RSS Feed
May 25

The X-Axis – w/c 22 May 2023

Posted on Thursday, May 25, 2023 by Paul in x-axis

Just one core book this week, so we’re straight on to the capsules.

X-MEN UNLIMITED INFINITY COMIC #88. By Steve Orlando, Emilio Laiso & Rachelle Rosenberg. Okay, so this is clearly us building to the big finale. Nature Girl has finally moved beyond eco-terrorism to outright atrocity, and the real X-Men finally show up to deal with her. It’s straightforward, and at this point Nature Girl isn’t what you’d call a subtle character – her back story and her previous established persona is doing a lot of the work here by providing some context for her. Laiso’s art, meanwhile, works hard to invest us in the mega-obscure Spider-Girl. As is often the case with X-Men Unlimited, it’s more of a scene than a story, but on a weekly schedule there’s nothing wrong with that.

NEW MUTANTS: LETHAL LEGION #3. (Annotations here.) I’m counting this as a core title because it’s basically a continuation of New Mutants, but if we’re being honest, we’re on the fringes of Krakoan continuity here too. It remains very much a book centred on Charlie Jane Anders’ new character Escapade, which I don’t really have a problem with, since I quite like Escapade – but the established cast are getting marginalised. The middle section has some awkward cutting back and forth between scenes mid-page, which might have worked better if they were coloured more distinctively from another, but winds up feeling a bit confused at times. Still, this is mostly good fun as things start escalating at Nefaria’s Mansion, with a bit of soap opera for Escapade, Morgan and Cerebella thrown in. There’s a lot of personality in both writing and art, and it’s a very likeable series.

BISHOP: WAR COLLEGE #4. By J Holtham, Sean Damien Hill, Victor Nava, Alberto Foche & Espen Grundetjern. This is a strange old book. The A plot – though in this issue, it’s really the B plot – sees Bishop transported to an alternate Earth where only black people are mutants. That idea feels underdeveloped. In practice it mostly draws parallels between racism and the treatment of mutants, which is the central metaphor anyway. And wouldn’t the angle be stronger if the local X-Men team consisted of the established black members plus a bunch of new characters, rather than a load of high-profile white characters who just happen to be black in this world – and people like Scott and Charles were just not mutants? Meanwhile, back on Krakoa, Orchis are apparently trying to break into the Pit and free the prisoners… which presumably means they don’t know about Sabretooth & The Exiles, a book where they were the main villains. I suppose you can make that work if Graydon Creed never passed on any intelligence, but it’s a bit weird. Anyway, this side of the plot just feels mechanical, and I have no real idea what’s supposed to link it to the other half of the book. A whole load of puzzling, unsatisfying choices going on here. Maybe it’ll all click in the final issue, but it’s not convincing me at all right now.

THE X-CELLENT #3. By Peter Milligan, Michael Allred & Laura Allred. I’ve only just noticed that this book has a legacy number… of #8, to tie it to the mini-series that contained the first half of the same story. Odd choice. Anyhow, X-Cellent feels like a niche book in 2023, but it’s almost revelling in being slightly out of date. There are good lines in this: “The Hollywood Walk of Fame is more than just a sidewalk. It represents everything we stand for.” The absurdly 50s-retro robot that threatens people with doxing is perfectly pitched. It works more as a series of absurd moments than as an actual story, admittedly – all the stuff about competing for followers as the modern day version of worshippers does feel a few years behind the times even allowing for the book’s self-deprecation. But it is genuinely funny.

STORM #1. By Ann Nocenti, Sid Kotian & Andrew Dalhouse. Yet another of Marvel’s continuity implant minis, this time set “around the time frame of Uncanny X-Men #176″. In other words, Storm has just switched to her mohawk look, and Cyclops has just got married and retired, leaving her as the clear team leader. Most of these flashback minis are going in large part for the nostalgia angle, but even if Nocenti was the Uncanny editor at this point, her style is very different from Chris Claremont. You get a lot of metaphors for Big Ideas in Ann Nocenti stories, and there’s certainly a lot of that here, with musings about the wider consequences of playing with the weather, and a biker guy who’s invited a nanotech solution to pollution. There’s more X-Men character material than you might expect, though, with an extended Storm-as-leader montage to establish that she’s fallen out in a big way with Kitty (who did indeed react very badly to the change of look). Nocenti seems to be writing the next phase of the mother/daughter relationship, as Kitty hits the teenage years and starts hanging out with a bad influence – Rogue, who’s only just joined at this point. There’s an interesting bit too with Wolverine gently questioning what on earth the whole mohawk thing has to do with Ororo’s personality or any of her actual interests. The art’s pretty good – not showy, but a lot of strong storytelling. Mind you, it wouldn’t be an Ann Nocenti comic without a few awkward bits – lines of dialogue that feel a bit off, or people talking about Sid Vicious (1957-1979) as if he was a contemporary reference. Still, there’s a lot of interesting stuff in here, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series more than I was expecting to.

