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Mar 14

The X-Axis – 14 March 2010

Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 by Paul in x-axis

If you haven’t listened to this week’s podcast yet, then you’ll find it just one post down.  This week’s reviews include the Mystic Hands of Dr Strange one-shot, and the first issues of Ghost Projekt and Green Hornet.

And now, some other stuff that came out this week…

Amazing Spider-Man #624 – This is the final part of a Vulture arc by Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta.  The general idea is pretty solid – Jonah has been framed as the creator of yet another supervillain, and Peter tries to clear his name.  Of course, this is a Spider-Man story, and since no good deed goes unpunished, it all goes horribly wrong.  All perfectly sound so far as it goes.  The downside here is that the new Vulture isn’t a particularly interesting character – he’s one of those “transformed against his will/out for revenge” types, and while the story tries to give him a background as a mob fixer, it doesn’t really seem to connect through to the character in the present.  And I’m in two minds about Azaceta’s art; although clearly a strong storyteller and good with the character moments, there’s a slight awkwardness about his work that doesn’t feel quite right for a Spider-Man story.  Not one of the stronger Amazing arcs, then, but still perfectly acceptable.

Batman & Robin #10 – “The Return of Bruce Wayne begins here”, proclaims the cover.  What, already?  Obviously we all know that he’s going to come back in the end.  That goes without saying.  But it feels way too early to be starting the build for that.  Mind you, I don’t read the other Batman titles; perhaps if I had read three times the number of Dick Grayson Batman stories I’d feel differently about it.  But… yeah, this is surely a multi-year storyline.  Still, Morrison has a clever idea here – Bruce Wayne is lost somewhere in the past, and has been leaving messages in bits of Wayne Manor that previously seemed innocuous.  So you get scenes of Batman and Robin trying to find clues in fireplace design.  Andy Clarke’s art is entirely serviceable but, as usual, the Frank Quitely cover serves to remind us of what we’re missing.

Cable #24 – Effectively the final issue of the series – next month’s issue #25 is a flashback story guest starring Deadpool.  So, Cable and Hope finally defeat Bishop, and make their way back to the present… except, actually, they don’t do that last bit, because the grand return has apparently been reserved for the first chapter of X-Men: Second Coming.  Bad call, if you ask me.  I’d have ended the series with the moment of their arrival, to at least give it that extra element of closure – it’d serve just as well as a teaser for the crossover.  Anyway, that leaves the final issue to deal with Bishop, and that’s basically what we get – two years of build-up comes down to Cable and Bishop bouncing through time and the good guys finally getting the upper hand.  It’s all fairly predictable, but in itself that’s not such a bad thing; the book’s spent two years building to this fight and now it’s delivering what it promised, which is fine.  And there are some clever mechanics in here, such as Cable using time-jumps to try and get Bishop hit by subway trains.  But for all that, the series ends up feeling decidedly inconsequential.  Cable’s aged 17 years but doesn’t seem to have changed at all.  Hope’s gone from a prop to a character, but that development doesn’t actually play much of a role in this story.  The story would carry so much more weight if Bishop had been beaten in a way that wasn’t possible when the series started – by Hope using her newfound powers, or simply by Bishop underestimating her and getting himself killed as a result.  In practice, Cable beats Bishop in a way that would presumably have worked back in issue #2.   Visually, the issue is all over the place, with a parade of fill-in artists (presumably, in fairness, because there’s a crossover waiting for this issue, and they have to get it out the door no matter what).  Giancarlo Garacuzzo’s opening section is a bit like a sketchier Rick Leonardi, and isn’t bad at all, but Alejandro Garza’s 90s-throwback chapter is another matter entirely.  And then we get some very rough pages by Denys Cowan to round the whole thing off.  The issue does what it needed to do, but never elevates it to be truly satisfying.

