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Sep 19

The X-Axis – 19 September 2010

Posted on Sunday, September 19, 2010 by Paul in x-axis

Holidays are over, it’s back to the normal schedule.

Check two posts down for this week’s episode of House to Astonish, where you’ll also find the link to the podcast’s new Facebook fan page.  And if you’re looking for tonight’s wrestling preview, that’s just below.  (In brief: it looks skippable.)  As for my backlog of chart posts… well, I’m starting to get through them…

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #3 – This series isn’t just over the top, it’s completely insane.  The last time Marvel did a Spider-Man/Wolverine miniseries, as I recall, it involved a lot of globetrotting and miscellaneous thugs.  Which isn’t very interesting, but it’s perhaps what you’d expect as the common ground for these two characters.  Jason Aaron, however, is approaching it rather differently, with a series of complete, high-speed lunacy, bouncing between time periods and outrageous big ideas like a pinball.  Each issue has enough material to keep some books going for a year.  The book takes half an issue to race through a died-and-reborn subplot that Joss Whedon stretched out for several months in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  But Aaron and Adam Kubert make it work, because they keep coming back to a relatively clear “what’s going on” throughline, and they’ve nailed the characters’ voices.  It may be ridiculous, but it’s not completely lacking in subtlety; it’s good with the little details that flesh out a scene and allow the book to work at breakneck speed.  Granted, it does seem a little bit odd when the story pauses for a couple of pages for an attempt at actual emotion, but at least it reminds us to care about the lead characters.  Aaron’s good at taking crazy story ideas and giving them a bit of weight without slowing them down, and this is a particularly extreme example.

Hellblazer #271 – The first part of a new arc, and Peter Milligan has still got Shade the Changing Man hanging around.  It’s the sort of thing that could easily slip into cosy nostalgia, but it neatly avoids that trap; Shade’s fairly unsympathetic here, largely because he’s obsessed with trying to recapture his relationship with Kathy, a supporting character from his nineties series, also written by Milligan, who’s been dead for years.  It’s still more a Shade story than a John Constantine story, but it’s a Shade story about the impossibility of turning the clock back.  Even Constantine’s scenes in this issue are closer to surrealism than horror, such as a demented opening sequence with an oracle hairdresser operating out of a memorial in Hyde Park.  Shade may not be acting like he used to, but the style of Milligan’s Shade stories is definitely recognisable here.  An interesting way for Milligan to revisit one of his signature characters, and artists Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini are more than able to carry it.  It looks like we’re actually leading into a 1970s story with art by Simon Bisley in the subsequent issues, rather than keeping Shade around for the rest of the arc, but it’s been good to have him back for a brief reminder.

Joe the Barbarian #7 – The penultimate issue of the miniseries by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy, and the big draw here has to be Murphy’s spectacular artwork.  I’m going to have to re-read this whole series next month when the final issue comes out, to see what I really think of it.  Obviously the big idea is that Joe is hallucinating and he’s experiencing his journey downstairs to get some sugar as a massive fantasy quest incorporating elements from his world.  The big question is whether we have a reason to care about a story which we know is entirely within the main character’s head.  Morrison seems to suggest that the story isn’t a hallucination so much as an alternative perspective on the world, which is all very in keeping with his views on magic, and I’m keeping an open mind about whether he can pull this off.  In some ways it’s a formal experiment; can Morrison really get an interesting eight-issue miniseries about a teenage boy hallucinating while he goes down a flight of stairs, particularly when those hallucinations are so clearly intended to be a fever-dream version of a deliberately cliched quest story?  And somehow, yes, it is holding my attention – but I’m not altogether sure whether that’s because of the story or the strength of the artwork.

