Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A few thoughts on Avengers Academy Issue 33

This issue is part 2 and the conclusion of "What the Heart Wants."  A stellar tie-in to AvX.  Not so surprising really as the Avengers Academy AvX tie-in before this is also one of the better sideline characters tie-ins too.  This creative team just keeps nailing it every go out the gate and raising the bar that much higher with each issue.  This issue is no exception.

1. The Parallels.
Throughout Emma's attack, her words sting various students as they too fall under the various things she's calling the sentinel.  It's an interesting point about how power corrupts and can cause people to overgeneralize and miss the core of what they are actually saying.  It's something very common in all walks of life, especially politics.

2. X-23 adds Emma to her list of enemies.
It's about time on this one.  Emma has pushed and prodded, mind raped X-23 and worse.  It's about time Laura put her foot down.  Really interesting though as the psychology of X-23 still shines through.  The straw that broke the camel's back isn't from something Emma did to X-23, but how she harmed a fellow student.  Something that's very common among people that are trying to find their own self-worth and still unsure about it.  The entire "I'll deal with whatever you throw my way, but if you harm someone else I will stop you at all costs."

3. Quicksilver has a heart?
Okay maybe not, but I still loved his line about all his heart wants is quiet, and uses it to rationalize his actions of helping.  Where have I heard that one before?

4. The Sentinel
An interesting moment happened in this issue with the processing unit.  A moment that shows that this "killing machine" has truly evolved, dare I say it, even mutated into something alive with how it overrode it's own prime directives.  Someone here really did their homework, because Pym was absolutely right with how coding works.  That should be an impossibility and the Sentinel made an actual concious choice to disobey to protect those it cared for.

All around just wow.
Next issue the Avengers Academy starts wrapping up some loose plot threads as it paves the way for the post-AvX future.  Fear not true believers!  Thanks to the October solicits we know for fact Avengers Academy isn't going anywhere but up!


  1. As much as I like Avengers Academy, this story is just too tainted by the stupidity of Avengers vs. X-Men.

    If they could have just removed the sentinel's brain and put it in another body, why didn't they just do it in the first place? Put the sentinel in a body that doesn't have a million guns. Yes, it's sentient but so is a child and you wouldn't give a rocket launcher to a 10 year old.

    No one was thinking tactically, they just tried to pile on Emma without coming up with a plan. Even X-23 foolishly announced her attack despite the fact that she saw how Emma was hurt when caught off guard. X-23, Finesse, and Dr. Pym should have formed a battle plan against Emma.

    Although, all that is moot since Emma's actions didn't make any sense either. She has the power to make everyone fall asleep with her telepathy so why even bother having the fight in the first place?

    X-23 threatening to kill Emma was a bit too much since Emma isn't really her enemy. It's just that circumstances have temporarily forced them on different sides.

    1. Emma couldn't have used her telepathy to put anyone to sleep because of the telepath blocks at the academy. She couldn't sense that Juston was inside the sentinel either.

      As for trying to use tactics, there aren't many tactics you can use against a cosmically powered being that is aware of your presence. Most of the students were simply trying to distract her while Juston rebuilt his sentinel. They were also trying to convince Emma to not destroy the sentinel.

      Also, those same tactics worked against Namor in Avengers vs. X-Men 8, it's just they didn't have enough powerful characters at the Academy to have the same result.

      As for the sentinel's brain, well ... there's a debate on the comicbookresources forum about that subject that's been going on since Academy 32 came out.

      Personally, I don't find the death threat too much considering everything Emma has done to X-23 in the past, like trying to scare her away from the Xavier institute by telepathically giving her images of her dead mother.

      How do we even know it was a legitimate death threat? People say that kind of stuff all the time when they're angry, it doesn't mean they'll actually follow through with it.

    2. Except Dr. Pym said that Emma had the power to overcome the telepathic scramblers and that the reason why she didn't know they were there was because she didn't use her telepathy. So if Emma had tried to make everyone fall asleep, she would have known about the scramblers and could have overrode them. My point stands, making everyone fall asleep is much quicker and safer than blasting them with Phoenix powers.

      Concerning the use of tactics, just because it would be difficult to come up with one does not mean they shouldn't have tried. X-23 should have at least tried to take advantage of everyone else's distraction and go for a surprise attack.

      As for X-23's threat against Emma, how often has she made idle threats? Not to mention how she keeps perspective even during deeply emotional states. In fact, the only time when she really let her emotions affect her was when she saw Kiden during Messiah War. And her relationship with Juston and the sentinel isn't nearly as close as her relationship with Kiden. Heck, she doesn't even really like Juston or the sentinel.

