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Mar 15

Wolverine: Black, White & Blood

Posted on Monday, March 15, 2021 by Paul in reviews, x-axis

WOLVERINE: BLACK, WHITE & BLOOD #1-4
November 2020 to March 2021

An anthology title! We haven’t had one of those in a while.

Marvel’s track record with anthology titles is patchy to say the least. X-Men Unlimited used to serve as the X-books’ anthology, and to put it politely, it was a mixed bag. But, different times. And in an age when the ongoing titles are tied into a big picture, perhaps there’s a gap for stories that are more freestanding.

Even so, Black, White & Blood seems uncertain about what it’s aiming for. The gimmick here is to tell Wolverine stories, drawn from any point in his history, but with the art in black and white with only red as colouring. So black, white and blood, you see.

And… is that a good idea? For a series?

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Jan 26

Juggernaut #1-5

Posted on Tuesday, January 26, 2021 by Paul in reviews, x-axis
T

JUGGERNAUT #1-5
by Fabian Niceza, Ron Garney and Matt Milla

Is this an X-book? It’s from the X-office, and the Juggernaut is an X-character. But it doesn’t follow the style and layout of the Krakoa-era line – it has its own colour coded recap pages, I suppose, which are something of a nod to modern X-Men design sensibilities, but that’s about it. Professor X shows up in a couple of issues, but only to tell the Juggernaut that sorry, he’s not welcome on Krakoa, due to being a human.

That’s something of the point. The rest of the X-cast have decamped to Krakoa, and the Juggernaut – who was dutifully trying to reform the last time we saw him, and had briefly joined the Rosenberg-era “last X-Men” squad – is stuck behind in New York. And Fabian Nicieza is an X-Men writer of an earlier era, which in a meta sort of way feels very appropriate for where the Juggernaut is left.

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Jan 24

X-Factor #1-5

Posted on Sunday, January 24, 2021 by Paul in reviews, x-axis

X-FACTOR vol 4 #1-5
by Leah Williams, David Baldeon & Israel Silva

The thing about bringing back X-Factor is that the X-Factor name has been attached to a whole bunch of unrelated concepts over the years. It’s been the original X-Men’s reunion; it’s been the US government mutant team; it’s been a detective agency; it’s been a corporate team. There’s not much common thread beyond some recurring characters.

For the Krakoan era, we’ve only really got Polaris as an established team member. And we’re calling back to the well-received detective run, by making the new X-Factor Investigations into the people who investigate missing persons on Krakoa.

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Jan 19

X of Swords

Posted on Tuesday, January 19, 2021 by Paul in reviews, x-axis

X OF SWORDS:
X of Swords: Creation #1
X of Swords: Stasis #1
X of Swords: Destruction #1
X-Factor vol 4 #4
Wolverine vol 7 #6-7
X-Force vol 6 #13-14
Marauders #13-15
Hellions #5-6
New Mutants vol 4 #13
Cable vol 4 #5-6
Excalibur vol 4 #13-15
X-Men vol 4 #13-15
by various creators

The first major crossover of the Krakoan era is an important point for the line. Not just because of the plot itself – much of the appeal of Jonathan Hickman’s run turns on a sense that there’s a bigger picture. Although his X-Men mostly tells short and self-contained stories, they depend on the sense of a wider context for their weight. And the aura of a grand plan was important to get buy-in for the radical change of direction represented by Krakoa in the first place.

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Jan 16

Chris Claremont Anniversary Special #1

Posted on Saturday, January 16, 2021 by Paul in reviews, x-axis

CHRIS CLAREMONT ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL #1
by Chris Claremont, Bill Sienkiewicz, Sean Chen, Diego Olortegui, Brett Booth, Marc Deering, Roberto Poggi, Adelso Corona, Chris Sotomayor, Rachelle Rosenberg, Erick Arciniega & Guru-eFX

Now there’s a title. You don’t often get creators named in the title of a comic – not unless they’re Stan Lee, at any rate. But Chris Claremont is a special case, and this issue is intended to celebrate five decades of his contribution to Marvel Comics.

I confess to being a little unsure what exactly this is taking as the starting point for its anniversary. His first credited script wasn’t until 1973; his first uncredited contributions were for stories that came out in 1969. But whatever. When you’re talking about a half-century career, a year here or there is no big deal.

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Oct 3

Giant-Size X-Men: Tribute to Wein & Cockrum

Posted on Saturday, October 3, 2020 by Paul in reviews

GIANT-SIZE X-MEN: TRIBUTE TO WEIN & COCKRUM
“Second Genesis”
by Len Wein and… well, about 60 names would be listed here.

This is certainly unusual. It’s a remake of Giant-Size X-Men #1, using the original script, but with modern artists doing a page each. I’ll be honest – the main reason I bought this was just in case they sneaked in something significant in the art. They don’t. It’s exactly what it’s promoted as: a straight cover version of “Second Genesis”.

