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Jul 7

Major X

Posted on Sunday, July 7, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

There’s a temptation to bring out special standards where Rob Liefeld is concerned.  After all, on any conventional basis, he makes awful, incoherent comics.  And yet, and yet…  Liefeld was a star in the nineties, and clearly he was doing something that connected.  His style was one of the dominant features of the period, grudgingly imitated by all manner of artists who wanted to keep getting work.  His stories were incoherent in a way that suggested not so much laziness as naive, stream-of-conscious enthusiasm.  Some of his actual concepts, like Youngblood, turn out to be entirely viable when handled by more conventional talents.  And in a couple of years  he had a hand in creating Cable, Domino, Shatterstar and Deadpool, which is a pretty good track record.

Major X, his latest six-issue mini, fits well into this tradition.  It bounces around with tremendous enthusiasm and no great coherence.  Plot threads are introduced and never paid off (in a way that you’d get away with if these were the first six issues of an ongoing).  Little about it makes sense.  But Liefeld comes across as genuinely enthusiastic about it.  It doesn’t feel phoned in.  It feels mad.

In a good way?  No.  Not in a good way.  It’s awful.  But at least it’s idiosyncratically awful.  And some Liefeld concepts turned out to work when other people communicated them more effectively.  Might this be one?

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Jul 6

Age of X-Man: X-Tremists

Posted on Saturday, July 6, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

Leah Williams and Georges Jeanty’s X-Tremists takes on one of the trickier tasks of the Age of X-Man crossover: writing a bunch of characters as a secret police force who mindwipe, and ultimately disappear, inconvenient people – people who won’t get on board with Nate’s relationship-free, individualist culture.  While the public don’t know about all the mind wiping, or at least know about it only as a rumour, they do know about Department X itself, as a relatively low level outfit policing antisocial behaviour.  From the standpoint of the Age of X-Man public, they’re the vice squad.  (Rather unfortunately, their slogan “Semper Vigilo” – “Always Watching” – is also the motto of Police Scotland.)

But they’re a bit more awful than that, which raises awkward questions for the characters.  After all, sure, they’re under outside influence.  But so is everyone else, and plenty of them are breaking free.  Most of those that aren’t are simply living “normal” lives in Nate’s society.  The Department X members are actively enforcing Nate’s pseudotopia.

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Jul 4

Age of X-Man: NextGen

Posted on Thursday, July 4, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

Ed Brisson’s time on the X-books seems to be drawing to a close as we near the Hickman relaunch.  But there’s still time for one more story about Glob Herman, who seems to have become his favourite character.  Glob’s been around since 2001, largely as a background character with a memorable visual – but he’s the one currently selected to play the role of the long-suffering sad-sack trainee.  It’s a role that his design and long tenure leave him well suited to.

NextGen isn’t a solo title – the rest of the core cast are Anole, Rockslide and Armor.  But he’s the lynchpin.  Incidentally, this is one of several Age of X-Man minis where the title isn’t the name of the team.  There is no team here, just a handful of students at the Summers Institute for Higher Learning who realise what’s up.  Because, yes, this is inevitably another Age of X-Man mini where the basic arc is “some characters remember”.

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Jul 2

Age of X-Man: The Amazing Nightcrawler

Posted on Tuesday, July 2, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

Considering that Nightcrawler is also starring in the Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men miniseries, it seems odd at first that there’s no apparent interaction between the two books.  As it turns out, there is a reason, of sorts: the plot of Nightcrawler’s solo book pretty much rules out the possibility of him coming back to the X-Men to talk about.  I’ll get into why later on, but anyone who’s been even vaguely following Age of X-Man will have spotted that there’s quite a lot of mind-wiping going on.  So fair enough, that turns out to make sense at the end of the day.

Amazing Nightcrawler is still a curious book, though.  There’s a certain same-iness to the Age of X-Man minis, in as much as they tend to fall into two main plots: fighting the forces of social conformity within Nate’s strange little world, or characters starting to recover their normal sense of identity.  Nightcrawler basically does that too, but its starting point is that Kurt is having a rather lovely time in this world, where he is indeed getting to live out his dream of movie stardom before an adoring audience.

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Jun 30

Wolverine: Infinity Watch

Posted on Sunday, June 30, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

So this exists.

Quite why it exists makes a little more sense now we know that the X-Men line is being pared down to just two titles for the Jonathan Hickman relaunch.  And that means Marvel needed to get Wolverine back into circulation in order to save Hickman having to deal with that – but they couldn’t follow it up in the way you’d expect, with a relaunched Wolverine solo title.

So here, instead, is five issues of filler tying into a crossover that finished six months ago.  Strangely, it’s written by Gerry Duggan, the writer of Infinity Wars and a bigger name than you’d normally expect to find on such a superfluous project.  And it’s not that he phones it in – there’s a story here, to be sure.  It’s just not a Wolverine story.  It’s an Infinity Wars Appendix with Wolverine standing around in the background.