Dark X-Men #5 – Another final issue, as Nate Grey gives the Dark X-Men their chance to turn on Norman Osborn and save the day.  You can imagine how well that works out for him.  It’s a strange ending, this, and I might try and come back to the series at more length if I get a chance.  Basically, in the place where you’d expect the faux X-Men to make their big moral decision – or at least, everyone except the Dark Beast, who’s a sociopath – none of them ever quite get around to it.  And their very failure to fulfil their role as protagonists then becomes their big moral decision.  It’s an odd way to finish the series, though it comes across better than you might expect – partly because Cornell has used Nate Grey as a sort of parallel hero, who does put up the required fight, so that the story doesn’t just peter out.  But for the title characters, the story ends with a deliberate anticlimax.  It’s hard to figure out whether this is an audacious way of pursuing their “not real heroes” status to the logical conclusion, or just a case of nobody being quite sure where they want the characters to go next; I suspect re-reading the whole series might shed some light on that.  Interesting, though, and I think it more or less works.

S.W.O.R.D. #5 – The final issue of the prematurely cancelled series.  An Abigail Brand ongoing title always seemed a bit optimistic to me, but to be honest, I was betting it would at least last the year.  Between this, Dr Voodoo and Fantastic Force, quite a few Marvel titles have fallen at the first hurdle lately (Spider-Woman isn’t contining beyond its first arc either, though they’re claiming it’s on hiatus).  There’s a risk in this; you can get into a vicious circle where readers become convinced that most new titles will be strangled in the crib, and thus become even less likely to invest in them.  Anyhow, in this final issue, Hank and Abigail naturally thwart the invasion, get rid of Gyrich, and ensure that all is right in the world.  It’s a real shame that we won’t get to see more of the book’s take on Lockheed, or the Unit android, which gets to give a lovely speech at the end explaining why it didn’t take the opportunity to side with the invaders.  I’m still a bit lukewarm about Steven Sanders’ art, which is wildly off-model for one of the lead characters, and doesn’t quite have the punch to pull off the “prisoners fight back” double page spread with all the guest stars (shouldn’t there be more of them?).   Then again, his Death’s Head and Unit are great, and his Beast does have expression.  A shame this book won’t get to explore the potential in all of its ideas, but it does at least work as a strong five-issue miniseries.

Wolverine: Mr X – This month’s random Wolverine one-shot gives Frank Tieri a chance to revisit Mr X, a villain from his Wolverine run who’s since been picked up as a member of the Thunderbolts.  And actually, this is the sort of story that does make sense as a one-shot.  It ties up a loose plot thread about why Mr X isn’t worrying about his arch enemy any more, and it wouldn’t really feel at home in the current regular Wolverine title (let alone in Thunderbolts).  Now, that said, I always found Mr X a rather one-dimensional villain – putting him in the Thunderbolts set-up where he isn’t in control has helped bring out other sides to him – and his “proving he’s the best” schtick wears thin rather quickly.  There’s a nice enough idea that the best way to torment Mr X is not to fight him, since all he’s really interested in is proving that he can win.  But I can’t help feeling that you’d have to kill an awful lot more people than this before X would believe that Wolverine really wasn’t prepared to fight him no matter what.  He throws in the towel far too quickly.  Wouldn’t he just kill all the hostages anyway to see if Wolverine’s bluffing?  What would he have to lose?  It’s a fine concept, I just don’t think it’s set up convincingly enough.

X-Men Forever #19 – Nick Fury and co attack the Consortium’s HQ, which in good old-school style is conveniently and pointlessly located beneath a major landmark.  I applaud their dedication to tradition.  Meanwhile, Kurt and Rogue have swapped powers, and Jean is having some angst-ridden melodrama.  It’s X-Men Forever – you know the drill by now.  Not exactly the deepest or the most original comic, but that’s not really the point; X-Men Forever exists to be an 80s throwback, and on that level, it’s good satisfying entertainment, playing to Claremont’s strengths and relatively light on his weak points.

Bring on the comments

  1. Mammalian Verisimilitude says:

    > Still, Morrison has a clever idea here – Bruce Wayne is lost somewhere in the past, and has been leaving messages in bits of Wayne Manor that previously seemed innocuous.

