RSS Feed
Sep 30

The X-Axis – 30 September 2012

Posted on Sunday, September 30, 2012 by Paul in x-axis

The X-office continues to lurch back and forth between weeks of putting out virtually nothing, and weeks of putting out loads of X-Men titles all at once.  I’m sure there must be some sort of thought process behind this approach, but I’d take rather more convincing that it’s a good one.

Anyway, Avengers vs X-Men may not technically be over, but it might as well be given that it doesn’t crop up in any of this week’s books.  You’ll realise, of course, that that leaves at least a couple of these titles in the odd position of doing stories that take place after the crossover conclude but which require to tiptoe around actually revealing the ending.  For the most part they manage that by finding something else to focus on, but again, it’s an odd scheduling choice.

Anyhow…

Astonishing X-Men #54 – Wow, this storyline is going on for ever and a day, isn’t it?  We’ve been at this for, what, six issues now, and we’ve finally reached the stage of identifying the villain’s plan and giving some vague outline of her motivations.  I realise we’ve had a diversion in there to do the wedding, but even so, this is moving at a snail’s pace.

Susan Hatchi, it turns out, seems to have been conceived as a new arch-enemy for Karma.  I suppose I can see some logic in that.  Karma was created back in 1980, and given an origin story bound up with the Vietnam War, which at that point was at least within relatively recent memory.  Hitherto, her arch-enemy has been her uncle Nguyen, whose back story is similarly dated, and who was repositioned as a more generic crimelord quite some time ago.  So if Liu is trying to freshen the character up by giving her some defining relationships that are a bit more modern, that might make sense.

But Hatchi remains a singularly uninteresting villain.  She’s an off-the-shelf evil businesswoman who is notionally interested in profit but in practice just does evil things because she’s evil.  In all fairness, Liu seems to be deliberately giving the character that sadistic streak, but it doesn’t alter the fact that I’ve yet to see anything in this character beyond the generic.  A family connection with Karma is not enough to make somebody interesting.

There are good bits in this issue – there’s a strong opening few pages of the team sheltering under Cecilia’s force field beneath tons of rubble, and that’s very well done.  The art is pretty strong throughout, and there’s some decent dialogue as the cast argue about whether to play along with Hatchi’s threats.  Even so, we’ve got a story based around a rather dull villain who’s taken forever even to advance the plot to this stage, in a book that still doesn’t seem interested in making a case for why it needs to exist in the first place.  At best, it’s a decent execution of a story which doesn’t feel especially inspired.

Gambit #3 – James Asmus and Clay Mann are certainly taking the back-to-basics approach with this title.  There are no issues of wider continuity in play, nor even any established characters in use beyond Gambit himself.  Instead, they’re paring the title right back to first principles: this is a heist book, in which Gambit goes on adventures that largely involve stealing stuff.  And while he’s at least trying to target the bad guys, there’s also little doubt that his main motivation here is the thrill of stealing.

Gambit has stolen a Thingy which turns out to be some sort of relic that has instantly attached itself to him.  As a result, he is now working with a mystery woman, who remains conspicuously unnamed, to track down its partner relic, in the hope of getting rid of it.  And that’s basically what happens in this issue.  They find the hidden temple, they break into the hidden temple, they encounter traps along the way, and while all that’s going on, they banter.  The added depth comes from the mystery about what the woman is trying to achieve, which Asmus is spinning out nicely.  And it also provides more inventive action sequences than just fight scenes.

There are a couple of moments of wonky storytelling – why on earth is she upside down on page 7?  And what the heck are we looking at in the last panel of page 8?  But on the whole, Mann is doing nice clear, attractive work here, which plays to the strengths of the story and manages a couple of inventive layouts along the way.  The Tomb Raider homage is a bit too blatant for its own good, but it’s a nice looking comic for all that.

With the number of X-books already out there, I’m not at all convinced that the market will support a Gambit solo book right now – and by eschewing any connections with the wider Marvel Universe, the creators haven’t made their task any easier in that regard.  But they have at least produced a book with a pretty clear sense of its own identity, and one that shows why Gambit can work as a solo lead.

Wolverine #313 – The final part of “Sabretooth Reborn” is not quite as bad as I’d feared, but then my fears were pretty extreme.  It remains frankly godawful, and it’s hard to believe that it would have made it within a mile of a penciller if anyone other than Jeph Loeb had handed it in.

