RSS Feed
Jan 24

The X-Axis – 24 January 2010

Posted on Sunday, January 24, 2010 by Paul in x-axis

Once again, after a busy weekend, I reach Sunday evening and find myself with a pile of books I haven’t read yet.  (And as will be fairly obvious, they include most of the non-Marvel books I bought this week.)  But such is life.  Let’s bash through the X-books and a couple of others regardless…

Amazing Spider-Man #618 – Is there actually any unifying theme to this “Gauntlet” stuff other than doing a string of stories in a row featuring old Spider-Man villains?  Not that I’m complaining, mind you.  This is the start of a Mysterio story by Dan Slott and Marcos Martin, so you know it’s going to be well written and beautifully drawn.  Martin in particular is doing really exceptional work on this series.  Now, Mysterio was originally a gimmick villain based on sixties-era special effects, and given the march of CGI, he can easily come across as terribly dated, much like the Circus of Crime.  But Slott’s found a decent angle for him here: Mysterio helping mobsters to fake their own deaths (or, possibly, faking their return from the grave).  It may not be a revelatory comic, but it’s precisely what I’m looking for in a Spider-Man book, and extremely well done.

Dark Avengers #13 – Notionally a “Siege” crossover, but it’s actually an issue banging on about the Sentry’s back story.  Apparently he might be Jesus or something.  Or maybe not.  Um.  It’s really a bit of a mess.  But to be honest, the real problem here is that it’s trying to delve into the psyche of the Sentry, and the Sentry’s psyche isn’t very convincing, and never has been.  It’s just too contrived.

Dark Wolverine #82 – Another “Siege” crossover, and this one actually does cover the Siege story from Daken’s perspective.  The story seems to be pushing the idea that this is the big pay-off where everything is going to go wrong for Norman Osborn, and Daken is waiting to take advantage of it all.  Fair enough – for a while now, the book’s been pushing the idea that Daken’s got longer-range plans in mind.  And this is a pretty enjoyable issue.  There’s not much plot to it – it’s just the Siege from Daken’s point of view – but the interaction among Norman’s oddball band is entertaining, and I like Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art a lot.  The ending is certainly a surprise, but maybe too much of a surprise – it defies belief that such a major plot point would happen in a minor tie-in book, so it’s almost too obvious that it’s going to be an illusion or something.  But yeah, good issue.

Joe the Barbarian #1 – Grant Morrison returns to Vertigo with a new eight-issue miniseries.  This is a set-up issue, and to be honest, it’s all pretty familiar stuff – kid is bullied in real world, escapes from real world problems with toys, toys come to life, adventure.  You know the schtick.  Actually, at times the story openly acknowledges that these are stock elements, so there may be more to it when we get further into the series.  But for the moment, it’s basically one of those stories.  The real selling point on this first issue is Sean Murphy’s art.  Not only does he have a wonderful eye for detail and an ability to set a scene in a single panel, but for the most part Morrison gets out of the way and lets him do it.  Even with the standard Vertigo palate of orange and beige – and to be fair, the scenes with the toys are more colourful than that – this is worth getting just to gaze at.

Thunderbolts #140 – One half suspects that Jeff Parker may be treading water here waiting for “Dark Reign” to end so that the title can move into its next phase.  For the last couple of issues, he’s been using his favourite guest stars the Agents of Atlas so that the two teams can fight, as is traditional in these circumstances.  So, yes, perfectly okay.  But the book really comes together in the last couple pages, which are just a brilliantly executed sequence.  I’d explain it further, but that’d be a bit too spoiler-y.  Suffice to say the book sets up something earlier in the issue and then casually pays it off in a really clever way when you’re not expecting it.  It’s my favourite scene of the week by a mile.

Uncanny X-Men #520 – “Nation X” continues, as three of the X-Men team up with Fantomex to fight a monster in the sewers, while Magneto somehow manages to get a great big pillar built under the X-Men’s island without anybody noticing.  Not really sure how that works.   Since Scott’s now saying that they can’t go back to San Francisco while Norman Osborn is still around, I think it’s pretty safe to say they’ll be back there in the spring, so this whole island thing is looking like a bit of a detour.  (Then again, perhaps the idea is that Magneto sets up shop on the island.  Or maybe it’s going to be the new Atlantis.)  It’s an okay issue; there’s quite a good scene with Scott and Magneto, and otherwise there’s some acceptable fighting, even if Wolverine’s sense of smell is being pushed in a way that would have seemed stupidly over the top during the Silver Age.  Art is from Greg Land, but it’s actually one of his better efforts – though he still seems utterly flummoxed by the idea that women can have facial expressions beyond “grinning” and “sultry.”

