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Jul 7

The X-Axis – 7 July 2013

Posted on Sunday, July 7, 2013 by Paul in x-axis

It’s the quietest week we’ve had in ages.  In fact, I’m slightly surprised to learn it’s even possible to have such a quiet week given the volume of material the X-office puts out these days.  This won’t take us long.

What If? AvX #1 – How’s this for the most optimistic solicitation of the year?  ”The biggest event of 2012 is now the biggest miniseries of 2013!”  Come on, now.  This isn’t even the most anticipated miniseries of the week.  It’s a four-issue weekly mini with an alternate version of last year’s Avengers vs X-Men story, and honestly, the only reason I’m even mentioning it is because it’s so quiet otherwise.

Jimmy Palmiotti and Jorge Molina are your creative team, and this first issue is basically a retread of the opening act of AvX.  It’s not a beat-for-beat recreation, but it’s essentially a cover version of the same story with only minor changes, up until the closing pages where – this being What If? – a major character gets killed.  Up to that point it’s really just the same thing with a change of emphasis, such as a larger role for Magneto to cause the friction between the two groups.  And it has to be said that using him in that role does make the conflict feel a bit less forced, though I get why the original story wanted to keep the story more on Cyclops.  He had more to do in the mini, and it played into his overall character arc – which this book doesn’t necessarily have to worry about.

Judged purely as a freestanding issue, it’s okay.  But then, it’s not a freestanding issue, it’s intended as a companion piece to AvX, and given that, it’s hell of a repetitive.  The original What If? series usually avoided this sort of thing by just having the Watcher recap the original story in the opening two pages, and there’s a lot to be said for doing it that way.  Admittedly, the original series also tended to feel ridiculously overcompressed, not least because its stories tended to feature the world ending in the remaining 18 pages or so.  But what Palmiotti has written here is a perfectly reasonable first act repeating the set-up from scratch.  That’s laudable if he’s aiming to make a story that’s completely accessible to new readers in its own right, but I wonder whether that’s really necessary where What If? is concerned.  For 95% of readers, at most they needed their memory refreshed.  It’ll read better in the trade, but as a single issue it feels weirdly redundant.

X-Men Legacy #13 – The minor-tier X-books really do love Pete Wisdom, don’t they?  We’ve just had him guest starring in Gambit, and now here he is again in Legacy.  David has shown up in London with some non-specific dodgy plan in mind, and Wisdom duly sets out to nip that one in the bud.  David’s plan probably has something to do with the state visit of a bigoted Middle East ruler, but since he never actually says so outright, there’s room for speculation.

The oddity of this issue is that, for the first time that I can recall, the series completely drops David as its point of view character, and does everything from the standpoint of the guest star.  The book has always played tricks with David’s narration, by having him turn out to have convoluted plans that he never actually mentioned to the reader, but now we’re completely shut out from knowing what he’s going to do, and seeing him entirely from the perspective of the other characters.  And as best we can see, it’s obvious why you wouldn’t trust him; he’s presumptuous, unrepentantly manipulative when people won’t play ball with his scheme, and refuses to explain himself with anything more than a petulant wail that “You don’t understand.”

Meanwhile, the book goes on a veritable tour of UK-themed continuity with the characters David tries to rope in to help him.  Considering that it has at best an ambivalent attitude towards the superhero genre, the book’s more than happy to play around in Marvel Universe minutiae.  The likes of Pixie and Chamber and to be expected, and Lila Cheney at least used to be a major character, but Alchemy hasn’t been seen in about twenty years (as I recall, he was the winner of a “create-a-character” contest or something).  And “very off the grid” is an understatement for Liam Connaughton, whose only previous appearance was in 2002′s Muties #6.

This being X-Men Legacy, it seems inevitable that there’ll be more here than meets the eye, and that David will actually turn out to have some complicated plan that depends on making people think this is what he’s up to.  (Did all these characters really come all the way to the UK just to tell him to get lost?)  Still, it’s a worthwhile break for the series to change its perspective and show him from the outside.

 

Bring on the comments

  1. Paul F says:

    Still working through my pile, but I was pleasently surprised by Superior Foes of Spider-Man.

    Definitely some of Spencer’s better work, and Steve Lieber’s art is a good fit for the book. I’ll keep buying for now.

  2. Paul says:

    We might be talking about SUPERIOR FOES on the next podcast, but yes, it’s really good. Nick Spencer’s superhero work can be patchy but this one really works.

  3. Somebody says:

    Alchemy was in the 198 mini after M-Day, wasn’t he?

  4. ZZZ says:

    I know this is just me being a nostalgic fuddy duddy, but it bothered me that “What if…? AxX” didn’t actually, you know, ask a question. Like “What if the Avengers had become the Phoenix Five” or “What if Hope had kept Phoenix Force” or “What if the Avengers had lost AvX?”

    But instead this is just “What if AvX…” with a sort of implied “…was different in a vague and unspecified way?” The big different seems to be just that different people are filling all the various roles, so it feels like “What if everyone had been standing one spot to left during AvX?”

