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Jun 19

The X-Axis – 19 June 2011

Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 by Paul in x-axis

First, a housekeeping announcement – no X-Axis next week, because I happen to know I won’t be getting my books in time to write it.  Might write something else instead.  Probably won’t.

This is also a podcast weekend, so check a couple of posts below for the latest episode of House to Astonish, where Al and I are talking about the rest of the DCU 52, and review the first issues of 15 Love, Graveyard of Empires and Kirby Genesis.

Loads of X-books this week, and they’re mostly pretty decent, too…

Daken: Dark Wolverine #10 – The first issue proper of Rob Williams’ run sees Daken arriving in Hollywood and trying to get his foot in the door of the local underworld.  Unfortunately, it turns out that his information about Los Angeles is rather out of date, so he’s going to have to start from the ground up.

Daken is not an easy character to make work, at least as a protagonist.  Aside from the fact that he’s innately unsympathetic, he’s also a knock-off of Wolverine and exists in the shadow of the original.  Where his predecessors tried to get mileage out of that (with only mixed success), Williams is trying to give Daken space to define himself as a character in his own right, by moving him to a very un-Wolverine setting indeed, and letting him go his own way.  Commercially, it’s risky, since Daken’s connection to Wolverine is his main selling point.  But creatively, it’s probably the right choice in the long run, if they’re serious about making Daken into a character who can carry his own title.

The book opens with a deliberately bizarre seven-page flash forward, with Daken executing a weird-looking heist plan that involves a load of henchmen all wearing cheap Captain America masks, and firing bazookas in the city centre.  The rest of the issue is a “so how did we get there?” affair, with Daken working his way into the right circles, but also undercutting himself by finally discovering some drugs that can overpower his healing powers long enough to have an effect.  The drug sequences are drawn in a completely different style from the rest of the book, piling on the Sienkiewicz influence, though remaining entirely clear.

There’s still a difficulty in building a series around such an unlikeable character, but it can be done in a crime story.  It’s a perfectly decent set-up issue, and I think Williams has the right general idea here.

Generation Hope #8 – The recap page says this is part three of “The Ward”, but it’s pretty clear that we’re on to a different story here.  Teon’s parents are trying to regain custody of him, and the X-Men are resisting it in court – despite not being able to think of any particularly good arguments.

Obviously Teon’s the most striking character in the series, since he’s almost exclusively a creature of instinct.  There’s an argument to be had about whether he’s in any way better off for having powers that have more or less obliterated his personality, but it’s one that the X-Men are notably reluctant to get involved with.  (After all, once you concede the point that some people would be better off if they weren’t mutants…)

So this issue forces the point by getting Teon into court, where it turns out that he is capable of explaining himself if he really wants to.  As Dr Nemesis pointed out in an earlier issue, it’s not so much that Teon can’t understand what’s going on; he just no longer cares most of the time.  It’s a neat little speech which works in its own right, and only gains depth when Kenji shows up at the end to query the logic.  We know what Teon wants, we just can’t be sure why – and that plays into the book’s main running subplot about quite why the cast want to stay with Hope in the first place.

A really good issue, and a great demonstration of why Teon isn’t just the one-note character he might first seem.

Graveyard of Empires #1 – We reviewed this on the podcast, but I think it’s worth flagging up here because it’s far better than I was expecting.  Frankly, the pitch of American soldiers in Afghanistan fighting zombies sounded like a bit of a taste-free train wreck to me, but (as Al points out in the podcast) that’s in large part because zombie stories these days tend to be tongue-in-cheek comedy-horror affairs.  Mark Sable and Paul Azaceta are going back to basics here and using the stock elements of a zombie story (small group under siege by shuffling horde) as an off-beat angle for a story which is fundamentally about how the core cast of US soldiers interact with the locals and each other, as an isolated group surrounded by people they either can’t or won’t trust.  A much more interesting comic than the high concept makes it sound.

