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Apr 29

The X-Axis catch-up (Part 1)

Posted on Sunday, April 29, 2012 by Paul in x-axis

Don’t forget it’s a podcast weekend – you’ll find this week’s show just a post down, with reviews of Reset, Popeye and Captain America & Hawkeye.  Meanwhile, I’ve got some catching up to do, since we skipped last week, and the Avengers vs X-Men crossover is in full sway.  Seven issues in those two weeks, people!  Mind you, most of them are the same story from different perspectives, so…

I’m not ploughing through 14 X-books and crossover titles in one post.  Instead, I’ll do the first half here and follow up with the rest during the week.  (Fingers crossed.)

Astonishing X-Men #49 – After the relative domesticity of her first issue, Marjorie Liu spends this one largely in action mode.  It’s basically a fight scene between the X-Men and the Marauders (who turn out to be mind-controlled by the mystery main villain), with a pause mainly designed to expand on Kyle and Northstar’s relationship.

Last issue, my initial reaction was that Kyle was a likely redshirt, and the opening flash forward of this issue seems to support that idea.  But on reflection, it does seem rather more likely that this is actually heading towards the wedding story that Marvel have been promoting for upcoming issues.  Liu’s certainly trying hard to make their relationship central to this story, and to establish Kyle as something more than just a generic partner who exists purely to verify Northstar’s homosexuality.  Instead, he’s being played as the civilian boyfriend who feels overshadowed by his partner – not a wholly original idea, but at least it means the emphasis is on something other than the fact that they’re a same-sex couple.

As an action issue with some C-list villains, it’s pretty well executed.  Mike Perkins’ art is generally strong; he seems to have dialled back slightly on the Mike Deodato influence from the previous issue, though he’s still not a million miles off that style.  The storytelling is strong, the night-time backgrounds are very well done.  The main issue with this series is that I’m still not really sure what the book’s identity is going to be – it looked as though Liu was going for a more domestic, or at least grounded, version of the X-Men, but instead this issue takes us back into typical superhero territory.  It’s not easy to give an X-Men book its own identity when there are so many of them, but that doesn’t mean it’s not necessary.

Avengers #25 – Brian Bendis and Walt Simonson are a weird combination.  You’ve got Bendis doing his usual schtick, but alongside it, you’ve got Simonson’s art playing everything bold, loose and over the top.  It’s kind of jarring; Bendis’ dialogue feels very odd coming out of these operatically exaggerated characters.

Anyway!  This issue mostly consists of Captain America agonising about his job performance and then leading the Avengers to take down an AIM cell.  So why is it being marketed as an Avengers vs X-Men tie-in?  Well, there’s an opening flash-forward to Avengers vs X-Men #2, and there’s a bit right at the very end where Noh-Varr is given his own mission to deal with Phoenix on behalf of the Kree Empire.  As for the rest of the issue, some of it gives Noh-Varr a chance to shine, so I guess you could justify it as an attempt to introduce him for the benefit of crossover readers – but basically, this is an unrelated story being passed off as a crossover book on the strength of a top-and-tail framing exercise.

Avengers vs X-Men #2 – Jason Aaron takes over as this issue’s scripter, not that the story gives him a huge amount to work with.  The Avengers attack Utopia.  The X-Men fight back.  That goes on for about 18 pages.  Then Spider-Man and Wolverine go after Hope but she uses her Phoenix power, gets rid of him, and runs off.  Oh, and then there’s a final page trailing Secret Avengers.  Basically, though, this is the fight issue.

This issue, incidentally, finally clarifies that she’s getting more powerful as the Phoenix approaches, something that seemed fairly obvious to me, but apparently baffled the hell out of a number of relatively sane reviewers who couldn’t figure out why she already had Phoenix powers before Phoenix got here.  Perhaps I’ve just read too many Phoenix stories before that made no sense.

There’s nothing Jason Aaron can do to turn “they fight” into a plot, and I rather suspect that part of his remit for this issue was to work through a checklist of pairings to be covered in more detail in AvX Versus (though see below for how well that worked out).  He does his best to liven it up, but you know, it’s a straight fight book.  And the thing that interests me least about Avengers vs X-Men is the bit where the Avengers fight the X-Men.  I mean, really, who cares?

Fortunately, they’ve got that big obligatory fight out of the way in issue #2, so hopefully the mini is now going to move on to something a bit more interesting.

