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Jan 31

The X-Axis – 31 January 2010

Posted on Sunday, January 31, 2010 by Paul in x-axis

It’s another of those weeks when Marvel flood the shelves with X-books.  There are no fewer than seven of them this week, which is surely excessive by any standards.  I really don’t understand why after all these years Marvel seem to find it so difficult to ship things on a sensible schedule.  But there you go.

Check out this week’s podcast, a couple of posts down, to hear Al and me discussing Joe the Barbarian, New Avengers and the Blackest Night issue of Starman.  But in the meantime, here’s a ton of X-books and a few other titles that I’ve got around to reading so far.

Batman & Robin #7 – Cameron Stewart takes over on art, as Batman comes to London looking for… well, that’s a plot twist in the final pages.  But Grant Morrison isn’t writing London at all, so much as an imagined Silver Age version of London full of localised gimmick villains – evil pearly kings at war with coal-themed baddies from the North and so forth.  It could easily be excruciating, but Morrison and Cameron Stewart are the sort of people who can carry this off, and make it feel like a sort of quirky extension of Silver Age logic.  That said, it’s still a bit of a jarring gear shift when we reach the final pages and it becomes apparent that this is actually important to Morrison’s wider storyline; there’s an awkward change of tone and a confusing segment with Batwoman that leaves me wondering whether this is a reference to some story I haven’t read, or an intentional piece of obscurity, or just a mess.  A fun read, but mainly on the strength of the first half before it starts trying to tell a story.

Chew #8 – Ah, nested prologues.  There’s nothing like a needlessly convoluted structure.  This is another clever issue with the usual mix of absurdity with genuine plot tension (and the obligatory dash of gross-out humour which isn’t allowed to overwhelm the story).  Now, that said… is it just me, or is it straining credibility that Chow made it all the way to the island without knowing about something that was (a) a major news story, and (b) directly relevant to the reason he was going there in the first place?  I know it’s Chew and it’s not exactly social realism, but it gets away with that sort of thing because it sticks to a coherent if warped internal logic.  So plot holes like that still cause me a bit of difficulty.  It’s a minor point, though; and how can you not like a comic with a story built around a chicken in a helmet?

Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh #4 – The conclusion of Mark Waid and Minck Oosterveer’s second miniseries about Catherine Allingham, the metaphysical detective trying to solve the mystery of what happens when we die.  Presumably some of you will be getting the trade, so I won’t spoil the premise of this series (revealed in issue #3).  Suffice to say it’s outlandishly convoluted and audaciously weird.  I’m also not altogether sure it makes sense – if I’m understanding it right, it seemed to involve some sort of time loop, and I don’t quite see how that squares with this issue.   But in a strange way, it’s the sort of concept that actually benefits from not entirely making sense.  Since Unknown is all about things on the verge of the characters’ understanding, it actually works to have stories that you can’t quite get a grip on.  It’s the sort of thing that could backfire spectacularly, but by keeping a firm grip on the lead characters and anchoring everything to that, the series holds it together.

Wolverine: Origins #44 – Wolverine and Cloak try to break obscure Defenders villain Ruby Thursday out of prison for a whole issue.  As I often say about this title, it’s at its weakest when it gets hung up on the clumsy arc plot, and so it’s usually more entertaining when it turns its attention to something relatively straightforward like a jailbreak.  Doug Braithwaite is doing great art on this series, with a lovely solid feel to it.  And there are moments in this story that I quite liked – such as the governor’s sinking feeling when he realises that he’s cornered Wolverine and now he’s actually going to have to do someting about it.  On the other hand, the stuff with Romulus is stupid as ever, and I’m really not sure that this book (or Matt Fraction, for that matter) gets Cloak as a character at all.