Ruse #4 – I’m not holding my breath for a second series of Ruse given that the two CrossGen minis have had rather lousy sales.  But you never know, maybe it’ll find an audience somewhere.  Or maybe Marvel are sufficiently determined to relaunch the CrossGen properties that they’ll hope to try again on the strength of good reviews.  After all, Ruse is both well-suited for movie adaptation, and free-standing, so that it won’t tread on the market for Marvel’s other properties.  You can see why Marvel would want to do something with it.

And Mark Waid and Mirco Pierfederici are doing a very entertaining comedy/detective story here.  Yes, okay, I think it kind of overplays its hand in the final issue by wheeling out the big historical celebrity; I can’t really buy into that, even in the world of this story.  But the two main characters are a clever twist on the Holmes/Watson relationship, and I’d love to read more of this book.

Uncanny X-Men #538 – A very good wrap-up for the “Breaking Point” storyline.  I suspect that this arc started off with one central objective – end the subplot about Kitty being stuck in intangible form – and worked back from there.  Nothing wrong with that.  The Kitty subplot wasn’t going anywhere (and I wonder whether there was also a practical need to resolve it before “Schism”).

But Kieron Gillen’s built a good story around that.  It makes sense to go back to the Breakworld characters to sort out the mess they created.  Kitty’s ghost status is (for once) used effectively in the story, so that it matters when she gets cured.  The cure itself is achieved by a clever use of two elements from Joss Whedon’s original story, both of which are put into play in the earlier issues without making it too obvious.  And alongside all that, there’s a perfectly good story about Kruun looking for revenge and his partner Haleena trying to rein him in – which allows “Breaking Point” to be about something more than simply resolving a Kitty Pryde subplot, since their story is all about being left behind by a changing world.

It’s not perfect.  The subplot about Magneto investigating the Breakworld metal goes nowhere (quite possibly because he was only asking about it in order to establish that Haleena’s knife is special).  Nobody seems appropriately alarmed about Kruun using the Cure.  And to be honest, I don’t really understand why Kruun and Haleena are both alive at the end of the story.  But even so, it’s the best-constructed story arc this book has had in ages.  It helps, of course, that this arc has Terry and Rachel Dodson on art.  Their work is always good, and they’re particularly well suited for Kitty’s phasing effects.  Shame we’re not getting them every month.  But for now, at least, this is the sort of book Uncanny needs to be.

X-Factor #221 – Where the hell is this going?  Feral, it turns out, isn’t alive after all – she’s a ghost, sent along to haunt Wolfsbane and Shatterstar, presumably on the basis that she has vague connections with both characters.  Peter David doesn’t seem all that interested in her beyond that, since he livens up her dialogue with some distracted-cat jokes, and much of the rest of the issue is Wolfsbane coming under attack from mythical beings with cat and dog themes.  I suppose this is the mythical world converging to try and get hold of Rahne’s baby, but at this point in the story, it comes across as largely a bunch of random fight scenes, which is a little disappointing.

X-Men #13 – Continuing the “First to Last” story, and I’m starting to suspect that Christopher Yost has a slightly wonky idea of how evolution works.  Or maybe that’s the point.  The Evolutionaries claim they’re there to “protect evolution itself”, but their idea of doing that is to remove species that would otherwise dominate.  So aren’t they, by definition, getting rid of the evolutionary winners at the expense of the losers?  In fact, with mutants reduced to 200 people on an island, isn’t it indisputable that they’re an evolutionary dead end?  (Mike Carey already went out of his way in “Endangered Species” to establish that the population is too small to breed back to viability.)  I could kind of see it if the idea was that sometimes you need to clear a stagnant dominant species away in order to make way for others to develop and go further… but that’s not really the way it’s presented.

The flashback sequences are quite interesting; Magneto needs to gather his people so that the Evolutionaries will feel free to wipe out humanity, and to that end he needs to get hold of Cerebro.  That, in turn, requires a telepath to operate it, which provides an opportunity to give the past and present sections a further link.  All this is perfectly good.  But the present day sections in this issue are largely an extended fight sequence, and I’m starting to get the feeling that there isn’t enough present-day plot to support this present/past structure.

