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Sep 10

The X-Axis – 10 September 2011

Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 by Paul in x-axis

The big news this week, and for the next few weeks, is obviously the DC relaunch.  There’s going to be a lot to talk about there.

But there are also quite a few X-books out this week.  Because Marvel, being Marvel, have decided that a very good number of Wolverine comics to ship in a single week is three.  To the uninitiated this might appear moronic, but they’ve been doing it for long enough that one would like to think somebody has deluded themselves into thinking it makes sense.

Anyway, rather than do a juggernaut mixture of X-books and DC first issues together, I’m going to split them into two columns this week.  We’ll see how that goes.

Fear Itself: Wolverine #3 – Three Wolverine comics in a single week may be overkill, but at least, on their own terms, they’re all decent.  This three-parter by Seth Peck and Roland Boschi would have looked perfectly at home in the regular title, but to be fair, that book is currently approaching the climax of a very lengthy storyline, and from a creative standpoint it’s understandable that they didn’t want to interrupt it.

Everyone knows by now that Marvel’s crossover tie-in issues are, at best, marginal to the story, which might explain why they’re not longer making much of an impact on sales (at least in the direct market).  But you can still do something quite entertaining in the margins of another story.  So this is basically a story in which Wolverine has to stop a bunch of mercenaries who’ve stolen a Helicarrier and are planning to suicidally plough it into New York.  Or rather, the leader is, because he’s completely mad.  He hasn’t bothered explaining that bit to the rest of his crew.

The Fear Itself tie-in here is simply that the insane mercenary leader has got it into his head that the chaos of the story proper is some sort of sign that it’s time to help everyone on their way to the apocalypse.  Frankly, any old sign could have been plugged into that role, but Fear Itself works as well as anything.

So we’ve got a story in which Wolverine fights a bunch of mercenaries, most of whom don’t actually realise why they’re there.  It’s a solid superhero action story, which manages to give all the bad guys distinctive personalities and get some mileage out of the idea that some of these poor guys have been led spectacularly down the garden path.  Yes, the climax kind of teeters on the brink of absurdity, but I think the book gets away with it.  It’s a decently crafted comic, and there’s a place for stories where Wolverine just gets to take on some well-written bad guys and beat them.  Not essential reading, but I’d be happy to see more from these creators.

Wolverine #15 – In which Wolverine goes to the Yukon to contemplate suicide, so affected is he by the end of the previous issue (in which he discovered that the Red Right Hand had tricked him into killing some offspring he never knew he had).

When I reviewed that story arc, there was some discussion in the comments thread about whether the story was seriously undermined by having Wolverine appear in so many other titles each month, none of which seemed like they were going to acknowledge it at all.  Personally, I don’t think that’s a critical problem.  Even if there was only one Wolverine comic, it would still be obvious that the answer to the question “Will he give up?” is going to be “Not for more than a few issues at most”, since otherwise there’s no series.

That said, there’s certainly a degree of parallel universe syndrome here, since the events in this storyline aren’t even being referenced by Aaron himself in Schism, and I do think Marvel underestimate the value of at least acknowledging events in other titles.  Rationally or not, it does contribute to the sense of a coherent world, which is pretty valuable when you’re writing fantasy.  (I rather suspect Marvel’s attitude is that this sort of thing requires a degree of co-ordination that just isn’t worth the effort, and in terms of the quality of individual stories they’re probably right – particularly as these references just become quaint topical references when the stories are read in later years – but there are intangible benefits to doing it if your business is still based heavily around the first-run monthly serial.)

