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Feb 12

The X-Axis – 12 February 2012

Posted on Sunday, February 12, 2012 by Paul in x-axis

This is a podcast weekend, so don’t forget to check out the show (just one post down!) to hear our reviews of the first issues of Winter Soldier, the latest Conan series, and Thief of Thieves.  I’m not going to repeat those books here, since we’ve got five X-books to cover, starting with…

Daken: Dark Wolverine #21 – Part one of “Lost Weekend”, which looks to be the wrap-up to Rob Williams run before the series gets cancelled with issue #23.  The Los Angeles storyline is now behind us, and Daken has effectively lost.  He didn’t get to become the local crimelord; he didn’t get the girl.  And thanks to issues of heavy drug use, he burnt out his healing factor, so now he’s dying.

All of which leads the battered Daken back to New York, initially to look for a cure, but eventually to try and go out in a blaze of glory, with one last futile gesture directed at his estranged father Wolverine and the New York superhero establishment.  He drops by at the Baxter Building to gratuitously show his true colours to the FF, and tell the Human Torch that his return from the dead “is simply an insult” to real people.  He drugs Wolverine with Heat.  And generally, he just wants to vent his spleen at superheroes.

There are multiple artists on this issue, which isn’t ideal.  Riley Rossmo is back to do his hallucination pages again, though it has to be said that the scene feels suspiciously as though it was shoehorned in to provide an excuse to use him.  Regular artist Matteo Buffagni does the first half of the book in his usual sparse linework, and then Andrea Mutti shows up to do the rest in a more shadowy, atmospheric way.  They’re both fine in their own way, but there’s a bit of a style clash.

It’s all decidedly meta.  Asked why he’s doing this, Daken’s explanation is simply that “superheroes are stupid”.  One reading of this story would be that it’s a cancelled antihero throwing one last tantrum at the marketplace that wouldn’t accommodate him.  And having enjoyed most of Williams’ run, despite the flawed ending of the LA arc, I’ve got some sympathy for that.  Perhaps more directly, Daken’s defining character trait has always been his obsession with self-determination and autonomy, an ironic aspiration for a character who is ultimately always going to be a Wolverine knock-off.  In large part, this series has been about whether Daken can escape the shadow of his parent character.  Williams’ ultimate answer to that question is an emphatic “no”, and that’s a realisation that leaves Daken with nowhere to go beyond lashing out.  In its own curious way, it’s a very fitting way for the series to end.

New Mutants #37 – After the slightly underheated Diskhord arc, this self-contained issue is both a fun change of pace and a welcome return to a more interesting subplot, as Magma goes on that date with Mephisto that she signed up for a few months ago.

It’s an issue to irritate the purists, since Abnett and Lanning’s take on Mephisto doesn’t really have a great deal in common with anyone else’s.  They’re clearly going with the idea that he’s the actual Satan, which technically isn’t the official line, but isn’t that uncommon either.  Perhaps more contentiously, they’re also writing him as a basically human personality who just wants to be normal, which is miles off from the usual version of the character.  But it works here, which is all that really matters (though admittedly, the issue also references Journey into Mystery, where he’s being written very differently).  There’s a particularly neat idea that Mephisto is actually putting a lot of his efforts into fighting infant mortality.  After all, dead infants haven’t had a chance to sin yet, so they get a direct pass to heaven…

The idea here is seemingly to set him up as a rather bizarre love interest for Amara, and build a romantic triangle with Roberto.  Obviously that’s a ridiculous storyline, but it’s played well for comedy in this issue, and frankly, at least it’s something for Amara to do.  And with David Lopez pencilling, they’ve got an artist who can pull off the character work needed for this sort of comedy issue.

Flagrantly over the top, and a bit of a continuity headache, but a winner on its own terms.

Wolverine and the X-Men #5 – Ah, we’re doing Fantastic Voyage, from the look of it.  Kitty’s been infected with microscopic Brood, but fortunately the Beast’s got a machine hanging around to let somebody go deal with it.  Unfortunately, that somebody is Kid Gladiator.  Meanwhile, Wolverine and Quentin Quire are off into space to try and raise some money to keep the school open.  And Angel’s bank accounts have been frozen because for some strange reason, everyone thinks he’s mad.