    3. It isn't an idle threat coming from X-23, though it is very warranted after her past with Emma. The psychology angle is what makes it work though. Emma is harming innocents that have done nothing. Something X-23 does not abide. Kiden caused a deeper emotional reaction of course, but this still causes heat of the moment anger as we've seen before in Circle of Four and X-23's ongoing. Laura has a tendency to depend on her healing factor to take down targets and letting her training sometimes slide.

      As for the Sentinel's processing unit. It was the whole issue. That was the part Emma wanted to destroy which would mean death for the Sentinel.

      As for tactics. While X-23 did maintain mild situational awareness, their attack against Emma was entirely emotionally driven from how Emma was accidentally goading them with her words about the sentinel they could relate to, and was heat of the moment while tempers were high.

      Emma herself is too busy on her own high from the phoenix power, and didn't bother with telepathy because of that all powerful force residing within her making her laugh at other's feeble attempts to do anything she doesn't wish. It's further proof how the Cyclops X-Men are diving head first into might makes right and has been pushed as such in the rest of AvX.

    4. As for the AI side of things.
      I can actually speak on that with some knowledge. That was half of my focus in my college days before I started Major hopping.

      Code only does so much and is restrictive. Backing him up to a harddrive may have retained memory files but without the processing unit and firmware associated, how it handles those memories or acts on the code that governs it could vary greatly. It's the processing unit that evolved to allow concious choice. Otherwise it'd just be a soulless machine again. The firmware itself being the main issue as it's what has the directives that needed to be removed. A sentinel is created in a fashion that the firmware is permanent in the processing unit, but can be amended which is what created the evolved state in this instance(which is entirely fiction so far, but a sound theory on the potential with internal conflicts that can cause errors).

      There's much more to that, but I'll start diving into techie speak and others have gotten mad at me about that.

    5. Oh I'm sure it wasn't an idle threat. X-23 is known for following through with her threats. When X-23 and Emma meet again, I'm sure it won't be pleasant as long as the writer remembers this issue. I'm just wondering whether her threat was primarily motivated by her anger at the time or if X-23 legitimately hates Miss Frost that much. Wouldn't surprise me either way.

    6. Craig Kyle and Chris Yost consistently showed X-23 to be very smart and strategically minded even when she was under emotional stress, like the way she defeated Lady Deathstrike after Deathstrike impaled Hellion, or when she went against the Facility after Mercury was kidnapped, or when she was fighting Belasco in Limbo, or when she went after the Leper Queen after Hellion was kidnapped. Inconsistencies only began popping up after other writers took over like in Liu's run or Circle of Four.

      The stuff with the sentinel and Emma are a result of bad and inconsistent writing too. They never even mentioned the idea of putting the sentinel in a new body or just taking out the sentinel's weapons. There is no reason why Emma should be opposed to that since there are plenty of people who hate humans and want to kill them but Emma doesn't go after them because they don't have the means to do it. As for the technical aspect of the sentinel's AI, it's very science lite, they even say that the sentinel's mind could be preserved if the CPU is saved.

      Emma's power trip is just another symptom of the stupidity of Avengers vs. X-Men. Everyone, both the Avengers and the X-Men, are written to be unreasonable selfish idiots who don't think things through just so they could have this fight. Heck, they even ignore their own set up where Cable came back from a future where the Phoenix Force destroyed the earth because Hope wasn't there to control it.

    7. I'll agree that the main event isn't that well written so far. Both sides aren't thinking as much as they should.

      That said, Emma's power trip with the pheonix force makes perfect sense. In the original Dark Phoenix Saga, the phoenix force's excitement through emotion is what took over Jean's mind. It's perfectly reasonable to think that Emma with the phoenix force would want to simply destroy all sentinels. After all, she's lost students to sentinels on multiple occasions. With that in mind, I could see why Emma would be opposed to the sentinel existing even in another body.

    8. Yost and Kyle did let X-23 act recklessly at times. Her cutting and leaving blood in the bathroom during Academy X for example shows how lost she was whereas Liu had her trying to clean it up. Belasco she attacked outright without a plan or course of action and got transformed into something harmless for awhile because Laura had never dealt with Magic beings before and there were other mild instances of her instabilities starting to shine through. You also have to consider though that yost/kyle put Laura into an emotional state when they left. Kimura swore her vendetta to never stop, Kiden was killed in front in her, Wolverine kicked her off the one team she as good at. Then on top of that, her own team slammed her pretty bad for protecting them from the people that killed a large chunk of the school. I love yost/kyles work, but most of their work was focused on building the best weapon possible and deconstructing it by taking any humanity left piece by piece, including how Laura had to abandon her blood relations. The Liu run and Gage run are about her picking up the pieces and where does she go next and how does she reclaim her 'humanity' after all that so to speak. You also have to consider how much of Laura is preoccuppied with other stuff like the telepathic entity introduced in the oneshot. Though he may not be a problem at the academy because of the dampeners, but off the school grounds he might be back again.

