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Feb 20

The X-Axis – 20 February 2011

Posted on Sunday, February 20, 2011 by Paul in x-axis

Another heavy week for X-books – six of them this time round, even without any of the regular X-Men titles coming out.  There’s some decent stuff in there, though.  Couple of new launches as well.  And since I’m starting this rather later in the evening than I’d normally like to, I’ll get straight to it…

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #5 – My god, it’s finished!  It’s actually finished!  The first issue of this series came out last May, if you’re wondering.  I’ll do a separate post looking back on the whole series, and I’m pretty confident that it’ll read a lot better in one go.  The bottom line is that this was a pretty simple, straightforward, direct story, and one that’s far, far too slight to survive being stretched out over nine months.  Frankly I expect it’ll still feel overextended as a graphic novel – in terms purely of story content, it could fit into an annual perfectly happily – but at least it’ll be intact.  Of course, and Emma Frost gets a couple of nice moments, but the story is utterly unsuited for the serial format in which Marvel have shipped it and in which the majority of people will probably read it.

Generation Hope #4 – I had some reservations about the pacing of the first three issues, where the focus on Hope and Kenji meant that the rest of the cast ended up somewhat marginalised.  Well, that’s certainly rectified here.  The credits say this is part four of “The Future is a Four-Letter Word”, but it really sees the book moving on to the next act, as the group finally arrive on Utopia and get to settle down.  After three issues of crazed ranting, Kenji finally gets to talk to us properly.  It turns out that he’s not exactly normal at the best of times either, though at least he wouldn’t usually be up for trashing Tokyo.  Teon tries to assert himself against Wolverine, which goes about as well as you’d expect.  Dr Nemesis finally gives a clear explanation of how their powers work, and Gabriel gets a particularly good scene with him.  First and foremost, though, this is the point where the new characters get a break from action and get a chance to breathe.  This issue gets the emphasis on to the more intriguing aspects of the book, and does plenty to show the potential in the characters.  Good issue.

Jennifer Blood #1 – A new series from Dynamite by Garth Ennis and Adriano Batista.  Basically, it’s “suburban mom is secretly the Punisher”.  An interview with Ennis at the end of the book basically suggests that this is Ennis trying to take a break from all the dark stuff he’s been writing lately, and going back to something relatively comedic along the lines of Hitman.  Well, it’s not Hitman, to be honest.  Women have never exactly been Ennis’ strong suit, but the more fundamental problem is that this is neither an especially strong story, nor desperately funny.  Ennis is enough of an instinctive storyteller that his comics are rarely bad, and this is certainly competent, but it’s far from his most interesting work.

The Li’l Depressed Boy #1 – Hmm.  This is unusual.  Steven Struble and Sina Grace’s web comic has been around for a while, and this issue reprints material dating from 2009.  In this comic… well, a vaguely depressed indie kid drawn as a sort of rag doll figure meanders around going to gigs and playing video games with his friend.  This is not a plot-driven comic, to put it mildly.  But then it doesn’t really pretend to be.  It’s more a sort of mood piece, and the rather odd, quirky atmosphere of it probably does benefit from being read in twenty-two page chunks.  Grace’s art is gorgeous, and has the subtlety to sell what could easily be flat and uneventful scenes in the wrong hands.  Weirdly engaging.

Marvel Girl #1 – This is one of several X-Men: First Class one-shots which I suppose are somehow meant to relate to the upcoming X-Men: First Class film.  Or is it?  I’m not quite sure what Marvel are going for here.  The film is basically an “origins of the X-Men” thing set in the 1960s, it seems.  This, on the other hand, is a Marvel Girl story set during Jef Parker’s X-Men: First Class series, which is a rather different thing.  Anyway, it’s by Joshua Fialkov and Nuno Plati, and it involves Jean being sent away to get her head together, and coming to terms with the death of Annie Richardson.  It’s a curious story; there’s a weirdly depressing subtext (not so much sub, actually) about people in general going through the motions of life, and it’s rather vague about who Annie was.  For those of you who don’t know, Jean’s telepathic powers are supposed to have emerged when she saw her friend Annie get hit by a car.  I’m not altogether clear whether that holds for this story too – there are some comments that could be read as suggesting that Jean just went off to join the X-Men and left Annie behind, so that she wasn’t there to save her from the car.  I can see this being a bit vague and confusing to readers who don’t know the continuity being referenced.  Jean also seems a bit out of character throughout, though in fairness to Fialkov, if he tried to write her in line with her Silver Age appearances, she’d spend the issue standing in the background and looking pretty, so it’s a catch-22.  A story where she comes to terms with Annie’s death isn’t a bad idea, but even so, it doesn’t quite click.  Plati’s fully coloured art is absolutely beautiful, however, giving the book a nice animated look.

