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Dec 24

The X-Axis – Christmas 2011

Posted on Saturday, December 24, 2011 by Paul in x-axis

The Internet has gone home for Christmas.  But I’m still here, so here’s what we’re going to do.  This week, Marvel have seen fit to release eight X-books, including the entire Wolverine line, which is certainly an interesting approach.  Everything in moderation, eh?  Thanks, Marvel!  Since I’m going to be busy tomorrow, I’m going to bash through those today.

And our year-end podcast will hopefully be up some time on Friday.  It’s going to be a sort of year in review thing.

But now, it’s overextended franchise time!

Daken: Dark Wolverine #18 – This is part three of “Pride Comes…”, and we’ve finally reached the point where the Runaways show up for more than a cameo.  Which, of course, is why Marvel put them on the cover of the previous issue.  Then again, I guess if you’re going to read this story, you probably should have started last issue – and in a way, I’m glad Rob Williams hasn’t tried to artificially expand the Runaways’ role to pad out the rest of the story.  To be honest, I still have reservations about whether this story really needed to bring in plot elements from Runaways at all, which don’t feel particularly essential.

Anyway, having discovered that his arch-enemy is connected with the Pride, Daken sets out to enlist the Runaways, which makes reasonable sense.  Naturally enough, they’re not immediately convinced that they want anything to do with him.  One thing Williams has done very well on this book is to draw out parallels between Daken and his guest stars, which give them a proper reason to be in the story.  In the Runaways’ case, while there’s the basic plot element to bring them in, they also share a “second generation” angle with Daken, which is a nice little point.  There’s also the fact that, while Daken clearly thinks he’s back in control and manipulating these bozos without much trouble, we know he’s probably underestimating them.  On the whole, it’s a good use of the characters, at least in the sense that they have a contribution to the story above simply the guest star value.

On the other hand, Matteo Buffagni’s art is getting sketchier – deadline problems are clearly an issue, since the second half of this issue is handled by Michele Bertilorenzi and Andrea Mutti, who are both solid artists, but don’t much resemble Buffagni’s style.  And I still have a difficulty with the book’s main villain, who seems to be degenerating from a patient schemer to somebody who does crazy things because the plot demands it (and, in fairness, because Williams is trying to contrast two types of crazy – but that’s only going to work if Marcus’ behaviour rings true, which in this story, it mostly doesn’t).

Generation Hope #14 – This is a case of good idea, middling execution.  Because Emma Frost has been trying to cover up the fact that Sebastian Shaw is still alive, Hope’s team have mistaken him for a new mutant, and are cheerfully trying to bring him in to Utopia, not realising what a hideous mess that’s likely to create.  James Asmus is keeping the pace up pretty well – last issue set the tone for his run, this issue the team complete their mission of bringing Shaw in, next issue we see how the X-Men react.  Realistically, I’m sure this has something to do with the fact that the book’s on the cancellation bubble and he’s got a lot of territory to cover in the issues guaranteed to him – but it does keep things moving.

Ibraim Roberson’s art is pretty good to look at, and the basic idea that Shaw has no idea what’s going on either makes for quite a nice hook.  But the story is fairly routine, the villain is off the peg (he wants to create instability so he can sell weapons), and I’m really not sure that Asmus has got Zero’s voice at all right – the character seems to be developing a dominant sentimental streak, which is way off mark.

New Mutants #35 – It turns out that this storyline isn’t really going to be about the New Mutants hunting for Blink, since they’ve already found her.  Instead, the team gets sucked into the story she was working on – a touring rock group who create natural disasters when they play.  It’s a mixed issue.  The interplay between Blink and the regular cast is good.  I like the way Abnett and Lanning are using Nate Grey as a character who’s not quite as cool as he thinks he is (though still gets a bit of sympathy as a result), without hammering the point too hard.  And David Lopez’s art remains excellent.  There are some lovely visuals with Blink’s teleportation, beautifully expressive characters that breathe life into the dialogue scenes, and some sparing (and thus more effective) use of oddball panel layouts in the action scenes.

The band, though… I’m not really grabbed by them as villains.  They appear to be keeping a demon in their tour bus, which is a fun idea, but the characters themselves are basically ciphers.  And the ending doesn’t work for me at all – after the heroes have disrupted Diskhord’s show, fought them on stage, evacuated the audience, and failed to stop the destruction of an entire town, everyone’s talking as though the band will simply show up at their next tour stop and do it all again.  Uh… really?  Didn’t this blow their cover?

