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Nov 11

The X-Axis – 11 November 2012

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.

Bring on the comments

  1. Si says:

    It’s funny how Nightcrawler’s power is treated. He’s explicitly opening a portal to another dimension and being pulled through to a new location. That’s why there’s a cloud of sulphur and the sound of inrushing air (bamf). Which would mean it’s impossible for him to “materialise” inside something. His power has actually been written simultaneously as interdimensional shortcuts and Star-Trek-style matter reconstruction since his original X-Men comics.

  2. Tdubs says:

    I really was happy with the note Scott left Wolverine. Since you’ve decided to become a hero that people respect I’ll be the bastard. I was hoping the new uncanny title would be called the brotherhood in some way.

  3. I read Uncanny X-Force immediately after AvX Consequences; the dream sequence at the start of X-Force resonates nicely with the AvX conclusion, I think.

  4. Niall says:

    Tdubs, I agree. Not that it makes sense in the context of the Marvel Universe, but if Scott’s public reputation has been destroyed beyond repair, then it makes sense for him to take on his current role.

    I’m guessing that we’ll see the term “Brotherhood” used at some point. It seems that Bendis has some plans for Magneto.

  5. Luis Dantas says:

    Sad to see Scott, of all people, become such a hypocrite.

    Paul, do you mean “a Domino/Daredevil team-up” in the second line of the last review above?

  6. Damon says:

    AvX: Consequences as a lead-in to Bendis’ Uncanny is like setting a table for a tea-party then setting monkeys loose on the cake.

  7. Andy Walsh says:

    I agree that the Broo “death” is unconvincing false drama. There’s been too much of that in the X-books lately.

    Which is a real shame because there was a brief time when I thought the X-writers/editors had realized there was no more drama to be wrung from death-fakeout-as-issue-ending-cliffhanger. At the end of the Dark Angel saga in Uncanny X-Force, they “killed” Warren but the issue ended with him returning in his new tabula rasa state. And in the recent issue of X-Factor where they “killed” Madrox, the issue ended with him waking up in another dimension.

    These stories seemed to acknowledge that there would rightfully be skepticism about the deaths actually lasting, so there was no point in trying to sell anyone on them. And in both cases, the actual cliffhanger was much more dramatic and interesting than the character death would have been. I was hopeful they would serve as a model for future stories, but alas.

  8. Brian says:

    “These stories seemed to acknowledge that there would rightfully be skepticism about the deaths actually lasting, so there was no point in trying to sell anyone on them.”

    Agreed, and it’s sad that comics have come to that, actually.

    I can’t remember specifically which issue it was but it was an issue of Uncanny X-Men from the early 1980s. I was, I believe 11 or 12 years old. Colossus appeared to be dead at the end of the issue. Impaled by a spear or something in battle against Deathbird. I remember being mortified by the scene. Granted, I was young, but there was no precedent for resurrections back then. I’d only known a few heroes to die and they were all still dead at that point, including Jean Grey.

    Now when I read a cliffhanger like that, my typical response is almost always, “Meh.” I just don’t buy it as a death, and even if it is, I don’t buy that it will last. It really sucks.

    I honestly can’t believe I’m still reading comics, to be truthful. It’s all “unconvincing false drama” to me.

  9. M. Carver says:

    Agreed that UXF seems to be really drawn out at this point (hasn’t Deadpool been talking to Evan for four issues now?). The Dark Angel saga was long too but had a reason to be (jaunt over to the AoA universe, for example). Probably seems even longer because all the AvX crossover happened in the middle in the real world. I wonder if it’ll read a lot better in a trade.

    I figured the Blob is big enough that his stomach is large enough for Nightcrawler to teleport in and out with only a bit of digestive acid on him.

    Really liked where AvX Consequences ended up. Kinda disappointed I’ll have to read All New X-Men though, as I was originally thinking it would just focus on the original X-Men (such a silly idea … I guess there’s no way I can be disappointed though). I hope the Cyclops/Magneto dynamic gets time to flourish as I think it’s a strong plot direction for both characters, even if Wolverine as the “inheritor” of Xaver’s dream still feels weird/forced.

    @Luis: What do you see hypocritical of Scott? At this point he’s just named himself protector of the mutants in a world that is back to Fearing and Hating. Can’t really call him hypocritical until we see what he actually does…

  10. Joseph says:

    I’m really not looking forward to Bendis’ All-New X-Men. Just typing that title took effort. I guess I’ll download a few issues and see how it shapes up. Are they trying to bring in readers from “Season One” and “First Class”?

