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Jul 18

The X-Axis – 15 July 2024

Posted on Thursday, July 18, 2024 by Paul in x-axis

X-MEN: FROM THE ASHES INFINITY COMIC #6. By Alex Paknadel, Diógenes Neves, Arthur Hesli & Clayton Cowles. Hmm, so we are indeed already retconning the bit from Fall/Rise about Professor X killing the crew of the Agnew. I’m not especially hostile to the retcon in principle – I’m willing to buy that he fakes it if he has the chance, and that he’s convinced himself that the best thing he can do for mutantkind is to present himself as the villain and draw fire from everyone else. And the way in which he’s trying to cover his tracks hardly tries to rehabilitate him as a straight hero, rather than just getting rid of the single worst thing he did in Fall/Rise. But… honestly, blowing up one ship doesn’t seem so extreme in a world where Wolverine is a hero as to call for urgent reversal. And this does feel way too early. It only happened a couple of months ago and even if you do think it was a beat too far, it’s not obvious what’s so urgent about undoing it. That aside, the story makes a reasonable fist of selling it, but I don’t get why we’re doing this now.

DEADPOOL VS. WOLVERINE: SLASH ‘EM UP INFINITY COMIC #5. By Christos Gage, Alan Robinson, Carlos Lopez & Joe Sabino. Serviceable movie tie-in romp, innit? Decent for what it is, has some good lines, looks perfectly decent, but there’s not a great deal going on beyond that.

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Jul 17

Phoenix #1 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2024 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

PHOENIX #1
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artist: Alessandro Miracolo
Colour artist: David Curiel
Letterer: Cory Petit
Editor: Tom Brevoort

I haven’t decided yet how many of the second-tier X-books I’m going to do in the “From the Ashes” era, but I’ll probably cover at least the first issues of everything and see where we go from there. So: this is the first Phoenix series, although there was a short-lived Jean Grey ongoing about the time-travelling Silver Age version of the character.

PHOENIX

Phoenix is Jean Grey, and following Rise of the Powers of X, she’s now at full-blown cosmic power – but presumably without the risk of going mad like in the Dark Phoenix Saga. At least, nobody seems very worried about that. As foreshadowed in the X-Men: From the Ashes Infinity Comic, Jean is off in outer space, doing cosmic things.

Her power levels are pitched as insanely high here. She can stabilise a star by absorbing energy from it. She can stabilise a black hole by… dancing with it? It seems to be a way of trying to visually represent her being in harmony with the universe, and it’s certainly more interesting to look at than a page of her thinking really hard. She can casually hold telepathic conversations with Cyclops back on Earth. It’s suggested that – much like classic Superman – the risk with Jean is not that she gets outpowered by anyone, but that she’s tricked into doing the wrong thing or overlooking the real threat. Specifically, there’s a suggestion that she’s a god who still thinks like a mortal and risks getting her priorities wrong as a result. She’s still too inclined to save the lives right in front her rather than look at the bigger picture. Or so the narrator suggests.

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Jul 14

Daredevil Villains #31: The Committee

Posted on Sunday, July 14, 2024 by Paul in Daredevil

DAREDEVIL #74 (March 1971)
“In the Country of the Blind!”
Writer: Gerry Conway
Artist: Gene Colan
Inker: Syd Shores
Letterer: Sam Rosen
Colourist: not credited
Editor: Stan Lee

We’ve skipped issue #73, which is a crossover with Iron Man. The villains are Zodiac and Spymaster, but they’re not getting an entry because it’s not a Daredevil story. It’s an Iron Man story, and there’s absolutely no reason for Daredevil to be in it, other than (presumably) a vague hope of boosting sales. Daredevil’s contribution is to join in some fight scenes and to stand around listening patiently to pages of exposition about the origin of the Zodiac Key. Two issues in, Conway has yet to write anything for Daredevil which isn’t a complete dud.

Issue #74 is better, though it’s still not exactly good. It’s the second of Conway’s two stories about blindness. We open with Daredevil fighting some random thugs, getting clocked over the head, and miraculously regaining his sight. But alas, it was all a dream. This takes up a quarter of the book, because Daredevil‘s eccentric pacing decisions are unaffected by the change of writer. We still have languid opening scenes, and a desperate rush to finish the plot at the end.

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Jul 13

Charts – 12 July 2024

Posted on Saturday, July 13, 2024 by Paul in Music

Once again, not a great deal is going on. Perhaps this is just seen as a bad time of year to promote singles, since there’s not much happening outside the top 40 either. Still, even with rules designed to shoulder records out of the chart if they’ve been out for more than 10 weeks and have passed their peak, we’re very much clogged up with long running records right now.