Wolverine: Wendigo – This is actually a reprint from the Monsters, Myths and Marvels digital comic.  And billing it a Wolverine comic is contentious to say the least.  It’s actually a story by Frank Tieri and Paul Gulacy about the Quebecois cops interviewing the survivors after a bunch of documentary makers get ripped apart by the Wendigo.  Wolverine does indeed appear in the story, but for a grand total of four panels out of 22 pages.  To be fair, the back-up story, also reprinted from the digital service, is of almost equal length and does feature Wolverine heavily.  But still, this is dodgy advertising.  (I note, by the way, that Marvel have solicited a Hope one-shot which, given the story description, certainly sounds like it’s a reprint of the recent “Hope” back-up strips – but without mentioning that anywhere in the solicitation at all.  This strikes me as extremely dubious practice, though I suppose it might be argued that if you own the stories already, you’ll recognise it as a reprint from the solicitation text.)  Anyhow… the lead story is a perfectly acceptable monster strip, and the art’s quite good, but it doesn’t go anywhere you wouldn’t expect.  The back-up is one of those “villain hypnotises hero so he fights another hero” stories, guest starring Thor, and again, it’s perfectly okay without really offering anything you haven’t seen before.

X-Babies #4 – Isn’t that cover just adorable?  Anyway, this is the final part of the four-issue miniseries dusting off the old Star characters, and I remain thoroughly confused by what it was trying to say about them.  The basic idea is that the X-Babies have been “replaced” by infuriatingly cutesy, adorable versions, and so have the Star characters.  Which is fine, except… it’s the cutesy, hateable version of the Star characters that actually resembles the original comics, and not the “real” versions that the X-Babies rescue.  Granted, the Star comics weren’t very good – many of them were shameless knock-offs of existing all-ages titles from other publishers – but I don’t quite understand why you’d want to spend an entire miniseries telling us that, over twenty years after the line was cancelled.  I just don’t get it.

X-Factor #201 – The best X-book of the week by a mile.  The over-long time travel storyline is behind us, but this is effectively a continuation, picking up on Layla’s remaining subplots and on the previous appearance of a future Dr Doom.  Granted, it’s not Peter David’s subtlest work – the previous issue did a better job of making Reed’s motivations obscure, and this time he just comes across as a villainous impostor.  But with the cast reunited, we’ve got a great team dynamic here.  Bing Cansino’s art is perhaps a little bland at times, but his characters have expression and he gets the story across, which are the key things.  A quality team book.

X-Force #23 – The Necrosha crossover rumbles onwards.  This issue, X-Force fight people in conditions of low light.  There’s a subplot with Hela that I quite liked, but other than that, it’s just a bit formulaic.  It’s perhaps the same problem that I’ve had with some other stories by Kyle and Yost.  They’ve gone so over the top with the threat that I just don’t care any more.  Clayton Crain, to give him his due, does some rather nice atmospheric pictures of gothic buildings in Genosha – I don’t remember that being a particular style for Genosha, but they’re nice pictures, at least.  But mainly, it’s just ugly, emaciated-looking characters in boring murk.  Mostly rubbish.

X-Men Forever #16 – Nightcrawler and Rogue head south to Mississippi, and it looks like we’re going to get Chris Claremont’s version of the “What’s the link between Nightcrawler and Mystique?” story.  Or at least, something like it.  The plotting’s a bit ropey – if it’s Rogue you’re worried about, why set out to lure a different member of the team entirely?  But I like Graham Nolan’s art, which fits the style set for the book by Tom Grummett, albeit that his characters look a little overdramatic when they’re arguing.  And the story is solid Claremont, with an effective cliffhanger.

X-Men Legacy #232 – Officially another Necrosha tie-in, but this story about Proteus returning on Muir Isle looks suspiciously as though it’s a completely freestanding idea which Carey has hitched to the crossover by using Destiny in a role that could have been filled adequately by Blindfold alone.  Actually, if that is what happened, it was probably a smart move to chuck in the tie-in – if you’re going to do two “back from the dead” stories, hey, link them.  Now, the continuity here is a bit of a mess.  The recap page says Proteus reappeared on Muir Isle because he was “extinguished there” – but he wasn’t, he was killed in Edinburgh at the other end of the country.  Besides which, Proteus was already brought back to live during “House of M”, and went off to join the Exiles.  I suppose you could say that’s not the real Proteus, but wouldn’t that open a can of worms for Clint Barton, who was reanimated in the same way?  Leave that aside, though, and this is a perfectly acceptable story of a bunch of X-Men – in fact, a very trad-feeling X-Men team – fighting a rarely seen baddie.  Carey’s done better, but this is fine for what it is.

