RSS Feed
Sep 15

The X-Axis – catch-up edition

Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2010 by Paul in x-axis

Welcome back!  Normal service is now resumed.

With two weeks of comics to get through (and more arriving shortly), what I’m planning is to run through the X-books from the last two weeks, in order to bring that up to date.  Anything else of interest, we’ll cover it on Sunday.

And now, comics…

Daken: Dark Wolverine #1 – Officially this is a first issue, but in practice it’s a relaunch of Dark Wolverine.  The title is actually a little unfortunate, since writers Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu are trying to tell a story about Daken attempting to move out of his father’s shadow and become his own man.  In an ideal world, then, he’d probably be dumping the “Dark Wolverine” tag by now… but I guess commercial considerations take priority there.

This is a tie-in to the “Wolverine Goes To Hell” storyline currently running in Wolverine itself, and to be honest, the tie-in bits will only make sense if you’ve read Wolverine #1.  But most of the issue is just the usual Daken schtick – Daken manipulates some people, Daken has sex with some people, Daken thinks about killing some people, Daken actually kills some people, Daken reflects in narrative captions on what an awesome predator he is.  It would be unfair to say he’s  one-dimensional – there’s a bit more to him than that, thanks to his obsession with being in control of his own destiny – but they seem to have settled down to writing him as a rather unappealing nihilist psychopath, whose only positive agenda is to assert his own autonomy at all costs.

In itself, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly gives the writers a struggle to make him a lead.  Daken remains a book which is light on plot and heavy on the musings of the title character, and while he’s got something, I don’t find him compelling enough to carry a book simply by wandering around talking to people.  (The writers may disagree, given that they’re prone to having other characters remark on Daken’s “terrible beauty”.)

The book does have good art by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Onofrio Cattacchio, who have nailed the air of infuriating self-satisfied cool that Daken’s evidently meant to have, and who do a sound job throughout the book.  My only real quibble is with the design of Daken’s new costume, which seems a bit too Wolverine-ish for a character who’s supposed to be going his own way – and obscuring the mask in the big unveiling seems a very odd choice.  But for the most part, the art is good stuff.

The character can work, in the right stories – but I think he probably needs more emphasis on plot, and more of a supporting cast to bounce off.  You can’t build a book around a psychopath waxing philosophical unless he’s got some really fascinating things to say.

Franken-Castle #20 – The final chapter of the “Punishment” crossover with Dark Wolverine belatedly sees a couple of interesting ideas emerge.  First, there are parallels between Wolverine trying to save his loathsome son Daken, and the Punisher’s failure to save his own kids.  And second, with more of a meta angle, we have a clash of characters from two generations.  The Punisher dismisses Daken as a rip-off of a genuine legend; Daken sees the Punisher as a fading star desperately clinging on to relevancy after his time has passed.  Considering that the character is currently tied up in something as bizarre and last-ditch as a Frankenstein storyline, it’s hard to argue with Daken’s point.  It’s a weird choice to spend a few pages drawing attention to the characters’ (genuine) inadequacies, and ultimately none of this is really enough to turn “Punishment” into a proper story, as opposed to an overextended fight scene.  The issue also suffers from multiple artists, and the style lurches alarmingly – the two pages by John Lucas are a particularly obvious speedbump, as the story suddenly slips into rushed-looking cartoonish exaggeration for two pages in the middle of a scene.

New Mutants Forever #2 – So far, this mini doesn’t seem to have the energy of Claremont’s X-Men Forever series.  It appears to be more of an attempt to tie up some long-running subplots from the 1980s that were allowed to tail off without getting a proper resolution.  Most obviously, we’ve got the saga of what Selene wanted with Nova Roma – except Nova Roma was never one of the more successful concepts from the 1980s (even the New Mutants letter column acknowledged that the idea hadn’t worked as well as they’d hoped).  There’s also some stuff in here about Warlock’s fear of infecting Cypher with the transmode virus, which was a Very Big Deal Indeed in the late eighties, and really should have got a proper pay-off somewhere along the line.  Judging from the plot of this issue, I suspect I know where Claremont’s heading with it, and I can see how it might work.

However… the series assumes a pretty decent awareness of late-1980s New Mutants continuity, not even bothering to explain why Sunspot and Warlock are away from the rest of the group.  (They were briefly written out so that they could appear in the Fallen Angels miniseries.)  And I’m at something of a loss to understand why the team are fighting the Red Skull, of all people – perhaps Claremont’s trying to do a riff on the old idea of Nazis hiding away in South America, but surely in 2010 that one is decades past its sell-by date?