Anyway, in this issue Wolverine finishes disposing of the Mongrels’ bodies, attempts to commit suicide (which naturally poses certain practical difficulties), and generally throws in the towel.  Goran Sudzuka’s art is very clear and effective, and the point is made about as thoroughly as you could expect, though ultimately it does run up against the fact that it’s teasing something we all know isn’t going to happen.  The real interest here is in how Aaron rebuilds the character – and given his history, I wouldn’t be altogether surprised if this involves religion somehow, not that that’s necessarily a bad idea for the character.  Aaron’s certainly taking his time with this storyline, and I have to wonder whether it can really end up with anything other than taking the character full circle, but if he’s going to do the “break him down and build him up” routine, Aaron’s certainly committing to it.

Wolverine: Debt of Death – From some indeterminate point in the mists of continuity (but evidently before SHIELD was dissolved) comes this one-shot by David Lapham and David Aja.  The credits page bills it as “A Wolverine Story featuring Shinpu attack Robots, ninjas, killing, explosions, preventive spheres of doom, and the always welcome Nicholas Fury”, which pretty much tells you what you’re getting, though the pacing is actually a bit more reflective than that might suggest.

Wolverine has gone to Japan to help protect some witnesses for a Yakuza trial, but he arrives too late for that.  Instead he ends up investigating the murder of the policeman, which naturally entails a convoluted plot involving demented kamikaze robots from World War II interspersed with some pseudo-noir investigative stuff.  The story itself is okay, but Aja’s art really is excellent, and some of the action sequences are truly inventive.  This one actually might be of more interest to fans of high-quality art than to fans of the character.

X-23 #14 – Hmm, we’ve got some issues here.  In theory, I like the idea of bringing X-23 back to New York after her world tour and letting her interact with the A-list superheroes for a change.  But in practice, once you’ve set up the wacky physics threat and got everyone back to the Baxter Building to discuss it, X-23 just stands in the background hoping nobody will talk to her, and the whole thing kind of turns into an issue of FF.  One problem with a quiet lead character is that mouthy guest stars can overshadow her, and that’s what happens at times here; part of it may be that we haven’t really established why this threat has anything to do with X-23, which adds to the sense of her sulking on the outskirts of an FF story.  But she does have some good moments with the kids, and Phil Noto contributes some very attractive, clean artwork (his splash page of the FF kids is very nicely done).  And it looks as though the next issue will avoid some of these problems by putting her in a smaller group, so perhaps this will be a blip.

X-Factor #224.1 – Peter David takes the Point One remit to heart by doing a story which is as unambiguously “meet the team” as you can get.  There’s a bad guy for the team to fight, and there’s a cliffhanger which sets up a story, but much of this issue is literally Jamie Madrox introducing the characters and explaining the current storylines.  All of which would be ideal if these Point One books were achieving the stated goal of reaching new readers, but might be a bit wearing to the regulars who will actually make up the audience.  Still, you can’t fault the creators for producing the story they were asked for.  And the ending is a good twist.

X-Men #17 – So… we’ve got some of the X-Men, and the FF, and obscure 70s character Skull the Slayer, and long-forgotten early-80s X-Men supporting character Lee Forrester, and they’re in a parallel world, and there’s an alien invasion of some sort, as well as a crooked billionaire.  The pay-off of this issue rather suggests that Victor Gischler has forgotten he’s writing an X-Men story, since what he’s teasing is pretty clearly a storyline that could only be run in FF.  In fact other than having Lee Forrester involved, which is purely a matter of plot mechanics, nothing about this story suggests it’s really got very much to do with the X-Men at all.  And seriously, was anyone crying out to see Lee Forrester reinvented as Shanna the She-Devil?  As for the art, it’s clear enough, but nothing to write home about.  Take the X-Men and Lee out of the equation and this would be a passable fill-in issue of FF, but god only knows what it’s doing in this book.

Bring on the comments

  1. Kid Nixon says:

    Is the second part of this going to be called the DC-Axis?

  2. Justin says:

    While I don’t think that the two main Wolverine stories are undermined by being run concurrently, I do think it is a missed opportunity.

    How much stronger would the emotional impact of Wolverine’s argument be in Schism if there is one line referencing the fact that Wolverine just killed his children?

