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May 27

Marauders #10 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, May 27, 2020 by Paul in Uncategorized, x-axis

And we’re back. Now, how did this go again…

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

PAGE 1 / COVER. It’s Emma, Storm, Iceman and Forge fighting the guys in the armour that we’ve seen in previous issues. As in X-Force, Forge is using the “organic tech” that he’s been working on since coming to Krakoa.

PAGES 2-5. Sebastian Shaw enjoys Krakoan whiskey. Storm tells Forge that his old power-dampening technology has resurfaced in Russia. Forge admits that one of his underlings from the time had a photographic memory.

Port Genosha. The first time we’ve seen Genosha’s first distillery. For some reason it’s been named after the previous mutant island nation, which was wiped out by Sentinels in New X-Men vol 1 #115. From the scale of this thing, it looks as if Sebastian Shaw is trying to develop a business that isn’t based on pharmaceuticals… which is probably quite sensible for the Krakoan economy, to be honest . But obviously the trope here is the rich villain who’s killed someone and is mostly interested in his luxury goods.

Apr 29

Giant-Size X-Men

Posted on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 by Paul in x-axis

Completing our look at the Krakoa-era X-books that have actually finished stories so far, we have the first two Giant-Size X-Men one-shots.

Giant-Size is an odd format. The name refers back to the issue that launched the new X-Men back in 1975, and which was meant to be the first of a quarterly series that never happened. (Issue #2 was a reprint, and then they just cancelled the thing.) Here, though, it’s a series of one-shot Hickman stories. Except… well, X-Men is already mostly a series of one-shot Hickman stories.

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Apr 21

Fallen Angels #1-6

Posted on Tuesday, April 21, 2020 by Paul in x-axis

Well, they can’t all be winners.

If there’s one thing about the first wave of Krakoa X-books that everyone seems to have agreed on, it’s that Fallen Angels wasn’t very good. And there’s a part of me that regrets having to say that, because it certainly wasn’t phoned in. You can see, in theory, what it was going for. You can see how it looked like a reasonable idea at the pitch stage. But the end result is a mess, for a whole range of reasons.

One factor here is that Fallen Angels seems to have been cut short. It’s principally a Kwannon book, but the first arc is plainly structured as a “gathering of the team”. Even on that level it’s strangely put together, with half the cast only appearing towards the end, and contributing very little. But it ends up with Kwannon running a team of vaguely outsidery mutants as part of a side deal with Mr Sinister. And then it stops.

Apr 15

X-Force #1-9

Posted on Wednesday, April 15, 2020 by Paul in x-axis

Every line-up of X-books needs the grim one. It’s a role that plays a little differently, though, in the context of the Krakoan era. Normally X-Force is the book that takes a generally awful world to its somewhat-logical conclusion. But the whole premise of the Krakoan era is that the mutants are on top of the world, living in a secure tropical island utopia.

Here, X-Force becomes the book that focusses most directly on the idea that things are not necessarily very nice beneath the surface of the Krakoan utopia. It remains the most nineties and the most grim of the current line (or at least, it was until Wolverine came along), but that grimness serves a somewhat different function here.

Apr 12

New Mutants #1-9

Posted on Sunday, April 12, 2020 by Paul in x-axis

With hindsight, New Mutants may be the strangest of the first wave of Krakoan books. Not because of the concept, which is nothing more elaborate than reuniting the cast of the original New Mutants series, and throwing in stories about trainee characters from other eras too. Basically, it’s the series for any characters who are trainees now, or played that role in the past. Simple.

No, it’s the structural choices that are strange. The first seven issues feature two quite separate arcs, with different characters and different creative teams, taking issues in turn.

Apr 9

Excalibur #1-9

Posted on Thursday, April 9, 2020 by Paul in x-axis

Excalibur is a real mixed bag.

It looks great – let’s get that out of the way first. Marcus To is dealing with a large cast, a dense plot, and a wide range of locations, and he’s handling all that very well. He’s very good at establishing a setting, which is important for a book that’s trying to play up the tensions between Krakoa, England and Otherworld. There are clarity issues in this series, but they’re in the exposition, not the visuals.

The magical theme is potentially interesting too. Magic has been a part of the X-books for decades – most obviously, it was a core part of New Mutants thanks to Illyana – but it also exists on the fringes of the X-Men’s world, peripheral to all but a few characters. And characters like Apocalypse, Rogue, Gambit, Psylocke and Jubilee are hardly associated with magic.

Apr 7

Marauders #1-9

Posted on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 by Paul in x-axis

Ah, my favourite.

If X-Men is carried by the promise of future gratification when the big picture starts to pay off, Marauders is the X-book that delivers the most entertainment here and now. In some ways it’s the most traditional X-book of the current line – Chris Claremont always liked writing the sort of story that characters could describe with a straight face as a “caper”.

On paper, the premise of Marauders didn’t sound all that enticing. A vaguely pirate-themed book about, er, pharmaceutical smuggling. It didn’t exactly leap off the page. But it turns out to be the most consistently fun of the current titles. Probably because there isn’t all that much smuggling in it. Or rather, we’re not expected to get all that interested in the mechanics of flower distribution.

Apr 4

X-Men #1-9

Posted on Saturday, April 4, 2020 by Paul in x-axis

So, then. We find the X-books at a strange time, in an involuntary hiatus brought about by the Covid-19 lockdown, which has interrupted distribution of new comics. Presumably publication will resume in due course; in the meantime, I suppose we’re spared a series of issues that would read like missives from a parallel universe.

In the meantime, let’s take stock of where the books have reached, starting with X-Men itself – written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn, for the most part, by Leinil Francis Yu.

Apr 1


Posted on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 by Paul in x-axis

So, what now? Marvel have stopped shipping comics, either digitally or physically, at least for now. This might last a couple of weeks until some other arrangement is put in place. Or it might last a while.

Either way, I’m finally going to clear some of the backlog by looking back at the Hickman-era titles. That should see us through until things start up again… assuming this is indeed just a brief interruption.

One plan that’s doing the rounds seems to be that some sort of stopgap arrangement could be put in place, so that direct market retailers will be able to sell digital copies now with a view to receiving physical copies in due course. How practical that is, time will tell – are they really going to ship what could be months of backlogged comics to direct market retailers in one go? How is that going to work?

But if something like that turns out to be the plan then presumably we’ll be back to regular comics fairly soon – even if they’ll all be taking place in a parallel universe. By that time we should be up to date on reviews. If the plan doesn’t work out then… well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Mar 28

Giant-Size X-Men: Nightcrawler #1 annotations

Posted on Saturday, March 28, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

COVER / PAGE 1. Nightcrawler sees Phoenix and Thunderbird in the X-Men’s overgrown mansion.

PAGE 2. Establishing shots of the Mansion.

This is the X-Men’s traditional base, now abandoned and overgrown with Krakoan plant life, which we last saw in House of X #1. Panel 1 is the front of the Mansion; panel 2 is Xavier’s study; panel 3 is the Danger Room; panel 4 is Cerebro; panel 5 is the main hall, with the Krakoan gate in the middle. Normally in the Hickman era the Krakoan foliage is portrayed as lush and positive, but here (when it comes directly up against a symbol of traditional X-Men-ness) it’s a sign of dilapidation. An unanswered question is precisely why the X-Men have abandoned the Mansion entirely. You’d think they’d have more attachment to it than this.