Posted on Sunday, May 13, 2012
by Paul in x-axis
It’s a podcast weekend, so check out the show one post down, where Al and I are reviewing Trio, Dial H and Mind the Gap.
Meanwhile, over at the X-books, crossovers with the rest of the Marvel Universe continue to abound. This would normally have been a relatively quiet week (just four X-books) but the tie-ins get us up to six…
Journey into Mystery #637 - This is part 2 of the “Exiled” crossover which is running weekly through this book and New Mutants. In scheduling terms, it’s a little odd to see this coming out at the same time as the big “Avengers vs X-Men” event, which will inevitably overshadow it, but on the other hand it’s certainly preferable to seeing the New Mutants shoehorned into that storyline. After all, these two books have taken the trouble to establish some minor ties in the preceding months, so that this seems more organic than it otherwise might.
That being said, this remains principally a Journey into Mystery story, with some of the Asgardian gods being magically turned into ordinary humans living in San Francisco (or thinking they have been, at any rate). The New Mutants’ role here, thus far at least, is a bit more generic. They’re basically here to drive the plot along by pushing an investigation into what happened to the JiM regulars; and while it helps for these purposes that Dani is a Valkyrie, you could have swapped other characters into the same role without fundamentally changing things.
The basic set up of amnesiac Norse gods being reincarnated as ordinary humans has been done before, but this is a fun rendition of the concept. Loki ends up as an RPG player; Volstagg is a baker who’s too busy eating his products to actually sell any. And so on. The opening pages do a really good job of selling the idea of reality being rewritten, as the New Mutants are simply relocated in mid-conversation and initially don’t realise anything has changed – though for a change, the heroes pick up on it very quickly. And the reaction of Sigurd, who caused all this trouble, is perfectly pitched; as far as he’s concerned, there is no problem, and if Thor’s been slightly derailed from his heroic activities, oh well. Somebody will sort it out.
I’m still not altogether convinced that the New Mutants are needed for this story, but the team are well written here, and perhaps their role will become clearer as we go on. At any rate, it’s a good little piece of counter-programming for the summer event.
New Avengers #26 - Well, this is certainly odd. It’s an “Avengers vs X-Men” tie-in issue, but with no Avengers and no X-Men. Instead, for the second straight issue, this is a flashback story in which Iron Fist’s supporting cast attempt to train a young redhead girl who was apparently an earlier incarnation of a possible host for Phoenix. With no present-day content whatsoever, and its plot thread yet to surface in the main series at all, this is either a complete detour, or an interesting exercise in shunting the foreshadowing (and exposition) off to the tie-in books. I mean, it’s got to be heading somewhere, right? Uh… right? But they surely can’t just have Iron Fist wheel out an alternate host in Avengers vs X-Men #6 with a footnote saying “Go read New Avengers” – that’s not Marvel’s style when it comes to crossovers, where the tie-in books are usually superfluous. Could this just be a case of Bendis using the crossover as a vague pretext to do Untold Tales of the Phoenix? Might be. Stranger things have been known.
What it does have is some very good art by Mike Deodato, who’s doing some of his best work on this storyline. And if you have confidence that it really is going to feed back into the main story at some point (and that the whole thing is going to fit together in some passably satisfactory manner), there’s some plot material here worth speculating on. It’s so far out on a limb that I’m inclined to assume it must be part of some sort of plan, but heaven only knows what.
Uncanny X-Force #25 - The first part of a new storyline sees the team pretty much falling apart, as Psylocke (now artificially free from sorrow and therefore from any sort of guilt trip) walks out, and Fantomex then decides he has no need to be there either. And Deathlok… uh, whatever happened to Deathlok? Well, he’s gone, anyway. So that leaves Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Deadpool – who, the recap page helpfully informs me, is now powerless but normal-looking following the latest story over in his own title. Mind you, I don’t get the impression Psylocke and Fantomex are being written out for real.
Mike McKone is on art this issue, and a switch back to a crisper look is probably for the best. And there’s a lovely sci-fi concept at the heart of the story – custom-grown assassins with false memories who are motivated by vengeance, so that they’ll never switch sides just because somebody makes them a better offer. It’s a return to the sort of thing the book does best.
