Posted on Sunday, November 11, 2012
by Paul in x-axis
It’s another heavy week, but then that’ll happen when you’re churning out material.
Age of Apocalypse #9 – Isn’t it a bit odd that, nine issues in, this book still has a “From the pages of Uncanny X-Force” banner emblazened across the cover? I mean, if anyone cared how the book was launched, you’d think they’d have picked up on it by now.
Anyway, the plot of this series suddenly seems to be going somewhere more definite. After last issue’s encounter with the local version of Dr Doom, our heroes have got hold of Doom’s clever device to divert all Wolverine’s power away from him and get him back to normal, thus presumably saving the world, I guess. Now they just need to figure out how to use it, and for that, Prophet enlists the aid of Monet St Croix, picking up on a storyline from earlier in the series. Meanwhile, Jean and Graydon go on that date she promised a while back, since Graydon did technically go to speak to his father as requested. Even if he did hit him a bit.
So the book now appears to be building towards a story that can actually allow the main characters to win and save the world. Given the sales on this book, I wouldn’t be shocked if the world happens to get conveniently saved (or the characters tragically die trying) just in time for the axe to fall with issue #12. Not that the ground work hasn’t been laid for this. But it’s been laid in a way that rather suggests David Lapham was always working on the entirely reasonable assumption that he might only get a year. Nothing wrong with this. It’s certainly preferable to the industry’s previous approach of launching books with long-term plans and then hastily truncating them at short notice.
The actual content of this series remains frustratingly inconsistent. Roberto de la Torre’s art is nicely moody in this issue, and strikes the right balance between clarity and atmosphere. There’s more momentum to the plot than usual, and some of the material with Jean and Graydon is nicely written. But I still don’t feel that the book is succeeding in building a world here. The art and, at times, the plot seem to suggest some sort of (literally) post-apocalytic wasteland – but every so often, as in this issue, you suddenly get characters living in reasonably pleasant apartments, normal-looking restaurants up and running… I still have no clear idea of what life in this world is supposed to be like. Whether this is because David Lapham doesn’t have one either, or because the aspects of a recognisable functioning society aren’t making it into the art, I’m not sure, but either way it’s a problem for the series.
AvX: Consequences #5 – The final part of this epilogue/transition series completes the book’s repositioning of Cyclops and the remains of the Extinction Team for Brian Bendis’ upcoming run. There’s some stuff with Hope as well, which really has very little to do with the main plot and mainly serves to draw a line under the plot thread of her looking for Cable. But mostly, this is about Cyclops breaking out of jail with the help of Magneto and Magik, and re-establishing their version of the X-Men.
The key idea here is that, far from regarding AvX as evidence that he was on the wrong course, Cyclops regards it as vindicating him. And if Wolverine and the rest of the team are going to set up a school and look after all the new mutants, that’s a fine and worthwhile task, but also means that he’s free to continue pressing his own rather more radical agenda. I like this as a direction for Scott. While the first movements in this direction a few years back were far too heavy-handed, the basic idea is sound. He’s devoted his entire adult life to the pro-mutant agenda; he has no life outside that; I can easily believe him as somebody whose whole identity is so bound up in his cause that he could end up going down this line.
It also somewhat explains – though it doesn’t excuse – why the end of the Schism during AvX was dealt with in such a handwaving manner. From the perspective of people planning for the long term, the Schism was continuing with Scott’s new group. I still think the handling was a major error, but it becomes rather easier to see the idea.
Gabriel Hernandez Walta provides the art for this issue, toning himself down to a rather more conventional style. I’m not quite sure I see the point of hiring Walta and then asking him to draw in this style, but the resulting art is perfectly pleasing – though having read this both digitally and in print, I can also say that it’s way too murky in the print version.
Wolverine and the X-Men #19 – This has a “Marvel Now!” banner, even though it’s not a relaunch, apparently on the logic that it’s the start of the book’s second year. Okay. If you say so.
With the crossover out of the way, the book returns to its own charmingly haywire tone, and its own stories. The previous issue ended with Broo getting shot in the head by the Hellfire Club. As you might expect, it turns out that he’s not dead. The general storyline here is fine, but I don’t much care for that cliffhanger; it feels to me like it was trying to sell a death which it wasn’t going to deliver (making it false drama), and which seemed wholly implausible given the unresolved storylines the character was involved in (making it unconvincing false drama).
