Posted on Sunday, January 27, 2013
by Paul in x-axis
It’s a podcast weekend, and by the time I post this, chances are it’ll be up, so scroll just one post down to find it. Reviews include Answer, Uncanny X-Force, and Threshold.
I’ve got a couple of books from last week that I didn’t get around to reviewing, plus all of this week’s books to cover, so there’s quite the catch-up to do here. These are probably going to be on the quick side, though I say that a lot…
A+X #4 – As often turns out to be the case with this book, it’s really a question of how keen you are to get the stories for the art alone, because the actual writing is largely fluff. Kaare Andrews writes and draws a Spider-Man/Beast story which has a few interesting tricks, like starting literally in mid-scene, and wheels out the 1980s colouring dots to give the story a nicely retro feel. But it doesn’t really go anywhere in particular; there’s a vague nod in the direction of a theme about Beast’s descendents celebrating his lack of humanity and his refusing to live up to their expectations, but it’s very handwaving stuff, feeling more like a concession to the shape of a plot than anything Andrews is really all that interested in.
The back-up, by Jason Latour and David Lopez, is Quentin Quire reluctantly teaming up with Captain America, apparently as a test to see how he’s getting along with his rehabilitation. If you’re being technical, there’s actually some plot advancement here – Quire is no longer being held at the school against his will – but mainly it’s an excuse to play off the surly cynic against an idealist. That works nicely enough, and with Lopez on art it naturally looks beautiful.
Astonishing X-Men #58 – This is the conclusion of the Warbird two-parter with the alien art thingy. I can see what Marjorie Liu is trying to do here, and it’s obviously not that easy to shoehorn the theme of Warbird rediscovering her suppressed creative tendencies into the format of a superhero comic. The general direction of her character makes perfect sense, but the story just feels a little too obviously convenient to push her in the right direction, the themes being pushed rather too heavy handedly. Good to see Gabriel Walta being used on a book like this, though.
Gambit #8 – It’s got the “Marvel Now” branding on the cover, but since this is more or less a single issue story with a guest artist that also pauses occasionally to remind us of the current status of the Joelle plot, I can’t help wondering whether this started off as a Point One. It basically sees Gambit breaking off from the main plot to rescue a bunch of students who’ve blundered into an abandoned city left behind by the High Evolutionary. Pasqual Ferry, of all people, shows up as the guest artist – quite what he’s doing on a lower-selling title like this, I have no clue, but it’s very nice to see him here, and he’s certainly an artist who can sell the set pieces that this book thrives on. There’s a subplot about one of the students dumping her boyfriend that feels a bit tacked on, but on the whole it’s a fun issue.
Uncanny Avengers #3 – The Red Skull shows up in New York and uses his new psychic powers to make everyone riot against mutants. That’s basically the story, but Remender uses it very well. By having it affect the non-mutant Avengers to some degree as well, he gets some actual drama out of the hybrid nature of the team, and leaves space for Havok to establish himself as a leader. It’s a nice touch that Captain America can’t be made to hate mutants because he’s Just Too Good, but can still be driven to get grumpy and irritable with them. And more generally, the issue does a pretty good ob of selling the riot as a big deal, rather than just another example of an old X-Men trope. One of Remender’s strengths is his ability to make old ideas fresh again by getting rid of the dated trappings and doing them in a modern style; he did it through X-Force, and it works just as well here. You could maybe query the pacing of what’s effectively an issue long fight scene, but I think the book gets away with it – while it’s ultimately an element in the larger arc, there’s enough of a story within the boundaries of this issue to make it satisfying.
Uncanny X-Force #1 – We talk about this one in the podcast at greater length, but here’s the bottom line. Of the two books inexplicably sharing the X-Force name, this is the one that’s actually a continuation of Rick Remender’s run, inheriting Psylocke and Fantomex for its cast, and picking up on the storyline about Fantomex being split into multiple bodies. It’s the one that, in former days, would have seen Sam Humphries and Ron Garney coming on as the new creative team and starting to rebuild the set-up. While this issue contains an entirely above average X-Men story, one that would probably rate as good if it appeared in X-Men, it struggles in a couple of respects here. First, it unavoidably faces comparisons with the extremely strong run that preceded it; and second, it doesn’t get around to establishing the hook of the new series, and what makes it distinct from any of the many, many other X-Men books competing for your time. It’s perfectly sound, but at least in the first issue, it doesn’t have that extra element to make it stand out from the pack.
Wolverine and the X-Men #24 – A down time issue more or less, with David Lopez making his second appearance of the week. And that makes it a good week. It’s interesting to see how the more nonsensical aspects of this book play with different artists; Lopez is a traditional storyteller with wonderfully expressive characters, and he turns out to provide an excellent anchor for Aaron’s crazier elements.
The central theme of this issue is Bobby and Kitty going on their date, a scene which is both very well written and plays to Lopez’s strengths. It also serves to wrap up that storyline, and I can’t help wondering whether that’s prompted by Kitty’s being co-opted to serve a role in All-New X-Men, so that Aaron is no longer her primary writer. Or maybe not; after all, young Jean Grey shows up here to strike up a friendship of sorts with Quentin Quire, on the entirely plausible basis that he’s the only one who doesn’t treat her like a living legend. Whatever the underlying reasons, Aaron makes the wrap-up of their subplot satisfying.
I have slight doubts about sending Storm back to her 1980s mohawk look, though. When Chris Claremont did it, after all, there was a point – it was supposed to look like a shocking departure from her “nature mother” persona. I guess the idea here is supposed to be a fresh start after her break-up with the Black Panther, but it feels a little too much like a nostalgia trip for my liking.
X-Factor #250 – Beginning the Hell on Earth War storyline. Given Peter David’s current health problems, I’m assuming this storyline is likely to face delays, which is a shame given that he’s clearly been building to this for ages – a whole load of seemingly unrelated threads start to be drawn together here. Still, I’d certainly rather see David write this story and do it at his own pace, rather than have it handed over to somebody else. This book exists to be his vehicle, after all.
Admittedly, the mystical story threads in X-Factor have not generally been among the book’s strongest features, and understandably it’s mostly those threads that start to be drawn together here. I wasn’t really crying out to see more of Jezebel, or of Rahne’s son. But this issue does have a nice sense of everything falling into place, and the momentum makes me more interested in this whole arc than I’d expected to be.
X-Men #40 – Well, it’s a fill-in story in which a bunch of minor characters go to investigate a new mutant whose powers have just emerged. There’s some odd talk about setting up teams for this purpose, which is a weird thing to be discussing one issue before a relaunch, but on the whole it really does just come across as a time-killing and space-filling exercise. An inoffensive one to be sure, and Jefte Palo’s art is striking enough, but with so many X-Men comics around, it’s hard to see why we need one that’s running filler.