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Nov 4

The X-Axis – 4 November 2012

Posted on Sunday, November 4, 2012 by Paul in x-axis

There’s a podcast this weekend, as House to Astonish celebrates its fourth birthday!  Check it out just one post down.

Meanwhile, over at the X-office, one new title this week – well, sort of – while two books get wrapped up as we head into Marvel NOW.

A+X #1 – The cover design and recap page present this book as a successor to AvX: Versus, the all-fight-no-plot miniseries that mainly demonstrated that that sort of thing wears thin rather quickly.  It’s hard to believe that this book hasn’t just been conjured into existence in an attempt to capitalise on Versus‘s surprisingly decent sales, and equally hard to believe that it will succeed in doing so.

Abandoning the extremely limited “they fight” set-up, A+X simply has two self-contained team-up stories per issue, which the recap page seems to suggest will have no link to any broader continuity.  The best that can be said for this, as an premise, is that in theory it gives creators the freedom to do pretty much whatever they like, so if you’re lucky, it could turn out to be a showcase for offbeat shorts.  Of course, there’s nothing inherently interesting about “a random Avenger and a random X-Man team up in every story”, and neither of the stories in this issue makes the faintest effort to pretend that there is.  The best that can be said for the remit is that it is so broad that the book can serve as an anything-goes grab bag.

But that’s essentially what X-Men Unlimited was for most of its running time, or perhaps Marvel Comics Presents.  It’s been quite a while since either Marvel or DC have been able to sustain interest in a superhero anthology of short stories, though it doesn’t help that the contents of such books have tended to gravitate relentlessly towards mediocrity.  It’s not so much that readers are only interested in Stories That Matter, it’s that books like this generally haven’t been good enough to hold an audience without the added aura of being something on the compulsory reading list.

Dan Slott and Ron Garney’s opening story is a throwaway piece – Captain America and Bucky in World War II fight a bad guy who turns out to be a time traveller on the run from 90s-version Cable – but it keeps its point simple, it avoids wasting time on exposition by simply hinting at Trask’s back story in a way that leaves us to fill in the gaps, and it delivers some kind of resolution within the allotted pages.  Pacing isn’t the problem here, so much as the rather generic team-up story that’s left once you get past the novelty bad guy, and the weak stabs at irony in the closing panels.  It’s okay, but it’s bland, and I don’t see it selling many readers on the series.

The second half of the book is Jeph Loeb and Dale Keown doing Wolverine and the Hulk.  For some reason the Hulk is apparently now hanging out at Avengers Mansion – did I miss any story anywhere where he joined?  At any rate, versions of Wolverine and Hulk from the future randomly show up and there’s a fight for the entire running time of the story, before the future versions go away again, the pay-off being that they’ve been sent back in time to kill the Red Hulk, by the future Red Hulk, who is also the President.  It’s vaguely suggested that this plot thread will be picked up against somewhere, though the issue gives no indication of where, and it hardly seems to fit with the “who cares about where this fits into continuity” attitude of the opening editorial page.

It’s tempting to suggest that this story illustrates the old cliche that American writers don’t know how to work with short page counts, not having gone through their British counterparts’ formative apprenticeship under the tender supervision of Tharg.  And god knows there are plenty of writers out there who are so used to working in six-issue arcs that they can barely deliver a satisfying story in a single issue, let alone half of one.  But the problem with this isn’t really that Jeph Loeb can’t tell a story in half an issue, it’s that he hasn’t bothered to try.  All he’s done here is to gesture vaguely in the direction of a story he might or might not tell at some indeterminate point in the future; there’s not even an attempt to make this story work in its own right.  It’s far from the worst thing that Loeb has put his name to in recent years; it would be acceptable as a trailer-style hype story tacked on to the end of an anniversary issue.  But that’s hardly saying much, and it will do nothing to dispel the perception that Loeb’s time has emphatically passed.

AvX: Consequences #4 – The focus on Cyclops’ storyline has given this book a lynchpin and a sense of structure, an impressive trick considering that this book is, after all, an epilogue and set-up for other people’s stories, and presumably started life as a shopping list of plot points to be covered.  With this issue, Cyclops’ story is largely paused and the other elements come to the fore, with the perhaps inevitable result that the story feels rather bitty, and the illusion that all these threads form a cohesive whole falters.