Uncanny X-Force #5 – Beginning the second arc, in which something nasty has evolved in the World – you remember, it’s a Grant Morrison idea.  It’s a time-distorted pocket world where weapons are evolved in accelerated time, or something along those lines.  Fantomex came from there, somebody else has been doing weird stuff in there, and now Fantomex is trying to take the World back under his care, while said somebody else is after him.  All of which seems like it’s basically leading to X-Force fighting a whole load of weird superhero clones with Deathlok’s cyborg parts.  Not that this issue actually points out that they’re Deathlok cyborgs; it just assumes that we’ll recognise him.  A connection between the World and Deathlok was actually established in a Jason Aaron Wolverine story a year or so back, and while it’s not directly alluded to here, I’m assuming that the story has it in mind.

The initial exposition’s a bit confusing; the World isn’t that complicated an idea, but Fantomex’s opening monologue gets bogged down in confusing gibberish (“an algorithm of sentient infinity” is a lovely phrase, but it doesn’t exactly help to explain the plot).  But Fantomex’s scenes work very well as an action story, and the rest of the team have a very well written subplot scene dealing with the fallout from the end of last issue.  Art on this arc comes from Esad Ribic, who hasn’t work on the X-books in a while.  It’s lovely work, and certainly keeps up the high standard which has been set for this title.

Wolverine #6 – Well, that’s odd.  When Marvel announced the Point One books, they described them as “jumping on points” which “begin major new storylines”.  So you might think that if you buy one of the Point One issues, you’ll be able to buy the next issue and keep reading, right?

Wrong!  Because while Wolverine #5.1 was indeed a great self-contained story and introduction to the character, it’s followed by this issue… which is a direct continuation of the story in progress in Wolverine #5.  Wolverine’s back in his body, but the demon hasn’t left, so there’s… well, more fighting to be done.  So if you jumped on at the advertised jumping on point, bad news, because it turns out you’re halfway through a storyline after all.  What the hell are Marvel thinking?  Couldn’t the Point One issue have waited until this storyline was complete?  I don’t get the strategy here at all.

And after five issues of Wolverine in hell, which built to some sort of climax, it’s rather odd to see the story simply rolling on like this; to be honest, it feels like the story is now being extended beyond its natural lifespan, or at least that it peaked too early.  I’m just thoroughly confused now about where this book is going.  On the other hand, it’s got lovely art by Daniel Acuna, who hasn’t always seemed comfortable doing action stories in the past, but who now seems to figured out how to make it work with his style.  And Aaron does nail the voices of the various guest stars.

Wolverine & Jubilee #2 – This mini has now sprouted a “Curse of the Mutants: Aftermath” banner, which wasn’t there last month.  Seems a bit odd to add it now, but it is at least true – that story turned Jubilee into a vampire, and this series is all about her coming to terms with it.  It’s a rather subdued and moody story, and a relatively straight one by the standards of writer Kathryn Immonen, whose work is usually somewhere between quirky and downright eccentric.  But even if you’re not wild about the whole idea of turning Jubilee into a vampire, Immonen and artist Phil Noto are using it very well in this series.  They could have done a straightforward reunion nostalgia story, but instead they’re using that relationship as the background to tell a story about what’s happened to Jubilee, and it’s working very well.  The vampire thing didn’t really appeal to me at all, and seemed terribly out of place in the X-books, but this series is good enough to make me think again.

Bring on the comments

  1. Dave O'Neill says:

    “Weirdly engaging”, summed up how I felt about Li’l Depressed Boy too.

  2. Blair says:

    Regarding the .1 issues it appears that Marvel are less interested in reaching new readers and are instead just dumping an extra issue into the market for the completists to buy. The .1 Thor issue (620.1) is released immediately before #621 which is the last issue in an arc and not an ideal jumping on point. The Deadpool .1 issue is a real oddity. The issue scheduled after Deadpool #32.1 is, naturally, Deadpool #34. That may be a mistake in the numbering, intentional “zaniness” from the Deadpool line or general incompetence from Marvel. You decide.

  3. Chris says:

    Uncanny X-Force are also screwing up the .1 scheduling. The next issue is 5.1, but has nothing to do with Deathlok, then comes part 2 of Deathlok in issue 6.

    Anyone remember Warren Ellis saying he was writing “four arcs of Astonishing X-men at once”? Wondering if we’ll ever see the final installment. Xenogenesis oddly brought up ghost boxes, but didn’t really give a good tie into the previous two arcs.

  4. Zak S. says:

    I’m gonna assume the half-Deathlok/half-Captain America from that Excalibur mulitworld slugfest issue with the wrap-around cover is from that World in X-Force if nobody minds.

    Jesus I sound like Comic-Book Guy.

  5. Maxwell's Hammer says:

    I’m kind of glad Warren Ellis is finally moving on so I can drop ‘Astonishing’ guilt free. I think that’ll make the third book I’ve dropped thanks to Daniel Way moving in. If Marvel keeps this up, I’ll slash my monthly comic bill in half in no time flat!

  6. moose n squirrel says:

    I like how Marvel has beaten the “Wolverine’s been mind-controlled/gone crazy” storyline into the ground so many times, the characters actually spend a couple pages of this issue talking about how just how often Wolverine’s been mind-controlled/gone crazy – right before the comic launches into another tedious “Wolverine’s been mind-controlled/gone crazy” storyline.