Wolverine: Weapon X #9 – The concluding part of “Insane in the Brain”, although as it turns out the story sets up Dr Rottwell as a recurring villain.  I’m not sure I’d want to see him that often – this storyline has been a great change of pace, but it would get wearing after a while.  That said, there’s certainly something compelling about Rot as a sort of low-rent maniac whose powers happen to let him punch above his weight.  And the whole thing is so cheerfully absurd that the over-the-top hyperviolence comes across as black comedy rather than as outright silliness.  Even so, Aaron’s managed to keep that balanced with a really firm grip on writing a famliar Wolverine.  It’s been a strange storyline, but I think it’s worked well.

Bring on the comments

  1. Omar Karindu says:

    Dark Avengers #13 also manages to make some rather baffling claims that Moses was sacrificed or “destroyed by his power,” so even the Biblical allusions don’t make much sense on their own terms.

    As has been pointed out elsewhere, this seems to be heading towards the Sentry going from a dysfunctional Superman analogue to a…pretty much straight-ahead Marvel version of the Spectre. But yes it’s very unclear what this story is meant to accomplish other than loading yet another contrived twist onto a character essentially made of contrived twists.

  2. Jerry Ray says:

    The Dark Wolverine book didn’t seem to make it to the stores in my area (Atlanta), so I haven’t read it yet. It sounds like more of the same junk that Bendis did during Secret Invasion – tell the same story in like 2 or 3 different titles. I could really do without that.

    I’m getting REALLY sick of Agents of Atlas. I never had any interest in them in the first place, and now they’re popping up everywhere (X-Men LS, Avengers LS, Uranian LS, backup in Hercules, guest starring in T-Bolts, and I’m sure there are other recent appearances I’m forgetting). I just want them to go away at this point.

    I was rather irritated by the lack of closure at the end of the Weapon X arc. Somehow 3 X-Men can’t take down one already-gutted crazy guy? And now he can turn Wolverine into a mindless killer by remote control? Meh. It was OK as a story arc, but I have no interest in the character as a recurring villain.

  3. Paul says:

    I think DARK WOLVERINE isn’t really re-telling SIEGE so much as using it as a backdrop for the story it wants to tell about the tensions between Daken and Osborn.

  4. Does anyone actually like the Sentry, or is it yet another case of Marvel pushing something (character/title/artist/Chuck Austen) long after it’s outstayed its welcome? I quite liked the original miniseries, but they’ve continually muddied the concept ever since, and I really don’t see the point of the character, especially now Thor’s back.

  5. bryan says:

    @thekelvingreen Agreed. Sentry has long outstayed his welcome, I think it’s just Bendis’s crush on the character that’s seeing him in constant rotation. The SIEGE variant covers would have him positioned alongside the big three (Cap, Iron Man, Thor), and if that’s really Bendis’s long-term intention for the character, Lord have mercy on us, because in nine years of existence he’s yet to display the depth that would put him in that league. I’ve also never encountered one legitimate fan of the character; most readers simply tolerate him being around, and politely ignore the issues where he’s the real focus.

  6. Lawrence D says:


    To be fair, the X-men and Avengers LS are essentially issues 12-17 of the Agents of Atlas series. So it’s more like the X-men/Avengers are popping up in AoA’s book and not the other way around.

    And they’ve yet to reach “Dark Avengers” levels of over-saturation.

  7. moose n squirrel says:

    The Sentry is a laughably stupid character. His becoming God is pretty much the reductio ad absurdum of Bendis’s career.

  8. I would quite happily see the Sentry disappear along with Dark Reign, whether it’s by being quietly written out or his entire existence retconned to hell through some bizarre 11th hour plot twist in the Siege or Dark Avengers.

    He shouldn’t have been brought back after the original mini-series. His only worthwhile appearance since then was the issue of Mighty Avengers where him, Doom and Stark get flung back in time.

  9. Mory Buckman says:

    I love the Sentry, and I thought the latest issue of Dark Avengers was outstanding. Actually, I love the Sentry for what Bendis and Parker have done with him; I didn’t like Paul Jenkins’ miniseries at all.

