RSS Feed
Mar 27

The X-Axis – 27 March 2011

Posted on Sunday, March 27, 2011 by Paul in x-axis

Welcome to British Summer Time!  I knew if I left that clock long enough it would become right again.

It’s a podcast weekend, so don’t forget to check the post below, where Al and I are talking about Green Lantern, Xombi and FF, along with the usual rundown of the news and solicitation.

Important housekeeping announcement!  For those of you who didn’t listen to the end of the podcast, I’m taking a short break, so we’re skipping the next podcast, and it’s probably going to be three to four weeks before the next X-Axis.

Loads of X-books this week, and not a great deal else, so let’s get to it…

Captain America & Batroc the Leaper – Continuing their intriguing “more is more” marketing strategy, Marvel have a ton of Captain America one-shots out this month, of which this is one.  Given the volume of Captain America minis already released in anticipation of the upcoming movie, one suspects that these books are doomed to be read by weary completists and devoted fans of the creators.  But Kieron Gillen and Renato Arlem’s Batroc story is worth your time.  There’s not much Captain America in it; it’s really an attempt to rehabilitate Batroc, and a very effective one too.  As a back-up reprint of Tales of Suspense #85 shows, when Batroc was first introduced, he may have been ridiculously French  (“Nom du chein!  Batroc feels zee terrible anger!”), but he was also played as an  honourable warrior who was a serious threat to the hero.  Years of repeated failure have stripped the character of that aura of credibility, leaving him to hang around the fringes of the Marvel Universe as a Silver Age relic.  Gillen turns that to his advantage, playing up Batroc as an underdog who really just wants to do his best as an ordinary man taking on super-soldiers and cyborgs.  Even Batroc knows he’s not going to win; but it’s the trying that counts.  It’s a nice way of giving back some dignity to a Z-list villain, and one of the best single issue stories I’ve read in a while.

Daken: Dark Wolverine #7 – This is the concluding part of “Empire, Act 2”, though it doubles as a prologue to next month’s crossover with X-23.  Basically, it’s mostly Daken consolidating his hold on Madripoor, by reinstalling Tyger Tiger as a puppet leader who can act as a figurehead while he remains in the shadows.  Incidentally, once again, the recap page gets the plot wrong, describing Tyger as a “vigilante”.  In fact, she’s been running the country since Iron Man: Director of SHIELD Annual #1, when she was installed by Tony Stark after Madame Hydra was overthrown.  Earlier issues established that clearly enough, so I’m mystified about how the book has twice managed to run a recap page that gets wrong perhaps the single most important plot point in the story.

Anyway, in this issue, Daken manipulates some people and blah blah blah boring.  I think the problem here is twofold.  For one thing, the criminals he’s manipulating are sketchy characters whom we have no real reason to care about.  And for another, there’s nothing particularly clever or interesting in the way he does it.  Sometimes this book makes Daken genuinely seem a step ahead of the other characters, but sometimes it’s just a bunch of more or less arbitrary stuff happening, before the book declares Daken to be a mastermind for predicting it all.  Put another way, the other characters haven’t been adequately boxed into a corner, but they act as if they are, because Daken’s a genius and therefore his plans must succeed no matter how sketchy and vague they appear.

I can see what they’re going for, and sometimes the book pulls it off, but this isn’t one of those times.

FF #1 – See the podcast for plenty of discussion on this one.  Basically, this is Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four run moving on to its next phase.  The Human Torch is dead, and the remaining three have rebranded themselves as the Future Foundation and enlisted Spider-Man to fill the gap.  That works better than you might think, as long as you’re prepared to overlook the character’s implausibly packed schedule across the rest of the Marvel Universe.  He’s a reasonably plausible choice for Johnny to nominate as his successor, but he’s also enough of an outsider to change the dynamic of the book and prevent the FF being merely the Fantastic Three (at least superficially; it’s pretty clear that Peter is in fact tacked on to an existing cast, and that’s kind of the point).  The new monochrome costumes are very Hickman indeed, and I like them a lot as a break with tradition.  Not a huge amount of plot here, so much as set up and introduction interspersed with a fight scene, but at least Hickman’s bending over backwards to make this an accessible jumping on point for new readers.  I wasn’t entirely sold on the first few issues of Hickman’s run, which apparently got off to a relatively slow start.  But now that he’s got all of his elements in place and has hit his stride, you can see why people are talking about this as a great run on the book.

