Posted on Sunday, May 27, 2012
by Paul in x-axis
This is the quietest week for X-books in ages, with just one regular X-Men title, one Avengers vs X-Men tie-ins, and one single tie-in from another crossover elsewhere in the line. Why, you’d almost think they wanted to give something a clear run at getting attention…
Oh, and I haven’t got my copy of Secret Avengers #27 yet (the AvX tie-in). So for the moment, we’ll just stick to the two I’ve read…
Astonishing X-Men #50 - As seen on The View, it’s the gay wedding storyline! Actually, it’s part three of a story that began with Marjorie Liu’s debut issue, and in theory the main plot is about the X-Men being attacked by C-list villains who are being mind-controlled by some mysterious bad guy. As flash forwards already established, this is heading towards everyone else getting mind-controlled and piling on Northstar, which duly happens in this issue.
But that’s the functional bit. What Marvel really want everyone to be talking about here is Northstar proposing to his boyfriend Kyle, which (to judge by the cover) will lead to an actual wedding in the next issue. Or more likely in the epilogue to the next issue, since the main story will probably still have to be concerned with fighting bad guys and such forth.
In a sense, of course, this is a publicity stunt. In fact, Marvel were pretty explicit about that in the solicitations for chapter one, which they cheerfully billed as “the first chapter of what will be the most controversial story of 2012.” Thus far, in fact, it has singularly failed to excite much in the way of controversy at all, which must be a terrible disappointment to somebody in the marketing department. Still, it’s hardly a solicitation that inspires confidence that the story is being driven by any sort of creative agenda. Nor does the fact that Northstar was pretty much in limbo until he was dusted off and shoved into a starring role two issues ago. You do rather get the feeling that Marvel started off by deciding they wanted to do a gay wedding story, and working back from there.
Still, all that being said, it’s not the worst idea in the world. To the extent that it becomes an attention-grabbing gimmick, that’s somewhat inevitable when you do a topic like this for the first few times. Northstar as a character has drifted in recent years. He needs some direction, and this is a direction. It also gives him a unique position in the X-Men’s cast as the only member of the group who has a spouse – in fact, any sort of family contact – in the real world. That’s something future writers can work with, without the topicality necessarily dominating everything.
Marjorie Liu certainly tries her hardest to make this a story about the relationship between a superhero and his civilian partner, and to keep the gay angle purely incidental. That’s probably wise given the need to stop the purely topical aspects from overpowering everything else, and the imperative to give Kyle an agenda of his own so that he doesn’t end up as a character who exists merely to provide Northstar with the opportunity to be gay. The story itself steers clear of easy targets.
All that being said, it’s far from a stand-out story. While Northstar and Kyle’s relationship is fairly well defined, it doesn’t quite feel like Northstar is being written in character (you can make a case that this is a different side of his personality, but I’m not sure this book has really established what his default persona is meant to be yet). Kyle isn’t a terribly interesting character; the story is so clearly on his side in his argument with Northstar that to all intents and purposes he’s being written as a long-suffering saint. And the actual story – you know, with the villains and such – feels decidedly perfunctory. So a random bad guy is sending henchmen to attack the X-Men – well, yes, isn’t that just Tuesday?
Take away the topical angle, and what you’re left with is a story where the X-Men fight a mystery villain though the mystery isn’t particularly compelling, and we’re asked to care about the marriage of two characters who only joined the cast two issues ago. Judged on that level, it’s alright. But it’s no more than that.
Journey into Mystery #638 - Part 4 of the “Exiled” crossover with New Mutants. The Disir are running riot in San Francisco; the Asgardians aren’t much help because they still don’t remember who they are; but Loki belatedly gets his memory back in time to take some kind of control and set up the Disir’s origin flashback.
The crossover as a whole has been rather more of a Journey into Mystery story than a New Mutants one. With the last chapter, in their own book, the New Mutants seemed to be getting some mileage out of having the chance to interact with their San Francisco neighbourhood. Plus, they were needed to drive the plot. Now that Loki’s got his memory back, it’s rather less clear that New Mutants have an essential role to play in this story, beyond the happy coincidence that Dani happens to be a Valkyrie. In fact, the Disir’s origin flashback takes up a good third of this issue. But fair enough; it’s an issue of Journey into Mystery. It’s probably got its priorities right.
And it’s another strong issue from arguably Marvel’s most consistently interesting title. Loki’s plan to stop the Disir’s rampage is as inventively underhanded as usual, while the Disir’s origin story has a suitably mythical feel to it. I’m not a huge fan of the art, which has some strong moments but doesn’t flow terribly well from panel to panel. Still, it gets the job done. If you’re reading the series anyway (and I am, and you should be), you’ll probably be quite relieved that the crossover isn’t dragging the book away from its usual strengths.
It’s a good issue – not necessarily one that needs to have the New Mutants running around adding to the cast, but a good one nonetheless.