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Nov 25

The X-Axis – 25 November 2012

Posted on Sunday, November 25, 2012 by Paul in x-axis

Happy Thanksgiving, or Black Shopping Day, or whatever it is they call it by this point in the weekend.  Despite the holiday, Marvel have several of the Marvel Now! relaunch books out this week (and I’m sure we’ll talk about some of the more interesting ones on the next podcast).  There’s also a batch of X-books, and while it’s be fair to say they’re not exactly the central focus of the release schedule this month, we’re not exactly marking time here either.

Well, except on Wolverine.  That one’s kind of marking time.

Astonishing X-Men #56 – Hey, Marvel – if you’re going to do a plot twist where you fake Iceman dying, don’t spoil it by sticking him on the cover.  I know nobody was ever going to buy it, but let’s at least go through the motions of pretending otherwise, hmm?  (Come to think of it, why does the cover of this issue have Iceman throwing cards in the style of Gambit?  What’s that got to do with anything?)

This is the final chapter of the Susan Hatchi storyline which has been running for all nine issues of Marjorie Liu’s run.  This I welcome.  Even allowing for the fact that it had a wedding spliced into the middle of it, it really didn’t need to be nine issues long.

The big reveal in this issue is that Susan’s plan all along has actually been to draw out her estranged father by using her half-sister Karma as bait.  You could question whether that really makes sense – Karma’s been in trouble plenty of times before without her father showing up to try and bail her out.  But then again, Susan Hatchi is actively trying to leave their father a trail, so I guess you can justify it.

More problematic is this issue’s attempts to give the story emotional heft.  Liu clearly wants us to buy into this as a family tragedy, with Susan driven to acts of villainy by her bitterness towards her father, Xi’an trying unsuccessfully to patch things up at the last minute, and ultimately Xi’an recommitting to her remaining family members in the epilogue.  Xi’an’s role here is to be saintly and rise above the family history even to the point of forgiving and accepting Susan.  That’s fine in theory, but while it kind of works for Xi’an, I don’t think either her sister or her father are written in a way that can carry this sort of thing off, even for the purposes of melodrama.  The father’s a bit of a cipher at best, and Susan’s such an OTT cartoon villain even to the last (it’s only the lack of a Y chromosome that prevents her from spending the entire storyline twirling a moustache) that I just can’t take her seriously when the story wants me to.

There’s a reasonable idea at the core of this, and I’ll be interested to see if it holds up any better on a re-reading, but on the whole I don’t think it worked.  It’s dependent on an emotional core that I just didn’t believe in.

Uncanny X-Force #34 – Not only is this another final chapter in an overlong storyline (the ten-part “Final Execution”), it’s also another story about dysfunctional families.  Daken’s motivation here, from the looks of it, is simply to bring Wolverine down to his level and to put him in a position where he’s “exposed” as the villain.  Where his solo series had him try to escape Wolverine’s shadow by ostentatiously going in an unrelated direction, Remender takes the more direct route by having him attempt to destroy Wolverine’s reputation, thus eliminating the shadow itself.

But alongside that, the final fight scene is intercut with scenes of the peaceful life Daken could (possibly) have had if Wolverine had been around to raise him in the first place, scenes which then recur in literal soft focus for the epilogue.  At first glance this is the old cliche of nature versus nurture, but I’m not sure that’s really the point that Rick Remender was going for.  At the same time, the story has Evan finally embrace his power, but in doing so, he doesn’t change personality and become evil, as every other character seemed to assume he would.  He remains the same excessively nice kid, wanting to protect his friends, and understandably appalled by the behaviour of everyone around him.  Yes, he’s tempted to kill Sabretooth, but he thinks better of it, apparently after having his attention drawn to the moral lesson of what’s going on around him.

Remender’s point, then, seems to be not so much one of nature over nurture, as that everyone on both sides of the conflict has embraced a way of life that ultimately delivers satisfaction to none of them.  The residue of hope is that, in X-Force’s case at least, it’s a job that somebody has to do, and it leaves the possibility for somebody like Evan to retain his innocence, even if at their expense.  That decided ambivalence about the whole premise of a book like this has been at the heart of Remender’s whole run, and it makes sense that should recur here as his run nears its end.

I doubt whether Remender’s take on Daken is really in line with the way he was being written in his own series; it certainly feels like Rob Williams’ interesting work on that series is being ignored.  I’m also not wild about the Psylocke subplot; it’s not so much that wiping her mind in the previous issue turns out to be a feint, as that it’s reversed in such a throwaway manner as to make the false drama a bit too obvious.

But the central ideas work, Phil Noto’s artwork has a nice elegance to it, and Remender has once again managed to develop some more complex themes from the book’s nihilistic black ops premise.

