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Aug 22

More X-Axis…

Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 by Paul in x-axis

Continuing our catch-up programme, here’s the other X-Men titles that shipped over the last few weeks…

Astonishing X-Men #52 – With the big publicity event completed, the series gets back to dealing with the main storyline.  Which isn’t necessarily for the best, because the actual story – heroes are attacked by people manipulated by anonymous mind-controller – isn’t actually all that interesting.  This issue shifts the emphasis to Karma and covers events from her perspective.  As you undoubtedly figured out for yourself, she hasn’t really turned evil (and the book clearly doesn’t really expect you to have thought otherwise).

Writer Marjorie Liu’s angle on Karma is that she’s kind of buckling under the pressure and wants out, which both seems to come out of nowhere, considering that Karma hasn’t been much used recently, and also isn’t especially interesting.  There’s some good dialogue in her scenes with Kitty and Logan, but no particularly memorable ideas to underpin it all.  Couple that with a generic villain doing manipulative things that aren’t especially interesting for reasons that aren’t really hinted at, and you’ve got a story that’s almost instantly forgettable.  The art’s perfectly sound, and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s flashback scenes have some very nice moments, but there’s really nothing much going on here.

First X-Men #1 – Sorry, can I just pretend this didn’t happen?



First X-Men is a continuity implant miniseries in which Logan, apparently back before he got the adamantium, forms a team to help mutants.  So they’re the X-Men before the X-Men, you see.  Which gives you a group composed of the future Wolverine, the future Sabretooth, a couple of new characters, and Magneto.

I cannot begin to tell you how little enthusiasm I have for that sort of premise.  On the other hand, it is a Neal Adams book, and in his prime, Neal Adams was one of the greats.  Admittedly, he’s mainly responsible for the story here, and writing was never his strong point.  But his work on the X-Men back in the 1960s was seminal, and there are still some good sequences of storytelling in here.

But as a story – well, why?  What’s the point?  I was utterly baffled when this thing was announced and I’m no less baffled after reading the first issue.  It’s a continuity trainwreck, but that wouldn’t be a big deal if it seemed to have something to say.  And yes, there are a couple of interesting character ideas in here.  Magneto’s Nazi-hunter phase remains a relatively underused part of his back story.  Xavier flatly refusing to get involved is more questionable, but you can make a case for it, given that this is before he has his epiphany while fighting Amahl Farouk, and at a time when he’s still expecting a quiet life.

But Sabretooth has to be wrenched way out of any sort of character he’s ever had in order for his role here to make any sense at all.  And the book’s token female character is completely generic.

It’s not a completely awful comic, but it is a seemingly pointless one that just complicates and dilutes the franchise.  I truly have no idea why it exists or what it’s meant to be achieving.

X-Men #33-34 – The final part of “Blank Generation”, and the first chapter of “Subterraneans”.  As it happens, the one leads rather smoothly into the other, since “Blank Generation” doesn’t really end so much as stop.  It’s evidently a storyline intended to set up future storylines, as the X-Men finally track down David Michael Gray and confront him.  He promptly pulls out a gun and blasts his own head off, no doubt to resurface in a new body down the line.  Everyone then kind of stands around for the rest of the issue and reflects on the meaning of it all.

There’s a lot to like in Brian Wood and David Lopez’s work, but this story arc really does have some fundamental problems.  First and foremost, the whole thing hinges on the concept that the discovery of ancient (or rather, medieval) mutant DNA is a Really Big Deal.  So far as the X-Men are concerned, it’s not just something of practical use; it’s… well, we’re asked to accept that it’s “huge” and “changes our very identity”.  And for the life of me I do not understand why I’m meant to think that.

