Thursday, August 6, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Age of Apocalypse #2

Every so often, some unexpected nobody unwittingly kicks up a shit storm that draws all sorts of scrutiny. One day it’s Ellion Gonzales. The other it’s Caitlyn Jenner. Next, it’s Joe the Plumber. It’s like the lottery, minus the money and bankruptcy. Some people just get obscenely lucky to be in just the right place at just the right time to fuck something up. In that context, Doug Ramsey has won the fucking Powerball.

In the Age of Apocalypse sector of Battleworld, he’s actually the catalyst for shit storm that’s emerging in this sliver of 90s-era nostalgia. There’s no grunge rock or Jay and Silent Bob, but there is a world where Apocalypse reigns supreme in as much as anyone can reign supreme in a world where Doom is a god. This tie-in hit the ground sprinting like Usain Bolt on crack, killing off a chunk of X-men just to protect Doug Ramsey. Yes, Doug fucking Ramsey was that important.

It came dangerously close to pop a lung and tearing some ligaments, but his story still carries intrigue in a world that makes me want to break out my old Nirvana and Pearl Jam CDs. Age of Apocalypse #2 is still going a million miles a minute and even I don’t have enough weed to slow it down, but that’s not going to stop me from trying.

For once, I don’t need to try very hard and that’s a godsend for a stoner. Instead of giving more reasons to make us care about Doug Ramsey, the story gets simplified. There’s no mystery this time. It’s just Magneto and his X-men verses Apocalypse’s Elite Mutant Force. One side wants to save humanity. The other is just fine watching them die and jerking off on the ashes. There’s no ambiguity. I don’t even need a lot of weed to help me enjoy this, but why take that chance?

The battle unfolds with the explosive force of the first three Die Hard movies. There’s hitting, shooting, and trash talking that could only come from Raiders fans. And in the middle of this overly extreme, X-games style clash is still Doug Ramsey, but he’s doing only as much as he needs to. He acts as the narrator of sorts, observing the conflict from the perspective of someone who is as comfortable in a war zone as I am at a Mormon church. It’s a bit choppy at times, but he gives some added depth to the brutality of the battle.

It’s not just random violence either. Some of it is targeted. In this epic clash worthy of an MTV special (back when MTV was still relevant), Magneto manages to get Emma Frost to subdue Cyclops. And she even got to keep her clothes on, which may or may not be a good thing. Burner also pulls off some gloriously badass displays that would’ve been right at home in a Michael Jackson music video. There’s a concerted effort to show that both sides are getting roughed up by this battle. And that helps make it satisfying.

And while Doug Ramsey’s commentary doesn’t really add much other than a, “Holy shit, I’m in the middle of an X-men battle!” type perspective, he does help keep the conflict concise. In the process he reveals that the X-men are getting very desperate. He also reveals that Apocalypse is not exactly comfortable in a world where Doom is god. The story that began in the first issue set the stage for that desperation and the payoff here makes it a pretty decent investment. It’s not as good as the price of Apple stock in the 90s, but it still pays dividends.

While the battle here is the main attraction, there are still other sub-plots unfolding. I know in the 90s, sub-plots might as well have been on par with Simpsons reruns. In fact, many of them still are. But there are some lingering plots worth highlighting. One of them involves Nightcrawler, the only X-men who survived in the insanely costly effort to save Doug Ramsey. However, he probably wishes he didn’t survive now. He’s in the clutches of Dark Beast. It would’ve been less disturbing if his injured body was in windowless room surrounded by necrophilliacs.

We don’t know much about what he has planned and not much is done to move this sub-plot forward. But it at least shows that Nightcrawler is still in play. However, he misses the big battle and his chance to hook up with Blink. I can’t imagine the thought of hooking up with another teleporter hasn’t crossed his mind in this world.

Back at the main Apocalypse vs. X-men clash, both sides start retreating. Neither side can really claim they won. Nobody gets to say, “Yippie kaya motherfucker!” However, the X-men leave with the advantage. For one, their human allies are still not extinct and they have Cyclops as a prisoner. For any time that has Wolverine on it, that’s as big a win as kicking Apocalypse in the balls. They even manage to get Doug Ramsey as well. So all-in-all, the X-men’s bold attack against Apocalypse forces worked.

It’s a fairly satisfying result to such an elaborate clash. It’s the first time this series feels like it actually captured the essence of Age of Apocalypse from the 90s. It’s over-the-top action with a few targeted moments in between. It’s the kind of action that Nicholas Cage, Bruce Willis, and Keanu Reeves would be right at home in. It might not move the plot forward by much, but it’s way more enjoyable than anything we got in the first issue. However, Doug Ramsey is still a whiney little shit so that doesn’t change.

