1:05PM: Uncanny X-Men # 101 Like A Phoenix, From The Ashes! Not really truthful, that title. Phoenix shows up for the "prologue" which ends with Professor X forcing the X-Men to take a vacation. That's why the end up heading out to Banshee's wacky "ancestral home" which is, for storytelling purposes, a gigantic castle from every single era of medieval times. I guess this is the first time the Juggernaut has showed up, and I wonder how much anybody takes him seriously ever since that silly youtube video where the guy kept saying "I'm da Juggahnot!" Either way, the final nail had to be when Vinnie Jones played him in that awful Brett Ratner movie. He only shows up at the end, but it basically encapsulates how I feel about this whole issue, and to some extent, most of them so far--the fighting and screaming is so repetitive and devoid of consequence that it's hard to enjoy on a storytelling level, the personality "dynamics" is mostly stuff like Storm thinking to herself about how she's claustrophobic, Nightcrawler is the sort of goofball that's neither funny or clever, just irritating, like a wart or dirty toothbrush. Alan Cumming was the right call to play that character in a movie--I don't really believe in Alan Cumming either, he's fine in Titus and Cabaret, but he always struck me as someone who isn't ever a real person. He just wakes up and puts on a caricature of a human being that's really zany and pansexual before he goes out to drink absinthe and talk about Dead Can Dance lyrics. I can see how this gets addictive--i've no interest in whether they get out of the fighting predicaments, but I'm curious to the next development in Wolverine's desire to "get" Jean Grey, I'm curious to who's going to die next. Knowing that's the only "development" coming is pretty pathetic though--but it's no more pathetic than wanting to know the Joker's next plan, and it's less pathetic than wanting to know the developments in Hal Jordan's relationships.
1:02PM: So Banshee takes the X-Men on a vacation, but only Storm is allowed a seat in the truck/car thing he's driving. Nightcrawler, Wolverine and Colossus have to ride in the bed of the truck/car, like dogs. Adorable.
1:00PM: Hey, it's Green Arrow! Green Arrow is a doctor!
12:56PM: "What's Jean Grey to you anyway? Someone I like. An' Want. An' what Wolverine wants--he gets." Jesus, that's just some creepy ass shit to say. I wonder how many fans identified with that kind of behavior. Hopefully, not too many.
12:45PM: Uncanny X-Men # 100 Greater Love Hath No X-Men... Well, after the last issue, this was kind of a relief-it's one of those straight-up fight books with no excursions into B-plots or exploratory racism. Just dude on dude, lady on lady, punch and shoot. Wolverine lets everybody know that he also has dog powers, and can smell robots. The idea that some scientist can so easily, and quickly, make robots with super-powers is one that happens in comics regularly, and it's always really stupid--not so much in these, since the whole "let's make these spandex books realistic" thing didn't get started back here. But yeah, still kind of like...what? You can make robots that have telekinetic powers? And this is what you do with them?
Is this the first time Jean Grey dies? It's a to be continued, so I'll find out, but this is a hell of a lot more dramatic than the death of the Proudstar guy. It would help if I didn't know that the X-Men's biggest running joke is the death and rebirth of the characters, Jean specifically. Still, the scene where she just decides that she's going to knock her boyfriend out cold instead of discuss things with him--well, that's sort of great. I don't think I'd be able to tolerate it if it was a guy who just went "Look, shut up bitch" and cold-cocked his wife because she was getting mouthy, but seeing Jean do it...I don't know, it's just kind of pleasant. It helps that Cyclops seems to scream about everything. You want some pizza Cyclops? Can we get a pineapple pizza?
"Dear GOD the PIZZA MUST BE VEGAN, why not CHINESE instead! MY EYES...THE GOGGLES do NOTHING."
Oh, something on my chair, which is new and very nice, and very, very expensive, keeps falling off because the people who delivered it didn't assemble it properly. I will fix it when i'm done. Also, it's raining here in Brooklyn. Also, I'm sorry for the Simpsons reference. I'm out of coffee after 8 total cups, and my wife is at yoga. Time for Stan Lee's essay.
12:43PM: Well, there's the first fastball special.