Uncanny X-Force #19 – The credits say that this is chapter one of “Live With This”, but it reads a lot more like an epilogue to the Dark Angel Saga.  The final two pages are a cliffhanger kicking off the new storyline, but the rest of the book is pure epilogue.  And that’s fine by me; after such a lengthy action storyline, the book needs a breather issue to take stock of its characters and clear away some of the elements it won’t be needing any more.

So Fantomex explains what he was up to with Genesis, the Apocalypse clone he’s been growing in virtual reality – and then both Genesis and the rebooted Angel (who has no memory of anything) are packed off to the school from Wolverine and the X-Men.  I like both these characters, and I can see them working well in Jason Aaron’s book, though it seems an odd choice to split Genesis off from Fantomex.  Perhaps they’ll just carry on appearing in this book.  I certainly like the way Rick Remender’s writing Fantomex as a character struggling very hard to be the sincere father-figure that Genesis needs, even though it’s completely against his nature – and there’s also some promise in the idea that poor Genesis doesn’t realise his fictitious back story is actually just a cheap copy of Superman’s, something that everyone who crosses his path will spot within seconds of him explaining it.

There’s also a farewell to the visiting characters from the Age of Apocalypse, which pretty much doubles as a “hey, have you considered buying our new title”?  Interestingly, Nightcrawler stays behind to hook up with X-Force – and presumably, in the long term, fill the gap left by the original.

Art on this arc is by Robbi Rodriguez, whose style is rather looser and more exaggerated than Opena’s, but really works for a character-driven issue like this issue, and I suspect ought to go well with the Captain Britain Corps when they get more space later in the story.  Give X-Force this, it consistently seems to get some of the best artists the X-books can lay their hands on.

Wolverine #20 – The book has now firmly relocated to New York.  Curiously, that doesn’t prevent Jason Aaron from using this story to bring back the two crazy hillbilly serial killers from the Point One issue, though the incongruity is kind of the point.  (I have to wonder, though, whether he just feels obliged to use them in order to tie up that plot before he leaves the title.)  The actual story here involves somebody trying to engineer a turf war between the Hand and the Yakuza over the void left by the death of the Silver Samurai.  Since the Hand is currently run by the Kingpin, who couldn’t care less about the Silver Samurai, that’s not going to be an easy thing to bring about.  So a bit of shooting is going to be required.

Meanwhile, investigating the whole affair are a bunch of Wolverine’s ex-girlfriends (including obscure characters like Cassie Lathrop), and, uh, Wolverine just happens to be passing… yeah, it’s not exactly a tightly plotted affair, this one.  Frankly, it’s kind of a string of coincidences, from what we’ve seen so far, though I guess it’s possible that Aaron will pull it all together.  Renato Guedes is back on art, and while it’s clear enough, there’s something a little bit stiff about it for my tastes; he certainly doesn’t feel like a good fit for Aaron’s more absurdist concepts, which is unfortunate when he’s being asked to draw hillbillies with weapons carved of bone.  Not really sold on this one, to be honest.

Wolverine & The X-Men #3 – Three issues is unusually short for a first arc these days, but presumably Marvel are figuring that if they put out a trade paperback with two arcs, the sky will not fall.  Took them long enough to figure that one out.

So this issue, Krakoa is still attacking the school, and it’s up to Kid Omega to sort it out.  Which he pretty much does.  To my pleasant surprise, there’s an opening flashback which explains why Wolverine didn’t just hand Kid Omega over to the authorities, even though he was lobbying for it during Schism – basically, he’s got Captain America’s permission to have one last go at setting the brat on the right path.  I’m also pleased to see that we don’t get another complete issue of fighting; the craziness is pretty much wrapped up about halfway through, leaving the way clear for a wrap-up that re-establishes the quirkiness I liked in the first issue.

(That extended wrap-up also leaves the way clear for Duncan Rouleau and Matteo Scalera to chip in a couple of fill-in pages, by the way.  But they don’t stand out too badly against Bachalo’s style.)

