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Jun 3

The X-Axis – 3 June 2012

Posted on Sunday, June 3, 2012 by Paul in x-axis

It’s a podcast weekend, so check just one post down for our reviews of Grim Leaper, Ravagers and Mind MGMT.  Meanwhile, after giving Astonishing X-Men a clear run last week, the X-books are back to their usual schedule this time round…

New Mutants #43 - The conclusion of the five-part “Exiled” crossover with Journey into Mystery.  The New Mutants and Loki are trying to solve the problem of the Disir by marrying them (collectively) off to Sigurd in order to fulfil the conditions of Bor’s curse, but Bor’s medieval concept of wedlock turns out to be a bit much for the New Mutants.  Cue plan B, which (this being a Loki story) involves seizing the opportunity to circumvent the problem in a more innovative way.

It’s a good story, but, as I’ve said when writing about the earlier chapters, it’s fundamentally a Journey into Mystery story.  In fact, it’s vitally important to the Disir storyline that Kieron Gillen has been developing for a couple of years now, going back to his fill-in run on Thor.  Quite what it’s doing in New Mutants, I’m less sure – which is particularly odd given that these books seemed to have taken the opportunity to lay some shared groundwork, by bringing Mephisto into the cast of both books, and by dropping off the magical puppy for Warlock to look after.  In the end, though, neither of those elements really plays into this; there’s a nod towards the story having an effect on Mephisto’s relationship with Magma, but it feels like at best this is a major storyline for JiM which is merely nudging a couple of subplots forward for New Mutants.  Dani’s status as a Valkyrie makes the New Mutants as good a choice of guest stars as anyone, but it’s still fundamentally a story that would have worked perfectly well confined to the pages of the other book.

Still, judged as the Disir story that it actually is, it’s a neat ending, and one that provides an uncommon sense of actual resolution to a long-term storyline.  The art is a bit lacking – the opening sequence is notionally set in a church hall in San Francisco, but as rendered, it’s essentially an abstract bluey-grey blank with some benches occasionally looming into view.  But it does sell the key twist effectively and get the resolution of the Disir’s storyline across.  On the whole, then, it’s a successful issue of JiM, albeit one inexplicably bannered as New Mutants #43.

Wolverine #307 - Continuing the Dr Rot storyline, as Wolverine gets captured by Rot and his equally insane “family”.  Bring on the brainwashing.

I’m not quite sold on this issue.  Dr Rot worked in Jason Aaron’s original story because he, and the whole story he appeared in, were seriously weird and darkly absurd.  It wasn’t just that he was mad, it was that he represented a distortion of the whole story.  And he was a mad scientist who seemed as if his lunatic schemes and random experiments really shouldn’t be working at all, making it all the weirder that they actually did.  At any rate, that’s why the original story worked for me.

This issue doesn’t really capture that same sense of oddity.  The moment you have him messing around with old Weapon X brainwashing techniques, you’re positioning Dr Rot squarely in a well-established tradition of Wolverine villains.  You’re defining what he does in terms that are if anything overfamiliar, and I think that undermines him.  There’s a sense here that Rot actually knows perfectly well what he’s doing and his eccentricities are merely there to manipulate other characters.  And that’s not the right tone for the character.  The threat from Dr Rot isn’t that he’s a calculating manipulator, it’s that the very rules of the story seem to bend to accommodate him.

Wolverine and the X-Men #11 - Avengers vs X-Men is proving to be in many ways a throwback to the crossovers of the 1990s, with many of the tie-in books re-telling the same basic story from the perspective of their own characters, and with added material thrown in.  That’s essentially what Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw end up doing on this issue, which takes place during the period when Wolverine’s tagging along with Hope in the main series.  (As best as I can recall, this book never actually explained how the two hooked up; you’d think they’d at least stick in a footnote pointing people to the relevant book.  After all, isn’t cross-selling the whole point of a multi-title crossover?)

