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Nov 19

The X-Axis – 18 November 2012

Posted on Monday, November 19, 2012 by Paul in x-axis

Better late than never…

All-New X-Men #1 – Regular listeners to the podcast won’t be surprised to hear that I was bracing myself for this to be terrible.  It’s not that Brian Bendis is a bad writer by any stretch of the imagination; I think he’s written a lot of good stuff for Marvel over the years.  But he has been consistently bad on books with large casts, showing no real grasp on how to juggle them.  His Avengers has been a bit of a mess, shall we say.

This is much better, though.  This time round, Bendis cuts back and forth between his subplots quite effectively, and seems to have a pretty clear focus on where he’s going.

All-New X-Men was promoted on the hook that the Silver Age X-Men are brought to the present day, and are naturally a bit upset by some of what they see.  That’s a fun idea.  (Strangely, I’m perhaps most looking forward to Iceman’s reaction on discovering that he grew up to be an accountant.)  But it’s not the central focus of the first issue; in fact, the preview pages where our Hank goes back in time to recruit them take place right at the end of the issue.

That’s because the main emphasis in the first issue is actually on the new status quo of Cyclops’ group, who are out there still claiming to be the X-Men, and recruiting new mutants into their ranks.  At the same time, the team proper are sitting around at the mansion with their head in their hands trying to think of a good idea for how to get these guys off the streets before they cause yet further trouble.  Oh, and there’s also the introduction of two new characters, a subplot with Hank, and the aforementioned trip back in time… all quite nicely balanced.  It’s far better than I was expecting (and a lot less talky).

Naturally it looks fabulous; it’s got art by Stuart Immonen, who doesn’t do bad comics.  Lovely clean work, with a classic superhero vibe that works well for the X-Men.  He does the Silver Age team very nicely, keeping them in the suits and ties that they tended to wear in that period but not dating them too badly.

There are some points here that might be glitches or might be deliberate.  Hank’s claim at the end that Scott is committing “mutant genocide” bears no resemblance to anything that’s happened previously in the issue.  Emma’s back with the Extinction Team with no explanation.  (I suppose she was broken out between issues, but it’d be nice to cover it off – after all, it would double nicely as another example of Scott’s militancy.)  And when Scott’s team help the girl who’s trapped in the time bubble she created, they tell her that the soldiers outside are waiting to charge her as soon as they can.  In fact, when the bubble comes down, the soldiers are written as being completely confused about what’s going on, so Scott could have simply told her to pretend she had no idea what was happening.  This could be a plot hole, but I’m inclined to give Bendis the benefit of the doubt and assume that Scott’s deliberately being written as paranoid or manipulative or both.

A promising start for Bendis’ run.

First X-Men #4 – This isn’t a great book by any means.  It has some very odd ideas about Sabretooth’s character (and to a lesser extent Wolverine’s), it’s an unwelcome complication to continuity, and it’s busily introducing a whole bunch of characters as if it were angling for a sequel in which to actually tell their stories.  But I’ll give it this, I do like Virus as a character, and especially a design.  Putting Wolverine’s group up against a mutant they instinctively reject as a monster is a good idea, and his origin flashback sets up a clever inversion of the X-Men’s dream by making him the guy claims to be cheerfully pursuing co-operation with humans – just with a view to reining the troublemakers.  It’s a good visual, too, with Virus being literally carried around on the backs of the people he’s mind-controlling.  But one strong character doesn’t make a series, and the book has still yet to make a compelling case for why it’s here.

Gambit #5 – I have no idea why the cover shows Gambit in front of a Union Jack, since he won’t be getting to Britain until next issue.  This issue sees him on another heist in Switzerland – the heist story evidently being the stock in trade of this series, which makes sense, as it’s what Gambit’s thieving exploits naturally lead to.  This time, the bad guy from the first couple of issues has pressganged him into service to steal a macguffin from a lab, which it turns out will be part of a bigger plan that builds from here.

You may note that “Gambit is pressganged into helping a bad guy against his will” is also the plot currently running in Astonishing X-Men, and in an ideal world that sort of duplication would not be happening.  It’s also not the strongest issue of the series visually; Diogenes Neves is a perfectly okay fill-in artist, but he’s very much working in the mid-nineties house style here, and there are a few points where his characters could really stand to show a bit more emotion.  But there’s a very well executed “falling from the sky” setpiece near the end (which Neves sells well), and enough invention in the plotting to keep up the interest.

Wolverine and the X-Men #20 – With the re-emergence of new mutants, we’re naturally getting a glut of stories in which characters go off to recruit them.  This issue, it’s Angel, and a Brazilian girl with shark powers. As is traditional, the bad guys are trying to win her over as well – on this occasion, Mystique and the Silver Samurai, which suggests that writer Jason Aaron may be looking to import their unresolved storyline from his Wolverine run.

