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Feb 7

The X-Axis – 7 February 2010

Posted on Sunday, February 7, 2010 by Paul in x-axis

It’s a quiet week for the X-books, for a change.  Just the three of them – Cable, Wolverine: Weapon X and one of those inexplicable Wolverine one-shots that keeps on coming for some reason.  (And seriously, what’s the deal with those things?  How many Wolverine fill-ins could anyone actually want in their collection?)  Fortunately, there’s a fair amount of other stuff out too, so…

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Eight #32 – This is the first part of “Twilight”, the storyline where we find out who the eponymous villain actually is.  Or at least, that’s the theory.  This is clearly meant to be a major storyline for the series, and they’ve brought in a big name writer accordingly, in Brad Meltzer.  A weirder aspect is Dark Horse’s promotional campaign, which has already given away the ending – something that would have been a major surprise for a number of reasons.  I suppose the idea was that lapsed readers would go out and buy the arc to find out how said revelation could possibly work.  Anyway, after the last arc, Buffy has got full-blown superpowers, and Twilight is her arch-enemy in a supervillain mask.  The Buffy cast being basically geeks, much of this first issue is given over to them testing her powers against Superman cliches, which is actually quite funny.  More generally, I’m not entirely sold on the direction here.  It certainly looks as if we’re going to get some sort of riff on superhero cliches, but I don’t quite see why that fits in this particular series.  I admit that I’m curious to see where all this can be heading, but I suspect that’s more to do with the spoilers than with in this issue (which, by the way, still hasn’t actually reached the big revelation).  As an issue in its own right, it’s fine – Meltzer has the voices of the characters down, and there’s a cute Kitty Pryde gag – but the “comic book” stuff can’t help but feel a little out of place and forced.

Cable #23 – Well, we’re in the home straight now.  Just two issues to go before Cable and Hope get back to the present and the book ends.  The set-up of this arc is that they’ve finally got hold of a time machine that can go backwards, but it’s a bit erratic and they’re bouncing back and forth either side of the present as they try and zero in on it.  So we get scenes of them in the increasing recent past, interspersed with scenes in the decreasingly distant future as they make their way back through the last two years of stories, culminating this issue with a coda to the first arc.  Structurally, it’s quite clever – while it’s been a bit of a slog to get to this point, I do like the way that the pace has picked up, and the past/future stuff gives the feel of a series collapsing in on itself.  And there’s a lovely scene based on the idea that Hope has literally no clue how to drive.  (“Straight?  What’s straight on this circle thing?”)  On the other hand, the New York of 2044 was a fairly generic dystopia the first time round, and that hasn’t really changed; that’s fine so long as it’s just a backdrop for Cable and Hope, but bringing back Sophie Pettit from the first arc doesn’t really have the weight it should.  The art’s a bit bland too, though it gets the point across, and there are some nicely atmospheric panels during the car chase.  Still, this arc has some momentum, which is the main thing that Cable has been missing over the last couple of years.

Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love #4 – Much as I love Shawn McManus’ art, and it’s excellent here, this series isn’t really clicking for me.  The basic gimmick – Cinderella as a Fabletown secret agent – kind of gets lost, because the character really doesn’t have that much in common with the fairytale Cinderella, or at least that all gets overshadowed by the James Bond riff.  Then we have a plot based on the harem members from the Arab fables spontaneously developing radical feminism after a brief trip to New York.  There’s an interesting idea in there somewhere; you could do something about cross-cultural influences and so forth.  But it’s played on such a simplistic level that it really falls flat; it comes across as one of those clumsy stories where everyone deep down really wants to be American and realises it when they set foot in Manhattan, and that doesn’t work.

Criminal: The Sinners #4Criminal is one of those books which is terribly difficult to review because it’s consistently excellent, but it’s consistently excellent in the same way that all the previous issues were consistently excellent.  And that makes it hard to find anything in particular to seize on in an individual issue, which in turn means that you end up giving the same list of the book’s good qualities every month – that it’s a superlative noir book told with great economy and style from two creators who know how to make every element count.