But that aside – and even that’s really a complaint about the previous issue, I guess – this issue reasserts the book’s own storylines, in an issue which mainly consists of a tour of those plotlines to remind us where they are, coupled with a running gag in which wildly unsuitable (or even incongruously suitable) candidates apply to be teachers at the school. Nick Bradshaw returns on art, and as usual his work is perfect for the book; cartoony enough to sell the more absurd elements, detailed enough to match the sugar rush of Aaron’s script, but still clear and getting the focus right when required (his disturbed Husk is very nicely done).
Something of a “So where were we?” issue, but good all the same.
Uncanny X-Force #33 – “Final Execution”, chapter nine, we’re still not finished, and boy, I’m really not convinced that this storyline needed to be quite so extended. There’s a lot of good stuff in this issue, on a scene-by-scene basis, but there’s surely scope for tightening up.
Wolverine has an actual conversation with Daken – well, for most of it, he listens to one of Daken’s monologues, but it’s kind of a conversation. Rick Remender’s take on Daken seems to emphasise the idea that he’s bitter about not having a better upbringing and not having Wolverine around, which I’m not sure about; yes, this is part of Daken’s character, but given the way he’s been written in the past, I can’t entirely buy into him being quite so explicit about it.
Deadpool’s still trying to be heroic in much the same way he was last issue. Psylocke gets her memory wiped, which is a nice surprise moment in the middle of the issue. Either this is the first step to hitting a reboot that undoes the alterations to her personality earlier in the series, or it’s intended to let her and Warren start again on equal terms; both could work, and what would normally seem like an obvious feint carries a bit more credibility given that the series has already done something similar to Warren.
Oh, and Nightcrawler kills the Blob with a teleportation stunt that’s… kind of creative, I guess, in Remender’s more grindhouse way. I confess that it leaves me thinking “Hold on, do his powers work like that? Wouldn’t he kill himself doing that, unless there was a big cavity…?” Yes, I’m probably overthinking it when I react like that, but so it goes.
So it’s not like there isn’t plenty going on – there is. It’s just that the storyline as a whole is taking an awfully long time to get to its destination, even if there are lots of interesting stops along the way. Perhaps it’s trying to juggle a couple of plot threads too many to let the story as a whole keep up its momentum?
X-Factor #246 – The “Breaking Points” arc is ostensibly over, but you’d be hard pressed to tell that from the actual content of this issue, in which Peter David once again focusses on a single cast member and has something happen to them. This time it’s Pip the Troll, who’s been hanging around as something of a background running gag ever since he joined the cast.
So we have Pip trying to get women in ridiculously underhand ways, which… I dunno. I get that the girl in this issue seems to be stringing him along, but we’re kind of given to understand that this sort of thing has worked for him before, so, yeah, I think it makes him significantly more unsympathetic than Peter David was probably going for. Still, there’s a good central idea that, despite his peripheral nature in the cast, Pip sees X-Factor as at least a temporary home after years of being written as a directionless wanderer; and that with his largely overlooked power set, he’s been quietly keeping the actual “detective agency” side of the team’s business ticking over while they worry about all their superhero stuff. And the cliffhanger is a genuine surprise.
X-Men #38 – Crikey, how long has this been at the back of a drawer? Apparently set before Avengers vs X-Men, this is a Domino/Deadpool team-up story by Seth Peck and Paul Azaceta which is months out of synch with the rest of the line. Since Peck is only writing four issues, you have to figure this is just marking time before a relaunch.
It’s a serviceable fill-in team-up story where Domino and Daredevil stumble upon one another while simultaneously investigating an underground casino for lousy supervillains. Peck does a good copy of Mark Waid’s voice for Daredevil, and there’s some cute comedy in there. Visually, it could really stand to have some brighter colours; for some reason, it’s been rendered in a reddish-grey murk that seems quite at odds with a cheerful and somewhat traditional story. You get the feeling that the art is taking this fun little story far too seriously.
Still, it’s far from an essential story, and can only leave readers wondering what on earth this book’s mission statement is supposed to be these days.