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Dec 6

The X-Axis – 6 December 2009

Posted on Sunday, December 6, 2009 by Paul in x-axis

If you haven’t listened yet to this week’s podcast, you’ll find it conveniently located one post below.  (Now with revised bitrate!)  On that show, you’ll find reviews of Image United #1, JSA All-Stars #1, and Jonah Hex #50.  One of these comics is good.  You can probably figure out which one for yourself, but go on, listen to the show anyway.

And here’s some other stuff that came out this week:

Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love #2 – In search of a mystical maguffin, Cinderella heads to Dubai and teams up with Aladdin.  Does the world actually need three Fables titles a month?  Probably not, but writer Chris Roberson does a good job of matching the tone of the parent title.  The idea of Cinderella as a spy was set up in the parent title; in practice, she ends up as a relatively straight spy pastiche, perhaps because it’s not that easy to write a cross between Cinderella and James Bond without it becoming hopelessly contrived.  That might explain why they’re using Aladdin, who’s somewhat easier to play with in this context.  It’s not an especially subtle story, but anything with art by Shawn McManus is going to be worth reading.  And they’re right, by the way, that Dubai is a perfect setting for this sort of story in 2009 – it’s exotic, it’s not been done to death, and it’s “a place where billionaires build artificial islands in the shape of things.”

And it’s not the only comic this week that takes place in Dubai.  But we’ll come back to that.

Echo #17 – Behold exposition!  This issue basically amounts to an 18-page explanation of what the Phi Project was actually about.  How much of this is strictly essential to the plot, I have my doubts – in terms purely of the narrative, Terry Moore could probably have pared this down to a fraction of the length and still explained why it matters.  But there’s more than that going on here, because this seems to be Moore spelling out the big idea at the heart of Echo.  It’s a curious mixture of cutting-edge physics, pseudo-science and maths-as-magic… but basically, Moore seems to want to tell us that the Golden Ratio is at the heart of all things.  This idea has been around for centuries, but Moore does a surprisingly effective job of crossing it with experimental physics.  I’m fairly convinced that the plot explanation offered here doesn’t make sense (since most high-level maths and physics is done with variables, surely it doesn’t matter what base you do the maths in?), but it’s nicely pitched as the sort of semi-comprehensible idea that just conceivably might have a glimmer of viability.  And, of course, it’s a testimony to Moore’s ability that he can make 18 pages of exposition into a visually interesting comic.

Jack of Fables #40 – Oh, okay.  I’d kind of been assuming that the two plot threads – our Jack turning into a dragon, and the other Jack trying to be a hero – would tie up by the end of this storyline.  But apparently not.  It seems the dragon stuff is just a sub-plot to build to the next arc.  These last few issues feel like they’ve been something of a necessary exercise to move the characters from A to B – in particular, to make Jack Frost into a proper hero.  The tricky bit is that for Jack to become a traditional fairy tale hero, he has to go through a traditional fairy tale story, which is all a bit predictable.  While it’s entirely readable, the book never quite finds an inventive enough angle to make this material feel fresh.

Pope Hats #1 – New irregular series from one Ethan Rilly, courtesy of a Xeric Foundation grant.  (Here’s his website.)  It’s about a young woman called Frances whose best friend is an alcoholic actress and who is haunted by a vaguely incompetent ghost.  To be honest, this first issue is mainly a scene-setter, introducing the cast and setting up Frances’ problems without really kicking off the story.  But it’s wonderfully observed, beautifully drawn, and frankly good enough to get away with just following the characters around for 32 pages.  I see from Rilly’s website that there’s no actual date scheduled for issue #2 (which means chances are I’ll have completely forgotten about it by the time the next issue comes out), but this is still worth a look.

Psylocke #2 – You know you’re in for a meticulously researched story when the opening caption says “Dubai, Saudi Arabia.”  (It’s one of the United Arab Emirates.)

Fortunately, the rest of the story is so far removed from the real world that research doesn’t much enter into it.  I can see what Chris Yost is trying to do here – he’s trying to do a deck-clearing exercise to clear away a lot of the clutter that Psylocke’s character has picked up over the years, so that she can be used more effectively in future – but the story itself feels mechanical, and Psylocke herself one-dimensional.

Siege: The Cabal – One-shot leading into the Siege storyline.  And, ah, it seems that for the purposes of this series the Asgardians are back in Oklahoma, when over in Thor they’re still camped out in Latveria.  Christ, if they can’t even keep that straight, I don’t hold out much hope for this crossover.  Perhaps this is all perfectly clear if you’ve been reading the regular titles, but since an issue like this is supposed to be the jumping-on point for a major crossover, that’s no excuse.  Anyway, it’s an issue of Exciting Conversation, where the idea is presumably meant to be that the Cabal is falling apart… except that really happened when Namor and Emma left, during the “Utopia” storyline.  On the other hand, Michael Lark gets to draw a very nice double page spread of robot locusts.  Generally, though, I’m just left a bit confused about the state of continuity, and with a nagging feeling that Brian Bendis is trying to force a story beat that actually took place in a different comic three months ago.