12:27PM: Uncanny X-Men # 99 Deathstar, Rising! Now we're getting into the heat of the whole "brothers, sisters, gays & straights, blacks & whites, hold hands and drink a can of Tab, we're all the same underneath the sheets." First it was Jean Grey calling the Lang guy a Nazi, in the last issue, and now it's "Anti-mutant hysteria sweeping the country." Of course, if they were full on going for the Nazi allegory, then the news wouldn't refer to the anti-mutant protesters as hysterical, they'd be concerned Americans, and any assault on an "outspoken foe of the anti-mutant movement" would go un-reported. That's how propaganda works--in this case, the point of view seems to be that the anti-mutant movement is considered to be that of the minority, as the media is still operating from a pro-mutant point of view. So it's not really Nazism. The Nazis' embraced widespread anti-Semitic propaganda. Specificity, of course, is going to be lacking in a comic book, but that's the whole thing about using something like Nazism. That's one of the big guys, it's a big fucking argument, and it's, like a Spider-Man, a great responsibility to start utilizing things like real genocide, real racism, to increase the flavor of your story. If you're not going to do it accurately, to present the real kind, then don't do it all. By ignoring the culpability of the news media, and propaganda specifically, it implies that one can trust the statements of the media and propaganda, as they're presented here to be trustworthy. That wasn't the case in Germany and Rwanda. It isn't the case in North Korea and Darfur. That's in part, why it worked-because the masses who weren't actively anti-Semitic, who wouldn't behave as willing participants in the Holocaust, were given a easily embraceable way out--the language of "this is the right thing to do, we're looking after your interest" was available to them. The people were able to stay cloistered in a language of lies and pamphlets. Here, the media isn't providing that--they're saying, no, anti-mutant attacks are wrong, they're bad. That's not what happened. (And this is even more complicated and complex then that--i'm just pointing out one of the many ways this could have been done in a more convincing, and less immature, fashion. As always, go ahead and use the arguments if you want, one should be free to do whatever they want in writing--but if you're going to take a stance that it's "important" then do it right, and do it accurately. So far, this is just offensively ignorant, and almost willfully lazy.
12:08PM: Uncanny X-Men # 98 Merry Christmas, X-Men... Quick digression-this Omnibus also reprints the letters page, which I've taken a cursory look at everytime, but have yet to care about anything in it. Jo Duffy wrote in on this issue--who is that? I know that name.
I was sure this was going to be a terrible Christmas issue, but after the first two pages, all of the "Merry X-mas, cocksucker" shit went out the window--this is another fight-fight-capture-fight issue. This time, the Steve Lang guy brings a bunch of Sentinels to the table, they kick the ass of the X, then the X kicks back. Wolverine rips off most of Jean Grey's dress, which seems to be the beginning of that shit they do in the movies, where he totally doesn't give a shit that Cyclops and her are together, and she pretends to be mad about it while keeping her options open.
The most interesting thing here for me is that it's the first time Banshee looks like a person--maybe it's the inking or something, because it's still a Cockrum structure, but the wrinkly infant thing isn't here. After that, it's interesting how unrepentantly ugly Wolverine is. Just a straight up hideous looking motherfucker.
Oh, and now it looks like the space shit is going to come to the fore, as it turns out that all the captive X-Men are in a space jail. Actually, it ends with Wolverine, Banshee and Jean Grey floating in space, which means that the next issue must include some kind of explanation for why they haven't gone all Total Recall with popping eyeballs.
And yes, Ruby Suns is done, now it's the new Spiritualized which, so far, is fantastic. There best since Ladies and Gentleman.
12:01PM: Roughly two hours in, and i'm just now 1/8 of the way through, meaning this will take 16 hours? No fucking way. Yes fucking way?
11:51AM: Uncanny X-Men # 97 My Brother, My Enemy! The Steve Lang guy from the last issue puts his plan into place, and it has something to do with getting a dominatrix in red to mildly control "Doctoral Candidates" Havoc and Polaris (okay, I know who that is now) to do..something with Professor X. They fail to capture/kill the bald one, and there's a LOT of screaming faces. First it's Havoc, then Cyclops, then back and forth between them. Lots of people go flying around, nobody gets hurt except for probably all the people at the airport who disappear pretty quickly. For some reason, Jean Grey is there, so wherever she decided to disappear too, it wasn't far enough away not to come visit. The whole issue opens with some kind of huge space battle that Professor X has been dreaming about--I guess that's how all of these comics work. They have some A plot, which is the Havoc & Polaris thing, and then there's a background B plot that will come up again later. I have a particular loathing for most science fiction stuff that isn't directed by Tarkovsky, so I can't imagine that will be fun. Out of all of them so far, this is my least favorite issue. None of the glaring weird dialog to be entertained by, just a bunch of people screaming and fight scenes that only make sense because of the omnipresent dialog boxes. Cockrum is far more interesting an artist than Portacio, but this shit is completely lacking in subtlety. It's just screaming, all the fucking time.
