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Aug 3

House to Astonish Presents: The Lightning Round Episode 4

Posted on Tuesday, August 3, 2021 by Al in Podcast

It’s time for lightning to strike four times, because… well, because it’s the fourth episode of The Lightning Round? We’re back with another episode of our spinoff reread podcast covering Marvel’s most wanted, the Thunderbolts – this time round, we’re covering Thunderbolts #7-9 and Heroes for Hire #7. Is it under an hour yet? Is it hell. Featuring: microfiche and Cheetos.

The podcast is here, or here on Mixcloud, or available via the player below. Let us know what you think, in the comments, on Twitter, via email or on our Facebook fan page. And our super-swell shirts are, as ever, standing ready for your call to action over at our Redbubble store.


Aug 3

X-Factor #6-10

Posted on Tuesday, August 3, 2021 by Paul in x-axis

X-FACTOR vol 4 #6-10
by Leah Williams, David Baldeón, David Messina & Israel Silva

Well, that was sudden.

Abrupt cancellations used to be a fact of life at Marvel. For a while they even had a fun little experiment with cancelling new ongoing titles before the first issue had shipped. But before that there was the sudden cancellation, where a series ended out of the blue with a final issue in which the writer was blatantly scrabbling to tie up as many loose ends as possible and vaguely hoping that anything else might get picked up in Marvel Two-in-One.

The second volume of X-Factor is just that sort of old-school cancellation. It’s an odd thing to encounter in a line that, in the Krakoan era, has generally felt quite masterplanned. Sure, Fallen Angels was quietly taken out behind the woodshed and put out of its misery after one arc, but that was a book that obviously didn’t work, and it ran to a somewhat natural break point. X-Factor is just a guillotine.

And books like this are tricky to write about, because inevitably the stories don’t achieve their potential. We can speculate about how they would have played out at full length, but there’s a risk there of wishful thinking.

But let’s start with the positive. There’s a lot that X-Factor does very well – or at least idiosyncratically – even in these closing issues. One of the book’s great strengths is its use of offbeat detail to make the characters feel more rounded. Prodigy and Eye-Boy sitting around reading about nineteenth-century beekeeping? Sure, why not! An entire body farm being set up in the back garden so that Prodigy can study decomposition? Absolutely. Of course, it’s a zombie supplier for the Morrigan arc. But it feels like it was going to be more than that. X-Factor is the sort of book where characters can decide to take up the study of corpse decay and it feels natural.


Aug 1

The Incomplete Wolverine – 1991

Posted on Sunday, August 1, 2021 by Paul in Wolverine

Part 1: Origin to Origin II | Part 2: 1907 to 1914
Part 3: 1914 to 1939 | Part 4: World War II
Part 5: The postwar era | Part 6: Team X
Part 7: Post Team X | Part 8: Weapon X
Part 9: Department H | Part 10: The Silver Age
1974-1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 
1980 | 1981 | 1982
 | 1983 | 1984 1985
1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989 | 1990

We’re now firmly into the 90s, and the Larry Hama run is just getting underway. For those who skipped the previous chapter, the tail end of Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men run is in there (even though it came out in 1991), because the reading order makes more sense that way. All of that is going on alongside the comics we’re about to look at. Does skipping Uncanny X-Men leave us with a quiet 1991? No, of course it doesn’t…

WOLVERINE vol 2 #35-37
“Blood & Claws”
by Larry Hama, Marc Silvestri, Dan Green, Glynis Oliver & Mark Chiarello
January to March 1991

Lady Deathstrike is back on her revenge kick. Figuring that Gateway is always trying to frustrate the Reavers by looking for loopholes in their instructions, she tells him to send her to “the place that Wolverine gazes upon this very moment.” Of course, this instruction contains a loophole: Logan and Puck are reminiscing over photographs of Puck’s time fighting in the Spanish Civil War. And so Gateway sends all three of them back to 1937, where Logan and Puck hook up with the partisans that Puck fought alongside back in the day. Hama continues to set the tone for his take on Wolverine by having the group include Ernest Hemingway and “Ricky Blair” (i.e. George Orwell) – this Logan is hyper-masculine, but smarter than he first seems, even if he plays that side of himself down. Hama even has him observe that in war, everyone misses everyone else when humanly possible – in reality, a quotation from Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia (1938).