    I’ve recently be rereading the X-titles from the ’90s, starting with the X-tinction agenda, and I’ve found that, particularly on Nicieza’s X-men and Lobdell’s Uncanny, there are quite a few Cyclops moments that are perfectly in keeping with the direction the character would later take. Even as far back as God Loves, Man Kills there are moments where the relationship between Cyke and Magneto seem to suggest the same. For instance, in X-Men #25 (v2, when Logan’s adamantium was torn out) there’s a panel in which Scott suggests that Xavier’s dream seems a bit outmoded, but Jean convinces him otherwise. I don’t think he could have maintained the role as archetypal hero forever, particularly since our cultural expectations of such a hero have changed so much over the last 30 years or so, or perhaps even the last 15 years, with the failures of the West mounting. So in context, after being fused with Apocalypse, loosing Jean, time spent with Emma, the decimation, Osborn’s Hammer, becoming Dark Phoenix… it just seems like a very organic growth for the character. (Though I agree that the tone of the character was a bit choppy at certain junctures along the way.)

    As for X-Factor, I continue to enjoy this title each and every month. Glad we got to see nice spotlight on Pip, will have to see how that cliffhanger pans out. Without spoiling anything, I feel like (for those of us who didn’t read any earlier titles he appeared in, Adam Warlock or whatever) we’re just been introduced properly, and he filled a great role as supporting character.

  11. kingderella says:

    i dont mind the length of the x-force arc. ‘part 9’ doesnt really mean anything. issues 25-27 can be seen as one arc, 28-29 as another, which would make the current issue part 4 of the ongoing arc.

    love W&tXM, but husks story is really not working for me. partly because i cant take toad seriously as a character, and partly because husk hasnt really been established as a character before she was sent down crazy road, which makes her read like a psychotic breakdown with legs, rather than a real character whos going through some stuff.

    so are cyclops, magik, and magneto getting their own book? thats fine and all… but it would have been even more ballsy if they were the antagonists on the main x-title. anyway, i love what theyre doing with cyclops, and magik has unexpectedly become one of my favourite characters since shes been revived, so im happy as long as we get more of those.

  12. Dave says:

    The only thing I see that might not fit in Cyke’s development if you go all tha way back to the ’90s is that he wanted to retire after Zero Tolerance, and only came back to deal with Apocalypse in The Twelve. But even then it still works, because he was still with Jean then, and hadn’t been merged with Apocalypse.

  13. ZZZ says:

    Nightcrawler’s teleportation stunt struck me as iffy, but if you squint a bit it just about makes sense.

    As Si said above, the explanation for his power has always (at least as long as they’ve bothered to explain it) been that he teleports by moving through dimensional portals. His OHOTMU entries, if I remember correctly, have always said that he automatically displaces any gases or liquids at his destination, but gets hurt and could possibly die if he teleports into a solid, which makes sense if you assume that he just pushes any gas or liquid out of the way when he emerges from his dimensional portal, but slams into a solid if there’s one in the way.

    While the Blob’s giblets would technically be a solid, it’s conceivable that Nightcrawler could teleport into anything soft enough to be pushed out of the way. In fact, it’s pretty much intuitive that he would push small, easily displaced solids (leaves, insects, blown dust or sand) out of the way, so the real question is whether you buy that the Blob’s interior is squishy enough that Kurt can push his way in from another dimension more easily than it pushes him back.

    I guess the other question is why AoA Nightcrawler didn’t use his “teleport part of a person away from the rest of them” attack that seemed to be his go-to move in the original AoA stories.

    And, now that I think of it, the question of whether all the different Nightcrawlers of the multiverse teleport through the same dimension or whether each parallel Earth is linked to its own version of brimstone hyperspace; and whether AoA Nightcrawler knows about the ability that 616 Nightcrawler eventually discovered he possessed to instinctively find his home dimension regardless of which dimension he was currently in.

  14. Nick says:

    The main thing that annoyed me about AVX Consequences is that Marvel did the same thing with Cyclops that they did with Norman Osborn after Siege; rather than actually dealing with the character’s crimes and having a story where they are prosecuted, both Osborn and Cyclops were put into corrupt prison systems where factions within the US government planned to use them as pawns, only for each character to be broken out of prison by allies.

    The difference is that Osborn stayed in jail for a little over a year and Cyclops was freed within 5 issues.

    I would have liked to see Cyclops and the Phoenix Five having to deal with, and be held accountable for, their actions, because while some of what they did can be debated, the murders they committed should be addressed.

  15. Paul F says:

    My favourite example of a bad fake out death cliffhanger comes from the Dark Phoenix Saga. Last line of Uncanny #133: Kurt shouts “Cyclops — is dead!”. Next issue (or turn the page in the collection) the next thing Kurt exclaims is “Look! Cyclops is alive!”.

  16. arseface says:

    It was awfully convenient that there was a shark to hand in the Blob/Nightcrawler fight, but, otherwise, it was a fun use of AoA Kurt’s powers.

    I do agree that this arc has been dragging a bit… And to echo the point about deaths no longer having any resonance in the Marvel Univerese, how many issues ago was Fantomex killed? And am I wrong for assuming that he will be back before the end of the arc? It will be a shocker if it ISN’T some sort of misdirection.

  17. Andy Walsh says:

    What little circumstantial evidence we have suggests that Fantomex is indeed dead, and that Eva, the new human form of his external nervous system/spaceship, will carry on in his stead.