So… Wolverine and Hope fight the Shi’ar Death Commandos in an added scene, while Kid Gladiator refuses to abandon Earth in its hour of need (more because he doesn’t want to be seen as running from a fight).  And some X-Men fight some Avengers in peripheral subplots.  The Kid Gladiator scenes are the strongest, perhaps because they actually feel as though they belong in this book; the rest has the feel of creators dutifully going through the motions of participating in a crossover. It’s perfectly adequate, and the art is very pretty, but it doesn’t come close to the book at its best.

X-Men #29 - The second half of the Skrull two-parter is a little underwhelming.  I liked the basic set-up of this storyline, which made good use of the Skrulls’ shape-changing gimmick, and had a neat central idea in a group of stray Skrull soldiers consisting of one trigger-happy loyalist and three deserters who just wanted to get home.  The second issue basically sees Pixie come up with the way to beat them, and it all turns out to be one of those stories where the junior member of the team saves the day and everyone acclaims her as a great leader of the future.  It’s not bad.  It’s okay.  But it doesn’t really deliver on the potential of the dynamics within the Skrull group, it positions them more as generic alien soldiers instead of continuing to use their gimmick inventively, and I don’t think it really sold me on the idea that Pixie had come up with any especially clever plan.  Will Conrad’s art is perfectly pleasant and there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it, but in a world with so many X-Men comics, it’s hard to imagine why anyone but a completist or a relative of the creators would choose this one.

X-Men Legacy #267 - More obligatory tie-ins, as the X-Men B-team fight the Avengers B-team for the whole issue.  I can pretty much repeat the comments from last time around.  Christos Gage is working hard to find a character angle here, and does it by seizing on the idea that Rogue’s first battle with the Avengers (where she ended up permanently absorbing the personality of Carol Danvers) was a traumatic experience that she needs to come to terms with.  It doesn’t feel like a story the character particularly needed to do now, but at least it’s something specific to this book’s cast that plays off the Avengers vs X-Men theme.  Gage also continues to do a strong job at giving personalities to his large cast, and there’s a fun idea of Moon Knight trying to beat Rogue by letting her touch him, figuring that his MPD will just confuse the hell out of her.  But perhaps unavoidably, it still feels like a story we’re only seeing because they needed to think of yet another Avengers vs X-Men tie-in, and while the story is done as well as you could have hoped for, it’s hard to avoid feeling that it would have been a better issue if they’d just ducked the crossover and done something else instead.

Bring on the comments

  1. Si says:

    I thought Exiled ended with a bump, which is a shame because I was enjoying it. Didn’t the Disir actually first appear in a New Mutants fill-in that Mr Gillen wrote? If for that reason alone, it justifies (if not necessitates) the team being there at this milestone in their story.

  2. Jeff says:

    These AvX tie-in issues remind me of the Secret Wars 2 tie-ins, where each book was trying to tell a self-contained story in the larger overall context, but it still ended up being a drag on the title. Of course, most of those only lasted a couple issues. I just saw that that issue fifteen of WatX is still tying into the crossover. That’s really excessive.

  3. Reboot says:

    Si – I’m pretty sure the Dísir first appeared in Gillen’s Siege: Loki one-shot and were merely referenced in NMv3 #11.

  4. Delpire says:

    .So Marvel is back to 90s strategies. Didn’t that lead to bankruptcy? Oh well stopped reading their books because of greedy pricing several months ago, and nothing has convinced me to start reading aga

  5. NB says:

    The 90:s bankruptcy had nothing to do with the contents of the comics.

    More with bad business decisions.

  6. Andy Walsh says:

    I completely forgot about the hell puppy that Warlock was raising as Exiled went on. Paul is absolutely right – what was the point of seeding that a few months back if it had no relevance to this story? Will there every be payoff to that now? It didn’t appear to be DnA’s idea; it seems to have been dropped on their lap by Gillen (which, in a way, exactly mirrors how the hell puppy got to Warlock in-story, so there’s that). If he didn’t pay it off in Exiled, it seems unlikely that DnA will pay it off in New Mutants. Guess I’ll wait and see.