    I do understand why some people wouldn’t care for him, though, as it’s a strange concept. As I see it, The Sentry is an entity too powerful to exist even in the Marvel Universe. Reality keeps reshaping itself and history keeps rewriting itself, just because The Sentry is there. So the more you try to understand the specifics of The Sentry, the more you run into contradictions. Consider: we are now to believe that the Sentry is God himself. Except, in the same issue that sets that idea up, there’s one panel in which he declares in all seriousness that he is Galactus. Consider also: here we’re getting what must be the fourth or fifth origin story for The Sentry, all of which contradict each other, and this time we’re told he was a random druggie who stole the serum. Except, in the very same issue we’re told that the serum only works on his DNA! The parts don’t fit together within the same issue.

    So I can see why people wouldn’t like what Bendis is doing here. But I think it’s brilliant. He’s not trying to make the Sentry comprehensible, he’s adding even more confusion to the character so that we are left with a sense that we have no idea what to expect from the character anymore. I think if Grant Morrison were writing The Sentry he would have left it at that, a character totally unrelatable, but the Sentry also has the Sentry/Void duality. We feel like even after all the craziness, we can still relate to the Sentry because he’s just as clueless as everyone else. He’s just a nice guy who’s trying and failing to make sense of the world because the Void keeps making things complicated. So the Sentry represents not only the randomness of the universe, but also the constant struggle to try to make sense of it. As such, I think he’s probably the best new comics character in decades. There is so much potential there, and I can’t wait to see more writers use it.

    What Bendis is doing with him is inspired. (Actually, I think his characterizations in general are a lot more ingenious than he’s usually given credit for.) In New Avengers and through Mighty Avengers, The Sentry was kept around ostensibly for his own good, so that the heroes could take care of him or something vague like that. But in practice, all the good Avengers ever did with him was use him for their own ends. Here’s a villain that’d be hard for us, let’s get The Sentry. Oh no, the Hulk is here and we’ll have to pay for our mistakes, let’s get The Sentry. Bendis (and to a lesser degree the other writers) has been building this idea up for years, so gradually that we can only see what he was getting at now. At first it seemed like really they might help him, but he barely appeared in the comic at all. Then in Mighty Avengers there’s more frequent lip service paid to “avoiding another Wanda Maximoff”, while they’ve gotten comfortable with using him much more frequently. And the more they ask of him, the more we see little hints of how dangerous he is, but it’s okay by us because he’s with the good guys. (Remember when he brought his wife back from the dead with no explanation in the Ultron arc?)

    And now we’re in the final act of this little morality tale. Osborn is just like Stark, except that we have no illusions about him. We understand perfectly well that when he talks about being Bob’s friend and how he’s going to help him through life, it’s all self-serving. In other words, now we’re seeing what we should have seen all along but didn’t. Dark Avengers #13 is the issue where the reader’s meant to wake up and ask: What the hell have the Avengers been doing trying to make The Sentry one of them? He’s not a superhero, he’s a force of nature. His story is incomprehensible, his powers seem to be absolutely unlimited, his behavior is totally unpredictable, his entire personality switches back and forth between pure good and pure evil with no warning. And these so-called “heroes” pulled him out of a life where he was minding his own business and not harming anyone, and pushed him front-and-center into all these superhero dramas where he’d have to come to grips with just how unbelievably powerful he is.

    So if you think what Bendis is doing here is anything less than great writing, I recommend you go back to the beginning of New Avengers and read through it again. You may be surprised.

    Now, as for the Siege banner on it. Obviously this was very carefully timed. This could have come before the last story, or even a year ago, but it’s coming right now as Siege is beginning. The reason seems clear: it’s setting up The Sentry as the instrument of Osborn’s downfall. At some point during the four-issue miniseries, Osborn is going to entirely lose control of The Sentry and will need the heroes to bail him out. The Sentry becomes a metaphor for Osborn’s recklessness, and by extension he’s a metaphor for how reckless all the “real heroes” have been going back all the way to the Scarlet Witch.

    All of this is a very long-winded way of saying, yes. There are actual fans of The Sentry. I love the character, I love what’s being done with him.

