Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Scanned Thoughts: Age of Apocalypse #3
Anybody whoever thinks that “controlled chaos” is an actual concept needs to get a fucking dictionary. That’s like dry water, intelligent drunk, or quality reality TV. It’s a flawed concept that’s only used by people trying to mask the fact that they have no fucking clue what they’re talking about. For that very reason, I think there are a number of people who would use “controlled chaos” to describe the Age of Apocalypse tie-in with Secret Wars. If you see those people, tell them they’re smoking too much weed or not enough. They’re full of shit.
I wouldn’t call Age of Apocalypse chaotic. I wouldn’t call it very controlled either. More than anything else, it’s disorganized, but not in a bad way. It has a lot of interesting concepts. It dares to make Doug Ramsey an important character and pits Apocalypse, the X-men, and the surviving human population in a conflict that would feel right at home in the gritty, grungy 90s era of X-men. But it’s a conflict that has been poorly fleshed out, requiring readers to stay more sober than they prefer to follow along. Even so, there are still some compelling plots to follow and Age of Apocalypse #3 attempts to make this shit more concise. In that sense, the health of my liver depends on its success or failure.
I can already feel my liver groaning because the chaos in Age of Apocalypse doesn’t settle. Right out of the gate, we get a new development that is part WTF and part “Well fuck yes!” It involves Jean Grey. And no, she’s not dying. No, she’s not eating a planet. And no, she’s not trying to keep her panties dry around Wolverine. She’s been abducted by Dr. Nemesis. When and how the fuck did this happen? Did someone really get that wasted and forget that this was an ongoing issue? I’m too drunk to answer those questions, but at the very least we get an answer to the question of why.
At the moment, Apocalypse’s forces are interrogating Carol Danvers, who is among the few human authority figures left in Age of Apocalypse. Ordinary humans in a world dominated by mutants with Dr. Doom as a god are way more screwed than most. However, Dr. Nemesis doesn’t trust that Sinister and Apocalypse’s horsemen are going to be wholly truthful. Because in the past, those who work for Apocalypse are just so well-known for their honesty, right? It’s still a very WTF moment. But in terms of mind-fucking the truth out of someone, capturing Jean Grey and using her powers is right up there with Googling the answers to an exam.
I’m sure Carol Danvers would prefer a mind-fucking from Jean Grey than an interrogation from Sinister and Apocalypse’s horsemen. That’s akin to getting root canal by Freddy Kruger while Jason Vorhees simultaneously conducts a colonoscopy. It’s still a somewhat chaotic scene, but it doesn’t stray too far from the established story. The humans have developed a deadly bioweapon that they want to use against mutants. Naturally, Apocalypse’s forces want to find that shit before they can unleash it. Having given the humans so many reasons to despise mutants, who could blame them?
There’s nothing too visceral or brutal about this process. In fact, it comes off as downright bureaucratic. It hardly seems worthy of Apocalypse’s tyranny. It feels watered down, like the kind of interrogation that would be conducted in Orange County and not downtown LA. Sure, they bring in Daredevil to make sure she’s not completely bullshitting them. But again, where the fuck did Daredevil come from and why the fuck did he get involved? It’s another one of those details that just gets pulled from some random ass, but I guess it’s cheaper than finding or conjuring another Jean Grey.
The chaos continues, but it doesn’t expand or fester. There is at least some effort to add more details to the ongoing shit storm in this apocalyptic domain of Battleworld. It comes in the form of Magneto getting nostalgic with Doug Ramsey, who has once again become the kind of background character that usually gets killed off in the first five minutes of a Mission Impossible movie. That might be for the better, but the X-men still went through a shit storm of trouble to save his miserable ass. So the least Magneto can do is offer a little perspective.
It’s not as exciting as it sounds. He recounts one of the X-men’s earliest battles. We don’t get any insight or details about this battle other than it involved pissing off Sinister, Namor, Apocalypse, and Sebastian Shaw. In other words, it’s basically a typical Tuesday for the X-men. There are some nice visuals, but there’s really nothing memorable about it. That’s really not the point though. Magneto’s reason for telling this story is to explain why he’s doing what he’s doing.
And in this respect, the details are clear and pretty concise. He recalls the death of Charles Xavier as being the catalyst. He even flat out admits that in Xavier’s absence, he did exactly jack shit as Apocalypse began sticking his apocalyptic dick into every part of the human/mutant conflict. It’s because he did jack shit that things got so fucked up. It’s not just a reasonable turning point. It’s consistent with the entire premise of Age of Apocalypse. Like the planet Krypton blowing up or Batman’s parents getting murdered, it’s a vital part of what makes Age of Apocalypse awesome and capturing it in this moment just feels extra satisfying. Like drinking at your favorite bar, it reminds you of why we like this particular brand of awesome.
It makes for a nice personal moment with Magneto. It’s one we don’t usually get unless he’s strangling a Nazi war criminal. It reveals how the death of Charles Xavier, coupled with doing jack shit while Apocalypse spit on humanity as a whole, turned him into the man he is now. It also helps show the kind of hardship he has to deal with in this world. There’s no mansion, no fancy jet, and no Danger Room. It’s just the X-men trying to survive the same way Bear Gyles would if he had superpowers, minus the piss drinking.
This moment helps maintain a certain perspective for the X-men within this chaotic world. It’s a perfect reflection of how the X-men have to function in a world where Charles Xavier is dead and Apocalypse is in a position of power that would make Kim Jong Un jealous. It gives Age of Apocalypse its unique flavor. It’s still lacking refinement, but even light beer can get you drunk because it still has the key ingredients.
