Posted on Thursday, February 9, 2017
by Paul in x-axis
All-New X-Men #1.MU is a one-shot tying in to the Monsters Unleashed crossover, because where would we be if All-New X-Men didn’t tie in to two crossovers in one week? I haven’t been reading Monsters Unleashed, you’ll be astonished to learn, but according to the recap page the high concept is that giant monsters are falling from the sky and people have to fight them.
Really. That’s the hook. There are giant monsters. People have to fight them.
What do you do with that, exactly, in a random tie-in one-shot? The lucky writer who gets to wrestle with that challenge is Jeremy Whitely, who I think may be doing his first work for Marvel, but is best known for writing Princeless, an all-ages title which got some Eisner nominations in 2012. Which is better than we normally get for this sort of thing. Oddly, there are two art teams credited on this – Carlo Barberi and Walden Wong seem to be the lead, with Ron Lim and Terry Pallot listed as well – but that’s a fairly solid creative team for something like this.
And indeed it’s a decently polished affair. The problem, as you might expect, comes when the story has to find something interesting in “a monster randomly shows up and they fight it”.
The book’s solution to this problem is not altogether satisfactory. The book starts with the X-Men arriving in New Orleans, and Laura going off to help Gambit investigate signs of a monster in the swamps. What follows is mostly about giving Laura and Gambit a chance to share some panel time, which is actually happening already over in All-New Wolverine at the moment, but whatever. Here, Gambit is mostly interested in the fact that Laura hasn’t just taken on Wolverine’s identity, she’s wearing a team colours version of his costume – all of which Gambit, as the semi-detached outsider, sees as a curious decision in someone who used to run around in leather and fishnets.
And then it sort of goes off the rails. Gambit and Laura get caught in a rope net apparently laid by a baddie called Dr Chimera. He’s a mad scientist obsessed with the animals of the swamp, and he’s been transforming his own body accordingly. At that point, a monster falls from the sky and eats Dr Chimera, and then everyone just has to fight the monster for the rest of the issue. And, um, that’s it. Oh, and through the first half of the story, there are scenes of the rest of the cast just sort of seeing stuff in New Orleans. None of it really plays into the plot.
What we have here is a book with quite a lot of nicely observed detail, and some well thought out bits of business – for example, a lot of thought has gone into justifying why Laura doesn’t just cut her way straight out of the net, and making it a big deal when she and Gambit finally do make their move to escape. There’s a reasonably inventive climax with Gambit charging up a parade float to blow up the monster. And the rapport between Laura and Gambit rings true; Whitely clearly has a good handle on their characters.
But there’s no story for any of this to hang on. A huge chunk of the issue is basically sightseeing. The original story of a monster in the swamp is pretty much brushed aside without getting any sort of resolution – Dr Chimera doesn’t look like he actually meets the description of something bitey, and he gets about five lines in before getting brushed aside by a giant crayfish. I guess they’re going for the gag where the villain starts his big talk and is immediately squashed by a bigger threat, but it just doesn’t land, and you’re left with a story that really goes nowhere before a monster shows up for no reason and everyone has a big fight.
It’s a shame, because there’s a lot of really good stuff in the little details here. But there’s nothing satisfying to hold it together.