Justice League: Generation Lost #22 – Hmm.  I’m a little dubious about bringing both Batman and Wonder Woman into the book just as it’s building to a conclusion.  True, the set-up at the start of this series saw the JLI characters being excommunicated by the rest of the superhero community, so there’s got to be the reconciliation with the A-listers at the end.  And yes, these two do have a logical reason to be here; Batman was a member of the JLI in his own right back in the day, while Wonder Woman at least has the direct connection with the series’ central villain Max Lord.  But in pacing terms, it seems a mistake to go so heavily on Wonder Woman at this point, when she hasn’t been mentioned before – particularly when her involvement is further complicated by the convolutions in her own book at the moment.  Still a perfectly solid issue, but I hope this book isn’t going to let the regular cast get shouldered aside in the final act.

New Mutants #23 – Part four of “Age of X”, the X-Men Legacy story which is also appearing in this book for… some reason.  It’s certainly not because the New Mutants have a particularly prominent role in the story, though Legion’s seemingly central role in the plot might provide some explanation.  This is the point where the characters start seriously investigating what exactly is going on, and it’s evident that whatever we’re watching, it’s not just a regular alternate reality.  I’m sticking with my earlier theory – we’re all inside Legion’s mind, and the inhabitants of Fortress X are a mixture of X-Men who were nearby, plus Legion’s own splinter personalities.  Leaving aside my doubts about quite why this is a crossover rather than a Legacy storyline, Mike Carey’s continuing to do a great job here, setting up the mystery of what’s going on beneath the surface, and dropping enough clues to play fair with the reader.

Uncanny X-Force #6 – Well, it’s an issue of running around and fighting Deathloks, more or less.  There’s a nice few pages near the start with Psylocke imagining how she’s going to explain things to her brother, but after that it’s full on fighting for most of the issue before we get to the high concept at the end.  Remender is working with the version of Deathlok recently introduced by Jason Aaron in Wolverine: Weapon X, but basically it’s “Marvel superheroes from the future come back as Deathlok cyborgs to protect whatever it is inside the World that Fantomex is trying to get at.”  And within that loose framework, fighting.  Not one of my favourite issues, unfortunately.  In theory it ought to be a decent action issue, but the art just doesn’t have the clarity and immediacy to build momentum.

Uncanny X-Men #534 – The final part of “Quarantine”, which is also Matt Fraction’s final issue.  I don’t think it’s particularly controversial to say that Fraction’s X-Men stories never really clicked in the way that Iron Man, Iron Fist or Casanova did, or even his shortlived Order.  Partly, of course, he had to wrestle with a set-up that’s proved challenging for most writers; and he’s been saddled with some dodgy artists from time to time.  But looking back, I think the major problem here has been the size of the cast, which has left the book sprawling, unfocussed and lacking an emotional core.  He doesn’t have that problem with solo titles for obvious reasons, and even Order had a clearly-defined central cast (not to mention a tendency to do issues focussing on individual characters).  Uncanny has just been trying to squeeze in too much, and too many of its characters and stories have ended up half-developed as a result.