    And, personally, I always preferred “What if…?” scenarios to have a certain feeling of “generalness” to them. Which is to say that the alternate outcome we’re seeing – at least in the early part of the story – feels like the inevitable (or at least logical or organic) outcome of the change to the story. But “If Magneto had negotiated with Captain America instead of Cyclops, Wolverine would have accidentally killed Storm” feels so utterly random. Not to mention the fact that Wolverine has been throwing tantrums for dacades without accidentally killing an enemy much less a friend – I have trouble believing any story that hinges on Wolvering just randomly having the worst accident of his entire life (and if it turns out that Magneto caused it – that doesn’t really help; it’s inconsistent with Magneto’s character at that time).

    Oh yeah, one last thing: “Do you really think they’d negotiate with YOU Scott? After all you’ve done?” At this point in continuity, Scott’s declared Utopia a sovereign state and … that’s about it. So let’s send MAGNETO instead. The Avengers will trust him. I mean, sure, he’s done the exact same thing, but, like, less recently, and all his other crimes against humanity overshadow it.

  5. Niall says:

    Wow. Just finished some googling. Liam Connaughton sounds like the worst character in history. Who was responsible for the cliched crap that amounts to his backstory?

    Very weird to have a character who clearly comes from a nationalist background embracing some sort of Northern Irish identity.

  6. Alex says:

    I liked Superior too, but the real star books for me this week were Batman 66 and Satellite Sam, both I assume could be podcast candidates next week if nothing major hits on Wednesday.

    I also wanted to like Avengers AI, but it really did not do much for me as a Hank Pym fanboy.

    When I saw the A vs X What if, I tried to guess who was going to do in Issue 1, since that’s what What Ifs are really best known for these days? I incorrectly guessed Emma or Cap.

  7. The A vs X What If could really have used the Watcher, for a framing device if nothing else. I’m probably the only one who had this problem, but I thought Cyclops stepping back and letting Magneto take over in that point in history–given that Magneto had joined him, and they were talking about the Phoenix, which Cyclops has a much bigger stake in than most people–was confusing. So confusing that I thought they might have been taking the What If imprint in a new direction and doing an Elseworlds style thing where Magneto founded Utopia.

  8. Diana Kingston-Gabai says:

    The larger problem I’m having with X-Men: Legacy at the moment is that Spencer seems to have forgotten David Haller’s defining attribute: he’s meant to have Dissociative Identity Disorder. All those power sets belong to different personalities. I don’t think we’ve seen a single alter in 13 issues – even the Yellow Demon doesn’t seem to have any specific identity of its own…

  9. Paul says:

    Liam Connaughton’s only previous appearance also ended with him dying. Which makes him a particularly odd character to choose.

  10. Ben says:

    You got me thinking about Liam Connaughton, so I called upon the power of Google. And then I (stupidly) clicked on this link: http://marvel.wikia.com/Liam_Connaughton_(Earth-616)

    Who actually writes these entries?

    Who vetoes them?

    I’m ashamed of the internet.

    Seriously.

  11. ZZZ says:

    @Ben – Hey, if we outlaw illiterate wiki entry editing, only outlaws will edit wiki entries illiterately, and I, for one, don’t want to read a wiki edited entirely by illiterate outlaws, although it might actually be hilarious. I’m sure you’ll see my logic there is flawless.

    I wonder, if you did a comprehensive study of all Irish characters in American comics, whether you would find more characters with luck-based powers or IRA-themed backstories.

  12. mchan says:

    @ZZZ:

    “I know this is just me being a nostalgic fuddy duddy, but it bothered me that “What if…? AxX” didn’t actually, you know, ask a question. Like “What if the Avengers had become the Phoenix Five” or “What if Hope had kept Phoenix Force” or “What if the Avengers had lost AvX?””

    I think the real problem is that Marvel knows where the money is. The decline of the X-Men franchise and the boom in the Avengers following the movie buildup pretty much guarantees that certain really interesting premises will never see themselves play out in the comics. Which frankly makes the book disappointing.

    It’s hard to read AvX without seeing the writing on the wall. As an X-book reader, I think the fallout from AvX may have innovated the X-books in a certain way (certainly the Uncanny lines), but as far as the Avengers books go, they got to skirt lots of moral ideas that would have been interesting fodder with which to do some real character work in the Avengers books. The downfall of “benevolent fascism,” and actually seeing Tony Stark and Steve Rogers come to terms with the destruction of any of the utopian visions that AvX briefly alluded to in one of its issues, despite it being the “right choice,” would have been fascinating.

    Instead we get an event where the Avengers won without having to deal with any kind of deep moral or ethical issues, and come off as being without reproach. Which, from a marketing standpoint, is probably exactly how Marvel wants it to be.

  13. Master Mahan says:

    No, you’re not being a fuddy duddy, ZZZ. Having a clear, easily explained concept was always What If’s best marketing point. Lord knows I’ve bought way too many back issues of What If based on a cool-sounding concept like Professor X becoming the Juggernaut. With this it seems like Marvel is just relying on the AvX brand to sell this. Lord knows the old What Ifs were uneven, but the lack of a high concept makes me wonder if there’s even much of a story here.