    Wait… Wayne Manor’s been destroyed HOW many times? (The big earthquake levelling it a decade ago leaps immediately to mind)

    That doesn’t seem like a story idea that could hold up on a long view (is there *ANY* landmark in comics that HASN’T been destroyed at some point?), especially since Morrison has some sort of “everything’s continuity” idea about Batman’s backstory.

    > …which is wildly off-model for one of the lead characters…

    *insert repeated comment that if there’s any sort of model for cat-Beast, I’ve not seen any evidence of it in the wildly, wildly variant depictions of the concept*

  2. I’m still (pleasantly) surprised that Beast is still in his cat form; I thought that would be one of the first of Morrison’s ideas they’d retcon.

    It is too early to bring Bruce Wayne back; the general impression I get is that DC have no patience.

  3. Dave O'Neill says:

    Spider-Woman is cancelled….Wha???????

  4. Mammalian Verisimilitude says:

    Ignore this, just checking to see if I can embed an image…

  5. Mammalian Verisimilitude says:

    The answer’s “No”, then. Links it is…

    > I’m still (pleasantly) surprised that Beast is still in his cat form; I thought that would be one of the first of Morrison’s ideas they’d retcon.

    Depends how you look on it, and where you look. Which of the following most resembles the Beast on Jim Cheung’s Heroic Age promo ( )

    Frank Quitely Beast:
    Andy Kubert Beast:

    Consider hands/paws, hair, ear placement, size and shape of head (particularly the silhouette, eyes, nose and mouth/snout), muscle distribution and general body shape in your answer.

  6. Lambnesio says:

    I’m also not bothered at all by Beast in the S.W.O.R.D. series. So he looks like a horse. It’s kind of a cool design, and it ultimately doesn’t have any kind of ramifications in this or any other book.

    As for Spider-woman- this is the first I’ve heard, and I’m pretty shocked too. Bendis has been talking this concept up since he started at Marvel.

    In reality, it’s been pretty disappointing so far. Despite Alex Maleev’s excellent artwork, the story is falling very, very flat. I’m still following it though, and I suspect time could be good for this book.

    I have a strong feeling that the motion-comic has been really bad for this book, in any case. It’s clearly being plotted for ten-minute cartoons, and the issues sometimes feel pretty empty. Like the Viper issue, the torture issue or the Thunderbolts issue (which was obnoxious). That fact probably hasn’t been great for sales, and neither has the fact that people are accessing the story more cheaply via the motion-comic already, I’m sure.

    Then again, I don’t think the motion-comic is doing very well either.

  7. Andrew J. says:

    Yes, the Cable issue left a lot to be desired, especially the way they defeat Bishop. Why didn’t they kill him again? They’ve so thoroughly destroyed the character, it’s almost like they’re leaving him in limbo (quite literally, actually) as some kind of dare to a writer who would try to bring him back.

  8. Mike says:

    Let me add my vote to the “Bruce Wayne is coming back way too soon” thought. I remember when they went with the idea that Batman was dead and Dan Didio did say we all know he wasn’t and the story would last a year or so. For all the last minute changes that DC seems to go with the last few years (sense making be damned), this seems to have been the story from the beginning and they are strangely sticking to it. Seems very short sighted to cut short the new Batman and Robin combo, which I frankly find much more interesting than the old combo.

  9. Valhallahan says:

    I was really interested in reading the Spider Woman series when Bendis first bigged it up years and years ago, but by the time it came out, the character I was interested in had been outed as a Skrull and was now dead. Add this to the fact that she’s fighting skrulls in the opening story after Marvel’s (seemingly) 17 year long intensive Skrullapalooza crossover, I’m surprised anyone made it past #1. Ah well, I might buy the trade in a few years time when I’m ready to read a story about Skrulls again.

  10. Lambnesio says:

    I agree completely. They built up a really interesting version of the character in the run-up to Secret Invasion and then dropped it. I also thought she was so obvious that there was no way she was actually a skrull. Go figure.