I have a horrible feeling I’m being terribly soulless here, but I honestly don’t get what the big deal is supposed to be.  Characters seem to be acting as if the existence of medieval mutants is some kind of revelation, but it isn’t – the X-Men already know there were mutants as far back as ancient Egypt.  And if you want to leave that aside and take the story completely on its own terms, it never really explains what the characters previously believed and why this new information changes anything.  Besides, even if the X-Men didn’t previously know that mutants went back that far, why would they be surprised to learn it?  I really don’t understand what the story is going for.

Issue #34 sees the team trying to recover the missing DNA sample from a group of cultists.  For the purposes of this story, it’s apparently “all anyone needs to destroy the mutant race”, though again, I have not got the faintest clue why that’s supposed to be the case.  Still, the DNA is more of a macguffin in this story, so it’s not so essential to buy into its inherent importance.  And there’s plenty in this issue to like – a well executed silent opening sequence of the sample being transported to its new owners through a string of couriers, and some good comedy with Domino attempting to infiltrate the cultists but not really being able to conceal her contempt for their stupidity for more than a panel at a time.  (They’re also apparently blind, since nobody thinks there’s anything unusual about that massive mark on her face.)

Roland Boschi’s art excels in the opening silent sequence, but there’s also some great character work here; I like the angular style of his characters and the way he handles the scenes on the cultist ship.  And it’s a nice change of pace that the guy in charge of the cult appears to be a deluded true believer just like all the others; there’s no hidden agenda here, he’s just nuts too.  A good issue, and one that plays more to the strengths of Wood’s run so far.

X-Men: Legacy #271 – With Rogue banished to an alien world to get her out of the way, X-Men: Legacy is now out of the Avengers vs X-Men crossover, and can get back to its own stories.  The idea here is that Rogue finds herself on one of those wartorn fantasy worlds and obviously needs to get back home.  That means forming some sort of alliance with one of the local armies, and fortunately, they think she’s tremendously powerful and very useful to them.  Unfortunately, that’s because she’s still got Ms Marvel’s powers from when she copied them last issue – and she won’t have those for long.

Okay, yes, this story seems to work on the basis that when Rogue copies powers, she keeps them until she’s used them up.  I could have sworn that for thirty odd years the deal had been that they faded after a certain amount of time.  But whatever.  There’s been a bit of tinkering with her powers in the last couple of years that might just about justify this if you squint, and besides, it serves the plot well.

It’s a good set-up, and it’s coupled with some good comedy with Rogue attempting to keep the adulation of the locals in check.  The usual story, these days, would be that Rogue has stumbled into the wrong camp and has hooked up with the baddies by mistake, but Gage doesn’t seem to be going there – or if he is, he’s doing a more convincing job than usual of misdirecting us.  A fun little story and a nice return to focussing on Rogue in her own title.

X-Treme X-Men #1 – Boy, this came out ages ago.  As has been widely observed, this sequel to Greg Pak’s recent Astonishing X-Men arc is essentially Exiles.  The various X-Men who were left on the other Earth at the end of the story do indeed save the world by shunting their people to a new world.  That, it seems, screws up the multiverse a bit, and “awakens” a bunch of bad guys who must now be hunted down and stopped.  So they jump from world to world fighting the local version of the threat.

Dazzler gets added to the cast thanks to our X-Men finally managing to open a portal back to the other team’s world.  Nobody’s been using Dazzler much in a while, and this story plays her as a bit of a B-lister even in the eyes of the other X-Men.  But she’s a character I’ve always liked, and she’s a good choice to round out the cast here as the reliable veteran who sees everything from the readers’ perspective.

The hook is a weird one.  All the multiversal threats that have to be fought are, we’re told, evil version of Charles Xavier – though the one we see in this issue is more of a Cthulhu-esque squid thing.  I’m curious to see where that’s going to take them.  The risk here is either it gets terribly repetitive, or the variations on the theme become so extreme that it might as well not be Xavier in the first place.  At first glance it doesn’t seem like a set-up that would be easy to sustain, but since it’s Greg Pak, I assume he knows what he’s doing here.  After all, the team only have to fight ten of them – we’re presumably looking at a change of direction about a year in.