X-Men: Prelude to Schism #3 – After two issues of Xavier and Magneto delivering extended flashbacks, we change tack… slightly.  This is mostly an issue of Cyclops reminiscing about his mother, which is fine for what it is, but once again seems to have nothing to do with the upcoming crossover.  The last third of the book at least gets to the question of how Scott feels about his leadership position, something which does tie in to “Schism”, and a decision about the unspecified threat that Paul Jenkins hasn’t been writing about for the last few issues.  Perhaps it’ll be apparent with hindsight how any of this connects to the main story, but at this stage it seems like nothing more than a collection of random character observations alongside a mysterious build to something ultimately unrelated.

Bring on the comments

  1. mchan says:

    I thought that the Emma Frost series covered Emma’s childhood backstory pretty extensively, but is there enough leeway for her to be institutionalized, which is the situation (adjectiveless) X-Men puts her in? I understand that this is one of those things where no one remembers anything, but I don’t think that Emma’s institutionalization is the kind of one-off event that can be forgotten or completely reinvented…or I’m completely forgetting a part of the character’s backstory, and maybe someone can fill me in?

  2. Tdubs says:

    What I have read of Rob Williams work so far has me interested. Iron Age and Daken aren’t perfect but are entertaining and different. The 0.1 of Ghost Rider, I hope, was hampered by the .1 concept.

    Generation Hope was great. I want to see this play out and pray Schism doesn’t ruin it.

    Uncanny is so much better even if I felt it was a little disjointed in filling us in on what happened. The resolution with the refugees seemed to easy.

    I think Xfactor could be helped by dumping some of these old dangling plots and moving on.

  3. Will says:

    Emma Frost’s backstory is complicated. Before she got her own series, Generation X established her as having spent time in a mental hospital sa a teenager, then mind controlling her way out.

    Mind you, that stuff appeared to happen some time before the X-Men were formed. Oh, and may have been retconned away by the later series.

  4. moose n squirrel says:

    One wonders what the X-Men mythos would look like if Marvel writers actually knew how evolution worked.

  5. X says:

    Don’t worry about Ruse and the other CrossGen properties Paul. I’m sure Marvel will bolster the sales of any volume 2’s by having Spider-man and Wolverine guest star. They might even replace the creative teams with known draws like Bendis and John Romita Jr if they really want to boost those numbers.

  6. sam says:

    I was also completely confused as to how Haleena and Kruun were both alive at the end of Uncanny #538. Great story otherwise, but the only thing I can think of is that one of the other Breakworlders gave up their life force between panels so that Kruun could live again; that would really change the way the end of the story reads if true. Probably a storytelling mistake, to be honest, but maybe someone else has an idea?

  7. ZZZ says:

    The impression I got was that Kruun somehow channeled half of his life force into Haleena – presumably something that’s always possible, but since their culture considers it so shameful, the donor usually doesn’t want to survive to live with the shame. Possibly it also leaves them weakened, so – if I’m reading it correctly – basically Kruun took a huge hit to his pride and personal power because he finally realized that love and honor etc. etc. etc.

  8. Tom says:

    Yes, Kruun was “half the man he used to be” after he revived Haleena.

  9. Ben says:

    I wouldn’t call 200 mutants an “evolutionary dead end” when their numbers were drastically cut by magic, of all things. I mean if you accept the basic (if illogical) premises of the marvel universe, it wasn’t evolution that took mutants away from a point where they might have usurped mankind as a next-level dominant species, it was the Scarlet Witch.

    Oh, and Hawkeye decided to kamikaze himself into a skrull spaceship after the Vision kamikazed himself into Ant-Man Jr. and Jack of Hearts and Ms. Captain Britain. That really happened, right? Chaos magic theory: If a butterfly flaps its wings in China it causes Brian Bendis to write stilted dialogue in Muncie, Indiana. Evolution, baby.

  10. Tim O'Neil says:

    Well, we know for a fact that evolution doesn’t work in the Marvel Universe the same way it does “in real life,” because in real life our progress wasn’t overseen by 500-foot tall space gods who split us into three distinct sub-species and planet the seeds of super-powered mutation within our genes at the dawn of homo sapiens. There are a couple sideways references to this in the story, enough so that it makes me think that whatever the hell the Eternals were doing when they made the Evolutionaries (I’d bet it was a rogue Eternal of some kind) makes sense in THIS context, if not in any kind of real, honest-to-Dawkins understanding of actual biology.

