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Sep 13

Powers of X #4 annotations

Posted on Friday, September 13, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

As always, there will be spoilers, and page numbers are going by the digital edition.

PAGE 1 (COVER): Professor X, wearing Cerebro, surrounded by the floating heads of various X-Men from the present and “Year 100” timelines. Most of them are recognisable, and perhaps the others are more of the “Sinister line” mutants from Year 100 (Rasputin and North are both there, for example). The solicitation version of this cover shows that the guy partly obscured by the logo is orange and has a fin on his head, so I’m drawing a blank there. None of this has anything much to do with the story inside.

PAGE 2: The opening epigraph is another Professor X quote, not taken from anything in the issue. The significance isn’t clear, beyond the obvious point about making difficult choices driven by need.

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Sep 5

House of X #4 annotations

Posted on Thursday, September 5, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

As always, this contains spoilers, and page numbers are going by the digital edition.

PAGE 1 (COVER): The X-Men fighting the Orchis Project footsoldiers.

PAGE 2: The epigraph comes from the captions in which Professor X reacts to the apparent deaths of the Orchis Project team, later in the issue.

PAGE 3: Straight into the credits this time. The issue title is “It Will Be Done”. That refers back to Cyclops’s dialogue in Powers of X #2 when he was briefed on this suicide mission. (“Does it need doing?” “Yes” “Then it will be done.”)

The small print reads “The House of Xavier and the way we treat our children.” “Children” here seems to refer at the same time to mutants in general (the Mother Mold compares mutants to the titans, the children of the primordial gods); the X-Men in particular (Xavier seems to have them in mind in his closing monologue); and the machines themselves (the Mother Mold says that “while you war, we children sit in judgment of those above us”). As others have pointed out, Hickman seems quite keen on mother imagery in this series.

PAGE 4: A data page on previous events which have led to the near extinction of mutants. The banner – “Look at what they’ve done” – cuts across the usual matter-of-fact tone of these pages. The list of anti-mutant criminals and their body counts is largely drawn from X-Force #3 (2008), which had a double-page spread introducing the Human Council of the Purifiers and giving their affiliations and body counts. The Human Council were former big-league anti-mutant villains who had become infected with the techno-organic virus so as to become part of Bastion’s collective, so it’s a story that fits quite well with Hickman’s broader themes. He’s added two names to the list: the Scarlet Witch and Mr Clean. (more…)

Sep 1

Domino: Hotshots

Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

You thought I’d forgotten about this one, didn’t you? Or, more likely, you’d forgotten about it. Weirdly tagged on to the end of a Domino ongoing series whose final issue read as if everything was being rushed to a conclusion, this is… a five issue miniseries which is basically another five issues of Domino, even though the logo says Hotshots in big letters and Domino in really, really small ones. But it’s still Gail Simone and David Baldeón, and it’s still the cast that were established in their Domino ongoing, which was kind of an ensemble book already, treating Diamondback and Outlaw as virtual co-stars. The same applies here, but with a rather wider group, and a little bit more flexibility in terms of who gets to be the narrator.

It’s one of those stories in which a dangerously powerful macguffin surfaces, and everyone is chasing after it to make sure that it stays out of the wrong hands. This particular macguffin falls from space, and transforms everyone who touches it by… well, by turning them into a Jack Kirby character, pretty much. Black Widow is the one who supposedly wants to keep it out of the wrong hands, and she hires Domino’s crew for the purpose, with White Fox (the South Korean character who’s being steadily introduced into the mainstream Marvel Universe) coming along too. The tension here, of course, is whether any of these guys would trust any of the others to walk off with the cosmic macguffin.

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Sep 1

X-Force #5-10: “The Counterfeit King”

Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

Alright, I should be more accurate: issue #7-10 are “The Counterfeit King.” Issues #5 and #6 are origin issues for Cable and Stryfe (“Some 2,000 Years From Yesterday” and “2,000 Years From Tomorrow”). But the ten issues of this run of X-Force are a single extended story, one that looks like a false start given that we’re getting yet another different “X-Force” team after the relaunch, while Cable gets packed off to the new Fallen Angels title. In the bigger picture, I suppose the main purpose of this series is to establish the revamped version of Cable and get him up and running, ready for use after the relaunch.

The origin issues are drawn by guest artist Damian Couciero, though in a style that turns out to fit quite nicely with the regular series – there’s not quite the same cartooning sensibility as Dylan Burnett’s work on the rest of the series, but it’s decent work and the colouring helps bring it all together with the other issues. The idea here is that the Silver Age X-Men’s extended trip to the future messed up the timeline in a way that was starting to have an impact even on Cable’s youth in the far future. And yes, we’re back to the New Canaanites and all that, a world with characters called things like Tetherblood and Flintshard. (Find your own Cable’s Largely Forgotten Youthful Acquaintance Name by choosing words from columns A and B! You could be Lobsterscrub, Whackstalk, or maybe Plinthquartz!) Good old Blaquesmith explains that time is being rewritten, and so young Cable is sent back in time early to sort it all out. And of course the characters from the “new” timeline, which is overwriting the old one, would quite like it to stick around – one of those being the new version of Stryfe.

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Aug 31

Uncanny X-Men #17-22 – “We Have Always Been”

Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

There’s a moment in these six issues that I really like. It’s at the end of issue #17, when Cain – who only showed up partway through the previous arc – finally takes a look at the X-Men’s hit list of mutants they want to track down and asks why Emma Frost isn’t on the list. And everyone turns to look at him and asks: Who’s that? It’s a lovely reveal, since it’s not telegraphed, but at the same time, Emma is such a prominent character that it is indeed odd for nobody to have mentioned her up to that point. It’s really well done.