The previous issue went for the Big Shocking Reveal option, by trying to sell the idea that Wolverine himself was somehow responsible for the Weapon X Project.  If you squint a bit, actually, you can see a way of making that idea work; you could do a story where Wolverine was involved in setting up the organisation, and then years later it comes back to bite him.  But this story doesn’t do anything very interesting with that revelation – not even to confirm whether we should take it seriously.  As Wolverine points out, none of this material is coming from a remotely trustworthy source, nor is there anything else that should make us pay attention to it.

If it was ten years ago, I might assume that Marvel wouldn’t do a story like this without the intention of following it up, and then I might take it seriously.  But it’s 2012, I know full well that incoming writers rarely feel obliged to pay any attention to plot threads left dangling by their predecessors, and consequently my natural expectation is that I will never hear of this again.  I will honestly be stunned if it turns out to be a major plot point – hell, any sort of plot point – going forward.  In this day and age, stories get resolved before the writer leaves the book, or they don’t get resolved at all.  That’s the way it is.

Beyond the bare fact of making him a source of enigmatic revelations, Loeb doesn’t appear to have any interest in Romulus as a character.  Nor does he seem to have much time for Sabretooth, who is left as a peripheral character in this story even though it’s named after him.  The upshot is a story that dangles some possible revelations, can’t be bothered following through on them, and then just does some handwaving to declare that it’s reached a happy ending.  It’s lousy, and the less we hear of it in future, the better.

Wolverine and the X-Men #17 – The Avengers vs X-Men tie-in issues are over, but of course that doesn’t mean the book can just blow the ending of the story.  So instead, the post-crossover issue is a comic relief oddity, which explains what Doop is doing at the school, complete with art from his co-creator Mike Allred.  Allred’s retro style always plays well against absurdity, and that’s very much what we have here.

The story does actually give a clear explanation of Doop’s job.  He’s there to secretly root out threats to the school before they come to fruition, and without anyone else knowing about it.  But since this is Doop, the threats he’s dealing with – and keeping out of the book proper – are utterly ridiculous even by this title’s extremely flexible standards.  The League of Nazi Bowlers, who are exactly what they sound like, are perhaps the most insane villains the X-Men have seen in years, and that’s just two pages of a relentless barrage of Doop-related oddities in this issue.

As is often the case with Doop, the joke lies partly in having other characters react to him as if they apparently haven’t noticed that he’s a floating green blob speaking in symbols, and partly in building his mythology as some sort of great hidden figure of the Marvel Universe.  These elements are familiar from X-Statix, but it’s a smart idea to take an issue to re-establish them in the context of this series, rather than just leaving Doop forever as a background callback to an earlier book.

It’s maybe not an idea that needs an entire issue.  Some of the stuff near the end of the book feels a bit padded, and we really didn’t need a cameo by Howard the Duck.  It might have been an idea to bring this in at 15 pages and do a back up in the remaining space.  But that’s a minor point; the issue as a whole is a barrage of inventively ludicrous ideas that cranks up the lunacy even from the title’s established norms, and makes it work.

X-Factor #244 – This came out last week, and I completely forgot to mention it.  For once, that’s not a reflection on a book’s content, as I hadn’t read it at that point.

Even so, it’s not one of the book’s stronger issues.  “Breaking Points” seems to be an exercise in shunting characters forward into new status quos, and wrapping up some outstanding plot threads in the process.  This issue focusses mainly on Theresa, who is still seeing her dead father in the mirror, but that ends up leading to an awkward mystical subplot involving Morrigan, who wasn’t particularly gripping the last time she showed up.  It seems that the aim here is to make Theresa into a quasi-mythical figure herself, which I guess plays off the Banshee name, but doesn’t strike me as a particularly promising direction.

There are stronger scenes dealing with the fallout of Lorna’s revelation in the previous issue, which include some very nice material for Alex. He’s not just concerned for Lorna; without her to support him, his sense of his own role is clearly being challenged.  He’s left without any close friends in a team where his relationship with most of the rest of the cast consists of his asserting his leadership credentials.  That’s a nice take on the character, who doesn’t really need something dramatic to happen to him; he just needs the comfort blanket of Lorna taken away from him.

X-Men #36 – David and Alvaro Lopez return on art, as the “ancient mutant DNA” storyline continues into a third arc.  This time, the X-Men manage to track down a guy who appears to be the sole survivor of the lost ancient mutants, thanks to his powers being immortality.  Or very slow aging.  He’s not quite sure which.

