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Apr 25


Posted on Sunday, April 25, 2010 by Paul in reviews, x-axis


(X-Necrosha one-shot, X-Force #21-25)
Writers: Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Artist: Clayton Crain
Letterer: Cory Petit
Editors: Jeanine Schaefer & Nick Lowe

Thanks to the knock-on effects of the volcano, there are no new comics in Britain this week, which in turn means no X-Axis.  So instead, I’ll take a look at the last X-Force storyline, “Necrosha.”  Technically this is a crossover with X-Men Legacy and New Mutants.  But in practice, the story is contained in X-Force.  The other two titles simply did their own stories in the margins, taking advantage of the opportunity to use dead characters for a couple of issues.

First time around, I wasn’t a fan of this.  As often happens, reading it again in one sitting does at least make it a little clearer what the creators were going for.  This is a story with a lot of clutter, and the main threads come through more clearly without a month-long gap between chapters.  But it remains a clunky story that doesn’t really hold together – albeit one which is at least trying to pay off a number of long-running storylines.

The basic idea goes like this.  As we established quite some time ago, back in ancient Rome, Selene had a stab at sacrificing everyone in the city to turn herself into a goddess.  It all went wrong because her lackey Eliphas made a hash of things.  Eliphas is now trying to get back in her good books by offering to provide her with a zombie army raised from the dead with the Transmode virus.  Selene’s big idea is to use the virus to revive the slaughtered population of Genosha, and then sacrifice them to turn herself into a goddess.

Running alongside that, the writers get to throw in cameos by a ton of dead characters; subplots about Elixir and Wolfsbane are wrapped up; and Selene’s zombie army invades the X-Men’s island.

So, fine.  It’s all ridiculously melodramatic, but hell, it’s comics.  Selene’s going to raise the dead and use them to gain ultimate power or something.  But in an attempt to wring six issues out of it, it’s become incredibly complicated, littered with unnecessary characters, and plagued by plot holes.

The final two issues have major logic problems.  Issue #24 sees X-Force launch a completely unnecessary frontal assault on a castle, charging through an army of the undead, instead of just asking the Vanisher to teleport them straight into the building.  Vanisher teleports them in at the start of the scene; he teleports himself into the castle later on.  The plot requires him to be separated from the group; but the story brings that about by having everyone’s IQ drop to single figures for two pages.

Issue #25 sees Selene defeated.  I honestly don’t understand how.  Something about a mystic ritual never mentioned before that issue, but beyond that, I’m lost.  It’s obviously supposed to be some sort of pay off for the violation of James’ tribe, but there’s no proper set-up, so it doesn’t work.

And what about the early issues, where Selene’s zombies attack the X-Men’s island?  Granted, Selene has a reason to attack the island.  She needs to recover the magic knife that Eli Bard lost to Warpath in a previous issue, because apparently it’s essential to her ritual.  But she only discovers that she’s missing a macguffin in chapter three, by which point the invasion is well underway.  So why did she order the invasion in the first place?  The dialogue seems to suggest that she just wants revenge on Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw, but that’s a ridiculously flimsy motivation – can’t she wait until after she’s become a goddess in twelve hours time? – and the story does nothing with it anyway.

The story also suffers from a bloated cast.  The horde of zombie cameos is forgiveable, because it’s kind of the gimmick, but it also creates a smokescreen that obscures the important parts of the plot.  A bigger problem is Selene’s inner circle, some of whom seem to have been selected using the Official Handbook, a blindfold and a pin.  Yes, we need Eliphas, because he’s essential to the plot.  And we need Wither because he was already linked to Selene in an earlier story, though he’s written here as a disappointingly one-dimensional villain.

Blink?  Well, the plot requires some teleporting, though Selene’s a sorceress and could do that for herself.  But the other two?  This group seem to have been assembled so that X-Force have a rival team to fight halfway through the storyline – but once you’ve spent three issues fighting zombies of characters people have actually heard of, it’s hardly raising the stakes to bring on nonentities like 90s henchman Senyaka, or Dazzler’s staggeringly obscure sister Mortis, last seen in 1984.  (Dazzler doesn’t even have a major role in the plot.)  Wouldn’t this have been a simpler and stronger story with just Selene, Eliphas, Wither and the zombies?

So: the plot’s a mess.  Nor does it really end up being about anything in particular.  Selene is not what you’d call a rounded character at the best of times.  The emotional core of this story is apparently supposed to lie in Eliphas trying to get back in her favour, which never reaches a satisfying resolution, and James being tormented by the return of his brother, which is almost pushed to the sidelines.  (The fact that the zombie horde includes James’ entire tribe only gets a passing mention in the whole arc.)  A subplot with Wolfsbane’s boyfriend sacrificing himself to Hela in order to save her does carry a bit of emotional weight, but it’s a subplot.