Hope goes down to Atlantis to have a brief chat with Namor, in a well-written scene that seems primarily intended to write him out of the X-books, but also covers the necessary aftermath of his involvement in AvX.  Namor hasn’t just retreated to Atlantis (which seems terribly empty) in a huff; he’s clearly embarrassed at having been so thoroughly dwarfed by the Phoenix Force, an experience that doesn’t exactly fit into his worldview.  Meanwhile, Storm drops by to visit Colossus, so that he too can be definitively left alone to settle into hermitage.

The end of the issue gets back to the main plot, though, as Cyclops is talked out of his crusade to martyr himself and apparently decides that the way forward is to embrace his outlaw status with the remains of the Extinction Team as the bad guys.  I can see that working as a new direction for the character, though his change of heart seems too abrupt, as is the use of Wolverine to give him the necessary pep talk.

There’s still some good material in here, but it’s not the strongest issue.

New Mutants #50 – The final issue, and unlike most of the final issues Marvel will be publishing over the next couple of months, this actually is the final issue, not just an issue with “final issue” written on the front.

The challenge with these stories is to find some way of providing a sense of resolution without it seeming too forced, and it’s one that Abnett and Lanning are clearly wrestling with in this issue, not entirely successfully.  ”House Party” consists of the New Mutants having a barbecue with the cast from the Abnett/Lanning run, mostly the guest stars.  Then Warlock’s former ward Tyro shows up so that the writers can tie up a stray plot thread from Annihilation: Conquest, as well as echoing Warlock’s debut in the “Slumber Party” issue of the original run.  It’s all supposed to provide an opportunity for Cypher to save the day and come to terms with all that stuff about his evil future self from recent issues, but it all seems terribly forced, as if the writers are casting about for something that can be resolved to provide a sense of completion in the final issue, and also need to free Cypher from this plot line so that they can put the toys back in the box.  Throw in half an issue of undistinguished fill-in art and you’ve got an underwhelming end to a run that, while patchy, had some very good moments along the way.

X-Men Legacy #275 – Another “final issue”, and while this book is being instantly relaunched, that’s only in the sense that the name is being attached to a completely new Legion title by a different creative team.  So to all intents and purposes, this too is a proper final issue, bringing an end to what was for the most part a Rogue solo book that merely happened to be located within the X-Men team set-up.  Why was that book called X-Men Legacy again? Um, well, because Marvel were already publishing a book called X-Men Legacy, and notionally because Rogue was supposed to be acting as mentor to the kids – though boy, that sure fell by the wayside, didn’t it?

Christos Gage’s wrap-up story is rather better than the one in New Mutants, perhaps because its closure feels a bit less forced.  Gage can point to some slow character development over the course of this series, in which Rogue has come to terms with who she is and what she wants, and he draws that out in this story by having her discuss some of these points with the Mimic, who’s in a similar character arc but at a much earlier stage.  It’s not a subtle story – in fact, it more or less resorts to having Rogue patiently spell out the themes for the slow members of the class, under the guise of giving life advice to Mimic – and it somewhat repeats themes that were already dealt with when Rogue finally broke up with Magneto in the previous issue.  But the story delivers one last showcase for Rogue (by having her put down a supervillain prison break and copy everyone’s powers in the process), and pulls off a sense of genuine, albeit heavily signposted, closure.

Bring on the comments

  1. A+X: I think we were supposed to take that throw away scene in Avengers vs. X-Men where the Avengers ask the Hulk to help fight the Phoenix as the scene where he joins the team. And that just makes me more annoyed with the scene than I was originally, as something that *should* be at least nominally a big deal has been utterly lost in the shuffle, so that Hulk’s presence is suddenly the status quo. It also felt kind of odd to be doing two unrelated time travel stories in one issue.

    X-Men Legacy: I really liked the page depicting Rogue with all of the villain powers she had assembled. And the story kind of sold me of the idea of Rogue being on a Thunderbolts team, if that’s ever in the cards.

  2. wwk5d says:

    New Mutants is definitely a title I’ll miss. I enjoy the characters, and while the DNA run wasn’t as good as the previous run, it was still enjoyable overall.

    A+X = Let’s milk this cash cow for all it’s worth…

  3. Taibak says:

    Of course, the other problem with A+X is that the concept is completely and utterly redundant, even compared to the normally low standards for American superhero titles. I mean, who really gives a crap about an Avengers/X-Men team up series when we can already read the adventures of Havok, Rogue, Wolverine, Beast, Cannonball, Sunspot, and Namor in the regular Avengers books?

  4. Niall says:

    So what is Cyclops planning on doing with his new Extinction team? What does he see as his role in a post-Utopia world?

    Sad to see New Mutants go, but I hope that the characters joining the Avengers are treated properly. Sadly, Rogue’s development over the course of Legacy (and indeed prior to it) seem to have been forgotten in her new book.

