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Feb 13

The X-Axis – 13 February 2011

Posted on Sunday, February 13, 2011 by Paul in x-axis

Last week I reviewed a couple of completed storylines instead of doing the capsules, so we’ve got a couple of weeks’ worth of X-books to cover here – I’ll leave the miscellany of other books for another post.  This fortnight’s theme: Wolverine.  Loads of him.

Daken: Dark Wolverine #5 – The title may say this is “Empire Act 2, part 2 of 3”, but it actually seems to be the start of a new story.  Last issue, Daken dropped by to visit the Fantastic Four, tie up a dangling subplot and pick up a new weapon; this time, he’s off to Madripoor to say hi to Tyger Tiger, a character we haven’t seen in years.  It’s a strange book, this, and I honestly can’t make up my mind whether it’s being subtle, or whether it’s just a bit of a mess.  Sometimes Daken seems to be written as a one dimensional psycho.  At other points, as in this issue, we’re being invited to speculate on what he’s really up to and how much of his stated motivations are true.  (The book has wisely disposed with his first person narration.)  It’s obvious enough why the writers would want Daken to be in Madripoor; it’s a location strongly associated with Wolverine, so it keeps Daken in his father’s shadow without them actually having to interact.  But why is Daken there?  He says he’s there to start a new life with a new identity, but he’s also the one who’s chosen to go Madripoor, who dresses in a modified Wolverine costume, and who keeps bringing up Wolverine.

So what do Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu have in mind here?  There’s clearly more to it than Daken’s stated reasons.  But there are broadly two possibilities.  One is that it’s a hamfisted piece of psychology, where Daken’s genuinely trying to escape his father’s shadow but subconsciously keeps drifting back into Wolverine’s orbit – and if that’s the idea, it’s rather lousy.  The other is that Daken has some fiendishly clever scheme to manipulate people by taking advantage of that perception to mask some other plan, and if that’s where they’re going, it’s potentially more interesting.

Way and Liu clearly have a story they want to tell with this character.  They’re doing quite well at building the mystery of what Daken’s actually up to (and I really like the clear storytelling in Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art).  The tension here, though, is ultimately about whether Daken has any hidden depths or not.  And the book’s rather uneven when it comes to selling that idea.  It’s the issues where he has the depth of a plank that leave me with reservations the rest of the time.  If I put that out of my mind, though, this is a perfectly good issue.

Deadpool & Cable #26 – Er… why?

A brief reminder.  Cable & Deadpool ran for fifty issues before getting axed to make way for separate Cable and Deadpool books in 2008.  The Cable book ran for 24 issues and was cancelled when it completed its story by dovetailing into the “Second Coming” crossover, where Cable died.  Tacked onto the end was Deadpool & Cable #25, which was a sort of epilogue to Cable & Deadpool doubling as a prequel to Cable.  That was in April last year.

And now we’ve got this… a second one-shot in which Deadpool mourns the death of Cable, which was, what, six months ago?  Cable’s not in it, save for brief flashbacks, but it picks up on a dangling subplot from C&D by having Deadpool head off to Rumekistan to try, in his typically chaotic way, to bring about the happy nation that Cable wanted to achieve.  The result is a bit of a mess.  It wants to be an anarchic Deadpool comedy story; it also wants to be a sincere tribute to Cable as a fallen character and to the former partnership.  It shifts between those two modes with the grace of a jackknifing tank,  and ultimately doesn’t really work on either level.  Readers with more tolerance for Deadpool at his most babbling might get more out of it.

Wolverine #5.1 – Ah, our first Point One issue.  This is Marvel’s latest big idea to try and create jumping on points for ongoing titles.  The previous strategy was to relaunch books from issue #1, but they’ve run that one into the ground, and besides, you can only do it so often.  Hence, the Point One books – extra issues which are supposed to be ideal jumping on points, with self-contained stories that should also lead in to upcoming events.  As long as they stick to this, it’s a good idea – though some upcoming Point One books look suspiciously like fill-ins.  Curiously, there’s no prominent logo on this issue to draw attention to the fact that it’s a Point One book; unless you’re looking at the issue number, you’d never know.  And even I’m not enough of a nerd to look at the issue number when I browse the shelves.  Opportunity missed there, surely.

Regardless, this is by regular writer Jason Aaron, and guest artist Jefte Palo, and it’s a very good issue.  Melita Garner has organised a birthday party and invited all Wolverine’s friends.  And of course, Wolverine gets completely sidetracked by hunting some psychos in the woods.  It’s a simple idea, but Aaron sells it nicely, and the two backwoods serial killers provide some nicely creative moments.  Aaron’s strength as a Wolverine writer is his ability to write scenes that are absurdly over the top without undercutting the characters, and this issue is a great illustration of that.  Lovely art from Palo, good introduction of two new villains, strong central idea, good comedy, nice character moment at the climax – it’s a textbook example of how to do one of these issues.