  14. Master Mahan says:

    @Ben – Frankly, I’m surprised even one person cares enough about a ten-year-old issue of Muties to make a wiki article on it.

    And I’d say there’s probably more IRA-linked characters, but that’s only because Garth Ennis has created about a dozen of them.

  15. Jon Dubya says:

    @ZZZ:

    That’s probably because Marvel plans to have this concept milked to the point where it’s a drained as a particularly overworked porn star. This mini-series will bloom into a mini-franchise faster than you can say “Before Watchman.”

  16. Jon Dubya says:

    “David’s plan probably has something to do with the state visit of a bigoted Middle East ruler, but since he never actually says so outright, there’s room for speculation.”

    At that point, it’s kinda too bad that the writer apparently thinks Legion is Scottish, because that described scenario lend itself to Legion’s original origin story and nationality.

  17. Matt C. says:

    ZZZ, you pretty much exactly echoed my feelings. It’s strange to have a “What If” issue start out with the typical “a small difference can change everything!” discussion, then fail to give us an obvious change point. I suppose you could say the shift is “what if Magneto handled the negotations instead of Cyclops” or “what if Magneto had huge balls and Cyclops was a moron” but it’s not clear. And yeah, the Magneto here feels very different from the one we had in the original AvX. It won’t surprise me at all if we find out Magneto caused Wolverine to kill Storm. Unfortunately, both possibilities are unrealistic – I can’t see Wolverine screwing up that badly, and I can’t see current Magneto brazenly sacrificing Storm (maaaybe someone he’d consider worthless like, I dunno, Iceman. But not Storm).

    Still, I’m looking forward to seeing where it heads, simply because I like Magneto and felt he was criminally underused in AvX, and because AvX was a piece of crap and any re-telling of it has to be better than the original.

  18. Si says:

    “What If … We released another AVX title after the event to compel the completists to give us more money?”

  19. Anya says:

    Maybe he’d sacrifice Storm because she’d be a greater ‘threat’ to whatever his plan is? ;)

  20. Andy Walsh says:

    @John Dubya – Actually, Legacy #13 gave Spurrier an opportunity to demonstrate his awareness that David is not Scottish. David mentions having picked up the accent growing up on Muir Island, but indicates that his nationality is … well, he just points out that it isn’t Scottish. But since the issue also refers to his mother working at the Israeli embassy, I think it’s safe to say that Spurrier is clear on David’s history, and probably plans to work it into this story.

  21. errant says:

    He probably is now, but I bet he thought he was Scottish at the beginning of his run until the readers pointed it out to him (or his editor).

    And David didn’t grow up on Muir Isle anyway. Surely he was in his late teens or in his twenties when he was dumped there.

    Is Gabrielle Haller still being portrayed as a Holocaust survivor, by the way?

  22. Andy Walsh says:

    @errant – To be fair, “growing up on Muir Island” was my wording, not Spurrier’s. He just had David say that he picked up his accent there.

    And actually, David manifested his power(s) early as part of a traumatic experience, which also caused(/triggered/exacerbated?) his dissociative identity disorder and put him in a coma. So he wound up on Muir Island as a preteen – making my “growing up” there not quite accurate.

    When you factor in the coma, the accent is perhaps a bit of a stretch, but he has been living there awake for a while, and given the diversity of his personalities it’s a stretch I’m willing to make.

    Personally, I’m inclined to assume that if writer sets out to write the definitive story for an existing character, he will be/get familiar with that character’s basic bio. But, I suppose there’s room for doubt on that score.

    Gabrielle Haller hasn’t actually made an appearance in the story yet, but you raise a good question.

  23. I met a girl back around the turn of the century who had a really broad (or should that be braw (no)) Scottish accent. No idea that she was Chinese until she told me so. She’d only been over here since she was eighteen (~6/7yr), studying up in Edinburgh before moving down to Cambridge. Some people soak up accents.

    I’ve read issues 1+2 of Legacy, and I really enjoyed them. The last time I saw Legion, he was getting the oul’ Bounce-Back Mind-Chib off Bishop. I’m looking forward to reading more as they come down in price on the ‘Ology.

    //\Oo/\\

  24. Anya says:

    Eh, most people don’t ‘naturally’ change accents as teenagers (hence the reason so many Americans made fun of Madonna when she start talking in an English accent :p) But it’s hardly the worst rationalization a writer has come up with. And David is rather ‘eccentric’ even on his best days so seems acceptable.

  25. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    “Very weird to have a character who clearly comes from a nationalist background embracing some sort of Northern Irish identity.”

    While my knowledge of Liam comes pretty much entirely from Paul’s review of that issue of Muties (and, now, a Wiki page apparently generated by Google Translate) my understanding is that the original comic was very coy as to whether Liam’s terrorist uncle was a nationalist or a loyalist.

  26. Master Mahan says:

    @Matthew: I met a Japanese woman with a British accent who claimed she’d traded her soul and half her mind with someone else. She was also a six-foot-tall gymnast who ran around in lingerie. Really weird chick.

  27. Billy says:

    @Master Mahan: You met Betsy Braddock?

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