“Quarantine” illustrates the problem.  Greg Land’s art isn’t exactly a great starting point, but whoever was drawing this story, it would still be a bunch of disparate ideas that never quite come to fruition and don’t belong in the same story anyway.  What does the Emma/Shaw storyline have to do with the rest?  Essentially nothing, unless you squint a bit and regard the pay-off as a type of “quarantine” in its own right; it would probably have worked better stripped out and done as a single-issue story rather than an overextended subplot.  What happened to the Collective Man thread from the early issues?  He pretty much vanishes halfway through the arc.  The idea of a makeshift team of healthy X-Men trying to keep things going on the mainland ought to work, but having thrown that out there, the story doesn’t really do anything with it.  And the mutants emerging from quarantine to take on the humans who’ve stolen their powers should be a good confrontation in theory, but founders on the fact that the villains are so utterly one-dimensional.  The rich kid “new X-Men” should have worked, but with one personality trait shared between them, they barely even qualify as characters at all. There are some good ideas in here, but they’re fighting for space and none of them gets to develop into a decently structured story.

For some reason the issue also features a reprint of Avengers Academy #1 – which is a great series, but if they want people to jump aboard, I’d have chosen a more recent issue.  Still, it’s one of the best books Marvel are putting out at the moment, so I’m glad to see it getting support.

Wolverine & Jubilee #3 – Hmm.  So… vampires want Wolverine to recover something from underneath Chernobyl because he’s got a healing factor?  In 2011?  I’m really not sure about that at all.  For one thing, it’s a bizarre plot point to bring in when the story is set in Siberia (Chernobyl is a continent away in the Ukraine), but for another, Chernobyl was 25 years ago, and while you certainly wouldn’t want to live there, I just don’t believe that it’s churning out “lethal amounts of radiation” any more.  This feels like a bit of a mis-step to me.  But Rockslide’s scenes are good, and the bizarre cliffhanger is a winner.

X-Men #9 – Finally for this week, the X-Men and Spider-Man are still taking on the Lizard.  It turns out the Lizard has a new ally, which is why this is an X-Men story.  But bringing back a second-tier X-Men villain doesn’t alter the fact that we’re fundamentally doing a sequel to the “Shed” storyline from Amazing Spider-Man, in which the X-Men simply go out there and do regular superhero stuff for a change, by fighting some baddies.  Chris Bachalo is clearly having a great time with the remit of drawing mad scientists and lizard people, and while the story is starting to feel like it might be a little over-extended (taking three issues to get to the point it should probably have reached after two), it’s still a generally well done superhero team-up.



Bring on the comments

  1. kelvingreen says:

    Spidey has at least been a member of the FF in the past, and he has a long history with the team. I’m just grateful it’s not Wolverine again, although he’s also been a member, so it would be halfway plausible.

  2. caleb says:

    Do Marvel Universe vampires have healing factors?

  3. Patrick H says:

    Wonder Woman actually has been a bit more of a presence in JL:Generation Lost. I can’t remember the exact issue number, but at one point Max Lord was looking for her when he realized everyone working for him had forgotten her (due to the JMS status quo). I think there have been other references to Lord trying to find her to get revenge, etc. so it’s not completely out of left field for her to become involved.

  4. Charles Knight says:

    “Do Marvel Universe vampires have healing factors?”

    Aren’t they the undead? Why would a vampire be concerned about radiation?

  5. Shadowkurt says:

    According to the unnamed vamp woman, being exposed to radioactivity is similar for a vampire as being expose to light.

  6. Siythe says:

    I’ve liked a lot of Hickmans ideas in his FF run but I don’t think he’s really ‘got’ any of the characters other than Reed and Valeria and doesn’t have much interest in them either. He’ll throw them a few bones when he has to because of the book’s title but nothing more. Johnny probably suffered worse from this and that made his death one of the most lazy choices for publicity grabbing shock value I’ve ever seen.

    How he has the other characters react to Doom on the team is going to decide whether I bother with his FF anymore. Reed and Valeria are covered in this issue but if Ben and Sue do anything other than mutiny on the spot it’ll be clear he has no intention changing their role as sidekicks.

    For that matter given the time and space he’s given Franklin in the book his reaction may be the most interesting of all. Doom has done everything from kidnap to literally send the kid to hell over the years so him now hanging around the FF building thanks to his dad and sister has to be the biggest betrayal imaginable.