As for the art… well, it’s a Clayton Crain story.  He pulls off some nice effects on the transmode-infected characters, with little lines of brightly coloured circuitry standing out against his generally dark images.  There are some moody establishing shots of Genosha which work well, though quite when the city got remodelled in gothic style, I have no clue. And sometimes, when he’s forced to work with brightly coloured characters hitting one another, there’s real energy to his layouts.

But it’s not great.  His characters don’t do emotion very well, though it has to be said that the plot doesn’t exactly give him much to work with.  The whole thing is murky and frequently hard to follow.  Backgrounds seem to be a foreign concept to him.  I realise that he’s going for mood, but for the most part his interiors don’t seem oppressive or claustrophobic – just undefined and vacant.  Still, there are moments in these issues that do impress.  It’s just that they’re usually the moments where the art breaks from a general air of monotonous gloom and does something interesting with colour.  Much of the rest of the time, it comes across as a comic which has just painted its bedroom black.

This is a disappointing comic, because all involved have done far better in the past, and no doubt will do so again.  Nonetheless, the bottom line is that it’s a weak concept, and a clumsily constructed plot, rendered predominantly in assorted shades of murk.  One for completists only.

Bring on the comments

  1. Jeremy says:

    This is a story where the artwork seemed to just get darker and darker as it went, to the point that the final issue was all but incomprehensible. And yes, it does end with with X-Force defeating the nigh-invincible Selene with the awesome power of facepaint.

  2. Entropest says:

    “This is a disappointing comic, because all involved have done far better in the past, and no doubt will do so again.”

    Kyle and Yost rarely impress me as a writing team. And Yost’s solo minis are consistently lame. So yes I actually do have doubts about things getting better.

  3. Stephen says:

    glad i only read the Legacy issues then

  4. dphunkt says:

    isnt this the technique James learned from Ghost Rider (2nd arc?)?..there was a demon bear who wasnt the first, and not actually a demon bear at all – some of Eli’s handy work i think.

    i picked up the last 2 issues and none of the tie-ins. i got the pay off without the clutter, i guess. the dark art never bothered me till now, but its hard to imagine a devil without details. its perfect as an XF narrative, so i wish they wouldve left Selenes motivations completely mysterious. Eli told enough of that story, that she didnt even need dialog really.

  5. Andrew J. says:

    I thought you would like the end result, Paul, because it acts as a (admittedly) half-assed M-Day reversal. Unknown amount of mutants may still be alive, roaming the earth. Cue new characters and the return of old ones!

  6. Lambnesio says:

    Kyle and Yost did turn out those great X-23 minis. And the last little bit of their run of New X-Men: Academy X (pretty much just the Skottie Young issues) was actually pretty good.

    Otherwise though, I agree. They’ve almost never impressed me either.

  7. xmenfiles says:

    Hey thank you! I didn’t understand the final chapter either, and the Mortis character was presented as Real-Important-Why-Can’t-I-Remember-Her?
    Ok, so now I know that my brain is still working.

    I enjoyed the art, the gothic Genosha was awesome, but someone should remember Marvel that plot is also needed in comics!

  8. Suzene says:

    I was bored to dozing by Kyle and Yost’s use of Wither. One of the laziest, least surprising character arcs I’ve seen out of an X-Book in some time, and that’s up against some stiff competition. And, really, at the end of the day, it’s Kyle and Yost dusting yet another X-kid. Those two go to tertiary character death for shock value so often that it’s gotten to be downright predictable, so all they’re doing at this point is whittling down the pool of available characters to no good effect.

  9. Trav says:

    The ritual used by Proudstar was established during the Demon Bear storyline that featured Ghost Rider. Or at least I’m pretty sure it was!

    I agree, Necrosha was pretty weak, but I did like the New Mutants issues because they were pretty straight forward. It was basically just the NM’s versus the reborn Hellions.

  10. Justin says:

    I gotta be honest, I just read the first 2 parts of Second Coming and I like it a million times better than Necrosha already. It kind of has a X-Cutioners song feel, which I like. Hopefully it’ll still stand up when we get to X-Force’s murky art parts of the crossover. That art is the biggest part of what killed Necrosha for me.

  11. JD says:

    X-FORCE will get Mike Choi on art for Second Coming. Cue sighs of relief.

  12. --D. says:

    Well good, now I don’t have to waste $20 on the TPB. Not that I was likely to do so anyhow.

  13. Danny Sichel says:

    The whole point of Mortis was that she had a death-related power.

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