Inevitably, this book is going to spark arguments about whether it’s too silly, and whether it stretches credibility too far.  I didn’t much care for the Hellfire kids in Schism, where they seemed out of place in an otherwise straight story.  Here, they do seem to work.  They’re ridiculous, but so is pretty much everything else.  So the tone is consistent, and that’s what really matters.  There are a couple of moments that ring false, admittedly – I struggle to believe that Idie doesn’t recognise Kid Omega so soon after Schism, and his little monologue to Krakoa is way too direct.  Those are glitches, though.  The book as a whole works, and it works because it’s simply fun.

X-23 #19 – Okay, so that was three issues of X-23 fighting the Collector for no particularly interesting reason.  That’s a bit disappointing.  In fairness, the real focus of this arc is obviously supposed to be Hellion coming along to try and be the romantic interest, but that all plays out rather predictably until the end of the issue, when Laura declares, somewhat out of nowhere, that she’s not really interested in him.  The relationship between those two characters does intrigue me, and I think there’s something in Marjorie Liu’s underlying idea – which seems to be that the two were previously united by being kind of damaged, and that Laura’s change of heart towards him reflects the way she’s grown over the course of the series.  But I’m afraid it feels like a bit character moment arbitrarily bolted on to a generic story with a random villain.

X-Factor #229 – First part of a new arc, as we find out what happened to Madrox after he died in the previous arc.  Well, kind of.  As we saw previously, he’s randomly appeared in a hotel room along with the corpses of himself and Layla Miller, and this issue is basically about him figuring out what’s going on.  Basically, it’s an alternate reality, but figuring out what’s changed and why on earth Madrox is there is kind of the point here.  Essentially it’s a puzzle that drops hints about everything, before bouncing Madrox on to another world on the last page.  (Three guesses how that happens.)

At this stage, all very mysterious, and it’s hard to figure out where Peter David’s going with this.  But he establishes the mystery well, the dialogue’s good as ever, and it neatly works in material that might or might not be a clue to how things will develop for X-Factor characters in the “real” world.  I’m not sure how much sense it would make to readers coming to the title fresh, but for the regular audience, there’s a lot to enjoy.

Bring on the comments

  1. Alex says:

    lots of alliteration in this issue… Kade Kilgore, Matt Murdoch, Quintin Quire.

    Love having a living island as part of the school.

    Whole thing has a very 60s tone.

    – Speaking of the 60s, finally saw the X-Men movie over the holidays. Not as bad as I would have expected.

  2. Michael says:

    Merry Crimbo, Paul and thanks for giving me an early distraction from the family!

    re: Wolverine and X-Men. I read Quentin’s line about not being recognised as a plot point, in that people may have been made to forget him. Will just have to wait and see on that one.

    re: Uncanny X-Force. Still my top title and think Remender’s reboot of Angel is a smart way to counter a cheap death that would have been eventually reverted. But trying to fit this issue into the Schism timeline irked me a little. Was the whole of Schism meant to have happened in between this and the last issue?

    re: Generation Hope. Enjoying Asmus’ writing on the title so far and don’t mind his take on Zero as he’s certainly found a new attraction with Martha. Thought the scene where he makes her into his own image was suitably creepy.

    re: New Mutants and X-Factor – I’m really started to snooze on these titles. X-Factor’s cast feels really bloated to me (plus with Lorna and Alex joining soon) and I yearn for some better characterisation with the New Mutants. I’m not really feeling the whole nostalgia trip both these titles tend to go on. I think the New Mutants are the characters I care most about and it feels like any developments (especially Sunspot, Warlock and Dani) have been ignored and diminished.

  3. Tdubs says:

    I think Marvel’s official timeline for Dark Angel is post schism even though I’m pretty sure Emma made mention of it during the regenisis one shot but continuity is dead in this day and age.

    It feels like X-factor is headed for alternanting issue arcs, didn’t they do this in the Madrox to the future story line?

  4. Rhuw Morgan says:

    I quite like where generation hope is going, but the scene where velocidad was screaming for the bad guys to tell him where pixie is was a bit off, wasn’t she in the pink crystal on the back of the guy standing in front of him?

  5. Tdubs says:

    Some miscommunication between the writer and artist. I had to flip back a couple if pages. Every time we saw the bad guys as a group shot Pixie was with them but was supposed to be hidden.

