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Apr 30

The X-Axis: w/c 24 April 2023

Posted on Sunday, April 30, 2023 by Paul in x-axis

SINS OF SINISTER: DOMINION #1. (Annotations here.) The end of the Sins of Sinister crossover, which has been pretty successful. Yes, there’s still a degree of haziness over what exactly a Dominion is – we seem to have slipped somewhere from it being a collective consciousness into being a single ascended person. And yes, I’m not really sure I follow the mechanics of what Moira actually does to influence events in the rebooted timeline – there’s a bit of handwaving going on there. But I’ll let it slide because the big picture works. It’s a dead end, but it’s a thousand years of dead end. In a perverse kind of way, the sheer scale of its pointlessness contributes to the awfulness of it all. You could make a case that it’s all rather abstract and distanced from human concerns, but again, that feels to me like precisely the impression you want to create about a timeline knocked disastrously off course in this way. And Paco Medina gives the finale a nice sense of scale, too.

And besides, it’s not simply a self-cancelling time loop. Rasputin IV sticks around. The storyline of Sinister and his Moira Engine is resolved. The entire direction of Mother Righteous and the Quiet Council is changed. The ending here is a big surprise and it works all the better because, alongside three months of Sinister Gone Wrong, we’ve also had a pretty good idea of what Mother Righteous’s preferred timeline might look like. I can see why people might have issues with some of this arc, but I liked it a lot.

BETSY BRADDOCK: CAPTAIN BRITAIN #3. (Annotations here.) On the other hand…

This hasn’t been solicited past issue #5. It might be a season break, since Fall of X is coming up, but given that Morgan’s plan seems to be cutting to the chase, I have my doubts. It’s not as easy to get sales figures as it used to be, but apparently ICV2’s estimates (which are paywalled) had issue #1 at number 87 and issue #2 at 184, which is… terrible, frankly. Part of me admires Marvel’s persistence in a story that they clearly believe in, but I really have no interest in seeing yet another relaunch of this book. It’s time to chalk it up to experience.

Vasco Georgiev’s art is the high point here – the Union Jack Fury looks great, and he does a decent enough fight scene. Morgan’s base is a little bland but his the character work is solid. Otherwise, though, I have very little interest in this. To be fair, I’m never that keen on the fantasy side of the franchise. Even so, I thought that rebooting Excalibur as Knights of X was a basically sound idea, since it got the focus onto the fantasy genre elements that felt like Excalibur‘s most successful feature.

Returning to present-day England is precisely the opposite. As I’ve said before, if your story is about who gets to be Captain Britain, you’ve kind of got to engage on some level with, well, Britishness. That doesn’t have to mean a British writer, but national identity and right-wing authoritarianism have been major political issues for the last few years and… well, some kind of grasp of them would help. When you ask me to believe in a reactionary Arthurian mystical group which is apparently just an influential thing in the British establishment… that’s batshit insane, but more to the point, it’s utterly divorced from anything it’s purporting to signify. The cultural reference points of the British right are closer to the nineteenth century than the ninth. Empire, monarchy, tradition, ceremony, nice castles, cultural conservatism, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, the village pub. You can add to that an irrational loathing of the European Union, of immigration and of a vaguely conceived liberal elite.

But Arthurian mythology and Morgan Le Fey? It’s a universal reference point in the sense that it’s a story everyone knows. But it’s not contentious, because an active interest in it is mostly confined to fringe religious groups, ageing hippies, and fantasy novelists. Britain’s version of the culture wars is being fought elsewhere. You can do a story about how this sort of mythos can shape unexamined assumptions, and how that can be manipulated. That’s basically what the recent Black Knight mini did. But this just feels like a parallel reality for tourists, and if something’s going to change my feelings on that, it’s being left terribly late.

X-MEN UNLIMITED INFINITY COMIC #84. By Grace Freud, Alberto Alburquerque & Rachelle Rosenberg. Last week’s issue was too much of a generic Mojo story for my tastes, but this is better. Apparently we’re taking literally the idea that the “unofficial X-Men” have been trapped by Mojo in a time warp for decades making (dreadful) TV for him, and everyone has settled into a kind of routine, living actual lives. It’s a change from “Mojo tries to kill the X-Men and calls it a TV show”. It looks like we’re cutting to the chase next issue, with the real X-Men coming to the rescue, but I like the idea of Mojo being used for a broader range of “reality” programming. I’d actually have preferred to spend a bit more time on this part.

DEADPOOL #6. By Alyssa Wong, Javier Pina & Matt Milla. Does this count as an X-book? I’d generally say no – Deadpool‘s a spin-off that went its own way, like Alpha Flight – but it’s got an X-office trade dress so I guess it counts for now.

