Wednesday, June 1, 2016

X-men 92 #4: Nuff Said!

In a perfect world, X-men 92 would be the top-selling Marvel comic and Inhumans comics would barley qualify as toilet paper in a third world country. Sadly, we don't live in a perfect world. Good things happen to shitty comics and shitty things happen to great comics. By every measure of my drunken X-men fandom, X-men 92 is flawless. It has the spirit and heart that the X-men hasn't had since the Clinton Administration, long before the world became consumed with clouds of Inhuman farts. So it's sad to see it not getting the respect and love it deserves.

That still won't stop me from enjoying X-men 92 while it lasts, which might not be for very long given how Marvel instinctively spits on any comic that doesn't give a blowjob to their in-house movie franchises. Just ask the Fantastic Four. X-men 92 has been crafting an enjoyable story about a new threat to the X-men involving vampires, a renewed Inner Circle, and no sterilization plots. Seriously, what's not to like? X-men 92 #4 hopes to add to this list. At a time when even Oscar Isaac's sex appeal can't save the X-men, it can't be long enough.

Storm had to have known that her first stint as leader of the X-men was going to ball-bustingly frustrating, but fighting mutant vampires and the anti-Edward Cullen that leads them? Pretty sure she's earned herself to the right to kick Cyclops in the balls for leaving the team when he did. I think even Jean would give her a pass.

Alpha Red has turned the X-men and most of their student body into vampires. Some of Alpha Red's hidden buddies have infected Cerebro for good measure and Beast now has to rely on Dead Girl, a D-list mutant who would never get a chance to shine without being retconned into an Inhuman, to save the day. This, my friends, is the standard that X-men 92 sets. No sterilization or extinction plots needed. It shouldn't be this refreshing. It really shouldn't.

The battle unfolds. It's not the kind of battle that gets past the censors on a 90s-era Saturday morning cartoon where selling toys takes priority over awesome at times. It's just X-men versus vampires. It's as awesome as it sounds on paper and then some. It's also a chance for Storm to show that she can do more than make mother nature look sexy as hell.

The battle itself isn't all that elaborate, but it doesn't have to be. It already has a number of complications, Wolverine being the uncontrollable asshat being one of them. Alpha Red finds out the hard way that turning Wolverine into a meat puppet tends to end poorly for those that value their limbs. Storm also shows she can be every bit as tactical as Cyclops, using U-go Girl to teleport most of the vamperized mutants to the Danger Room, where she puts them in the middle of a Blade movie. It's a tactic I'm sure Cyclops would approve of. Jean Grey might even be inclined to kiss Storm. I don't even think Cyclops would mind. His penis sure as hell won't.

This brief, but tactically refined battle gives Dead Girl a chance to do her part. She's expected to win the other side of the battle within Cerebro. No pressure for a girl who is barely old enough for her junior prom. Then again, I'm a guy who ditched his prom to play Mario Kart so what do I know? She enters Cerebro to encounter the program that hacked the Institute, which is called Darkhold. It sounds like a badass masturbation technique, but it's really just a corrupt program with a strange bit of charm. In other words, it's basically Ryan Secrest.

The visuals here are twisted, but fitting. X-men 92 doesn't shy away from its 90s-roots. That means embracing the pixilated, dial-up era quirks of the time. Sure, kids today may think anything without a hashtag isn't worth their attention. I say fuck those kids and their hashtags. This gives a lesser known mutant a chance to explore a fucked up computer reality that isn't a total Matrix rip-off.

Dead Girl is in over her head in a hilariously disturbing way. She also has to work with a sense of urgency because that army of mutant vampires aren't as eager give up their immortal lives as you might think. A vampire version of Rogue and Gambit manage to break into Cerebro and fuck things up a bit. Instead of debating on who gets to star in their own HBO show, they debate on who to eat. Chamber decides to shine for the first time in nearly two decades and takes them down. It's a satisfying moment, not to mention a much better love story than Twilight or the last season of True Blood.

The rest of the battle is getting chaotic and even a little confusing, but not enough to make the boner in my pants go away. Jubilee, who was the first one to get turned, starts to burn out like Vanilla Ice. Wolverine is still resisting the urge to be a meat puppet. Psylocke and Bishop revert back to their X-Force methods to battle the rest of the mutant vampires. There's a lot going on and there's only so much an unsober mind can keep up with.

However, it's still Alpha Red leading the charge. This is his shit storm. He kicked it up and his old man, Dracula, is trying to clean up the mess. So there are some old-school Shakespearean, I-need-to-one-up-my-father-to-compensate-for-my-penis type themes. It's not going to put Chad Bowers and Chris Sims on par with the old Bard, but it does add some personal elements to what is otherwise a mutants vs. vampires brawl.

