Sunday, July 29, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 17 (Avengers #28, Wolverine and the X-Men #14, and X-Men: Legacy #270)

The Phoenix Four are officially villains. The turn hasn't been long or subtle, but I think we can safely say this week that, yeah, they're the bad guys. Isn't it nice to be right?

What's sad isn't how terribly obvious this direction -- where the hosts of the Phoenix are corrupted by power, assuming thay just because they can do something that it's just -- is, since it has been obvious from the moment we saw the five of them in action. What's sad is just how poorly executed all of this has been with few cases worse than Wolverine and the X-Men #14 and X-Men: Legacy #270, the former more than the latter. We are shown the Rasputin siblings as they make it very, very clear that, yes, what everyone said would happen has. And it's happened in, like, a week. These are heroes, supposedly, and they are driven this far over the edge in a week?

It's actually another example in the argument I've been making since this event began: the heroes are fallen by this point. The corruption has set in for all of them, not just those given these incredible powers. They no longer fight for what's right -- they fight to fight. They don't know anything else. Look at how the Red Hulk looks at this entire thing in Avengers #28: "They do not get it. This is war." And he's not the only one. Everyone speaks of this conflict in militaristic terms and, actually, have since the beginning. This was never a disagreement between allies that could be solved through reason and discussion. It was war. War without killing, but war.

The lack of killing given the mindset of these characters is laughable. They've moved so far beyond righteousness in non-killing to simply being naive and delusional. They don't kill because they don't kill because they don't kill. They fight and fight and fight and do nothing but fight, but they don't kill. This is the war without end. The never-ending battle. Fallen heroes slugging it out in new ideological conflicts forever, constantly rearranging the sides, switching things up, picking new teams... They are fallen and the world is their plaything. 'War' is some game that they play like children at recess. These events are their recess where, this time, Captain America and Cyclops were the captains and chose all their buddies. None of this matters because there are no true consequences, much like a game. It seems important at the time, they play their hearts out, but soon the bell will ring, they'll go back inside for a while and return later to do it all over again.

Even the Red Hulk and others willing to 'kill' fit into that mindset. He's the big thug that is too overeager and is willing to do anything to win that game of touch football, even breaking some poor kid's arm in an ill-advised tackle. There's a few of those in every school yard.

I am at a loss at how awful Wolverine and the X-Men #14 and X-Men: Legacy #270 are. In Wolverine and the X-Men, Colossus forces Kitty Pryde to have dinner with him, gets increasingly pissed off when she doesn't seem interested, and damn near destroys the school, killing everyone in the process, because he's god now and she will love him if he says to love him. It's one of the worst thing that Jason Aaron has ever written, lacking in anything close to subtlety or nuance, choosing to go for cheap in-your-face storytelling that's very forced and unnatural simply to shoehorn characters that were mindless drones a few months ago into going "Hey... maybe we shouldn't have just shouted 'Viva mutants!' and tried to kill those Avengers guys..." It's awful writing used to fix bad writing.

X-Men: Legacy is almost as bad, but at least uses a character that's a little closer to the corrupt, evil person she's shown as. Magik using Limbo as a prison for the Avengers isn't even close to as big a leap as Colossus deciding to destroy a school for mutants run by his friends. In fact, given the way the character has been written (aside from a few recent bits, I've been told), if she were doing this before acting as a host for the Phoenix, I don't think anyone would have blinked. That doesn't make it any less obvious a comic in the way that Rogue goes from "Mutants forevah, sug!" to "Avengers forevah, sug!" in fairly short order. It's cheap in the way that it tries to make the Phoenix Four look evil, particularly when Rogue tells Magik that they'd be more likely to side with her and Magik basically tells her that, no, they'd kill her to live the mutant dream. The unsaid obvious thing is: the Avengers were previously being held in the X-Brig and, then, were moved to Limbo, so I think they already knew about the Limbo prison, Rogue.

After the first half of this event focused on the X-Men perspective, building up the Avengers as the giant bad guys trying to oppress a race (somehow), we've now had those same X-Men turn on their leaders, because, no, they're wannabe killers of kids, destroyers of schools, and use Hellish landscapes as prison as they torture the inmates.

Except, we're to believe that these characters have only recently fallen and I don't see any change (aside from the over-the-top Colossus bullshit). They were always like this. This is their true selves coming out, the true selves we've seen for years now. This truly is the columination of everything we've seen going back to Avengers Disassembled. The mutants/humans tensions, the superheroes fighting superheroes, the questions of when killing is necessary... the inability to do anything but hit things and then condemn people who do nothing but hit things. This is the low point, the moment where they stand around in pools of blood wondering why they used to smile in old pictures.

Next week: Avengers vs. X-Men #9.