Not being one to take this kind of pwnage lightly, Apocalypse’s forces begin the tedious task of channeling their inner Agent Smith. They start trying to track the X-men using mutants who might be inclined to help them. Some just aren’t nearly as passionate about exterminating the human race as Apocalypse. Go figure. One of them is Angel, who owns a club in this world called Heaven. It’s a club that has Jean Grey as one of its servers. Not gonna lie, I’d have her as a server as well if I had a club in Heaven. But that’s beside the point.

That doesn’t appeal enough to Sabretooth because he shows up on Apocalypse’s behalf to beat, scratch, and torture information out of him. If he knows anything at all the X-men’s attack on Apocalypse’s forces and values having his nuts intact enough to enjoy a club with Jean Grey as a server, he better fucking talk. I think it’s safe to say that like a hedge fund manager sitting in the office of the FBI, he’s inclined to talk.

That’s bad news for the X-men, but they still have time to enjoy the pwnage they inflicted on Apocalypse. They now have Cyclops as a prisoner and as a potential tool for more pwnage. I’m sure at least a third of all Wolverine’s masturbatory fantasies start out like this, usually before the team or redheads and Japanese schoolgirls enter the picture. It makes for a nice moment that reminds us why these two hate each other with extra vitriol in this world. Wolverine lost a hand. Cyclops lost and eye. This on top of wanting to bang the same woman makes the hatred that much more potent. It’s another element of Age of Apocalypse that was lacking before. But like Snooki’s period, it’s better late than never.

While Wolverine fantasizes about all the ways they’re going to torment Cyclops, Magneto gets a chance to chat with Doug Ramsey. It makes for a nice moment where Magneto laments how deranged Apocalypse is in this world. Being second to Dr. Doom is really fucking with him. He offers some insight into his plan. He wants to turn Apocalypse’s horsemen against him. It’s a bold, ballsy move and I don’t know why the fuck he needs Doug Ramsey to pull it off. But if he doesn’t, he makes clear that humans and mutants alike are completely fucked. The details are lacking, but it least gives a sense of just how close this world is to being irrevocably fucked. And in a world ruled by Apocalypse within a world where Doom is god, that’s saying something.

Regardless of how determined the X-men are to stopping Apocalypse, it’s still the humans who have the most to lose. They’re the endangered species in this world. They’re the ones most likely to be used as target practice or get caught in the crossfire between whatever shit storm the X-men and Apocalypse kick up. None of them can teleport. They all have painfully limited options.

But in this world, Carol Danvers is still one of those options. She’s just a sheriff of a human ghetto in this world, but she’s still Carol Danvers. That makes it a damn good option by default. She didn’t get to tag along with the X-men after they left. She’s got her own shit to worry about, namely the possibility that Apocalypse may get overly genocidal if he finds out she helped the X-men. Well, those worries become more pressing when Sabretooth shows up. I guess Angel proved that rich assholes are untrustworthy in any universe. So she and the rest of the human race might be well on their way to being fucked.

For Apocalypse, he’s already got the lube and the mood music. Like the New England Patriots, he doesn’t like losing and he doesn’t like playing by the rules when he has a chance to avoid them. He apparently knows about the plague that humans are trying to unleash on mutants. And rather than try the reasonable, diplomatic approach, he decides to go Dick Cheney on the human race. He’s ready to go pre-emptive on their asses and he’s not even going to ask the UN for permission. So whatever anybody thinks Doug Ramsey can contribute to this shit, he better do it soon because Apocalypse is all too eager to make him one of the least relevant X-men again.

This issue basically did what the first issue should’ve. It simplified the plot by filling it with extreme, over-the-top style action that would’ve been right at home in a Bruce Willis movie back when he was still relevant. There’s no constantly wondering why the fuck Doug Ramsey deserves to be an important character. It’s just the X-men versus Apocalypse. It’s the fight to save humanity against the fight to send them to the same ditch as the Neanderthals. There’s really not much more to it. There doesn’t need to be that much more to it.

While this makes for a more enjoyable comic, it doesn’t do much to move the story forward or make anyone give more than half-a-shit about Doug Ramsey. It does manage to highlight some of the more basic themes of Age of Apocalypse, namely Wolverine’s extra white-hot hatred of Cyclops in this world. However, there’s still a distinct lack of melodrama that makes too much of the story forgettable. It’s still a story built around Doug Ramsey being the key to stopping a plague. Beyond that, we don’t learn much more. But it’s still an enjoyable spectacle, a testament to style over substance. For that, I give Age of Apocalypse #2 a 6 out of 10. It has the most basic of appeals to anyone fond of 90s-era X-men. It’s not going to break new ground, but it’s a fun comic to read while hammered. Nuff said!


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