Thursday, July 2, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Years of Future Past #2

Hope for the future is the one of the few things that keeps us from whipping out a can of lighter fluid and torching everything around us to the sound of Taylor Swift’s latest single. Some people have more hope than others. A teenager in downtown Detroit is going to have a very different outlook compared to a teenager in South Beach, Miami. A teenager who grew up in a fucking internment camp surrounded by killer robots is going to have even less hope, although not much less than the kid in Detroit. At least internment camps don’t have to deal with shitty music and shittier cars.

The setup for Years of Future Past was always pretty bleak, but it somehow found a way to be full of hope when it established itself in Battleworld. While it may pain fans of Starlord/Kitty Pryde to see her, Colossus, and their daughter, Christy, carry on hope in this bleak setting, it’s hard not to smile at their spirit. They don’t just have hope going for them. They’ve got an actual plan to give a massive middle finger to President Kelly and his Nazi-friendly policies towards mutants. Maybe in a world where Dr. Doom wasn’t a god, I might be more optimistic. But that’s not what they’re dealing with in Years of Future Past #2. They can piss off President Kelly and all his racist buddies all they want. They’re still in a world where Dr. Doom is a god and that’s going to severely limit hope in any capacity.

It’s still a world worth exploring and what makes it more compelling is that most of the exploration is done through the eyes of a couple of teenagers who grew up in this shit. The first issue went to great lengths establishing Christina Pryde, the daughter of Kitty Pryde and Piotr Rasputin. She did more than enough to make herself the lovable rebel who seeks freedom. She’s basically a much more kid-friendly version of Mad Max. Then there’s Cameron, Wolverine’s son. And no, he doesn’t drown this one.

Cameron and Christy are in the same boat here. They both grew up in this shitty future and at the very beginning, we get a few nice flashbacks and inner monologues that show the differences in their experiences. Essentially, it shows Kitty and Colossus were more nurturing parents than Wolverine, but a kid raised by Wolverine is still a kid you want on your side during a bar fight. Yet despite growing up in such a shitty future where people are dumb enough to elect a racist, mutant-bashing bigot in Robert Kelly, there’s still plenty of heart in both characters. They feel genuine and human, not the kind of jaded emo goth types who listen to Linken Park songs all day. And in addition, these flashbacks help establish that these two have met and their hormones have noticed. Even the threat of killer robots can’t stop teenage hormones.

That’s not to say that the story becomes an apocalyptic version of the Breakfast Club. These flashbacks don’t go on any longer than they need to. They just establish the dramatic context for Christy and Cameron. Then they go straight to dealing with the killer Doom-style Sentinels that just attacked them. It’s actually a much smoother transition than it sounds and it still offers some solid action.

But the action doesn’t last and for good reason. Christy, Cameron, and the rest of the X-men decide that this isn’t a battle they can win. A killer robot made by the government? Sure, they’ll fight that. A robot made by Dr. Doom? Fuck no. They’re hopeful, but not that hopeful. So they slip into the sewers to escape while the Doom Sentinel fights other mutants who have way more hope than they should.

This leads to a tense conversation with Cameron. During the battle in the previous issue, he showed off his mutant power and used it to kill Blob. Now to be fair, Blob was in a murderous rampage. However, that excuse only goes so far when he’s part of a species that’s going extinct. Even the people who spit on animal rights activists understand that. Christy is among those who isn’t too thrilled. Mystique is among those who want to rip his balls off. But Christy does act as a peacemaker of sorts, reminding them that bitching and moaning is an easy way to attract more Sentinels. It shows that she has charisma on top of being adorable. She’s like the anti-Honey Boo Boo.

While the others navigate the sewers, the battle on the surface is still unfolding. Rachel Grey remains in the center of the shit storm. She’s also not dumb enough to think she can take down a Sentinel molded after Doom. I think her mother probably told her outright that death is something that’s worth avoiding. They can’t give the Hank McCoys of the world more excuses to fuck with the timeline.

So she does something that most people don’t do in battles involving killer robots. She tries to find the power source for these Sentinels and pull the plug. It seems much easier than putting a target on her ass and waving it out in the open. It might be sexier, but it isn’t smart. Rachel eventually finds the power source, albeit in a way that’s not very well detailed. That doesn’t end up mattering though because that power source happens to be Storm. Yes, someone in President Kelly’s inner circle thought it was a good idea to use her as a battery and piss her off in the process. I hope whatever genius came up with that idea got turned into target practice for the Secret Service.

Rachel makes sure Storm has a chance to give the finger to President Kelly’s energy policies. She and Rachel team up in a beautifully destructive attack on his forces. It’s a beautiful moment, albeit one that ends a bit too quickly. But it effectively brings Storm into the mix so it’s definitely worth it. I can already feel President Kelly’s asshole clenching.

Back in the sewers, we get more dramatic moments between Cameron and Christy. They settle down and talk about this fucked up situation in ways that’s way too mature for a couple of teenagers. There’s still some uneasiness over Cameron’s attitudes towards killing. But given the body count his father has racked up, nobody has a right to give him that much shit. That uneasiness eventually fades because the main point of the argument is that they’re among a dying race. And they’re lucky enough to be in the generation that’s expected to do something about this shit storm. They sort of have to hold themselves to a higher standard. Just ask the children of hippies how important those standards are. It is a meaningful conversation, but it does fall a bit flat. I’d still rather watch Storm and Rachel blow up more Sentinels.