Sweet Tooth #4 – Our hero(es?) finally get to talk to some other people who don’t want to kill them, and the story continues to build the big question of just what Jepperd is up to here.  Obviously, the series has been teasing for a while that Jeppard might be up to no good, but Jeff Lemire is building the tension nicely.  Bleak without being unremittingly so, Sweet Tooth has managed to reinvigorate the overused post-apocalyptic setting.

Thor #604 – This is the start of Kieron Gillen’s run, which picks up from J Michael Straczynski’s storyline in progress, and runs through to the Siege crossover.  It’s plainly a transitional story, inheriting a number of plot threads that evidently need to be resolved so that the series is in place for the big crossover in just a few months time.  And inevitably, this book is going to be driven by wider considerations of the Marvel Universe for the next little while.  It’s not an especially enviable remit.  But allowing for those restrictions, it’s a decent issue; Gillen writes good dialogue for the gods, and is clearly having fun with Doom as Frankenstein.  Billy Tan’s not bad on art, though there are a couple of scenes that feel a bit flat (Loki’s address to Balder near the end of the issue needs a bit more spark).

Uncanny X-Men #518 – Hmm, when did it become acceptable again to randomly introduce new mutants for use as cannon fodder?  Wasn’t M-Day supposed to have put a stop to that?  (It happens in this week’s X-Force Annual as well, which suggests a policy change.)  Anyway, this issue the X-Men attempt the incredibly dangerous task of separating Emma Frost from the Void, and… yes, it’s not very well set up, is it?  For one thing, Emma’s been linked to the Void for several issues now, and only with this issue does Matt Fraction really get around to explaining what it actually is.  For another, the plot driver is apparently supposed to be that with the Cuckoos out of action, the X-Men need Emma’s telepathic powers back.  Except… point one, do they?  And point two, what’s wrong with Professor X?  There’s a weak attempt to handwave him away by saying that Cyclops isn’t prepared to put him in the field, but point three, why not?  And point four, since he’s a long-range psychic, why does he even need to be in the field?  This just doesn’t hang together.  Terry Dodson does some good work on the scenes set inside Emma’s mind, but as a story, this has real problems.

X-Babies #3 – Ooookay.  Last month, I wondered why Marvel were promoting their Star Comics collections with a series where the Star characters were portrayed as irritating, punchable and generally crap.  This month sort of answers that question, and in the way I’d sort of expected: just as the X-Babies have been replaced with cutesy versions, so have the Star characters.  Which is sort of fine (though it puts you in the weird position of writing a story where the X-Babies symbolise creative integrity), except that the “real” Star characters turn out to be Marvel-fied versions.  So… the ones who actually looked like the Star Comics characters are still supposed to be cutesy, annoying and rubbish.  I really don’t get what they’re trying to do with this series.

X-Force Annual #1 – A fill-in story with X-Force kidnapping a HYDRA soldier for reasons I won’t explain because they’re part of the plot.  It’s really more of a Wolverine story with added background characters, but whatever.  From a continuity standpoint, this is entirely skippable, but it is by Robert Kirkman and Jason Pearson, and it barrels along quite enjoyably.  As a throwaway over-the-top action story, it’s pretty entertaining.  The back-up strip, strangely, is a “Necrosha-X” crossover featuring Deadpool.  It’s silly, but in the right way; Deadpool can’t keep track of X-Men continuity either, but knows that any story where he can blast his opponents to smithereens with impunity is alright by him.

Bring on the comments

  1. Chad Nevett says:

    Asgardians are in Latveria (aside from the Warriors Three, Sif, and Thor). Asgard itself is still floating in Oklahoma, because Balder doesn’t have the people to move it.

  2. Reboot says:

    I think it’s fairly clear that Gillen’s remit on Thor is to reverse almost all the siginificant changes from the post-600 issues of Thor (save Loki/Sif). And Siege is looking like it’s going to reverse even more (sense-be-damned, I wouldn’t be shocked at all to find that Osborn’s shadowy guy was Odin so they could put him back on Asgard’s throne and boot it off-Earth).

  3. Robert Kirkman’s on X-Force Annual? I thought he was off in his Ivory Image Tower bemoaning any creators who lowered themselves to doing Work For Hire for the Big 2.

  4. Michael says:

    Yeah, that sounded weird to me too. Maybe it’s a drawer story he did a few years ago.

  5. JD says:

    Well, the X-Force Annual had Wolfsbane on the team despite her being out of commission or away for more than a year, so yeah, inventory story.