  18. Adam says:

    There are images of a female Fantomex in the upcoming reboot, but she looks human underneath the mask…

    I always figured Fantomex would live again before the end of the arc. I figured his body getting thrown into the room with Evan was to position him for resuscitation, perhaps via Evan’s powers. And if he doesn’t come back, what’s the point of the Skinless Man in the book? Just to kill him? Really?

    But with every issue that passes with his literally heartless body lying there, I do become less sure.

    Maybe he will come back, but in a woman’s body? That would certainly be a twist…

  19. arseface says:

    With Fantomex’s power set, you can write pretty much anything off as “misdirection”, so I won’t really believe it is sticking until we reach the end of the arc. Still two issues to go!

  20. Billy says:

    Paul F, my favorite bad fake out death cliffhanger isn’t even the fake out death cliffhanger, but the memory of Chris Claremont trying to defend his fake out death cliff hanger as not being the kind of gratuitous fake out death cliffhanger that diminishes the impact and value of death in comic books.

    It was a couple of issues of X-Treme or Uncanny. I’ve gotten particularly fuzzy on the details, but an issue ends with a major character being shot in the head. Then in the next issue, the reader finds out that it wasn’t that character shot in the head, but rather Wolverine using an image inducer to disguise himself as that person.

  21. Andy Walsh says:

    Perhaps Bendis’ new brain is better at writing team books. We can only hope…

  22. Si says:

    Maybe they want Fantomex out of the way for a bit because there’s a new Diabolik movie coming out? Though they’ve never been shy about plagi … I mean homages before.

  23. M. Carver says:

    At first I thought that “Lady Fantomex” just had to be EVA wearing his suit, but it’s weird to not see the character mentioned at all in any of the interviews. And one of the early concept arts has a very human-looking ponytail. Hmm.

    I’m actually much more interested to see how they explain and use Bishop (who was pretty much ruined as a character in the last Cable book), not to mention he grew his arm back.

  24. Ethan says:

    My favourite of Claremont’s bad death fake-out cliffhangers is from way further back. In the Dark Phoenix Saga when the issue where the Hellfire Club captures the X-Men ends with Nightcrawler or someone yelling “CYCLOPS IS DEAD!” and then almost literally the first panel of the next issue is someone yelling ‘CYCLOPS IS NOT DEAD!’ (they just assumed when he keeled over and they couldn’t IMMEDIATELY tell if he was breathing that it was all over, apparently the X-Men panic easy)

  25. arseface says:

    Do issues of Preacher count as bad death fake-out cliffhangers? The most notable one would be Tulip coming back after being shot point blank in the face on panel. At the time, I was stunned at such a bold, vicious plot twist – but then she was brought back in the next issue. The “God resurrects them” trick was pulled at least four times in the series, from what I remember (Cassidy, Tulip and Jesse twice).

  26. The original Matt says:

    I remember a crappy one from the first arc of xforce (the one that spun out of messiah complex)

    Hazy details but…

    We see a gun pointed at rahnes head. Then a panel of BLAM BLAM. In the next issue we find out he just shot her in the leg.

    Sketchy details, but I remember it sucking. And I loved that series.

  27. Niall says:

    It’s odd but people get away with that kind of thing a lot easier on tv series. Fake-outs before commercial breaks are pretty common.

  28. Bill Walko says:


    What I don’t understand, is WHY people believe the Phoenix Five should be prosecuted when they were obviously under Phoenix influence? If Jean is not responsible for Dark Phoenix’s actions, why should the Phoenix Five be held accountable for what is essentially “being possessed by malevolvent forces”?

    And if the Avengers aren’t going to prosecute Wanda (which, in her case, they should because she was arguably insane but not possessed)… then they need to grant the same clemency to Scott, Emma and the rest.

  29. odessasteps says:

    Its also watch. Classic serials in one sitting to cliffhangers were resolved.

  30. The original Matt says:

    Jean isn’t responsible for dark Phoenix because she never was dark Phoenix. It was the Phoenix wearing Jean’s face.

  31. Ethan says:

    That seems to me to more or less have been stealth-retconned. They’ve never reversed it or provided an alternative explanation, but nobody has acted like it wasn’t Jean for over a decade now. I think the moral significance was pretty much eliminated by the end of Inferno when Jean absorbed the memories of Phoenix. If Phoenix believed it was Jean and copied her personality, thus making the same decisions that she would have, and Jean now remembers Phoenix’s actions as if they were her own, then what exactly is the difference?

  32. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    @Niall Well, yeah, but then it’s just five minutes or so between cliffhanger and copout. When you’ve waited a month to see how the heroes are going to get out of this one and you’ve forked over £2.40 for the privilege…

  33. Niall says:

    I know, but you’ve got to feel for the writers. It’s hard to.come up with a good cliffhanger issue after issue.

  34. The original Matt says:

    I just realised… They have actually managed to keep Jean dead for just shy of ten years and she still gets talked about. This is why Marvel shouldn’t be afraid to kill off characters for good. I wanted Charles dead years ago and I would’ve been happy for Steve Rogers to stay dead, too. You can use the legacy they leave behind to push stories along.

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