AvX: Versus #1 – This is the spin-off mini in which individual Avengers fight individual X-Men.  Two fights per issue.  Expanded from Avengers vs X-Men.

Now, this is the sort of book that’s kind of insulated against reviews.  Because on one level you can say, well, this is just pointless fighting.  But Marvel can say, ah, but that’s exactly what we said it would be.  And I guess I can kind of see their point.  To some people, at least, the appeal of AvX is the Avengers fighting the X-Men.  That at least is the theory.  So if one issue of enormous fight is not enough for you, here’s the expanded version.  And I guess from a technical standpoint there’s some interest in asking a bunch of different creators to do variations on a theme – though frankly, it’s not as if many of today’s writer give the impression that this is the side of superhero comics that interests them.  Some seem to regard the actual fight scene as a sort of genre convention that’s so familiar it can be vaguely skirted over without worrying much about choreography or inventiveness.  Not here.

What you actually get: Iron Man vs Magneto by Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert, and the Thing vs Namor by Kathryn & Stuart Immonen.  The Avengers win both, which is a bit of a surprise, but no doubt it’ll all be balanced out over the course of the run.  Aaron mainly enjoys himself by inventing weird attacks for them to deploy, while Kubert just likes a good action sequence.  The Immonens have the misfortune to be saddled with a guy nobody regards as an X-Man fighting a guy nobody regards as an Avenger, both of whom come from the same book and must have fought hundreds of times.  It’s a nicely drawn few pages, I guess.  Both stories have the same “AvX Fun Fact!” captions repeated throughout, presumably an editorial mandate.

It’s two fight scenes.  That’s it.  Nicely drawn, but not spectacularly executed or notably original.  As a throwaway tie-in to play up the gimmicky side of the crossover, I guess it’s harmless enough, but even on that level, stretching it out to six issues is surely absurd.

New Avengers #25 – Brian Bendis’ Avengers stories have always tended to approach crossovers rather obliquely, and this is no exception.  This is a flashback story in which, hundreds of years ago, members of Iron Fist’s supporting cast investigate a prophetic dream that a red-haired girl is going to connect with some sort of Phoenix thing and will fight Iron Fist.  So if Iron Fist is actually going to play a major role in this here crossover, I guess that’s fair enough.  Oddly, the story also has them finding the wrong redhead girl entirely and taking her in for training, though whether that’s actually going to connect with anything in the present day, who knows.

It’s certainly a very pretty issue, and I like the way it opens by echoing the first scene from Avengers vs X-Men #1.  Is it actually going to connect to anything, or is it just a complete red herring to bulk out the crossover?  I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt, and actually, I quite like the idea of using the tie-in books to do foreshadowing for plot points that haven’t yet turned up in the main series.  At least you feel like you’re getting some reward for picking up the tie-ins.

New Mutants #41 – After their last, rather depressing, mission, the New Mutants are hauled out on the town by a rather perky Blink, who is apparently still in this book’s cast even though she’s based in Westchester.  Specifically, Blink takes them to Madripoor to enjoy the carnival.  David Lopez’s art really does sell these downtime issues; his handling of a scene with Cypher trying to coach Sunspot’s chat-up technique is perfect.  The idea of Sunspot, traditionally the party animal of the group, struggling in the carnival is a nice twist on the character, and there’s also good use of Nate Grey as a character who’s had a sufficiently odd (and grim) background that he doesn’t really know how to react to this stuff either.

On one level, this is filling the gap between the Paradise Island arc and the Exiled crossover.  But it’s a good change of pace which plays to the book’s strengths.

Secret Avengers #26 – The Secret Avengers go into space to try and contain the Phoenix.  Obviously they can’t succeed because the crossover’s barely started.  So instead, Rick Remender builds most of the tension around the relations within the team, and whether any of them are going to get themselves killed in the course of this very unpromising mission.  There’s actually a lot of important plot material in here, which will presumably have to be repeated in the main series – the return of Captain Marvel is a main point, for example.

Remender’s done very good work on X-Force, and here, he’s doing a similar balance between the characters and the plot, except without X-Force‘s tendency towards darkness.  You could query how well he’s really grasped some of the characters.  Thor drinking before battle would make sense for the mythical character, or for Hercules, but it’s a bit off beam for Marvel’s Thor.  Captain Britain being persuaded to join in is even further off the mark, I’d say.  But he does good work furthering the Noh-Varr subplot from Avengers, and Renato Guedes’ art has a lovely European feel to it that really lifts the book.