I shan’t repeat my usual complaint that Wood hasn’t sold me on the intrinsic importance of the ancient mutants, even though all his characters appear to take it for granted; I’ve been saying that for a while and it continues to be the case.  As a character piece, though, this is quite a good issue, with Shepherd presented primarily as a character who’s just trying to keep under the radar for the sake of a quiet life, but starts off trying to be commendably reasonable with the X-Men until they annoy him.  If anything, the story does rather beg the question of why the X-Men were so keen not to tell Shepherd about David Michael Gray, other than to provide a justification for him to get angry with them.  If they’re planning to send him back out there, and they figure that he’s either a potential victim or already somehow connected with Gray, is there really anything to be gained by not telling him?  I’m a bit vague about their motivations here.

But the art is typically lovely, and the character interactions for the most part come off well.

X-Men Legacy #274 – Another book which has finished the crossover issues but has to skirt around the result.  In this title, Christos Gage avoids the problem by keeping the location away from any of the X-Men’s various bases, and focussing on the stray subplot of Rogue and Magneto’s relationship.  Since the book is ending – well, it’s being relaunched as a Legion title, but that’s essentially the same thing for these purposes – you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the result is that Rogue feels she’s developed to the point where she doesn’t need their relationship any more.

That discussion takes place against the background of Rogue and Magneto helping people who’ve been trapped in a subway collision.  In keeping with his usual depiction right now, Magneto’s more interested in trying to get back on Rogue’s good side than in helping the victims for their own sake, but he’s still helping.  In the way of such stories, they come upon a seriously injured passenger whose life helps to shed light on their relationship issues.  You know the sort of thing.

This leads to a rather heavy-handed “seize the day” monologue, which serves its purpose but could hardly be called subtle.  Still, Gage has the right idea when it comes to Rogue’s character development, and it’s good to see this thread being properly wrapped up.

X-Treme X-Men #4 – The Exiles revamp’s second arc sees the group arrive in what’s basically a western/steampunk world, with a western village apparently populated almost entirely by counterparts of X-Men characters.  Once again, there’s an evil Professor X who needs to be dealt with.  The book has taken an odd course by deliberately limiting itself to variations on that theme, and I’m not sure this issue makes much of a case for its merits.

It’s a gimmicky series, which I suppose isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Still, it’s difficult to get too invested in a world that’s obviously been assembled entirely from established X-Men ideas given a fresh lick of paint.  There doesn’t seem to be anything to this world beyond repurposed concepts.  Perhaps that’s intentional and it’s heading somewhere, but I rather doubt it.  The emotional core of this story seems to rest in the team’s version of Wolverine encountering his local counterpart, who’s a small child trying to defend his mother against baddies.  That might work, depending on where it heads, but the level of sheer contrivance makes it hard to care about the characters and get into it as a story.

 

Bring on the comments

  1. Somebody says:

    I’m pretty sure W&XM actually has a couple of AvX issues to go, and this is a fill-in that was brought forward because the book was running late…

  2. “In the way of such stories, they come upon a seriously injured passenger whose life helps to shed light on their relationship issues. You know the sort of thing.”
    I love that genre trope. I imagine that makes fantasy hospitals horribly difficult to schedule.
    PATIENT: I may be dying of a horrible, painful disease, but what I really regret is that I lost touch with my son after I was too stubborn to admit that I was wrong. Does anything about my plight resonate with your own life story at the moment?
    DOCTOR: No, actually, at the moment, I’m dealing with commitment issues regarding the nurse I’ve been in a long term flirtation with. But my son’s coming by next week, so maybe I’ll come see you then.

  3. kelvingreen says:

    I’ve been thinking about giving Wolverine and the X-Men a try for a while. if I’d known Doop was in it, I’d have signed up much sooner.

  4. Suzene says:

    Agreed on the pacing in AXM being absolutely confounding, but I’m still enjoying the characterization and the art. And I do I like Hatchi…her plot is absurdly, gloatingly evil, and it feels like it’s been a while since the teams have dealt with someone who’s just straight-up dicking them about for laughs. It wraps next issue, though, and unless there is a major moment of badass for Karma, this is going to feel like she’s been mostly a quest object in her own spotlight arc.

  5. Dave says:

    Yeah, I thought things that are post-AvX were already coming out because the last 2 issues of AvX finally failed to keep the ‘every 2 weeks’ schedule. Should’ve finished a week or 2 ago. Wonder if it’s a happy coincidence that Legacy gave nothing away, or if they deliberately had it written that way in case of lateness.

