Thursday, August 13, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Years of Future Past #4

Family drama has been the driving force of no less than 80 percent of successful sitcoms. From Father Knows Best to Modern Family, we just can’t get enough of family dramas. It helped Ed O’Neil star in not one, but two successful TV series. And it actually made Rosanne Barr funny for most of the 90s. But beyond shitty sitcoms, family dramas help add heart to otherwise shitty situations. And there aren’t many situations that are shittier than the world of Days of Future Past.

Let’s review the list. Mutant internment camps? Check. A horribly racist government that only the Aryan Brotherhood would approve of? Check. Killer robots hunting down a battered minority? Check. Bryan Singer making a shitty movie out of it? Double check. That’s the world that Dr. Doom recreated when he forged Battleworld during the events of Secret Wars. But the domain of Years of Future Past has set itself apart by focusing less on overly racist politics and more on the family dynamic of Kitty Pryde and Colossus. I guess even Marvel understands that people are burned out on racist politics at this point so I’m perfectly okay with this.

While these dynamics haven’t always been well-organized, they have helped make Years of Future Past one of the better Secret Wars tie-ins. It’s a series where the struggle against a Nazi-style government is secondary to the family struggles of the mutants trying to end it. Now, with the Rasputin family united in their efforts to overthrow their mutant hating government, they create a team of X-men that’s easy to root for. They’re like the Mighty Ducks meets Schindler’s List. It sounds pretty fucked up on paper, but it works, even with the use of giant dragons. Years of Future Past #4 continues that struggle, but after said giant dragon has failed. And if a racist government can’t be overthrown by dragons, then how can they be beat?

The racists in this world are way more cunning than just wearing goofy robes and making shitty websites. The assholes working under President Kelly’s racist hard-on have been trying to get video footage that they can doctor enough to make mutants scary as shit. They think they have just that after the shit storm the X-men kicked up in Centrum, which the last mutant haven. The fact that it was in a fucking sewer should tell you something. It’s still going to need some heavy Photoshopping, but I don’t doubt for a second that these assholes can make it look like a conspiracy. Just ask Planned Parenthood how effective that shit can be.

These racist assholes get away, but the rest of the X-men still get a nice reunion out of it. Wolverine and the others reunite with Storm, which is always good for a few feels. They even get Mystique to help out. In a world full of anti-mutant racists, she doesn’t have the luxury of being an asshole to the X-men nearly as much. On top of that, the X-men do have some semblance of a plan that involves more than just not getting killed by Sentinels.

A big part of that plan involved sending Christina and Cameron Pryde to the last mutant internment camp in hopes of rallying more support to fight President Kelly’s racist douche-baggery. It’s a perfectly reasonable tactic. The only problem is that she finds out that even racist assholes can turn their enemies against one another. That includes the old Brotherhood of Mutants, who somehow decided that working with the assholes who hate them is better than fighting an enemy with killer robots. Yes, it makes them traitors, but who can blame them for not wanting to fight enemies with killer robots?

For those who aren’t as inclined to sell out their own species, they rally around Christy and Cameron. They fight the racist soldiers and the Brotherhood who were dumb enough to help them. It’s not as epic as a giant dragon fighting a Sentinel, but it’s still pretty damn visceral. It’s more personal, complete with Kate Pryde coming in and lending a hand. Sure, it leads to Avalanche getting maimed like sexy cheerleaders in a slasher movie, but it nicely demonstrates a mother’s dedication to her daughter. It also shows that making deals with racist assholes tends not to end badly. It’s still satisfying as fuck, but it sucks to be the Brotherhood.

Despite the maiming and inspiration offered by the Pryde family, the mutants in this interment camp are still obscenely overmatched. They’re prisoners. They’re not John McClane. They can’t shoot down helicopters with cop cars. So after roughing up some of the guards, Destiny calls in some backup and now the mutants are staring down an army of racist soldiers who I doubt have any problems using mutants as target practice. And since all these mutants have power-suppressing collars on, it’s not like one of them has the ability to turn bullets into horse piss.

However, as much fun as seeing bullets turn into horse piss might be, it’s an ability they don’t need. The rest of the X-men show up just in time and they bring something that makes every racist redneck’s dick shrivel. Remember that Sentinel that had been the centerpiece at Centrum? Well, Magneto and the rest of the X-men decided it was a shitty centerpiece to begin with. Now, it’s racist-crushing killer robot that saves mutant prisoners. No matter how racist these guys might be, they’re not racist enough to fight through a killer robot piloted by Magneto. They run while the mutants escape, probably shitting themselves in the process. It’s a very satisfying moment, although I still think bullets turning to horse piss would’ve been just as satisfying.

The fight is over quickly, as it should be in this case. The guards leave, Nightcrawler leads the mutant prisoners to sanctuary, and the rest of the X-men meet up with Christina and Cameron. There’s a nice moment where they show their share of restlessness, having lost some mutants in the battle. But they’re not just channeling their inner Spartacus here. They still have a plan. They still need to stop the assassination attempt on President Kelly that his people are working so hard to pin on mutants. And that might not be a problem that giant dragons or killer robots can solve.

