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.