Monday, October 5, 2015

The Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon #5

FUN FACT: I finally watched the motion comics of this series and I very much enjoyed it. It's great to watch a comics I'm currently reading unfold visually in my screen while I hear a voice cast read the dialogue to me. Cassaday's art worked well for the animation too because, as I previously mentioned, I think there is a dimensional element in the way he drew faces that could translate better in another medium such as the motion comics in question. The only motions comics I ever watched before this was Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's Watchmen which wasn't really as good. With the Watchmen MC, they left the dialogue boxes in and there is only a single narrator voicing the entire story which was disappointing. But the animation for The Astonishing X-Men was an all-out project with the best of efforts so I really had fun seeing the scenes play out especially the way they try to make everything look dynamic including the transitions in fight scenes and the minuscule details of facial expressions for each character. The voice cast was well-equipped enough to deliver the finer points in the dialogues. I was generally happy about the first season of the series which is composed of six episodes equal to the six issues for the piece written by Joss Whedon entitled "Gifted". Now, we only have two left to review today so let's cut to the chase and do just that.

"You all have perfectly good reasons for not wanting to do this, but you are the team I choose. So think about it."
~Scott Summers, Gifted, issue #1

But hold the satanic bible, I want to address something first. I never got to talk about my overall insight regarding Scott's impressive speech he delivered back in issue 1. I simply characterized it as a PR move to gather all five of them so they put themselves out there as a 'superhero team' so they can establish a more positive media presence in the public. It was a very belittling generalization, now that I think about it because it wasn't really just about PR, of course; the fact is Scott's motivation as a leader and the message of his campaign are worth tackling, so let's do that first before jumping right into the review of this issue itself. I'll keep it simple. I've reached certain comics storylines lately where Scott Summers is portrayed in the most unflattering of lights possible. In the current MARVEL NOW!, his missions are painted to be exploits, his goals are that of an extremist, radical revolutionist of the douchebag kind, and since he killed Charles Xavier during AVX, nobody trusts him, even his supposed team. So, reading Scott during the height of his hero career again makes me feel good because I think I can consider myself as a Scott supporter, though not necessarily a defender or loyalist by default. I just think he's getting bad cred from the most pointless reasons (people say he's bland or a bad leader, etc.) and yes, this is also acknowledging the fact that he deserves the bad cred he's getting lately after what he did to Xavier. Nevertheless, I think Scott for Whedon's AXM is the kind of Scott I love reading about. Cyclops is a born leader; that's why Xavier had chosen him in the first place. He might seem stiff and a control freak but only out of the best intentions. He's feared that his powers could hurt people and that's why he's cautious, why he's determined to protect and serve his kind and humans because he's compensating for his insecurities and this is his greatest advantage as a leader and an X-Man. He will never abuse his power---well, in light of AVX, he did, but only because he was cosmically possessed by the Phoenix. But I'm not about to be an apologist here so let's focus back on his campaign to help X-Men "astonish" the media and public. 

He talked about the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, and how he wanted to model the X-Men more closely to them which means a lot of human relations. He is pushing forth the agenda that X-Men must show priority in defending and protecting human civilians which will hopefully change the way the world views mutants in general because that's Xavier's original goal and vision after all. The world should stop fearing and hating mutantkind because there are a great number of them who will dedicate their lives and powers in building a better community where there is no separation between their races. It's a step towards the right direction, and with the limitation of five members (now six, counting the return of Colossus which I will discuss below), then the more manageable it could be. The OCF started out with five members after all so this is a great callback to the classic era even if the times have gotten more dangerous and more challenging for this batch of X-Men.


Last issue, we witnessed our Daring Five (or DF as I would fondly call them from now on so please take note) led by Cyclops and composed of Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Wolverine and Beast break in BeneTech Laboratories where the supposed cure was being developed. In there, they encounter the corpse of a mutant who seemed to have killed herself. Convinced that there may be more dead bodies, Cyclops prevented Wolverine from torching the place down completely. Meanwhile, Kitty was assigned to find the main security logs she can disable and ended up almost getting caught. Fortunately and shockingly so, she was rescued by no other than the late Colossus who really should have been deceased, given that he sacrificed his life to stop the Legacy Virus from spreading to mutantkind. The Legacy Virus took the life of his sister Illyana, that is worth mentioning, so Peter understandably saw that it was only honorable to her memory and for the rest of his friends that he dies for them. It was epic. 

So why is he alive NOW?

Before we get to that, let's stop by the Xavier School where Ord, a.k.a Ord the Dumb-Dumb attacked two young students because he made the dumb mistake of looking for the X-Men in their turf instead of just waiting by BeneTech where the X-Men are currently at. Stupid, arrogant idiot took a shot on Hisako and then took Wing as he flew away for escape just so he can inject him with the cure to send a message, and then he lets the boy fall. He was luckily saved by one of the healer students. All is good, right? HELL FUCKING NO. He was, after all, stabbed with the cure.

