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Jan 10

Domino #7-10: “Soldier of Fortune”

Posted on Thursday, January 10, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

On the heels of the strikingly abrupt final issues of Weapon X, “Soldier of Fortune” is something suspiciously similar – a four part story which comes in two barely connected halves, and which seems to go into fast forward in its final issue.  I don’t know what was going on here, but this is another story that certainly reads as if the book was abruptly cancelled and went into aggressive wrap-up mode.

Except… Domino returns as a five-issue miniseries in March, with precisely the same creative team.  So… what the heck?  A last-minute reprieve after they’d already committed to the wrap-up?  An inexplicable attack of madness?

Whatever the position, it doesn’t do the comic any favours.  Issues #7 and 8 are pretty decent, though.  Domino and her Posse are hired by a mysterious Wakandan teenage exiles, Shoon’kwa, who wants them to retrieve a box.  And so everyone heads off to Norway, and so far, all good fun.  David Baldeon’s draws a great opening sequence of Domino fretting about how to promote her casino boat, then shifts gears to a bit of gleeful snowmobile riding in the middle.  That’s what you want from a Domino comic.

The box turns out to belong to a bunch of vampires (and Baldeon’s evil spirits are pretty darn good too), and to contain Morbius, who they wanted for Complicated Reasons in support of a scheme to wipe out humanity.  Issue #8 then gives us a team-up between Morbius and the Posse, which goes for all the classic vampire tropes: Morbius does want to save the world, but it’s mainly out of self-interest because he has to live in it, but at the same time there’s something kind of noble about him, and all that.  Domino comes across as a bit smitten, which isn’t the obvious way of playing it, but does kind of fit with the vampire genre.

The bigger point of all this, I think, is meant to be the parallels with Domino herself.  At least in Gail Simone’s take, Domino doesn’t think of herself as especially heroic, and sees herself as basically self-interested, but she’s drawn by the opportunity to do better.  It’s a questionable take on Domino, who’s been hanging around with various anti-hero groups for years, but it does fit with her portrayal in Weapon X, and you can see where there’s something to be done here with Morbius.  So the bad guys are defeated, and there’s a subplot with a vampire hunter who exists mainly so that Domino can help Morbius escape at the end (though it certainly reads as if they were planning to do more with him).

And that’s a fine little two-parter.  But then story barrels on to something else entirely: Shoon’kwa wants the Posse to kill Longshot.  Not surprisingly, Domino’s not very keen on that idea, so about half of issue #9 is devoted to explaining why Shoon’kwa ought to be listened to.  This takes a while, but it boils down to her being an exiled Wakandan with the mystic power to foresee apocalyptic future timelines and the tipping points that lead to them.  There’s an attempt to link her to some sort of vague African history and the last surviving Atlas bear, but none of it really lands.  She’s a character defined largely by her superpower and her ability to advance the plot; and the bear stuff seems pretty random, not least because she’s supposed to be Wakandan, and Atlas bears were from the Atlas Mountains at the other end of Africa.  I can see how she might have developed into something more interesting given time – there’s a hint of an arc based on her learning how to get people to listen to her – but in this story she’s basically a plot device with a bear pelt.

For whatever reason, Longshot is some sort of potential disaster for the future.  So we get a fight between Domino and Longshot, where the obvious gimmick is luck versus luck, but there isn’t the space to develop it.  Longshot is apparently sick and dying, and he’s hallucinating for some reason.  It’s an okay set-up but the final issue really does fall off a cliff.  There’s a lovely opening splash by Baldeon, but the story as a whole has a barrage of guest artists (always a sign of problems), and the plot goes something like this: after a brief altercation, Domino decides to help Longshot, then talks Atlas Bear into accepting that.  Everyone travels to the Mojoverse, which is apparently very easy when you’re already halfway through your final issue, and there’s a desperately rushed sequence of getting him to a doctor and getting him cured.  In the way of such things, curing Longshot’s sickness also cures his hallucinations and averts the Bad Timeline, but that merits about a panel.  It’s insanely rushed.

And then there’s a one-page epilogue where Domino feels reassured that she does count as a hero after all.  That’s clearly the emotional arc this series was going for, and it’s not too badly done in the circumstances, but it’s clearly far from ideal.