New Mutants #17 – I like the idea of Project Purgatory, a military camp stuck in Limbo.  And there’s some very good stuff in this issue.  In recent years Limbo has tended to be written as just a weird dimension where you get lynched by demons, and Zeb Wells is clearly trying to go back to the days when it had more of a sense of place, so that Magik’s status as its ruler can be a bit more meaningful.  There’s also a great opening sequence with Sam and Dani, very well drawn by Leonard Kirk.  But as the New Mutants get drawn into the story proper, it all starts to get a bit hectic and confused – there’s something very odd going on with the timeline, with “two weeks later” captions that don’t seem to make any sense in the context of the scenes, and frankly, by the end of the issue, I was just a bit lost.

Shadowland: Power Man #2 – Even though this is a four-issue tie-in miniseries for a Daredevil event, it’s pretty clear that Fred Van Lente is really trying to set up a character and supporting cast who could work in an ongoing series.  They’re following this with another mini, and I can only assume the idea is to try and get enough buzz from those two books to launch an ongoing title successfully.  And so far, so good, because the story is neatly establishing the new Power Man as a promising new character.  While he does have some tenuous continuity ties to Luke Cage, the real point is that he fits into the “hero for hire” mould which Cage himself long since vacated, and which remains a nice set-up for a series.  Not that the book is in awe of the original Luke Cage stories – this issue also has a hilarious sequence with dodgy old Power Man villains, and poor old Spear gets perhaps the best line of dialogue I’ve read all year, as he tries to give himself a big Claremont-style introduction.  I’d happily read an ongoing title based on this.

Unwritten #17 – The “Choose Your Own Adventure” issue!  Alright, if we’re being completely honest, it’s more a case of offering alternative perspectives on Lizzie Hexam’s back story – there is an option that leads to the “wrong” ending, but most of the others are multiple routes to the same destination, with varying subplots along the way.  But it works very cleverly; it’s done in landscape format to double the number of available “pages”, and the forced jumping around the issue as a clever way of playing up the artificiality and reminding you of what you’re reading.  Unwritten is all about the power of stories, and this is a particularly neat way of getting across the idea that the same events can be made to fit different narratives.  Lizzie’s character is, literally, all about choosing which narrative she wants to impose on the world around her.  Plus, of course, it’s a very funny pastiche of the choose-your-own-adventure gimmick.  Great fun.

X-23 #1 – Marjorie Liu and Will Conrad launch X-23’s new ongoing series, and what do you know – this one doesn’t pick up on the cliffhanger from the Road to Hell one-shot either!  I wonder what Marvel were thinking, publishing a hype story and not telling us where to get the next chapter?  Anyway, we talked about this at length of the podcast.  The bottom line is that Liu has a good handle on the character of X-23, and some interesting ideas on where to take her.  Promisingly, she spends much of this issue trying to get X-23’s development back on track after the backsliding of her time in X-Force.  The art is pretty good, and it’s very much a character piece rather than a hack and slash comic.  The abandoned cast of New X-Men are used effectively as supporting characters.  The downside is… well, there’s no real plot.  There are a couple of subplot dreams setting up something to happen down the line, presumably tying in to the current Wolverine storyline, but the rest of the issue is just a whole load of scenes trying to re-establish X-23’s character.  We’re getting this a lot on Dark Wolverine too – another book co-written by Liu – and it seems to me that there’s a problem emerging here with two much character introspection and not enough story.  Still, it does look good, and it’s got the right idea of where to go with the character, so there are plenty of positives here.

X-Factor #209 – The team go to Las Vegas looking for Hela (though they still don’t realise who she is), which means Peter David gets to have fun with Longshot breaking the bank and Shatterstar finding himself in a city that feels just like home.  Actually, Shatterstar’s maybe a bit too naive in this story, considering that the character has been around since 1991 and ought to understand the concept of actors by now.  But the casino stuff is great fun, not least because the incongruity of the team wandering around in full costume and nobody commenting on it.  And guest artist Emanuelo Lupacchino hits the right tone with the Vegas scenes, which have plenty of energy and enthusiasm.  There’s also a soap opera subplot with Rahne telling Rictor that he’s the father of her unborn child – this is an odd one, because understanding it requires a working knowledge of X-Force storylines circa “X-Necrosha”, none of which have yet been explained to X-Factor readers.  The recap page at least mentions that Rictor isn’t really the father but doesn’t actually explain the rest of the story, which seems an odd choice.  Still, it’s nice to see her being extricated from the dead end of X-Force, and reintegrated into a book where she belongs.

