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Jan 10

The X-Axis – 10 January 2010

Posted on Sunday, January 10, 2010 by Paul in x-axis

As it turns out, my comics did eventually show up this week, though not in time to record the podcast on Saturday.  For those who may have forgotten, Al and I both get our comics by mail order, and while we could go and buy comics from Edinburgh’s bricks-and-mortar stores, that would mean buying extra copies of things we’ve already ordered.  So, we’ll be doing the podcast next week, when to be honest there will be more to talk about anyway.

But in the meantime…

Cable #22 – At long last, the end appears to be in sight – after all, the big crossover kicks off at the end of March, and we know Hope gets back to the present then.  And for once, this book does have a bit of momentum as it enters the home stretch.  It’s actually quite a neat gimmick: for admittedly contrived reasons, Cable and Hope are bouncing back and forth in time, with Bishop dragged along in their wake, as they steadily get closer to the present day.  So on the one hand they’re starting at the dawn of Manhattan and moving forward, and on the other they’re working backwards through the storylines we’ve seen over the last couple of years, and eventually they should zero in somewhere in the middle.  That’s quite cute.  But within that framework, we’re stuck with the same old same old – Bishop having One Last Go at killing Hope before the story ends.  It’s the sort of story that works well enough once or twice, but it’s been repeated too often by now.  Without any sense of progression, you can make Bishop a functional character like the army guys who used to chase the A-Team around when an episode needed a nudge, but you can’t build a story around him in his own right.  As for Gabriel Guzman’s art, there are a couple of awkward figures, but he does a good job of establishing the setting for each new location.

Doom Patrol #6 – After the tiresome Blackest Night crossover, this is a decided improvement.  Okay, it’s not really a story.  Instead, it’s one of those issues where a character – Negative Man, to be precise – recaps his entire history, partly for the benefit of new readers, and partly so that Keith Giffen can set out his own take on the character.  Since DC continuity is a notorious quagmire, and the Doom Patrol more than most, it’s actually quite helpful to spell out clearly which bits are meant to count this year.  (Answer: all of it except the John Byrne reboot, as near as I can make out.)  There are some promising ideas in here about mind and body, the issue adds some depth to a character who’s so far been written as sort of cynically flippant, and it generally rekindles my interest in a series which I was on the verge of dropping after the last couple of issues.  Good work in the Metal Men back-up strip as well, which continues to cram more content into ten pages than most books manage in two months.

Great Ten #3 – This is a ten-issue mini about the Chinese government superheroes Grant Morrison introduced in… 52, was it?  There’s an overall storyline about China being attacked by people who claim to be old Chinese gods appalled by what’s happened to their nation, but each issue is also focussed on a different character.  This time it’s Thundermind, a sort of Buddhist Superman.  He’s not technically superhuman, just very enlightened.  To be honest, though, I’m not sure writer Tony Bedard has found the best angle on this character.  He’s opted to make him literally a Chinese version of the Silver Age Superman, complete with mild-mannered secret identity and a Chinese Lois Lane love interest who only has eyes for Thundermind.  Oh, and he became enlightened by finding a magic thingy.  Yes, it’s a classic story set-up, but it’s also so hoary that it makes the character into an automatic pastiche, and I can’t help thinking there must have been more interesting approaches to take here.

New Mutants #9 – In this issue – you will thrill to exposition!  Illyana Rasputin will explain at length her outrageously convoluted continuity!  And Cypher will be reintroduced into the cast, because apparently he’s not dead any more for some reason!  There are so many things about this issue that ought to annoy me, not least the fact that there’s still no obvious reason for the book to exist besides nostalgia.  But Zeb Wells does have lots of ideas about these characters and how they relate to one another.  One thing New Mutants does have going for it is a cast who actually feel like they have a group dynamic.  Last issue’s crossover was rather underwhelming, but this issue is a definite return to form, and I’m particularly glad to see Wells pursuing the idea that a powered-up Cypher is potentially a bit creepy.  Paul Davidson’s art has an appealing icy feel to it, which really works for Illyana’s scenes – and he does rather good robots, too.  None of this entirely gets away from the fact that New Mutants is a book which lacks a compelling reason to exist, but at least it has plenty of other point in its favour.  (And given that Emma Frost has started questioning why the team exists, I wonder whether Wells has something up his sleeve after all… though if he does, and he’s been holding it back for this long, he’s a braver man than me.)