    In any case, the premise that SWORD is allowing her to take all her anger out on aliens is sort of difficult because that means that even though the book is about Jessica’s anger, we have to deal with all this hollow alien shit. And it’s also just really obvious

    And the bigger issue is really just that Jessica’s really transparent here. If you compare this book with Alias, the premises are kind of similar in that both are about a woman with a very horrible episode in her recent past that is crippling her in the present. The difference is that in Alias, this reveal was complex and slow and interesting in subtle. In Spider-woman, it’s a foregone conclusion. Bad thing happens, Jessica is mad. Where can it go? Jessica gets over it or Jessica gets more mad.

    It’s just strange because Bendis has done great work (Daredevil and Alias are both really phenomenal), and at his worst he’s still never produced anything this mediocre (except for when he’s collaborated with Brian Reed). And this is apparently the project he’s been dying to do.

  11. PPP says:

    Add to the fact that you can watch Spider-Woman for free on Hulu…

  12. Zach Adams says:

    Count me in on the “too soon for Bruce” vote. That said, I’m not at all surprised to see them doing it; considering that the current plan seems to be to bring back every retired, depowered or deceased legacy-starter save Captain Marvel they couldn’t very well keep Bruce off the table. Dick can’t lead a JLA with Barry, Hal and Ray! It’s asymmetrical!

  13. Andrew J. says:

    Yes, the series certainly feels like it’s plotted for motion comics. Issue #5 pretty much completely consisted of yet another conversation with a cop, and having seen the motion comic, it seems a lot cooler watching it there. On the paper it’s like, “Why are people talking back and forth for no reason like it’s cool?”

  14. markus says:

    @ the “too soon for Bruce’s return” people:

    Can you name a single storyline that (a) was more than “pleasant”, “decent” i.e. that really made you go “Wow!” “Great!” within the last year and that (b) couldn’t have been told just as well with Bruce as Batman.
    I can’t. The only Batman arc that got more than an “a hmmmh” out of me within the last year was the Quitely arc of Batman and Robin and the interesting character stuff in there was all Damian.
    I don’t care much either way who’s the Batman, but the writers knew, they had a limited timeframe to tell the best stories they could without Bruce and IMO pretty much failed across the board. Watching them fail a little longer seems pointless to me.

  15. ZZZ says:

    Batman & Robin: I don’t so much think it’s too soon to bring Bruce back as I think it’s too soon to make Dick stop being Batman. If they do like Marvel’s allegedly planning to do with Steve Rogers and Bucky and let Dick be Batman for a while so Bruce can go sort some things out or something (or hell, considering there have been, what, four Flashes at once, why can’t there be two Batmen?) I’d be perfectly happy, but I’d be disappointed to see the old status quo reestablished in the next few months.

    Spider-Woman: Had no idea it was being cancelled but can’t say I’m too choked up about it. Hope they at least explain why she has powers again before the series ends (since it’s been revealed that the operation “Hydra” offered to perform to return them was actually just a Skrull ruse to get her unconscious so they could swap in the queen).

    S.W.O.R.D.: I got used to the off-model Beast to the point that I barely noticed in the most recent issue, and it was a small price to pay for the excellent story, and I kind of like the loose standards on Hank’s depiction if only because I’ve seen so many truly awful versions of his cat form that if they actually enforced a character model I have no confidence they’d pick one I like, BUT the “everyone draws him different so you can’t complain about how anyone draws him” argument doesn’t work, in my opinion. That’s the kind of line of thought that leads to the “You accept people can fly and fire energy blasts so you have to accept Wolverine’s healing factor applies to his credit rating” arguments you see whenever someone points out a really glaring stupidity in a comic. I mean, you can’t go drawing Hank with wings, or a trunk or something – you shouldn’t make him look like a horse either.

  16. AndyD says:

    It really would be nice if the “death” of Batman would be the last nail in the coffin of pointless death and resurrections. As a concept it has become a sad and tired joke which leeches any interest whatsoever out of any book.