This branch of the storyline may well prove to be superfluous to the crossover as a whole, but at least it’s giving Secret Avengers something to work with as a story in its own right.

In the next part: X-Force, Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine, Wolverine and the X-Men, X-Factor, X-Men, and X-Men: Legacy.

Bring on the comments

  1. DanLichtenberg says:

    @moose n squirrel

    I wish Schism would have been about something else. There are just two many inconsistencies with Wolverine’s “don’t send kids to fight” argument. Most of them have been discussed at length I’m sure, but I think Marvel’s already struggling with this one. To their credit, it’s a very difficult corner to get out of. Wolverine now runs a school full of kids. He knows he’s a target. It’s going to happen. I think his book is in need of a premise change. Hey, it worked for the original X-Factor when the realized the concept made no sense, quite well in fact.

    Hey, anyone remember that story in Uncanny where Wolverine was completely ready to murder Rachel because she wouldn’t back down from trying to murder freaking Selene? He actually did stab her. I think they even gave it a throwaway line in Necrosha. His “kill kids, but don’t kill kids” thing really is all over the place. I wonder if his healing factor prevents him from becoming senile or if he just has a bad memory.

  2. Si says:

    moose n squirrel: I think that Wolverine has such a huge urge to kill all the time, he can resist it to a certain extent if people really don’t want him to kill them, but if somebody actually asks him to, there’s simply no other option for him.

  3. Mika says:

    I have a somewhat hazy idea that Hope’s asking Wolverine to kill her if she ever lost control actually originally happened some time ago? In one of the anthology minis maybe? I have a vague memory of the two of them being kidnapped and bad things happening and then that conversation taking place…

    Did this actually happen? Or have Marvel’s staff telepaths been at work planting unconvincing explanations for their story mechanics in their readers’ subconsciouses?

    Yeah, Dan, this made me think of that moment with Wolverine and Rachel too. The way Rachel was written out of Uncanny *really* bothered me at the time. I suppose at least Wolverine has precedence for acting completely inexplicably.

  4. wwk5d says:

    Ironically for this discussion, one of his main reasons for stabbing her was that he was worried Rachel was being corrupted just like her mother was, hence his stabbing her. Claremont stated that was his intent, but it was a bit bungled in the execution. I also didn’t like the way Rachel was written out of the book, but I loved that 3 issue arc in Uncanny.

  5. The issue people are after is Uncanny X-men 539. It sets everything up for Wolverines stabbity.

    (at the time, some people were eye rolling why it wasn’t a gen hope issue and why did it have to be in Uncanny. Well, now you know.)

  6. (sorry for grammar. Fucking iPad keyboard, etc)

  7. Mika says:

    Oh dear, Uncanny 539 wasn’t even very long ago. I think the fact that I couldn’t remember this, and can no longer keep things separate in my mind (I’ve managed to merge that issue with a random Wolverine one-shot from a couple of years ago with – I think – Trance, hence the tentative way I referenced it) is a sign I’m reading too many x-books.

  8. The original Matt says:

    Probably a sign that there ARE too many X-books.

  9. Aaron Thall says:

    I can explain Iron Man vs. Magneto, too. Around Avengers West Coast 62, Iron Man fought Magneto, and Magneto was shocked that he couldn’t affect Iron Man as he had in the past. IM explained that his armor had been made entirely of anti-magnitized metals for a while.

    Probably been that way ever since.

  10. Si says:

    As explanations go, that’s right up there with super-hypnotism.

  11. moose n squirrel says:

    “Anti-magnetized metals”? Is that like the “invisible yellow fields” that used to pop up everywhere for Green Lantern in the 60s?

  12. moose n squirrel says:

    Since Schism was first announced, I’ve maintained that the entire point of the thing was a mandate from editorial/corporate to maneuver the books into a position where Wolverine is the leader of the X-Men. The purpose of AvX – beyond being a standard giant crossover that squeezes as much money out of readers as possible – is to push Cyclops out of the picture and make Wolverine the leader in all the major X-Men titles to maximize the presence of what editorial/corporate considers the most valuable and marketable character from the X-Men. Everything else follows from that remit, and damn logic, characterization, and plotting along the way.