Siege #1 – I’m sure we’ll be talking about this on next week’s podcast, but basically: it’s a Brian Bendis crossover, with all that implies.  It’s not the sort of story that plays to his strengths – even after all this time writing the Avengers, he still seems to do his best work on solo books where he can really get into his characters.  This strikes me as another of those stories where he’s got a few big moments in mind, and then constructed a ramshackle story around them.  So obviously the plot is that Loki is manipulating Norman Osborn into going to war with Asgard, but the story never actually follows this up long enough to explain why Norman wants to do that, at the cost of risking his position and picking a fight with gods, for no apparent upside at all.  You’d expect some sort of scenario where Osborn’s hubris leads him to try and impose his authority on Asgard, but… no.  Instead, they seem to be going for the idea that Osborn has somehow been convinced that Asgard’s a threat, which I suppose has the advantage of dramatic irony; his empire falls apart because, for once, he actually tried to do what he thought was the right thing.  The problem is that Asgard’s been around for years and there’s no adequate reason why he suddenly cares about it now, so it all seems clumsy and forced.  But the bottom line is that it’s got the same problems as House of M and Secret Invasion before them; there’s an idea in here somewhere, but not much of a story.

X-Factor: Nation X – Since X-Factor have relocated from Detroit to New York, this one-shot is basically an explanation of why they’re not involved in Nation X.  At Scott’s request, X-Factor pop over to Utopia, to say hi to old friends, and politely explain why they’re not interested.  There’s a story in there as well – specifically, something about a kind of spirit of ghettos who shows up on Utopia – but basically it’s a debate between Madrox and Scott about the direction of the X-books.  Naturally I’m largely on Madrox’s side – this whole thing seems like a bit of a wrong turn to me – but Peter David does a better job of making Utopia work than the regular X-Men titles have.  Admittedly, he does that mainly by portraying it as a heroically doomed enterprise, which can’t possibly work but is worth a go because nobody can think of any better ideas.  But at least it’s an angle.

X-Men: Legacy #231 – We’ve belatedly reached the “Necrosha X” crossover.  In this issue, a bunch of X-Men go to Muir Isle to investigate one of Blindfold’s prophecies, and end up with… well, something that doesn’t seem to be much connected to the rest of the crossover at all, but I’m not complaining there.  That said, what we end up with is an average X-Men story; Mike Carey’s got a firm enough grasp of the characters to make it readable enough, and it’s nice to see underused characters like Nightcrawler and Colossus getting used, but it doesn’t feel like there’s any particular point to this story beyond tying into a crossover.  Mind you, the last few pages are pretty well executed; it’s a relatively understated take on this particular villain, but probably more effective for it.

Bring on the comments

  1. Tom Clarke says:

    “In this issue, a bunch of X-Men go to Muir Isle to investigate one of Blindfold’s prophecies, and end up with… well, something (*) seem to be much connected to the rest of the crossover at all, but I’m not complaining there. ”
    I think there’s a “that doesn’t” that needs inserting there.

    Good reviews, can’t wait for the podcast. I think Bendis’ take on Osborn has always been that he’s a Dick Cheney analogue.

  2. this whole thing seems like a bit of a wrong turn to me

    Eggs/basket/giant chickentinel mashing up the place like Nigella mixing Grange Hill with Rage Against The Machine?


  3. Omar Karindu says:

    The Siege: Cabal one-shot by Bendis gave Norman’s reasons for all this: he thinks destroying Asgard will make him a hero in the history books, in a fairly direct lift from W-era rhetoric about Iraq.

    It’s less that Norman’s doing what he thinks is right than that he has a sociopath’s idea of right and wrong: right is what gains him things, and wrong is what makes him look weak.

    There’s also the problem that Norman has 60,000 people or so killed in Soldier Field in order to create the fake justification for attacking Asgard. This takes the story from being a dated Iraq war allegory the way into 9/11 truther territory in some ways, though with the possibly excuse that Norman is, after all, a supervillain.

    It’s really a mess of a story; I’m not even sure I’m willing to grant that there’s much of an idea in it as of 2010.