Doom Patrol #7 – Um… well, this is a story where a bunch of characters from previous incarnations of the Doom Patrol, some of them completely unrelated, show up in subplots, apparently because Keith Giffen is about to embark on some grand project to try and tie together all the versions of the Doom Patrol.  Which is fine if you’re a Doom Patrol continuity wonk, and, like I said last month, to some extent the team’s history is such a mess that it really needs a bit of explaining.  But actually trying to make that the centre of your book and lay claim to all the conflicting Doom Patrols as a single heritage is tricky; there’s a risk of trying to find a common thread that simply isn’t there, or complicating the premise unnecessarily.  It’s not like there was ever a grand plan behind the disparate versions of the Doom Patrol, beyond keeping a trademarked name alive, and this issue doesn’t really convince me that the subject offers fertile ground.  This issue also has the final Metal Men back-up strip, which seems to be racing to reach some sort of conclusion, and isn’t entirely satisfactory.  A sixteen-panel opening page is a bit of a giveaway, though in fairness they’re buying space for a couple of splash pages later on, and the creators are good enough to pull off this sort of highly condensed grid page.  It’s fine as a story in its own right, but it’s not a finale (and, to be honest, doesn’t really read like it was intended to be – why introduce a new supporting character now?).

Echo #19 – In this issue, guns.  Also, rainfall.  After the big infodump a couple of issues back, the series has returned its focus to the cast being hunted down by mad and dangerous people, and also by slightly less mad but still quite dangerous people.  But scenes like this show why Terry Moore is a cut above most storytellers; he has the subtlety of body language and pacing to make almost anything visually interesting, even if it’s just four silent panels of somebody drawing a gun and then walking into a convenience store.  It’s the mastery of detail that makes this sort of sequence feel like a good use of space; lesser artists can’t pull this stuff off.  And this is one of the reasons why I like Echo despite its admittedly rather daft conspiracy plot; it’s a monthly reminder of what can be done in an 18-page monthly thriller comic.

The Great Ten #4 – Tony Bedard and Scott McDaniel have set themselves a difficult task with the format for this series about the DC Universe’s official Chinese superheroes.  There’s an over-reaching storyline about China coming under attack from guys claiming to be Chinese gods, and the Great Ten being sent to stop them.  But each issue is also meant to be focussed on a seperate member of the team – some of them loyal party functionaries, some of them basically decent types trying to do their job and keep out of politics, a couple of potential dissidents.  Presumably the idea is that the series should give us a whole range of modern Chinese characters and (like its villains) explore the variety that exists below the Communist veneer.  But it also means that you get issues like this, where the Immortal Man-in-Darkness relates his origin story – or, really, just explains his gimmick – and then fires a few missiles at a baddie.  Mind you, it does look beautiful.

Siege #2 – There are all sorts of problems with this comic.  Norman Osborn is hopelessly undermotivated.  The plot point about him invading Asgard without authority seems to have been completely dropped, so apparently we’re meant to believe that everybody was too embarrassed to try and countermand his orders.  And while the Dark Avengers managed to take out Thor last issue, this time they are sorely vexed by Maria Hill, because this time the plot requires them to lose.  Actually, that pretty much sums up my problem with Brian Bendis’ plotting; he needs the plot to get from A to B, and that’s fine, but he tends to gloss over the internal logic needed to get there.  (For example, if the plot calls for Maria to rescue Thor from the Dark Avengers, at least have her outwit them or take advantage of their internal squabbling or something.  Don’t just have her charge them with a bazooka.) That said, though, this is something of a guilty pleasure.  The art’s great.  Writing Asgardians keeps Bendis away from his usual dialogue tics.  I’m glad that the story seems to be focussing on the (real) Avengers and Nick Fury rather than bringing in the entire Marvel Universe.  And the bit with Sentry and Ares is certainly unexpected, even if it’s one of the less successful moments art-wise, and even if I hope it doesn’t stick.  There are some really good moments in this book; I just wish the structure holding them together was a bit stronger.

Sweet Tooth #6 – Beginning a second storyline, as Gus settles in to his new “home”, and flashbacks finally fill us in on the background of Tommy Jeppard – a washed-up ice hockey player who finds himself cast in the role of antihero in Sweet Tooth‘s post-apocalypse because there’s literally nobody else left.  There’s a fairly obvious direction for this character to go in (especially since it’s a pretty safe bet that he has to be reunited with Gus at some point), but that’s fine; this book works on atmosphere and on having believable characters in extraordinary circumstances, not because it’s particularly unpredictable.  Jeff Lemire’s sketchy, slightly twisted artwork seems a little less at home in the pre-apocalypse flashback sequences, but it’s perfect for the main story with its battered and damaged characters.

