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Jan 16

S.W.O.R.D. #7-11

Posted on Sunday, January 16, 2022 by Paul in x-axis

S.W.O.R.D. #7-11
by Al Ewing, Stefano Caselli, Guiu Vilanova, Jacopo Camagni & Fernando Sifuentes

The period between “Hellfire Gala” and “Inferno” has been a mixed bag for the X-books. Several books feel like they’ve lost their way, or are marking time waiting for the new season to start. S.W.O.R.D. is the one that goes the other way, with its own stories and its future direction coming to the fore.

Up to this point, S.W.O.R.D. has been remarkably heavy on the crossovers. Its first seven issues include three tie-ins to King in Black, one to “Hellfire Gala”, and one to “Last Annihilation”. That’s over 70% crossover, which is a bit much. But with these five issues – yes, we’ve got a “Last Annihilation” tie-in in issue #7, okay. After that, though, the focus is squarely on Storm establishing her authority on Arakko, Abigail Brand’s inveterate scheming, and Henry Gyrich’s hamfisted attempts to outwit her. The direction of the book becomes clear, and it’s set up for next season’s X-Men Red.

Issue #7, admittedly, devotes a lot of time to “Last Annihilation” material that, with hindsight, isn’t all that important to the book. I do get the desire to ground S.W.O.R.D. in the Marvel Universe, and in particular in the cosmic events that Abigail wants to interact with – in a sense, her priorities lead S.W.O.R.D. to get involved in this stuff – but there’s a lot of Hulkling in that issue, and relatively little of Abigail’s manipulations at the end. Still, Al Ewing is really good at sketching out some of these characters we’ve never seen (in this book) before, and getting the point of someone like Captain Glory across quickly.

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Jan 14

X-Men Legends #10

Posted on Friday, January 14, 2022 by Paul in x-axis

X-MEN LEGENDS #10
“…The Eighth Circle!”
by Fabian Nicieza, Dan Jurgens, Scott Hanna & Alex Sinclair

X-Men Legends seems to be tweaking the format. It started with had short arcs by bygone writers (and occasionally writer/artist teams), designed to fit into their original runs and do a bit of gap-plugging. Then it shifted to something more like “fill-in arcs we could have done”. Legends #10 is a little different – a one-issue story written in the margins of an earlier story.

Well, kind of. The story in question is X-Men vol 2 #34 (July 1994), which isn’t exactly in the top tier of memorable issues. It’s the one where Gambit and Psylocke explore Mr Sinister’s old Nebraska base, fight off some wonky Marauders clones, rescue Threnody, and escape before the place blows up. (No, don’t ask me how that fits with the first arc of Hellions. That’s a whole other question.)

But Legends #10 isn’t especially closely tied to X-Men #34 – it’s a story about what Mr Sinister was up to while his base was getting destroyed. And the base getting destroyed does tie to the plot, but not all that centrally. The real high concept of this story is something else entirely, and you could have done it at pretty much any point in X-Men history before Krakoa.

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Jan 12

Marauders #27 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 by Paul in Annotations

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

MARAUDERS #27
“Bon Voyage”
by Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli, Phil Noto & Rain Beredo

This is the final issue of Marauders vol 1; a new series with a different creative team launches in the spring. It’s the season finale, then.

PAGE 1. The cast pose on the cover. It’s a homage to the cover of issue #1. The inclusion among the cast of Tempo is interesting, since her only major appearance was in issue #23. Apparently she’s in the new volume, but her appearance on this cover has a distinct whiff of “plans changed”.

PAGES 2-4. Kate Pryde talks to Forge.

“You didn’t forget about my little problem, did you?” Kate’s inability to use the Krakoan gates was a major plot point in early issues, contributing to her depression, but it’s been largely downplayed since her resurrection. Kate is nodding to the fact that the plot has fallen by the wayside, as well as reintroducing it so as to set up the epilogue.

Forge’s “mission for the Quiet Council” doesn’t seem to be anything in particular.

“[Y]ou’ve disrupted every technology you’ve encountered…” Kate disrupts any electrical systems that she phases through. That’s been the case since day one.