11:48AM: Man, I don't give a shit who Eric the Red was, or whom was Eric the Red. Referencing some shit from 40 issues ago? Fuck you, comic book.
11:46AM: "Doctoral Candidates Alex Summers and Lorna Dane?" Doctoral candidates in what? Why is Cyclops wearing Elton John's sunglasses?
11:43AM: If you care, this is coffee number 5. The Ruby Suns album continues to not only disappoint, but actively make me angry. Is Moira the Professor's ex-girlfriend?
11:33AM: Uncanny X-Men # 96 Night Of The Demon! When does John Byrne start drawing these? I'm fine with Cockrum, although he uses the same tricks over and over again--everybody is always screaming if they're doing something, and if they're doing nothing, they're just...vacant. Anyway, here's the thing--this is the first full on "Claremont" issue, with no Len Wein as plotter, and...it shows? Lots of strange, cumbersome dialog, lots of people being total assholes. It opens with four pages of Cyclops brooding, responding to a narrator who's sort of describing what he's thinking, and yet also conversing with Cyclops, who responds by talking back and blowing up a graveyard. Wolverine then calls Colossus "Baby." Which is fine, I guess.
The second best, or worst, thing about this is when they cut to Banshee, who is wearing a gigantic Scottish hat, smoking a pipe, and wearing a white turtleneck. He looks like an Irish dockworker from the 1920's. Absurd. The third best or worst thing is after this, when Professor X responds to Storm's natural concern that the new housekeeper, whom only Professor X has met, is trustworthy--he says "Rest assured--our secret is safe with Moira MacTaggert. Safe unto DEATH." (Italics are there, in the book.) If somebody said that to you after asking a simple question, I think i'd nod and back out of the room, pack my bags and jump out the nearest window.
The first, the worst, the best? That's when a one-eyed dragon shows up and says "I am Kierrok, little animal--Kierrok the Shatterer of Souls--Keirrok the Slayer of Men--Keirrok the Damned! And I have come for YOU this night, humans--for your lives--and for your souls!!"
What the fuck? How is that supposed to make me care about racism? Is that supposed to be awesome or something? If this wasn't couched in all the whiny freakshow complaints, maybe, but as it is, it just seems like the Kool-Aid man came crashing through the wall and turned out that he wanted, less to party, but to eat my dad's face.
11:29AM: Well, no more M83, but considering how totally obnoxious this Ruby Suns album, I'm missing it now. This is the kind of music that would make the perfect soundtrack for a Latin American musical version of Patch Adams.
11:26AM: Because I'm a film nerd more than a comics nerd, the first thing I think when I see there's a character with the last name Lang is that I'd really like to check out that new two-disc version of M. That movie is classic. This Lang is named Steve, and he is one of those people that screams at his subordinates for no reason other than that he's crazy, and screaming bad guys are Claremont's stock in trade, it seems.
11:12AM: Uncanny X-Men # 95 Warhunt! In other words, this is The Doomsmith Scenario, part two, or "The Death of James Proudstar" For whatever reason, that death is drawn with Professor X, who had none him all of three fucking days, breaking down into a massive scene of emotion, which is also drawn with flames coming out of Professor X's back, and his face is colored purple, than aquamarine. What?
Oh, god, this M83 song is 11 minutes long, and I think it's just this one tone non-stop. Boring!
Banshee, again, has been drawn, this entire issue, as if he doesn't have enough skin to cover his skull, but that skin, which is taut against bone, is also wrinkled. And his haircut is like the haircuts of the bad guys in Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky, which is a great movie that George Lucas ganked a bunch of battle scenes from.
There's so much weird drawing stuff in here--James Proudstar's eyes are yellow all of a sudden, then white, he punches a glass cockpit while in flight and the glass goes FORWARD, against all understanding of physics, but even the worst drawing in the world wouldn't be enough to obscure the worst storytelling twist yet--after all that "Omigod the DOOMSMITH Protocol," with a five minute countdown to the end of the world, Professor X goes "Cyclops, What are you doing!?! That SHIT IS TOTALLY BROKEN." And that's the end of the whole "world's going to end" thing. That kind of twist makes even the worst deus ex machina look like Nobel Prize winning Kenzaburo Oe. Coffee cup number 4. Moving on.