This brawl starts going against the non-bloodsucking crowd and Alpha Red's daddy issues start to overwhelm Dracula. The only one who can tip the balance at this point is Dead Girl. Yes, the fate of the X-men and the mutant race rests on Dead Girl, a character most know so little about, they probably mistake her Linsey Lohan's career. It's enough to make your asshole clench just enough to worry, but it's also kind of refreshing that a D-list character like this is getting a chance to kick ass in a way no mutant could ever manage in the modern, Inhuman-dominated world that Marvel's legal team favors.

It's here where X-men 92 gains some complexities that probably wouldn't have meshed well with the non-stoner Saturday morning cartoon lovers of the 90s. Dead Girl that the Darkhold can use Cerebro to unleash a wave of energy that will destroy all vampires and save the X-men. It all sounds like a great deal, but Beast, once again showing that he can be a douche in any universe, urges caution. He rightfully points out that this sort of thing might come with a few side-effects and not just the kind that require a trip to the ER after 4 hours. I normally don't agree with Beast and this is no exception, but I do concede that the man has a point. It's just not a point that warrants being a total douche.

It makes for a powerful moment with Dead Girl, who has to wrestle with Beast urging her to hestsitate and Storm urging her to save the X-men. It's as if Beast is channeling Marvel and Disney's legal team. It's a moment where a young mutant has to make a fateful and difficult decision. It's the kind of moment where the X-men are at their best. And, in a beautifully appropriate moment that is ripped off from House of M in the best possible way, Dead Girl makes her choice. She agrees to let the Darkhold unleash the energy that'll purge the X-men 92 universe of all non-sparkling vampires. It effectively undoes Alpha Red's shit storm, ensuring Jubilee is back to being Jubilee and nobody has to put up more with more Twilight jokes on this blog. I'm sure they're all greatly relieved.

That's not to say her decision is devoid of impact. There are hints that what she does has major ramification, as is often the case for anything and everything the X-men do. That usually starts the countdown for when this decision will come back to bite Dead Girl in the ass, but it gives weight to her choice. She doesn't just flip a switch and everyone is back to singing songs and dancing the Macarena. There are other potential issues and that's what makes it powerful.

Just one of those powerful moments comes courtesy of Dracula and Alpha Red. Yes, their father/son struggle is as basic as a Game of Thrones rerun, minus the gratuitous nudity and genital mutiliation. However, Bowers and Sims still make sure to give dramatic weight to this moment. Because of hte Darkhold, Alpha Red is doomed to turn into dust before he can devour Stephanie Meyer. It's a cruel fate and one that leads to a powerful moment with Dracula. He isn't the kind of father who is inclined to spit on his dead son's ashes. So I guess in that sense, this moment isn't like Game of Thrones.

Storm even becomes part of this moment, offering some level of consolation to Dracula. Granted, this is fucking Dracula. This guy deserves consolation the same way Bill Gates deserves a fucking tax break. However, the man still lost his son and just one issue ago, Dracula did want to marry Storm. Granted, most men want that, dead or undead. It's still a tense, conflicted moment where Storm offers some perspective. It's a skewed perspective since her species didn't just get their asses kicked. Given how fucked that species is in the mainline comics, I think she's earned it. Vampires owe us that much after Twilight.

So the day is saved. Storm's first mission as leader of the X-men is a success. She saved her friends and kept them from a cruel future full of Twilight jokes. She still probably wants to kick Cyclops in the balls, but everything else at this point would just be icing on the cake. However, this doesn't spare her from one last tense exchange with Beast. Again, Beast insists on being a douche to those who have to make hard decisions. He does it with Cyclops. He's a total fucking asshat because of it. However, he does make at least some valid points, saying that what Storm did today could bite them in their already-ripened asses. Such is the life of the leader of the X-men and unlike Cyclops, Storm can't bury her sorrows between Jean Grey's legs. In other words, she has a LONG road ahead of her. it awesome?

It's chaotic, quick-paced, and confusing at times. Oh, and it's also pretty fucking awesome. Can't forget about that. X-men 92 #4 doesn't attempt to overly complicate the formula for what makes X-men awesome. A threat to the human and mutant race emerges. They step up and kick it in the balls. That's X-men at their finest. That's what the old cartoon perfected and it was able to do so without Oscar Isaac's sex appeal. That in and of itself is a big fucking accomplishment.

At the same time, however, X-men 92 #4 doesn't shy away from added complexities. It doesn't try to be exactly like the old cartoon and it shouldn't. This isn't the fucking 90s anymore. Nicholas Cage isn't an A-lister, America Online sucks, Apple is better than Microsoft, and the current Marvel cartoons suck. This issue dares to add some uncertainty within the X-men while still maintaining the playful, upbeat spirit that has been crushed under the Inhuman-fetish boot in the mainline Marvel universe. The X-men don't just save the day. They contemplate the future moving forward. That alone makes X-men 92 the most mature and refined X-men title to come along in decades. I don't miss Nicholas Cage movies, but I do miss this kind of X-men to death.

Final Score: 8 out of 10


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