It goes without saying that Giant-Size X-Men #1, now 45 years old, is one of the most significant single issues in X-Men history. Most people with a vague interest in the franchise have read it (and needless to say, it’s available on Marvel Unlimited). It’s the issue that relaunched the series after several years in reprint, and it’s the introduction of Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Thunderbird, as well as the point where Wolverine and Banshee join the team. Len Wein didn’t stick around beyond this point, which Chris Claremont swiftly taking over – but Dave Cockrum hung around for quite some time, which gives it more sense of unity with the run that follows.

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Sep 22

X-Men: Marvels Snapshots #1

Posted on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 by Paul in reviews, x-axis

“And the Rest Will Follow”
by Jay Edidin, Tom Reilly & Chris O’Halloran

The Kurt Busiek-curated Marvels line is difficult to keep track of, not least because so many of the books have such similar titles. As you might expect, much of it consists of well-handled character pieces written in the margins of past history; the original Marvels series was largely about revisiting the history of the Marvel Universe from a different perspective, after all.

This book – the cover says Marvel’s Snapshots X-Men, the digital copy says X-Men: Marvels Snapshots, and does this stuff really have to be so confusing? – takes a rather different approach. It’s an origin story for Cyclops.

Hold on a minute, you may be saying. Cyclops has got an origin story already. He’s had one since the sixties. And of course Jay Edidin knows that very well – he’s been podcasting on X-Men history for years. The thing about Cyclops’ back story, though, is that it’s not so much an origin story as a big pile of baggage that Scott is expected to lug around with him.

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Sep 6

iWolverine 2020

Posted on Sunday, September 6, 2020 by Paul in reviews

iWOLVERINE 2020 #1-2
Writer: Larry Hama
Artist: Roland Boschi
Colourist: Andres Mossa
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Editor: Darren Shan

There’s no point being a completist if you’re not going to be a completist. So… iWolverine 2020. Or at least, that’s what the logo says. The Comixology listing says it’s called 2020 iWolverine. And the event checklist says it’s just called iWolverine (though on every other book, it agrees that the “2020” comes at the end). Let’s go with what it says on the cover, and resign ourselves to the fact that when this thing finally appears on Marvel Unlimited, nobody will ever be able to find it.

It’s a curious commission. It’s part of the Iron Man 2020 event, which basically consists of six issues of Iron Man plus a bunch of tie-in issues. The broad plot of the event involves artificial intelligences around the world rising up in a rebellion against the humans who want to use them as simple tools. But unless I’m missing something, iWolverine 2020 has nothing to do with that storyline whatsoever. There’s a passing mention of the fact that Albert and Elsie-Dee are technically Donald Pierce’s property, but it’s really a red-skies crossover. This story would have worked just as well whether or not the rest of the crossover existed.

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Aug 12

Moon Knight vol 1 – “From the Dead”

Posted on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 by Paul in reviews

There weren’t any X-books to review last week, so let’s take a (belated) look at another title that did complete its first trade paperback.

Moon Knight is the sort of bubble character who hasn’t really been able to sustain an ongoing title in years, but who keeps getting relaunched regardless.  This happens partly because of Marvel (and DC)’s conviction that everything in their back catalogue is a masterpiece merely awaiting the right take, but also because people look at Moon Knight and think to themselves, surely this ought to work.  It’s the book Bill Sienkiewicz made his name on.  It’s been interesting in the past.  Surely it can be interesting again.

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Apr 25

Necrosha

Posted on Sunday, April 25, 2010 by Paul in reviews, x-axis

“Necrosha”

(X-Necrosha one-shot, X-Force #21-25)
Writers: Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Artist: Clayton Crain
Letterer: Cory Petit
Editors: Jeanine Schaefer & Nick Lowe

Thanks to the knock-on effects of the volcano, there are no new comics in Britain this week, which in turn means no X-Axis.  So instead, I’ll take a look at the last X-Force storyline, “Necrosha.”  Technically this is a crossover with X-Men Legacy and New Mutants.  But in practice, the story is contained in X-Force.  The other two titles simply did their own stories in the margins, taking advantage of the opportunity to use dead characters for a couple of issues.

First time around, I wasn’t a fan of this.  As often happens, reading it again in one sitting does at least make it a little clearer what the creators were going for.  This is a story with a lot of clutter, and the main threads come through more clearly without a month-long gap between chapters.  But it remains a clunky story that doesn’t really hold together – albeit one which is at least trying to pay off a number of long-running storylines.