  13. The original Matt says:

    Anti magnetized metals? Is is made from recycled coke tins?

  14. Chaos McKenzie says:

    As for that New Avengers story… Claremont once eluded to a vague connection between the phoenix force and the iron fist in one of the vignette back-ups that appeared in the early issues of Classic X-men or X-men Classic… I have no idea what issue, but the story was about Misty Knight, Jean Grey’s roommate at the time of the Phoenix stories, being freaked out by the power Jean had.

  15. Andy Walsh says:

    For what it’s worth, in AvX they’re actually saying Iron Man is wearing carbon nanotube armor.

  16. ZZZ says:

    Yeah, his armor is made from inanimate carbon rods, and as any Simpsons fan knows, they can solve any problem.

  17. DanLichtenberg says:

    @moose and squirrel

    I think Cyclops is one of the few things they’re doing right at the moment (barring his stupid logic on the phoenix). It’s interesting, at least, but there probably aren’t a lot of places he can go before they eventually have to take him down. They’re either going to have him die heroically to redeem himself (like Iron Man did) or give him amnesia in attempt to detach him from his recent actions (like Iron Man did). Otherwise, he could probably do full-on villain mode for a while, but even that is only sustainable for so long. As interesting and relevant as he is now, they’ve really painted him into a corner and I’m not sure how they’re going to get him out. We will NOT be reading about crazy militant Cyclops in five years.

    I’m honestly more curious about what they’re going to do with Magneto. Hah, Magneto will probably be the one to take Cyclops down. Although I think having Xavier finally have to confront and battle him could offer some interesting possibilities.

  18. The original Matt says:

    Cyclops out magneto-ing Magneto is certainly a story with some fantastic possibilites. I’d be inclined to say use that to spring board into Cyclops in full on villian mode for a while. You can easily underline the whole thing by playing up the taint of apocalypse angle.

  19. Si says:

    Here’s the interesting thing about carbon nanotubes. They can be magnetised, more easily than various metals.

    And here’s the thing about magnetic fields. They affect all matter.

    I mean, I don’t mind dodgy comic book science, but when your name’s *Iron* Man, there should be at least a little bit of cleverness involved when resisting a magnet.

    If I was faced with a mandated Stark victory fight, I’d have exploited the Man bit of Iron Man, and had him stripped of his armour, running up and socking Magneto in the jaw.

  20. Jerry Ray says:

    Like Paul, I’m a bit of an X-Men completist. I have a list of X-Men related appearances in other titles that I found back in the Usenet days. One of the things on the list that I haven’t tracked down yet but have always been curious about is a reference to a “Phoenix Force” appearance in an Iron Fist story (presumably written by Claremont) in the _Deadly Hands of Kung Fu_ magazine back in the 70s or 80s.

    Could be related to the Iron Fist/Phoenix Force thing alluded to above.

  21. odessasteps says:

    I wouldn’t mind Logan as leader of the X-Men, if it meant he was taken out of the Avengers books.

  22. moose n squirrel says:

    I wouldn’t mind Logan as leader of the X-Men, if it were the same Logan who became a kind of veteran conscience of the team back in the Claremont days, and not today’s Logan, who constantly oscillates between hit squad leader, responsible schoolmaster, personality-free member of Bendis’s Avengers, and kill-crazy animal man.

  23. moose n squirrel says:

    By the way – where’s Xavier been all this time? You’d think he’d take an interest, well, any of this, right? It’s like the X-office decided to write him out of the picture but then decided not to actually make the effort.

  24. Well Wolverine won an online poll to find the four most popular Avengers*, so I’m not expecting him off that team any time soon.

    (*a very skewed poll where all the Avengers were split into four groups by join date, so most of the most popular Avengers were shoved into the first group and the last was primarily Bendis-era not really Avenger Avengers. Anyway, the winners were Iron Man, Ms Marvel, Wolverine and then a tie between Bucky and Dr Strange).

  25. Aaron Thall says:

    Hey, I just remember the excuses, I don’t justify them. I still don’t see, for example, why super-oxygenated sprays would allow the FF to survive on the ocean floor without getting crushed by the pressure, much less allow the Torch to flame on UNDERWATER for brief periods of time. Stan and Jack made great comics yes, but terrible science.