  7. Delpire says:

    Well I’d say AvX with a zillion tie ins IS a bad bussiness decicions. So is overpricing and pointless crossovers like NM and JiM.

  8. wwk5d says:

    Well, maybe Marvel is done re-cycling the 80s, and now it’s time to start re-cycling the 90s…

  9. Reboot says:

    Re: Andy Walsh

    Allegedly, DnA asked for the pup. The whole puppies issue of JiM was a last-minute decision that shoved the Hellstrom/Nightmare arc back an issue from the original plan (funny as Thori’s cameo was), and was thought up after Exiled was.

  10. “Well I’d say AvX with a zillion tie ins IS a bad bussiness decicions. So is overpricing and pointless crossovers like NM and JiM.”

    Why are you still complaining if you stopped reading the books months ago?

  11. --D. says:

    Paul,

    I’m catching up o X stories I missed in the 2000s and I am trying to dig up some of your reviews from back in 2005. But the old http://www.thexaxis.com site seems out of order. Is the material archived somewhere public?

  12. Frodo-X says:

    I’m getting tired of how things play out in X-men: Legacy. I get that it’s Rogue-centric, but it is still supposed to be a team book. I’ve seen characters get more help from friends in their solo titles than Rogue gets from her teammates.

  13. ASV says:

    D:

    Use the Wayback Machine at web.archive.org — I did the same thing last year, and I think everything is there.

  14. ZZZ says:

    I love that Moon Knight’s plan hinged on Rogue being unable to handle multiple personalities in her head at once, something at which she could, at best, be described as slightly out of practice even if she didn’t absorb his ability to manage them when she absorbed his memories and skills. (That’s not even a plot hole really, since the plan doesn’t work – it just shows that Moon Knight didn’t really think it through) I’m hoping the next issue of Legacy’s promised spotlight on Frenzy will give a story that resolves in some way other than “Rogue absorbs a bunch of powers and is awsomer than everyone else combined” but hey, why start now?

    By the way, for anyone paying attention: Wolverine’s uniform got completely vaporized by Hope on Utopia, then he apparently changed into a new uniform en route Avengers Academy; that uniform was apparently shredded offscreen before he got back to the Jean Grey School and replaced with a fresh one en route to Avengers Tower. THAT uniform was destroyed by the Shi’ar Death Commandos, forcing Wolverine to change into his fourth uniform of the crossover before arriving fully clothed on the moon.

    Meanwhile, getting through Utopia with his uniform intact has left Cap slightly ahead, losing one uniform to Wolverine en route to the Savage Land and a second to Gambit in once there (in retaliation for which he knocked Gambit unconscious with a punch, changed into a fresh uniform, then knocked him out with his shield when he got back up, then punched him out again when he wouldn’t stay down, curiously repeating the same lines of dialogue each time) leaving him in only his third uniform of the crossover on the moon.

  15. Delpire says:

    @Michael

    Because I like several of the characters but like to see them handled better than shoved into crossovers and events with characters I don’t really care about… and it said comment on the bottom of the page. So I did, sorry.

  16. Tdubs says:

    @Zzz

    I got sidetracked trying to figure out how Hope and Wolverine made it to the moon after the death commandos ( who really need to rethink that title ) blew up the ship they stole.

  17. @Delpire

    Kind of a weird complaint, given that they’ve been “shoved” into crossovers for the last seven years. I’m not excusing crossovers, just pointing out that it’s an odd time to be complaining about them.

    And if it just happens that you’re not interested in this one, comics don’t exist to cater specifically to your tastes. If the event fails to sell, then they’ll move away from events. But it seems to be selling just fine.

    Again, not defending it, but you know, if it’s not your thing, just move on to something you like instead.