As nice as these moments of reflection are, they don’t really move the story forward that much. There’s still plenty of shit going on in the present that’s worth touching on, even if it’s lacking details. There’s still Cyclops being interrogated by the X-men. Having been abducted in the previous issue, he’s now in a position that the anti-Cyclops crowd probably jerks off to in his private moments. He’s got Blink and Burner demanding they tell him…well, that’s not exactly clear. That’s one of those key details that’s missing. I’m assuming that they want to know about the bioweapon. Or maybe they want to know what type of food gives Apocalypse the shits. I don’t know and I don’t like to assume, as my experience with a transvestite hooker can attest.
It gets pretty confusing, even though Cyclops doesn’t say anything. But it really doesn’t matter in the end, which in and of itself is even more confusing. Before Magneto can start pulling off Cyclops’ fingernails, Rogue comes rushing in and tells him something is wrong with his wife. Who is his wife, by the way? In the original AOA, he hooked up with Rogue. It’s a fucked up relationship to say the least, but you can’t knock the guy for having good tastes. Well in this world, he married Emma Frost. I’ll give everyone a moment to process the WTF and another moment to adjust their respect for Magneto accordingly.
Again, it’s another one of those details that craves refinement. When the fuck did this happen? When did Magneto decide he liked blond, big-breasted telepaths? Actually, that question kind of answers itself. It’s still a detail that’s worth at least touching on. Instead, we’re left to assume and that’s hard to do for the non-sober crowd.
So what is causing Emma “Ms. Magneto” Frost’s latest headaches? Well, it’s the same thing that gives her headaches in most worlds. It’s Jean Grey. Remember that fucked up experiment that Dr. Nemesis was conducting and never fully explained? Well, it worked. We don’t know why or how the fuck it worked, but it works. And it reveals that Jean overheard some shady talks at Angel’s club about an experiment that was done on Sugar Man. Since nobody has much sympathy for a guy who looks like a giant pair of rotting dentures, he got to be the test subject for the bioweapon. And guess what? It worked. So abducting Cyclops? A complete waste of fucking time. Go figure.
The X-men aren’t the only ones who picked up on that telepathic shit storm. Sinister and the rest of Apocalypse’s horseman sensed it too. They’re understandably concerned. A bioweapon that can wipe out mutants is not good for any regime dominated by mutants. They still have almost as many questions as I do. How the fuck did humans get their hands on a weapon like this? How did Apocalypse and the rest of the mutant race never find out about it? And why the fuck did it require a bunch of X-men to die to save Doug fucking Ramsey? Like so many unanswered questions in this story, Sinister and the horsemen shrug it off and go about finding that weapon.
This brings Apocalypse and his horsemen to some remote, poorly depicted human settlement. The X-men follow close behind. A quick clash ensues. On paper, it should be pretty fucking epic, as some of the battles in this series have been. It has all the pieces. It’s Magneto’s X-men versus Sinister and the horsemen of Apocalypse. By all accounts, this should be one of those battles that get Rhonda Rousey ready for a fight.
But it really falls flat. There’s no visceral, heated fighting. There’s just basic fighting, the kind that Jack Kirby probably drew in his sleep on an off-day. Again, it’s poorly detailed. Seeing the pattern yet? If so, it’s probably because I have a better weed dealer. There’s nothing in the clash to make it very memorable. There’s some monologue, but it’s more forgettable than the last three Johnny Depp movies. All you need to know is that Magneto knows that if this virus gets unleased, they’re all fucked.
If the story just ended here, this would be one of the most forgettable Secret Wars tie-in to date. But thankfully, the end has such a huge “Holy fucking hell!” moment that it gives this book merit. Because in the end, neither the horsemen nor the X-men obtain the virus. It’s Apocalypse himself who finds it. And what does he do with a weapon designed to wipe out mutants? He fucking releases it. Why? He’s Apocalypse. He’s always curious about who will be fit to survive. For him, it’s just the kind of omega-level dick move Apocalypse would make. And he does it without looking like Ivan fucking Ooze from Power Rangers. Take notes, Oscar Isaac!
So in the end, Age of Apocalypse doesn’t get any less disorganized. If it were a drunk, it wouldn’t pass a Breathalyzer. But it wouldn’t be throwing up in the middle of the street either. This issue succeeds in one very important way. It gives the story its biggest “Oh shit!” moment at the end. This moment acts as a culmination of the whole super virus story. It’s a story that is similar to no fewer than a dozen shitty movies going back to the mid-90s, but it’s a story that ties together the main components governing this important domain of Battleworld.
As with the previous issues, the big picture is fine. It’s the details that are lacking. Like cheap light beer, Age of Apocalypse has been lacking in potency and this issue continued that tradition. The plot with Doug Ramsey still doesn’t make a lick of sense. There’s no insight into how the fuck Jean Grey ended up in Dr. Nemesis’ labs or why Magneto married Emma Frost of all people. There are a lot of details that, like Fred Savage’s career at this point, serve no other purpose than to exist.
I get that not everything can be fleshed out, but it’s like a drunk drying to stumble towards the bathroom. They might make it in time to avoid pissing themselves, but it won’t be a clean or efficient process. I give Age of Apocalypse #3 a 6 out of 10. It has its moments, but you might have to sober up to find those moments. And as satisfying as they are, having to sober for them just seems too bittersweet for a story like this. Nuff said!