    Reminds me of how everybody forgot how both Cable and Deadpool became fully rounded characters when they shared a book, but this was promptly forgotten when they got their own individual titles.

  5. Si says:

    I was immensely disappointed with the last New Mutants. I don’t think the volume ever really hit its stride properly, though it came very close when they moved into that flat with the Latverian landlady. But that comic, instead of a fond farewell, was basically just a bunch of stuff. And the big resolution was Cypher fixed stuff, somehow.

  6. Si says:

    By the way, I’d love the hell out of a comic built around Jeph Loeb’s premise:

    Aide: “President Red Hulk From The Future, the Democrats are fillibustering over the amendment to corn subsidy policy.”

    Rulk: “RRRAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!”

  7. Tdubs says:

    Now that you mention the Hulk stuff I seem to recall a recap or interview with Axel Alonso saying that scene with Hulk in AvX was where the universe synced up with Avengers Assemble.

    I wonder if DnA’s plans for New Mutants didn’t get chopped up due to AvX.

    I’m also guessing this new Uncanny book will be coming after the first arc of All New X-Men since the extinction team are featured in it.

  8. Two Bed Two Bath says:

    “By the way, I’d love the hell out of a comic built around Jeph Loeb’s premise:”

    ***

    The running gag in the series is that PRHFTF is constantly uprooting the Washington Monument to bludgeon villains.

  9. Somebody says:

    Person of Con> And that just makes me more annoyed with the scene than I was originally, as something that *should* be at least nominally a big deal has been utterly lost in the shuffle,…

    AvX in a nutshell, everybody!!!

    Talibak> I mean, who really gives a crap about an Avengers/X-Men team up series when we can already read the adventures of…and Namor in the regular Avengers books?

    Why are you referring to Namor as if being an X-Man is his natural state? He was awkwardly shoved into the X-Men, and while the Avengers books aren’t the most natural home book for him, they’re a damn sight more sensible than UXM.

  10. Paul Q. says:

    New Mutants #50 – A good wrap up. I only started reading this title after the Schism so to mean it read as just a side-title. Nothing major going on. I also, coincidentally, was re-reading the original run of New Mutants along side it. I have a love/hate relationship with these characters. I don’t know why I read them when at the end of the day none of their stories really capture me. More of habit I suppose.

    X-Men Legacy #275 – I honestly felt like this title should have ended a long while ago to clear up all the X-book mess. The X-Men title feature Storm should also end. No point.

  11. Taibak says:

    Somebody: Fair enough, but all I’m really saying is that he’s a former X-Man who’s going to be in one of the upcoming Avengers books, and is therefore an example of the sort of cast swapping that makes a book whose sole selling point is that it features Avengers/X-Men team ups seem utterly stupid. Whether or not any of these teams make sense doesn’t really change that.

  12. Luke H says:

    I could be mistaken but isn’t X-Men: Legacy the last remaining Marvel book with original “unbroken” numbering attached? I was thinking this is basically issue #275 of Jim Lee’s X-Men.

  13. The original Matt says:

    Amazing Spider-Man?

  14. Paul says:

    AMAZING was re-set to #1 for a while, though, so it’s not *unbroken* numbering.

    X-MEN LEGACY was indeed the longest remaining title to have uninterrupted numbering, and by quite a huge margin – the next book down is RED SHE-HULK with 59 issues. Of course, that arguably doesn’t count because it’s a new book that inherited the numbering of HULK. If you take that view, then the next book down is ASTONISHING X-MEN.

  15. Martin S Smith says:

    ASM renumbered when Byrne took over and switched back when it hit 500.

    Am I misunderstanding something, or did Red Hulk send people back in time to assassinate himself?

  16. Somebody says:

    > X-MEN LEGACY was indeed the longest remaining title to have uninterrupted numbering, and by quite a huge margin – the next book down is RED SHE-HULK with 59 issues. Of course, that arguably doesn’t count because it’s a new book that inherited the numbering of HULK.

    Well if you don’t count RSH, by that standard, was XML itself really “uninterrupted”? Even besides the various lineup changes, there’s #157 where it directly continues Chuck Austen’s UXM (UXM in turn effectively continues Claremont’s X-Treme X-Men), the switch to an Xavier solo book when it added the “Legacy” after Messiah Complex, and then the switch to a Rogue solo book after that.

