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Jan 27

The X-Axis – 27 January 2013

Posted on Sunday, January 27, 2013 by Paul in x-axis

It’s a podcast weekend, and by the time I post this, chances are it’ll be up, so scroll just one post down to find it.  Reviews include AnswerUncanny X-Force, and Threshold.

I’ve got a couple of books from last week that I didn’t get around to reviewing, plus all of this week’s books to cover, so there’s quite the catch-up to do here.  These are probably going to be on the quick side, though I say that a lot…

A+X #4 – As often turns out to be the case with this book, it’s really a question of how keen you are to get the stories for the art alone, because the actual writing is largely fluff.  Kaare Andrews writes and draws a Spider-Man/Beast story which has a few interesting tricks, like starting literally in mid-scene, and wheels out the 1980s colouring dots to give the story a nicely retro feel.  But it doesn’t really go anywhere in particular; there’s a vague nod in the direction of a theme about Beast’s descendents celebrating his lack of humanity and his refusing to live up to their expectations, but it’s very handwaving stuff, feeling more like a concession to the shape of a plot than anything Andrews is really all that interested in.

The back-up, by Jason Latour and David Lopez, is Quentin Quire reluctantly teaming up with Captain America, apparently as a test to see how he’s getting along with his rehabilitation.  If you’re being technical, there’s actually some plot advancement here – Quire is no longer being held at the school against his will – but mainly it’s an excuse to play off the surly cynic against an idealist.  That works nicely enough, and with Lopez on art it naturally looks beautiful.

Astonishing X-Men #58 – This is the conclusion of the Warbird two-parter with the alien art thingy.  I can see what Marjorie Liu is trying to do here, and it’s obviously not that easy to shoehorn the theme of Warbird rediscovering her suppressed creative tendencies into the format of a superhero comic.  The general direction of her character makes perfect sense, but the story just feels a little too obviously convenient to push her in the right direction, the themes being pushed rather too heavy handedly.  Good to see Gabriel Walta being used on a book like this, though.

Gambit #8 – It’s got the “Marvel Now” branding on the cover, but since this is more or less a single issue story with a guest artist that also pauses occasionally to remind us of the current status of the Joelle plot, I can’t help wondering whether this started off as a Point One.  It basically sees Gambit breaking off from the main plot to rescue a bunch of students who’ve blundered into an abandoned city left behind by the High Evolutionary.  Pasqual Ferry, of all people, shows up as the guest artist – quite what he’s doing on a lower-selling title like this, I have no clue, but it’s very nice to see him here, and he’s certainly an artist who can sell the set pieces that this book thrives on.  There’s a  subplot about one of the students dumping her boyfriend that feels a bit tacked on, but on the whole it’s a fun issue.

Uncanny Avengers #3 – The Red Skull shows up in New York and uses his new psychic powers to make everyone riot against mutants.  That’s basically the story, but Remender uses it very well.  By having it affect the non-mutant Avengers to some degree as well, he gets some actual drama out of the hybrid nature of the team, and leaves space for Havok to establish himself as a leader.  It’s a nice touch that Captain America can’t be made to hate mutants because he’s Just Too Good, but can still be driven to get grumpy and irritable with them.  And more generally, the issue does a pretty good ob of selling the riot as a big deal, rather than just another example of an old X-Men trope.  One of Remender’s strengths is his ability to make old ideas fresh again by getting rid of the dated trappings and doing them in a modern style; he did it through X-Force, and it works just as well here.  You could maybe query the pacing of what’s effectively an issue long fight scene, but I think the book gets away with it – while it’s ultimately an element in the larger arc, there’s enough of a story within the boundaries of this issue to make it satisfying.

Uncanny X-Force #1 – We talk about this one in the podcast at greater length, but here’s the bottom line.  Of the two books inexplicably sharing the X-Force name, this is the one that’s actually a continuation of Rick Remender’s run, inheriting Psylocke and Fantomex for its cast, and picking up on the storyline about Fantomex being split into multiple bodies.  It’s the one that, in former days, would have seen Sam Humphries and Ron Garney coming on as the new creative team and starting to rebuild the set-up.  While this issue contains an entirely above average X-Men story, one that would probably rate as good if it appeared in X-Men, it struggles in a couple of respects here.  First, it unavoidably faces comparisons with the extremely strong run that preceded it; and second, it doesn’t get around to establishing the hook of the new series, and what makes it distinct from any of the many, many other X-Men books competing for your time.  It’s perfectly sound, but at least in the first issue, it doesn’t have that extra element to make it stand out from the pack.