  4. Ken B. says:

    Marvel needs to stop with this idea they push that everything since Avengers Disassembled was planned ahead, because Siege #1 reads like something put together in the past 6 months just to get to the next event or whatever.

    U-Foes attack Volstagg at Soldier Field and then show up to attack Thor again, and Sentry, instead of just killing everything with the revelation about his powers, is doing things by “the plan,” come on. It’s just sloppy.

    And $4 for 23 pages of story, 5 of which were on the internet for a month beforehand, with a meaningless Cup of Joe and some screwed up pages of war plan dialogue, it’s just disgusting how little Marvel thinks of its readers.

  5. Paul says:

    It may be a factor, actually, that SECRET INVASION and HOUSE OF M at least managed to convey a fairly clear idea of what the story was *meant* to be about. SIEGE doesn’t.

  6. Paul says:

    (And I’ve corrected that typo. Thanks.)

  7. D. says:

    Haven’t read any of this, but if Destiny’s been resurrected, I’m sorry to see that. They have a perfectly serviceable mysterious precog in Blindfold. Destiny’s death was a crucial part of Mystique’s character (at least up into the early ’90’s; then Howard Mackie got his hand on her and…ugh.). Some characters come back from the dead because there are still good stories to do For example, Magneto and his “resurrection” after X-Men 1-3 for the “Fatal Attractions” storyline. But Destiny and her diaries have more story in them if she stays dead. Blindfold can easily sub for Destiny in any story where they need a living precog. Destiny was a two-dimensional character: (1) mysterious precog, and (2) Mystique’s BFF/lover. There are no other dimensions to explore.

  8. Lambnesio says:

    I’m not arguing in favor of this resurrection necessarily, but just because you’re able to list two roles that Destiny plays doesn’t mean that she’s a “two-dimensional character.” I’d say there’s a lot of mileage in her character.

  9. JD says:

    Actually, they’re setting up Destiny as some sort of mentor for Blindfold. Also, I’m wouldn’t put any money on Destiny surviving the Necrosha crossover.

  10. Omar Karindu says:

    I wonder if they’ll do anything with the fact that Destiny seems to share the name of a character from Conan Doyle’s stories, a character made prominent in the recent movie adaptation thereof.

  11. I wonder if there is some creepy symbolic cabalistic satanistic relation between the fact that several panels in the conversation between Emma and Illyana are copied?

    There’s a bit of Photoshop, e.g. whisking away Emma’s hand in one copy of the same face-shot, but I count that shot at least three times, and at least two, possibly three, Illyana copies (one mirrored)

    Then again: I’m afraid the real reason is more mundane, namely that a) the artist hasn’t got time to draw or b) is lazy or c) both.

    I kind of like the artwork, though (still talking about New Mutants # 9), but there’s a wee bit too much of that Greg Land-photostill-quality to it for my taste.

    That being said, I think they should have left well enough alone with the New Mutants, who are yet another example of how the X-franchise, and any other superhero franchise, is being run in the 10’s: Recycle the same characters in endless variations but without really making them grow (up). Or die.

    I think the strongest point of most of the X-books nowawadys, to me anyway, is the art. (Not the example above, though!)

    That’s why I keep looking. I have a hard time feeling anything for the stories, since I don’t really feel anything for most of the characters anymore. 🙂

    I suspect very much that this (re)-incarnation of the New Muties will not last more than 10 or 20 issues from now, at the most, unless the book actually finds its raison d’être.

    However, X-books have lasted for quite long before without really having a clear-cut purpose in the line.

    We’ll see …

  12. Is she still the comics equivalent of Honor Blackman? Or does she look her age?

    (seriously: Days of Future Past was very confusing when I was eight)

    (and how do you apprentice a precog? They’ve already seen the exam!)


  13. Dimitri says:

    I don’t think Destiny will survive Necrosha either.

    Also, I wouldn’t worry about Carey neglecting or underusing Blindfold, D. She’s very prominent in the issue, and Destiny seems to appear mostly to flesh out her background. I think we’re heading toward Destiny turning out to be Blindfold’s mother.

    I’m not sure the surprise villain’s resurrection fits with established continuity. Wasn’t he already revived in Exiles during House of M?