I do wonder about the wisdom of billing something like this as an X-Men comic, since it really is essentially New Exiles; it’ll sell better with the X-Men name, of course, but in the long run this sort of thing surely has to dilute the brand.  Given their approach to both the X-Men and the Avengers at the moment, Marvel plainly couldn’t care less about diluting the brand, but I find it very hard to believe that that won’t come back to haunt them.

Still, whatever it’s called, this is an entertaining book with a likeable cast.  It should be a fun read.

Bring on the comments

  1. In the “Blank Generation” story they name the old mutant “Ister”. This is explained as a Russian word…but does it make anyone else go “Sin-Ister”? Which connection if true changes everything about the story.

  2. Daibhid Ceannadeach says:

    Wolverine had the idea for the X-Men before Professor X did! Of course he did. Coming soon: Wolverine once founded a team to “avenge stuff” with Thor and pre-armour Tony Stark! Wolverine was at college with Reed Richards and Victor von Doom, and pointed out to Reed that Victor had his sums wrong! Wolverine was once chatting to a scientist preparing for a school visit, and suggested he could irradiate a spider as a demonstration!

    Wolverine once traveled back to the beginning of time and created the Marvel Multiverse in its entirity!

  3. ASV says:

    Isn’t the important thing about the medieval mutants that they’re another evolutionary off-shoot of Homo sapiens, which was cut off and isn’t the same as Homo superior? That doesn’t explain much about why their DNA matters, but it does at least make them more interesting than just a bunch of old, dead mutants.

  4. Jack says:

    “First X-men” is… an incredibly stupid idea, specially so soon after X-Men:First Class (the movie) came out, which was basically the exact same story, but good.

  5. Tdubs says:

    So…this week’s wolverine and first x-men…oh boy.

  6. Odessasteps says:

    I see a potential LXG like series with logan leading various people from different time periods.

  7. Si says:

    I wonder how the Wolverine who carefully shaved Xavier’s head and convinced him to name a superhero team after himself gels with Jeph Loeb’s Wolverine who did, according to Bleeding Cool, an even bigger, stupider retcon in the opposite direction. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s very big, and very stupid.

  8. Taibak says:

    Out of curiosity, what’s the appeal behind Dazzler? To me, she always seemed like a character who was stronger in her solo series rather than with the X-Men. And it’s probably been 25 years since anyone has done anything interesting with her for more than an issue or two.

  9. Michael P says:

    I think you missed some issues of X-Factor.

  10. ZZZ says:

    @Daibhid Ceannadeach – (My apologies if you already knew this) Actually, it was Sabertooth, not Wolverine, who was an Avenger before Iron-Man, Thor, Wasp, et al. He was recruited by Nick Fury along with Dominic Fortune, Namora, Kraven the Hunter, Dum Dum Dugan, Silver Sable’s father, and Ulysses Bloodstone (and eventually the Blonde Phantom – possibly because even Howard Chaykin realized it was stupid to have a team set in the 50s composed entirely of people who are either still active in 2012 or who are the father of someone still active in 2012) to be a black ops team. I don’t remember whether they ever actually called themselves “Avengers” but it was a subplot/backup story in New Avengers that spun off into a series called “Avengers 1959.”

    So yeah, Sabertooth was one of the first Avengers AND one of the first X-Men.

    You’re probably right about Wolverine doing that other stuff, though. I’m pretty sure he also mentioned to Cyclops that the original X-Men had some mysterious “x-factor” that set them apart from other mutants, taunted Baron Zemo by telling him that if he at least pretended to behave himself maybe he wouldn’t get beaten up so much, and proposed that the U.S. Justice Department have its own baseball league while standing near a dimensional portal.

  11. AndyD says:

    “Jeph Loeb’s Wolverine who did, according to Bleeding Cool, an even bigger, stupider retcon in the opposite direction. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s very big, and very stupid.”