Wolverine and the X-Men #24 – A down time issue more or less, with David Lopez making his second appearance of the week.  And that makes it a good week.  It’s interesting to see how the more nonsensical aspects of this book play with different artists; Lopez is a traditional storyteller with wonderfully expressive characters, and he turns out to provide an excellent anchor for Aaron’s crazier elements.

The central theme of this issue is Bobby and Kitty going on their date, a scene which is both very well written and plays to Lopez’s strengths.  It also serves to wrap up that storyline, and I can’t help wondering whether that’s prompted by Kitty’s being co-opted to serve a role in All-New X-Men, so that Aaron is no longer her primary writer.  Or maybe not; after all, young Jean Grey shows up here to strike up a friendship of sorts with Quentin Quire, on the entirely plausible basis that he’s the only one who doesn’t treat her like a living legend.  Whatever the underlying reasons, Aaron makes the wrap-up of their subplot satisfying.

I have slight doubts about sending Storm back to her 1980s mohawk look, though.  When Chris Claremont did it, after all, there was a point – it was supposed to look like a shocking departure from her “nature mother” persona.   I guess the idea here is supposed to be a fresh start after her break-up with the Black Panther, but it feels a little too much like a nostalgia trip for my liking.

X-Factor #250 – Beginning the Hell on Earth War storyline.  Given Peter David’s current health problems, I’m assuming this storyline is likely to face delays, which is a shame given that he’s clearly been building to this for ages – a whole load of seemingly unrelated threads start to be drawn together here.  Still, I’d certainly rather see David write this story and do it at his own pace, rather than have it handed over to somebody else.  This book exists to be his vehicle, after all.

Admittedly, the mystical story threads in X-Factor have not generally been among the book’s strongest features, and understandably it’s mostly those threads that start to be drawn together here.  I wasn’t really crying out to see more of Jezebel, or of Rahne’s son.  But this issue does have a nice sense of everything falling into place, and the momentum makes me more interested in this whole arc than I’d expected to be.

X-Men #40 – Well, it’s a fill-in story in which a bunch of minor characters go to investigate a new mutant whose powers have just emerged.  There’s some odd talk about setting up teams for this purpose, which is a weird thing to be discussing one issue before a relaunch, but on the whole it really does just come across as a time-killing and space-filling exercise.  An inoffensive one to be sure, and Jefte Palo’s art is striking enough, but with so many X-Men comics around, it’s hard to see why we need one that’s running filler.

Bring on the comments

  1. --D. says:

    I’m sorry, what does it take to be a “real” punk and not a “poseur”? Even “real” punks were probably sweet little 8-year-olds at some point. Who’s to say you have to be a “real” punk when you’re 15, and can’t start when you’re 18, 21, 25, 32, or whenever? Storm was written as having a crisis of identity, and feeling all angsty; maybe punk music was speaking to her at the time. Then again, remember what she did to her loft? Looked more Danish-Modern than punk-angst.

  2. wwk5d says:

    Yeah, her crisis long before she went to Japan and thought of Yukio as being “cool”. Plus, half her hair was singed off or something at the time, or something, so I guess she felt “hey, I’m changing emotionally, half my hair has been burned off, so time for a change, no?” Funny enough, Paul Smith thought it was all some silly joke.

  3. Si says:

    Storm had dreads at one point. Big fat thick ones, which may have actually been plaits. X-Treme X-Men I think. Or maybe Astonishing X-Men. I didn’t read the comic but I can remember the look.

  4. I Grok Spock says:

    Dreds & Mullets were THE superhero hairdos of the 90’s.

    I think Bishop sported a hybrid of the two when he busted out on the scene. Or maybe he just had a mullet combined with Superfly “relaxed” long hair.

  5. kingderella says:

    storm had plaits at one point. im embarassed to know that jean grey made them telekinetically. why cant i just know useful, normal stuff? why is my brain filled with details from lame-ass claremont stories?

  6. Jacob says:

    I thought Bishop’s hair started off as a jheri-curl mullet?

    This whole Storm mohawk real punk/not real conversation nicely mirrors the whole ‘fake geek girl’ thing that’s been popping up a lot.

    ‘Screw you Ororo you don’t even own any Damned albums!’

    Personally I’d dig Storm with a Grace Jones type makeover.

  7. Si says:

    I should point out here that I never said Storm wasn’t a real punk. As far as I know she was never meant to be a punk, she just dressed tough. Also that when I was talking about mohawks not being “real” punk, I deliberately put quotes around “real”, because it’s silly trying to put up defined borders on these things. My point was that if you look at video and photos of punk gigs back in the 70s, you’ll see very few elaborate hairstyles.

  8. --D. says:

    @ Si — I was responding to ZZZ, more than to you. That’s why I quoted the word “poseur.”