10:58AM: Uncanny X-Men # 94 The Doomsmith Scenario "The Air Force called the Avengers for help but we can't handle it right now." (Hank McCoy, The Beast, via videophone.) That's the definition of this issue. Somebody takes over NORAD, and activates a system that, if left to play out on its own, will destroy the world by firing the entire nuclear arsenal of the USA. Interestingly enough, this is the way the US government has it programmed-the bad guy didn't do anything but activate the program--Claremont (who wrote this one, although not on his own, is saying that the US governments fall-back plan is to destroy the entire goddamn world if it looks like the country might fall.) That's pleasant. Maybe true, but only if you happen to be a "the moon landing WAS FAKED" kind of individual. Moving on. This is still taking too long to do, and although a 24 live-blog would be funny, it would also be totally goddamn absurd.
10:55AM: If you work in NORAD, you have enough sense not to press the button on a weird mechanical object you've never seen before that says "PRESS ME." And was delivered to you via the MAIL. Also, they don't allow personal mail delivery at high-security nuclear facilities.
10:49AM: Oh, yeah, to the guy who thinks this is "jumping the shark." Seriously, jumping the shark implies that you were cool at some point, doesn't it? Comics blogging--never fucking cool. Miles Davis, Coltrane, Steve McQueen, Tetsuo blowing up a tank with his mind, Frank Santoro, Deena Pilgrim from Powers, David Fincher, Miranda Richardson in Cronenberg's Spider, Helen Mirren--that's cool. Blogging? Blogging is, has, never been cool. That's like saying Myspace jumped the shark. Myspace was jack-fucking-ass to begin with. There's no way to jump the shark in comics blogging. And I say that with nothing but love for Jog, Matt Brady of Warren Peace, and Abhay, who do it better than everybody else. Comics blogging is rearranging books in order of publication instead of alphabetical--fun as hell, but totally uncool. Also uncool? This new M83 album. (Only 2008 music, all day, first few hours will be recent downloads.) M83 album and comics blogging--jumping the shark would, conversely, make them cool.
10:45AM: Holy shit that is the dumbest outfit I've ever seen. Jean Grey is wearing this blue-pink ensemble with a hat that's a cross between a cowboy hat and a gigantic nacho bowl. And a flower, and huge pouch style pockets on the jacket. She looks like she's a 90 year old nail salon owner. If she can read people's minds, does she hear them saying "Jean looks like a fucking idiot today, did she get dressed in the dark oh shit CAN SHE HEAR ME?"
10:44AM: I'd buy a t-shirt that says: "Killed by my eyes! My cursed, mutant, energy-blasting EYES!" That sounds like an old Minor Threat song.
10:39AM: More COFFEE. Cup 3. That new Death Cab album is just as horrible and as irritating as I expected. Apologies to my brother, but yes, I have no interest in listening to that. It's like watching a 40 year old hang out in the parking lot of a high school and try to get kids to dump Lil Wayne for Crosby, Stills & Nash.
10:28AM: Giant Size X-Men # 1: Ok, I'm going to have to figure out something a little different-thirty minutes for a comic and some nonsense Muppet show style complaining isn't going to work. Less frequent updates, faster reading. (Sorry, but this is live, and there's been no real plan here.)
Well, for starters, this has some nitpicky things wrong with it, as far as I can tell--the basic conceit that these X-Men suffer from being treated "differently" only really comes up in Nightcrawler's case, early in the issue when he decides to take an entire mob of villagers in hand-to-hand combat. In fact, all that goes right out the window when they run into a mutant who, through no fault of its own, happens to be a gigantic island that feeds off the powers of mutants. (Yet doesn't seem to kill them, or even make them suffer that much--as soon as everybody gets free, they're ready and raring to yell at each other, a lot.) Solution? Throw all that ethical "mutants deserve to be treated like any individual life-form" shit and throw the gross, unattractive island into the galaxy, away from the mutants that (even in Nightcrawler's case) look like people. So, yeah, mutants should all be treated the same, as long as they aren't really fucking gross to look at, really powerful, and have creepy dietary needs. If the X-men really gave a fuck about all that ethical shit, they'd each take a turn once a week feeding this poor bastard.