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Jan 9

X-Force #21-26

Posted on Sunday, January 9, 2022 by Paul in x-axis

X-FORCE #21-26
by Benjamin Percy, Joshua Cassara, Robert Gill, Martin Coccolo and Guru-eFX

Looking back over the last few months, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that some of the X-books have been spinning their wheels after Hellfire Gala, waiting for Inferno to come along and advance the status quo. Marauders is the biggest example of that, but X-Force is in that category too. What we have in these six issues is a bunch of unrelated stories that seem to be marking time, and don’t feel like a coherent overall series.

It doesn’t greatly help that the series’ most common penciller Joshua Cassara is missing for almost all of this run. He does some of issue #21 and that’s it. Cassara’s art is one of the more memorable features of X-Force; it’s a book unusually preoccupied with the concept of organic technology and weird plant-based things. Under Cassara, it generally manages to make all of that look rather seedy, grotesque and ominous in a way that then infects even the more conventional shots of Krakoa as an island paradise. And since most people are going to be reading this book as part of the wider X-lineup, that’s fine; the utopian setting is being established somewhere else, X-Force is free to get on with undercutting it.

The art in these issues isn’t bad at all, it just feels a little blander to me. Sometimes that works. The scenes of a dispassionate mind-controlled Colossus actually work well in that register, and it’s maybe better able to play Quentin and Phoebe’s relationship straight. But it’s less distinctive.

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Jan 8

Excalibur #22-26

Posted on Saturday, January 8, 2022 by Paul in x-axis

EXCALIBUR #22-26
by Tini Howard, Marcus To & Erick Arciniega

(Deep sigh.)

I mean, you can’t say it’s phoned in. It’s an elaborate thing, Excalibur. It’s going for a complex mythology of Otherworld, it’s clearly trying to be a big epic that repays effort. It’s done a reasonable job of extricating Betsy Braddock from a decades-long cul de sac, and that’s undeniably a positive. It’s not lazy. You don’t produce a book as odd as this by going the obvious route.

But does it actually work? Um.

Um.

Look, I’m willing to grant Excalibur a couple of things. It’s a fantasy book, which is not really what interests me about the X-books, and it’s fair to say that no matter how well this was done, there’s a pretty good chance it really wouldn’t be my thing. And it’s a UK book written by an American, which gives it a wonderful range of opportunities to irritate me that won’t apply to most readers. So I’m probably not the ideal market even for the book that Excalibur is trying to be. I’ll give you that. I’m trying to make full allowance for it.

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Jan 6

Inferno #4 annotations

Posted on Thursday, January 6, 2022 by Paul in Annotations

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

INFERNO vol 2 #4
“The Death of Moira X”

by Jonathan Hickman, Valerio Schiti, Stefano Caselli & David Curiel

COVER / PAGE 1. Mystique, changing into Destiny, stands over a gravestone. Nothing very much like this happens in the issue itself – it seems to be teasing that Destiny could die again, or perhaps that they both kill Moira. (It may be worth noting here that issue #3 had a cover of Professor X and Magneto fighting Nimrod, which doesn’t actually happen until this issue. That might suggest a bit of rewriting on the fly.)

PAGE 2. Opening quote from Omega Sentinel. This line comes from page 6, where it’s directed at Orchis. It could of course be read as a self-deprecating meta nod to this being Jonathan Hickman’s final issue, and the Krakoa status quo sailing on without him.

PAGE 3. Recap and credits. There’s so much to cover in this issue that it only gets one page!

PAGES 4-11. Nimrod and Omega Sentinel turn on Orchis, then fight Professor X and Magneto.

We’re picking up from the end of the previous issue, where Professor X and Magneto had been lured into a trap by following a tracker embedded in Moira’s arm, only to find that the arm had been cut off. At this point, Omega Sentinel and Nimrod show their hand. As foreshadowed in many previous issues of Hickman’s run, going back to House of X and Powers of X, this is a three-way conflict between humans, mutants and post-humans. Omega and Nimrod are post-humans – a cyborg and a robot animated by fragments of the personality of a human – so ultimately, their agenda does not align with Orchis.