They eventually arrive at their destination, which is called Centrum. It’s basically an underground kingdom that looks like a level from Skyrim. It’s not quite like the Morlocks in that there’s less piss puddles on the floor. It actually looks quite pleasant, like it could be some sort of theme hotel in New Zealand. It even has a familiar face in Angel, which is a nice touch. In terms of places to lay low, this is a pretty sweet deal. It beats the hell out of a shitty motel with no hot water and semen-stained bed sheets.

There’s still some cause for concern, namely from the head of a deactivated Sentinel. But Angel assures them that they’ve made sure it can’t call for backup. They just use it to feed data to Rachel and others on the surface. So there’s no possible way this can’t come back to bite them in the ass, right? Like New Coke or Vietnam, it can only make things better, right? It’s probably a good idea to keep a clean pair of shorts handy.

There are some more nice personal moments between Christy and Cameron. They have a chat, do some shopping, and talk about things that don’t involve killer robots. It’s a nice moment where they just get to be teenagers. At first, it’s a solid change of pace from running from killer robots, maintaining an element of humanity that’s so important to a Days of Future Past world. Then it starts to drag.

At some point, Colossus steps in and gives this long, drawn out speech that sort of details the mindset that got mutants into this shitty future. He basically talks about how people just had these crazy ideas that started off as jokes, like preventing parents who had mutant genes from breeding. Then some crazy asshole came along and took it seriously. It’s basically a long rant against jokes to justify every act of excessive political correctness ever. It boils down to don’t even make a joke. Some asshole might try it.

Now Colossus may come off as sincere and he does have a point to make, but it’s so drawn out that it might as well be a lecture by Ben Stein. It also sends a pretty shitty message. Jokes can create apocalyptic futures. I’m pretty sure the world didn’t go to shit because Greg Giraldo, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor told too many dick jokes.

After this long-winded speech, they finally get back to more relevant topics. Namely, that battle that unfolded in the first issue, which President Kelly orchestrated, had the exact desired effect. He was able to catch parts of the battle on camera, namely the part where one mutant killed another, and crafted it into a piece of anti-mutant propaganda that would make the North Korean government proud. So basically, the shit they all gave Cameron for killing Blob was justified because it just gave President Kelly what they wanted. And that, my friends, is how hope in an apocalyptic future becomes even more fleeting.

Knowing they can’t expect the general public to reject bullshit propaganda from their government, they formulate a different course of action. They begin studying the Sentinel head they captured and used as a centerpiece for their cozy little domain. Remember that thing? How it couldn’t possibly bite them in the ass? Still keeping those clean shorts handy.

Well at first, it looks like it might do the opposite. They hack into the AI for the Sentinel and try to figure out something they can use to bite President Kelly back for his bullshit. Mystique reveals that these new Sentinels were part of a plan formulated by Doom to see if making Sentinels feel pain made them better soldiers. Again, how can that possibly go wrong? I guess Doom isn’t a Terminator fan. But beyond the shitty logic behind this program, they find codes that indicate the whole attack was staged in ways that would make conspiracy theories jizz themselves. It might actually give them something with which to counter President Kelly’s bullshit.

Then, in the least surprising twist since Larry King’s last divorce, the new Sentinels find them. I guess tinkering with another Sentinel head wasn’t such a good idea after all. Who the fuck could’ve predicted this except everyone with half a brain? Predictability aside, it’s still a nice action-packed moment after a lot of wordy dialog. This battle didn’t end with Rachel freeing Storm and it’s not going to end just because the X-men find out that the government might like to fuck with people. If things were that easy, every president since Millard Filmore would’ve been impeached.

Another battle breaks out. Like previous battles, it’s a bit rushed, but for good reason this time. While Magneto, Wolverine, Colossus, and the others battle the Doom Sentinels, Kitty takes Cameron and Christy to a very special place in Centrum. No, it’s not Wolverine’s porno stash. It’s something that might actually help them stand a chance against these Sentinels. It’s a big fucking dragon, namely Lockheed. Apparently, Kitty Pryde has been feeding him very well. He’s now big enough to be a boss fight in an old NES game. A battle between a giant dragon and Doom Sentinels? All I can say is hell the fuck yes.

As hopelessly dystopian as the Days of Future Past world might be, this comic still finds a way to fill it with hope. Hell, it’s got more hope going for it than the last Tyler Perry movies. There’s a plan, an agenda, and a struggle unfolding. And by whatever magic keeps Emma Frost’s tits in her top, it works. What makes it personal is how it unfolds from the perspective of Cameron and Christy. They’re the catalyst that makes this story feel meaningful. Without them, it might as well be a flashback from a Terminator movie. Plus, the effect of teenage hormones does add a little extra drama and that’s fitting enough. Even an apocalypse can’t stop teenagers from wanting to bone.

There’s a lot to love about Years of Future Past #2. It details a personal struggle that has heart. At times, however, that struggle is muted by bloated dialog. It’s not that there was a lot more talking and a lot less kicking ass. I understand that not every issue can contain a Lord of the Rings style battle sequence. It just felt like there was too much talking without much being said. The President can say an awful lot in a State of the Union speech, but Samuel L. Jackson can still say more just by saying the word “motherfucker” in the right tone. It still offered plenty of intriguing moments and the prospect of a giant dragon battling killer robots just gives me so many wonderful feelings in my pants. I give Years of Future Past #2 an 8 out of 10. There will always be stories about apocalyptic futures. There will always be stories about struggles for survival. But those stories don’t have to suck and this series is proving that Chris Claremont got it right. Nuff said!

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