  10. Ken B. says:

    There is a sense with the Sentry that Marvel think making him this messed up personality who might/might not be biblical/meth head is actually good for the character, almost like making him the next Wolverine in that confusing past vein. It’s not.

  11. Sean W says:

    Regarding “The Gauntlet,” I’ve heard the ulterior motive of Kraven’s wife and daughter (who are behind reviving/recreating these classic Spidey foes, and messing with Madame Web and other Spider-themed allies) is to revive Kraven the Hunter himself…

    Not sure that’s a great idea, but I like revamping these old foes for a new era and audience.

  12. moose n squirrel says:

    You could, in theory, do something interesting with a character who’s a schizoid Superman. But that’s not the Sentry. The Sentry, ever since Bendis brought him back for New Avengers, has been a walking plot device attached to laughably ill-defined powers, with a gimmick in place of a personality. Hell, this is a character who nominally has two personalities, and between the two of them, can’t manage to scrounge up a single motive for anything the Sentry does. As the Void, he’s just Evil, and does Evil stuff because, well, he’s Evil! And as the Sentry he stands around dumbly waiting for more interesting characters to tell him what to do. It is a testament to Brian Bendis’s ineptitude as a storyteller that he managed to take a concept like “Superman gone crazy” and turn it into one of the dullest characters in comics today.

    As for “he’s God/Jesus/Galactus,” it’s pretty clear that the Sentry’s backstory has largely come about through a process of throwing anything and everything at the wall in the hopes that something, somewhere might stick.

  13. Valhallahan says:

    I am really not impressed with the Sentry, and though your epic post was interesting, I’m still not sold.

    Unless He’s Odin in disguise.

  14. Omar Karindu says:

    I’m generally skeptical of any defense of a plotline that essentially boils down to claiming something is crap on purpose in the service of some brilliant thematic point. For the argument above to work, for instance, one still has to admit that Bendis made deliberately poor narrative choices in the name of thematic effect; this is still bad writing. And like most affirmative defenses, it’s an extremely tough sell.

    The thing is, if Bendis is making the Sentry a contrived mess of a non-character on purpose, he’s still writing a story featuring a contrived mess of a non-character. Spending several years deliberately making the Sentry unreadable is still several years of unreadability, deliberate or not.

    And frankly, the point is neither so clever nor so complex that it required nine years and hundreds of pages to get across, let alone hundreds of narratively crap pages. In many ways, if the Sentry has been miswritten on purpose, it’s as much a damning an indictment of Bendis’s writing choices as the notion that it’s accidentally poor storytelling is a damning indictment of his writing ability.

  15. Ed Wood says:

    No, it’s fine. It’s real. You know, in actuality, Lobo would have to struggle with this problem every day.

  16. D. says:

    The only comics I’ve read with Sentry in them were in a New Avengers TPB well before Civil War. First two volumes, I think.

    I actually like the idea, as described by Señor Bruckman above, of a character utterly insane, and whose powers are continuously rewriting history around them. You’re left with the idea that what you know about the past continuity is correct right now, as you are reading this issue. All those stories I read decades ago? In reality, that continuity just came into existence. Tomorrow, there might be a different continuity that I remember reading years ago. Mutable history. I like it.

    That said, I have no idea whether Bendis or anyone else has executed the idea well. Mory above was pretty passionate in defense, so I’m curious. But the consensus is that the execution has been poor. Now I want to read it to find out.

  17. Going by the original mini-series, he;s a character that made the world infinitely better – and far less interesting – so he had to die for the sake of Drama.

    …I mean, he’s MiracleMan, right? Or Marvelman? And he somehow created the Marvel Universe. Or something.


  18. maxwell's hammer says:

    I’m on the Sentry Fan Wagon, but will agree that everything about the character is far messier than it needs to be. And as an easy way to brush all the messiness under the rug, I chose to accept everything Mr. Bruckman said (knowing full well nothing he said has anything to do with any kind of Master Marvel Plan).

  19. Michael Aronson says:

    Bendis has used the Sentry as little more than a walking plot device. He’s not a character, and he doesn’t act like a character. His dialogue serves the stories, and not the other way around. It’s a mess and a repeated missed opportunity every single time they truck him out again.

    I mean, he’s been on THREE Avengers teams so far, and hasn’t done a thing of interest on any of them.