    It’s the kind of thing that Reed could overlook what with being the worst father the world. But the idea of Sue and Ben doing the same is so removed from the core of those characters that I can’t see any point in reading about them under Hickman’s pen unless they do something on the scale of up and quitting over this.

  7. Ken B. says:

    Vampires getting hit with radiation would make their teeth fall out I guess, which they need? It’s a bit ridiculous to have Wolverine set up to do the job.

    The one thing I wish Hickman would do is seriously dial back Val being so smart and so cocky. There is a last page reveal that can’t really work unless she completely ignores Franklin’s feelings about it, and really Val gives off way too much of a Layla Miller vibe from the first 20 issues of X-Factor; you keep pushing the character in our face hiding their actions behind being a kid as a way to almost excuse it but it doesn’t work for me caring about the characters.

    Age of X continues to impress, although I get the feeling Magneto is going to be de-aged again when all this is done. He just seems like a guy in his 40’s now instead of what, mid 50s?

  8. Jerry Ray says:

    With every issue of Daken that I read, I’m reminded that there’s no other character that I’d rather see flown into space, torn in half, and thrown into the sun by the Sentry. Why does this character exist, again?

  9. Paul says:

    What the vampire woman actually says is “I’d do it myself but, well, radiation is radiation, sunlight or otherwise, and I am, as you know, a vampire. With your healing factor, you ought to be all right, if you’re quick about it.”

    It’s rather vague, but the idea seems to be that vampires are vulnerable to radiation because it’s all electromagnetic radiation. Problem is, that clearly isn’t right. Sunlight has to be special – otherwise the vampire would have killed herself when she turned on the light at the start of the scene.

    If that isn’t what Kathryn Immonen had in mind, then to be honest, I don’t really know what she was getting at.

  10. Valhallahan says:

    I like Batroc, and he’s actually been used in a fairly dignified manner in the last Union Jack Series and the Cap storyline with the Human Torch’s body. Those Cap and… one offs look good, but I’m waiting for the inevitable trade.

  11. hellblazer says:

    Regarding the radiation: perhaps Immonen was thinking of gamma rays (in the real-world senserather than Bruce Banner version)? Certainly I’ve seen the idea in various sci-fi that it’s the high-frequency EM waves which do for vampires. However, while my physics is very shaky, I don’t know if Chernobyl produced gamma emitters with long half-life (cobalt isotopes perhaps?)

    Hmm, I might be over-thinking this.

    Anyway, really wanted to delurk to comment on the Age of X stuff. Having come rather late to X-books – only previous reading was that story where Storm goes punk and Madeleine Pryor is the Phoenix and then isn’t – I’m way behind everyone else with clever theories about what is going on in the story. Up until last year, for me “Legion” just meant a bunch of Romans with spears.

    So far I’ve been trying to remember what happened in that Blindfold issue just before the “event” started, and trying to remember which of the regular cast hasn’t yet appeared in The Age of X and so might be part of a surprise reveal.

    (I had thought it might be connected to Dr Nemesis since he’s relatively obscure and hitherto just a character for comic relief. If not… has Armor yet popped up somewhere in the background?)

  12. Maxwell's Hammer says:

    Jerry Ray: Daken exists because there are people who are willing to buy it, even if its just to read it and then complain about it. I dropped the ‘Wolverine’ book the exact moment Daken showed up and it went ‘Dark’. Unfortunately, there are lots of completists who will stick with it just cuz, and Marvel will happily keep pumping out more and taking their money.

    And lest it sound like I’m looking down my nose at completists, I’ll admit: I kept buying ‘Uncanny’ through the Chuck Austin nightmare. I’m just glad Marvel offered up such a clear breaking point between ‘Old Man Logan’ and Daniel Way that I could get away from Wolverine guilt-free…

  13. Baines says:

    The reason Age of X is a crossover instead of just a Legacy story is simple. Marketing. I don’t see “Age of X” being similar to “Age of Apocalypse” as a coincidence. Both the story name as well as how PR presented the story itself and its reimagined characters.