    O yeah, it is really astonishingly idiotic in every regard, isn´t it? 🙂

  12. wwk5d says:

    “Writer Marjorie Liu’s angle on Karma is that she’s kind of buckling under the pressure and wants out, which both seems to come out of nowhere”

    This would have made more sense if it happened right after her leg was amputated…unless it’s been building up all this time, but as you’ve said, we have seen any of it. So…whatever.

    First X-Men: It’s Retcontastic!

    @ ZZZ:

    “Avengers 1959”

    Another idiotic idea we have Bendis to thank for.

  13. Chief says:

    Good lord, after reading this I’m so glad I dropped all Marvel Comics. For 15 years I bought in the neighborhood of 5-7 Marvel books a week. I buy zero now. The stuff that is good (not much) I buy in trades years down the line. I’m just disgusted with how they treat their fans. Marvel, I WANT to give you my money! I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Marvel characters but when you just shrug your shoulders and say “hey, we don’t give a shit anymore” I have to draw the line.

    For some reason I thought First X-Men was the Bendis original-five book, shows how little I pay attention to this stuff these days. So we currently have a continuity trainwreck in First X-Men, and we can look forward to Bendis bringing the original five into the modern age? Truly this is the Marvel Age of comics!


  14. …so, do we call them the “W-Men” now?

  15. Of course not, they should be the IX-Men – and there are another 8 teams before them!

  16. Si says:

    All founded by Wolverine.

  17. wwk5d says:

    So, all this time, we’ve been mispronouncing it….the team Charles founded should be pronounced the Ten-Men…

  18. Jacob says:

    Tenmen…So Xavier is a massive fan of Achewood (probably through time travel?)?

    That redeems all the evil nonsense that’s been written into his past. No Achewood fan can be evil.

  19. Frodo-X says:

    I stopped reading Wolverine for the Loeb arc having already suffered through the first one, so I had to go look up what this new revelation is that the posters above are referring to.

    And yeah…it really is remarkably stupid. I shall ignore it as I did Romulus. Wake me when Cullen Bunn comes back.

  20. Matt C. says:

    Okay, now I’m curious too. /Google

    Wow, I heard Claremont originally wanted to do the “Wolverine is a mutant wolf” thing, but I didn’t know that they actually wrote that into a comment. So good that they’re trashing that, but yeah, the following retcon is pretty damn stupid too.

  21. Tim O'Neil says:

    My first reaction when reading this week’s Wolverine was “I can’t wait until Paul catches up to this.”

  22. Michael Aronson says:

    Paul really needs to dedicate a separate review to skewering Sabretooth Reborn. And if he doesn’t, why, I will cancel my paid subscription to this site.

    (Wait, what do you mean no one else is paying?)

  23. Chief says:

    Ooo, I wanna play too (checks spoilers)

    Why is Jeph Loeb allowed anywhere near anything? At what point did anybody in editorial look at this and say “great idea! send it to the printers!”

  24. Hellsau says:

    They should hire Jeph Loeb to direct Avengers 2, so he can literally destroy Marvel.

  25. Jack says:

    (after googling) Wow… the Wolverine spoilers truly are astonishing. It’s like Loeb is actively trying to ruin the character. It’s a joke, right?? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, after all this is the same publisher that allowed the whole “Gwen slept with the green goblin” thing to happen….

  26. ZZZ says:

    It’s a terrible retcon (and disturbingly similar to some of the things we were joking about here earlier) but I actually think it works a lot better than the whole “every Marvel character with fur or claws is a member of a secret race of wolf mutants (even if they aren’t remotely wolflike)” thing with Romulus. (In the same way that a straight razor works a lot better for fishing an errant eyelash out of your eye than a flamethrower) This new thing is Deadly Genesis bad, but the “homo lupus” stuff was sub-The Draco-level nonsense.