Bring on the comments

  1. James Moar says:

    “or an intentional piece of obscurity, or just a mess.”

    Or a lettering error?

  2. Jonny K says:

    “I suppose you could say that’s not the real Proteus, but wouldn’t that open a can of worms for Clint Barton, who was reanimated in the same way?”

    Is Ilyana back the same way too?

  3. JD says:

    Hasn’t the latest issue of NEW MUTANTS made relatively clear that this isn’t the real Illyana ?

  4. Tim O'Neil says:

    See, the last New Mutants didn’t make a lot of sense because it seemed to be saying that Illyana wasn’t the real Illyana because she didn’t have her soul anymore, not because she wasn’t “really” Illyana. I might have misread.

    Also, wasn’t the 616 Proteus already brought back during an X-Men / New Warriors X-over two decades back? It’s been a long time since I read those comics but I seem to recall that did happen.

  5. Michael says:

    What, exactly, is there to “get” about Cloak? Aside from the obsession with Dagger, he’s as much a blank slate as one can be without actually being a blank slate.

  6. Taibak says:

    And what kind of helmet is the chicken wearing?

  7. Daly says:

    Proteus came back in the New Warriors/X-Force storyline from the early nineties. He was killed on Muir island then. That’s why they show Moira MacTaggert and another original obscure character ‘Malice?’ being held hostage briefly in a flashback.


  8. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    “it looks like we’re going to get Chris Claremont’s version of the “What’s the link between Nightcrawler and Mystique?” story. Or at least, something like it.”

    I’m not reading Forever but does this mean he finally gets to do the “Mystique is Kurt’s father, and Destiny is his mother” story he wasn’t allowed to do at the time?

  9. Mike says:

    “I suppose it might be argued that if you own the stories already, you’ll recognise it as a reprint from the solicitation text.”

    Right, but who can tell one Hope story from another? What was the solicitation? “Thrill, dear readers, as CABLE teaches HOPE about guerrilla warfare in a dystopian future, all the while evading the turncoat Mutant menace BISHOP! And is that GHOST RIDER 2099 lurking in the shadows?! This issue’s got it all, true believers!”

  10. JD says:

    “four thrilling, untold tales from Hope’s future past as she grapples with vicious snipers, robot wolf packs, mutant rats, and even Cable himself.”

    And alas, Mystique tells she’s Kurt’s mother here.

  11. Chris says:

    Wait, wait, wait…there wasn’t *actually* an issue of CABLE that guest-starred GHOST RIDER 2099 was there? If there WAS, I may have to track that shit down, lol.

  12. Chris McFeely says:

    I didn’t really “get” the cliffhanger to X-MEN FOREVER. Rogue drains Nightcrawler’s powers, and the shocking “WHAT’S HAPPENED TO ROGUE?!?” full splash-page cliffhanger is… that’s she’s turned blue and has Nightcrawler’s physical features. What’s… what’s shocking and horrifying about that? Isn’t that what you’d expect to happen? I mean, I thought maybe it was supposed to imply that being blue and furry isn’t actually supposed to be Nightcrawler’s default state, if it’s something she can absorb out of him, but… yeah, it puzzled me that I was supposed to find this shocking.

    I was hoping for Claremont’s old “Mystique’s the dad, Destiny’s the mum” plot, too, but given that Mystique called herself his mother, I guess he’s not going that way. Unless Nightcrawler’s got two mums. 🙂

  13. Andrew says:

    There was indeed some kind of annual crossover involving Proteus in 1991. The story makes several references to it. Don’t worry, Paul, I didn’t know about that either.

    And by the way, it may be traditional, but Legacy easily leads the way among the X-books in kick-assery.