Guest artist Steven Sanders won’t be to everyone’s taste, and while I quite like him as a cartoonist, I’m unconvinced that he’s especially well suited to action stories.  Still, this is a solid standalone story, which achieves two main things – it introduces a new character with a suitable showcase, and it gives Angel a chance to be something more than just a comic relief naif.  This story starts to re-establish him as somebody who can be taken a little more seriously, as well as foregrounding another aspect of his new gimmick: he has extra powers as a result of the Celestial life seed, if he keeps using them he’ll burn out his power source and eventually die, but because he thinks he’s on a mission, he doesn’t really seem to care as much as he should.

This version of Warren doesn’t bear a whole lot of resemblance to his established persona most of the time, but then given the storyline, nor should he.  Certainly better to do it this way than to write him as a tragic amnesiac.

X-Men Legacy #1 – We’ll probably be talking about this on the podcast, since despite notionally being another relaunch, it’s actually one of the handful of new titles launching as part of Marvel Now.  With no connection whatsoever to the previous series, this is now a Legion solo title by Simon Spurrier and Tan Eng Huat – though at least the Legacy title actually makes some sense in connection with a book about Professor X’s son.

Legion is a fabulously odd character.  In fact, as presented in the original Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz story from New Mutants back in the 1980s, he’s not really a character at all, merely a concept.  He’s a character with multiple personality disorder, each personality having its own powers, and (though this has been lost somewhere along the way) with most of those personalities being based on the “real” Legion’s childlike idea of adulthood.  Nowadays, the “real” Legion has become a bit more central and he’s more of a conventional character, but the idea of a boy who contains a multitude of warring personalities remains.

Since we last saw him, Legion has been off living in a Himalayan commune, trying to get his head together.  Normally this would be the traditional wise old monks; here, it’s a community of burnt-out Marvel Universe psychics, which is a smart twist.  I’m a little less sure about the local lynch mob, who are rather more directly from central casting.  At any rate, most of this issue is about establishing Legion’s complicated status quo for new readers, and setting up the inciting event of him losing control (with disastrous consequences) when he finds out that his father has died.

I am hugely sceptical that the market is going to support a Legion title, but if Marvel are determined to have this many X-Men comics, I’d rather they filled out the line with quirky oddities like this, instead of more generic team books.  It’s a bit light on plot beyond the conflicts within Legion’s own mind, but then again, perhaps a book like this can get away with that; and it does make his core personality less of a cipher than usual.  Not a bad debut.

X-Treme X-Men #6 – The book detours from the restrictive “hunting evil Xaviers” format to visit Kurt’s home version of Earth.  As it turns out, this Earth was doing really very well… until the robots rose up and took over the world, turning the place into a sci-fi dystopia.

Surprisingly, this turns out to be one of the better issues to date, since Greg Pak has an unusual slant on that idea.  The all-robot world really isn’t that bad (unless you happen to be a stray human who’s wandered in).  After all, they ran out of humans to slaughter ages ago.  Most of the robots have been getting on with a perfectly pleasant society of their own, and most of them were only built after the war anyway.  So instead of being a post-apocalyptic society, it’s a world of basically ordinary robots who happen to have done rather well from the efforts of the killer robots a couple of generations back.

I like that as a variation on the cliche, and if the previous version of Kurt’s world might have been a more pleasant place to read about, at least this explains why nobody has previously suggested that he ought to just go home.  On the other hand, the actual story (which involves Kurt’s treatment being a political issue with some sort of vaguely defined interstellar council whose function is less than clear) doesn’t take flight, and the art is wildly uneven, with Stephen Segovia and Raul Valdes splitting the pages but having little in common between their styles.  Still, there are some ideas here that succeed.

Bring on the comments

  1. BringTheNoise says:

    I was pleasantly surprised by All New X-Men, although I don’t have high hopes for what the out of the “Beast is dying” plot will be.

    BTW, is it set to ship twice a month or is this just for the first couple issues to get it moving?

  2. ferris says:

    Legacy is sort of connected to the previous series, a little bit at least, since Legion was on Rogue’s team for a while when they were rounding up his escaped personalities. It was right before they went off into space to fetch Rachel, I think?

  3. ZZZ says:

    I realize that it’s a little futile to use the term “out of character” for someone who has always been more of a plot device than a person and who has the only-in-fiction version of multiple personality disorder, but has Legion ever been written as someone who “grew up on a wee island in the arse-end of Scotland” before? I’m not terribly familiar with the character’s earliest appearances, but I’d always thought he was usually written as having grown up in Israel and having been catatonic or possessed by the Shadow King for the entire time he was on Muir Island (which isn’t exactly a place where he’d find himself immersed in Scottish culture even if he were coherent).