There are some ludicrous elements here, but as usual, the book pretty much gets away with it.  Nick Bradshaw’s art once again strikes the right balance of cartooning and detail to pull off the more ridiculous bits of plot, and it’s nice to see him being used on a story that plays to his strengths.   There’s an incredible amount going on in this issue, both in terms of plot and background details in the art – this is the pendulum finally swinging back in the other direction after years of “decompression”, in a book that seems to have its foot permanently jammed on the accelerator, and manages to juggle a huge cast and a range of storylines.

There are some glitches here.  With hindsight, last issue’s pregnancy cliffhanger was more than a little misleading, since the explanation given in this issue is pretty much unconnected.  And while I realise that the Hellfire Club subplot has to be kept ticking over, I’m not sure that it works to have them lobby to declare Warren mentally incapable.  He so plainly is mentally incapable that it’s hard to see why the Club would need to bribe anyone.  Exposing the cover-up ought to be enough at this stage, and I think this is a point where the book’s overplaying it.  (Don’t worry, though.  I’m sure Warren will be back to normal soon, since Marvel have thoughtfully ruined that plot point by including him in the house ads for Avengers vs X-Men.)

Still, these are minor problems in an issue that’s overall very strong, and lovely to look at.

Wolverine and the X-Men: Alpha & Omega #2 – No, really, this is shipping in the same week as the parent title.  Marvel scheduling, ladies and gentlemen.

My main reservation about the first issue of Brian Wood’s series was that Quentin Quire’s “Construct” psychic landscape wasn’t desperately interesting in its own right, and (since we knew it was just an illusion) there was nothing obvious at stake.  Fortunately, this issue swiftly moves past that problem.  Wolverine and Hisako have figured out that something’s wrong, but aren’t quite sure what.  Meanwhile, Quentin’s got a problem of his own: having impulsively hauled two of the X-Men into his psychic landscape, what’s he going to do with them now?  He’s got to sleep some time.  And that might be a problem.

All this means that there’s less emphasis on the Construct as being interesting in its own right, and more on the battle of wills between Wolverine and Quentin.  In fact, the central joke of this issue is that nobody is as impressed by the Construct as Quentin is.  His attempts to explain his tremendous achievement to Bling and Mercury are met with polite disinterest and mild bafflement respectively.  Once again, his grand rebellious gesture has gone unappreciated.   (All of which is wonderfully drawn by Roland Boschi, doing the Westchester segments.)

The recap page, incidentally, suggests that the Construct is supposed to be “cobbled together from bits and pieces of [Quentin’s] favourite video games and movies”, and I’m not sure that’s really come across as clearly as it was supposed to.  Obviously it’s derivative, but I’m not getting the patchwork element that that recap seems to suggest was intended.  And there are other bits that don’t quite make sense.  I get that everyone will just assume Wolverine’s off doing Wolverine stuff, but has nobody missed Armor?  And after escaping the barn at the end of issue #1, why does Wolverine hand around in the grounds for a whole day before finally trying to enter the building and attack Quentin?

But this is a definite improvement from issue #1, simply because the focus is much more on the bits that work.

X-Men #24 – And we’re back to the vampire storyline.  This is basically an issue of the Forgiven trying to deprogram Jubilee.  If you’re struggling to remember who the Forgiven are, well, you won’t be alone – they’re a group of vampires who don’t attack humans and who first showed up somewhere in the more obscure reaches of the Fear Itself crossover.  Presumably, they’re serving the role of this arc’s guest stars.  There are several of them.  They have names like Quickshot and Nighteyes.  They are about as interesting as that makes them sound.

To be fair to Victor Gischler, he’s trying to do a long-term storyline with Jubilee in the context of a team-up book, and that’s a tricky thing to do.  The idea here seems to be to get to a point where Jubilee no longer feels an urge to kill people and is willing to get by on animal blood, so that she can get back to living a relatively normal life.  (Well, un-life.)  Problem is, for this to work, we really need a stronger sense that she was in some way out of control before now.  And instead, the X-Men’s solution of giving her Wolverine’s blood seems to have worked out pretty well.  The book hasn’t even really flagged up any problem arising from Wolverine leaving her behind on Utopia.  So the overall impression here is an issue devoted to resolving a problem that most readers will have assumed was already solved.  Consequently, it’s a bit of a misfire.