  17. Dave says:

    Did AvX sync up with Assemble? I make Assemble pre-AvX, as best I can tell – Stark tower opens in Assemble, its home to Avengers in AvX; costumes in Assemble are all the ‘old’ (before Marvel NOW) ones…but then Hulk’s unofficially on the team in Assemble, where in AvX Cap has to specially ask for his help.

  18. Brad Curran says:

    Aide: “President Red Hulk From The Future, the Democrats are fillibustering over the amendment to corn subsidy policy.”

    I was always hoping that they’d use CGI Hulk as the president in a disaster movie. For instance, I think Deep Impact would have been a much better movie if President Hulk had jumped in to space to smash the meteor.

  19. Ash says:

    Not having read the recent issues of New Mutants after the Journey Into Mystery tie-in, I’m confused at their current status quo. The Shan and Sam here aren’t our own 616 versions? Did Dani regain her mutant powers after Hope went all Phoenix Force in the final issue of AvX? Is the wolf here Rahne?

    The art is also muddled, as Amara is wearing a hairstyle that looks exactly like Illyana’s at the start, then reverts to her own short, curly style towards the end.

  20. ZZZ says:

    One of the Hulk’s powers is that he’s immune to status quos (stati quo?): he can be savage in one book, articulate in another (or vary from panel to panel, like in A+X), a loner living in the desert while leading a government task force and living Avengers tower. I think it’s mostly because when someone uses him as a guest star, they want the classic “Hulk Smash” version of the character, but it gets boring very quickly to write an entire book around that character, so in his regular title the writers constantly tinker with his intelligence level, the Banner/Hulk relationship, and his current goals, so before long nothing synchs up anywhere.

    It kind of bugged me that in the original story, the Maestro was an evil future Hulk from a post-apocalyptic world where he’d killed all the other superheroes and taken over the world, which is pretty incompatible with his actions in A+X, but I guess there’s no reason why the Hulk of a different timeline couldn’t turn out kind of like the Maestro but more of a team player. And I really hope that when he got elected, the Red Hulk was running against a Blue Hulk. And that they now refer to the position as HOTUS. And that the Maestro was the Green Party candidate.

    Which reminds me: I never quite bought Cypher’s utter desolation at discovering a timeline where he goes bad. Sure, it’s got to be jarring to know that, under the right circumstances, you could become a villain, be he acts like he’s not convinced that they can prevent that future from taking place and that any attempts to convince him otherwise are like people telling someone with terminal cancer “I’m sure it’ll work out,” but the X-Men have had three different members who were time-travelers from incompatible future timelines, plus Nate Grey who’s from an alternate present brought about by time travel. The extended X-family knows for a fact that anything that hasn’t happened yet is completely mutable, and Cypher should be better at realizing that pattern than anyone.

  21. Nick says:

    Martin S Smith – “Am I misunderstanding something, or did Red Hulk send people back in time to assassinate himself?”

    Loeb hinted in X-Sanction that there would be a 2nd Red Hulk who will be Glenn Talbot (who is currently dead).

    Presumably the President Red Hulk is Talbot and he wants to kill the Ross Red Hulk.

  22. The original Matt says:

    X-men legacy was also new x-men for a while. I know the number system didn’t revert, but are we still counting this when it has had 3 different names?

  23. Luke H says:

    Re: X-Men Legacy

    Despite the various title changes through the years, to me it’s cancellation is significant because the numbering is the last original numbering chain to be broken. No #1 restarts and then a return to the original numbering.

  24. Si says:

    “I’m confused at their current status quo. The Shan and Sam here aren’t our own 616 versions? Did Dani regain her mutant powers after Hope went all Phoenix Force in the final issue of AvX? Is the wolf here Rahne?”

    The Shan and Sam here are the regular ones, they’re just visiting, after all the mess with Dark Doug involving them. Dani may have powers again, but she didn’t show any so probably not? The wolf is, I presume, a Hel-Puppy, given to Warlock by Loki and never really mentioned again. I really did think those pups would be part of the Journey into Mystery crossover, but with both titles cancelled it would seem we’ll never know what those dogs were about. Last it was mentioned though, nobody but Warlock knew about it so I don’t know why it’s wondering around nicking sausages now. But Rahne never goes full doggy any more so it’s very unlikely to be her.

    And yes, Amara’s hair was confusing. That’s what happens when 3/4 of the team has blonde hair and blue eyes. But Magik’s had that hairstyle for 20 years, nobody else should have it. IBut let’s just no-prize it and say it frazzled when she turned to magma.