Anyway, this is fun. It’s Deadpool’s first date with his new love interest Valentine Vuong, while dodging assassination attempts from the Atelier organisation from the previous few issues, basically. It’s quite sweet, there’s some good jokes, and I like the art – bright and clean works for Deadpool, since it’s something that the darker stuff can contrast with. Not that this is a particularly dark story, mind you. My main issue with the current run is that it feels a bit lightweight, not to mention a bit decompressed for 2023. There’s not a huge amount of forward progression or plot complexity. But that’s not really what it’s going for. What it does bring to the table is a likeable, if light and frothy, tone. I’m not entirely sure that’s what people are looking for in a Deadpool comic, but there’s certainly a space for it in the line.


Bring on the comments

  1. Moonstar Dynasty says:

    @ Paul: You have the Deadpool #6 capsule review listed twice here, fyi.

    Re: Sins of Sinister: The story, in principle, in sound, but I’m still not a fan of how hyper compressed it was, even if that is a core component of the conceit of the story. That said, I actually quite liked all of Rasputin IV’s bits, and the QC/Mother Righteous alignment + casting of the compromised QC members into the Pit was a genuinely surprising swerve. I’m buy Mother Righteous as an intriguing schemer for the moment, and I’m looking forward to seeing the interplay between her and magic-focused Apocalypse/Genesis/Four Horsemen/Amenth (if any) during Fall of X.

    And, if nothing else, I suppose we can look forward to an upcoming announcement of Sins of Sinister: Legends in the coming years to gap-fill 1,000 years worth of stories. Who would even write something like that?

  2. Paul says:

    Oops. Fixed – thanks.

  3. Mathias X says:

    If I have to pick between the hypercompression of SoS and the hyperdecompression of Age of Ultron, I’ll take compression every time

  4. Will Cooling says:

    You know…it would be a very interesting intellectual exercise to try and write a book set in Britain that made plausible the use of Arthurian mythos as the hinterland for a blood and soil fascist movement. I ironically think the problem such an attempt would encounter is that it would offend a lot of progressive people who have a soft spot for that sort of thing, and wouldn’t like its more conservative implications foregrounded.

  5. Josie says:

    “the hyperdecompression of Age of Ultron”

    I wouldn’t say Age of Ultron was decompressed, because it never actually had a story. It was a bunch of scenes that took place around the actual story. WE NEVER ACTUALLY SAW ULTRON. We were told he was a threat to the future, and then we jumped to the future and he had taken over, and he was so powerful he himself had no further involvement in anything.

    On a side note, I’ve been reading through Brubaker’s entire Captain America run for the first time, after having reread parts of Bendis’s New Avengers, and what strikes me is how effectively Brubaker utilizes the Marvel U status quo in this era, whereas Bendis just kept spinning his wheels until a new event lurched the Marvel U into a new status quo.

    Tony Stark as head of SHIELD is crucial to the storylines and agendas of just about every character in Brubaker’s book, and he also doesn’t portray Stark as a single-minded fascist. Stark is self-absorbed but ultimately seeking what he considers to be the greater good (i.e. people not getting hurt and killed), not just “law for the law’s sake” like in every other Marvel book at the time.

    Contrast that with New Avengers, where it’s leaked that Stark has stolen the body of Steve Rogers, so the New Avengers infiltrate Avengers Tower to steal it back, but it was a setup because Stark JUST WANTS TO ARREST EVERYONE and so they pointlessly fight.

  6. Alexx Kay says:

    It’s absolutely possible to use Arthurian themes to comment on modern British politics. X-writer Kieron Gillen has demonstrated that brilliantly with Once & Future.

    It’s possible that Marvel corporate is (or is perceived as) too cowardly to address actual current British politics. In which case, Tini may be falling back on the classic X-Men bit of using mutant-ness as a metaphor. Mind you, I don’t claim she’s being terribly successful, if that’s her goal; just that it might be what she’s attempting.

    I will give Tini full credit for fighting the good fight with corporate to get another canon lesbian couple on the page. That their relationship is healthy, but imperfect, is icing on the cake.

  7. Sam says:

    I’m going to be honest, any time I see an annotation for a Tini Howard or Benjamin Percy book, I get out my popcorn. I think if the two collaborated on a “Pete Wisdom and MI6” book, it might hospitalize Paul.

  8. Chris V says:

    I was thinking the same thing about Gillen and Once & Future. I don’t think the problem is found in Howard’s metaphor or trappings, it’s just that some seem to be mistaking that as the problem rather than poor writing. Gillen has shown how using the Arthurian myths in relation to nationalism and xenophobia can very easily be made to work.

  9. Paul says:

    I’d grant that another possible reading is the complete failure to put in the groundwork to explain why anyone cares what Reuben Brousseau thinks about anything.

