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Aug 24

All-New X-Factor vol 2 – “Change of Decay”

Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

Most of the stories we’ve looked at lately have been reasonably self-contained, even if lengthy.  All-New X-Factor operates rather differently.  Peter David works more in the soap opera style of team book that dominated the 80s and 90s, where the focus isn’t on having a single overall plot, so much as on getting a whole bunch of plates spinning, and then checking in on them from time to time.

And thus far, David has been largely devoting his time to getting the plates spinning.  Where volume 1 gathered the team, volume 2 spends most of its six issues on introducing Georgia Dakei and her family, as well as setting up a few plot points to be returned to in future, before finally unveiling the corporate X-Factor to the public in a press conference in issue #12.

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Aug 4

Uncanny Avengers vol 2-4 – “Apocalypse Twins” / “Ragnarok Now” / “Avenge The Earth”

Posted on Monday, August 4, 2014 by Paul in Uncategorized, x-axis

It’s been some time since we checked in with Uncanny Avengers.  But then, it’s been some time since Uncanny Avengers finished a story.  These three volumes collect a story – not a multi-story arc, but a single story – that began in issue #5 last April (actually an epilogue in vol 1), and ran without interruption until issue #22 last week.

This is a story pitched unequivocally at an epic scale.  Multi-book crossovers aside, I can’t remember the last time we had a single story of this length.  Picking up stray plot threads from his X-Force run, Rick Remender starts relatively small, then dials up the scale to breaking point and beyond.

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Aug 1

X-Men vol 3 – “Bloodline”

Posted on Friday, August 1, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

After the debacle of last week’s festival of obscurity, we have another decidedly underwhelming story destined straight for the “completists only” pile.  Though “Bloodline” scores over the Wolverine and the X-Men arc on the level of straightforward accessibility, it remains a clumsy affair with a lot of downright odd choices.

The plot is straightforward.  Baby Shogo’s father turns out to be a villain called the Future, recently escaped from jail.  The Future wants Shogo back, in order to raise him as an heir.  He tries to kidnap Shogo from the school, but ends up with Jubilee instead.  He tries to trade Jubilee for the kid, but the X-Men won’t deal.  They beat him.  He dies.  This takes five issues.

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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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