  27. Si says:

    I think that Jeph Loeb actually still sells a lot of comics, right? It may offend a lot of readers horribly but if a lot more actually buy the comics, then Marvel as a company is doing the right thing. And further, the fact that to my knowledge every single writer at Marvel since the Wolverne-is-Elfquest storyline (and there have been plenty of writers) has simply ignored that story, it also shows that he’s not actively damaging the character either. So unless everyone stops buying the damn comics, we’re just going to have to suffer (well not me, I’ll just have a chuckle and go read New Deadwardians or something).

  28. Billy says:

    @Matt C

    Claremont wanted to make Wolverine a mutant wolverine, not a mutant wolf. Entirely different animal, even if the mutant animal concept is about equally as silly.

    That was the capstone of that particular Loeb idiocy, as it not only grabbed multiple characters and said they were descended from wolves, it did it to characters whose designs were based on animals that weren’t even related to wolves. And not just Wolverine and Sabertooth, who are just kind of animalistic guys who weren’t based on wolves. Loeb used two cat-based mutants and Sasquatch, who is neither a mutant nor wolf-like.

  29. Matt C. says:

    This new thing is Deadly Genesis bad, but the “homo lupus” stuff was sub-The Draco-level nonsense.

    I really want to make a list of “worst X-Men storylines of all time” because those two would definitely be on the list. I still think The Draco loses out to Ultimatum just because of the sheer “screw you reader” nature of it, but it’s a close call.

    I would say that I’m not qualified to write such a column since I didn’t start reading X-Men comics until 2000, but I bet I could easily make a top 10 or even a top 20 from 2000 to 2012 alone.

  30. Matt C. says:

    @ Billy

    Ah, that’s right. I thought Claremont wanted to do a mutant wolverine, but misremembered when I saw that Leob went with mutant wolves. Thanks.

  31. ZZZ says:

    @Matt C. – I can buy Ultimatum as worse than The Draco, but I don’t really consider it an X-Men story. Mind you, I don’t think I ever read the last issue or two of Ultimatum, and from what I hear the X-Men factor rather heavily into the finale, so it may well be more of an X-Men story than I percieve it to be (or at least an Ultimate X-Men story).

    But as for comparing the two, I remember the writing to be roughly equally bad in both (though I’m not rereading them to refresh my memory) and the art to be better in Ultimatum, but the only real damage The Draco did was screwing up Nightcrawler’s backstory (and if someone wanted to change that, it wouldn’t even be the first time an X-Man’s parentage was retconned – hell, it wouldn’t be the third) but Ultimatum screwed up Ultimate Nightcrawler even worse by killing him for no good reason, and threw in a whole bunch of other pointlessly dead characters to boot, so it loses on the “don’t pee in the sandbox” rule if nothing else.

  32. Jacob says:

    Yeah, kind of don’t mind the most recent Wolverine retcon; as ZZZ puts, it certainly gets rid of a far worse one.

    It also has the potential to create a lot of interesting Wolverine stories. Will it? No of course not, LOEB!

    I’d actually pick Deadly Genesis as worse storyline.

    Xavier’s backstory is so full of logical inconsistencies in terms of helping the mutant race, that it really wasn’t necessary to add ‘sent another team of mutants to Krakoa; didn’t tell anyone ever’ to emphasise that he can be a mind-wiping dick.

    All the mutants in the story were fairly boring as well. Vulcan was a total waste of the 3rd Summers Brother plot line. Perhaps even more of a waste than Adam X the Xtreme…yeah I said it.

  33. Matt C. says:

    You really should read the last couple issues of Ultimatum – I find that story hilarious to read just because it’s so bad. It definitely feels more like an X-Men story to me at the end, since they’re the ones who primarily get to take down Magneto and suffer the worst losses (by the end, the death count for the X-Men includes Cyclops, Wolverine, Magneto, Xavier, Beast, Angel, Nightcrawler…)

    There’s also a huge retcon/plot reveal that mutants aren’t naturally occurring, but are instead a government genetic super-soldier experiment gone awry. I suppose it’s not terrible by itself, but it’s enough to completely shatter Magneto’s worldview and cause him to repent.

