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Feb 22

Iceman #9-10 – “The Apocalypse Seed”

Posted on Thursday, February 22, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Sina Grace’s Iceman stories have tended to be strong on character and theme, a bit wonkier on the plot.  This is a case in point.

Since Bobby decided in the previous issue to move to LA, this is his going away party, and he’s invited Judah along to meet his friends.  Naturally, that leads to the familiar fish out of water routines, where one normal person finds himself baffled by the weirdness of the X-Men’s world – always worth doing now and again, to keep up the contrast.

But Daken shows up, with Zach from a few issues ago in tow.  Zach is the obnoxious mutant kid whom Bobby rescued from small town panic, only for him to run off and join the much cooler Daken.  With vaguely defined powers to amp up or turn down other people’s superpowers and, well, stuff generally, he’s now calling himself Amp.  So Daken apparently has a plan to lure away the X-Men (by staging a Purifier attack as a distraction) and Generation X (by getting Amp to lock them in the Danger Room), after which he confronts Iceman and…

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Feb 20

All-New Wolverine #25-30 – “Orphans of X”

Posted on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

With All-New Wolverine‘s Legacy arc, Tom Taylor has certainly taken the remit to heart.  “Orphans of X” is, quite literally, a story about the legacy of Wolverine, and the characters left in his wake.  Taylor and artist Juann Cabal also find themselves in the happy position of being able to this story without the actual, original Wolverine being around.  So although his shadow inevitably hangs over the whole thing, the focus remains firmly on his legacy, rather than on the man himself.  Yes, Old Man Logan is in here, but he’s kept to the margins and (wisely, in this context) not treated as an ersatz Wolverine.

It’s a very simple idea, even though a bunch of guest stars and some side quests get it to six issues without it feeling like much of a stretch.  There’s a group called the Orphans of X, and they’re basically the relatives of people who’ve been killed off by Wolverine and his ilk over the years.  Largely, they seem to be the family left behind by the cannon fodder.  And they basically want to kill off all the Wolverine-type characters, to put a stop to the whole thing.

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Feb 8

Phoenix Resurrection

Posted on Thursday, February 8, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

You might think that Phoenix Resurrection – or Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey, if you must – would form a good companion piece to the Jean Grey review one post down.  After all, Jean Grey was an entire series devoted to setting up this book.

In fact, the most jarring thing about Resurrection is how irrelevant it makes Jean Grey seem.  That book devoted months to establishing the ghost of the original Jean as a hard-ass mentor for the younger Jean, determined to prepare her younger self for the coming of the Phoenix.  What we get here is Jean as the everywoman innocent, living in a fictional small town created for her by Phoenix, as it tries to prepare her for host duties.  If it wasn’t for a couple of passing references, you’d think writer Matthew Rosenberg was completely unaware that Jean Grey was even out there.

This is, shall we say, annoying.  But let’s take the series on its own terms.

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Feb 6

Jean Grey #7-11 – “Psych Wars”

Posted on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Well, now we know where this was heading: it gets replaced by X-Men Red, a fourth X-Men title (and bear in mind two of the other ones are fortnightly), starring a revived original Jean Grey.  At least in terms of the plot mechanics, the point of all this was to set up Phoenix Resurrection and get her back into circulation.  We’ll get to Resurrection shortly, but let’s deal with Jean Grey first.

Sometimes the most frustrating books are the ones that have plenty of good stuff but don’t stick the landing.  And there is plenty of good stuff here.  Dennis Hopeless and his main artist Victor Ibáñez are strong when it comes to the character details that make characters feel rounded and believable, even when they’re doing something utterly divorced from human experience.  There’s a reassuring sense of (most of) this taking place in a recognisable real world.  Issue #8, which revisits the Morrison-era New X-Men school, looks fabulous.  Even when the characters decamp to the middle of nowhere in issue #9, at least it feels alive.  There’s some grounding for the giant cosmic bird to play against, and where the basic imagery of fire can look like a big thing.

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Jan 25

X-Men: Blue #16-20 – “Cross Time Capers”

Posted on Thursday, January 25, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Dennis Hopeless seemed to wrap up his run on All-New X-Men by drawing a line under the vexed question of how the time-travelling teenage X-Men fit into continuity.  After all, by that point – by the end of Brian Bendis’ run, in fact – they’d changed drastically enough that it was unclear how they could ever simply be returned to the Silver Age in the place where they’d left.  Hopeless’s solution was that the kids travel back to their own time, and see another set of X-Men running around the same as ever.  The timeline healed by simply relegating them to the status of divergent X-Men and having the real X-Men carry on as normal.

