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Nov 19

The X-Axis – w/c 13 November 2023

Posted on Sunday, November 19, 2023 by Paul in x-axis

X-MEN UNLIMITED INFINITY COMIC #113. By Steve Foxe, Steve Orlando, Guillermo Sanna, Java Tartaglia & Travis Lanham. Infinity Comics don’t really lend themselves to writing reviews of individual chapters, since they’re often just extended scenes – something that’s absolutely fine when you’re releasing on a weekly schedule. This is one such issue, and on those terms, perfectly decent. It’s Firestar trying to help Orchis capture her ex-fiancée Justice in order to keep up her cover. We don’t see much of Justice in the X-books, despite the fact that he’s a relatively high profile mutant, but it makes sense to bring him over for a Firestar arc. If you want to have Firestar feel uncomfortable about how she’s perceived by her friends while undercover, Justice is a much better choice for that role than any of the regular X-Men. The plot is exactly what you’d expect, but it’s handled quite nicely, with Justice knowing Firestar well enough to get that none of this makes sense, and Firestar bringing up uncomfortable bits of past continuity in order to sell him on her supposed sincerity.

JEAN GREY #4. (Annotations here.) Some of the Fall of X minis are already ending, others are on their penultimate issue. That was quick. At this point, it seems clear enough that some books are central to key storylines (X-Men, Immortal X-MenX-Men Red, Invincible Iron Man); some are just carrying on with their own thing (Wolverine, X-ForceLegion of X / Uncanny Spider-Man); and… well, the publishing schedule says we still need more books. Jean Grey is three issues of What If…? stories based on points in Jean’s life, with a fourth issue that spells out the message we’re meant to be taking from the first three. That message, more or less, is that Jean shouldn’t be second guessing her past choices because anything else that she could have done would have been worse. For that to work, you have to accept that the Phoenix Force is being honest with her. But if it’s not, what’s the story? Even taking it at face value, though, I don’t think this sticks the landing. I’ve generally enjoyed this series as what it is, but I’m not convinced it’s taken Jean anywhere. It’s not as if this sort of self-doubt has been a key character note; if anything, Gerry Duggan tends to write her as supremely confident in her power and her moral choices, albeit with the occasional bit of hand-wringing about that time Dark Phoenix committed genocide. This issue is working hard to sell the idea that the last few issues have taught us something important about Jean, and I’m really not convinced that they have.

ASTONISHING ICEMAN #4. (Annotations here.) Mostly a fight scene, but hey, it’s a very nice looking fight scene. Astonishing Iceman isn’t central to the event either, but it gives a much clearer idea of what it’s for. The defiantly upbeat tone makes it one of the easiest Fall of X books to actually enjoy. It uses the event as the occasion to write Iceman as the last hero standing, and if it’s turning a blind eye to all those other X-books out there, so be it. If you’re going by actual Marvel continuity, then presenting Spider-Man as anything more than a random passing guest star is a bit dubious – and even if we’re going by Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, does it really mean much to people under 40? But the story doesn’t really depend on them having any history; Spider-Man works here simply as a random guest, because he fits the tone that Iceman himself is already trying to project to the world. The book is simple, and you can see where it’s going a mile off, but there’s nothing wrong with that, and Orlando has managed to set up Z-lister Mr Clean as a strong opponent for next issue’s finale.

CHILDREN OF THE VAULT #4. (Annotations here.) Another book reaching its final issue. This one really is inessential to “Fall of X”. But then, the Children’s set-up in X-Men did require them to escape as soon as Krakoa fell, so you’ve got that as a link. Children also uses “Fall” to set up the odd couple of Cable and Bishop as the heroes, in opposition to the Children’s attempt to bring about a better future by wiping out 99% of the population. There’s no real doubt that the Children are the bad guys here – they’re going to commit genocide and the plot of the final issue involves their historian Diamante recognising that their society, built on a core belief that they are the future of Earth, is fundamentally flawed. But there’s an interesting tension here in Cable and Bishop seeming almost as awful as the Children. This is a rare story that not only acknowledges but actually embraces Bishop’s largely downplayed phase pursuing Hope through time. And there’s something in the idea that the Children at least represented some sort of vision of a better future, however appalling the route to get there, while Cable and Bishop are both busily fighting to preserve a dystopia. There’s some nice art, too, on the humans reacting to their transformation and Muerte’s misery as he wipes out Orchis. Cable and Bishop spend the issue grinning smugly as they threaten to wipe out the Children. This has been one of the pleasant surprises of Fall of X.