  6. Omar Karindu says:

    — Is it just me, or was it rather unclear what the hell happened with the Dark Avengers skyscraper in Siege: The Cabal? Can you still call it a Cabal when there’s just four members, two of whom are hired help? And were Doom’s robo-locusts meant as a reference to the Warren Ellis version from the Ultimate line?

    — The Siege #1 preview also leaves me with the sinking feeling that the last several years have just been the very long way around to reversing Civil War.

    — Another month, another issue of X-Men by Bizarro Matt Fraction. Him am good! Him no am writer of acclaimed Casanova and clever Iron Man comics!

  7. maxwell's hammer says:

    Anyone who thought Civil War wouldn’t be reversed at some point is fooling themselves. I know its easy to dismiss the Volstagg incident as a cheap revearsal, but seriously: it was a 3-and-a-half year, line-wide series of story arcs that toyed with the status quo in pretty drastic ways, and managed to be (most of the time) entertaining. Compare that to the M-Day debacle where the X-Universe was shaken up, but with zero discernable forethought as to what to do next. Where everything will also eventually be reversed, but probably in a stunted, sloppy, and slapdash manner.

    On those terms, I’d say the last several years of Dark-Civil-Invasion-Seige-Reign have been a success.

    Also: I can certainly be an X-Men/Matt Fraction apologist, but even I found the “keep the Professor out of the field” explanation kind of stupid.

  8. SC says:

    Regarding Professor X, Cyclops said a few issues ago that he wants to keep his being there a secret. That addresses point 3, at least, though not point 4.

    Regarding Asgardians/Latveria, Balder clearly says in #604 that they’re going to get the hell out of Dodge, just taking a small group to fight Doom while the rest prepare to leave. So presumably most of them will be back in Oklahoma by the time “Siege” starts.

  9. ZZZ says:

    You want some serious, hardcore apologism? Take a gander at this:

    X-Men Legacy established that Cyclops doesn’t trust Xavier anymore, therefore he’s not willing to let him be the team mindlink and Fraction has never mentioned this as his reason because he’s SO distrustful of Xavier that he won’t even allow himself to THINK about his true reason for excluding him.

    See? It all works so well if you make up explanations the writers almost certainly didin’t actually have in mind.

  10. Nostalgia says:

    Did you happen to read Dark Avengers Annual? I was hoping to get your take on its bizarre spoiling of both Cap: Reborn and the Who Will Where The Shield Special.

  11. Delpire says:

    Wasn’t the purpose of Xavier’s Legacy journey that he found his new role in the changed mutant landscape? I was expecting more from Carey than letting Xavier return to the X-men and having Fraction turn him into Cyclop’s whipping boy.

  12. Liam says:

    That Psylocke thing just seems all kinds of awful.

  13. don_dub says:

    anyone else getting increasingly annoyed by the continued insistance that emma frost is an omega telepath that fraction keeps doing?

  14. Rhett says:

    @ dub_dub: I am. One thing I always liked about Emma is that she’s outclassed by most telepaths around her and overcompensates by being really shady and manipulative. Her power has more to do with the force of her personality and not her mutant ability. In some ways its the same issue that comes up with Spider-Man sometimes; just because characters are high profile doesn’t mean they need to be impressive, respected or well-liked by other characters. I’m generally more interested in seeing a flawed character scrape by with limited resources than being told over and over how awesome the lead is.

  15. Tim O'Neil says:

    I am fully convinced that the whole purpose of the X-Babies thing is the repurposing / rebooting of the Star properties. Jiggering them to skew a wee bit older is probably not that bad of an idea. I am sure they’re thinking Wally the Wizard could be the next Avatar or whatever the 8-10 year olds are spazzing over these days.

    But Top Dog – Top Dog is cool. Is was and always will be.

  16. David Aspmo says:

    “Well, the X-Force Annual had Wolfsbane on the team despite her being out of commission or away for more than a year, so yeah, inventory story.”

    Actually, has there been any point in the book in which she *wasn’t* out of commission?

    As I recall, since the first issue she’s been: captured->drugged/brainwashed->traumatized->shacked up->severely injured. Within the X-Force book itself, has she ever been a functional part of the team?

  17. arseface says:

    I don’t think much was spoiled by the last page of the Dark Avengers annual. It may well happen after Reborn (the ending of which is implicitly stated by the very name of the series) and before Wield/Shield. Solicits for Siege indicate original uniform Cap and BuckyCap will both be around in some form.

    But yes, the timing was odd, almost certainly due to the extra issue added to Reborn. Having said that, the Bendisverse exists out of continuity with everything, including itself. Dark Reign: The List: Avengers apparently happens after the current New Avengers storyline, which happens before Reborn and doesn’t match up at all to anything happening in Ms Marvel or Spider-Man.