    (Right before Cyclops blows his head off. It’s Leobtastic!)

  34. “It may offend a lot of readers horribly but if a lot more actually buy the comics, then Marvel as a company is doing the right thing.”

    That’s like saying, “If Fox News spreading lies about Obama’s place of birth gets more people to vote, then they’re doing the right thing.”

  35. Brian says:

    “First X-Men is a continuity implant miniseries in which Logan, apparently back before he got the adamantium, forms a team to help mutants. So they’re the X-Men before the X-Men, you see.”

    They did this with Wolverine in Alpha Flight. They even called it “First Flight.” They were Alpha Flight before Alpha Flight. What’s next? Wolverine starring in “First Four?” “First Avengers?”

  36. Paul says:

    “Claremont wanted to make Wolverine a mutant wolverine, not a mutant wolf.”

    Well, more or less. They toyed with this right at the very start of his run. The idea was that Wolverine would turn out to be a real wolverine evolved by the High Evolutionary, like the New Men from THOR. It was dropped almost immediately – the only sign of it in print is a scene where the Sentinels comment that Wolverine isn’t like the other mutants.

  37. ZZZ says:

    There’s also the scene where the X-Men meet the leprechauns in Bashee’s castle (how has Peter David not made the leprechauns of Cassidy Keep X-Factor’s support staff?) and says he doesn’t believe in Leprechauns, to which a leprechaun replies that he doesn’t believe in talking wolverines.

    Once they dropped the evolved wolverine thing, you could easily write that off as the leprechaun making a joke about Wolverine’s codename, but I’m pretty sure it was originally intended as a clue about his origin, since the leprechaun also “magically” knew his name was Logan (and now I really am surprised PAD hasn’t brought the leprechauns back, just to have a scene where that leprechaun explains that he knew Wolverine’s real name was James Howlett back then, but also knew Wolverine would only answer to “Logan” so he didn’t mention it).

  38. wwk5d says:


    The Sentry’s Magical Super Retcon Punch hadn’t affected the 616 universe by that point.

  39. maxwell's hammer says:

    If I was Barry Windsor-Smith, I’d go kick Jeph Loeb in the groin.

  40. The original Matt says:

    Brian says:
    August 25, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    They did this with Wolverine in Alpha Flight. They even called it “First Flight.” They were Alpha Flight before Alpha Flight. What’s next? Wolverine starring in “First Four?” “First Avengers?”

    No, but sabretooth was in the first avengers.

    Yes. Sabretooth. Was on the first team of avengers. Thanks to a Bendis retcon.


    I’ll give that a minute to sink in.


  41. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    @ZZZ – I think my knowledge of Avengers 1959 got as far as “Oh, Howard Chaykin is doing Agents of ATLAS, only wrong. Well, I’ll be pretending *that* doesn’t exist.”

  42. maxwell's hammer says:

    Avengers ’59 wasn’t actually that bad. It wasn’t really posing that team as some precursor to the actual Avengers, it was just a group of rough-and-tumble spy types that Nick Fury threw together for a WWII mission in Europe that completely made sense for those characters. It didn’t make any attempts to retcon anything of significance. It was just a Cold War spy story with an ecclectic group of characters that probably would’ve sold even less issues than it actually did if it hadn’t been labeled “Avengers”.

  43. The original Matt says:

    I didn’t realize it was a mini, I only read about that team in the new avenges arc.

  44. You’re so interesting! I don’t believe I have read through a single thing like this before.

    So great to find someone with original thoughts on this issue.
    Really.. thank you for starting this up. This web site is something that is needed
    on the web, someone with a bit of originality!

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