    Also, I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: it used to be established that mutants did not breed true. I think this was a necessary bit of mythology because it supported the notion that mutants really were just fantastically misunderstood members of the human race. If they breed true they are one step away from being actually being a separate species.

  11. ” In fact, with mutants reduced to 200 people on an island, isn’t it indisputable that they’re an evolutionary dead end? ”

    Well, not really. Mutants can breed with normal humans and (presumably) produce mutant children.

  12. Jerry Ray says:

    Normal humans can breed with normal humans and produce mutant children, too. IIRC, all the original X-Men had “normal” parents (although as I recall, Hank’s dad worked with radiation). The only “dead end” with the whole 198 thing was that Wanda’s magic whammy prevented new mutants from being born at all, not that the 198 remaining mutants weren’t a viable breeding pool.

  13. lambnesio says:

    Right, I think all of the new crop of mutants were presumably born to baseline humans. Mutants were a viable next-step when there were less than 200 of them back in the ’70s and ’80s too.

  14. Delpire says:

    “One wonders what the X-Men mythos would look like if Marvel writers actually knew how evolution worked.”

    Marvel comics vs. Science, Cracked answers.

  15. kingderella says:

    emma frost continuity: if i remember correctly, in gen x frost talks about having spent time in an asylum, but we only have the characters word for it. morrisons new x-men and the emma frost solo book never place her in an asylum, but that doesnt necessarily rule it out. she may have made up the asylum story, inspired by her brother, who did end up in an asylum.

    kruun and haleena: my impression was that kruun was such a strong creature that he survived the process of bringing haleena back to life, but now hes permanently weakened.

  16. Reboot says:

    kingderella – you forget GenX #-1, ja?

  17. Matt Andersen says:

    I thought the Uncanny arc was terrible, to be honest. I liked the art, and I can see Gillen is a good writer (and much better on this book than Fraction had been), and I’d actually love to see more of him in the future. But I find myself totally unable to accept the logic of central points in his plot. I could accept “this magic knife cuts Kitty,” but I find it difficult to wrap my head around “it cuts her because its made of the same metal as the ten kilometer long bullet that she phased through a planet.”

    I could accept Kruun taking out the X-Men with trickery, guile, and advanced technology. I can’t accept a one-armed man without known superpowers beating up Wolverine with the aid of a child’s toy.

    I can’t accept a one armed man blackmailing Shadowcat into taking off her containment suit by threatening to cut her, and then beating up Colossus. He only has one arm, and there’s two of them. How bad could it have gone for them if they just tried to disarm him? They’re X-Men, they deal with knife wielding maniacs all the time.

  18. Cory says:

    To be fair, Kruun has been established as one of the fiercest warriors from his planet and single-handedly (no pun intended) took down Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast, Emma Frost, and Shadowcat at the same time in his first appearance. Pretty much dismantled them. A powerless Colossus and a disabled Shadowcat, in their sleep no less, shouldn’t be much trouble.

  19. Baines says:

    When Beast talked about the gene pool, was it ever said that the “198” could breed true? Or at least the possibility existed?

    And what is the current state of new mutants, anyway?

    Marvel (and Cyclops) made a big deal about Hope and the return to new mutants appearing. But then we got the silly “Lights” concept, where Hope had to show up and jumpstart/fix/release their mutations personally. And then, was there anything else? Have any other new mutants appeared? Any more born? Has Hope been empowering more cases? (I don’t care to read her book, so I don’t know if there are answers there.)

  20. Tom says:

    @Cory: It was actually Ord who took down the AXM squad in Whedon’s run.

    Kruun showed up in the final arc, but he’s supposed to be even better than Ord, so your point stands.

    The Breakworlders also have superhuman strength and durability. Kruun did survive Cyclops blasting him through a wall after all.

  21. ZZZ says:

    I distinctly remember at one point Madrox volunteered to create a bunch of duplicates to help, for lack of a better term, breed new mutants, and the Beast told him that even if he did that there wouldn’t be enough mutants to form a viable gene pool. (Which is total B.S. from a real-world science position, but that’s their story and they’re sticking to it).