The characters themselves don't have that much of a defined personality--it's all just "traits" as personality right now: Sunfire is...an asshole! Cyclops...yells a lot and is sort of incomptent! Thunderbird is...an armchair Noam Chomsky! Storm is....well, she hasn't really done anything yet. Nice to know she spent all that time in Africa WAITING for people to come and ask her for rain, she couldn't just, you know, make it fucking rain without putting on a pageant. What a selfish bitch. Jean Grey, who I understand becomes a big deal later, doesn't really do much here, nor does Wolverine. Havoc and Iceman really hate each other, but they're sort of B-grade losers, right? Professor X is just sort of--I don't know, a creepy fuck in a chair. This entire issue could have gone a different direction, with him inviting a bunch of strangers over to his secluded mansion, giving them homemade spandex outfits and then introducing them all to his houseboy--"Meet Scott--he and I have been together a long time. Practically raised him. Please go find my old harem of mutants. In return, you can join me--is your outfit comfortable? Tight enough? Scrumptious."
Art-wise, Cockrum draws yelling in a way that's yet to irritate, but Banshee looks awful, every single time.
10:27AM: If I keep doing these little updates this is going to take too long, and it's not going to be entertaining to read unless you read it along with the comic, which no one on Earth should have to do.
10:25AM: Lorna Dane? What? Is that the girl who has Magneto powers?
10:23AM: When somebody says, "Hey, did I keep you waiting long" and your response is "Aw, naw, just got here ourselves," it's pretty supreme dickishness to turn around and IMMEDIATELY say "Since we are ALL finally here..." Man, fuck you Cyclops.
10:21AM: On top of the previous complaint-there's no real plan here. Last time they came to this island everybody disappeared immediately. Now they are just coming back and doing it the same way again. Dumb ass shit.
10:19AM: I'm not sure Cyclops has any business being a leader if the first thing he does on his rescue mission is to leave something (the "mini-cerebro unit") on the goddamn plane, right when he arrives. Considering that's sort of necessary equipment, it's the equivalent of a general going "oh fuck bro, we gotta head back to the boat here on the normandy beaches, totally left the radio, geez. Swallowed a bug, that."
10:17AM: Nightcrawler calls people "man" but something tells me it's not in the tone that I'm imagining. Whatever, dude. Yeah, man. 'Sup?
10:15AM: Jesus this Banshee guy is obnoxious. He's barely done anything and I can't stand him. He has the face of a wrinkled baby. I need more coffee. This is cup number two.
10:11AM: Sunfire's personality is sort of fascinating. Now he's furious at Cyclops and Professor X for expecting him to help them find the missing X-Men--all of whom I recognize from the movie, except for the girl who looks sort of like She-Ra with Melanie Griffith's Working Girl haircut. Then the other guy is Havoc, I don't know why I know who he is, but he's Cyclops brother--right? I think he is. Doesn't say. Anyway, Sunfire. He's being a huge asshole for no reason whatsoever. Wait, somebody just called him the "Jap." What the fuck?
10:07AM: "Hank McCoy's dexterous digits might be--eh--handy on a job like this." Jean's a perv. Not bad. I though Iceman was a kid. Here he looks like he's 40 years old.
10:05AM: Wait, that doesn't make any sense. Sunfire: "Right now you will tell us why you dragged us here!" The whole first chapter is Professor X convincing them to come to his little dinner party by appealing to the individual characters greater sense of commitment to the world. They've been there five minutes. Why is Sunfire such a dick?
10:03AM: I can't get over Banshee-now it looks like he's telling Sunfire a story about a fishing trip. And Sunfire looks like he's trying to pick up girls at a bar. What does the sun, or fire, have to do with his costume? He looks like a crab.
9:57AM: They don't fuck around, eh? "The Grandeur and the glory begin anew with SECOND GENESIS!" Banshee looks kind of like a crappy vampire.
9:48AM: Simple Survival, by Chris Claremont: The first of four essays pretty much doesn't really need to be criticized, it's just Claremont saying how proud he is of the work he did. He should be. Whether I end up liking any of this or not, these comics certainly made a huge impact on a lot of people. For better or worse, the X-Men are a source of joy for a decent portion of the comics readers roaming the world. Good for them.