  9. Thom H. says:

    “Personally I’d dig Storm with a Grace Jones type makeover.”

    Yes, please.

  10. errant says:

    Wasn’t the mohawk & leather & studs her Grace Jones type makeover to begin with?

  11. Rhett says:

    Storm’s mohawk is a look that I see around every once and a while in the NYC lesbian scene. It doesn’t read as “punk” so much as “queer” to me. Wasn’t there a subplot about her having a crush on Yukio the first time she cut her hair like that?

  12. ZZZ says:

    @–D: As near as I can tell, the entire dividing line between “punk” and “poseur” is whether the music or the fashion is more important to you. (There’s a fairly interesting article on it on Wikipedia that basically amounts to “everyone is a poseur in someone’s eyes,” but the music/fashion thing seems to be a sticking point.) It’s possible that Storm was into punk music but I don’t recall there ever being any indication of that, (aside from Kitty listening to Cats Laughing and everyone like Dazzler, I don’t remember Claremont specifying any of the X-Men’s musical tastes, but my memory for that kind of thing is spotty at best) and it seems pretty unlikely she’d ever heard any punk music before she met Yukio unless one of the other X-Men played it a lot.

    My main point is that, by the very definition of how Storm’s “punk” look was devised (and I know I’m mixing the in-story and meta- explanations here) she looked more like the average person’s idea of how a punk would dress (in the 80s) than how the average member of the punk subculture actually did dress.

    (For that matter, I’m pretty sure the Mohawk was the result of an editor taking a joke that she should look like Mr. T seriously, and the rest of her punk regalia was an attempt to salvage that directive into something presentable – which obviously wasn’t her in-story reason for the look, but it does, to me, suggest that no one at Marvel ever thought “you know what Storm would be into? Punk music!”)

    None of this, by the way, should be taken to imply that I’m saying Storm’s motives for chaging her look (or the creative team’s motvies for redesigning the character) were somehow “impure” or something because she was more interested in looking tough and rebellious than expressing solidarity with a musical subculture or whatever the heck “real” punks are supposed to be doing. I think Mohawks look silly no matter how you arrive at them and it’s everyone’s right to have a haircut I think looks silly and to disagree with my opinion of said haircut.

  13. Rich Larson says:

    Sorry to again be late to a conversation but re: the WATX issue.

    Is anybody a little taken aback at the casual revelation that Wolverine and Storm have been having casual sex in the Danger Room for years? I mean there’s no reason they shouldn’t, but they don’t seem a likely couple and it all seems a little oddly out of left field. (The issue is also not so reader friendly for my ten year old who likes this series, but I suppose that’s my problem.)

    Also, what exactly was going on with Kitty’s swimming? Since when can her phasing powers make her go globe trotting. The scenes were amusing, but it seems that some of explanation of how her power does this might be in order. (Although the Bobby relationship is growing on me and I do think it is meant to be continuing.)


  14. Si says:

    Storm and Wolverine were pashing way back in the 80s, and it was meant to be a casual thing between warriors who were about to die blah blah blah Claremont. So there is precedent. But while I can see Storm fooling around, ironically I can’t see Wolverine doing it. One night stands or full-on romantic bonding seem to be his gig. And face it, if you have as many dead girlfriends as him, that’s the way you’d go. I just can’t see him having any truck with this “friends with benefits” nonsense.

  15. ZZZ says:

    @Rich Larson – A while back, some writer (I think it was Chris Claremont during one of his latter runs on an X-Book, but I could be wrong) got the idea that Kitty should be able to phase herself free of the Earth’s gravity, allowing her to appear to travel at the speed that the Earth spins when actually she’s standing still while the planet moves under her. In other words, it’s one of those things – like the Flash vibrating through walls – where a writer knew just enough science to come up with a new way to use a character’s powers but not enough to realize why it wouldn’t work at all. Understandably, not a lot of writers have had her use that ability (not unlike the ability to disrupt living creatures the way she disrupts machines that she picked up a ways back and then forgot about).

    To be fair, they could just be using the Blackbird to fly all over the place, but the entire point of the scene seems to be them doing Stupid Mutant Tricks to impress each other, so I think it’s the phase-travelling thing.

    Also to be fair, if Kitty used the power often enough, it would be one of those things like Banshee flying by screaming at his crotch or Iceman using his power to supercool atmospheric moisture to turn his own flesh – and ONLY his own – into ice that just becomes something a character can do that you’re not supposed to think about. When you say “Kitty’s powers include becoming intangible, walking on air, and traveling anywhere on Earth in a few seconds” it’s okay (if an unecessary power creep for Kitty), it’s only when you’re saying “Kitty can become intangible and, when you think about it, shouldn’t that let her travel anywhere on Earth in a few seconds?” that it becomes too stupid to pass comic-book-logic muster.

