Wednesday, February 10, 2016

All-New X-men #4: Nuff Said!

There’s a reason why the formula for Coca-Cola never changed and everyone threw a hissy fit when someone tried to change it. There are just some formulas that work. Some gives us a sense of comfort and nostalgia. Some rot our teeth, kill our liver, and give us diabetes before we’re 40. The X-men have their share of formulas and when you’ve got time-displaced X-men in the mix, there’s not much difference between classic or contemporary. As far as the O5 X-men go, nobody ever tried to change the formula for Coke, Arnold Schwarzenegger never got into politics, and George Lucas never created Jar Jar. Admit it, you envy them on some levels.

The O5 X-men have already revisited a few winning formula since they got back. They clashed with Hydra, fought with the Shi’ar, and dealt with apocalyptic futures. Dennis Hopeless still has room to use those formulas, even in a Marvel universe where the current status quo has a fuck-mutants-over-in-favor-of-the-Inhumans policy. That doesn’t stop him from entertaining some of these formulas in All-New X-men #4. Is it just as refreshing? At the very least, it’ll be easier on our livers.

If there’s one formula in X-men that’s right up there with Coke Cola, it’s the Wolverine-powered Fastball Special. In terms of sugar content alone, it’s probably healthier. O5 Angel gets to be the catalyst and X-23 gets to be the fizz as he throws his girlfriend through the window of a building so she can eviscerate a bunch of armed gangsters in demon masks. This is basically the kind of shit that Wolverine considers foreplay. X-23 does it with a smile. O5 Angel does it with the enthusiasm of Cam Newton after losing Super Bowl 50.

Now I’m not a fan of brooding and whining. We’ve been getting enough of that shit with Cyclops lately. But in the context of O5 Angel and X-23’s relationship, there’s no formula here. This is a relationship that started as a fling, never developed beyond a fling, and has the limited appeal of a fling. So when O5 Angel starts showing signs that he’s not at all comfortable with seeing X-23 take a bullet and brush it off like a hangnail, it’s not all that dramatic. Hell, there are reruns of 7th Heaven that have more drama than the O5 Angel/X-23 relationship at this point.

A lack of drama aside, the threat passes and the O5 X-men get a chance to bask in some much-needed admiration. Maybe the Japanese are just too polite to demand that mutants be thrown into internment camps, but they treat the X-men well after they’re finished maiming a gang armed with demon masks. Even O5 Cyclops gets some love from some cute Japanese girls. It doesn’t turn into one of Logan’s old fantasies, but it is a nice change of pace from the usual whining about Cyclops’ so-horrible-they-can-only-happen-off-panel crimes. They still mention these bullshit off-panel crimes, but cute Japanese girls are involved so that helps balance things out.

So for once, O5 Cyclops isn’t whining or complaining. But O5 Angel seems to be getting a hard-on from his brooding. He sees X-23 casually pry out some bullets with the same casual demeanor as most people have when they pop a zit. This too seems to enchant the Japanese crowd. The fact it doesn’t involve Hello Kitty or a giant robot is really saying a lot. But O5 Angel makes it clear this shit still bothers him.

Seriously, he’s dating a girl who can survive damn near anything, never needs his protection, and lets him see her naked. And he’s still complaining? I’d say these are first world problems, but at least O5 Angel isn’t claiming affluenza so I’ll give him that.

The O5 X-men don’t just stop at winning over the Japanese by taking out demon-loving gangsters. They’re sticking to the basics, traveling the world and being the heroes the Avengers don’t have time to be anymore. This includes helping out with a forest fire in California that Thor could probably solve by sneezing. Again, X-23 does exactly what Logan used to do when he wasn’t trying to bang married women, running right into the danger and saving lives. Again, O5 Angel still has problems with this. So being rich, having wings, and dating the most badass teenage girl that hasn’t been played by Jennifer Lawrence just isn’t enough for this guy. Go figure.

Beyond O5 Angel’s whining, it’s another welcomed bit of good PR for the O5 X-men. They stopped a gang of armed thugs. They stopped a forest fire while saving the lives of fire fighters in the process. They do all of this armed only with a van, a pet bamf, and one of O5 Beast’s danger trackers because he refuses to use Twitter. Sure, there’s no fancy mansion involved, but this is the kind of formula that makes the X-men who they are. Dennis Hopeless and Mark Bagley once again show why that formula works and why the Inhumans need to stop stealing it.