    I’m just surprised Marvel didn’t blow it up into a line-wide event. Maybe because there was already too much going on in the X-verse?

    @Jerry Ray
    Daken seems to have come out of a bad period of Marvel. We’ve had Sentry, Vulcan, and Daken. Somehow, and for some reason, Marvel wants to keep pushing Daken.

  14. Maxwell's Hammer says:

    “Daken seems to have come out of a bad period of Marvel.”

    I don’t know if I’d call it a bad period. It was a time of experimentation, which is really still going on to an extent. There were great original ideas and characters to crop up for every ill-concieved one. And even your list is a hodge-podge of new and old ideas that were hit-and-miss depending on who was writing…

    Vulcan was a decent character and provided a fun and well-executed space story for the X-Men, and even got some substantial play in DnA’s cosmic romps…

    Sentry was a great pre-existing character that just got mangled in the convoluted handling by Bendis (which is also the case with The Hood)…

    Red Hulk (who also arose during that period) was a horrible character born from the inept brain of Jeph Loeb who is slowly being rehabilitated by Jeff Parker…

    And then there was Daken who was a stupid idea to begin with and written as 1-dimensionally kewl as possible by Daniel Way who I’m pretty sure has a djinn trapped in a bottle because how else do you get the highest selling comics publisher in the country to give you their most popular character and write a 50 issue long series featuring the single stupidest story in that character’s long history.

    But that period also gave us the Young Avengers and the cast of The Initiative (and subsequently Avengers Academy) and a lot of solid new mutant characters in the pages of the New Mutants/Young X-Men books…

  15. alex says:

    batroc turned good during Gruenwald’s run and then I think Brubaker turned him back bad at the beginning of his Cap run. At least with Cap villains, it seems like Bru doesn’t like some of them (Batroc, Zemo) as revolved villains.

  16. kelvingreen says:

    Sentry was a great pre-existing character that just got mangled in the convoluted handling by Bendis (which is also the case with The Hood)…

    And Marvel Boy.

  17. ZZZ says:

    If two of the four members of FF are also currently serving on the Avengers, and the other two were members of the Avengers at one point in the past, they should just make the group an adjunct Avengers team and have a rotating fourth slot filled by a different Avenger for each mission (if nothing else, I think Iron Fist would look great in one of those new FF uniforms). The could have Squirrel Girl watch Frankling and Valeria along with Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’s kid, and have the FF be basically the Avengers R&D and IT division.

    I haven’t read Dark Wolverine so I don’t know the context, but is it possible that when they refer to Tiger as a “vigilante” they’re just using it as more “mature” way of saying “superhero” and ignoring (or unaware of) the extra-legal implications?

  18. Si says:

    As for New Mutants being inconspicuous in the New Mutants book, well it is a nostalgia comic, right? That’s what happened every year when there was an X-title event back in the late 80s and early 90s.

  19. Jerry Ray says:

    Well, I’m guilty as charged as an X-Completist (as is our fearless host, as I recall). It’s a dirty habit, but one that I picked up over 30 years ago, so it’s hard to shake. As bad as things got over the last 30 years, I can’t think of many other characters as irredemably irritating as Daken, and none others that have gotten this much exposure. I just keep telling myself that this, too, shall pass. 🙂

  20. Rob says:

    “batroc turned good during Gruenwald’s run and then I think Brubaker turned him back bad at the beginning of his Cap run.”

    Waid turned him back into a baddie already IIRC.

  21. Baines says:

    I didn’t read the original Sentry series, so I only know the Bendis version. And that was bad all around.

    The same goes for The Hood. Maybe he was a decent character at the start, but he was written as darn near the greatest criminal threat in the Marvel universe.

