All-Fights Thursday!

Ocean #5 (of 6)


That sound: the soft expelling of air. It’s not the tires going flat on this Warren Ellis sci-fi cruiser, but it’s certainly me exhaling a puff or two of letdown; just a little too familiar here near the end.

It turns out that the folks buried deep beneath the ice are none other than a slew of warlike ancient humans who ruined their own civilization and seeded the Earth for life in their own image, in hopes that one day they could return to a hospitable world. I couldn’t give you an exact title of a work in which this twist has popped up before, but I think we can all recognize it from multiple points in our shared sci-fi past. And just as these factory-fresh revelations are issued, the book suddenly plunges into saucer-flying robot-smashing action, with deadly forces threatening the Earth and baddies with big honking guns bursting into the station, and good old Inspector Kane takes up arms and prepares to dive into action to save an ally trapped behind enemy lines, so to speak. It’s like someone from off-page blew the ‘dumbass’ whistle and the whole book fell into line. Well, Chris Sprouse and Karl Story on art. The widescreen panels sure look pretty, although there’s a weird lack of tension to the robot-crushing.

And what kind of gets me is that these older plot twists Ellis is pulling in do sort of fit into what’s gone before. We’ve seen that mean Manager fellow and his minions laboring under the weight of literal corporate mind control; now the theme is expanded to include all of humankind struggling against their own barbaric genes. Humankind is thus the inheritors of an ingrained culture of violence and victory, reflected in the sprawling corporate structures Ellis dots his future Earth world with, fascinated with old weapons for new victories. Violence in the boardroom as national conquest (hey, they said that Doors controls a couple countries, right?). So it’s not that Ellis is just plopping out the old sci-fi standards all willy-nilly; there is a thematic point to it all. Which makes it all the more disappointing that this expansion on earlier thoughts rings such a cozily familiar chime, as we trip our ways toward the guns for two-fisted science action. Hey, it’s in our genes.

Astonishing X-Men #9


One moment in this issue stands out as particularly forced: Colossus is desperately trying to bust through the walls of the suddenly grumpy Danger Room to save his beloved Kitty and a slew of mutant students from certain doom. Cyclops suggests that maybe the brains of the system ought to be attacked. Grimacing, Colossus rumbles “I’ll look” and leaps right through the roof, tearing through an attic of wires like a metal man possessed. Wolverine, incomparable badass, is astounded, muttering “He’s back.”


Peter’s really back.”

That’s the last panel on the page. If only there was one more, perhaps Wolvie could have turned directly to the reader and grinned “Good thing we brought him back, eh fanboys?” with a wink of one eye and a twinkle in another. Maybe a thumbs-up.

Call me cynical or over-analytical, but this issue looks to me like a victim of ‘the creative team decided to stick around for another year and we don’t have to wrap all these subplots up in four issues anymore so let’s drop them for now and stretch out this current story idea for a few issues and see what happens’. There’s just too much haste, too little thought. A lot of time is spent trying to find the Danger Room’s electronic brain in that maze of wires I mentioned, which is apparently guarded by lasers designed by Professor X. My reaction? WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU INSTALLING KILLER LASERS IN A ROOM CHOCK FULL OF GODDAMNED WIRES?! I mean, do the wires do anything? I assume. Are they Smart Lasers? Will they know not to cut the heat to the upper-level men's room or kill the lights in the game room? I don’t know.

Also: apparently the Danger Room can take control of “anybody got a microchip in ’em,” as Wolverine muses. How? Especially with stuff like a Sentinal, half-broken, laying in a field for lord knows how long, exposed to months of rain and weather? The answer, of course, is Shi’ar technology. No further questions needed. Seriously, don’t even consider asking questions, especially at the end of this issue when Wolverine chops the Danger Room brain into deli slices only to have it magically transform into some cross between the female robot from “Metropolis” and a Predator. Is this a new character? Am I supposed to be shocked at a stunning returnof a ghost from the past? Because it sure looks to me like some damned generic tin can beamed in from nowhere for a big non-cliffhanger.

Anyway, the rest of the issue sees Kitty chatting with the Danger Room, which is apparently a beast built to kill but shackled with an external program which shuts it down if anyone is in danger of dying. But now that ex-mutant kid has killed himself inside the environment back in issue #7 which overrode the program somehow and now the Danger Room can kill and transform into shiny robots and all of its dreams will come true. It’s nonsense, but a fair excuse for John Cassaday to go apeshit with two or three big splashes of creative hellscapes, Laura Martin ably washing it out in red and gold. It’s very pretty, but in service of pretty ill-considered scripting. And I mean even by mutant superhero punch-time standards.

*Out of time. I’ll review “Meatcake” (which is way cool) tomorrow, along with some other stuff. Count down the hours!