Wolverine #1000 – Again, for those who may not have been keeping track: a while back, Marvel did an anthology book called Deadpool #900, which was a joke, the idea being to make fun of Marvel’s inane renumbering stunts.  That works when you do it with Deadpool because he’s Marvel’s equivalent of Ambush Bug.  Then they started doing randomly-numbered anthologies with other characters.  And that just suggested that somebody was too dumb to get the joke.  And boy, it does nothing to command confidence in the quality levels of these books.

What you get in this issue is four Wolverine stories… oh no, sorry, five stories, because one of them is inexplicably missing from the contents page.  Two of them are full length.  Three of them aren’t.  It’s five dollars, which actually isn’t bad value in terms of page count.  But are they any good?  On the whole, not really, no.

The high point is “Adamantium Claws” by Sarah Cross and Joao Lemos, which is a sweet little short about a Wolverine fan meeting her idol and generally being inspired by him.  The art’s lovely, and while the moral’s familiar, it’s nicely done.  Jimmy Palmiotti and Rafa Garres turn in a full-length story with Wolverine and a family of werewolves, which isn’t earth-shattering, but hangs together as a solid enough story with 70s-horror influences.  Beyond that, though, it’s decent art attached to flimsy plots.  “Last Ride of the Devil’s Brigade” is Wolverine in World War II storming a Nazi laboratory, and it’s just sort of a string of events in a row.  “Last Men Standing” is Wolverine inspiring soldiers in wartime.  And “Development Hell” – the one that doesn’t even make the contents page – is a Mojoverse gag that doesn’t even really bother with a plot.  (It’s also curious that the editors have chosen to commission two different stories with werewolves and two different stories set in wartime; you’d think they’d avoid the overlap in a five-story anthology.)

Read the Cross/Lemos story if you can; the rest isn’t offensive, but with so much Wolverine material out there, it’s hard to see why you’d choose this one.

Wolverine: The Best There Is #3 – Then again…

In all fairness, the book is getting better.  There’s a half decent central idea with the villain: he’s a plague carrier, long term exposure isn’t very good for anyone (hence recruiting random immortals as henchmen), and cutting him open would be a really bad idea.  As a plot device, that’s a decent starting point for a Wolverine villain.  And three issues in, some sort of plot objective is belatedly lurching into view, which is nice.

On the other hand… said villain isn’t especially interesting on any other level, and having him give a little “I’m evil and I know it” speech is not much of a hook to change that.  The book still isn’t getting much use out of the “unkillable” henchmen, who seem to have been hammered into this story solely on the basis of their powers, without much thought as to whether they have any logical motivation for being here.  And while the book’s lighter on the gross-out stunts this issue, that’s largely to make room for the exposition.  Yes, in this issue, the villain explains the plot to Wolverine… for fourteen straight pages.

I read things like this so you don’t have to.

X-Factor #215 – Another single issue story, this time with Madrox and Layla.  After a lengthy excursion to Las Vegas, and last issue’s departure into the surreal, this is Peter David bringing the book back to its quasi-noir roots.  The case is a murder with vampires involved and it’s fairly standard stuff for this book, but Peter David writes it well, and gets plenty of mileage out of Madrox’s ability to be in different places (with different personalities) at the same time.  The real focus of the issue is on Madrox and Layla’s relationship, though, as the book comes back to the question of how much free will she actually has and just how annoying her behaviour really is.  The basic premise of Layla’s character – that she knows what’s going to happen in advance and either can’t or won’t tell people except cryptically – is very difficult to pull off without smothering her personality entirely or allowing her to degenerate into a string of plot devices, and David’s done a great job of avoiding those pitfalls, with a slow build from gimmickry into a character who knows she’s on rails and seems resigned to there not being any way out.  There’s a nice symmetry between Layla as the character with only one option and Madrox as the character who can pursue every option at once but can’t find any meaning in doing so.  While the particular story in this issue isn’t a stand-out, the broader plot remains intriguing.

Bring on the comments

  1. Wolverine: First Class is annoying me slightly less with each subsequent issue. I still can’t bring myself to like it, or justify its existence given Aaron’s series, but I thought this issue is miles better than “I love this song!”. I think the book’s main problem is the same though–there’s an interesting idea at work, but the execution on getting that idea across is very flawed.

  2. “I read things like this so you don’t have to.”

    Yes, and words cannot begin to convey our gratitude.

    ‘The best there is’

    Oh… my… oh… my…

  3. Maxwell's Hammer says:

    Say what you will, “The Best There Is” is miles more coherent and far prettier to look at than “Wolverine Goes to Hell” has been.

  4. Paul C says:

    “Curiously, there’s no prominent logo on this issue to draw attention to the fact that it’s a Point One book”

    Very much agreed. I passed by Iron Man #500.1 on the shelf last week thinking they had just stocked more of the big anniversary issue, and was somewhat perplexed and annoyed upon seeing reviews back at home that it was actually a NEW issue.

    And not that Marvel’s numbering system is true & perfect but if there is the case of say a milestone like Wolverine #100, it will actually be something like Wolverine #115 (or however many extra 0.1 issues there had been).