 

Bring on the comments

  1. Michael P says:

    Marvel’s “official line” on Mephisto is retarded, so I don’t really care if Abnett and Lanning ignore it.

  2. Jeff says:

    Still loving Wolverine and the X-Men. I don’t know if we’ve ever had one of the core titles as a comedy book, but it’s a pretty refreshing change of pace. It helps that Aaron makes everyone more likable than they’ve been in ages.

  3. Jim says:

    Alonso was asked about Warren in the house ads on CBR and said it was the opposite way round, they included him to not spoil the end of the X-Force arc. They’d have been better off leaving him out completely, obviously, but that would have been sensible.

  4. Jeremy says:

    I don’t know if anybody else is bothered by this, but I can’t stand the fact that every artist seems to be able to draw Beast in a completely different way. Much as I prefer the “ape-Beast” to the current “cat-beast”, I’d be happy if we could just get a consistent character model. When he was “ape-Beast” there was never inconsistency like this. And it seems to be only him that is affected with this problem, as a characters with a non-human appearance like, say, Nightcrawler, don’t have this problem.

    He’s always been my favorite so it really bugs me that his appearance from artist to artist is so different, and we can have a depiction that I quite like or a depiction that I hate. (Much as I’d like to support a book like S.W.O.R.D. one look at Beast makes me immediately lose interest, however unjustified that may be.)

  5. Tdubs says:

    Really enjoyed Daken this week and I’m hoping Williams gives us a great ending for this character. I was totally thrown by the plot point of Kitty being eaten by brood rather than being pregnant, really just made me not enjoy it after that reveal. I wonder if Marvel shied away from what some could have called an abortion story. Really liked New Mutants too and I just chalk the continuity issues up to Mephisto lying.

    @Jeremy
    I was going to bring up a similar problem with Beast in Secret Avengers. The charaters discuss his being in a cat form as the artist draws him in his ape form. Art Adams draws him pretty ugly for my taste on the cover.

  6. Leo says:

    “Marvel have thoughtfully ruined that plot point by including him in the house ads for Avengers vs X-Men”

    A little blast from the past: Joseph was included in the house ads for Operation Zero Tolerance but during that storyline was in space. The official explanation was that those ads are being made long before the event is fully plotted. Granted, we’re not in the nineties any more and there’s obviously more planning involved nowadays but still, house ads don’t mean much to me.

    (Disclaimer, I don’t work for marvel nor do I know anyone who works there nor have an sort of information, what I’m saying is pure speculation. And I’m only including the disclaimer because for a similar comment I was once accused in a forum that I pretended I was something I wasn’t)

  7. Suzene says:

    @Jeremy

    I notice they seem to have the same problem with Anole, and yeah, it’s kind of annoying.

  8. kingderella says:

    i actually like it if artists take a little bit of freedom to interpret the various characters their own way. especially now that the artists mostly dont seem to switch randomly from issue to issue, like they used to for a while.

  9. ZZZ says:

    Marrow was the poster child for different artist/different look. Back when she was on the team, you could hand an issue of X-Men and an issue of Uncanny X-Men that came out in the same month to someone who wasn’t a regular reader and they’d have no idea it was supposed to be the same character unless they picked it up from dialogue.

    I agree with Paul on New Mutants: wonderful “date with the devil story” but terribly out of character as a “date with Mephisto” story. Ultimately I enjoyed it, but it was very distracting to me while reading it waiting for the other shoe to drop. And even Abnett and Lanning’s intent was that Mephisto was being completely sincere, I’m sure that as soon a they’re off the book, if any other writer mentions this plotline it will be “revealed” that Mephisto was just playing nice to trick Amara.

    For all the sense that the “can’t we just enjoy the story and not get nitpicky about continuity” arguments make sometimes, the problem (and the reason I always thought the “Hypertime” concept was unworkable) is that you can only tell a story that ignores continuity if the audience knows which bits of continuity you’re ignoring and which bits you’re acknowledging (or is completely unfamiliar with continuity and won’t notice if you change things), or else the reader is left looking for clues and explanations in things that aren’t intended to be nebulous.