    Ultimately, to paraphrase MST3K: Remind yourself, it’s just a comic. You should simply just relax.

  26. wwk5d says:

    “Anyway, the winners were Iron Man, Ms Marvel, Wolverine and then a tie between Bucky and Dr Strange)”

    Iron Man and Ms Marvel, I can understand. But the other 3? Worst poll & results ever.

  27. moose n squirrel says:

    “Remind yourself, it’s just a comic. You should simply just relax.”

    Right but that cuts both ways. If it’s just a comic, and it doesn’t need to make sense, why should I take it seriously, or be reading it at all, much less be paying four dollars a pop for it?

  28. Andy Walsh says:

    “By the way – where’s Xavier been all this time? You’d think he’d take an interest, well, any of this, right?”

    Xavier is off somewhere spending time with Legion, making up for lost time. Given all that went on with Age of X and Legion’s history, I thought that was legitimate. This was explicitly stated somewhere in the aftermath of Schism.

    In story time, it’s been less than a day since AvX started. I wouldn’t be surprised if news eventually gets to Xavier and he weighs in at some point.

  29. Jacob says:

    Kind of wary of an Xavier return; thanks to the whole Vulcan retcon (not to mention Onslaught but that’s a bit too way back) he’s kind of damaged goods….not that that ever stops them using Wanda.

    As much hate as Cyclops is getting now and the hypocrisy of Wolverine, I’m kind of liking the Schism…Xavier’s Dream was flawed…how can you promote racial intergration by hiding all the mutants in a mansion and teaching them how to fight?

    Give me uncompromising realist Scott and atoning optimist Logan over Charles Xaviers wishy washy nonsense any day.

  30. The original Matt says:

    “I wouldn’t mind Logan as leader of the X-Men, if it meant he was taken out of the Avengers books.”

    I’d rather him stay in the Avengers books and get written out of the X-men.

  31. Aaron Thall says:

    I’m skipping as much of A Vs. X as I can, simply because it’s so freaking stupid that Cyclops wouldn’t consider the worst case scenario when it comes to the Phoenix Force. He’s SEEN the worst case scenario.

    Even with my belief that, at some point, you’ve just gotta go with the flow, that singular flaw with A Vs. X ruins the entire thing for me.

  32. ZZZ says:

    The thing, I think, that bugs me the most abot AvX (aside from the fact that the most recent developments have felt more like video game levels than actual plots) is that it didn’t occur to either Cap or Scott – two supposed strategic geniuses who should, in theory, be good at thinking of various ways to approach problems – to say “we both think the Phoenix Force is heading for Hope. One of us thinks it will overwhelm her and destroy the planet and wants to take her off planet, the other thinks she’ll be able to control it and wants to keep her here. If whichever of us actually wins was right, then that’s the best case scenario. If the Avengers win but Scott was right, we’ll have Hope in space with the power of the Phoenix. If the X-Men win but Cap was right, we’ll have an unusually debris-strewn patch of space where the Earth used to be. So, how about we let the Avengers take Hope off planet, opt for the plan where the worst case scenario is that Phoenix Hope has to take a couple of minutes to fly back to Earth before she can fix the mutant thing, and not the plan where the worst case scenario is an orgy of global destruction?”

    Seriously, how does Hope getting the Phoenix Force on a Quinjet at the edge of the solar system prevent her from coming back to Earth and fixing mutantkind? It would make a lot more sense to present Scott’s argument as a belief that the Pheonix Force is coming to Earth one way or another, and that if Hope’s here when it gets here, she’ll be able to prevent it from destroying the planet. In other words, forget the M-Day stuff, and say that they’re both trying to prevent the Phoenix from destroying the Earth, they just disagree on whether Hope is the reason it’s coming to Earth or the only thing that can stop it when it gets here.

  33. NB says:

    If Phoenix gets to Hope while she’s out in space, what prevents it going back to earth (for whatever reason) afterwards?

  34. At least by that time they can ascertain what it’s trying to do and take the appropriate measures.

  35. Niall says:

    Forget about space, why not just move Hope to limbo?

  36. Blair says:

    Interesting point about moving her to limbo. I suppose that the Phoenix could just possess Ilyana (or anyone else capable of opening a portal to limbo) and go through to get her.

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