    I mean, yeah, it’s Legion, a guy who’s entire status quo is “erratic,” but it’s a bit jarring to see him written with a different nationality than I’m used to, with no indication that it’s supposed to be evidence of a new dominant personality or something like that.

  4. kingderella says:

    the concept behind all-new x-men seemed uninteresting to me, but i liked this issue, and i can see this working as a short- to mid-term story. im wondering, though, whether cyclops is really recruiting the newly powered mutants, or whether hes just going to drop them off at the academy. it would make sense if he did, wouldnt it? the art is, of course, gorgeous.

    i really liked neves’ art on new mutants and demon knights, but his work here on gambit is really limp.

    i want to like legacy, because its quirky and unexpected, but to be honest, there isnt much here that really hooked me.

  5. Jacob says:

    @ZZZ I think Legion is meant to have been stationed on Muir Island since just after the outbreak of his powers…I can’t think of an issue where this was defined as to what age. :-p

    Congrats Paul you’ve got me going to pick up two books (All New and Legacy) that general comic reader malaise/pessimism indicated that I wouldn’t.

    I’ve done an excessive amount of Spurrier hating in the past and I think your review points to the reason why….he has great ideas but then scattered throughout are some really bad stereotypes…but I guess I should wait until I read the issue to pass full judgement.

    Maybe it’s a hangover from his 2000AD days, trying to cram a story into 5 pages?

  6. Jacob says:

    Sorry ZZZ just reread your comment in full and my answer is nonsense….do I get a no-prize if I suggest he picked up a Scottish twang/personality subconciously whilst catatonic on Muir? :-)

  7. Ethan says:

    The thing about Legion growing up in Scotland might be an example of confusing Moira+Proteus with Gabrielle Haller+Legion. Admittedly its a bit wierd that Professor X has two ex-girlfriends, both of whom have/had crazy sons with out of control mutant powers.

  8. @Ethan: All of Magneto’s kids have high power levels and bouts of insanity as well. An X-writer could probably do a story on the premise that the mutant children of mutants are inherently unstable–if it wasn’t for all those relatively sane time traveler kids running around, anyway.

  9. Ben says:

    Ethan: holy crow… you just filled in a major ongoing storyline puzzle piece for me. I’ve been reading X-Men comics since just before the first Brood saga in the ’80s (back-reading more or less to the start of Claremont’s run, skipping most of the ’90s due to college and life and a distaste for HUGE GUNS / terrible stories, and picking up again w/Morrison). Even having read the original Proteus and Legion stories, I still mixed them up, and I’ve ALWAYS found that two ex-girlfriends with crazy mutant sons thing extremely easy to conflate. I just never had it spelled out so clearly like that. And it seems so clear now (except for the confusing new potential mix-up pointed out). Anyway, Thanks!

  10. Steve says:

    Another reason people might inherently mix them up is that Millar basically combined the two characters in Ultimate X-Men, which much more recent iteration than either Proteus or Legion.

  11. Somebody says:

    People still remember Ultimate X-Men?

  12. Adam says:

    I thought merging Proteus and Moira with Legion and Gabrielle Haller was one of Millar’s better ideas in that series.

  13. Alex B. says:

    In what comic did Emma escape?

  14. Joshua Cochran says:

    This Legion/ Proteus issue has been confused in large part because no one’s mentioned abusive sleazebag Joe MacTaggert (or why on Earth Moira kept his surname) in about 30 years.

    Moira’s also had a few lines of dialogue over the years when she was pining for Charles (particularly in the aforesaid Brood storyline) which could be read as ‘you could’ve raised him with me” instead of the “we could’ve had our own son” meaning Claremont was probably going for. Thats what confused me for so long, anyway.

  15. arseface says:

    I was also expecting the Bendis X-Men to be awful, but was pleasantly surprised. I assumed that the central conceit (X-Men of the past meet their modern equivalents) was going to be due to some horrendously convenient MacGuffin, but it was more satisfying that Beast was the one to initiate contact. Also, the response of the past-X-Men was balanced and rational, rather than the expected generic fight scene.

    It also helps that Bendis doesn’t have the X-Universe to himself (unlike his stranglehold on nearly all things Avengers).

  16. Mo Walker says:

    I am jumping on the bandwagon and proclaiming that All New X-Men #1 is a good comic. Hopefully this trend will continue, especially when Stuart Immomen switches up with David Marquez.

    Though I did not need pages showcasing Emma’s breaking out, it would have been nice if Bendis devoted a line or two of dialogue explaining what happened. I guess this will be covered in future issues of All New X-Men or Uncanny X-Men.