  18. The original Matt says:

    Bendisverse – heheheh. The problem with it is that Bendis generally takes so long showing us the finer details and letting his characters have those “Bendisations” (the back and forth dialogue) that it takes him 6 months to wrap up what should happen in 2. New Avengers is one book that could well benefit from bi-weekly scheduling, or, (shock fucking horror) actually speeding up the pace.

    As for X-Force, no, Wolfsbane has never actually been a functional member of the squad, she just happens to be on the cast.

  19. Liam says:

    Re:X Force
    Why the heck did they take her out of X-Factor then? Seems like a waste.

    I’ve lost track of Reborn so much that I accidentally bought issue 4 again at the weekend, not realising it was the same book with a different cover.

  20. moose n squirrel says:

    the Bendisverse exists out of continuity with everything, including itself.

    Speaking of this: What the hell happened with that one issue of Dark Avengers where Norman Osborn seemed to have accidentally locked himself in his closet, and the Sentry’s wife blew his head off with a Kree space-gun? There was no mention of any of that in the very next issue, or, as far as I can tell, anywhere else. What the fuck?

  21. David Goldfarb says:

    The “Echo” thing worked a lot less well for me than for you. I don’t buy that phi is some sort of universal key; math in one base is equivalent to math in any other base — switching your base to an irrational number makes a lot of calculations a lot harder, and that’s about it. It certainly doesn’t give you magic insights into the workings of the universe. And all that stuff about the magic alloy having to be bonded to something organic is just ridiculous too. Frankly, I think it would have worked better to have the alloy be made from pixie dust that was a gift from elves.

  22. Black Mage says:

    You know, I do wonder, Mr O’Brien, if there’s much point to doing the ‘Year in Review’ feature this year.

    The line’s drift, which was so obvious last year, seems to have gotten worse. X-Factor got the whole ‘conspiracy’ out of its system, after a mere four years, having been sidetracked by every crossover in the line (except Dark Reign); it’s now a book without much purpose, really. San Francisco lasted about a year before they all decided to live on an island. There’s no real progress towards ending House of M, which everyone seems to acknowledge as a mistake yet which no one is willing to decisively end. There’s no real sense of ‘line identity’ beyond the broadest of events: Legacy is off in its own little world, Cable has been running a sideline for most of the year and Uncanny is a book in drift, without much sense of its purpose. And Deadpool has practically become his own franchise.

    I think you should just enjoy Christmas this year. Maybe go to the beach.

  23. Reboot says:

    He lives in Scotland. If he went to the beach at this time of year he would die, trust me.

  24. Jonny K says:

    Bah! We’re north of Aberdeen and we go for a walk on the beach very Christmas day. Wrapped up warm, but we still go to the beach.

  25. LiamK says:

    The Scots are a brave, hardy lot.

    Or you’ll both be drunk.

  26. Ed says:

    “Wasn’t M-Day supposed to have put a stop to that?”

    I don’t have too much of a problem with just casually flouting post-M-Day rules, or even just gratuitously shitting on M-Day in general, at all. Sure, a full, properly told in-continuity undoing might be nicer, but M-Day/Decimation was such an idiotic notion that there’s something about such a willy-nilly contemptuous disragard for the thing that somehow perversely pleases me.

  27. Reboot says:

    Re: comment 24

    Wrapped up warm is cheating :p

  28. dmcd says:

    Re: Dark Avengers reveal

    Well both Caps were in uniform in this week’s Iron Man, so it’s not just Bendis that’s out of sync.

    I’ve been wondering about Normie hiding in his room too. I guess we’re just supposed to infer he was busy getting yelled at by his goblin mask, like in the Seige Cabal thing?

  29. The original Matt says:

    This week’s New Avenger’s annual had both Bucky and Rogers in cap uniform, and Bucky seemed almost shocked to to Steve… Once Siege is done I think I’ll be dropping every book that isn’t a fringe title.

  30. maxwell's hammer says:

    Concerning all weirdly conflicting Cap appearances: it has aboslutely nothing to do with bad editing or out-of-whack shipping schedules! Its called ‘non-linear story telling’ you plebes!

    Or possibly its just bad editing and out-of-whack shipping schedules.

  31. David Aspmo says:

    The only thing wrong with the Cap appearances is that Reborn is taking longer to come out than it was supposed to. And, frankly, with Steve’s return being obvious from the title of that book, I’m glad they haven’t delayed everything else to accommodate it (like they did when Civil War ran late).

    Original Matt: I hope Mike Mayhew not getting the exact nuance of a facial expression (Bucky was clearly meant to simply be surprised Steve was in the room, not shocked that he was there at all) isn’t the only reason you’ve decided to drop a bunch of books.

  32. The original Matt says:

    Nah, it’s not anything to do with that at all. Event fatigue, I believe would be the correct term. I’m all for sprawling epics, but I think the Marvelverse has had enough over the last few years to push me into just wanting to read well crafted self contained stories.

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