Wolverine #1 – The series formerly known as Wolverine: Weapon X is relaunched as just plain Wolverine, and kicks off with the aforementioned “Wolverine Goes To Hell” storyline – which will also cross over into Daken and the new X-23 series.  I’ve liked Jason Aaron’s work on this book.  He generally seems to have a good handle on what works in a Wolverine story.  And this story has another strong idea; thanks to magical baddies, Wolverine’s soul gets dragged off to Hell to get punished for his past sins, while his body is running around causing trouble on Earth.  It’s over the top, but still manages to make the character stuff work.  In fact, it’s only been a couple of years since Marc Guggenheim did a storyline about Wolverine visiting the afterlife, but this one seems to have a more solid idea about the character at its heart, so I don’t mind retreading the territory.

What does give me pause is that Aaron seems to be telling a story about Wolverine undergoing religious conversion.  The closing editorial certainly seems to think Aaron’s overall direction is about Wolverine “finding peace” and “finding faith”.  The final issue of Weapon X certainly seemed to be hinting in that direction, and there’s material here to suggest that Aaron is trying to drag Wolverine in the direction of Christianity.  I’ll keep an open mind until we see where this is heading, and I can see some potential in having a “troubled soul” character like Wolverine at least toy with religion, but I can’t honestly say the direction is one that much appeals to me.

Renato Guedes’ art is pretty sound; maybe a little too restrained, but it does pull off a great establishing shot of Hell.  There’s also a rather odd back-up strip with the Silver Samurai battling ninjas amid heavily stylised artwork – something which seems to be there primarily as a backdrop for narrative captions to lay out Aaron’s take on the character.

Wolverine: Road to Hell #1 – Three short stories promoting the launches of Wolverine, Daken, X-23 and X-Force.  (Daken and X-23 have to share theirs.)  As you can probably guess, none of them are unmissable.  The Wolverine story is effectively a deleted scene from Wolverine #1, but it’s quite a good one, and gives some idea of where Aaron’s going with the plot.  The Daken/X-23 thing is a bit mystifying; they’re both looking for Malcolm Colcord, the former director of the Weapon X Project, and then the story ends on a cliffhanger… which isn’t picked up in Daken’s book at all.  Is it in X-23’s?  We don’t seem to be told.  Finally, Rick Remender and Leonardo Manco introduce their new X-Force team, and spend most of the story pushing the entertainment value of Fantomex.  Deadpool looks a bit out of place in this group, and I think they’re going to have trouble with him – as a motormouth character, he tends to dominate every scene he’s in, and it’s interesting that even in this 8-pager, he’s relegated to a subplot.  Still, it’s clear that the new X-Force team isn’t going to have the relentlessly bleak tone of the last one, and that’s a change for the better.

X-Force: Sex and Violence #3 – The filler miniseries wraps up with lots of people fighting one another for an issue.  The series has been a perfectly fine little romp, although I’m inclined to think that two issues would probably have been enough.  But again, after so many issue of X-Force that took the premise deadly seriously, it’s been nice to have a few issues of cheerful nonsense to lighten things up a bit.

X-Men #3 – “Curse of the Mutants” continues, and I’m glad to see that we seem to be getting back to the vampire politics stuff, which was one of the things I thought was more interesting in the prelude.  Having recovered Dracula’s body in some of the tie-in issues, the X-Men put him back together and try to get him on side.  But naturally, Dracula’s not as easy to steer as they would like.

This is basically a straight superheroes versus vampires story, but there are some nice touches to it.  I like the idea that Xarus thinks being a vampire is great, and that he’s giving the X-Men a gift that they simply don’t appreciate yet.  And there’s good use of the relationship between Wolverine and Jubilee, albeit that Gischler has to devote quite a bit of dialogue to re-establishing it for the benefit of newer readers.  There’s a nice cliffhanger, too.  As for the art, Paco Medina is more at home with superheroes than vampires, but Marte Gracia’s colours do a nice job of muting the palette for the stalking sequences.  Above average, I’d say, though the question remains of whether that’s strong enough to convince waverers that they want to buy another X-Men title.

X-Men Forever 2 #7 – Basically an issue of the X-Men and the Starjammers fighting the Morlocks, but Claremont keeps the plates spinning with a couple of subplots, and finally gets to unveil his original idea for Mr Sinister, namely that he’s the creation of a child supervillain.  (Hence the silly name, you see.)  I’m not sure we really needed a whole issue devoted to this fight, but we do get a nice sequence with Sabretooth and his clone, and a strong ending, as Claremont finally pays off something he set up a year ago – we all knew it was coming eventually, but by waiting this long, Claremont makes it a surprise.