Meanwhile, Deathstrike hooks up with Nazis to pursue our heroes, and mulls over trying to change her father’s history, so that she never ends up with a duty to avenge him. When she finally catches up, Hama restates Claremont’s take on her: she’s given up her humanity because of an obsession over his adamantium, when Wolverine would much prefer to be rid of the whole thing. The fight ends inconclusively when Deathstrike kills a German soldier who was meant to survive the war, creating a time vortex that sends everyone home. In a subplot, this alteration of history causes a distraction that leads to Donald Pierce’s new robot, Elsie-Dee, accidentally getting genius level intelligence. But we’ll get to that.


Jul 31

Charts – 30 July 2021

Posted on Saturday, July 31, 2021 by Paul in Music

This week’s designated album-releaser is Dave.

1. Ed Sheeran – “Bad Habits”

Five weeks. It’s past its peak, though.

2. Dave featuring Stormzy – “Clash”
4. Dave – “Verdansk”
6. Dave – “In The Fire”

That’s the maximum three tracks from the new Dave album “We’re All Alone in This Together”, which becomes his second number 1 album. “Clash” was the single, entering at 3 two weeks ago and rebounding now. “In the Fire” has a barrage of uncredited guest verses (which is why it runs to seven minutes), and is built around a fantastic sample from “Have You Been Tried in the Fire” by the Florida Mass Choir. “Verdansk”… leaves me entirely cold.


Jul 30

Wolverine #14 annotations

Posted on Friday, July 30, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

WOLVERINE vol 7 #14
“The Unusual Suspects”
by Benjamin Percy, Adam Kubert & Frank Martin

COVER / PAGE 1. Um. Well, it’s a landscape of two tiny figures looking at a giant Wolverine head which is being shattered from the inside by Solem, and which seems to have some sort of circuitry on it. The connection between this image and anything in the actual issue is obscure, beyond the general fact that Solem is manipulating everyone. Maybe it’ll make more sense as a cover for the trade paperback.

PAGES 2-4. How the Marauder ended up in Madripoor.

The footnote to X-Force #20 is an oversimplification. The Shi’ar showed up at the Hellfire Gala with their logic diamonds in Marauders #21. They were loaded onto the Marauder in X-Force #20. Christian was attacked and left floating in the North Atlantic in Wolverine #13, and the Marauder showed up on fire in Madripoor in the same issue. Apparently, the Marauder sailed through a “sea gate” to get it to Madripoor. This is the first mention we’ve had of sea gates, but sure, why not? It helps explain how the Marauder gets everywhere so quickly.

The significance of logic diamonds, as I’ve mentioned before, is that they’re used to provide the memory for Cerebro and its backups of memories and personalities. (It’s maybe time to spell that out explicitly for those readers who don’t remember them getting a passing mention back in Powers of X, though Wolverine does at least mention here that they’re something to do with Cerebro.)


Jul 29

S.W.O.R.D. #7 annotations

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

S.W.O.R.D. vol 2 #7
“Full Spectrum Diplomacy”
by Al Ewing, Stefano Caselli & Fer Sifuentes-Sujo

COVER / PAGE 1. Frenzy, Abigail Brand, Hulkling and Manifold ready themselves for action, while an image of Dr Doom at his diplomatic dinner with Storm looms over them.

Last Annihilation. This is a tie-in to “Last Annihilation”, which is basically a Guardians of the Galaxy storyline that has some tie-in one-shots and also crosses over into this issue of S.W.O.R.D. Of this book’s seven issues to date, five have been crossovers, which seems a bit much.

PAGE 2. This is the Utopian Kree’s We-Plex Supreme Intelligence System recapping the plot of Last Annihilation in rather disjointed fashion – we saw one of these pages in issue #5. For present purposes, all you really need to know about Last Annihilation is that Dr Strange villain Dormammu has possessed Ego the Living Planet and he’s invading our dimension again, this time by attacking in outer space, with his usual Mindless Ones army from the Dark Dimension.

PAGE 3. Captain Glory arrives to join the fight.

Captain Glory was called up to help at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy #16. He debuted in Avengers #676 (part of the “No Surrender” storyline), where he was leading the Lethal Legion. He’s basically a Kree super-soldier. He was jailed in Empyre for attempting to sabotage the Kree/Skrull alliance and prolong the war, but it’s perfectly reasonable to trust him in a situation like this.


