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Jul 26

Wolverine & The X-Men vol 1 – “Tomorrow Never Leaves”

Posted on Saturday, July 26, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

It is difficult to know what to say about the first volume of Jason Latour’s Wolverine and the X-Men run.  Difficult, because it is difficult to know what on earth the story is meant to be in the first place.  I gave up on this arc in confusion halfway through issue #5, resolving to have another go when the final issue came out.  But reading it in one go didn’t make it any clearer.

I did eventually succeed in deciphering the plot.  It took me five read-throughs and 1,300 words of working notes.  Meanwhile, I had asked on Twitter whether anyone else had read the story and understood it.  Nobody replied to say that they had, but there were quite a few “thank god, I thought it was just me” responses.

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Jul 20

Marvel 100th Anniversary Special: X-Men

Posted on Sunday, July 20, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

Marvel 100th Anniversary Special: X-Men is a truly misbegotten mess of a comic.  It is tempting to call it “misconceived”, but that would actually be unfair; the central concept of these specials is potentially interesting in various ways, and this story even starts off by attempting to take one of the interesting approaches.  But having done that, it steers vigorously into the first available ditch.

The high concept of these specials is supposedly to imagine what Marvel’s flagship titles might look like in 2061.  Crucially, it is not meant to be projecting fifty years into the future of the characters; the assumption is that the sliding timeline remains in effect, so we’re rather less far advanced into the characters’ future.  And the story here dutifully reflects the wonkiness of Marvel time: most characters are slightly and non-specifically order, while Shogo is now an adult.

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Jul 12

All-New X-Men vol 5 – “One Down”

Posted on Saturday, July 12, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

Well, more or less.  The fifth All-New X-Men collection actually starts with issue #25, the jam issue, which we’ve covered already.  But after that, it’s the four-part Brotherhood storyline, which finished this week.

Taken at face value, this is a straightforward story where the Brotherhood – the future version introduced in “Battle of the Atom” – attack the X-Men’s headquarters, try to kill them all, and fail.  It’s interwoven with some flashbacks (or should it be flash forwards?) to the Brotherhood’s back story, which principally serves to establish that the Brotherhood is really just Charles Xavier Jr and Raze, with everyone else having been under Xavier’s mental control all along.

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Jul 6

Magneto vol 1: “Infamous”

Posted on Sunday, July 6, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

Magneto has been an antihero, or at times even an outright hero, for the better part of thirty years now.  Which makes it surprising that he’s not had an ongoing series before, particularly given Marvel’s evident keenness to find every exploitable angle on the franchise.

There are two likely major reasons for that.  First, bear in mind Magneto’s role in the X-Men.  When first introduced in the Silver Age he was just a generic would-be world-conqueror.  The early Claremont stories largely stick to that portrayal, though they throw in an element of personal bitterness towards the X-Men.  But it’s only later that Claremont really brings his big theme front and centre, and – almost as a consequence of that – has to retool Magneto.

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Jul 1

“Dirty Tricks” – X-Force #1-6

Posted on Tuesday, July 1, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

The first volume of the new X-Force will likely read better as a collection, but for not for the usual reasons.  By no means is it paced for the trade; quite the opposite, it’s carefully structured as a serial, with issues containing their own self-contained side mission or character study, all contributing to a larger story.

But X-Force #1 was a bit underwhelming on release, and it’s only in the light of the later issues that the book starts to pick up.  Luckily for me, completism compels me to stick around long enough to discover that fact.

Coming off a successful run on X-Men Legacy, Si Spurrier always seemed an odd choice to write X-Force.  It’s not merely that Legacy was a quirky, offbeat title; more that the title’s attitude to conventional superheroes (strictly, Legion’s attitude, but the book largely seemed to share it) hardly suggested a writer who was dying to write a book about large men with larger guns.

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Jun 21

“Uncanny X-Men vs. S.H.I.E.L.D.” – Uncanny X-Men #19-22

Posted on Saturday, June 21, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

For a writer who chooses to work mainly in the superhero genre, Brian Bendis never seems all that interested in having a well structured plot.  First and foremost he’s interested in his characters, which is fair enough.  His actual stories can often end up as rather meandering, or as sketchy gestures to provide his characters with busy work between conversations.  His rambling Avengers run is pretty much the epitome of this.

So “Uncanny X-Men vs S.H.I.E.L.D.” is fairly unusual for a Bendis story, in that it sees a bunch of story threads being drawn together in a clear attempt to resolve numerous plot points at once and create a Big Climax.  And what do you know, it largely works.  Largely – and with one glaring exception that brings me back to the point above.

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Jun 15

“Valentine’s Day” – Savage Wolverine #20

Posted on Sunday, June 15, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

The regular Wolverine series is (obviously) the more important of this week’s two Wolverine issues, but let’s deal with this one briefly.  The theory of Savage Wolverine is presumably that with the ability to do stories from any point in Wolverine’s long history, you have a vast range of scenarios to draw on.  You can go anywhere in the world over a period of a century or so.  If nothing else, diversity ought to be readily achievable.

And yet here we are, three issues later, back in the Prohibition.  Perhaps that’s more of a scheduling error than anything else.  Frank Tieri has always leaned towards crime stories and it’s unsurprising that he would think this period suits him.  In terms of his interests, it certainly does.

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Jun 8

Amazing X-Men Annual #1

Posted on Sunday, June 8, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

If it was surprising to see a blatant filler story crop up in the ongoing Amazing X-Men title last month, it is rather less so to see one in the first Amazing X-Men Annual.  Annuals have always tended to be a venue for the inconsequential, and there was a lot of sense – commercially speaking, at any rate – in Marvel’s decision a decade or so back to just stop making the things and put the resources into making extra issues of the regular titles instead.  But of course, that means getting extra material out of your regular creators, which is sometimes easier said than done.  That may be why these things are starting to re-emerge; if it’s plainly not going to pass for a regular issue, maybe better not to make the attempt.

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May 27

“No Goats, No Glory” – Amazing X-Men #7

Posted on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

I’m running late this week, but hey, this one shouldn’t take long.  Amazing X-Men #7 is notable more for what it isn’t than for what it contains.  What it isn’t, is a comic that particularly matters – however you choose to define “matters” – because it’s a throwaway fill-in issue.

Firestar and Iceman are out shopping when they bump into an alien baby who’s being chased down by Spider-Man, who needs to retrieve him in order to get back a goat mascot who’s been abducted by aliens.  (For reasons not shared with posterity, Spider-Man was looking after the goat.)

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May 19

X-Men: No More Humans

Posted on Monday, May 19, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

Marvel’s new line of graphic novels is an odd beast.  After all, everything gets collected in trade paperback format anyway.  So what makes a graphic novel different from a trade paperback collection of a four or five issue arc?

At one time, the answer would have been that a graphic novel was liberated from the requirements of monthly serialisation.  Collections of single issues from the 1980s or even 1990s read like collections of single issues, dutifully pausing near around page 3 or 4 of every story to recap the plot for new readers.  But writing for the trade has become so commonplace, and the traditional aspects of serial storytelling have become so unfashionable, that the differences have largely been eroded.

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