      As for the Deathstrike fight. That wasn't a fight that was planned with strategy, that was an outright emotional response for revenge for what she did to Hellion.

    9. They mentioned a new body for the sentinel in issue 32, but Hank would have had to make a new processing unit for it. Which again, would have killed the budding sentience the sentinel was gaining.

    10. It's also quite hypocritical of Emma to destroy a sentinel that may reflect itself in being a robotic mutant.

      Danger for example is machine sentient life that mutated, and Omega Sentinel was an X-Man who outright was a sentinel cyborg that they considered a mutant and allowed on the team. Someone they've also never gone back to help. She's been in coma since the Hellion Hope incident awhile back.

    11. Yost and Kyle did not have X-23 act recklessly when she was on a mission or in a fight. She only let her emotions take over when she was alone.

      X-23 did not attack Belasco without a plan. She freed everyone and created a distraction so that Elixir could heal Prodigy and Trance could go through the portal back to earth.

      X-23 used strategy during the Deathstrike fight too. She was letting Deathstrike win the fight in the beginning so she could observe her to find her weaknesses. Once she found Deathstrike's weaknesses, she cut her cybernetic implants to immobilize her and take away her healing factor.

      Yost and Kyle did give her character development beyond all the fighting. They had her bond with Dust and Mercury. There was the crush between her and Hellion. She was developing a pretty deep friendship with Elixir, which shined through when Elixir saved her from the Legacy Virus. She had a nice rapport with Domino. Granted, she didn't get as much development as I had hoped but she was always on a team and they were already giving her plenty of attention, they couldn't just turn it into "X-23 and Friends."

      As for Liu and Gage's treatment of the character, I'm fine with a lot of what they're doing, but it doesn't excuse their neglect of established character traits. Just because they're more focused on X-23 discovering her humanity and learning to live a real life does not mean that she should suddenly become less logical and methodical.

      As for the whole Emma thing, it's just really contrived. There are a ton of other ways to resolve the situation. Even if they can't move the sentinel to a new body, they could have taken the weapons out, disabled its mutant sensors so it can no longer detect mutants, had Pym permanently shrink it, or just have Emma turn Juston into a mutant to create a conflict between the sentinel's directive to protect Juston and its directive to hunt and kill mutants. And I don't really blame Gage since he's being forced to write the stupid AvX story into Avengers Academy.

    12. I didn't say yost and kyle didn't give her development, I said they had a different focus on the kind of development it was. It was more about creating the perfect weapon and deconstructing her humanity through loss.

      Liu built on that with a "where does she go now" point while still using her situational awareness and adaptability quite often. You can see it most pronounced in issue 7, in the Daken crossover, in New York with Gambit, and many other spots, but Liu also had to balance the growing dependancy on the healing factor Yost/Kyle started pushing as well as the variance in how X-23 perceived her self-worth which is what causes her to act recklessly unless she has a pure intended goal to accomplish first. This same lack of self-worth is something yost/kyle used at the legacy virus point you made where Laura was going to sacrifice herself when the smart thing would have been to go to Elixir first. Instead, her emotions and lack of self-worth dictated self-sacrifice. Especially after everyone was saying "kill all the clones, they aren't human anyway!" Which is why Elixir gave her that speech.

      After the Yost/kyle run, and you can even see it in X-Force, X-23 was getting arrogant with her condescension towards others. Liu rights that but not in a way that's violent or "putting Laura in her place" as they had wolverine tend to do. All 3 sets of writers are good, but they are also at different progressions in the character timeline and psyche development with what is needed for that point. In Gage's usage so far, the situational awareness, instant strategy, and adaptability are still present as shown in issues 30-31. They were present in Liu's usage too. There is a growing sense of dependancy on the healing factor though that started with Yost/kyle, evident in the post-messiah war Facility story and growing more and more with each story of theirs. While mildly strategically sound, X-23's usage of triggerscent in that arc itself was reckless. She made herself become a blind berserker weapon to throw at the facility in hopes that nothing could stop her while like that(which from experience, no one has). That in itself was a hail mary plan that paid off like all her others, which is what contributes to her arrogance and growing recklessness with a dependancy on her healing.