Wolverine #316 – The four-part “Covenant” arc really does look at this stage like a case of Cullen Bunn marking time for a few issues by playing with a pet concept while he waits for the relaunch to come.  The arc is about the Covenant hunting for the Dreaming Maiden because of some vaguely defined threat posed by her.  The main focus of this issue, though, is on Wolverine and Elsa Bloodstone being rescued from a Covenant dungeon by Seraph’s Angels (the team of Wolverine’s ex-girlfriends) and fighting their way out of the building.

Paul Pelletier’s artwork is beautiful, and he does a great job with both action sequences and character comedy.  Hopefully he’s got some decent offers to follow once this storyline is out of the way.  But the story as a whole is less than the sum of its parts.  The interaction between Wolverine’s disparate supporting cast members is cute; the visuals of the floating fortress, with its steampunk Wolverine robots and guard drones on loan from Portal, are lovely.  But I have no clear idea why Bunn’s got Wolverine wearing his very first costume from the 1970s Incredible Hulk, and the story isn’t selling me on the Maiden as anything more than a macguffin.

Wolverine and the X-Men #21 – The teaching staff of the school are kidnapped, brainwashed, and pressganged into service by Frankenstein’s touring circus, and the kids have to investigate.  If this sounds familiar, that’ll be because you’ve read the early Claremont run, and the issue that did much the same thing with the X-Men and Mesmero.  It’s certainly revisiting the same idea, though this time the kids get a role, and – perhaps more fundamentally – the circus has an entirely unrelated plan, since they’re actually hunting down the Frankenstein relative from the new Hellfire Club.

Quite why the Frankenstein Monster is hunting down members of the Frankenstein family all of a sudden isn’t altogether clear, though there’s a pretty clear hint that this whole exercise is actually being driven by the circus’s in-house witch Calcabrina.  (The story goes out of its way to remind us that the Monster isn’t supposed to be evil, just “misunderstood”.)  The storybook qualities of Nick Bradshaw’s art seem at home on a circus story, though it has to be said that his Frankenstein maybe veers a bit too far from the stereotypes to really sell the full oddity of having him in a ringmaster’s outfit.

This is the first time Aaron has really focussed on any of the Hellfire kids other than Kade, and it’s the sort of blithely demented set-up that at least seems to fit with the kids’ inherent ridiculousness.  Obviously, if you find the Hellfire brats exceed your absurdity threshold, a story where they fight an evil circus run by Frankenstein is unlikely to change your views on that.  For the most part, I think Aaron gets away with it in this book, which is consistently pitched at a nonsensical level, though I’m still not entirely sold on them as the focal point of a story in their own right.  I suspect this one is going to divide the readers according to how much tolerance they have for the book’s comedic excesses, and I’ll grant that it works better as wacky comedy than when it’s trying to sell real threat.

X-Factor #247 – Last issue ended with Pip the Troll getting shot, but with his cast once again scattered all over the place, Peter David ignores that story in this issue (it doesn’t even make the recap page), focussing instead on Jamie and Layla, who were last seen running off to Las Vegas to get married, and have now actually done so.  That leads into a truly odd single issue story in which they investigate a series of killing of Abraham Lincoln impersonators, which turn out to be the work of the ghost of General Robert E Lee, who is angry about the civil war re-enactment industry.  Really, that’s the plot.

In terms of the larger storyline, this seems to be another stage in foreshadowing some great mystical crisis which is coming down the line, but first and foremost it’s there to give Jamie and Layla an issue to themselves to further establish their relationship as a duo.  It’s a nicely done comedy story, with some well handled set pieces, and I think it balances the darker elements more successfully than W&TX does – after all, the fact that the story is being treated as a joke is one of the things that Lee’s ghost is angry about, and you can see his point of view about the casual treatment of the long dead.  That doesn’t stop it from being essentially a comedy story, as it has to be with a premise like “Madrox fights General Robert E Lee’s ghost at a civil war re-enactment convention”.  A good self-contained issue that plays to David’s strengths.


Bring on the comments

  1. Nick says:

    Although it did drag on a little, I enjoyed ‘Final Execution.’

    It also amused me that Remender brought Daken back from the dead just to kill him off “for good.” Hopefully Marvel will let the character rest for a couple of years before brining him back.

    And who wants to bet Mystique kills AoA Nightcrawler next issue?