1. Sabrina Carpenter – “Espresso”

No, that’s not a typo. “Espresso” gets a sixth week at number one, after five weeks at number 2. In the interim, we had two weeks for Eminem’s “Houdini”, and three weeks for Carpenter’s own “Please Please Please” – which is now number 2. The difference between the two tracks is absurdly small – the equipment of 962 sales, a margin of 1.8% – and both tracks are actually past their peak. There just isn’t anything else to take them on.

20. David Baddiel, Frank Skinner & The Lightning Seeds – “3 Lions”

The Euros are on right now, and England are doing quite well, so here’s the obligatory England football perennial. In fact, we had this as a re-entry at number 32 three weeks ago, but it promptly dropped out of the top 75.

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Jul 12

The X-Axis – w/c 8 July 2024

Posted on Friday, July 12, 2024 by Paul in x-axis

X-MEN: FROM THE ASHES INFINITY COMIC #5. By Alex Paknadel, Diógenes Neves, Arthur Hesli & Clayton Cowles. Hmm. So from the look of this, where we’re going is that Professor X didn’t actually kill the crew of the Agnew, but wanted it to look as if he had – and he’s psychically trying to cover his tracks, leading to anomalies which Sally Floyd has been misinterpreting as something to do with her alcoholism. That’s interesting, even if I have my doubts about teasing the reversal of such a major plot point that quickly. Then again, it also raises the question of what Professor X is really doing in a cell, having framed himself for murder. I’m certainly intrigued, though I’m not sold on the timing.

X-MEN #1. (Annotations here.) The thing about “From the Ashes” is that it doesn’t have a unifying theme, unless you count “diaspora”. And it’s broadly intended as, if not an outright reset, at least a restatement of the core idea. I don’t have a problem with that; you need to go back to the themes from time to time. But it’s going to come across as fairly conservative (with a small C) and it’s never going to create the same sort of first issue excitement as something like House of X.

And that’s pretty much what we have here. We’re setting up Cyclops’ X-Men team, we’re establishing the cast, we’re introducing the new location, and we’re fighting some bad guys. I’ve read enough of Jed MacKay’s Marvel work to have some confidence in him, but taken purely on its own terms, this is a good-but-not-great issue. The new team go into action so we can get a sense of the team dynamic. The immediate villains are the Fourth School, basically an Orchis faction who’ve reinvented themselves as the U-Men; the bigger picture is the introduction of 3K, who are obviously the main villains of MacKay’s run.

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Jul 11

X-Men: Heir of Apocalypse #3 annotations

Posted on Thursday, July 11, 2024 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

X-MEN: HEIR OF APOCALYPSE #3
Writer: Steve Foxe
Penciller: Netho Diaz
Inkers: Sean Parsons & Lorenzo Ruggiero
Colour artist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Annalise Bissa

APOCALYPSE

We get another recap of Apocalypse’s fight with the X-Men in X-Men #35 – which the footnote insists on calling Uncanny X-Men #700, just to make absolutely sure that there’s no danger whatsoever of readers being able to find the bloody thing on Marvel Unlimited or Amazon. Apocalypse attempts to explain what the hell was going on there and doesn’t really make matters much clearer. He starts by claiming that Krakoa was Professor X’s vision (which it wasn’t, and that was a large part of the point of Immortal X-Men). He accepts that he was rejected by mutantkind, but conflates mutantkind entirely with the X-Men (and Xavier’s vision), and utterly ignores the fact that he was trying to claim control of a Krakoa which had developed without him for several years (which seemed to be the point of X-Men #35). Nor does it really explain why his selection of contestants is predominantly made up of the very people who he claims rejected him.

Charitably, let’s assume that Apocalypse is simply reinterpreting his rejection in the way least humiliating to him. At any rate, he recognises that he is no longer welcome as a mutant leader on Earth and needs to find someone else for the role – essentially what he said in issue #1.

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Jul 10

X-Men #1 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, July 10, 2024 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

X-MEN vol 7 #1
“Fire-Baptised Species”
Writer: Jed Mackay
Penciller: Ryan Stegman
Inker: JP Mayer
Colourist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Tom Brevoort

We’ve been in the post-Krakoa era for a month now, but in the form of a sort of season break. Unless you count the Free Comic Book Day one-shot, which was more of a teaser, this is effectively where the “From the Ashes” era begins.

