Wednesday, March 30, 2016

X-men 92 #1: Nuff Said!

Remember the days before the X-men were mired in sterilization plots, bullshit retcons, and Hope fucking Summers? Remember the days where nobody ever even contemplated shafting the X-men in favor of the xenophobic, elitist, slave-owning racists also known as the Inhumans? Yeah, I remember those days. They were worth staying sober for. Most of it happened in the 90s. Were it not for shitty dial-up internet, it would’ve been the perfect decade. Instead, it’s just a distant memory now.

There’s no way around it. Things for the X-men suck elephant dick and it’s largely due to the fucking movie rights that Fox will never let go of. But X-men 92 offers a badly needed alternative to a world of sterilization, Terrigen shit storms, and Hope fucking Summers. It did well enough as a Secret Wars tie-in to warrant a full ongoing series. X-men 92 #1 picks up where this series left off, building on a world where Beast isn’t a douche-bag, Jean Grey never died, and Charles Xavier isn’t a manipulative asshat. Oh, and there’s no Hope fucking Summers. So by default, I’ll be reviewing this issue on a curve. Can you blame me?

It starts with a positive newscast. Let me repeat that because I don’t think anyone born after 2001 is familiar with this concept. There was a positive, uplifting newscast celebrating the opening of the Xavier Institute to a new class of students. That shouldn’t sound crazier than mixing skittles with napalm. But that’s the tone Chad Bowers and Chris Sims establish. This is a world that has a positive view of the X-men and a hopeful view of the mutant race. I’ll give everyone a moment to pick their jaws up off the floor.

Things inside the Xavier Institute are even more radical and that’s not 90s surfer talk either. Beast is back to being a teacher and Charles Xavier is back to being a mentor. And at no point does Beast say or do anything that makes him come off like a total asshat. I almost forgot that this version of Hank McCoy could exist. Also, Charles Xavier isn’t a total fucking jerk who mind-wipes his students. He actually comes off as a guy who carries himself with almost as much charm as Patrick Stewart. Again, this shouldn’t feel more refreshing than a cold beer on a hot summer day, but it does.

Also, it has Wolverine on roller blades. Say that sentence out loud without smiling. I fucking dare you!

So class begins. A new crop of students, including familiar faces like Monet and Chamber, are in Beast’s class. They’re all ready and eager to learn how to be X-men and how not to be shafted by the Inhumans. Then, as often happens at the Xavier Institute, they get interrupted. However, this isn’t because of a killer robot. I figure that’ll be part of the mid-term. Instead, it’s an unexpected visit by Maverick, a character who hasn’t been relevant since the 90s no less.

Class ends early and the X-men assemble with their revamped team. And they’re not revamped because of time travelers or an unexpected death. Cyclops and Jean Grey are on vacation. Storm is the leader now and has Cyclops’ full support. Yes, Marvel, it is possible to have peaceful, amicable transitions. What a fucking concept, right?

On top of Storm’s leadership role, they have new members in Bishop and Psylocke. This will mark the first time they come together to address a conflict. They don’t know much about it. They just know what Maverick says and he says someone is coming for the X-men. He doesn’t say they’re Disney/Marvel lawyers, but they’re probably just as dangerous.

That danger shows up right at their front door because this is the fucking 90s. They don’t just send menacing tweets. They include Omega Red and a team of communist-inspired villains because back in the 90s, we weren’t convinced communism was dead. They’re still not quite as menacing as Disney/Marvel lawyers, but they’re close. They actually claim they’re heroes acting on behalf of Russia because Maverick stole something from them, which in Russia could mean stealing the last piece of pizza from Putin’s leftovers. It sounds so reasonable. It’s not like someone who hates Wolverine can be unreasonable, right?

While we can only expect Wolverine’s enemies to be so reasonable, this moment adds some nice insight into the context of X-men 92. Again, this is not a world where giant Inhuman farts are making people sick. People actually like the X-men here and people are trying to create a world where they don’t have to sick killer robots on each other. I’ll say it again. What a fucking concept, right?

That’s not to say the 90s weren’t prone to fucking up the process. Omega Red didn’t even need Monica Lewinsky to pull it off. He and his team ditch diplomacy like Homer Simpson ditches gym memberships. They give this new team of X-men a way to show off what this era of X-men could deliver. And they do fucking deliver. Rogue throws a bear at Omega Red. I think that’s worth emphasizing again. Rogue throws a bear at someone and looks damn sexy while doing it. No offence to Anna Paquin, but this was just too awesome to capture in the movies. It couldn’t capture the spirit of the 90s X-men without setting it to Pearl Jam music.