  16. Billy says:

    Claremont has (repeatedly?) teased the idea that Storm may be bisexual.

  17. Rich Larson says:

    Si and ZZZ,

    Thanks. I don’t remember the Storm and Wolverine part at all, but it has been awhile. The Kitty travel thing does sound vaguely familiar now that you mention it (although obviously not used in awhile.) And Si I think your comments about how to view it and the power creep are spot on.

    So kudos to Aaron (and you all) for knowing mor X-Men history than me!

  18. @ Rich: That’s what bothered me about the issue, a lot more than Storm going back to an old look. Panther’s statement “promise me not him” felt pretty out of character too (not to mention creepy and possessive), though if you assume Storm told him about their past sexual history, I guess it would be on his mind.

  19. Si says:

    I didn’t know that about Kitty Pryde. You’d think the power would be limited to travelling about three thousand kilometers directly to the west and two thousand kilometers straight up. Which wouldn’t be the most useful ability.

  20. Ethan says:

    I didn’t necessarily read W&XM 24 as a wrap-up to the Kitty and Bobby storyline. I mean she says “Maybe we should just leave it at that.” But Bobby doesn’t exactly agree with her, and it’s not really a very determined statement. It would seem pretty abrupt for this to be the end of that plot considering it was really the first issue that put any effort into selling them as a couple at all.

  21. moose n squirrel says:

    Anyone hooking up with Wolverine makes me sigh and shake my head, since one of the things about Wolverine’s (original) character that I always liked was that he was basically a loser – not an unstoppable killing machine, not “the most dangerous mutant on the planet” (which, holy shit, I can’t believe he actually got called during Fraction’s run), but a punching bag who was willing and able to take brutal beatings on a regular basis for his friends. As a sort of extension to that, it was always understood that he was short, hairy, ugly, and unlucky in love in the worst possible way.

    The gradual transformation of Wolverine into Superstar Mutant Man, invincible leader of everything and wooer of ladies, is yet another case of Marvel failing to understand what makes their characters work.

  22. --D. says:

    “… a punching bag who was willing and able to take brutal beatings on a regular basis for his friends. As a sort of extension to that, it was always understood that he was … unlucky in love in the worst possible way.”

    Wow, I never took any of that from the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne years. But I was reading them retrospectively; maybe I missed it because I knew the character years later.

  23. The original Matt says:

    Where is the revelation she was shagging Logan? I’m assuming that’s what Jason Aaron hinted at in his run on Wolverine. (Someone opens a door in his mind and says “that’s not what the danger room is for”)

    Depending on the stage of history, it’s either a revelation that was hinted at or a straight up retcon. I figured they were bumping uglies at one stage of the Claremont run. Circa mutant massacre to inferno.

    I think the first “hint” I remember was just after the massacre, when Logan was nutty cause he smelled Jean. (Not so much a hint, as alluded to between the lines)

  24. Somebody says:

    It’s made pretty clear that they’d done it in the Danger Room in the past during the last issue of Wolverine & the X-Men. (Someone said elsewhere that it had been hinted at previously in Uncanny X-Men #246, but I can’t check that myself.)

  25. --D. says:

    There’s a scene in #246 where Logan is washing up in the bathroom, and Ororo is standing in the door talking to him in a rather sexy and translucent nightie. Logan is putting in hair gel and Ororo makes fun of him. He says it was something he picked up in Mexico while he was there with Havok, and she says, “Along with the bubonic plague?”

    Frankly, I it never occurred to me that this meant they had slept together until this recent conversation. But looking back on it, it’s certainly possible that Claremont was suggesting it.

  26. --D. says:

    Looking at it again, it might not be a nightie, just a very short, shimmery pink sexy dress. Hard to tell.

  27. Thom H. says:

    There was an annual during the Claremont years (drawn by Alan Davis, after the Mutant Massacre, they passed a test from an alien who otherwise was going to destroy humanity?) where Wolverine and Storm kissed on-panel. I thought that was weird at the time, but it certainly seems like more evidence that they could have been getting it on, at least occasionally. Hold on…Uncanny X-Men Annual #11.

  28. Ethan says:

    I think Wolverine and Storm went out on some sort of date during the tail end of Claremont’s second run (after it’d been bumped from the two older titles into the newly-launched ‘X-Treme X-Men’ and then shifted back into Uncanny in the reshuffle when Morrison left.

  29. --D. says:

    And, of course, in “The End,” CC showed them as a retired couple together.

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