  6. Adam says:

    I’m loving the insanely fun WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN book and will continue reading, even if I’ve no interest in ever seeing Sabretooth again.

    I was unhappy with Angel’s survival in UNCANNY X-FORCE when I first read it, but I’ve come around. Opena’s replacement – if indeed this is the new regular penciller – will do.

    Questions regarding UX-F: 1) Can someone remind me why Fantomex pours drinks on his head? And 2) what happened to Deathlok? He seems to have disappeared… which either he or Ultimaton might need to do, since their roles seems pretty much identical. It just didn’t matter before because Ultimaton was a secret.

    I assume Evan will return sometime, but until then WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN is a fine place for him.

    Merry X-Mas!

  7. Rhett says:

    Re: Deathlok, his bit in the last issue was one of my favorite parts and it seems you may have missed it; his AI needed to learn how to love to defeat War and now he can feel nothing else. It seems like an appropriately weird turn for this book.

    I can’t help you with the Fantomex pouring drinks on his head thing. Maybe he’s hydrating E.V.A. or something?

  8. Paul says:

    The timeline of Dark Angel and Schism is, uh, not as neatly dovetailed as it might be. Since Warren is unequivocally gone by the end of Schism, but appears earlier in the series, the story appears to take place (or at least start) during the gap where everyone chooses sides. But this week’s issue claims to take place immediately after the end of Dark Angel and evidently takes place after the school is up and running. It might be possible to fudge something where the prologue takes place at the end of Schism and the rest takes place a little later.

  9. steve says:

    I sort of just ignore where everything takes place after Schism. Only a few of the titles really matter in regards to Schism, which is basically Uncanny X-Men and WATXM. I’m not sure if I’m going to read Legacy after Carey’s gone, but New Mutants, Generation Hope (to an extent), X-Factor, and Uncanny X-Force would all continue with their stories regardless whether Schism took place or not.

    As far as X-Force is concerned, I loved the Dark Angel Saga, conclusion and all. I agree with Paul that they nailed it perfectly and the final scene with Warren and Betsy is just an excellent shot. Also, after reading Remender’s Q&A/commentary on CBR (that someone posted here in the comments), I could not be more on board with where this titles is heading. The fact that Remender is dropping hints and carrying out arcs that started all the way back with the first issue, is right up my alley, as I always enjoy a book with long term forward planning (just a nice hint, the two statues seen when Genesis tackles Archangels actually play a role as the series progresses). My only hope is that Opena returns soon.

  10. Adam says:

    I remember Deathlok’s moment in UX-F #18. But you’d think that even if that meant the end of character arc, we’d see him leave in #19.

  11. steve says:

    Remender made mention in that interview that he wasn’t done with Deathlok and/or the idea of Deathloks, but it seems like it might be a plot point that’s carried over to Secret Avengers. He did make it known that while the AI to Deathlok took over, we still don’t know who the host body of Deathlok is, which seems to me to be a major point that he’ll get back to.

  12. acespot says:

    @Paul, Re: Uncanny X-Force: What new title? Is there going to be a new ongoing set in the (not destroyed) Age of Apocalypse?

  13. Reboot says:

    @Adam (6):

    Perhaps he has a drinking problem…

  14. ZZZ says:

    Fantomex has an “external nervous system” (E.V.A.), a “backup” internal nervous system, multiple brains, and nanites in his blood that prevent him from beleiving in religion. He’d have a hood ornament if it had occured to Grant Morrison when he was creating him. I’m pretty sure the pouring drinks on his head thing was just a bit of random weirdness to reinforce that his body doesn’t work the way other people’s bodies do (or that he’s just pretending that’s how he drinks as an excuse to keep his mask on, and people buy it because his body works so differently).

  15. Steve says:

    Grant Morrison had him pouring drinks on his head to “cool down” whatever the plates are in his helmet that block out telepathy.

  16. Rich Larson says:

    I thought this late4st issue of X-Factor was really good after it feeling a bit slow lately. And it occurs to me that I’ve enjoyed the title most when there’s a bigger focus on Jamie figuring out what’s going on in some weird circumstances. Which surprised me since I think of it as an ensemble book. But I guess the focus on this iteration of X-Factor did start with Jamie as a detective and his multiple personality dupes. It turns out tht after all these years that’s still the past I like best!

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