  3. AndyD says:

    “I rather suspect Marvel’s attitude is that this sort of thing requires a degree of co-ordination that just isn’t worth the effort”

    But doesn´t make this the hero rather schizophrenic? And not in a good way. Continuity may have a bad reputation nowadays, but in serial fiction it is the glue which helds the continuing tale together. Otherwise you just start at day 1 with every new issue. A neverending Groundhog Day.

    Now Wolverine is so overexposed that it is nearly impossible to keep trackor to synchronize his adventures, but have him in one series to want to commit suicide and in the other to do his usual routine makes all series just interchangeable.

  4. Joseph says:

    I think you’re both being too hard on Marvel and giving them too much credit, re: shipping 3 wolvie titles in one week. I doubt it is done on purpose, but likely results from late pages from the artists. Books get bumped back a week or pushed up.

  5. The original Matt says:

    If a stack of DC books ship this week, marvel can help to keep their buyers from having expendable cash by throwing out a bunch of books they hope people will be buying, keeping them from saying “hey, I got a few bucks left this week, might try out the competition.”

    That, or they are just morons.

  6. Jeff says:

    Maybe the Red Right Hand hasn’t been mentioned in Schism yet because the twist hadn’t been revealed yet when #3 shipped? Aaron gave an interview that it was influencing Wolverine in Schism, so maybe it’ll come up.

  7. Michael P says:

    As a regular reader, I quite enjoyed X-Factor 224.1. It was a fun done-in-one.

  8. […] per the previous post, I’m going to split the reviews into two this month.  So the X-books are one post down, and in this post we’re going to do (some of) the new DC […]

  9. Omar Karindu says:

    Anyone else imagine that “juggernaut mixture” was a sly joke given upcoming goings on in the X-books?

  10. Chris K says:

    OK, I’ll be the guy to ask: does the Gischler X-Men story reference Skull’s stint as “Blazing Skull” from various Mark Gruenwald books? Or his subsequent turn as down-and-out mob enforcer from Nicieza’s Hawkeye book?

  11. sam says:

    I just think Wolverine is in too many titles each month. I’m having trouble suspending my disbelief when he’s on the edge of suicide in one title but leading the team in another, and that’s keeping me from enjoying his regular series, so I don’t buy it regularly.

    The solution to me is for Marvel to use another character in Avengers and X-Men while Wolverine gets his act together. It’s not like the Marvel Universe is lacking for loners who don’t follow the rules but get the job done. This would require taking a chance on a less-popular character, but they should really do it anyway. I feel that the commercial decision to have Wolverine in umpteen titles a month is interfering with good storytelling, which is what I care about and what I (usually) trust Marvel to deliver.

  12. skaps says:

    On the subject of storylines acknowledging other events and continuity, and I concede it may be a moot point since it won’t matter at all for the reader of the trade down the line… Over in the Ultimate line, we’ve had recently what was supposed to be (and was hyped as) a pretty big storyline in the ULTIMATE MISTERY/ENEMY/DOOM trilogy of titles, I enjoyed both the writing and the art, but since it hasn’t been referenced elsewhere on the Ultimate line, it ended up being pretty pointless and lackluster; heck, even Bendis himself didn’t mention the events at all in ULT SPIDER-MAN!! But that’s not my point… You see, in the next-to-last issue the Triskelion was blown to pieces by the villain of the story, but at the same time (at least in publishing terms, since I have no idea where the story “fits” in the narrative if no one else mentions it) the same building was teletransported to Iran as the climax of the third ULTIMATE AVENGERS miniseries and IIRC correctly is still there. Now, could both things happen at once? Obviously not, it’s a nonsense, and for me it destroys the coherence of the larger narrative at hand and makes for a very dissatisfactory reading experience. Now, if they don’t care about a tight-knit narrative in the small line of titles of the Ultimate universe, what can we expect on the larger Marvel universe? Nothing at all, right?

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