Viewed as a whole, though, “We Have Always Been” goes in the pile marked “interesting failure.” It’s taken me a while to get around to reviewing this, and it does benefit from being viewed in the context of the stories that surround it. Matthew Rosenberg’s run came out alongside the “Age of X-Man” crossover, with most of the cast off in a mock utopia for several months; understandably enough, it contrasts with that by going in the opposite direction, and cranking up the angst and misery.

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Aug 29

House of X #3 annotations

Posted on Thursday, August 29, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

As always, this post contains spoilers.

COVER (PAGE 1): The X-Men and the Mother Mold (apparently coming to life, given the light in her eye), and the sun behind. All pretty straightforward, though note that Mystique is absent from the team on the cover.

PAGE 2: This issue’s epigraph is Professor X praising Cyclops on page 4. The common theme with the closing quote (from Magneto) seems to be the X-Men’s symbolic value to Professor X’s project. They may think they’re the heroes but they’re not the ones driving the plot here – after all, this is the sixth Hickman issue and the first time we’ve actually seen an X-Men team.

PAGE 3: The credits page. The text in the bottom right reads: “The house of Xavier and the eternal war of man.” The other Krakoan text just reads “House of X” and “Three”.

PAGE 4: Professor X and Magneto’s final pep talk for Cyclops, which is decidedly paternalistic in tone. Even though they’re sending Cyclops on an apparent suicide mission, Professor X sounds like he’s talking to a small child (“Such a brave face you’re wearing for me…”), and it’s not the first time we’ve seen this sort of “there, there” tone from him – see issue #1 where he’s talking to Jean. The less than reassuring message is that Cyclops and his team won’t die, in the sense that they’ll be remembered for ever as the founders of a nation. In other words, they’re going to die, but boy, it’s really going to help Professor X and Magneto’s political project. In fact, when we get to the attack at the end of the issue, Orchis turn out to be rather underprepared for the most part. (more…)

Aug 23

Powers of X #3 annotations

Posted on Friday, August 23, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

As always, this is going to be full of spoilers, and I’ll be using the page numbers from the digital edition. But before we get to the detail, let’s look at the big picture for this issue.

After two issues following the same pattern – Year 1, Year 10, Year 100, Year 1000 – Powers of X breaks from that format entirely to give us an entire issue set in the Year 100 time frame. This issue has a straightforward plot: as promised last issue, the Year 100 “X-Men” embark on a heroic suicide mission to recover vitally important data, which turns out to be the details of when and how Nimrod came into existence. Moira is woken from suspended animation and given the data, and then she allows Wolverine to kill her. The narrator then reveals that this is Moira’s ninth life – the one before established continuity, where she was allied with Apocalypse.

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Aug 20

Age of X-Man Omega

Posted on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

So what did we learn from that?

One reason why I don’t want to actually review Hickman’s stories just yet – though of course there’s a long way to go beyond the opening minis – is that it’s only with hindsight that you can really tell whether it all comes together as a great story, or simply as a formally interesting puzzle. House of X and Powers of X inspire confidence because they show every appearance of being carefully planned, and they repay close reading enough to reassure you that the apparent incongruities and discrepancies are there for a reason. Besides, Hickman has earned trust in that department from his previous work. But you never know until you get there.

Age of X-Man had a very interesting set-up in Nate’s curious “utopia” of relationship-free picket fences, with everyone living as individuals and either feeling repulsed by love (romantic, familial or otherwise), or getting banished to the jails or the underground.  The added element of having Apocalypse as the counter culture figure added to that.

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Aug 19

Wolverine vs Blade

Posted on Monday, August 19, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

This is another seemingly random one-shot, this time from Marc Guggenheim and Dave Wilkins. And while the last two I reviewed turned out to be heading somewhere, this is… just pointless, really? Completism alone dictates that it gets a short post, but it doesn’t merit anything more than that.

It is, you will be amazed to hear, a story in which two heroes are both drawn into an affair involving the same villain, and have a misunderstanding which leads them to fight, before they team up to take on the bad guy. There’s nothing wrong with that formula as such – the clichés became clichés because they worked – but it’s not something you can hang a story on. There has to be something more.

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Aug 15

Powers of X #2 annotations

Posted on Thursday, August 15, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

As always, there will be spoilers, and page numbers reflect the digital edition.

COVER (PAGE 1): A montage of Magneto, Mystique, Toad, Sabretooth and Emma Frost against the background of Krakoa.  Most of these characters don’t actually appear in the issue.

PAGE 2: The epigraph quotes Magneto, and once again, it’s new dialogue.  Clearly, it’s superficially at odds with the next scene.  More to the point, though, is the contrast between Magneto’s opening quotation about unbridgeable differences and Xavier’s closing line about togetherness.  As we’ll see over the course of the issue, this story seems to be interested in a rather more permanent form of togetherness than Xavier would normally have in mind.

PAGES 3-7: Charles Xavier and Moira MacTaggert visit Magneto and form an alliance with him.  This is presumably the scene which was listed in the House of X #2 timeline as “Moira and Xavier recruit Magneto”.

The timeline: This issue repeats issue #1’s structure of having four scenes, set respectively in “Year 1”, “Year 10”, “Year 100” and “Year 1000” respectively.   This particular scene is listed as taking place in “Year 1”, but so was Xavier’s first meeting with Moira in the previous issue.  But according to the House of X timeline, Moira and Xavier met in Year 17, while their recruitment of Magneto didn’t take place until Year 43.  That’s 26 years apart, yet  for Powers of X it still hasn’t bridged the gap between Year 1 and Year 10.  So either the “Year 1”, “Year 10” stuff is figurative, or there’s something weird going on with time.  (Or Hickman has made a mess of his timeline, but that doesn’t seem very likely.)   (more…)