    The resurrection is also quite too soon. At least Marvel managed to get some sales success out of Captain America´s death, but the whole Batman concept was flat and poorly handled from the begining. One should think that they could do better.

  17. arseface says:

    It’s too soon for Bruce Wayne to return just as it was too soon for Steve Rogers to come back.

    Steve Rogers coming back this soon really made little sense. They don’t appear to be reuniting the classic Avengers since Bucky looks to be taking that spot and the Captain America film is not out until 2011. Plus, sales on the regular Cap title (one of the more critically acclaimed Marvel books) are holding up very well with Bucky in the role.

    The only justification I can understand for it is they wanted to beat DC to the punch with Bruce Wayne. But I suppose that with the declining comic sales in the direct market, neither Marvel or DC can resist the temptation to hotshot angles and storylines. In retrospect, it’s amazing that Bucky stayed “dead” as long as he did.

  18. Lambnesio says:

    Bucky stayed dead that long because absolutely nobody cared to see him brought back until Brubaker came up with an original and interesting take. I think Cap’s death was at least long enough that his return was and is actually an emotional and interesting event (at least to me).

  19. “It is too early to bring Bruce Wayne back; the general impression I get is that DC have no patience.”

    The general impression I get is that DC seems to have to plan things so far in advance, their timing is usually pretty far off. I mean, remember after 52, the spin-off series came out 3 to 4 months after the last issue of 52 shipped? Notice how Batwoman and The Great Ten came out three years after they debuted? Remember when DC released all these Titans-related miniseries (Cyborg, Raven, Terror Titans) years after their popularity had died down?

    So I think this time, they had a definite plan for Bruce’s return long ago, but now that Batman and Robin (the book with the new team) has taken off, their scheduling is too inflexible to reverse or delay their original plans.

  20. moose n squirrel says:

    It’s too soon to bring Bruce Wayne back because the Dick Grayson/Damian combo is a lot more fun than the standard Bruce Wayne/random teenager formula that’s been done to death for the last billion years. It’s fun to read about a Batman who isn’t 100% prepared for anything and everything that will ever happen to him – who may just be human enough to fuck up, even – and doesn’t spend every other issue gnashing his teeth in Crime Alley and hallucinating his mom’s corpse. It’s fun to read about a Robin who’s an arrogant, condescending prick. It’s fun to see the formula get tweaked a bit, because without tweaking these stories get so very, very old.

  21. SC says:

    “The only justification I can understand for it is they wanted to beat DC to the punch with Bruce Wayne.”

    Brubaker said in interviews done a bit after Steve died that he had two years of Steve-less stories planned, which games out pretty much exactly to the number of issues he was gone (initially, Brubaker imagined he’d be back within six months, but that quickly fell by the wayside as a much more expansive story came to him).

  22. Andrew Brown says:

    ‘let Dick be Batman for a while so Bruce can go sort some things out or something.’

    Or maybe Bruce could wake the f**k up and realize he could do a lot more for the world with a multi-billion dollar company than with his underoo’s

  23. LiamK says:

    To be fair, he does do both. (ie, do stuff with money as well as jumping around dressed as a bat.)

  24. If there’s a better use for a thirty-billion dollar fortune than building a cave under your house in which to sew latex hot pants to wear while chasing after zaftig cat-women and beating up quasi-anachronistic puppets then I’d sure like to hear it!


  25. ZZZ says:

    The ultimate irony of Batman is that it would have made far more logical sense for Bruce Wayne to sink every penny of his fotune into charity and public service, and had he done that instead of spending millions on crime-fighting equipment, the world would have had much less poverty, disease, crime and hunger in it when Darkseid conquered the universe because there was no Batman.

    I must say, I think there’s potential in the ultimate extension moose n squirrel’s “Bruce Wayne/random teenager formula” comment: a crimefighter who literally recruits a random teenager to be his sidekick before every mission. Like, the equivalent of someone filling in as Batman whenever Bruce is inconveniently dead or paralyzed being Batman tossing a Robin costume at the first person he sees with the right build and hair color and telling him “put this on and stay behind me” to keep people from figuring his identity out if Robon doesn’t show up when Bruce Wayne’s ward is out of town or in the hospital.