    Off the top of my head, I don’t remember how Madrox’s suggestion was supposed to get around the fact that Wanda’s powers were preventing new mutants from being born. I think they were going with the idea that you could no longer have new mutants born to two human parents (which is where most of the existing mutants came from) or to a mutant and a human, but maybe you could have a mutant born to two mutants (who, by definition, each have a still-functional X-gene). As near as I can tell no mutants got pregnant between M Day and Second Coming (except for Siryn by Madrox, which might have been how that came up … y’know, before the unpleasantness) so they couldn’t really rule out the possibility that their kids would be mutants.

    I think the “too few to repopulate the species” party line was put in place to serve the goal of (1) avoiding having to even consider a politically incorrect plotline in which Cyclops orders the remaining mutants to breed like rabbits and the kind of readers who take these things too seriously accuse female X-Men of being irresponsible for fighting crime instead of churning out babies, (2) making it so that any solution to M-Day had to address the global issue (i.e., reverse Wanda’s spell) rather than just focusing on fertility treatments for mutants, and (3) making the future of mutants look as bleak as possible because in some writers’ eyes the X-Men are only interesting if you heap as much hardship on them as possible.

  22. Jacob says:

    With everyone pointing out the holes in Beast’s scientific theories, how long do you reckon till writers start using it as a plot point; that Beast isn’t actually as smart as he claims. It could be the new ‘Prof X was actually a bit of a dick’ bandwagon.

  23. Dimitri says:

    The fact that Marvel science doesn’t match real science doesn’t bother me, especially not in X-Men. where the “fiction” part of “science-fiction” is inherent to the premise. Mutations that transform one species into another don’t occur in waves. They take place over millions of generations through natural selection. In other words, real science = no X-Men. It seems arbitrary to complain about evolutionary realism now.

    For the record, I’m not saying “science-fiction” means you can do anything you want without worrying about consistency or suspension of disbelief, but I feel if you’re even picking up X-Men, you should have accepted by now, based on the premise alone, that their evolution doesn’t work the way ours does. This is not a case of the writers being ignorant. It’s a case of the writers writing.

    Otherwise, you may as well complain about the existence of magic in Harry Potter or the flag-waving in Independence Day. You would be technically right, but at the same time, what did you expect?

  24. Cory says:

    Tom: Heh, damn. How bad is it that I totally couldn’t tell the difference between the two characters and forgot there was even a distinction? It’s been a long time since I read any of those stories, but they obviously didn’t leave a lasting impression, either…

  25. Matt Andersen says:


    “@Cory: It was actually Ord who took down the AXM squad in Whedon’s run.

    Kruun showed up in the final arc, but he’s supposed to be even better than Ord, so your point stands.”

    I dont think they ever say Kruun was better than Ord–actually, wasn’t Ord explicitly the greatest warrior of his planet? Kruun was just an incredibly brutal and ultra-competent dictator who managed to butcher his way to power. Which is certaintly impressive, but when Armor manages to solo her way through large swatches of your army…

    But yeah, creator’s liscence I guess. Gillen could have just had Kruun be stronger and better than everyone once mutant powers were taken out of the equation. But he didn’t. He created a situation where Kruun was getting the worst of bare knuckle brawling with Wolverine, but for some reason Colossus and Shadowcat were paralyzed with fear at the thought of fighting him as a team.

  26. Tim O'Neil says:

    The X-gene has nothing to do with “real” evolution, it was created by 500 foot tall space gods and implanted in our DNA millions of years ago for mysterious reasons. So, yeah, evolution =/= X-Men.

    Also, the Madrox solution was moot since we’ve all seen exactly why Madrox, and especially his dupes, can’t reproduce.