  18. Andy Walsh says:

    @Reboot

    Interesting; thanks. Still think it’s curious that the hell-puppy had no role in Exiled, but at least it’s more likely to get some kind of payoff.

  19. Brent says:

    My biggest problem so far with AvX has been the continuity glitches. How is Shehulk both on the JGI lawn AND in Tabula Rasa at the same time? Doesn’t Uncanny and Legacy share an editor? And better yet why is Krakoa not eating the Avengers who showed up in Legacy? How the heck did Wolverine have time to make a pit stop by the school between Utopia and the antarctic in the last issue of Wolverine and the X-men? This wouldn’t be that big a deal if the Jason Aaron weren’t writing the core series. When reading crossover titles the experience should be more rewarding, not distracting.

  20. wwk5d says:

    “in retaliation for which he knocked Gambit unconscious with a punch, changed into a fresh uniform, then knocked him out with his shield when he got back up, then punched him out again when he wouldn’t stay down, curiously repeating the same lines of dialogue each time”

    It’s like a really bad version of Groundhog Day.

  21. ZZZ says:

    Oh yeah, two weeks we were left wondering why Wolverine and Hope stole an AIM ship to get to the moon when the Jean Grey School has its own faster-than-light ship.

    This week, they come up with a reasonable explanation for that: Warbird and Kid Gladiator stole the school’s ship … and then COMPLETELY fail to offer any indication that Wolverine is aware of that fact, and the pacing of the thing certainly seems to imply that Wolverine decided to head for the AIM ship before the ship was stolen. Just a single panel of Wolverine calling the school and finding out that the ship is missing then saying “Okay, plan B…” would have done. But the book actually reminds us that Wolverine has (or should think he has) access to a ship he won’t have to steal from AIM without explaining why he doesn’t try to use it.

    Hell, I’m not even sure why, from a writing, out-of-character point of view the AvX writers had them steal an AIM ship instead of taking the school’s ship. The only explanation I can come up with is that whoever came up that plot point didn’t know the school had a ship and no one remembered or pointed it out in time.

    Oh, and extra points for specifically having Warbird and Kid Gladiator refer to “stealing” the ship, indicating it is not, in fact, their ship, and removing the only plausible explanation for why the school had an FTL ship in the first place.

  22. Delpire says:

    @Michael

    Several of those crossovers (civil war, secret invasion, siege and so on) were very easy to ignore. The difference with this one is that it’s so central to the x-books it’s essential. Not all that weird to have a problem with this one, which is also more extended (12 instead of 7 or 8 issues). As for specific needs, well I can only speak for myself. But I’ll check the sales to see if it’s doing as well as you say. As for ‘moving on’ (by which I guess you mean to try and ask me to please shut up) it’s just a comment on a remark made in the reviews. Didn’t mean to offend you.

  23. @Delpire

    I really don’t understand your concern for anything you just wrote, since you already since you’re not reading any Marvel books anyway. I’m not telling you to shut up, but all you’re doing is complaining about what’s going on in books you’re already not reading. It comes across as complaining for the sake of complaining.

  24. I mean, stuff you’re not interested in is happening in books you’re not spending money on or reading. That’s okay, yes?

  25. Delpire says:

    I did because I was asked for an explanation. The answer is several posts up.

  26. Adam says:

    WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN 11 was a disappointment. After finishing 10, I felt that the way forward was clear and bright: Wolverine would be off doing his thing and we might get a few cut-aways to see the faculty fighting the Avengers, but basically we’d have a nice story about Kid Gladiator, his dad, and Shi’ar Death Commandos, with the other students as supporting cast. AVX’s Phoenix threat would just be a logical springboard for it all.

    No such luck, unfortunately.

  27. Billy says:

    @Delpire
    I solved the “essential” issue by dropping all the X-books.

