then out of nowhere, some asshole who wasn’t content being a dick on the internet throws a bottle at Goldballs that happens to wound him in the neck. It’s more serious than it sounds. Any time glass shards get involved in necks, even a drunk knows that the bar fight has gone too far.
It’s still a very poorly developed situation. Somehow, a bunch of anti-mutant assholes who probably got tired of protesting same-sex marriage rulings ganged up on these young mutants and attacked them. The Stepford Cuckoos respond with a few debilitating migraines, but the damage is still done. Even though Triage is able to heal Goldballs, the whole team is pretty traumatized. It doesn’t help that the cops harass them and not the asshole who threw the bottle. I don’t know if these guys are the LAPD, but they’re certainly qualified.
This whole ordeal is badly rushed and really kind of stale. These teenage mutants were riding so high and this is all it took to humble them? One anti-mutant riot? That would be like Taylor Swift retiring from music just because a few people booed her at a concert. Granted, these are still inexperienced teenage mutants. They’re not even in Taylor Swift’s zip code and Taylor Swift isn’t even a teenager. So maybe it’s not fair, but it’s still pretty stale.
Their solution is as simple as it is unspectacular. They decide that maybe they’re not ready to be mutant heroes so they go running to the Jean Grey Institute. It’s kind of full circle. They get kicked out of one school and they go running to another. And this is pretty much what Cyclops wanted for them when he disbanded the school. He wanted them to stay safe at the Jean Grey Institute. Being the welcoming and forgiving heroes they are (except for Cyclops), Storm welcomes them with open arms. It’s still pretty bland. If it were a Behind the Music episode, it would suck worse than the Oasis story.
In the grand scheme of things, this issue really didn’t accomplish much. All it did was show that a bunch of teenage mutants with little training and experience aren’t ready to be a full-time superhero team. It also showed that when shit starts trending on the internet, people are a lot more inclined to exercise on their asshole impulses. I don’t think that’s a concept we need reinforced in the era of Grumpy Cat, LonelyGirl15, and Riley Curry. That’s not to say it’s an invalid point, but the story felt more like a PSA announcement than an X-men story.
It still has its charm. It’s still fun watching teenagers try to be heroes and fuck up along the way. It’s also fun seeing teenagers try to handle fame. I’d argue that Goldballs handled it much better than Justice Bieber ever did, but that’s really not saying much these days. It helped set up some more sub-plots for Uncanny X-men #600 to address, but at this point even that milestone is starting to seem like an afterthought. I give Uncanny X-men #35 a 5 out of 10. It’s not going to get anyone high. It’s not going to sober anyone up either. It’s just a fairly typical story about how teenagers tend to get their hopes crushed and who needs that? Seriously, if I need my hopes crushed, I’ll just go back to high school. Nuff said!