The battle is pretty intense, but ends abruptly and for good reasons that don’t involve cosmic birds for once. Maverick actually steps in, who is still injured mind you. He claims he has information that’ll be just as bad for Russia as it would be for the X-men. He also know some people in Russia who share his tastes in vodka. So he’s able to diffuse a situation better than Bill Clinton with his pants on. It adds an extra layer of intrigue that we don’t usually get unless Bill Clinton takes his pants off.

Maverick then reveals that the information he stole that Russia finds so threatening involves an old Soviet Superweapon that they somehow lost track of in a vodka stupor. But it’s not a weapon the Russian are interested in testing on mutants. They have enough enemies with gangsters, political unrest, and angry bears. Someone else wants to unleash this weapon on mutants and Maverick thinks they need to start clenching their assholes.

So who could be more menacing than the Russians? Who would even be crazy/drunk enough to want to turn a superweapon on the X-men? Are they really that willing to waste a perfectly good weapon? Well, the Von Struckers are willing to do a lot of crazy shit. Hell, they managed to completely derail the last season of Agents of SHIELD. But they’re just the kind of people who would unleash a Soviet era superweapon on the X-men for shits and giggles. So long as it’s not a killer robot, I imagine they’ll get plenty of entertainment value out of it.

This weapon isn’t a killer robot. It’s a creature, but he has shark-like teeth so that’s a close second. The Von Struckers call him Alpha Red. They say he’s fallen a bit behind the times and for a series that takes place in the context of the 90s, that’s saying something. But the Von Struckers are intent on finding a creative way to torment the X-men. Killer robots have gone out of style. So why not a Soviet era superweapon? It beats the hell out of a giant Inhuman fart or a sentence fragment from the Scarlet Witch.

Back at the Xavier Institute, Maverick tells the X-men just how fucked they are now that Alpha Red is coming after them. He explained that the Russians attempted to create their own version of Captain America. But like their moon rockets that had a nasty habit of exploding, their version of Cap had a nasty habit of turning into a blood-thirsty monster. That’s not to say the Russians are incompetent or anything. It just says that when they fail, it’s best to be in another time zone.

The way Maverick describes Alpha Red, it sounds like they’ll be dealing with a hung over Wolverine on crack. He also describes how the Von Struckers screwed him over when he found Alpha Red. These descriptions aren’t meaningless either. They actually fill in vital details within the plot, making it feel concise and coherent. For those of us who have deal with entire wars and major deaths unfolding off-panel, this means a lot. This means a whole hell of a lot. Bowers and Sims should take a fucking bow for this.

So Maverick decides to leave so he can keep Omega Red off the X-men’s backs. However, they still have to deal with Alpha Red, a bloodthirsty Russian super weapon who doesn’t know the Cold War is over and you can now buy a Big Mac in Moscow. He wastes no time in exercising his Cold War attitudes. He shows up in Westchester, just in time for Jubilee’s date with Chamber. That’s another interesting detail that carried over from the first series. Jubilee is all giddy and smitten with Chamber. Foreign accents apparently make her hot. So Alpha Red attacking when she’s about to get a little 90s action would be a real dick move, but something the Von Struckers would totally approve of. it awesome?

It would probably be easier for me to list the flaws in X-men 92 #1 than go over all the ways this comic rocks harder than a Nirvana concert. If it has any flaws, they’re too small to belabor and I’m too high to give a shit. This issue had fucking everything. The X-men are a school. Charles Xavier and Hank McCoy are teachers. Storm is a leader. Cyclops and Jean Grey are alive. This is all the basic shit that made the X-men so awesome across so many decades. The fact that it’s all here in this issue and nobody gets sterilized is a huge fucking deal.

The setup alone gave X-men 92 #1 a head start. Chad Bowers and Chris Sims didn’t stop there. They built on what they created in the previous series, establishing new threats in Omega Red, Alpha Red, and the Von Struckers. They even did it without turning Charles Xavier into a asshole or making Beast a hypocrite. This series has so much going for it that I actually want to sober up so I don’t miss anything. And any comic that makes a guy like me want to sober up is pretty damn special.

Final Score: 10 out of 10


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