  10. Loz says:

    Was anything ever resolved with baby Shogo the dragon or is it just that he and his mom just aren’t appearing in a Tini Howard comic any more?

    I do feel sorry for her. For a long time writers would do solid four issue stories that they would have to stretch out to cover six issues. With ‘Knights of X’ and ‘X-Corp’ she seemed to have a 12 to 15 issue story that has to be compressed down to five issues, after issue 4 has already been sent to print. I’d love to know what the higher-ups in the X-office are thinking.

  11. CitizenBane says:

    If the issue is that Tini Howard doesn’t move comics off the shelves, I’d like to know how she keeps getting new series to write.

  12. Jeff says:

    I liked a lot of Sins of Sinister, although I thought the art started to look progressively more rushed by the end. I loved the takes on tropes from various sci-fi classics filtered though an X-Men lens and I liked a lot of the new characters, too. I’m onboard with Iron Fire, who seems to be divisive here.

    I agree with everyone that we’ve reached a point where Hickman leaving is starting to be kind of an issue. I don’t know what’s going on with the dominions any more.

    Also, can someone correct me if I’m wrong here, but I always kind of assumed Hickman was setting up that the Rasputin IV from PoX was going to reappear after emerging from the black hole, but now we’ve got a cloned version of an alternate timeline version that’s under the control of Mother Righteous. It feels a little like adding a hat on a hat when there was a simple explanation waiting right there. (I still like the character and especially the design, though)

  13. Josie says:

    This is not a defense of Howard’s writing in any way whatsoever, but we’ve seen plenty of examples of writers being rewarded with more series simply for being reliable. Sometimes it’s because they’re fast. Sometimes it’s because they deliver exactly what the editor requested and are easy to work with. I can think of plenty of writers whose careers outlasted their talent, if they ever had any. It comes down to more than just positive reviews or great sales. It’s a business, both in the shops and in the offices.

  14. SanityOrMadness says:

    Alexx Kay> It’s possible that Marvel corporate is (or is perceived as) too cowardly to address actual current British politics.

    There was a pretty pointed bit in the most recent Dr Strange #1, where the UK authorities try to deport a bunch of magical refugees to an interdimensional warlord who they’re all justifiably terrified of. (They even get some away before Strange & Clea turn up and rescue the remainder.)

  15. Mike Loughlin says:

    I doubt Marvel corporate is leaning hard on Tini Howard. Her editors certainly weren’t. Excalibur got less coherent as it ran, making it the most frustrating series of its time. It felt like there was little to no connective tissue between scenes or events, and entire issues were put in place to stall out the Otherworld wars. I’ll stick with meh comics like X/Force, before comics that are frustrating to read and make me feel like I missed something.

  16. Jason says:

    I don’t think there needs to be a contradiction between all of Hickman’s ideas for the Dominion and what we see in Sins of Sinister; I think you can read it as Sinister, using genetic tampering, telepathy, and science shenanigans, used all the mutants spread across the galaxy that he had made into “him” to form a collective consciousness that could rise to the level of a Dominion. It’s not that the Dominion Sinister would become is just him ascended, it’s all of the mutants drawn into him ascended together. In his particular case, because all the mutants were Sinisterized, he’s able to be the predominant personality which the Dominion takes the essence of, but he’s still technically a collective. Maybe this is unique to a Sinister Dominion; that’s why his is red and black instead of yellow and black.

    It’s a little messy but it’s not like Hickman’s “science” was perfect either.

    There are other issues with the Dominions but I don’t necessarily see a contradiction here. Perhaps Essex, Stasis, Stellaris, or Righteous, or whoever it was that achieved Dominion and blocked Sinister from doing so, also did so with a collective consciousness but through a different method we haven’t seen yet.

  17. Chris V says:

    I think it’s the art and writing which lets the scene down. What happens if you download the combined information of beings from across the universe? You continue to act the same and you start to grow really big. I think Hickman’s writing/description of the scene would have been a bit more mind-expanding. The whole thing was presented as pedestrian.

    As far as a collective consciousness, we have only seen Dominions created by AI. We know that the Phalanx hivemind assimilates greater and greater sums of knowledge from worthy civilizations which it downloads to the Dominion to become part of the collective consciousness. We don’t really know if there is an intelligence guiding the whole. I expect that it would be like Asimov’s MULTIVAC from “The Final Question”. AI spreads across the universe, but it feeds information inwards towards a further and further centralized source which evolves to such an advanced state until the sum total of information collapses time and space into a Singularity.

  18. neutrino says:

    @SanityOrMadness Was Coven Akkaba or Morgan le Fey mentioned in Dr. Strange #1? He’s fought her before.

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