THE X-MEN

Or one group of them, anyway – there’ll be another group over in Uncanny X-Men. But in this book, we’re interested in Cyclops’ group. The field team is Cyclops, Juggernaut, Kid Omega, Magik, Psylocke and Temper, with the Beast, Magneto, Xorn and Glob Herman back at base. Because of the time jump from the previous issue, we don’t yet know how this particular line-up came together.

The group are openly operating as the X-Men, from a former Sentinel factory in Merle, Alaska, on which they’ve daubed an enormous X logo – it looks like we’re calling this place the Factory. They moved in in the epilogue to X-Men vol 6 #35. The Factory was smashed up by the Avengers in Avengers #12, a tie-in to Fall of the House of X. The X-Men have invited local police chief Paula Robbins to see the facility, in what seems to be a broadly genuine attempt to set up relations with the local community – although as we’ll see, they also seem to have chosen the location to send a message.

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Jul 7

Daredevil Villains #30: Quothar

Posted on Sunday, July 7, 2024 by Paul in Daredevil

DAREDEVIL #72 (January 1971)
“Lo! The Lord of the Leopards!”
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Gene Colan
Inker: Syd Shores
Letterer: Artie Simek
Colourist: not credited
Editor: Stan Lee

If you were feeling harsh, you might say that for Stan Lee, Daredevil was about the romantic triangle between Matt, Foggy and Karen; for Roy Thomas, Daredevil was about Matt and Karen trying to make their relationship work; and for Gerry Conway, Daredevil was about twenty pages long, once a month.

This isn’t entirely fair. True, Gerry Conway’s first year on the book has a lot of blatant filler, random crossover issues, and some decent ideas that would have been better suited to a different title. But he was clearly aware of the problem, given the drastic steps he took to re-tool the the book. And besides, right at the start of his run, we have a couple of stories that are unquestionably Daredevil-specific. They’re about blindness.

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Jul 5

Charts – 5 July 2024

Posted on Friday, July 5, 2024 by Paul in Music

Britain’s attention is elsewhere, and so we have another rather quiet chart. I’m doing this on my iPad, so no embedded videos this week. But there isn’t actually much to embed anyway, so don’t get too comfortable.

1. Sabrina Carpenter – “Please Please Please”

That’s three weeks at number one, and “Espresso” has spent all three of them at number 2.

30. The Kid Laroi – “Nights Like This”

Not a new release, but a 86-second track from last year’s album “The First Time” – although there is a new video for it in order to promote his tour.

35. BL3SS & CamrinWatsin featuring Bbyclose – “Kisses”

This week’s only actual new entry, and it’s a track that’s been out for three months and climbs from the lower reaches. Debut hit for everyone – as best I can tell, BL3SS and CamrinWatsin are the producers. Although I’ve linked the primary version above, a lot of the streams seem to belong to the Evan McGee remix.

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Jul 3

The X-Axis – w/c 1 July 2024

Posted on Wednesday, July 3, 2024 by Paul in x-axis

X-MEN: FROM THE ASHES INFINITY COMIC #4. By Alex Paknadel, Diógenes Neves, Arthur Hesli & Clayton Cowles. Moving on to the book’s second arc – which still feels like weird timing when X-Men #1 isn’t even out yet, but okay. And it seems we have an actual regular creative team on this book now, which is a different approach. This arc, “What Charlie Did…”, is about journalist Sally Floyd trying to make sense of Professor X’s recent heel turn and his handing himself in to the authorities after Fall of the House of X. If you’re struggling to place Sally Floyd, then she’s the alcoholic journalist from Generation M, a miniseries from the Decimation period. After that, she got shunted over to the wider Marvel Universe as one of its cast of available journalists, but I don’t think the X-books have done anything with her since Generation M, and she doesn’t seem to have been used anywhere in several years. Still, if you’re looking for a viewpoint character to write about mutantdom, she’s as good as any.

This first chapter is really just restatement of ideas. Sally’s basic role as a talented journalist and recidivist alcoholic is set up again, and we get a recap of all the things Professor X has done wrong- specifically, the things that were turning points in how the character was interpreted – coupled with a reminder of his more straightforwardly heroic moments that have been downplayed over the years. The project here is apparently to explain how these conflicting versions of the character are meant to work together, but part of the angle is some weird Arthurian connection in Xavier’s self-image. Hard to say at this point where they’re going with this, and it certainly seems a bit early to be setting up Xavier for rehabilitation from the end of Krakoa, but we’ll see.

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