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Jun 29

X-Men: Grand Design – X-Tinction

Posted on Saturday, June 29, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

With the final two issues of Ed Piskor’s re-telling of the X-Men’s history – or rather, of the Chris Claremont run and the preceding material that serves as necessary background for it – we reach the crunch point.  How is he going to impose an end on a story that never had one?  And is there a point to any of this, beyond a parlour-game exercise in distilling years of stories into a single story?

Let’s start with the first question.  The answer, on some level, is a cheat – but one constructed entirely from building blocks to be found in the Claremont run.  And that’s in keeping with the way the whole series has worked.  Piskor is being faithful to the broad strokes of the original stories, but he’s also more than happy to shuffle around the elements, and cut bits out entirely, in order to better serve that big picture.  One of those changes, in the previous volume, makes rather more sense now that we see how things pan out.

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Jun 15

Age of X-Man: The Marvelous X-Men

Posted on Saturday, June 15, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

As “Age of X-Man” draws to a close, we now know that the X-books have pretty much been marking time while waiting for Jonathan Hickman.  But “Age of X-Man” has been an unusually ambitious and intriguing way of doing that.  While the remnants of the regular cast plough on over in Uncanny X-Men, most of the characters are shunted over to an alternate universe for an inversion of “Age of Apocalypse”: Nate Grey has created his own world, and it’s meant to be a paradise.  Unfortunately, Nate is unable to tell hang-ups and insights apart, and so his idea of what would really push a nice world over the line into utopia is to get rid of families and love in favour of a mix of single living and communal groups.  On his account, this is a wonderful philosophical insight – we are all ultimately alone in our heads, and we’ll be happier if we embrace that fact – but… well.

This is a genuinely interesting and unexpected angle for a story which, up to that point, looked like a straight re-tread.  But with six minis out there, it also raises the question of whether there really are six different slants to be had on this concept.  Prisoner XX-Tremists and X-Tracts have the clearest stories to tell, being either about the state apparatus or those who refuse to accept Nate’s ideas.  NextGenAmazing Nightcrawler and Marvelous X-Men – about initially unsuspecting characters just kind of getting on with life in a world they regard as rather pleasing – have more of a challenge.

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May 31

X-23 #11-12: “Dear Gabby”

Posted on Friday, May 31, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

We’re heading for another reboot of the whole line, then.  The second-tier titles may have continued alongside “Age of X-Man”, but we’re starting from scratch when Jonathan Hickman arrives, with just the X-Men for a while.  This explains a lot about the clumsy return of Wolverine, which exists simply to tie up a loose end and get him on the board again, not to relaunch a solo series.

Normally I might be annoyed at losing decent second-tier titles, but the reality is that few creative teams stick around for more than a year anyway, so it’s not as if anything seems to be cut short.  It’s probably a smart move to cut the line to a core title, instead of diluting it with a sprawling line, even though chances are we’ll be back to typical numbers in six months.  The X-books could use a grand gesture if they want to be seen as a big deal again.

In the meantime, a parade of final arcs lumbers towards me for review.  This two-parter wraps up Mariko Tamaki’s run on X-23.

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May 6

Dead Man Logan #1-6 – “Sins of the Father”

Posted on Monday, May 6, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

So here’s another one which I figured was meant to be a twelve parter – why make it a miniseries otherwise, after all?  But no, issue #7 is apparently “Welcome Back, Logan” part 1, so this is indeed a six-part story.

Unlike Uncanny, though, these six issues actually do seem to be a separate story.  If anything, the question is why the final two arcs of Old Man Logan have been hived off into a miniseries, beyond the obvious point that it provides an excuse for another issue #1.  Which is probably the only reason you need.  The unifying theme, as you might expect, is simply that this is the series ending.  So the first half is Logan tying up the last loose end from present day earth, and the second half is his return to the Wastelands.

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May 4

Uncanny X-Men #11-16 – “This Is Forever”

Posted on Saturday, May 4, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

This isn’t an ideal point to be reviewing Matthew Rosenberg’s current Uncanny X-Men storyline, which to all intents and purposes is still going.  But for whatever reason – most likely, to give different names to the trade paperbacks – issue #17 is titled “We Have Always Been, part 1”.  So officially, at least, issues #11-16 are a single arc, and let’s go with that.

Except… well, except it very obviously is the first part of a continuing storyline, and not an arc at all.  And I’m bearing in mind that Rosenberg’s New Mutants: Dead Souls looked like a bit of a mess at the halfway mark, only to cohere in the end stretch.  Then again, his Multiple Man miniseries also looked like a bit of a mess at the halfway mark, and it was.  Still, I’m inclined to reserve judgment to some degree.

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