  17. Chaos McKenzie says:

    My money is on Emma’s break-out being in the upcoming Uncanny X-Men relaunch, as the press for it spun around Scott and Emma being broken up.

  18. wwk5d says:

    Didn’t Bendis start out strongly on Avengers?

  19. Mo Walker says:

    @wwk5d – Not in my opinion. Bendis started writing The Avengers with issue 500, Avengers: Disassembled. This is the arc in which the Scarlet Witch went crazy, leading to House of M and ultimately AvX.

  20. wwk5d says:

    I meant, on New Avengers…let’s say his contributions to AvX should be renamed X-men: Disassembled ;)

  21. Mo Walker says:

    Gotcha, the first arc of New Avengers was padded out and never lived up to the hype. If I remember correctly, the team never really came together until the 3rd arc. Then it was torn about within a few issues.

  22. Living Tribunal says:

    Is no one miffed that Bendis did’t even attempt to gloss over how Hank made it to the past? Huge plot whole, but par for the course with Bendis.

  23. Living Tribunal says:

    Sorry, plot “hole.”

  24. Adam says:

    Living Tribunal:

    I don’t think it’s a plot hole at all. Beast’s lab is full of stuff like that. I think it’s a bit innovative, in fact, to just have him show up with the understanding that Beast has some way to do it. After all, it’s not like the answer is likely to be that interesting. We already know it’s one machine or another, all of them totally interchangeable. Maybe it will be shown in the next issue, but I don’t really care.

  25. arseface says:

    Adam: Exactly – Cable has been around the X-Men enough for Beast to have a working knowledge of his time travel devices. Maybe he even left one lying around.

  26. The original Matt says:

    Beast made a time travel device for xforce in messiah war. If footnotes were still in vogue, these sorts of things might get a throwaway dialogue line with a footnote to do the heavy lifting, but without footnotes to point readers in the direction of the plot being referenced, it’s best they don’t mention it.

    Remember when house of m was called house of m by characters with a line through it? Yeah, let’s not do that again…

    Bendis, iirc, did get acclaim for new avengers when it kicked off, but it was so horribly decompressed that wolverine turned up regularly like 4 issues before stark bribed him into joining (and that plot was never picked up on, to my knowledge).

    It might have moved quicker if the 2nd arc wasn’t devoted to Emma Frost vs The Sentry – since, y’know, neither character starred in the book at that point. (Emma being an x-man and not an avenger at the same time, aince shes not wolverine. And come to think of it, sentry didn’t really star in it, either, since he sat in his room till after the civil war, and joined the cast of mighty…)

  27. Brendan says:

    I felt All New X-Men works because Bendis ‘seems’ to have an idea of what the story is, where he wants it to go & how to get it there. Avengers was directionless, with random events for randomness sake. ‘And then this happens. And then he joins the team, to never do anything useful or in-character again. And then this status change before its ignored for ninjas!’

  28. Rich Larson says:

    I agree that this was a good issue. It flows well from AvX and Consequences, I felt like I got a good chunk of story and I’m curious to see what happens next. My only quibble would be that the basic idea (young Scott will talk sense into old Scott) doesn’t really make sense and messing with the time stream can’t be a good idea. But the genesis is a throwaway thought by Bobby and the execution is by Hank who appears to be losing his mind a bit. So the bad idea makes story sense. I hope this keeps up. I’m genuinely curious to see what happens next and that’s when comics are fun!

  29. Paul says:

    I don’t see the time machine thing as a plot hole, partly because we’ve previously established that the Beast can build a time machine (sure, he only remembers to do so when it’s convenient, but you could make that point about a lot of long-running series), but mainly because the structure of the scene is that Hank’s appearance is meant to be a surprise. So even if there IS going to be an explanation of how he got there, I wouldn’t expect to get it until next issue.

  30. Somebody says:

    > Beast made a time travel device for xforce in messiah war. If footnotes were still in vogue, these sorts of things might get a throwaway dialogue line with a footnote to do the heavy lifting, but without footnotes to point readers in the direction of the plot being referenced, it’s best they don’t mention it.

    But those were crappy things that killed you in a day or so if you stayed in the “wrong” time. Obviously that doesn’t apply here.

  31. The original Matt says:

    I was just pointing out that he has built one before, and recently. Not to say that’s the device he is using here, or that he hasn’t tinkered with the device since. Just pointing out that a time travelling beast can be hand waved aside plausibly.

  32. Si says:

    Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if young Scott sat down and had a good long chat to modern Scott, and young Scott was entirely convinced by his older self’s life story, went back in time, joined Magneto, and conquered the world for mutantkind by 1973. Age of Cyclopalypse.

  33. The original Matt says:

    That’s…. Pretty fucking cool. Haha.

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