Since the mutant race can’t have too many heroics at a time like this, they head out to another disaster that the Avengers don’t have time for. This time it’s Thailand, which is in the middle of a big fucking Typhoon. It finally gives O5 Iceman a chance to do something relevant besides appeal to Lady Gaga fans, creating an ice dome to protect the village from the storm. It’s more X-men basics and it just warms the cockles of my heart.

Except O5 Angel is still whining. Again, X-23 disappears into the middle of the clusterfuck and does it with bravado worthy of Wolverine. And this time, she does it to save a dog. Yeah, O5 Angel got upset because she went out of her way to save a dog. For once, I’ll side with PETA and say O5 Angel deserves a good punch in the dick.

It’s not all whining and bitching with O5 Angel though. After saving the day yet again, the O5 X-men decide to take a break do a little partying in Thai beach bar. And in a land of beaches, sand, and cheap martinis, it’s just too hard to hate mutants.

This also gives O5 Iceman a chance to explore some of his new gay flirting. It’s something he hasn’t had a chance to do yet so nobody should expect him to be on the level of Neil Patrick Harris just yet. He still makes an effort. Like most teenage boys trying to impress someone they want to bone, he makes a fool of himself. It’s perfectly appropriate, except for the One Million Moms crowd. And it’s a nice change of pace from O5 Angel’s bitching.

Sadly, that bitching remains a point of emphasis as the O5 X-men move onto Paris for their next act of basic, X-men heroics. There’s a tense argument between O5 Angel and X-23. The fact that O5 Angel doesn’t get stabbed ensures it doesn’t get too tense or compelling for that matter. O5 Angel basically gives X-23 the same speech Cyclops gave Wolverine every other episode of the old X-men Animated Series, saying that she’s reckless and not being a team player. And seeing as how X-23 is going above and beyond to live up to her predecessor (on top of being a teenage girl), this whiney old speech has a similar effect.

Now I don’t know if there are any fans of the O5 Angel/X-23 relationship. I don’t know if they have secret meetings or something. But all this whining and bitching from O5 Angel fails to create any real drama. Drama can only come from a relationship if it feels genuine and meaningful. These two feel about as genuine and meaningful as a relationship in a slightly over-budget softcore porno. I get that O5 Angel doesn’t like his girlfriend getting shot, but she’s the fucking Wolverine now. Getting shot is right up there with whiskey and yellow spandex.

This whining and bitching doesn’t completely derail story though. The O5 X-men came to Paris because somebody was poaching exotic animals. Well, they found out the asshole behind it wasn’t just some guy who was traumatized by the Lion King as a kid. It’s the Blob, another classic X-men villain who hasn’t had a chance to flex that bloated gut of his in a long time. So when O5 Angel and X-23 cross paths with him, Mark Bagley makes sure it’s a spectacle. Compared to O5 Angel’s whining, it’s a hell of an upgrade.

It gets ugly fast though. O5 Angel and X-23 are no match for a hungry Blob. It makes more sense than it sounds. Gangsters in demon masks? Yawn. Natural disasters? Barely worth the extra sweat. But an oversized, overly hungry Blob in a French restaurant? Shit, that’s not as easy as Wolverine taking a bullet. There’s just no way around it. This means X-23 takes the kind of beating that even Logan tried to avoid. It finally adds a bit of drama, minus O5 Angel’s bitching. it awesome?

Well All-New X-men #4 finally tempered the Cyclops-whining and got back to basics. And you know what? It fucking worked. This is the kind of shit that makes the X-men so lovable, except for when Brett Ratner is involved. They help the people who would otherwise spit on them at protests fueled by Rick Santorum wannabes. And in this issue, they even win over a few supporters. It’s amazing how peoples’ attitudes change when you save their asses from non-mutant shit.

If there is a flaw in the awesome, it’s the growing lack of appeal of the X-23/O5 Angel relationship. This was a relationship that started as a fling and probably should’ve stayed that way. At no point did anyone ever do anything to make them more than that. They come off as one of those couples that forgot to break up. While O5 Angel’s bitching is kind of a drag, it’s still an entertaining story that has plenty to offer. It just needs to remember that bitching about the shit Cyclops does off-panel isn’t entertaining anybody these days.

Final Score: 7 out of 10


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