X-Men: Smoke and Blood – A “Curse of the Mutants” tie-in one-shot starring the X-Club.  It’s not important to the plot; it’s basically a horror story where the scientists are locked into part of the X-Men’s base with a captive vampire and some of the infected people they’re trying to help.  Gabriel Hernandez Walta is an interesting choice of artist, with atmospheric work that’s a million miles from typical superhero work, and good use of muted colours without losing clarity.  His flashback to the vampire terrorist attack from X-Men #1 certainly looks more freakish than the original version.  As for Si Spurrier’s story, it’s a familiar science-versus-magic thing.  It’s the sort of debate that’s probably best avoided in this context, because it’s just silly to have the rationalist Dr Nemesis denying the existence of magic while fighting a horde of vampires.  The rules of the Marvel Universe skew the debate too far to make it worth having.  (A rationalist in the Marvel Universe would have to accept that magic existed but insist that science could ultimately explain it all in the end.)  In fairness, the scientists do get to win, but the story appears to be going for a “more in heaven and earth than is dreamed of in your philosophy” moral that doesn’t really work in a story that uses magic so unequivocally.

Bring on the comments

  1. Bendrix says:

    I thought it was weird that basically the cliffhanger of X-Men #2 was “We have to go and get Draculas head and body” and #3 starts with “Here they are”.

  2. Jeff says:

    It just came out today, so I know there won’t be a review for a while (if you even decide to eventually) but Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine is turning into the miniseries of the year for me. Aaron has Spider-Man and Wolverine down cold and the art may be the best ever by Kubert. On top of that, it is completely, utterly insane. I absolutely love it.

  3. Paul: How does Daken compare to the Captain Marvel from Peter David’s second run on the title? The phrase “psychopath waxing philosophical” brought the connection to my mind. Obviously, the power set is vastly different, but is the approach here at all similar?

  4. Andrew J. says:

    “I thought it was weird that basically the cliffhanger of X-Men #2 was “We have to go and get Draculas head and body” and #3 starts with “Here they are”.”

    That cliffhanger lead into the tie-in issues, which were Namor #1 and the “Storm and Gambit” one-shot.

  5. Arthur P says:

    X-Men Forever 2 #7 – Basically an issue of the X-Men and the Starjammers fighting the Morlocks

    They fight the Marauders actually, not the Morlocks. The Morlocks were last month.

    And I’m not certain that “what we all knew was coming” has actually come. I mean, I’m not convinced it’s the real deal yet. After all, the X-Men are fighting a team of clones who take their orders from a guy who loves making clones in order to capture a kid who’s the son of a clone. So I’m thinking our surprise mystery villain is a clone.

    Or maybe it’s them damn Skrulls again…

  6. Cheeris says:

    “X-Men: Smoke and Blood – A “Curse of the Mutants” tie-in one-shot starring the X-Club. It’s not important to the plot; it’s basically a horror story…”

    Given that Dracula was ‘rescued’ outside of the ‘X-Men’ title proper, what’s the chances that elements of this comic will actually turn out to be f***ing vital to the plot? e.g. in the final issue of the story one of Drs. Nemesis or Rao will appear with some sort of deus ex machina super-science doofer that will instantly solve the vampire problem & cure the infected, but only make sense to those of us who have read this one-shot?

    A good chance, I suspect…

  7. Bendrix says:

    @Andrew J: I know (at least half of it) but shouldn’t a cliffhanger be resolved in the next issue of the same series? And if not, shouldn’t it at least be mentioned somewhere in said issue? It seemed like a major plot point.

  8. Paul says:

    I think it’s fair enough to use the tie-in one-shots to handle the legwork of retrieving Dracula’s body. Gischler’s not really interested in writing a quest story here, so there’s no harm in delegating that stuff to other writers who can use it as a springboard for their own stories. That said, the general rule with Marvel crossovers these days is that the tie-in issues are completely skippable – so it’s very odd that they put major, major plot points in NAMOR #1 and the STORM/GAMBIT one-shot, and didn’t draw more attention to that.

    As for Captain Marvel/Daken… Genis was a much more interesting character, and that series also had plenty of other more sympathetic cast members hanging around.

  9. Man, those first six issues of that 2003 Captain Marvel relaunch were a lot of fun. Then it just kind of kept going . . .