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Jan 5

X-Men #6 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 by Paul in Annotations

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

X-MEN vol 6 #6
“Whatever Happened to Captain Krakoa?”
by Gerry Duggan, Pepe Larraz & Marte Garcia 

COVER / PAGE 1. A crowd of people photograph Captain Krakoa on their phones. We’ll find out during the issue who this guy is.

PAGES 2-4. Flash forward: Captain Krakoa debuts in New York.

He’s doing very conventionally heroic things indeed, and generally trying to be a welcome member of the New York community – precisely in line with the X-Men’s general approach to New York since they set up here at the start of the current volume. Obviously, rescuing a cat from a tree is an absurdly stereotypical piece of heroism.

“I’m kind of the greeter in these parts.” Particularly back in the 1980s, Spider-Man tended to show up at the start of a new series to cement it as being in the Marvel Universe.

PAGE 5. Recap and credits. The layout is modified to show the title in larger print, for some reason. The previous five issues were titles as chapters of “Fearless”, but this one isn’t. The solicitations say this issue is part of the first trade paperback, but you have to wonder.

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Jan 4

Hellions #13-18

Posted on Tuesday, January 4, 2022 by Paul in x-axis

HELLIONS #13-18
by Zeb Wells, Rogé Antonio, Steven Segovia & Rain Beredo

We’re entering another season break, making it the perfect time to catch up on reviews. And we start with the X-book that probably had the strongest last six months in terms of what it actually delivered on the page – but it isn’t coming back for another run.

And I’m pretty much fine with that, because this feels like a good ending point for Hellions. Not necessarily an ending point for all the characters, some of whom will doubtless go on to other things. But certainly an ending point for the series, since Hellions has a bunch of inherent tensions in the whole premise. Sinister is a blatant lunatic who the team (or the Quiet Council) are only going to tolerate for so long. Psylocke’s only tolerating all this because she’s being blackmailed to get the back-up copy of her daughter back. None of this can go on for ever. At some point it all has to explode – which is pretty much what happens. Whatever the next logical step is for some of these characters, it isn’t Hellions. So fair enough. Eighteen issues seems the right lifespan for the book.

The early issues of Hellions have some grimdark tendencies which don’t do the series any favours. By this point, though, Wells has got the balance right. There’s a lot of black comedy here, but it’s mostly psychological rather than graphic.

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Jan 2

The Incomplete Wolverine – 1996

Posted on Sunday, January 2, 2022 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 | 1991
1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995

When we left off, Wolverine was reverting to a primal state of mind after losing his adamantium. But we’re building to issue #100, so… that’ll be the end of the story, right? Right?

X-MEN & SPIDER-MAN #3
“Clone Sagas”
by Christos Gage & Mario Alberti
March 2009

But first, time to check in again on this miniseries, where every issue took place at a different point in X-Men history. This time, the X-Men team up with Spider-Man (Ben Reilly, the clone of the original) to stop Mr Sinister getting hold of a DNA sample from Carnage (Cletus Kasady). Spider-Man asks Wolverine if his enhanced senses can tell whether he’s the original or the clone; Wolverine can’t, but says that Spider-Man’s performance in the fight showed that he’s the real thing in every way that matters. You know the routine.

Unfortunately, this issue creates a continuity error with Uncanny X-Men #339, where Ben meets the X-Men for the first time again. (Wolverine met him previously in Marvel vs DC.)

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Dec 31

Mighty Marvel Holiday Special: Iceman’s New Year’s Resolutions Infinity Comic #1

Posted on Friday, December 31, 2021 by Paul in x-axis

MIGHTY MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL: ICEMAN’S NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS INFINITY COMIC #1
by Luciano Vecchio

Um, could we maybe have a think about coming up with more viable names for these things?

Anyway, with no regular X-books out this week, the X-Men round out the year with an Iceman Infinity Comic set on New Year’s Eve. Luciano Vecchio is best known as an artist; he’s worked on Ironheart and Champions. His previous writing credits for Marvel have been on short stories for the Voices anthologies, but this is closer to a full length story. And it’s absolutely fine, if squarely in the territory you’d expect from a holiday special comic.

It’s New Year’s Eve, and Iceman has decided to drop by Times Square to watch the ball drop. He’s on his own, so maybe the other mutants have stronger views on Covid. But the story was probably committed to this setting before Omicron took off, so fair enough.

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