Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Astonishing X-Men by Greg Pak, Volume 9: Exalted

As of the moment, I'm circling the drain of the downhill ride that is The Astonishing X-Men. Since Whedon and Ellis stopped writing for this series, other writers have taken over and the last two did a fine enough job to keep things afloat with forgivably acceptable stories like Children of the Brood. This time, we have Greg Pak and I've read and reviewed two of his stories before (Batman-Superman and Magneto Testament) and I liked them, especially the latter, so I was hoping that he could deliver me something riveting. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen for AXM anymore because I'm ready to believe that the creative powers-that-be handling this series have checked out at some point and focused on other titles running alongside it. Whatever. I'm not even sure what I want to talk about for this volume, but I have an obligation to uphold so I'm soldiering on nevertheless. Besides, I think I only have three more volumes to go before I mercifully end my reviews for this title and I comfort myself with the fact that perhaps those last three may be at least entertaining again.

Volume 9: Exalted is composed of four measly issues (#44-47). Issue #43 was a standalone and written by a different writer, focusing primarily on Emma Frost and Danger. It was a nice break and was probably written in between while somebody is trying to get someone to write a story arc for the next issues of AXM. And that man is Greg Pak, and his work on Exalted could have been better if the premise wasn't so silly and ultimately uninteresting. For one, it's a Cyclops-centered narrative which would have made me very happy if it wasn't so boring. It offered little insight to the change and struggle that Scott Summers had gone through after the events in Schism. See, that's the problem with X-Men canon in general. So many stuff happen that titles like The Astonishing X-Men get affected, considering it's part of the continuity (and I maintain that it should have been a standalone title to afford more flexibility and expanded mythos independent from the overall Marvel continuity). The consequence is that if a reader only reads this title without any other X-title as reference then the story arcs seem to jump and skip ahead without explaining how and why members drop and leave such as the case with Beast retiring from the group at some point, and now Wolverine and Kitty Pryde separating from Scott and Emma to form their own school back in Westchester. But before that, they were in San Francisco, then Utopia...I can't honestly follow anymore. 

And the only reason I can't is because I refuse to. And I refuse to because I CAN'T CARE.

Anyway, Exalted is supposedly about Scott recovering from all the transformation and pain and loss he had experienced since M-Day occurred. Heck, since Jean Grey died. I would have been concerned about him undergoing through such difficulties but Pak's writing was so detached from any kind of meaningful character reflection that Scott was portrayed like a flat character lacking any dynamic role from start to finish of Exalted. First, we see him grieving the losses of his comrades who abandoned him because they could no longer work with him and agree on the way he runs things. The fact that they question his leadership like that once again echoes back to his deeply-rooted insecurity of not being good enough as a hero. Next, Ororo Munroe arrives to smooth things over and ends up making out with him. That was weird and Scott readily accuses her of being a fake. Technically, she wasn't. As it turns out, she's another version of Storm from a world a part of the multiverse. She abducts Scott and imprisons him with other versions of his friends like Emma (who is Emmeline Frost-Summers), Logan (General James Howlett) and young Kurt and Kitty (Shadow). Other-Storm is working for a mutant who calls himself the Savior. Said Savior has been using mutants from the multiverse to power up his chosen city. This Savior is no other than Charles Xavier who can walk and has luscious blond hair. He also killed the Magneto of his world and so I already hate him because I could not for the life of me believe that Charles Xavier could ever kill his BFF, regardless of whatever version of reality he came from which meant that this Savior is not Charles at all and I don't care what the writing says, he's just not, OKAY?!

True to form, Scott rallies the Other-X-Men to fight their way through an escape plan and ensure that Savior doesn't use Ghost Boxes anymore to travel through different worlds to abduct more X-Men. They accomplish this by traveling to another world and getting other Emmas and Logans to help them defeat the inexcusable piece of shit that IS NOT A VERSION OF CHARLES XAVIER, DO YOU HEAR ME?! Scott, for some inexplicable sense of misplaced duty, felt the need to actually STAY BEHIND and fix the wrongs that the now thankfully dead Savior committed in his own world, but Other-Logan was smart enough to push him into the portal so he can go back to his own world where he is still actually needed in spite of how he feels the opposite of that. Well, at least he was able to work with his comrades again even if they are not the versions he grew up with and lost along the way. I would have felt bad and sad for Scott but the story just ends there without any more need for contemplation and insight. The story arc is just done. It only took me less than an hour to finish the entire thing and I felt nothing afterwards but contempt towards Savior because he killed a Magneto, and lukewarm sympathy for Scott even though Pak has written him so blandly that I wondered what was the point of making him the main focus of the arc in the first place. God, whatever. I'm going to read the tenth volume next with another writer again and hope I can have something more polished than this trite.


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