And this untimely tragedy happened just moments after Hisako decided to confront him about his desire to become an X-Man. He has dreams to join the team and serve as a superhero, dammit, and now that he's "cured" (a verb so awful and inappropriate with his situation), he can never fulfill his dream. And that breaks my heart. I don't know Wing at all, and I only encountered him in this series so far, but I'm already rooting that the stupid cure gets reversed and he eventually does become a part of the new X-Men team. Poor guy could use that pick-me-up. Hence, I officially name this as the Number One Reason why Ord the Dumb-Dumb MUST DIE.

You will be avenged, kid.

Back to Colossus: There was an awkward pause between the two reunited former lovers in which Kitty had to question if he was really who he is since after all she had to watch him die and she had to grieve him for an excruciating amount of time. Once they resolved that authenticity issue, they started touching each other like young lovers ought to (well, I didn't mean to make that sound dirty; it was actually a pretty nice display of affection) and then Colossus explained exactly what he thought happened to him. It turned out that Ord the Dumb-Dumb abducted his cadaver, resurrected him for the very nefarious purpose of experimenting on him for the so-called, completely immoral by now, mutant cure I will NEVER refer to as "Hope".  It was also revealed that Ord the Dumb-Dumb is possibly partly responsible for the Legacy Virus that almost killed mutantkind before, and since that didn't work he decided to help a well-meaning doctor like Kavita Rao to come up with a "cure" just so he can "neuter" the mutant race at least, all for the sake of a vision from the future where...oops, that's for the next issue. I didn't mean to get ahead of myself there. Anyway, what happened to Peter was horrific which is why that is the...

Number Two Reason why Ord the Dumb-Dumb MUST DIE.

The other four of the Daring Five are trapped in one of the rooms where they discovered the body of a mutant girl who has lacerations on her wrists, leading them to believe she committed suicide. Some guards attacked and shot Cyclops and Wolverine so the two are currently bleeding out (well, Wolvie is taking his time healing) while Beast and Emma had a serious talk with Dr. Kavita Rao who immediately rushed to Cyclops' side to help him because she maintained that she never wanted to hurt mutants; she just wanted to cure their genetic defect. The moment I really liked was the exchange between Emma and Dr. Kavita Rao regarding this which touched upon the obvious correlation between homosexuality and mutation that has been brought up during that memorable scene in X2 where Bobby and his parents talked about the fact that he's a mutant. That entire scene read as a 'coming out' exchange. The director wasn't being very subtle about it especially when he had the mother asked quite blatantly, "Have you tried not being a mutant?" which is something an ignorant, narrow-minded person would ask a gay person in real life, reinforcing the misconception that being homosexual is a choice, an inclination, something that a person can cease to be if they tried really, really hard enough. Anyway, let's take a look at the exchange between the two women:

Now this is not the first time that an X-Men writer called out the supposed oppressed minority his story is representing metaphorically. In Chris Claremont's classic God Loves, Man Kills which is coincidentally the main source material that X2 film was based on, Claremont made young Kitty talk about the struggle of the African-American community toward racism and likening it to the discrimination against "muties" like her, equating the dreadful N-word with the mentioned derogatory term. Here, Whedon brought up the 'gay gene' since the 'mutant cure' is a parallel to the real-world 'conversion therapies' that some Christian groups push on homosexuals who maintain that homosexuality can be 'cured' if we, like, try really, really hard to pray to Jesus about it. Dr. Rao's response that the gay people are not a threat made Emma laugh because, again, many Christian groups would disagree, citing that homosexuality endangers their heteronormative lifestyles. I don't know exactly how I feel about the two women arguing about this real-life issue in the context of mutation and the mutant cure, but I liked that it was spelled out clearly in the pages because clearly, readers are making those connections already in their heads. 

Surprisingly enough, Dr. Rao still maintained her position that the cure she created can help save lives which was okay; I believe in her sincerity. She is a decent person with a misguide view on mutantkind because she has only seen the worst it can offer. Beast was angry at her by this point and asked her if she even knew about the dead bodies of mutants being experimented on. Before she can answer, Ord the Dumb-Dumb makes a stupidly timed appearance. Ord the Dumb-Dumb's hubris becomes even more apparent when he stood there, ever so proudly spouting out his nonsense about laying carnage to mutantkind, while Wolverine, Beast and Emma could only stare in dumbfounded silence but not for reasons Ord the Dumb-Dumb thinks. Behind him is Colossus and Kitty Pryde. 

Time to pay the piper, asshole.

Peter honestly freaked me out in these panels but Ord the Dumb-Dumb definitely deserved that overdue beating. However, this display of justified violence was sorely interrupted by the arrival of Nick Fury and the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. 


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