  10. Valhallahan says:

    I loved the Mad Captain Marvel series, the episode where he tries to get himself from the recent past to kill himself from years ago, while 3 Rick Jones bicker in the Negative Zone is one of my favourite Marvel issues of all time. I’m surprised they don’t use him anymore, what with Cosmic Marvel having made such a comeback.

    I thought the art in Wolverine #1 looked awful, and I pretty much boycott anything with Deadpool in it, so Wolvie and X Force are out for me.

  11. Zoomy says:

    There was some reason why they stopped using Genis – he was very abruptly written out of Thunderbolts, apparently against the writer’s wishes…

    Re X-Men Forever, what’s with the bone claws? You don’t expect to see post-Claremont-era innovations being brought in there.

  12. Genis may have been written out to make way for the “return of Captain Marvel,” aka the Skrull that had a one-shot and mini-series and that was it.

    Or maybe it coincided with the beginning of Annihilation.

    Either way, I’m not that broken up, since PAD wasn’t writing him anymore by that point, and the last year of his solo title wasn’t very good.

  13. Reboot says:

    Genis had the CM name taken away and was later killed off because Gravity was going to be brought back from the dead as Captain Marvel. Then they wussed out on that (the story in F4 that was going to turn him into CM ended with a reset button instead), and brought Mar-Vell back instead. Then the mixture of hate and downright apathy to bringing him back led to them turning him into a skrull and parking the name on Noh-Varr, but that doesn’t seem to have stuck…

  14. Reboot says:

    Genis had the CM name taken away and was later killed off because Gravity was going to be brought back from the dead as Captain Marvel. Then they wussed out on that (the story in F4 that was going to turn him into CM ended with a reset button instead), and brought Mar-Vell back instead. Then the mixture of hate and downright apathy to bringing him back led to them turning him into a skrull and parking the name on Noh-Varr, but that doesn’t seem to have stuck…

  15. Paul says:

    The bone claws are a Claremont idea. He had a plan during the Australia period to kill Wolverine off and then have him brought back from the dead by the Hand as an assassin. (Is this sounding familiar at all?) Wolverine’s super-charged healing factor was then going to expel his adamantium and leave him with bone claws. Supposedly, the story was vetoed at the time on the grounds that it would cause too much disruption to Wolverine’s solo title, prompting an argument about which book took priority.

  16. lambnesio says:

    I’m actually sort of glad to hear that there was a better plan for Gravity than what saw print. Because what actually happened was extremely silly and pointless.

    Also, did anyone else notice that X-Force: Sex & Violence #3 ends with Domino going down on Logan as they drive off? Ballsy.

    I’m so confused by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost. They put out those two great X-23 limiteds, then their New X-Men run was awful, but then their closing two-parter that dealt with the kids’ trauma was really good, then X-Force was awful, and then Sex & Violence turned out to be really, really fun. I just don’t understand why the quality of their work is so incredibly variable.

  17. Baines says:

    While adamantium-less Wolverine was a Claremont idea that was veto’d by Marvel, the bone claws were not.

    Claremont’s plan was for Wolverine’s fingernails to continue to grow during his “dead” period, which he would then use the same as Sabretooth.

    Mind, that is what Claremont said at the Q&A/signing that I attended. He apparently told at least one different version of the same master plan at other/later events.

  18. AndyD says:

    Oh, yeah, the bone claws. One of those idiotic ideas which should have been deleted a moment after they were written.

    X-Men Forever actually sounds like fun. The original Mr. Sinister as he was conceived and not the grim and gritty action figure with over-complicated plans.

  19. lambnesio says:

    Yeah, it’s sort of weird the way that Mr. Sinister and Apocalypse were conceived with some kind of agenda, but wound up developing into pointless characters without any kind of decipherable reason. Onslaught, on the other hand, is a character who never had any kind of point, so at least there’s that.

  20. Suzene says:

    @Andy D:

    X-Men Forever has been mad, ridiculous fun to the point that it almost seems like Claremont doing a self-parody in spots. I’m enjoying the trades, though — Cyclops is fairly awesome as a single dad, Claremont’s take on mutant powers allows for new flavors of x-gene angst, evil!Storm is the most interesting the character’s been in about a decade (sorry, Hudlin fans), and (most importantly) there’s no Wolverine. Worth a shot if you’re a fan of Claremont’s older work.

  21. Naturamax contains a blend of herbal aphrodisiacs and male performance enhancers that work by increasing blood flow to the tissues of the penis. Naturamax also contains Tribulus terrestris, a plant that is noted for increasing levels of free testosterone. Because Naturamax contains many herbal aphrodisiacs, it also raises libido and improves erection quality.

Leave a Reply