    Never read X-Statix, so I skipped this WATXM.

  6. Suzene says:

    And speaking of AXM #55, looks like Mike Perkins just got caught swiping from Alan Davis in the preview pages:

    http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?427811-AXM-Preview-55

  7. Billy says:

    Person of Con, the doctor in your example obviously has lost touch with his son, and his denial is simply from his being too stubborn to admit that he is wrong.

    Maybe that’s how that genre trope functions, a bit like psychics or FBI criminal profiling, problems that seem quite specific are actually vague enough to import a “life lesson” on anyone willing enough to find one.

  8. kingderella says:

    i absolutely loved W&tXM. “construction worker doop” cracked me the hell up.

  9. Alex says:

    “The X-office continues to lurch back and forth between weeks of putting out virtually nothing, and weeks of putting out loads of X-Men titles all at once. I’m sure there must be some sort of thought process behind this approach, but I’d take rather more convincing that it’s a good one.”

    They’ve been doing it since the mid 1990s. Why sttop now?

  10. Andy Walsh says:

    My biggest confusion about Astonishing: the arc is written as if the identity of the villain is a mystery. But the moments that are built up as big reveals yield head scratching, while the actual reveals are casually tossed out as if we already know them. Is this an intentional subversion of genre conventions or subpar storytelling?

  11. ZZZ says:

    In the old Chris Claremont-written X-Treme X-Men, there were occasionally moments when you could tell that there was miscommunication between the writing and the art – the one that springs to mind is a scene where Bishop is blasting something with big energy guns and the dialogue makes it clear that he’s supposed to be doing it with his mutant powers – and I’ve heard an interview that basically chalked it up to language barriers and a lack of time and procedure to coordinate the art and writing or correct mistakes.

    In this month’s X-Treme X-Men, there are a pair of panels where Kurt and Dazzler loot a clothesline and in the next scene they’re wearing different clothes than they showed up in, with the small problem that (1)Dazzler’s new clothes are actually less appropriate for the setting than what she showed up wearing (the artist could have been going for more “Steampunk” and less “Western,” but then why not have her show up in the metal bikini she ended the last issue wearing instead of something that looked appropriate to her new setting, so at there’d be an improvement?) (2) the new clothes they’re wearing don’t even vaguely resemble what was hanging on the clothesline (which appeared to be nothing but sheets of varying color) and (3) the new clothes they’re wearing don’t vaguely resemble anything that might be hanging on any clothesline anywhere ever (unless you know places where people routinely hang out their top hats and lab goggles to dry). Which introduces the strange possibility that Paco Diaz didn’t realize the significance of being told to draw people grabbing things from a clothesline before a scene where they show up wearing different clothing than they were wearing before the clothesline scene.

    So what I’m saying is that obviously the title “X-Treme X-Men” carries with it a curse that makes it impossible for the art to match the script. Possibly by making it impossible for anyone – including the artist – to take anything with the “word” “X-Treme” in it seriously.

  12. Matt C. says:

    I enjoyed the WAXTM issue – yeah, it’s a 22-page gag, but it was pretty well-done, so I’ll let it slide for one issue. I was amused enough for my money.

    Haven’t been getting X-Treme X-Men, but I find that it posits an interesting idea – that the 616 is one of the few universes where Xavier is good. Usually in multi-universe works, the good guys are usually the good guys in all universes, and then there’s the one “evil” universe. I mean, yeah, I suppose there’s lots of alternate Marvel universes (the cartoons, the movies… Ultimates could be argued as neutral) but the idea that the X-Treme X-Men have to keep going and eliminate all these different evil Xaviers certainly makes it look at least 50/50 in terms of good/evil Xaviers.

  13. AndyD says:

    “But it’s 2012, I know full well that incoming writers rarely feel obliged to pay any attention to plot threads left dangling by their predecessors […] In this day and age, stories get resolved before the writer leaves the book, or they don’t get resolved at all. That’s the way it is.”

    And this is one of the reasons why the Marvel books have become so uninteresting and arbitrary. If every second story never gets a decent conclusion, why bother any longer reading it? The ridiculous hype one can read on the newssites doesn´t help either. The more the editors say that this story is important – while on the other hand saying “if you don´t like it, you can go fuck yourself” on boards, the more you feel as a customer being conned. The constant re-numbering and re-naming doesn´t help eiter.