    It might not be the answer that Marvel wanted, but they’ve been driving me away from the X-books for years…

  28. For those who are wondering:

    The Disir first appeared as the primary antagonist in NEW MUTANTS 11, solely in their non-verbal monstrous ravenous attack form. Dani killed two of them.

    SIEGE: LOKI came out a couple of weeks later, where we first see them in their Valkyrie Nazgul verbal form.

    I wrote both of them simultaneously, with no idea which would come out first, but was pleased it went the way it did. That the first appearance of the Disir was just as inarticulate monsters suits the whole theme pretty well, in terms of their eventual arc.

  29. Si says:

    Thanks Kieron. I quite like the Disir, they had a good story arc. Also the fact that they’re such an obscure bit of mythology makes me feel clever for knowing about them.

    My only real complaint is that nobody in the comic said that Bor got dissed.

  30. Oof. You’ve found a bad pun Dan, Andy and I missed. That’s some going.

  31. Andrew Brown says:

    hey now, not all the x-titles have been drowning in XvA shit. X-factor and X-force have been doing their own thing and its been wonderful. of course, they might get dragged into crossover hell at some point, then all bets are off.

  32. niall says:

    Overall I enjoyed Exiled, but was really surprised that Mephisto and the hell hounds hadn’t more to do with the story. I wouldn’t mind seeing regular interaction between the NM and asgard.

    The Disir were great characters. I think at the end of the story it was a bit too easy to forget that they were soul destroying, flesh eating monsters, rather than tragic characters.

  33. Mo Walker says:

    @wwk5d – Since Marvel is now recycling the 90s, I should breakout my Avengers jacket. Though I would not mind more John Francis Moore issues of X-Force (or the group formally known as X-Force).

  34. Delpire says:

    Have been considering picking up X-factor. There is a newtrade I haven’t read. Checked out AoA and loved the art, judging by reviews the story seems to be getting underway and it’s completely disconnected from every other title and still 3 dollars. Maybe I’ll start reading that series ifI can find backissues. Thanks for the helpful suggestions Andrew.

    And Billy, I did the same. Just wish it was different.

  35. Ohboy... says:

    I’ve been reading X-Men comics for the last 15 years, and even recently gone about collecting most of the original prints of the old issues (the only issues I’m lacking are about 50 or so of the original run of X-Men Vol. 1).

    And I have to say that this crossover… it’s… it’s quite possibly one of the worst written things I’ve read in quite some time.

    I don’t know if maybe it’s because I’m growing up and realizing that this comic series isn’t as much of an entertaining concept as I would like.

    But… my major qualm with this is just the absolute horrible writing I’ve ever seen.

    Two major issues that I have:

    1.) Everyone, including Wolverine and Cyclops, mention how Jean Grey could not control the Phoenix Force, how it drove her mad and she killed an entire galaxy and blah blah blah. Except one major flaw… for the last 20 years of comics everyone in the Marvel House of Ideas has been beating us over the head with the fact that IT WASN’T JEAN! It was a clone of her while she recuperated in a shell in the ocean and was discovered by the…zzzzzzzzzzz… anyway, so why is everyone talking about Jean like she was some weak-kneed imbecile. The last time anyone saw Jean Grey she was either (a) saving the X-Men and New York from Xorneto and his plan to tilt the planet on its axis or (b) coming back during the Phoenix: Endsong title where she once again saved everyone’s butts from the Phoenix and Shi’ar. And that’s not including all the moments in time where she’s popped in as a dues ex machina ploy to free Emma from mind control or save Wolverine or Cyclops or some other doofus.

    2.) If they Avengers believe Hope is the next host, why wouldn’t they just round up ALL the previous hosts of the Phoenix? Like Emma, The Stepford Cuckoos, Quentin Quire, and Rachel Grey to name a few. Why has no one gone to Rachel and said, “Excuse me, you’re from the future and had control of the Phoenix Force for a while, what do you propose?” Why? Because that would make too much FRIGGIN SENSE! Instead of just wrangling up Hope because she’s a likely candidate, why not just ask Cyclops… ‘Hey Cyke, why don’t you and a few of your team members come with us? Why you ask? Well, the Phoenix Force is coming and we’d like your expertise on this front!” instead, Captain America is all “YOU’RE UNDER ARREST!” And Cyclops, with his bat-shit crazy attitude, shoots first and asks questions later.

