Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cobalt Man, Brought To You By Diet Pepsi (Issue #31)

Never judge a book by it's cover, eh?! Let us examine the validity of that statement by examining this X-Men cover! IT MIGHT BE FUN!

If you took the advice, then that would mean that you overlook the "BONUS!" box, there. It LOOKS like a "POW! BAM" action box, but it's actually threatening us with an intimate peek into the X-Men's private lives. That's a crummy thing to do. Like making pie taste like medicine. "OOOH! BONUS?!", the kiddies say, "I'll spend my money here!" Then: BAM! You're hip-deep in the interminable whining and love-lorn-ness held within these pages. What is this, a kissing book?

Though, if you DON'T overlook the cover, then you might also expect some Cobalt-y action in which awesome things happen. Awesome things like a blue man blasting a hole through an ice wall while giving a back-hander to 'Cyke. Nothing this exciting happens. 

It's a Catch 22. Major Major. Um ... eggs?

But, anyway, check out Beast, up there on the wall, being all "A-Wha?!"

So, open the cover and turn to the first page and we're already in disappointment territory (which is where my family vacationed, every year, when I was a kid. "Get in the car, kids! It's vacation time!" "OOOH! Where are we going!" "Nowhere in particular, just driving around for about two weeks!" "YIPP- er, what?!" "I SAID: GET IN THE CAR!").

In this case "disappointment territory" is the danger room, where we are, once again, treated to another "These are my powers, I will show you how I use them" training session. I'd thought that we'd left these behind ... but I guess that over the next 50 years or so, the writers were bound to start at least a few more issues this way. I shall endeavor to not let it get to me. TOO LATE, it's gotten to me. I already hate this issue. Good thing this comic I'm reading is digital, or I'd have torn out these opening pages and gotten right to the "action"... which, in this issue's case, would actually mean tearing out the first three quarters of the book. [Does anyone else have to type "quarter" slowly, because of their native Staten Island accent that they've been fighting their whole lives? Kwahter.]

The non-action continues when, in a gripping scene, Professor X gives the group another vacation: A whole weekend off! Wait ... Don't they normally get those off? If not, that's downright cruel and communistic. If the X-Men are, indeed, expected to work seven days a week, they should unionize! "MUTANT LOCAL 5". Picket Professor X's ass. (He'd call in scabs ... like ... "Scabs" - a mutant with the power to make scabs. Scabs suck.)

Adding to the nail-biting-ness of the scene, Proz X. keeps Scott back to tell him that he should return some books to Jean [who, remember, is at college learning to be ... something or other. Knowing the writers of these books, it's probably "Housewifery" with a minor in "Babies"] See, Prof. X knows about Cyclops' dirty little secret of loving Jean secretly in secret. (HEY! Remember when Professor X secretly loved Jean? What? You don't? It's probably for the best, as if you did remember that, you'd be apt to bring this "factoid" up in social situations, to the snickering amusement of your peers. This has not happened to me ... yet.) 

Even in the 60s, the writers knew how this could be misconstrued.
Believe it!

On his way out, Angel drops some heavy onto the scene by confronting Cyclops about their mutual love of Jean. The conclusion they reach: They will force Jean to choose. Just what girls like: Aggressive confrontation on the topic of love. 

Continuing the "heavy" trend, Beast has an internal monologue about how he would give "half his life" to have been born normal. Think it's bad now, Hank? Just wait until you turn blue ... then have Kelsey Grammer play you in a film. 

MEANWHILE Bobby ... well ... Bobby's OK, actually. He has no issues and is as happy-go-lucky as ever. When are they gonna give Iceman some conflict? Foreshadowing.

All this introspection / talk of love is starting to weird me out. I don't come to the X-Men for melodrama, I come for the meloPUNCHING. Though, as bad as it is for me, with my deep pockets and disposable income, think of how an issue like this would effect the swaths of 10-year old boys who bought this ish with their saved up pennies from selling Grit:

My First Pyramid Scheme.

