Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013
by Paul in x-axis
It’s a podcast weekend, so check one post down for discussion of Age of Ultron, Aliens vs Parker, and Lost Vegas. Oh, and the link to our RedBubble store is there too.
Housekeeping announcement: I’m taking next week off, so the X-Axis will return in two weeks (or a bit after).
Uncanny X-Men #3 – The previous issue ended with the Avengers showing up, but it did seem a bit early for that fight, so it’s no great shock to find that this issue doesn’t actually contain it. What happens instead is that they talk to each other for a while, and then when the Avengers finally decide to have a go at arresting Scott’s team, Tempus just freezes them all in place.
Now, it does at least make sense that the Avengers would try to talk Scott down first, and that Scott would give the sort of self-righteous response that he does here. A little more awkward is the fact that Scott and Emma have evidently been glossing over the topic of Xavier’s death with their new trainees, and Emma seems determined to continue that even when the established heroes are openly discussing exactly what happened right in front of them. Yes, it’s part of a running subplot about how long it will take the trainees to figure out that they’ve fallen in with the extremists, but unless they start asking awkward questions very soon, they’re going to look pretty dumb.
Having Tempus simply freeze the whole Avengers team in place – well, that makes sense in terms of her established powers, but it also makes her hugely powerful, and begs the question of how the book ever gets a fight scene to go beyond one panel unless she gets clubbed over the back of the head at the outset. It’s useful to the book in some ways – it establishes that the team are, at the very least, awfully hard to catch – but I can see it causing trouble down the road.
Then we’ve got the bit at the end, where Magneto cheerfully acknowledges that he was the one who tipped off the authorities, and claims it was all a double bluff. By Bendis’ standards, this is positively accelerated plotting, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Magneto’s argument is that if he’d told the rest of the team about his plan, then it would have been exposed if any telepaths had been sent against them. (Which they weren’t anyway.) But surely exactly the same holds true now, so why would Magneto have put himself in a position where he was so obviously responsible? Magik at least recognises that point – she doesn’t believe him and thinks he’s making excuses now that he got caught red handed. But really, why would anyone believe anything else in the situation? The answer rather seems to be “because the plot demands it”, which is never a good enough answer.
Wolverine #1 – Does the world need two Wolverine ongoing titles? No, of course it doesn’t, particularly when there doesn’t seem to be anything in particular to distinguish one from the other. (“Wolverine marooned in the Savage Land” is the premise of the other book’s opening storyline, not the premise of the series.)
Still, what this book does have is an excellent creative team in Paul Cornell and Alan Davis, working with his regular inker Mark Farmer. It may not be the wisest approach in commercial terms, but there’s no pretence here of making a story that “matters” – the concept is pretty much standard villain-of-the-week stuff, with some sort of alien intelligence possessing people and going on a killing spree that Wolverine has to stop. It’s simply done very well. A story like this is all about getting the tone right, with the understated contrast between the casually inquisitive baddie and what is plainly a massive slaughter. Davis has the control of detail to hit that note perfectly and elevate what could, in the wrong hands, easily have felt like an above-average inventory piece to a strong Wolverine story.
Wolverine & The X-Men #26 – A concerted effort to make us care about Dog, Wolverine’s largely forgotten brother from the dreaded Origin mini. Jason Aaron actually started this storyline in his Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine mini, which is where Dog discovered the crystal with weird time-altering properties and came to the present day. (All this is explained in a flashback, but since pretty much the whole issue is a flashback, it’s crying out for a footnote to explain that it’s a reference to an earlier story, not just a completely random plot element lurching in from nowhere.)
So, Dog, then. I still think Origin was a woeful series, which was so busy struggling to come up with something non-obvious to put in Wolverine’s back story that it forgot to worry about whether the story added anything. It didn’t ultimately do any harm because it’s also easily ignored, but the elements of that series do not intrigue me in the slightest.
Still, if you’re going to try and do something with Dog, this story’s approach is at least logical. The twist in the opening act of Origin was to misdirect the audience into thinking that Dog was the young Wolverine, when it was actually his illegitimate half-brother. The result was to generate a largely unneeded Wolverine II who had outlived his usefulness once the switch was revealed. Aaron’s approach is to write him as a character who failed to become Wolverine, but who now sees Wolverine as the usurper and himself as the hero who’s there to remove him. After all, it’s not like Wolverine’s CV over the past century makes particularly impressive reading.
This is all fine as far as it goes, and to some extent even plays off the idea of Dog as a failed character, so that the story can have its cake and eat it. But we’ve had “Wolverine and his opposite number” before with Sabretooth, and to an extent with Daken, and it’s not a direction that greatly appeals to me. It’s done okay here, but I can’t say it sells me on there being untapped potential in this theme.
X-Men: Legacy #7 – This series has repeatedly made play of the idea that Legion wants to be proactive where the X-Men are reactive. With this issue, he (sort of) puts that into action, by trekking down to Raleigh to take down an anti-mutant church before it can do any real damage. Except the main reason for going here is because it’s the church that corrupted Blindfold’s older brother. He’s certainly doing it in part to impress her; I’m not quite so sure how far we’re meant to take the book’s claims of proactivity seriously.
The Church of the Happy Host are not what you’d call a major threat; although they’ve stumbled into some functioning anti-telepathy helmets and anti-mutant gadgetry, they really look as though they’ve stumbled out of a Howard the Duck story. But that works, partly because it fits with the chaotic tone of the series, and partly because they’re not really required to serve as a major threat. They’re a single-issue step along the way to Legion getting hold of Luca’s prophecies. The real threat here, in fact, is more the risk of Legion overstepping the mark in attempting to frame them for bringing the Dire Wraiths to earth two issues ago – and indeed his carefully devised plan turns out not to work on that score.
The story also plays SWORD for laughs – particularly with their automatic tracker device that comes after Legion because of his role in bringing aliens to earth, and yells things like “Justice! Mighty justice from space!” It’s funny, though I have a nagging doubt about the wisdom of undercutting SWORD too, when the story really does seem to need them to serve as the (relative) grown-ups here. On the whole I think the story gets away with it; there’s an odd effect as if Legion (and to an extent Blindfold) are the sanest people in the room, which kind of works.
X-Treme X-Men #12 – We’re deep into the realms of accelerated wrap-up here, as the book gets rid of the “ten evil Xaviers” before literally diving headlong into the X-Termination crossover. There’s not a tremendous amount to say about this, which rather illustrates the problem: though it’s found time to plough the plot mechanics of its remaining story, it doesn’t really seem to be about anything in particular. The central scene of this issue suggests that Pak was trying to draw out some theme about whether Dazzler was tough enough to do what needed to be done, and that the introduction of the more radical characters would have played off that, but if that was the idea, it’s simply not been developed to the point where it gets off the ground.