      I'm not calling any of the writers bad at all. Just different as to what's needed at the time with how personalities grow and experience that dictates how things are approached.

      As for AvX. I think you might be missing the point though I tend to agree the main event is a bit yawn inducing and contrived (cyclops' brotherhood has been getting old for awhile now). The Phoenix 5 aren't out to make the world mutants. They are out there to "save the world whether it wants it or not." So changing Juston to a mutant wouldn't have been something Emma would have done, nor probably could her power do that kind of gene manipulation with her using them(maybe if beast had them or a similar medically knowledgable mutant). Emma's goal was to destroy all the processing units and sentinels period. So decommisioning it wasn't an option. Disabling the sensors would have also caused other issues which wouldn't allow it to distinguish threats or power levels and would have made it useless for anything and would be akin to poking its eyes out. Emma's point was to wipe out anti-mutant weapons period. Which in her eyes is all a sentinel is and represents. So the matter would have never been solved until she thought she destroyed the processing unit, which is what happened.

    13. The Belasco plan was at the end of that story. At the start of the story she tried to attack him outright recklessly which got shutdown that then led to a new strategy to take care of it later.

    14. I disagree with your assertions about Kyle and Yost. Their take was more about X-23's unique relationship with humanity. The Facility may have tried to take away her kindness, love, empathy, mercy, and compassion, but they also tried to take away her jealousy, doubt, fear, hate, anxiety, and selfishness. So while she was a remorseless killing machine, she was also completely altruistic, always putting the needs of others before her own. I think K&Y based her partly on the Terminator in T2.

      They focused on X-23 trying to find a balance or an understanding between her (re)emerging humanity and her training from the Facility. They had her find a deeper meaning and purpose behind her altruistic behavior so that she's not just helping and fighting for others because someone told her to do it but because she has compassion towards the people she is trying to help. At the same time, she's learning to cope with some potentially harmful emotions like doubt, hopelessness, and jealousy so that they don't cause her to hurt others.

      X-Force was where X-23 really struggled between her humanity and her Facility conditioning. She had real purpose in joining the X-Force, she wasn't just doing it because Cyclops told her to, she was doing it to protect her friends. However, in order for her to be effective, she had to let her Facility training take over. She was sacrificing her humanity for people she cared about, knowing that they wouldn't understand her actions.

      How did Liu use X-23's situational awareness and adaptability in issue 7 of her comic? By having her foolishly tackle the pirate leader into the water while leaving Gambit to fight the rest of the pirates by himself?

      How was X-23 getting arrogant? She's always been direct and very straightforward but it's not the same thing as arrogance.

      She's also always depended on her healing factor. That's what the facility trained her to do. That's what she did in New Mutants when she took Dust's place in the trap the Purifiers set for her, that's what she did in the fights against Nimrod and Deathstrike, that's what she did when she let Wolfsbane rip her apart.

      Her usage of the trigger scent in the Facility was necessary in order for both her and the SHIELD agent to escape. She could have escaped by herself without the trigger scent since she could have used stealth and evaded Kimura but instead she chose to take that risk in order to give the SHIELD agent a chance to escape too. So while that story concluded with her feeling hopeless about the future, it was also a reassurance of her empathy and compassion, that she would choose to sacrifice herself to that path of hopelessness and despair in order to save others from such a fate.

      As for Belasco, read "Quest for Magik" again, X-23 attacked right after Belasco ripped out Prodigy's heart. The first thing she did was tell Trance to astrally project back to earth. She coordinated the attack with Elixir to give him the distraction needed to heal Prodigy. Then she freed Dust and Mercury before attacking Belasco. Granted, she may have miscalculated and thought that Dust and Mercury would be able free themselves fast enough to help her but clearly she wasn't just attacking recklessly since due to her distraction, Elixir was able to heal Prodigy and Trance was able to astrally project back to earth. It's just that her strategies are different than what we're used to since her death is always a risk she's willing to accept in order to save others.

  2. I haven't read Academy Avengers in a while. I know. I feel guilty. I'll remedy that by buying the trades. By the way, I loved your post about Astonishing X-Men # 51. I had never read a Marjorie Liu comic but as soon as I found out that Northstar was getting married I knew I had to buy it. And to be honest I was thrilled. It's one of the best X-Men stories I've read in recent years. So many touching moments. Awesome!

    1. I loved that issue too. Really surprised me. Yeah, that topic was something I wanted to avoid along with other politics or hot issues just because I'm tired of the headaches from people that want to rationalize preaching hate for any reason.