Bring on the comments

  1. JD says:

    Re: New Mutants

    I think the jumping around is also getting back to the first Limbo stories, which made clear that this is a place where time goes a bit wonky. So while it takes weeks for the New Mutants to get to the base (and I love how Kirk slightly alters their appearances with each time jump), only a few minutes elapse for the soldiers.

  2. odessa steps magazine says:

    Unwritten is a hidden gem of a book where you have to wonder how much longer it has left with some of the Harry Potter stuff beginning to be tied up.

  3. Does Joe the Barbarian do the altered perception thing better than I Kill Giants did? I read the first issue of Joe, and didn’t go back to it, but I tore through Giants.

  4. Jonny K says:

    I really am enjoying Joe the Barbarian, but really didn’t see what the fuss was about I Kill Giants. Joe the Barbarian does altered perception really well, with the art and colouring being amazing.

    RE: Hellblazer: I’m intrigued to see that we seem to be keeping the loss of John’s anatomy for the moment, and that his hair’s now definitely white…

  5. David Aspmo says:

    I think not explaining Rahne’s X-Force plotline works fine, actually. It simply puts the audience not already aware of it in the perspective of Madrox’s crew – knowing something doesn’t quite add up, but not exactly how. Eventually, the truth will have to be revealed to the characters, and the audience can catch up then, as well.

  6. Niall says:

    New Mutants could yet work well, but I have to say that the book really hasn’t taken the time to flesh out its cast in the way I’d like it to. I wasn’t familiar with most of them before the series began.

    Also, given the way in which Doug Ramsey was shown as pretty powerful in his recent appearances, I hope he isn’t bitched in the fight we see begining at the end of this issue.

  7. Ash says:

    Was there some kind of Marvel edict that forbids Wolfsbane to appear in New Mutants or something? Ever since that godawful Necrosha arc and Doug Ramsey’s resurrection, we never got to see a reunion, despite the fact that Rahne was confined for a time in Utopia’s infirmary. You’d think that her former teammates would rally to her when they found out she’s pregnant.

  8. robniles says:

    Seconding the Wolfsbane question. It just seems so silly/odd that after going to the trouble of resurrecting a third of the cast, there’s still one holdout for no obvious reason. Not that the nine Xavier New Mutants were ever together in the same room for very long, but come on, Rahne…look who came back from the dead for this party!

    And no, I will not accept Bird-Brain or Gosamyr as a substitute. Al, however, can do what he wishes with them in the podcasts.

  9. Chief says:

    Speaking of Rahne/Doug, there’s been a lot of that type of relationship ignoring going on in the X-Books lately. We haven’t seen Xavier’s reaction to Lilandra dying, to the best of my knowledge Cyclops hasn’t reacted to Corsair’s death as of yet. Some lip service to the departed should be expected.

  10. Perhaps they’re being “meta” and all the characters know the deaths won’t last?

  11. John C. Kirk says:

    Not related to this post, but I went back to look at an old “X Axis” post, and I saw that the domain has disappeared. Are the old reviews going to move over to this site, or are they gone for good? (Sorry if you’ve already covered this in a blog/podcast that I didn’t notice.)

  12. Chap: is a good place to go for that sort of ting. Put the url in the Wayback Machine search and it brings up a load of different archived versions of the site. Some of the archived versions won’t work, but don’t worry about it: the others will.

    And I’ll say it again: put FANTASTIC FOUR MURRAY in the search at the top left, set the drop-down menu to AUDIO, and prepare to be astonished.