Bring on the comments

  1. Sol says:

    Aw dang, I bought Storm #1 this afternoon on the strength of the listed Nocenti / Alan Davis team, don’t tell me he’s only the cover artist?!

  2. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    The ‘only black people are mutants’ and ‘some of the familiar white characters are black’ are the two ideas that I’ve mentioned in my comment under the New Mutants LL#3 annotations as not going together at all. That’s a slight misfire in and of itself, and then to have the young mutants in their completely separate sideplot is just another baffling choice.

    And I wonder if we’re going to learn what happened to the Tempo of this world, or is that just never going to come up.

    Storm #1 was much more interesting than I’ve anticipated, though the characters seem… both like condensed versions of themselves and slightly off on top of that? Weird, but not off-puttingly so.

    Also this was one of a seemingly increasing number of books that hit Marvel Unlimited on the day of publication.
    In some cases it’s clearly a matter of promotion – MacKay’s Avengers #1 appeared on MU a few days after publication, it’s a start of a new Avengers run, you want as many eyes on that as possible. Same thing with the new Guardians of the Galaxy, new run, right as the movie is coming out – it makes sense. Only #1 is on MU, for #2 you have to wait or buy now. First one’s free and all that. (Well, ‘free’ as in ‘included in the subscription fee’).

    But Storm #1? Is Nocenti that big a name?
    The other #1 on MU this week is Daredevil & Echo #1 by Taboo…

  3. Paul says:

    My impression is that Marvel are sticking most of their issue #1s on Unlimited almost immediately now. Clearly once subscribers pick up on this, it’ll damage digital sales of issue #1s – albeit in service of encouraging them to buy issue #2 – but it looks very much like another sign of Marvel’s collapsing relationship with Amazon.

  4. Chris V says:

    There was also an accident involving a truck carrying Marvel and IDW comics to the northeast of the US/Canada. The comics were ruined and were unable to reach store shelves this week. Marvel released a message saying that they will be unable to fulfill the reorders until the first or second week of June. I wonder if that lead to Marvel making the decision to put the Storm issue on Unlimited immediately, to make up for the delay.
    Was Fury #1 also listed? It was another Marvel book affected by the delay.

  5. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I’m looking at the ‘new this week’ section of MU and it has Storm #1, Avengers #1, Daredevil & Echo #1, Silk #1, Danny Ketch: Ghost Rider #1 and Carnage Reigns: Alpha #1, which are all May releases, though only Storm and D&E are from this week’s crop.

  6. Chris V says:

    OK, I guess it has nothing to do with the physical copies for this week’s books being unavailable in certain areas until June.

  7. Michael says:

    The weird thing about Orchis not knowing Sabretooth is free is that we saw Grayson writing a memo to his superiors at Orchis saying that Stations 1 through 4 have been lost but Station 5 has been hyperfocused on finding a way to kill Sabretooth and I’ve found it, so leave me on Station 5. Did the leadership of Orchis not check their inboxes, even though they would have presumably wanted to know what happened to the Stations? Or did they not draw the blindingly obvious conclusion that Graydon was saying that Sabretooth had escaped, was involved In what happened to Stations 1 through 4 and Graydon was expecting to kill him on Station 5?

  8. Josie says:

    “I’ve only just noticed that this book has a legacy number… of #8”

    It’s kind of nuts to me they’re even including “legacy numbering” on Miracleman. If any property Marvel is publishing can justify being a series of miniseries, it’s Miracleman. Oh well.

  9. James Moar says:

    On the other hand, if there’s any series that’s justified in boasting it finally reached issue 25….

  10. Josie says:

    I wasn’t aware that reaching 25 issues was something to boast about. There were already Miracleman spinoffs, not to mention the Mick Anglo books, so there are actually over a hundred issues in existence.

  11. Karl_H says:

    Nocenti’s dialog has always seemed slightly ‘off’ to me, like a series of almost-but-not-quite-non-sequiturs. For me it works best in the context of new characters, like the original Longshot miniseries, where that’s just how they talk, as opposed to existing characters.

  12. Luis Dantas says:

    Early Ann Nocenti works had a tendency to spotlight protagonists in a constant state of mild delirium, almost as if trying to interact with two different worlds at the same time. It happened with Daredevil for most of her run even after she stopped featuring Typhoid Mary, and it happened with Longshot for the whole series.

    If she can reign that in, she is probably a good writer for instrospective, first-person narration stuff.

  13. Mike Loughlin says:

    I like how Nocenti writes dialogue, in general. The dream-state monologues, philosophical digressions, and the way characters choose to react to each other keep her comics interesting. She wrote a line in Daredevil in which a disguised Mephisto asked Matt about whether stealing one dollar was as bad as stealing a million dollars and he replied yes, and maybe worse. That particular exchange pops into my head often. I’ll have to pick up Storm, even though I haven’t liked many of Marvel’s recent wave of nostalgia comics.