    Red Hulk… Red Hulk is just a mess. He was a six issue secret that was kept for years. I’m being kind giving it six issues, because it was ultimately a character that we didn’t need. He just happened to sell, and spawn even more characters (“evil” Doc Samson and Red She-Hulk). Heck, I don’t see how Red She-Hulk could exist outside of someone at Marvel treating the whole thing as a joke. Or stuff like Red Hulk punching the Watcher, which would be brought up a year later when talking about how strong Red Hulk was…

    Strangely, I think the Red Hulk stuff actually holds up better than Sentry or Hood. It still isn’t good and it runs too long on its idea, but the Sentry and Hood stuff is just annoying.

    So… Daken, Sentry, Hood, Red Hulk, Vulcan… Anyone else?

  22. alex says:

    what’s the cut off for this period?

    Would Bucky Cap count? Sin?

    Faiza Hussein?

  23. maxwell's hammer says:

    @Alex – ther are always new things cropping up here or there, but I think we’re mostly talking about the spate of original characters that were created then pushed to the forefront as possible headliners.

    There was a lot of hit-and-miss, but there were a surprising number of genuinely successful original characters, starting back with The Runaways and Gravity, and running all the way up until the present where the casts of Avengers Initiative and Young X-Men and Young Avengers actually took hold and became pretty well established characters.

    Then on the flip side, there were the staggeringly unoriginal ‘original’ characters who were just rip-offs of an already popular name brand (Red Hulk, Daken, etc.) who weren’t actually that interesting but were editorially mandated into becoming important mainstays of the Marvel Universe.

    I wouldn’t really count Bucky-Cap in that batch, as he’s a pre-existing character merely given a new status quo. Or Sin, who is just a legacy character stemming from Red Skull. And though I loved the MI-13 series, I don’t think anyone knows or cares who Faiza Hussain is besides hardcore Excalibur devotees.

  24. The original Matt says:

    What annoys me the most about Daken (as a character) is that X-23 was already around. And a damn good character in her own right. Daken just comes across as an un-needed and poorly thought out character in an already bloated universe.

  25. AndyD says:

    “There were great original ideas and characters to crop up for every ill-concieved one.”

    Wasn´t this the time where they created Romolus?

    I don´t buy a lot of Marvel any longer but I wonder why they always manage to get so many writers on their core books which are at best mediocre. Way is in the same range as guys like Terry Kavanaugh or Len Kaminski.

    ” as long as you’re prepared to overlook the character’s implausibly packed schedule across the rest of the Marvel Universe”

    Does anybody care about this any longer? It seems that the overexposed characters are no longer tied to a coherent time-line, which of course makes many books so utterly banal because no characterisation matters any longer.

  26. alex says:

    I always think of Spidey as part of the extended FF family, due to his friendship with Johnny. (see the great Slott/Templeton mini)

    his being in the group makes sense, especially since I presume we will be seeing Peter Parker, super genius, almost as much as Spider-Man.

  27. kelvingreen says:

    I always think of Spidey as part of the extended FF family, due to his friendship with Johnny.

    Indeed, the very first issue of Amazing Spider-Man has him trying to join the team, and they’ve been linked ever since. I’m still rather fond of the time when he, Wolverine, Hulk and Ghost Rider joined the team in FF #348.

  28. bad johnny got out says:

    Daken – any interest I had is gone with the mohawk. That hair was the only remaining mystery about him.

    WHAT IS THE SECRET TO DAKEN’S APPEAL? Women (and men) want to have him! Men (and maybe some women?) want to be him! But wait a second, he’s sporting a mohawk in 2010 so how is any of that even possible?


    So much for that. I know this sounds silly and shallow but I’m serious.

  29. The original Matt says:

    Daken has appeal?

  30. ZZZ says:

    I’m pretty sure Daken doesn’t flaunt the ‘hawk anymore so people will stop confusing him with the guy who plays Puck on Glee.

Leave a Reply