Wolverine: Savage – This would be the random Wolverine one-shot I mentioned at the start.  Just in case anyone hasn’t figured out yet that these are essentially Generic Wolverine, the thoroughly generic cover should help to bring the point home.  It’s by J Scott Campbell, but in fairness to him, I’d guess this is probably what Marvel asked for.  The actual story is an all-ages piece by Ryan Dunlavey and Richard Elson, in which Wolverine fights giant monsters to help rescue a missing sushi chef.  Which is certainly different.  And actually, it makes a pleasant change for one of these stories to just be a tongue-in-cheek superhero piece, since most of them seem to go for noir.  Perhaps because it isn’t trying to hard to fit an established genre, this has a lot more individuality.  Elson does a rather hefty Wolverine, but there’s some nice detail in there, and a particularly nice fish-chopping sequence.  Colourist Veronica Gandini gives the book a nice, bright look too.  It’s still ultimately a Wolverine fill-in story, but anyone mourning the demise of Wolverine: First Class might enjoy this.

Wolverine: Weapon X #10 – A self-contained issue, as Wolverine tries to figure out whether Melita Garner is technically his girlfriend or not, and gets advice from the likes of Jubilee and Rogue on the issue.  It’s a fun story, simply because it gets to spend an issue having Wolverine try to dodge the topic.  I’m not so sold on CP Smith’s art.  This guy’s been around for a while, and his sickly colours and stylised panels are certainly inventive.  I’m just not altogether sure they add to the story.  His characters are rather stiff, and some of his tricksier panels are just distracting.  It’s most notable with the scene at Mariko’s memorial, which suddenly throws in a panel of Melita looking sultry in extreme mock-Warhol close-up, completely at odds with the rest of the scene and with her dialogue in that panel.  To be fair, a scene with Melita and Emma Frost meeting in a corridor at night is better (and it’s the only version of Utopia I’ve seen that actually makes it feel like something recently unearthed from the bottom of the ocean).  But I still find his art more intriguing than enjoyable.

Bring on the comments

  1. Taibak says:

    Andrew: Those are very different situations though. Barry Allen was dead, but that just meant Wally West was the Flash. Plus, there was Kid Flash, Jesse Quick, and Jay Garrett. Why would you need to add another fix? Plus, as you said, Barry was dead for 22 years. How many fans were even reading when DC killed him off?

    On the other hand, Thor was only off the air, so to speak, for three years, during which time there were no other Thors in the Marvel Universe. Plus Marvel kept saying that Thor would be back soonish which had the (probably accidental) effect of helping build anticipation for the relaunch.

  2. Omar Karindu says:

    Of course, the Daredevil plotline has the slight logical problem that a federal official has, essentially, zero sway over local courts and police. They’re two entirely different systems, and local judges are generally elected, not appointed.

  3. do you think the Flash concept as a whole should have been ditched?

    They should have had the guts to reinvent the character again, like they did in the ’60s, like they sort of did in the ’80’s, and like they almost did with The Green Lantern in the ’90’s and some of the Seven Soldiers concepts in the ’00’s.

    But…you know…”legacy.”


  4. I think they should at least ditch the attempts to say the Flash’s powers are based in (pseudo-)science and just come out and call them magic. That’s always been my problem with solo Flash stories – the writers bending over backwards to justify all the cool stuff a super-speedster can do when it’d work just as well if they said ‘it’s magic’.

  5. Omar Karindu says:

    After the first Crisis back in the 1980s, they did plan to create an all-new, light-powered hero called the Flash with no links to the earlier ones. DC execs vetoes it in favor of Wally West’s title, which is to this day the most consistently good Flash title ever published.

  6. Si says:

    “And Si, Loki driving Osborn mad appears to be the point of the last scene of Dark Avengers #12.”

    Driving him mad is part of it, I meant more that the reason he’s attacking Asgard is that Loki has completely subverted his cause away from him without him realising. The master manipulator turns out to be just a pawn. It would be interesting to see the exact point where he realises this, and what his reaction is.

  7. Valhallahan says:

    I wish they’d do the Thor thing with Wolverine.

    Also, I have absolutely zero interest in Barry Allen. Wally West is my Flash, probably because I don’t read the books, but loved the animated Justice League series.

  8. Michael Aronson says:

    “Driving him mad is part of it, I meant more that the reason he’s attacking Asgard is that Loki has completely subverted his cause away from him without him realising. The master manipulator turns out to be just a pawn. It would be interesting to see the exact point where he realises this, and what his reaction is.”

    Osborne: Gah! I can’t believe I was tricked by Loki, the trickster god, whose entire reason for being is to lie and deceive people!

  9. Jerry Ray says:

    >>Incidentally, the fact that we have a bunch of veteran comic book readers here who can’t figure out what the hell is going on in this story probably isn’t a good sign. Just how incoherent has the storytelling been here?<<

    If you want to talk incoherence, we really need to be talking about the Hulk books in general, and _Fall of the Hulks_ in particular. God almighty, I have no idea what's supposed to be going on in that storyline, and Marvel can't even be bothered to publish the books in order.

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