  14. The original Matt says:

    “and how do you apprentice a precog? They’ve already seen the exam!”

    This is the best thing I have ever read!

  15. Entropest says:

    I’m still trying to figure out how Destiny was resurrected after she was cremated and had her ashes thrown out to sea…and then had then blow back in Mystique’s face.

  16. Justin says:

    Its only January 11th. Can we complain about how the comic book industry is being run this decade less than 2 weeks in?

  17. Reboot says:

    Entropest – once you work that out, try and figure out how Rusty Collins was resuurected for Necrosha after being vaporised and absorbed by Holocaust, before the space station he was vaporised *on* burned up in the atmosphere.

  18. D. says:

    I’m not agitating for more Blindfold, per se. I just think the resurrection du jour is a tired old trope, and there’s no good reason to apply it to Destiny.

    And someone else suggested that they might be setting Destiny up to be Blindfold’s mother — another tired old trope; why does everyone in X-land have to be related to everyone else? It’s like the writers are addicted to that old Seven-Degrees-of-Separation game, but they get to write the relationships.

    Can we connect Blindfold to the Summers family in seven steps or less?

    Blindfold-Destiny-Mystique-Rogue-Gambit-Sinister-Madelyne Pryor-Scott.

    I got eight steps (though you could probably cut out Mystique).

  19. Angry Midwest says:

    X Factor: Nation X was nice just to see the X Fac team in proper form for a change. The pleasant character interactions (and Julio’s long awaited weirding out) feel so long overdue because of the interminable last story.

    I don’t give a damn about Nation X but at least we’re getting some character stories out of it. It’s been awhile, IMO.

    And I will forgive the Wile E. Coyote nature of Cable if little Hopey grows up to kill Cable. Seriously.

  20. Angry Midwest says:

    Err, Bishop rather. (Sorry, cute animals distracting me.)

  21. I Grok Spock says:

    I really enjoyed X-Factor: Nation X. It takes to task the current problems of the main X-line while still making room for character moments/development. This is the kind of X-Factor storytelling that I’ve been missing.

  22. Lambnesio says:

    Is anybody reading Spider-Woman? It really is a beautiful series, and worth buying for Maleev’s artwork, but for all the time and effort that’s gone into it, I’d expected more from the writing. Especially when compared with Alias (which also stars a super-powered woman who’s got something awful in her recent past), this series feels pointless and heavy-handed.

  23. Chief says:

    Paul, Al, I know you’re really busy now and this would take time to maintain, but have you ever considered opening a forum? The reason why I ask is because this is the ONLY intelligent place on the interweb to discuss comics, but we’re somewhat limited on what we can discuss based on the blog posts.

  24. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    It’s a shame you and Al haven’t been reading Spider-Man 1602, because I suspect you would have been as amused by a revelation in #3 as I was.

    It turns out Peter is Scottish. Specifically, he’s from “the borough of Staffordshire”, Scotland. Earth-1602’s England must be tiny!

  25. Thom says:

    On the plus side, this means Marvel’s Shakespeare must be Scottish. Making Henry VII et al, “the english plays”.

  26. Good lord. I’m reading the Wikipedia entry on 1602, and I’d forgotten how aggravating it was.

    “Borouhg of Staffordshire.” Jeepers. Like a word salad with a pube in it.


  27. @Lambnesio – I’m reading it and agree, the writing’s not particularly engaging. If anything, it reminds me of the original Spiderwoman series, which isn’t exactly an example of classic writing. Personally, I’d prefer them merging Spiderwoman and Ms. Marvel into one title – the two characters work well together (if they could throw in Dazzler as well, I’d be in 80s retro heaven!)

  28. Entropest says:

    “Personally, I’d prefer them merging Spiderwoman and Ms. Marvel into one title – the two characters work well together (if they could throw in Dazzler as well, I’d be in 80s retro heaven!)”

    I’d sure read it. At least in that series Dazz would be getting more lines than she has been as Uncanny Wallpaper.

  29. @Entropest: Well, she got a little attention in the Nation X: X-Factor one-shot. I think it might be the first time she and Longshot have talked since… the mid 90s or so.

  30. Didn’t she and Longshot meet up in one of Claremont’s titles a couple of years back (Exiles, New Excalibur or the cross-over thereof)?

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