    (also: BLUE BEETLE and BARRY CRAIG (no relation, although it’s in the public domain, so YOINK, maybe?)


  13. Aaron Forever says:

    Kirk, if you got back a few weeks and look in the comments, I asked the same thing. Someone was kind enough put up a zip or rar file of the site archive to download. I don’t know which week it was and my work computer doesn’t particularly care for most of my extracurricular web-browsing (nor should it, come to think of it!) or I’d link you to it myself.

  14. Cory says:

    Seems to me the X-Factory subplot involving Rahne claiming that Rictor’s the father of her unborn child would work better if the readers were left to question whether her statement had some merit. That way PAD could take the plot any crazy way he conceives. Just blatantly stating that she’s lying on the recap page is a bit of a let down…

  15. Master Mahan says:

    The team is searching for Hela, goddess of dead Asgardians. The real father of Rahne’s baby is a dead Asgardian. A bit more detail would have helped, but I assume the full recap on Rahne’s condition will be coming up soon.

    As for Shatterstar, I got the impression he was deliberately trying to pick a fight, being upset over the situation with Rictor and Rahne. Or perhaps PAD just wanted an excuse to call the swashbuckling bisexual Captain Jack.

    What did bug me, though, was the team having the name Hela and a pendant of Thor’s hammer and not being able to put those together. Haven’t any of Jamie’s dupes ever opened a mythology book?

  16. AaronForever says:

    you’d think that opening a mythology wouldn’t even be a necessary step since in the “real” world they actually live in, Thor is a resident of the same city.


  17. lambnesio says:

    “The team is searching for Hela, goddess of dead Asgardians. The real father of Rahne’s baby is a dead Asgardian. A bit more detail would have helped, but I assume the full recap on Rahne’s condition will be coming up soon.”

    Boy. That did not occur to me at all. Good thinking.

    “As for Shatterstar, I got the impression he was deliberately trying to pick a fight, being upset over the situation with Rictor and Rahne.”

    Yeah, I’m pretty certain that’s what was going on there too.

  18. David Aspmo says:

    I expect Rahne is in X-Factor rather than New Mutants because Peter David clearly has an affection for the character. I’d rather that determine her location than simple nostalgia. If Zeb Wells doesn’t have any strong ideas for her, she’d probably just end up getting shuffled aside like she was in X-Force.

  19. Master Mahan says:

    Exactly. Living in the Marvel Universe and not knowing about Asgard is like not knowing about the French. It’s not like I want X-Factor to just give Dani Moonstar a call and resolve the whole thing in five minutes, but it’s still a big idiot ball.

  20. Just blatantly stating that she’s lying on the recap page is a bit of a let down…

    Well, in fairness, the recap pages aren’t always accurate. I recall an issue of New Avengers in which the recap page recapped events which had not, in fact, happened.

  21. Reboot says:

    > Living in the Marvel Universe and not knowing about Asgard is like not knowing about the French.

    More like living in New York and not knowing about New Jersey, considering Asgard spent a while hovering over NYC not so long ago…

  22. The original Matt says:

    So your saying that New Jersey has also spent time hovering over NYC? Or did that just happen in the MU, too…

  23. Reboot says:

    You can see NJ from NYC, and you could see Asgard from NYC.

    That’s about as far as I was going with that 🙂

  24. Taibak says:

    If New Jersey were hovering above anything I’d be worried about what would fall off.

  25. Suzene says:

    I’d hope the recap page is accurate in this case, otherwise Rahne is a complete idiot — she passes out flat as a board, apparently wakes up looking like she swallowed a bowling ball or gets to that point within a couple of weeks, and doesn’t ask any questions or get checked out? I’d rather have this be another in a string of bad decisions for the character than have her dumbed down to that point.

  26. lambnesio says:

    To be fair, it’s not that these characters don’t know about Asgard. It’s just that they’ve never heard of Hela, which seems reasonable since (to my knowledge) none of these characters have ever met her.

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