    I’m so incredibly disappointed with this ploy (and with almost ALL of the titles weighing in at 3.99 an issue) I’m damn near broke from this experience. I’ve come to the disturbing conclusion that this will be my last endeavor with Marvel… and I guess after it’s over I won’t be saying “Make Mine Marvel” anymore…

  36. Taibak says:

    Has nobody mentioned that Rachel did a very good job of controlling the Phoenix Force?

  37. ZZZ says:

    AvX is actually a pretty good example of why I’m glad the idea of “Hypertime” never really took off. It’s just frustrating when stories pick and choose what continuity to acknowledge and what to ignore, especailly when you disagree with the choices and it’s not made clear what counts and what doesn’t.

  38. alex says:

    I thought hypertime was a brilliant way to deal with continuity issues.

    Everything counts.

    After being a continuity nerds for years, my attitude now is: a good story with dodgy continuity trumps a mediocre story with slavish continuity. but then i think most big two stories are just sanctioned fanfic.

  39. The original Matt says:

    Of course it’s all just sanctioned fanfic. There’s no way it could be anything else after this long.

  40. wwk5d says:

    @ Alex

    Why can’t the people writing good stories stick to continuity?

  41. Jacob says:

    Because continuity keeps getting more and more complex (unless you DC reboot which brings its own problems).

    Factor in the trend of modern editors becoming less editorial in their actions and more like movie directors.

    Also the realistic factor that if you’re a scriptwriter with x projects on the go it’s simply not workable to be continuity checking each one, no matter how much you love your subject matter.

    As much as I hate the DCnU it was a real opportunity for them to nail down their continuity, they should have done like TV shows do and make a ‘Universe Bible’ containing every background point they wanted in the new universe.

    Instead it’s a weird balancing act between all new continuity and keeping Morrison/Johns happy with their pet projects from the previous universe.

  42. wwk5d says:

    I don’t it’d be that hard to keep continuity in check, as long as the editors did what they are supposed to do. Or hell, set up a “history” department and have the people there do nothing but keep track of each character. Then the writer can just ask them “Hey, I’m going to use this character in my next story, what’s their current status quo? Oh, he is dead/no longer a villain/married and retired now/somebody else is already using in a way that conflicts with how I want to portray the character? Ok, I’ll get back to you when I think of a replacement, thanks”. Just an example, but something the big 2 should look into. Or at least understand the character so that he/she doesn’t appear wildly out of character.

  43. Jon Dubya says:

    Also I really have to point this out (since I’ve been rereading the trade) but has Marvel forgotten that Dark Phoenix is only a PORTION of the entire Phoenix storyline (which began in the mid-70s)? And that Jean only became evil after the Hellfire Club corrupted her? All of the Marvel employees who get paid to write and edit this stuff are aware that “Phoenix” existed before Uncanny X-Men #129 right? This is in addition to the other points people have already mentioned.

    I mean geez, the “plot” for Marvel vs Capcom 3 has more sense and consistency then this “event.”

  44. Jacob says:

    @wwk5d

    I find it interesting that Paul covers both comics and wrestling on this blog because often there are clear parallels.

    I’m reminded of when WWE hired a guy to continuity check their scripts; they fired him after a fortnight for pointing out too many errors.

    I would love it if either DC or Marvel had some sort of history department, easily outsourced to the fan website writers, but it seems a lot of decisions are made so last minute/spur of the moment that the effect would be negligible.

  45. alex says:

    When dc did original crisis in 85-86, peter sanderson went back and read everything in dc archives as research.

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