  26. So Robin would be like Captain Universe-by-way-of-Skins?

    There was a wunnerful Marshal Law story vaguely along those lines. “Kingdom of the Blind.” Collected in “Marshal Law – Blood Sweat and Fears,” but if you haven’t yet read any Marshal Law, read “Fear and Loathing first.”


  27. LiamK says:

    To be fair, it’s how Kyle became a Green Lantern.

    “Okay, I need to hunt for a new Space Policeman to save the universe oh I’m tired here kid you’ll do have fun with this ring bye!”

  28. LiamK says:

    There’s also an argument about individuals vs groups. Sure, Bruce could make the policy/public services etc much better. But would they be able to stop things that one amazing individual can? Would they be able to stop the Joke/Two-Face/Darkseid?

    (and then the counter argument is whether those people would be around if there wasn’t a Batman. And the counter-tangent argument is how many people Batman inspires. And so on.)

  29. Valhallahan says:

    lol @Matthew Craig!

  30. @LiamK. While your point about endless circle arguments is taken, I’m also going to ignore it to deal with something else you brought up. Does Batman inspire people? I mean, his entire shtick originated out of a desire to intimidate. Can the same template create inspiration and intimidation? (Ok, yes, obviously it does, at least from a story POV, since we’ve had a hundred thousand or so stories about Batman imitators, both in his own title and elsewhere.)

    The other question: if he does inspire people, what story fodder could you get about how he inspires them? I think Busiek or Johns did a story a few years back where a clairvoyant/from-the-future character claimed that Superman did more harm than good because his presence encouraged people not to do things for themselves. What does Batman’s presence encourage?

  31. Baines says:

    Superman encourages you to not do things for yourself.

    Batman encourages you to not do bad things, or to at least plan for a potential beating if you do bad things. He does apparently inspire a very small percentage of people to put on masks and beat up bad guys, kind of like the days of the PR success of groups like the Guardian Angels.

    You can depend on Superman to save you from alien psychos attacking a bank, maybe even before the shooting starts. You can’t depend on Batman even showing up before a crime is completed. Even if he happens to pick that particular crime to interrupt, he can’t travel the city in under five seconds even when he puts a jet engine in his car.

    With Batman, sometimes you can only hope that he will later catch the guy that killed you. And honestly, with Gotham’s array of villains, you do have a real risk of dying due to violent crime or random acts of mass-murder. That’s on top of normal thugs popping you in a back alley or during a home invasion.

    Bright and shiny Metropolis, with its headlines of Superman saving a busload of children every day, creates a feeling that things are better than they might actually be. It is easy to ignore its gangs and the average person doesn’t even know what Luthor might be doing to hurt them. Gotham doesn’t give you the same shiny, happy feeling.

  32. Ikhnaton says:

    S.W.O.R.D. and Dr. McCoy’s horsey face:

    I’m pretty sure S.W.O.R.D. is meant as an homage to an old 1980s, mostly British sci-fi sub-genre, where hot take-charge space girls have comedic space adventures with their literally dog-faced boyfriends. Hence Hank’s elongated, off-model nose looking more canine than feline as usual, among other things.

    The only examples of this sub-genre I can remember right now are ‘Dalgoda,’ and maybe ‘Tank Girl’ even though ‘Tank Girl’ was set on Earth and that dude had a kangaroo head not a dog head, but there must have been others.

  33. Ikhnaton says:


    mostly British sci-fi sub-genre

    So of course after saying that, I discover that both Jan Strnad and Dennis Fujitake, the creators of ‘Dalgoda,’ are Americans…

  34. […] Let’s throw down the first few I find: Comic Book Resources, Comics Bulletin, Comics Daily, House To Astonish, Department H and Hot […]

  35. Ikhnaton, good point. Add Halo Jones and her robot dog-thing to that list. If two things can be a list.

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