  14. Another Sam says:

    I was pleasantly surprised to see Ann Nocenti’s name pop up here, had no idea she was writing Storm and will take a look. Her work can be hit or miss at times, but I’ve always thought her to possess a really distinct voice. She seems to care very much about the points she is trying to communicate, and as others have said, couches them in these strange, poetic diatribes that be really effective at times.

  15. Thom H. says:

    Nocenti and Sean Phillips were a great team on Kid Eternity back in the day. Such weird ideas portrayed in his beautiful graphic style.

  16. Chris V says:

    Nice to see the Nocenti appreciation here. She seems to be a very divisive writer. She’s one of my very favourite comic writers. I love her run on DD with Romita Jr., I enjoyed it more than the Miller run, to be honest.

  17. CalvinPitt says:

    Nocenti’s Daredevil run is my favorite. I get why some people find her dialogue a little stilted or unnatural. I grant there probably aren’t many people who talk that way. But I enjoy it, and I always feel like there’s a lot going on in her stories. Fun to try and pull apart.

  18. Jenny says:

    I absolutely prefer dialogue that’s very striking and distinct (even if others call it distinctive) over the Bendis/Ellis-isms that continue to pervade modern comic writing, so I absolutely agree with the praise of Nocenti.

  19. Chris says:

    Scripted doalogue is literally unnatural.

    It doesn’t have to be realistic.

  20. Mike Loughlin says:

    @Chris & @Jenny: exactly! I don’t like reality tv for many reasons, one of the biggest being how bland the “dialogue” can be. I *like* stylized prose in comics.
    Who is your favorite (Big 2) comic book writer? Alan Moore? Chris Claremont? Grant Morrison? Garth Ennis? Jonathan Hickman? None of them write naturalistic dialogue. The writer who comes closest might be Ed Brubaker or the aforementioned Brian Bendis. They may write closer to how real people speak than Stan Lee or Mark Millar, but they still have stylistic tics.

  21. Chris V says:

    Bendis’ dialogue isn’t natural. It’s formalistic. It’s the way a university writing student writes characters in an attempt to sound literary and deep (probably after reading Ernest Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”). In actuality, all the characters sound the same, like they are from some art-aspiring TV show. No one actually speaks the way Bendis writes.
    With Hemingway’s story, it wasn’t the way he wrote every one of his stories. Not everyone is all of his stories speak in the way they do in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”. The other difference is that it may be easy to copy Hemingway’s style, but with Bendis so much of his dialogue is superficial, which is the biggest difference between Hemingway’s story versus trying to make all your characters’ voices sound in that manner.

    I’d say that Garth Ennis can definitely write naturalistic dialogue, when he chooses. He can write very realistic young, working class Irish people. He just chooses to usually do other things with his fiction.

  22. Mike Loughlin says:

    @Chris V- yeah, I’m using a sliding scale. Bendis puts noncontextual sounds (“uhhh”), repetitions, slang, and start-stop rhythms (“you don’t- you don’t, like, mean that?”) in his dialogue, mimicking “real speech,” which wasn’t common or accepted practice in super-hero comics prior to his ascent. He does, unfortunately, write most of his characters with a similar voice.

    Garth Ennis *can* write more naturalistic dialogue, best exemplified in that post-Hellblazer one-shot he did starring Kit- called “Heartland” or something? Too lazy to look it up at the moment- and you’re probably right that he does it best when writing working-class Irish youth. He does, however, choose to write in different, less-realistic voices more often than not.

  23. Mark Coale says:

    Bendis loves David Mamet and you can see that influence in his writing.

  24. Salloh says:

    “Bendis’ dialogue isn’t natural. It’s formalistic.”

    I think you’re in point, though i wouldn’t necessarily describe it as formalistic. Definitely studied and intellectualized, without much of the emotional substance that would justify that approach.

    That being said, I’ve never gotten over Xavier’s reaction to reading Eva Bell’s mind as she travelled to the past to confront them.

    “You’ve ruined my life” is exactly what a 16 year old would say in a 90s sitcom after being told they can’t go to prom. Ridiculously off-key.

  25. Josie says:

    The issue isn’t that Bendis’s dialogue is always the same, the issue is that he employs this style in order to avoid giving characters any motivation. Reread any point of his Avengers comics. What do the villains ever want? They want power and money broadly, but there’s never any explanation why. They never elaborate on what they want to do or achieve, it’s always just power for the sake of power, being “the kingpin” of all supervillains for its own sake.

  26. Mike Loughlin says:

    I think Bendis prefers writing dialogue to the rest of the comic book-making process, to the detriment of his work. His plotting and pacing has always been shoddy. Even his good comics have issues with plots being “stuff happens” in between conversations and moping. Letting him write full-script resulted in a lot of dull, poorly-paced comics with confusing layouts and cookie-cutter fight scenes.

Leave a Reply