It’s a pretty basic concept and one that fits perfectly within the context of Days of Futures Past. If the rest of the story were spent having the X-men fight to save President Kelly and rub it in his face after, I don’t think anybody would be that disappointed, especially if they saw the shitty movie based on the story. However, that’s not the path this story takes. Instead, it throws a really fucked up twist into the mix that makes the concept of Days of Futures Past even more awesome. I know that sounds like I took one too many bong hits, but I swear it’s true.

It comes in the form of a very unpleasant revelation that Cameron uncovers when he takes a closer look at this Sentinel that the X-men hijacked. He finds out that Magneto tweaked the X-men’s plans, as he’s often inclined to do. Instead of just saving President Kelly from assassination, he’s set it up so that Christina dies saving him. And keep in mind, this is a girl who calls him her uncle and who he’s helped raise. Yet he’s willing to let her die so she can be a martyr for mutant-kind. While I do understand his strategy, it is still a dick move on a level that only Magneto can achieve. It shouldn’t surprise anybody that, even in an alternate universe, Magneto finds a way to be an asshole.

Naturally, Kate Pryde and the rest of the X-men aren’t a fan of this plan. Their first instinct is to martyr Magneto where he stands. But being Magneto, he neither goes down quietly nor does he apologize. In the process, there’s a very intense exchange with Christina. He still claims that he loves her as much as the rest of the X-men. However, it’s because she’s so loved and so pure of heart that she has to die. She’s the only one who is a worthy martyr. That’s like telling a pig it’s the only one worthy of becoming bacon. Sincere or not, Magneto still comes off as an omega level dick.

Christina is forced to run while Wolverine and Kate get left behind. Since Magneto is still the one with the killer robot on his side, she’s grossly overmatched. It could’ve been a quick and nasty fight, but just like before she gets a last-minute save. This time, it comes from the guy she just found out was her brother. Having been raised mostly by Wolverine, he’s more than willing to end Magneto where he stands. And since he doesn’t have adamantium bones, Magneto can’t do shit about it.

While Cameron taking down Magneto is pretty satisfying after the shit he just pulled, it ends up making for a very awkward reunion. Even though he tried to kill her, Magneto was still her uncle. So when Cameron channels his inner Wolverine, she’s not happy about it. This isn’t a matter of an annoying older brother hiding his sister’s tampons. This is him killing her uncle. It creates an intense, powerful moment that adds even more dramatic weight to this clash.

That dramatic weight gets even heavier when the conflict takes another twist. Usually when a comic takes this many twists, it’s trying way too fucking hard to rip off the Usual Suspects. It tends to get messy, chaotic, and confusing to a point where it’s hard to read sober. But that doesn’t happen here. Instead, Cameron does something that puts him at odds with way more than his sister.

As Christy is hulking out on him, he starts questioning whether the mutant race is worth saving. Now on the surface, this sounds like the kind of fatalistic shit that only Kurt Cobain would understand. However, he actually makes a valid point and he does it without the aid of heroin. He says that mutant conflicts have triggered wars and conflicts that have basically obliterated all the progress that civilization has made. And by fighting these conflicts, they’re screwing themselves and humans out of a future. The fucked up part is he’s not entirely wrong and even a sober mind would agree on some level. He thinks this dystopian world that mutants live in isn’t a struggle. It’s natural selection and they should stop fighting it.

Naturally, Christy disagrees and not in the immature brat way that most teenage girls disagree in. She starts lashing out at Cameron as though he replaced her shampoo with bull semen. She makes it clear that she doesn’t agree with his dour assumptions about human/mutant conflict. His solution? He’s going to be the one that kills President Kelly. I’ll give everyone a moment to catch their breath after that. I don’t think I need any more jokes or bong hits to describe the impact of this moment. I’ll just save myself the extra line of blow and let the moment speak for itself.

Even with the aid of my best weed, I can’t overstate the dramatic impact of this story. This series has taken a step beyond just pitting giant dragons against killer robots. It actually dared to do more than any Transformer movie ever dared. It threw in the kind of dramatic twist that’ll break hearts, bust balls, and blow minds. That’s the trifecta of awesome if ever there was one. I almost had to sober up to process it fully, but thankfully it wasn’t necessary. I can say while still high off my tits that this story has entered a new level of awesome.

This isn’t just a typical sibling clash like the one we’ve seen in every Married With Children rerun ever. Both siblings have endured very different experiences. Now, after being betrayed by someone they trusted, they don’t share the same vision for the future anymore. One thinks they’re doing more harm than good. One is willing to take a chance, even if it means confronting asshole racists. It heats up the emotions to levels that would cause a typical hot pocket to catch fire. This after another killer robot attack is just bacon-flavored icing on the cake.

Years of Future Past is doing way more than explore yet another dystopian future that would make George Orwell proud. There’s heart, drama, and betrayal thrown into the mix to help make it exceedingly awesome. I give Years of Future Past #4 a 9 out of 10. It’s inevitable. Siblings are going to one to kill each other at some point. But in an apocalyptic future on a world where Dr. Doom is god, it can lead to a lot more than awkward holidays. Nuff said!


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