  25. kingderella says:

    i wish new mutants would have just spend an issue barbecuing. there was a similar issue with the team having a party in china or something, and it was quite good. the cypher stuff seems rushed, and the warlock stuff mostly just left me confused.

    legacy works better, but man, rogues endless preaching did get a little trite. and while i appreciate the storys focus, i also wish theyd done something with frenzy, gambit, and rachel, who are supposed to be this books regular cast.

    i want cyclops to lead a new brotherhood, with magneto, magik, and hopefully a well written mystique, who seems awfully underused over at x-force. not sure why danger would be joining them. whats her motivation?

  26. Nick – “Loeb hinted in X-Sanction that there would be a 2nd Red Hulk who will be Glenn Talbot (who is currently dead).

    Presumably the President Red Hulk is Talbot and he wants to kill the Ross Red Hulk.”

    Oh, ok. That sounds incredibly dumb.

  27. Si says:

    “Oh, ok. That sounds incredibly dumb.”

    In comparison to everything else about Red Hulk up to and including the retractable moustache, or just on its own?

  28. alex says:

    wasnt Thunderbolt Ross “dead” when the Red Hulk debuted?

  29. The original Matt says:

    Retractable moustache is a phrase that is criminally under used.

  30. Somebody says:

    > wasnt Thunderbolt Ross “dead” when
    the Red Hulk debuted?

    No, although he’d died once before, and they faked his death shortly before they did the official reveal.

  31. The original Matt says:

    So how many hulks are there presently? Banner, Walters, Ross… Is red she hulk Betty? And now a second red hulk? Is skaar still around? 6 hulks?

  32. Somebody says:

    Banner, in Avengers & Indestructible Hulk
    Betty, in Red She-Hulk
    Jennifer, in FF
    Ross, in Thunderbolts
    Skaar, in Dark Avengers

    Lyra (red-haired green teenage “Savage She-Hulk”) is probably technically still around, but isn’t appearing anywhere I’m aware of currently or in the near future.

  33. I’ve never been much of a Hulk fan, but the fact that every significant supporting character has, at some point, become a Hulk/Hulk-powered/some equivalent (Rick as A-Bomb), doesn’t encourage me to get into it. Seems more than faintly ridiculous.

    And Si, I guess the double Red Hulk time-travel assassination stuff isn’t much more ridiculous than anything else involving Rulk, including the retractable moustache (a phrase that almost makes the character worthwhile).

  34. Somebody says:

    > I’ve never been much of a Hulk fan, but the fact that every significant supporting character has, at some point, become a Hulk/Hulk-powered/some equivalent (Rick as A-Bomb), doesn’t encourage me to get into it. Seems more than faintly ridiculous.

    As with so much else in life, it’s Jeph Loeb’s fault – he turned all three of Ross, Betty and Rick into Hulks during his run.

  35. Chief says:

    Ok, so this is something I’ve always wondered since the reveal that General Ross was the Red Hulk. Shouldn’t the Red Hulk share his facial hair? If I’m not mistaken, they’ve been shown around the same time and Ross was not shaven.

    Retractable mustache? Was that REALLY the explanation that was given?

  36. Billy says:

    ZZZ – That’s just the weirdness of Marvel timelines. You can have evidence of 15 different timelines, but any major event is “unavoidable”, at least for the duration of its story use. You can even have multiple contradictory unavoidable futures. Look at Days of Future Past, Maestro, or the utter silliness that was Decimation’s claim that there were no longer any future timelines with mutants.

    The second feature is that once the original story use is over, those alternate futures tend to get recycled and reappear in altered forms. Like Age of Apocalypse.

  37. Reboot says:

    Chief> Ok, so this is something I’ve always wondered since the reveal that General Ross was the Red Hulk. Shouldn’t the Red Hulk share his facial hair? If I’m not mistaken, they’ve been shown around the same time and Ross was not shaven.

    It’s never been explained per se – it’s possible it all falls out when he Hulks out and regrows when he goes back to Ross – but Hulk hair and its relationship to their human form has never been consistent. The grey Hulk tends to have the sides of his head shaved even when Banner doesn’t, and both Jennifer AND Betty’s hair usually doubles or more in length when they Hulk out and shortens as & when they go back to human.

    Oh, and there was the time Hulk grew long hair and a beard between panels (it was a plot point, not an art error).

  38. LeoCrow says:

    AVX Consequences 5 just gave me hope (for the first time in years maybe) about the future of the x-books…

  39. Niall says:

    Leo – I know what you mean. It was a pretty good book. The problem is that it was written by Gillen who is no longer on the X-Books.

    The future direction of the X-books is to be determined by Brian Bendis who has a track record of ignoring every Marvel book he doesn’t write.

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