    Of course one could argue that especially the X-books always had a big problem with non-conclusions. Claremont didn´t like a decent ending, Lobdell and Nieceza were even worse. The only ones who come to mind who did satisfying endings to long storylines were Alan Davis and Morrison. And of course they were retconned the moment they left the building.

  14. Dave says:

    “They’ve been doing it since the mid 1990s. Why stop now?”

    I remember the mid-90s having a regular, spread-out schedule. First week of the month was Uncanny (and Cable?), second was X-Factor, third X-Men (and X-Man) and fourth X-Force and Wolverine.

  15. Don_Wok says:

    Really enjoyed Wolvie and the Xmen. Will have to give it a second read through once I track down a copy of the Doop dictionary

  16. Rich Larson says:

    I also really enjoyed the Doop storyan thought it’s hodge podge of crazy ideas worked really well.

    I don’t think X-Factor is just clearing the decks and I’m not sure Teresa as a real Banshee is a long term change. We already have Darwin’s death power, Rahne’s wolf god children, Guido’s soulessness, Jamie’s resurrection and now are adding an Irish death goddess. I think it’s all building to a giant mystical donnybrook of an ending in the next arc.

  17. alex says:

    @dave

    I worked in a comic shop in the mid-to-late 90s and remember constant Marvel shipping problems. This was the Heroes World era, after all. There were always complaints about when books came out. Maybe there was a “planned” schedule where the X-books (or Spider books or the publishing output in general) were supposed to be shipped, but I don’t remember it being adhered very often.

  18. Dave says:

    Maybe it got worse late ’90s. I was only going in weekly around ’95-’97, and I don’t think much slipped then. But yeah, there was a planned schedule. And now you mention it, the 4 main Spider-books had their regular weeks, too (Web/Sensational, Amazing, Spider-man, Spectacular, iirc).

  19. Billy says:

    @ZZZ

    The Claremont/Larocca X-Treme X-Men art misunderstanding that always stuck out the most to me was the evening gown/nightgown mix-up. It has been long enough that I’ve somewhat forgotten, but from what I recall the story and setting made it obvious that Rogue was supposed to be in a nightgown, but the art showed her in a fancy dress.

    Although thinking of such language moments tends to sadly remind me of Priest’s Deadpool run, where the artist was producing artwork that was at times only tangentially related to the script. Priest wasn’t reading the published versions of his books (no comp copies), so when readers kept complaining that they didn’t understand what was going on, he eventually released a few pages of one issue’s script online. Unfortunately, just as Priest wouldn’t keep track of what was seeing print, he also wouldn’t speak up at Marvel about the issue after it was brought to his attention. (Mind, Marvel apparently considered Priest to be the least important part of book, so maybe staying quiet was somewhat self-preservation.)

  20. Hopefully the filler issue means Jason Aaron’s gotten all the self-conscious wackiness out of his system, and can now do more WatXM stories with depth and meaning. His run’s been kind of a letdown after the promise of Schism, with plots that mash together various outlandish concepts in lieu of characterization beyond sitcom stereotypes. A lot of it seems like X-Men via Adult Swim, and I know Aaron can do better.

  21. anya says:

    ooohh… I think remember the X-treme issue you’re talking about. Lady Mastermind ‘trapped’ Rogue in a dream sequence to get her to do something…I can’t remember, but she starts off the dream waking up in bed with gambit and he’s lounging there with no shirt and she’s in a some fluffy pink ballgown. A night gown would have made much more sense. But since it was a ‘dream,’ I suppose it didn’t have to make sense. ;)

  22. LeoCrow says:

    “The X-office continues to lurch back and forth between weeks of putting out virtually nothing, and weeks of putting out loads of X-Men titles all at once. I’m sure there must be some sort of thought process behind this approach, but I’d take rather more convincing that it’s a good one.”

    Well, for one it saves readers from going too often to their comic book. In fact, they may think that if someone who reads only one or two X-titles, will probably be tempted to buy the latest issue of another x-title if it’s right next to the title they were going to buy. Or they just ship anything that is ready, rather than delay it for a less busy week

  23. The original Matt says:

    When it comes to the shipping schedule, it could also have something to do with the competition’s release schedule.

  24. Kreniigh says:

    So tired of alternate versions of main universe characters… At this point these stories are little more than Simpsons Halloween Family Guy Star Wars specials, with the regular cast plugged into other settings without a lot of thought or effort.

    I mean, I don’t expect fully internally consistent worldbuilding here, but Danger makes no sense at all in this context. She’s just there because Shut up it’s an alternate universe.

Leave a Reply