I’ve seen crash cancellations done worse, but there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a very awkward closing arc which never gets around to tying its two halves together, and which doesn’t have the time to do much more in its final issue than plough through the plot.  A shame.

Bring on the comments

  1. Si says:

    Is this still written by Gil Simone? I seem to recall her having various university-level qualifications on African cultures, odd that she’d fall in the same slightly offensive “a small country called Africa” trap as so many others.

    It is a shame this title’s shutting down. It was okay. I’ve noticed there’s a lot of X-characters that do better when out of the mess of the X-books. Rogue was damn interesting in Avengers. The best Wolverine story I’ve read in years is that Daredevil event comic (admittedly Wolverine’s not really in it). End segregation now!

  2. Chris V says:

    It seems like Marvel grows bored with these C-level books and just abruptly decides to move on with their plans.
    Domino? She’s in X-Force now, so cancel her series.
    Morbius? He’s going to be used in an Avengers story-arc, so rush that story.

  3. Chris V: Until last month, Domino *was* in Weapon X–and her book is coming back as a 5-part miniseries in 2 months. As Paul says, it’s just bewildering.

    Paul: Good catch on the distance between the Atlas bear’s range and Wakanda. I think there’s a handwave when Shoon’kwa is introduced about that, but it was pretty perfunctory and I can’t even remember if it had Shoon’kwa stumbling across the spirit of the bear or the spirit of the bear being drawn to Wakanda.

  4. Chris V says:

    I realize she was in Weapon X, but Marvel didn’t care about that book either.
    It was treated in the same manner as a book like Domino.
    Omega Red? Marvel’s already moved on with other plans for him in Uncanny.

    It seems like Marvel is trying to make X-Force more of a priority, since there are only going to be two main X-books for the nonce.

    Maybe Domino is coming back in a new series after her role in X-Force is established, so Simone can make the series fit with the new status quo.

  5. Col_Fury says:

    I wouldn’t day Marvel doesn’t care about these books, but rather these books weren’t selling enough to sustain themselves.

    The December numbers aren’t out yet, but looking at the direct market:

    01/18 – WEAPON X v3 #13 – 26,179

    11/18 – WEAPON X v3 #26 – 18,299

    That’s losing an average of a little over 700 copies a month. Not terrible, but once you’re under 20,000 per month you’re in trouble (very roughly, it looks like a book’s breaking even at 17,000, give or take).

    Domino was also losing a little over (on average) 700 copies a month:

    05/18 – DOMINO v3 #2 – 26,343

    11/18 – DOMINO v3 #8 – 21,050

    Obviously, comics are sold outside of the direct market (like say, countries outside the US or digital copies) so there are other revenue streams for these things, but the trends tend to hold across the board (with an exception here and there, of course).

    At the end, X-Men Blue, Gold, Red & Astonishing were all in the low 30-thousands, and Old Man Logan was in the high 20-thousands (all of these tipped up a bit for their last issues).

    The Hunt for Wolverine minis all ended in the area of 31,000, between Gold (33,000) and Blue (28,000) at the time.

    The X-books can’t seem to move minis these days, either. Iceman and Legion were both around 10,000 copies for their final issues, Multiple Man around 12,000 and New Mutants between 16,000-18,000 (that one bounced up at the end for some reason).

    The X-line as a whole wasn’t doing too great, which is why we’re getting a line-wide shakeup. We’ll have an idea of how Uncanny is doing once the December numbers are released, and the new X-Force in a few months (once a trend is established). There’s nothing malicious about it, it’s just math.

  6. Luis Dantas says:

    When even heavily hyped “events” can’t sell more than just over 30000 copies of each book, and it is no longer unusual to see a mainstream book that is about to be relaunched as a presumably core part of the line (X-Force) lose well over 2% of its readership every regular month, is it any wonder that the industry is permanently in trouble?

    We have probably reached the point where there are more people reading the monthly columns about comics than the random regular comic. And in any case, the amounts involved make the thought that the comics can influence their own editorial directions ludicrous. It is very clear now that they have become tradition with no pull of their own, while the movies and TV series provide the real money.

    New Mutants probably surged sales because there has been talk of a movie (this very year, IIRC). X-Force has received a bit of attention due to Deadpool’s second movie, perhaps there is some intent to feature him in the relaunch?

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