There’s only 20 pages of actual story here; the rest of the book is filled out with two reprints, presumably to celebrate 25 fabulous issues since the last time the numbers were arbitrarily reset. You’ve kind of got to take the numbering system a bit more seriously if you expect me to give a toss about issue #25, Marvel. The cover bills them as “2 rarely seen stories by Rick Remender and Jerome Opena”, which is a lovely euphemism for “obscure back-up strip”. In fairness, they do feature Remender and Opena’s first work on regular characters Wolverine and Deadpool, and therefore might actually be of interest to X-Force readers.
“Purity”, the Wolverine story, was a back-up story from the 2008 one-shot Wolverine: Dangerous Games (the one with the fox hunting). It’s pretty good, though its interpretation of Wolverine’s character is highly debatable; it’s basically going for the idea that Wolverine respects the idea of honour but is somewhat inconsistent about how far he actually tries to live by it himself. That’s a viable reading of the character, particularly in the context of X-Force, where the whole justification is meant to be that he does these things so that other people won’t have to. But the story ends on a note of Wolverine choosing to reject honour which, to my mind, rings false for the character, even though it’s a good ending to the individual story. ”Appetite for Destruction” is from Deadpool #1000 and it’s basically over the top silliness which just about has the momentum to carry its nine pages. A little of that sort of thing goes a long way.
Wolverine #306 - Part 2 of Cullen Bunn’s Dr Rot sequel. Wolverine spends the issue tracking down Rot while the cops are (understandably enough) looking for Wolverine about all those murders he’s been committing under Rot’s control. Rot’s a difficult character to pull off because he’s so demented that the story has to be fairly off-kilter in the first place to accommodate him. This issue, I think Bunn and artist Paul Pelletier get it right; it’s over the top in a way that’s absurd but also disturbing. That’s the tone you need to set if Rot’s going to work; it’s not enough for him to just be a crazy guy, his lunacy has to infect the whole story around him. And here, it does. This is strong stuff, and I’m glad to hear that Bunn is apparently sticking around once the oh-god-must-we return-of-Sabretooth arc is out of the way.
Wolverine and the X-Men #10 - Another “Avengers vs X-Men” tie-in, and a rather more conventional one. Cyclops shows up at the school to try and enlist the assistance of the X-Men living there, which leaves Wolverine’s team to choose their side. And that’s basically the issue, though Aaron also throws in some subplot scenes to keep Genesis and Angel’s balls in the air. Several of the X-Men at the school do indeed choose to side with Cyclops, which is kind of essential if this is going to be “Avengers vs X-Men” – but it does give rise to a couple of problems of its own.
For one thing, it undermines the split between the two X-Men factions in a way that doesn’t seem organic, and I think it’s too early for that. For another, in giving their reasons for siding with Cyclops, several of the X-Men end up hanging a lampshade over major plot problems with the crossover itself. The whole story hinges on the idea that the Avengers (and Wolverine) believe that the arrival of the Phoenix is going to be disastrous. But given that the Phoenix has been to Earth several times before and no such thing has happened, they have no terribly obvious reason to believe that. So when Rachel Summers spells that out as her reason for siding with Cyclops, it makes sense for her character, but only because she’s calling attention to the fact that it doesn’t make sense for anyone else’s.
There’s also some wonky plotting here, as Avengers vs X-Men #3 treated it as a surprise that Rachel was siding with Scott. Here, she’s completely open about it, which makes Wolverine look like a blithering idiot for trusting her to locate Hope in the first place.
So, yeah. It’s basically a straight crossover-elaboration story done in this book’s style, but in a way that doesn’t quite do anyone any favours.
X-Men Legacy #266 - More “Avengers vs X-Men”, though this one takes place after issue #3 of the main series. There’s more side-choosing here, with characters deciding whether to go with Cyclops, or just to stay and look after the school. Rogue chooses to stay, and Christos Gage tries to make something of the fact that she has traumatic memories of her first fight with the Avengers. I appreciate the effort, but it’s hard to avoid the feeling that he’s casting around for an “Avengers vs X-Men” story that he can do with Rogue, and this was the best hook he could find.
Meanwhile, the Avengers D-list show up to stand around outside and keep an eye on the school, and you can imagine how well that goes. This is the better half of the story, as both sides initially try to act somewhat like grown-ups, only for Frenzy and Moon Knight to blow it. Some of this stuff is quite fun, but it still seems like a case of creators making the best of a crossover that the book doesn’t really want or need to be in.