Jul 28

Cable #12 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

CABLE vol 4 #12
“Shakespeare in the Zark”
by Gerry Duggan & Phil Noto

COVER / PAGE 1. A close up of the older Cable’s face. This is a companion piece to the cover of the previous issue, which features the other half of the young Cable.

PAGE 2. The opening quote – “Cable, you’re relieved of your duty” – is what the younger Cable said when he killed his older self in Extermination #1. This issue completes the exercise of reversing all that, as the young Cable goes back to his own time to pick up his life as it ought to have proceeded, while the older Cable resumes his place as… well, Cable.

This is the final issue of Cable, though there’s a “Last Annihilation” tie-in oneshot to follow.

PAGE 3. Recap and credits.

PAGE 4. Cable Classic and Stryfe fight.

“Maybe I’ll keep you alive until Krakoa burns.” Stryfe might be anticipating that he’s going to burn down Krakoa, or he might be aware of how Krakoa turns out. Certainly Destiny’s instructions to Mystique in X-Men #6 were to “burn that place to the ground”, hence the title of the upcoming Inferno miniseries.


Jul 27

X-Men #16-21

Posted on Tuesday, July 27, 2021 by Paul in x-axis

It’s past time I started on another batch of reviews, which I was planning to start as soon as the Hellfire Gala finished, but, well, close enough.

X-MEN vol 5 #16-21
by Jonathan Hickman, Phil Noto, Brett Booth, Mahmud Asrar, Francesco Mobili & various others

These six issues complete volume 5 of X-Men, which promptly gets relaunched for a new season under Gerry Duggan. So, in a sense, these issues complete Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men run.

Except of course they don’t, because Hickman remains the moving force behind the X-books as a whole. And that’s going to be an odd thing to have lurking in the background behind Duggan’s run, though I suppose no more than in the days when we had heavier input at the editorial level. Still: the point here is that volume 5 of X-Men is going to read very strangely if you try to take it as a thing in its own right. It only really makes sense when understood as part of the wider picture of the Krakoa-era X-Men books.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s how the book is intended to be read. In some ways it’s a throwback to the time when the X-books were marketed much more heavily around their contribution to wider continuity, but this time round there’s more of a sense of it being driven by a creative agenda (even if it’s one that was no doubt developed with an eye to supporting a line of books). Still, Hickman’s X-Men is a strange, fractured thing – it doesn’t feature an X-Men team, or even a regular cast, but instead offers a selection of short stories that don’t directly connect to one another, instead feeding in various ways into the big picture. There isn’t even a regular artist, so much as a common talent pool.


Jul 23

Charts – 23 July 2021

Posted on Friday, July 23, 2021 by Paul in Music

It’s one of those singles charts that would be dead if it wasn’t for the spillover from album releases.

1. Ed Sheeran – “Bad Habits”

Four weeks. It’s still not growing on me.

14. Pop Smoke featuring Dua Lipa – “Demeanor”

This is the lead single from “Faith”, which enters the album chart at number 3. It’s his third album, two of which were posthumous. Posthumous albums are a dubious exercise at the best of times, at least when they go beyond completing a final product to pillaging the archives for material that the artist consciously chose not to release during life. This single is perfectly fine on its merits, but it’s hard to look past the fact that it’s essentially an unreleased Pop Smoke fragment plastered over a Dua Lipa track.


Jul 22

New Mutants #20 annotations

Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

“Secrets & Lies”
by Vita Ayala, Alex Lins & Matt Milla

COVER / PAGE 1: The Shadow King looms over Scout. Seems like a cover that would have fit better an issue or two back.

PAGES 2-4. Anole, Cosmar, Rain Boy and No-Girl decide what to do with Scout.

The previous issue ended with them finding Scout’s body. The strong implication was that Scout had been killed by the Shadow King, after she confronted him in issue #18 about her concerns over his influence over these four.

The group is named later in the issue as “Lost Club”.

“Cosmar asked for their help, and they gave her platitudes.” Issue #15. Cosmar, who believes that her distorted appearance is not a feature of her powers but merely a self-inflicted injury when her powers were out of control, asked Dani to kill her in the Crucible so that she could be resurrected in her original form. Dani refused and gave her a mutant-pride speech, which went down very badly.