  14. Ash says:

    Yup, Proteus was revived in the Kings of Pain crossover that took place in 4 annuals: New Warriors, New Mutants, X-Force, and X-Men. Horrible story, that one, which featured two z-list villains called Harness and Piecemeal.

    The setting was Muir Isle, so I guess this is what Proteus was referring to where he last “died”, or dissipated.

    X-Force’s art is so murky, I can’t identify most of the characters running around the panels. And I think the Rahne/Hrimhari/Hela subplot is better served in the New Mutants than here, it strikes me as odd that the New Mutants don’t even bother to visit Rahne in the Utopia infirmary.

  15. Mo Walker says:

    Crossovers such as Necrosha, with numerous resurrections, make me wish editors notes were still used. Maybe some editor or assistant editor could ‘tweet’ the references. I think Carey is doing a great job of making a crossover work for him. Part of my problem with this title is the constant game of ‘artistic musical chairs’.

  16. ZZZ says:

    Since Mystique actually is female, she could simply consider herself to be Kurt’s second mother instead of his father even if she turned into a man to impregnate Destiny (for that matter she could have just turned into a woman with a … well, this is the Internet, you figure it out). I kind of hope that isn’t the direction they go, because as much as I’ve always liked the idea, the part of my brain that decides exactly how far a comic book can stretch real world science before I call BS is willing to buy that Mystique can give herself functioning male equipment, but insists that she shouldn’t be able to change her basic genetic material (or else when she imitated other mutants, she’d gain their powers and lose her own) so she should only be able to produce daughters, not having a Y-chromosome.

    I know, it’s the whole “you believe people can fly but not that they can (fill in the blank)?” argument. But it’s kind of like when you read a time travel story full of unresolved paradoxes: I’m willing to believe the impossible can happen, but not the illogical.

  17. Baines says:

    I doubted that Mystique would be the father simply because Claremont isn’t doing his old stories. He is doing stories based on what he and others have written since he left the X-Men, so Mystique at best will probably just be dear ole mum.

  18. Ben Herman says:

    Well, just so long as the next issue of X-Men Forever doesn’t have Mystique telling Nightcrawler that his father is some guy named Azazel who likes to go around claiming to be the devil, then it’s all good 🙂

  19. Dan Coyle says:

    I think… sigh… that this will somehow lead to Rogue permanently looking like Nightcrawler for a while, even though Mutant X and half the Rogue related What Ifs? ever written have already beaten this thing into the ground.

  20. Apropopos of nowt, there’s a preview of Ultimate Comics X over at Marvel dot com.

    Hope this works. Don’t know what kinda mushmouth hypertext this is supposed to be.

    Still. There it is. There it certainly is.


  21. ZZZ says:

    By the way, shouldn’t X-Men Forever be taking place after Uncanny X-Men 194, which established both that Rogue turns blue if she absorbs Nightcrawler’s powers (so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise) and that Nightcrawler DOESN’T turn flesh-colored?

  22. D. says:

    RE: X-Men Forever. This title is billed as Claremont picking up where he left off. Instead what it is is Claremont putting together a mishmash of ideas he liked when someone else did them, things he wants to see done with other peoples characters/stories, and random “differentness” from established continuity. I liked the 1st TPB, but what I’m reading here makes me reluctant to buy another. It seems like CC is just making story changes for the sake of being different. This is the same problem “What If…?” has.

  23. Jason Powell says:

    “By the way, shouldn’t X-Men Forever be taking place after Uncanny X-Men 194, which established both that Rogue turns blue if she absorbs Nightcrawler’s powers (so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise) and that Nightcrawler DOESN’T turn flesh-colored?”

    I believe that was meant to be the point of the cliffhanger. Why did Nightcrawler turn human, and why did Rogue absorb not just his skin color, but other physical attributes as well? (It’s shown clearly that she has three fingers on the last page, which did not happen in Uncanny 194, or X-Men Annual 9, or any other time she absorbed Kurt pre-1991.) It seems clear from the dialogue that something has gone *wrong*, and the absorption isn’t happening the way anyone expected based on past experience.

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