The basic idea goes like this.  As we established quite some time ago, back in ancient Rome, Selene had a stab at sacrificing everyone in the city to turn herself into a goddess.  It all went wrong because her lackey Eliphas made a hash of things.  Eliphas is now trying to get back in her good books by offering to provide her with a zombie army raised from the dead with the Transmode virus.  Selene’s big idea is to use the virus to revive the slaughtered population of Genosha, and then sacrifice them to turn herself into a goddess.

Running alongside that, the writers get to throw in cameos by a ton of dead characters; subplots about Elixir and Wolfsbane are wrapped up; and Selene’s zombie army invades the X-Men’s island.

So, fine.  It’s all ridiculously melodramatic, but hell, it’s comics.  Selene’s going to raise the dead and use them to gain ultimate power or something.  But in an attempt to wring six issues out of it, it’s become incredibly complicated, littered with unnecessary characters, and plagued by plot holes.

The final two issues have major logic problems.  Issue #24 sees X-Force launch a completely unnecessary frontal assault on a castle, charging through an army of the undead, instead of just asking the Vanisher to teleport them straight into the building.  Vanisher teleports them in at the start of the scene; he teleports himself into the castle later on.  The plot requires him to be separated from the group; but the story brings that about by having everyone’s IQ drop to single figures for two pages.

Issue #25 sees Selene defeated.  I honestly don’t understand how.  Something about a mystic ritual never mentioned before that issue, but beyond that, I’m lost.  It’s obviously supposed to be some sort of pay off for the violation of James’ tribe, but there’s no proper set-up, so it doesn’t work.

And what about the early issues, where Selene’s zombies attack the X-Men’s island?  Granted, Selene has a reason to attack the island.  She needs to recover the magic knife that Eli Bard lost to Warpath in a previous issue, because apparently it’s essential to her ritual.  But she only discovers that she’s missing a macguffin in chapter three, by which point the invasion is well underway.  So why did she order the invasion in the first place?  The dialogue seems to suggest that she just wants revenge on Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw, but that’s a ridiculously flimsy motivation – can’t she wait until after she’s become a goddess in twelve hours time? – and the story does nothing with it anyway.

The story also suffers from a bloated cast.  The horde of zombie cameos is forgiveable, because it’s kind of the gimmick, but it also creates a smokescreen that obscures the important parts of the plot.  A bigger problem is Selene’s inner circle, some of whom seem to have been selected using the Official Handbook, a blindfold and a pin.  Yes, we need Eliphas, because he’s essential to the plot.  And we need Wither because he was already linked to Selene in an earlier story, though he’s written here as a disappointingly one-dimensional villain.

Blink?  Well, the plot requires some teleporting, though Selene’s a sorceress and could do that for herself.  But the other two?  This group seem to have been assembled so that X-Force have a rival team to fight halfway through the storyline – but once you’ve spent three issues fighting zombies of characters people have actually heard of, it’s hardly raising the stakes to bring on nonentities like 90s henchman Senyaka, or Dazzler’s staggeringly obscure sister Mortis, last seen in 1984.  (Dazzler doesn’t even have a major role in the plot.)  Wouldn’t this have been a simpler and stronger story with just Selene, Eliphas, Wither and the zombies?

So: the plot’s a mess.  Nor does it really end up being about anything in particular.  Selene is not what you’d call a rounded character at the best of times.  The emotional core of this story is apparently supposed to lie in Eliphas trying to get back in her favour, which never reaches a satisfying resolution, and James being tormented by the return of his brother, which is almost pushed to the sidelines.  (The fact that the zombie horde includes James’ entire tribe only gets a passing mention in the whole arc.)  A subplot with Wolfsbane’s boyfriend sacrificing himself to Hela in order to save her does carry a bit of emotional weight, but it’s a subplot.

As for the art… well, it’s a Clayton Crain story.  He pulls off some nice effects on the transmode-infected characters, with little lines of brightly coloured circuitry standing out against his generally dark images.  There are some moody establishing shots of Genosha which work well, though quite when the city got remodelled in gothic style, I have no clue. And sometimes, when he’s forced to work with brightly coloured characters hitting one another, there’s real energy to his layouts.

But it’s not great.  His characters don’t do emotion very well, though it has to be said that the plot doesn’t exactly give him much to work with.  The whole thing is murky and frequently hard to follow.  Backgrounds seem to be a foreign concept to him.  I realise that he’s going for mood, but for the most part his interiors don’t seem oppressive or claustrophobic – just undefined and vacant.  Still, there are moments in these issues that do impress.  It’s just that they’re usually the moments where the art breaks from a general air of monotonous gloom and does something interesting with colour.  Much of the rest of the time, it comes across as a comic which has just painted its bedroom black.

This is a disappointing comic, because all involved have done far better in the past, and no doubt will do so again.  Nonetheless, the bottom line is that it’s a weak concept, and a clumsily constructed plot, rendered predominantly in assorted shades of murk.  One for completists only.