There are obvious advantages to this solution.  It’s simple.  It clears away a horrible quagmire, and it lets the team move forward based on a “can’t go home, second chance” theme.  But it also has one major downside: it’s a cop out.  It’s not a resolution to the story of how they get home, it’s just defining the problem out of existence.  It’s the sort of thing you do if you don’t have a proper resolution to the story, but you figure that you can’t string it out indefinitely, so best bite the bullet and get rid of it.

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Jan 18

X-Men: Gold #16-20: “The Negative Zone War”

Posted on Thursday, January 18, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Well, this is not very good.

And it’s a shame to be saying that, because “The Negative Zone War” is also the X-Men: Gold storyline which relies least on nostalgia.  That’s not to say that it’s strikingly original – the X-Men visit another world and get caught up in the local civil war, which is not new.  But it’s a world they have no connection with, and it’s a new villain.

In fact, that seems to be a large part of the story.  Kologoth – the alien bad guy who had an origin issue a few months back – is finally rescued when his rebel army open a portal to Earth.  The rescue mission causes a bit of chaos, the X-Men get involved, and Kitty and Kurt wind up stuck on the ship when it goes home.  And so the X-Men go after them.  But while Kologoth is mildly pleased to have the chance to imprison a couple of X-Men in turn, he’s not that bothered.

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Jan 11

X-Men: Gold Annual #1: “Cross-Atlantic Caper”

Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

It’s thirty years since Excalibur #1, and with three of the cast currently appearing in X-Men: Gold, it does make sense for the book to do a tribute.  And where better than in an annual, that traditional home of byways and digressions?

The result is… odd.  There’s a nice Alan Davis cover, re-doing the cover of Excalibur #1 with the characters in their current costumes.  The interior art is by Alitha Martinez, and while it isn’t especially reminiscent of Davis, she does a sound job on the character comedy, she sells Meggan’s key scene very well, and she does nicely enough with a brief dimension-hopping homage sequence.

Marc Guggenheim and Leah Williams’ story, on the other hand, is something of a half-formed affair, full of quite promising ideas that never actually tie together.

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Jan 9

X-Men: Grand Design #1-2

Posted on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Grand Design is one of the stranger X-related ideas in quite some time.  Planned for six outsize issues, it’s Ed Piskor re-telling the first three hundred or so issues of (UncannyX-Men.  These first two issues cover the Silver Age.

Now, three hundred issues in around three hundred pages is going to be seriously compressed.  But Piskor’s best known work, Hip Hop Family Tree, is essentially documentarian, and there’s a similar vibe to this.  Yes, there’s a framing sequence to set up Uatu as the narrator, but that largely serves to explain why the focus remains on the big picture rather than the small details.  More to the point, though, roughly three hundred issues basically means the end of the Claremont run, and if there’s one thing that Claremont was very good at, it was creating a sense of a grand saga.

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Jan 7

Astonishing X-Men #1-6: “Life of X”

Posted on Sunday, January 7, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Astonishing X-Men picked up a few votes in our end of year poll in the pleasant surprise category.  And it is indeed better than you might have expected, even if this says as much about expectations as it does about the comic itself.  After all, if you follow up a slightly subdued relaunch by suddenly saying “hey, here’s another X-Men book”, and push it on the basis that it doesn’t have a regular artist… well.

After a gentle prologue in which the Shadow King attacks various low-level hermit psychics to regain his foothold on Earth, issue #1 kicks off the story proper with him having a stab at seizing Psylocke.  This lets him use whichever X-Men he wants, since the result is a lot of psychic thrashing around in London, and whichever X-Men are nearest turning up to help.

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Jan 2

Iceman #8 – “Iceman vs Iceman”

Posted on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Iceman is on its way to a swift cancellation with issue #11, which shouldn’t come as any surprise.  For whatever reason, Marvel persist in launching new X-Men solo titles and, unless there’s a Wolverine involved, watching them crash within a year.  Similarly, Generation X joins a growing list of short-lived titles about the students, a format which has only really sold when it was folded it into Wolverine and the X-Men.  The message should have got through long ago that the X-Men brand is not strong enough to support these spin-offs, but Marvel are implacably determined not to take the hint.

None of this is particularly a reflection of the quality of the individual books.  Iceman is a good enough title, which has done some solid character-driven work on an underdeveloped lead.  Admittedly, issue #8 is a patchy example of that.

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