    I also like how Cyclops darkly refers to Wolverine as “the most dangerous mutant in the world,” a few pages after running over a scenario in which Magneto (guy who controls magnetism) and Namor (super-strong flying guy who regularly takes on the Fantastic Four) take on Wolverine (short hairy guy with knifey things) and chop his head off in a couple panels.

  7. Michael says:

    The purpose of these First Class one-shots is to have a new trade with the First Class name out when the movie hits theaters. Why they couldn’t just reprint the old ones, I have no idea. But then, I have no idea why Marvel does lots of things.

    The Secret Avengers .1 issue looks like it will work, at least, being a stand-alone issue that also serves as a lead-in to the next story arc. So that’s one out of how many?

  8. Tim O'Neil says:

    If no one else is going to say it, I will: there is no way in Hell that Wolverine – even a demon-possessed Wolverine – should have been able to take down one, let alone *two* Ghost Riders. The whole point of Ghost Rider is that he’s just about indestructible and indefatigable. The Hulk can’t even smash Ghost Rider! Some people say Ghost Rider is a one-note character – be that as it may, if you’re going to have a one-note character who doesn’t even get to play his one note correctly, what the hell is the point?

  9. John G says:

    @Tim O’Neil Are you saying that Aaron is a hack that changes the characters to suit his story?

    Surely there was some in-story explanation for this? If not, well I guess it would take a real BAD-ASS demon to possess Wolverine – “the most dangerous mutant in the world”!

  10. arseface says:

    “Not that this issue actually points out that they’re Deathlok cyborgs; it just assumes that we’ll recognise him.”

    Well, the arc is called “Deathlok Nation”, so that’s a fairly big clue from the get-go!

  11. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    @Tim O’Neil, the trouble is that’s also the whole point of Wolverine. One of these days Marvel should just put Hulk, Juggernaut, Wolverine and Ghost Rider into a box, and see who comes out…

  12. Comic Shaman says:

    @Daibhid Ceannaideach

    I expect some unholy synthesis would emerge. “The Incredible Ghost Wolvernaut.” Brr.

  13. chief says:

    @Comic Shaman

    Please don’t give Jeph Loeb ideas.

  14. The original Matt says:

    “Please don’t give Jeph Loeb ideas.”

    Worth every penny.

  15. lambnesio says:


  16. Master Mahan says:

    It occurred to me that the Generation Hope characters seem like takeoffs of the original X-Men. Laurie has blue skin and flight like Archangel, Idie has ice powers like Bobby Drake, Teon looks like a pre-fur Beast, and Hope has a fairly obvious connection to Jean Grey. The last one, Gabriel, acts like an anti-Cyclops by not taking anything seriously, though he does have a thing for macking on redheads.

  17. moose n squirrel says:

    the trouble is that’s also the whole point of Wolverine. One of these days Marvel should just put Hulk, Juggernaut, Wolverine and Ghost Rider into a box, and see who comes out…

    See, the real trouble is that most of these characters started out as something a little more than Badass Character X. As I feel the need to point out every time the subject comes up, Wolverine was never anything close to an indestructible, unstoppable killing machine in his early years with the X-Men; he was basically a brawler who could take a lot of damage and was willing to do so for his friends. But those friends included people who could punch through tanks, people who could control the weather, people who could shoot lasers out of their eyes and control minds and eat the sun; and he was fighting people who could control the electromagnetic spectrum, alter reality, armies of killer demons and evil aliens and giant monster robots – he was outclassed in every way that counted. Within that context, Wolverine’s healing factor wasn’t a guarantee of invincibility; it was a guarantee that he’d get the shit kicked out of him time and again and come back for more … and the fact that he was willing to put up with that, over and over again, was a huge part of his charm – he was, ultimately, an underdog. Now that umpty-zillion fan-pandering writers have turned him into an all-powerful killing machine, there’s nothing remotely relatable left to the character.

  18. Sol says:

    m’n’s, yeah. It especially sucks when you think of Wolverine’s great death scene in Days of Future Past. Anyone reading that with current day Wolverine in mind has to be thinking to himself, “ooo, he got vaporized. Bet it will take him a whole twenty minutes to fully regenerate.”

  19. Argus says:

    This made me think, I’d love to see some well written character assessments (character assasinations?) of the main x-characters. Not just Wolverine/Cyclops/Emma, but everyone else (hell, even Storm has been peripheral for the last 15 years). What’s right/what’s wrong/where to improve or how to rehabilitate the x-books and cast…

    Admittedly it probably all spins out of the lack of one consistent, core writer (regardless of your feelings on Claremont) but there is really very little sense of relationship or consistency between so many characters. Cases in point: Magento =/= Xorn, never being dealt with… Psylocke’s resurrection and reunion with Archangel only now being addressed… Only Rogue under Mike Carey is getting “pushed” and even then, it still deals with repurcussions from events years ago. Perhaps it’s the demands of the market, but I don’t feel any of the x-characters actually growing or changing.

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