    As for Wolverine and the X-Men, I finally put my finger on what – in a generally enjoyable book – isn’t quite working for me during that opening sequence. It’s the same problem I have with Hogwart’s in the Harry Potter books, or any “strangest school in the world” story (anyone remember “Galaxy High” from the 80s? Or the “Teenagers from Outer Space” RPG?). It’s completely unsustainable. If every session of every class, every day, every year is the wildest, wackiest, most amazingest adventure of a lifetime, how long before the students are all burned out and the teachers are out of ideas? I imagine the Beast standing in front of the class saying “Prepare to have your minds blown today!” and a collective groan going up from the room before Anole raises his big hand and says “He had our minds blown yesterday, sir, and we just spent the last hour getting thrown around the front lawn by Rogue. Could we actually learn something today?” (And I know that in all likelyhood there ARE supposed to be “regular” classes, and we’re only seeing the every-now-and-then wild stuff, but it would be nice if it didn’t feel like every time we see the kids in class, it’s a “don’t you wish your school was like this?” moment).

  10. wwk5d says:

    Too bad about Daken. Rob Williams actually made the character interesting and fun to read, which is something I can say Way almost never did. If he can’t sustain a solo title, I’d like to see Williams given a team book with Daken as a member of an ensemble title. He could work then.

    Amamra and Mephisto…it was cute, but lets see if the writers plan on going anywhere with this, or if it’s just a one-time comedy thing.

    I get what ZZZ is saying with regards to WATXM, and it could be a problem, but one the writers could easily solve by having more scenes where characters walk down the hallway and pass by the door of a classroom where we see students in the background learning something like math or social studies or whatever. Not a big scene, just a reminder that they do study more remedial subjects.

    For me, my biggest issue is the Hellfire Club Brats. They just aren’t working for me.

  11. alex says:

    I could see aaron doing “a day nothing happens” as a one off inbetween arcs.

  12. kingderella says:

    did anybody else think W&tXM was a little violent this issue? i assumed, from the tone of the book, that its supposed to be kid-friendly.

    im enjoying new mutants, but im really really hoping that they arent going to pull a “first i wanted to trick you, but then ive started having genuine feelings for you!”. i thought the art was just alright, i want dave lafuente (from the ‘fear itself’ arc) to come back.

    alpha & omega: its just a small detail, but i really appreciate that quire was trying to impress roxy, of all people. he would be drawn to her, because shes ‘edgy’ and smart and effortlessly cool. also, i really like the art in the virtual scenes.

  13. David says:

    At first, Mephisto’s depiction in New Mutants kind of weirded me out, but I got over it pretty quickly. On its own terms, it was a great issue, and definitely the first time I’ve been impressed with this creative team’s run. And the artwork was great. So I am okay with this continuing as a plotline, even if this version of Mephisto doesn’t really match what he’s meant to be like.

    As far as Wolverine & the X-Men, it’s clearly meant to be pretty manic and absurd, so I’m really not bothered by that. I think it’s been really excellent since it launched, and I’m always excited for new issues.

    Also, for the record, I agree that it’s kind of annoying that Beast’s depictions are so inconsistent, but I seriously do like the cat-beast form.

  14. Brian says:

    @kingderella – Kids don’t read comics.

  15. Alex Holt says:

    I really enjoyed that New Mutants issue, and while Mephisto was vastly out of character compared to his usual appearances, I can see ways around it. The two most obvious would be the same “he’s become too predictable” arguement used for Loki recently, or, perhaps that it’s got to the point where all the superheroes are familiar with him well enough that they just assume that he’s going to try to trick them and so its increasingly hard to trick anyone. If he goes around being sincere for a while, it’s more likely that he’ll be able to pull tricks off better when he does do them.

    As for the beast thing – I get the impression that a lot of artists seem to be sliding towards a half-way between Cat-Beast and Ape-Beast, which is fine by me as I don’t think the Cat version really works as well – it’s less expressive if nothing else. I don’t particularly mind if there isn’t consistancy across designs as long as they are all designed well. Even SWORD Beast at least had a lot of character in him, even if it was vastly removed from all other designs.

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