Bobby finally gets his conflict in the form of a bearded beatnik that Zelda [his girlfriend who has been around since the beginning, but who I've just neglected to mention until now, figuring she was going to go away, soon ... but then when she didn't it got awkward. The weird thing is, I'm never going to be able to eulogize her passing (unless they kill her on-screen, which I don't see happening) because I'll never know when she is truly gone. It's not like her not appearing in an issue or two is cause for alarm, since she's only a minor character. (It's not called "The X-Men feat. Zelda") So, it's gonna be months before I notice they've dropped her completely, if at all. So sad. Think about all the friends from high school you've lost touch with. How many of THEM are dead, right now, and you don't even know it?]

Oh? What ABOUT the bearded beatnik? Who cares, as it does not result in punching. 
Also not punching related: The fact that, upon reaching the school, Warren seems to have given up on Jean. So Cyclops and her go off with one of  Jean's classmates to take a tour of that classmate's laboratory. SO BORING. 

Then Warren stumbles into a club, where, of all bands, The Monkees are being played on the radio. And then he runs into an old friend from Nassau County.

Diet Pepsi: Helping a girl get free drinks
while STILL watching her figure.

Is this Diet Pepsi thing a product placement, or just an attempt to be "hip", since all the co-eds are drinking that Crazy Carcinogenic Cola? But what happened to "Big Orange Drink"?! 

Meanwhile, back at the lab, GODI'MSOBORED Jean and Scott look at slides of the Earth while her classmate and his brother (ralph) sneak off to take a peek at a Cobalt Man (like Iron Man but without the iron) suit that Ralph has designed and built.

Blue Man Group reject, Ralph, rampages into
the audience to KILL.

Due to a previously-sustained head injury that happened in another BORING scene, earlier in the book - from a broken pole during a failed pole vault of all things (this issue is all over the place!!) - the exertion from using the suit is too much for the brother and it immediately drives him insane. Oh, and if the suit is used for more than two hours it turns into a "c-bomb" and trust me, ladies really don't like when the c-bomb drops. (Kids, ask your parents to explain that one, if you don't want to eat dessert for a week... but if you do, don't tell em about my blog, OK?)

I BEG for action, and when it comes THIS is what I get? A man with a headache in an exploding blue suit? [That was the elevator pitch for this issue. GREENLIT!]

This conflict result in punching and an interrupting of no fewer than four dates! X-Men interruptus, eh?!

So, Cobalt Man (nee Ralph) has a chip on his brain about Iron Man and decided to go kill him. Instead of just saying "Not OUR problem!" and clapping their hands together in that "I wash my hands of this" gesture, the X-Men assemble to take care of this problem for Tony Stark. Maybe they think they can claim that Iron Man now "owes them one" - a debt that the X-Men will remind him of, every time they need a ride to the airport, or someone to come by and water their plants.

More product placement? To whom is this targeted?
"Hey kids! Ask your folks to buy you a Mustang!"

I spent all of this post complaining that there is no action, and now that it's here, I'm irritable and just want to get to the end of it all. I'm never happy. 

OK, quickly: Cobalt Man heads off to Stark industries, but the X-Men track him there and thwart him by short circuiting his suit by ingeniously icing his power pack, then melting the ice with a force beam. This drives moisture into the chest panel of the Cobalt Man suit, where it causes short circuiting. Not of the wacky-fun Johnny 5 kind, but, of the "We're terribly sorry, m'am, we found your husband dead by a downed power line" kind. 

It's a BIT risky, given that the X-Men had no idea that it wouldn't have resulted in a cobalt blast that would have taken out most of Long Island, but risks at Long Island's expense are risks we should ALL be willing to take! BOOM, Long Island! I mock you and all other islands! 

In the end, even though this Ralph guy was about to go nuclear (Cobalt-u-lar?) on L.I., they let him go with nary a slap on the wrist nor a stern word! Kids will be kids, eh! No harm no foul!

And I'm done with this! (I clap my hands in that "I wash my hands of this" gesture and hope the next issue is a damned sight better.

Want to read along? These stories are contained in:
Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Volume 3