  2. Suzene says:

    I do like the idea behind Karma’s resolution with Susan, but there are a lot of details that just don’t make it work as well as I wish it did. For one thing, three pages of tough love were not worth the nine months it took to get to them, especially since it felt like Karma was largely passive throughout an arc that was supposed to be about her and Liu hits ye olde reset button with regard to Karma’s long-lost family members right after. I also think the whole message about how Hatchi shouldn’t be bitter falls rather flat when one remembers that one character is talking about overcoming anger toward their father not protecting them as well as she thought he should have, while the other had to cope with her father shooting her mother in the head in front of her, then shuffling her off into slavery — there is a bit of a difference. I’m also not a big fan of the “Yeah, we were just pretending to be a bunch of squabbling brats while the New York X-Men technobabbled the big threat to death off-camera.” So, outside of Karma, the payoff for the last five issues is that we get to watch the X-Men get leashed by the villain, then pretend to be too green for amateur hour. No thrilling heroics, no competence porn, just the X-Men standing around and failing to stop an old man with no superpowers shoot a kneeling woman in the back. Even the payoff of Karma’s new fortune doesn’t mean much, because the Gold side of the Schism isn’t exactly hurting for money anyway; I don’t remember Karma shopping for the family groceries on a single, working mom’s budget.

    I didn’t hate this, mind you. I liked what she tried to do for Karma and the interesting use of her powers, I like that Kyle and Northstar’s marriage looks like it’s going to be facing some real-world political ramifications, I like how Cecilia’s character seems to be advancing, and I like that Wolverine got blown to hell and didn’t just shake it off. But this does just underline that the only reason to read AXM is for the character moments, because the plotting is just not the book’s strong point.

  3. JD says:

    Paul Pelletier is moving on to Aquaman from January onwards, and it says something about today’s market that this is a step up from Wolverine in his career.

  4. Faur says:

    I’ve been trying to start a movement here in the U.S.A. to establish an all-in-one holiday combining Thanksgiving and Black Friday, which I have dubbed “Blacksgiving”. For some reason, to date I have had little success attracting supporters.

  5. Taibak says:

    Out of curiosity, is Hatchi supposed to be Japanese-American or something? Because “Hatchi” sure as hell isn’t a Vietnamese name.

  6. James Moar says:

    “Because “Hatchi” sure as hell isn’t a Vietnamese name.”

    She’s Vietnamese, but it’s an alias. Quick search suggests the name’s of French origin.

  7. Paul says:

    Her real name is given as Da’o Coy Manh near the end of the story.

  8. Taibak says:

    Cool. Thanx guys.

  9. I’ve usually loved Aaron’s comedic excesses on Wolverine and the X-Men, but I absolutely cannot stand Kade Kilgore or the Hellfire Kids. But Jason Aaron is so head-over-heels in love with them. I wish he’d give us some other villains.

  10. Suzene says:

    What WatXM needs is more Technet…

  11. wwk5d says:


    I hope he does as well. The Hellfire brats are starting to hurt my enjoyment of the book.

  12. Matt C. says:

    Uncanny X-Force: I wasn’t sure when this was going to end, and it had been dragging a bit, so I was a bit unprepared for this to be the peniultimate issue. That said, it worked. A bit anti-climatic (as the good guys basically just break out and take down the villains) but I loved the “twist” that the whole thing was just a slapdash plan by Sabretooth to get Wolverine to kill his son. Which is pretty f***ed up, mind you, but it made for a great moment. Guess Remender wasn’t kidding when he said the last plotline centered on Wolverine, even though it didn’t feel like that for the first part. I only wish Psylocke got a bit more end to her story (though there is one more issue I suppose).

    WatXM: Yeah, definitely over this. Too much zanyness for the sake of zany. This was intended to be one of the two “mainline” X-Men comics (along with Uncanny)?

    As a sidenote, how hilarious ironic is having Quire wear a “Cyclops was right?” shirt?

  13. PaulQ says:

    Astonishing X-Men #56 – So Marjorie Liu’s story arc about Karma and her sister finally comes to a close with a somewhat happy ending. She becomes a billionaire? Whatever. Overall it hasn’t been my fa
    vorite title to read recently. And why was Iceman on the cover? I mean he was in the issue but not enough to warrant a cover page. I don’t know if Liu will continue writing for this book but I’m up for a change.

    Uncanny X-Force #34 – We get a lot of threads closing up as this title winds down to its final issue (#35) and a lot of confrontations. Nightcrawler and Eva, Skinless Man and Deadpool, Psylocke and Omega White (I think his name is), Wolverine and his son Daken, and Evan (Kid Apocalypse) and Sabretooth. I’ll give my overall thoughts on Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force next time with the final issue. However this one was a good wrap up issue.

    Wolverine & the X-Men #21 – Now this title has always presented itself as the non-heavy X-book but this was just… groan… I don’t like where this is going. I think some of what is getting me down about this book is the absence of Chris Bachalo’s artwork (however, I am super excited about his Uncanny X-Men run coming up in January). So this story is basically about the X-Men (the faculty of the school) being brainwashed into thinking they are circus-folk. The students wonder what is wrong and start investigating and who pray tell is behind it all? Frankenstein’s monster!! Yep. That guy. Sigh. Two good points: Quentin Quire wearing a “Cyclops was right” t-shirt was awesome and Warbird in Native American garb was smokin’ hot!