  27. ZZZ says:

    Well, like I said, his proposed solution (the incredibly noble sacrifice of volunteering to have sex with every female mutant they could round up) was made before the unpleasantness with Siryn (i.e., before anyone – except, presumably, Peter David – knew that Siryn’s pregnancy wasn’t going to work out). The main point is that Marvel was doing everything short of actually having Beast break the fourth wall and say “Hey, reader! Yeah you! That thing you’re thinking that we should do? We tried that. Off panel. And it didn’t work!” to underline, capitalize, and italicise the fact that the X-Men tried everything but nothing could reverse M-Day. And part of that included insisting that even if the 198 could have mutant children, there wouldn’t be enough of them to ever get back to their pre-M-Day numbers.

  28. Tim O'Neil says:

    Didn’t PAD throw out something in passing a long while back about Madrox maybe not even being a mutant at all? Was that just a red herring that never went anywhere, or am I imagining it?

  29. X says:

    @ Tim O’Neil

    You’re not imagining it. PAD introduced the concept of Madrox not being the typical type of mutant way early in his current X-factor run. I think he said in an interview that it was his way of explaining why Madrox had his powers from birth as opposed to gaining them at puberty like most of the mutants we know of did. Since then PAD hasn’t really done anything with that plot point, but I suspect he’ll come back to it once the villain he used to introduce the concept, Mister Tryp, appears again.

  30. Jeff says:

    It’s not the first time a mutant would have his powers at birth. PAD merely put a name and a little background on it. I liked it.

  31. Jacob says:

    Have to say I didn’t like the whole ‘changeling’ thing. It’s taking a minor anecdotal piece of a characters history (Jamie created a dupe when the doctor slapped him as a baby) which goes against established continuity (mutants generally get their powers as teenagers) and trying to explain it for sake of continuity whilst needlessly overcomplicating a character.

    Mind you someone could just write Mr Tryp off as unreliable source of information.

  32. JD says:

    Hey, it’s been established since X-Men #15 (way back in the Silver Age) that some mutants get their powers at birth. (In that case, Beast.) The idea’s been around for ages, PAD just gave a name to it.

  33. Jacob says:

    Exactly, I don’t see why it needs a name. Its a mutation, it’s a random. Why over-complicate things by calling them ‘changelings’?

    It’s like when Cannonball was an ‘External’. Or when Spiderman was a ‘Spider-totem’. Some powers and storylines become more complicated when you try and classify or explain them.

    I also don’t like the concept of ‘Omega Mutants’

  34. Jeff says:

    What’s been done so far is hardly over-complicating/ed. I enjoyed this little bit of almost science information that’s for once not that far fetched. It’s still super-heroic darwinism but it’s far better than Apocalypse’s poor grasp of neo-darwinism or race classification in MU.

  35. lambnesio says:

    “I dont think they ever say Kruun was better than Ord–actually, wasn’t Ord explicitly the greatest warrior of his planet? Kruun was just an incredibly brutal and ultra-competent dictator who managed to butcher his way to power. Which is certaintly impressive, but when Armor manages to solo her way through large swatches of your army…”

    Actually, Ord was established to be pretty weak relative to his people, and kind of a total loser who was trying to prove himself on Earth. Which was meant to be terrifying since even he was able to take the X-Men down.

  36. The original Matt says:

    Didn’t Ord have to fight for the privelage to go to Earth? So he was the toughest of the breakworld’s d-listers?

  37. kelvingreen says:

    They might even replace the creative teams with known draws like Bendis

    Much as I dislike his writing, Bendis might be able to do a good job on Ruse as it was — in its first incarnation, no pun intended — a comic that thrived on banter between the two leads. He’d be much better suited to that than Avengers, anyway.

  38. maxwell's hammer says:

    @ Matt Anderson: its a pretty standard comic book trope to establish a bad guy as a serious threat by having him beat up an unstoppable character, only to have the defeated character return in the final act amped up by the spirit of love or cooperation or teamwork or Hulkamania (or whatever) and then defeat previously established badass enemy. I mean seriously, how many times has Juggernaut been punched into the stratosphere to show how dangerous some enegmatic new bad guy is? Bendis even did it with Red Hulk in this week’s episode of Avengers. If you have issues what that setup, I can’t imagine how you’ve lasted reading comics this long.

    @ Tim O’Niell: I don’t think it was established that Madrox can’t have children. The problem was that Teresa was impregnated by a dupe, so the baby was nothing more than a dupe as well.

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