  5. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    My immediate thought about the Point One issues is that if you’re a “casual” comics fan – someone who pops into your local comics shop sometimes and picks up whatever looks interesting – in short, the sort of person a jumping-on point is presumably aimed at – do you know that #5.1 means “jumping-on point” and not “closely tied to #5.0”?

  6. Andrew J. says:

    Does anyone else see the irony with having a “.1” issue for a book has rebooted only 5 issues ago? Not to mention that Wolverine is in the middle of a story (demonically possessed and about to fight the X-men), and it’s unclear whether this takes place before or after the current proceedings.

    Oh, and I believe the same goes for the upcoming “Uncanny X-Force”. And didn’t Amazing Spiderman just start a new run as well? And isn’t there a .1 for Thor coming up RIGHT BEFORE it reboots as “Mighty Thor”?

    It seems Marvel can’t resist taking their best concepts and bungling them. It’s no wonder they’re not advertising it.

  7. Andrew J. says:

    @Daibhid: Excellent point. You know what could be done instead of coming up with a meaningless number to the public being applied indiscriminately to all your top titles? Putting a “Great Jumping On Point!” banner on the cover. I believe they did that to a X-men: Legacy Annual a couple years ago when Rogue took over, and the issue sold bucketloads over what it normally does.

  8. I Grok Spock says:

    I gave Iron Man 500.1 a shot only to find it was Iron Man’s Greatest Hits and wasn’t really leading in to anything in particular. Perfect Jumping Off Point as there hasn’t been much going on in the book in a while. The Detroit Steel story could have been much shorter. Felt like a waste of time, sadly.

  9. I Grok Spock says:

    “I read things like this so you don’t have to.”

    Yes! That’s why I come here! You are a saint Paul.

  10. Mike says:

    Another thing with the Deadpool #900 gag: wasn’t part of the joke the idea that they were stealing some of DC’s thunder, whose books were genuinely getting up to some impressive triple digits? That’s how I read it, at any rate.

  11. The original Matt says:

    “I read things like this so you don’t have to.”

    This line made my day.

  12. Always fun to read your reviews as I have been doing for some time, and I kind of went with your format for my blog when I do my “Rant-Reviews” bit (bold title then text, rarely any images to muddy things up). We have somewhat similar interests in books we review, except I liked the Deadpool book. Plus, I’ve been reading The Best There Is so you were too late in reading it so I didn’t have to. Heh.

  13. John G says:

    “I read things like this so you don’t have to.”

    🙂 🙂 🙂

  14. Aaron Thall says:

    Yes, we appreciate that you read terrible books so others won’t.

    Any chance you could also develop migraines so I won’t? Ow… (tries to take medicine, vomits)


  15. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    “You are a saint Paul.”

    St Paul of Edinburgh. He read Mutant X, that others might live.

  16. Chief says:

    You know what’s funny, if you count all the mini-series, pointless one-shots, and all his ongoings this could actually BE Wolverine 1000….

  17. I Grok Spock says:

    I forget how many issues of Marvel Comics Presents starring Wolverine there were but I’d guess on the low-one hundreds side.

  18. Hazanko says:

    If you count MCP, there are over 500 Wolverine comics…

  19. The original Matt says:

    Hazanko: Did you actually research that? Would be curious to see a list.

  20. Reboot says:

    He’s talking about this:

    I’m fairly sure he’s overestimating though. A load of those will be cameos or other minor appearances (which hardly makes them Wolverine stories let alone “Wolverine comics”); more are multiple stories within individual issues; and a load more yet are multiple entries for individual stories reflecting stuff like flashbacks and time jumps…

  21. kelvingreen says:

    Yes, if they’re not going to draw attention to the .1 issues, then what’s the point? And how is the casual browser — their target, presumably — supposed to know what “.1” means in this context?

    Of course, if they did put a big caption on the cover saying “NEW STORY STARTS HERE!” — like they used to, and Andrew J suggests — then they wouldn’t need the .1 gimmick.

    One almost wonders if the reason they’re not drawing attention to the issues with such a caption is because they know it’ll undermine the entire premise, and it’s just sheer bloody-mindedness.

  22. Hazanko says:

    Original Matt: That number was including issues of Marvel Comics Presents as suggested by I Grok Spock. If we’re limiting ourselves to comics with Wolverine’s name in the title, there are at least 437, and that’s limiting ourselves to 616 canon. You can see my list here:

    Bear in mind that this list only has books that begin with the word Wolverine; stuff like Kitty Pryde & Wolvy, the couple Spidey/Wolvy minis, etc aren’t included. So if I added in those there could well be close to 500.

    I spend too much time making pointless spreadsheets.

  23. The original Matt says:

    Nice spreadsheet. Thanks for that.

  24. Ken B. says:

    This was kind of neat, but I think Al’s letter to Ian Churchill about Marineman shows up in the letters page of issue #3 (which was a very good issue and big on plot).

    SO that could be a nice honeymoon gift.

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