    X-Factor #247 – Now that Havok is no longer going to be a member of this team I am highly considering no longer reading this book. The writing and art are not bad it’s just that I can’t get myself into liking Multiple Man. I just don’t care about him or Layla or the ghost of Robert E. Lee trying to exact vengeance on Civil War re-enactors. I want to… but I don’t.!/photo.php?fbid=392418280840823&set=a.384059955009989.87473.384046178344700&type=1&theater

  14. Niall says:

    WATXM – Yeah. I’m not loving this book. It has some great issues and then it tends to over-do the looney toons angle.

    Uncanny X-Force – I’m going to read the entire run in a sitting. I’m not sure how I feel about the last arc.

    X-Factor – This arc is going on forever! It’s PAD though, so I’ll assume we’re going to get a decent payoff.

  15. D. says:

    I’ve met people who lack a y-chromosome who could twirl their (collective or individual) mustaches.

    Just sayin’.

  16. Brad Curran says:

    I like Wolverine and the X-Men a lot, and can even tolerate the Hellfire Kids Club, but I wouldn’t mind at all if Aaron took a page from Joss Whedon’s playbook and had the actual villain of his run kill them all in a big reveal. Hell, maybe Sabretooth will do it. I do like the idea of them setting up their own school, though. That could be fun. If nothing else, I’m all for more Mindbug appearances.

  17. Brad Curran says:

    As far as X-Force goes, it’s been one of my favorite comics for Remender’s entire run. Which is kind of amazing, given that I only tried it because my lcs owner gave me a discount on the first issue.

    I did find Sabretooth’s exit kind of goofy. It was the combination of his facial expression and dialogue. Well, that and he just runs off, stage left. Otherwise I’ve really enjoyed Remender’s swan song. I was pretty surprised that Nightcrawler survived the issue, so I’d be really surprised if he outlives this series, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him throw in with Mystique and Sabretooth for a while.

  18. ZZZ says:

    It’s a shame that zombie Robert E. Lee didn’t get a chance to hook up with zombie Abe Lincoln and zombie Ulysses S. Grant over in Deadpool. They could’ve hashed some things out.

    I actually don’t mind the Hellfire Kids Club as characters, but the “anything goes” nature of WatXM kind of neuters them as villians by making them simultaneously too powerful and too weak to take seriously.

    Too powerful because this is the kind of book where any whacky thing that pops into the creators’ heads can go down on the page – have an idea for a weapon that would trip up the X-Men that no one’s ever seen before? They have an alien tech supplier! Think of a cool plan that requires an evil priest? They can build an android priest with functioning AI! Think of some cool new Sentinel designs? Well of course they have a warehouse full of Sentinels of every shape and size from microscopic to Godzilla-sized – hey, if you’re just going to have Cyclops wipe them out anyway it doesn’t even matter if there’s no way the X-Men could handle some of those models. They have infinite resources because their plans seem to be based around coming up with the most outlandish methods possible to get from point A to point Z and then assuming they already have everything required to get to point Y. They’re like the Legion of Doom on the Superfriends, who’d come up with a plan to rob Fort Knox using a time machine, a weather dominator, and a mind-control satellite all of which they’d already built at the start of the episode, and then utterly botch the robbery.

    And too weak because for all their infinite resources and abilities they never seem to be able to get from point Y to point Z. All they seem to have accomplished so far is making Idie less whiny and injuring Broo. Now, obviously, almost all villains’ plans ultimately fail, but the more unlimited their resources and the more easily they glide from point A to point Y, the more pathetic it seems that they never make it to Z. Sabretooth’s plan in X-Force was as baroque as anything the kids have done, but we saw him bust his ass to get as close to winning as he did, so when he failed he didn’t look like a chump. And when the kids fail, they just grin like everything’s going according to plan and assure us that they’re really only in it to make money and making the X-Men look more powerful just increases the demand for Sentinels, and from someone like Norman Osborn or Lex Luthor you could almost buy it, but between the fact that they’re little kids and the fact that they seem to be spending more money than they could possibly be taking in, they just look like they don’t really know what they’re doing.

  19. The original Matt says:

    I haven’t read any WatXM yet, but you guys are making it sound like a cross between road runner and the 90s batman cartoon. Equal parts serious and zany & indulging in self parody.

  20. Suzene says:

    @ZZZ – Well said. I don’t mind a villainous kid team going up against the JG kids, but it needs to be kept more on New Mutants/Hellions level, otherwise both sides just look weirdly incompetent.

  21. Ash says:

    The more Jason Aaron pushes his stupid Hellfire Club kids towards his readers, the more his book sinks into mediocrity.

    Honestly, nobody gives a f**k about these kids or how “powerful” and “resourceful” they are. I’m hoping another writer takes over the book and slaughters them all, or give them the ultimate punishment by regressing them back into newborn infants.

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