  20. Bendis has used the Sentry as little more than a walking plot device. He’s not a character, and he doesn’t act like a character. His dialogue serves the stories, and not the other way around.
    Well, in fairness, that’s true of any character written by Bendis, not just the Sentry.

  21. Black Mage says:

    “Since Scott’s now saying that they can’t go back to San Francisco while Norman Osborn is still around, I think it’s pretty safe to say they’ll be back there in the spring, so this whole island thing is looking like a bit of a detour.”

    I’m not quite sure Marvel know the difference between a detour and a direction.

    This will be, what, the fourth new direction for the X-Men since M-Day? They’re being oppressed by a new race of Sentinels and confined to the Institute. They’re moving to San Francisco. They’re moving to an island off the coast. And now they’re coming back to America, after their shiny new nation has lasted a grand total of, well, a year, maybe, making it basically Sealand with superpowers.

    It’s not even a developing plot, or a sequence of logical reactions to M-Day: it’s a frantic struggle to give the whole series a point now that the civil rights metaphor has been made pretty much useless, despite brave attempts to ignore the fact that there’s not even a high school class’s worth left of mutants. The civil rights metaphor had a lot of flaws, but it was the spine of the franchise, and since M-Day there’s been nothing but flailing.

  22. Michael Aronson says:

    “Well, in fairness, that’s true of any character written by Bendis, not just the Sentry.”

    Ah, if we’re truly being fair, then we have to make an exception for Jessica Jones circa the first two years if Alias.

  23. kelvingreen says:

    A fair point indeed. And how long ago that was.

  24. TravisJohnson says:

    I wonder if the Sentry is meant to represent all of the incomprehensible storylines in comics these days? PErhaps at the end of The Siege, they’ll finally kill him off signalling a return to the Heroic Age of Marvel?

  25. Adam says:

    I’m not sure I’d call myself a “fan” of the Sentry, but I’ve enjoyed him and still do. Nice visual, fun concept. He has his good stories and bad stories, but don’t all characters? The original series was good. The Romita Jr.-penned miniseries was OK.

    Mory’s almost certainly right, at any rate, about The Sentry’s long-running subplot under Bendis climaxing in SIEGE; the Quesada-drawn gatefold cover in which Iron Man, Cap, and Thor have surrounded Osborn pretty clearly shows that the character Osborn is absolutely terrified of at that moment is the Sentry behind them.

    And likely as not Osborn’s secret ally that he used to keep his short-lived Cabal in check is The Void (unless I’m just a doofus and this was already revealed). It’s the only character that could really cause people of that power level to pause and who doesn’t come out of left field, as it explains why Osborn’s been spending so much time with Bob.

  26. Jerry Ray says:

    I can’t remember who wrote that Sentry series you’re referring to, but it wasn’t Romita Jr.

    If Osborn’s secret ally is the Void, that’ll be the biggest letdown since the last mega-crossover Bendis wrote.

  27. Reboot says:

    Jenkins also wrote the Sentry series that JRJr drew.

  28. Adam says:

    Yeah, couldn’t remember if Jenkins wrote the JrJr-drawn (as opposed to “penned” – my slip) miniseries too or if it was someone else. Gratzi.

  29. Seth says:

    If Bendis *is* playing with continuity in the way suggested, he’s making a right mess of it. Can I plug one of my favourite twists of all time, in DC’s Captain Atom? In one issue, Captain Atom tells the current Blue Beetle about an adventure he had with the previous Blue Beetle. The story is full of small continuity errors, which annoyed me immensely when I read it. But in the next issue, it’s revealed that they’re not the writers’ mistakes but *Captain Atom’s*, and the current Blue Beetle is well aware that he’s making the whole thing up. Genius.

  30. Jack says:

    Another reader who likes the Sentry – even if a bit more in concept than in the actual stories; however, I must say that Dark Avangers 13 is probably my favorite comicbook in a long, long time – I don’t know, something about the story about this guy that has ilimited potential but can’t achieve anything meaningful with it hit home for me.

  31. Dom says:

    Marcos Martin is great on Amazing Spider-Man, but his work would be less attractive if Javier Rodriguez’s colors weren’t so spot on for Martin’s style. How about some love for the colorist?

    Also, does anyone else think that the sub-plot line with Kraven’s daughter (using other Spider-Man villains as pawns against Spider-Man) is reminiscent of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s “Spider-Man: Blue”?

Leave a Reply