DARK X-MEN #4. (Annotations here.) One more issue to go here. I’ve generally enjoyed Dark X-Men, but this isn’t its strongest chapter. It’s an exercise in getting the demon version of the Goblin Queen into the Limbo Embassy so that our heroes can fight her next issue, all of which is fine as far as it goes. Azazel gets a nice moment with one of his obscure offspring, and the art has a nicely shadowy quality to it. But it doesn’t have the feel of growing very organically from what’s come before, and Chasm – built up last issue and on the cover – winds up feeling like a throwaway who would have been better off kept on the margins altogether.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #4. By Gerry Duggan, Javier Garrón, Morry Hollowell & Travis Lanham. The identity of Captain Krakoa is revealed, and it’s precisely who everyone thought he’d be. He’s the Hydra version of Captain America from the Nick Spencer run. There’s nothing wrong with being predictable, but Hydra Cap just isn’t a very interesting choice. Orchis, in Duggan’s stories, are terribly one-note to begin with – they basically have a single personality to share between them – and Hydra Cap is just more of the same. I do understand that there’s a case for saying that these are times when subtlety will not do and the very, very obvious needs to be said loudly, clearly and unequivocally. But a lack of subtlety isn’t the issue here – Uncanny Avengers just doesn’t feel like it’s bringing anything to the event beyond simply being an extra book.

ALPHA FLIGHT #4. By Ed Brisson, Scott Godlewski, Matt Milla & Travis Lanham. This is more like it. There’s some actual Alpha Flight stuff going on amidst the Fall of X setting, it’s got a nice classic look to it, and I buy Department H’s irritable bureaucrat as a character. Laurent is the traditional character who doesn’t listen to clear warnings and gets everyone into trouble as a result, but the story sells it convincingly. This might be a case where the excesses of Fall of X work to the story’s advantage, because it makes sense that Laurent refuses to accept that the state of affairs can really be as people are telling him. And hey, there’s some momentum towards the final issue. It’s a completely peripheral series in the scheme of “Fall of X”, but on its own terms it works.

DEADPOOL: SEVEN SLAUGHTERS. By… oh, god, I can’t be bothered writing out seven creative teams. The solicitation for this terrifyingly expensive 70 page comic describes it as “Seven kills in seven days” and “a week in the life” of Deadpool, which might lead you to think that the seven 10-page stories will actually be connected in some way. They aren’t – it’s just an anthology of seven random Deadpool stories. And… look, I know that if you do the maths, it’s nearly three times the content of a regular issue, but nobody looks at a price tag of £7.85 for a single comic and thinks “great value!” At that kind of price point I’m starting to think about how I could have bought a novel instead, and that’s not a value comparison where comics are going to come off well. Admittedly, there are some names on this. Cullen Bunn, Greg Land, Marc Guggenheim and Whilce Portacio are here. Steve Foxe and Gerardo Sandoval do a story with the Limbo Embassy. Gail Simone and David Baldeón revive their team from the Domino ongoing. But 10-page stories have never been Marvel’s strong suit and it’s all really quite forgettable. The only real surprise comes when Rob Liefeld decides to have a stab at chibi for a couple of pages… with predictable results, admittedly, but it’s certainly unexpected.

Bring on the comments

  1. Omar Karindu says:

    Re: Deadpool: Seven Slaiughters

    Marvel has been publishing a few of these kinds of high-priced, extra-sized, jam-issue or anthology-style one-shots: Marvel Comics #1000, the last couple of years. I’m reminded of the 60th anniversary SHIELD one-shots, for instance.

    DC has their own version, in the $10 “anniversary” issues such as Action Comics #1000 and <IDetective Comics #1027.

    I have to wonder how this works out from a sales perspective. Certainly these stories don’t so far as I can tell, make a single ripple in terms of being talked-about stories or even continuity events.

    They seem to be a weird, bad middle ground between the veer-inflating price of single issues and the much more robust — and pricier still — OGN format.

  2. wwk5d says:

    Alpha Flight has been the most pleasantly surprising Fall of X story so far. Its been pretty enjoyable so far. Hopefully they can wrap it all up it in a satisfactory way in the final issue. I also wouldn’t mind seeing the occasional future limited series every once in a while from this creative team.

  3. Michael says:

    OK. So Captain Krakoa is Hydra Cap, not Burnside. I guess that makes sense. Presumably Selene has something to do with his return, since she was the one who “killed” him, and that’s one of the reasons Orchis wanted Selene on their side. And next issue Stevil will give a rebuttal to Steve’s speech in issue 3.
    Presumably Stevil is planning on taking on Steve’s identity when this is over, and that’s why he wanted to kill Urich- in case Urich realized who he was.
    In Seven Slaughters, Wade nearly killed Ben Reilly just because a client hired him to bring him the head of “a Spidrman” and Wade wanted to teach his client the importance of specificity. Why is Wade still on the Uncanny Avengers, whose purpose is partly public relations, if he’s pulling crap like that?

  4. Midnighter says:

    “Why is Wade still on the Uncanny Avengers, whose purpose is partly public relations, if he’s pulling crap like that?”

    I would tell you that the reason is because Orchis took his daughter, Ellie Camacho, but it was never mentioned again after the Free Comic Book Day prologue.
    We haven’t seen how or why Wade joined Cap’s group during the “X Weeks” hiatus after separating from X-Force, but I hope the Ellie issue will be withdrawn.

    Otherwise, it seems to me that Captain America is more in the “real war” mentality against Orchis, as he also accepts Psylocke and Monet’s more brutal methods. He may not necessarily know about Wade’s activities as a hired assassin, but he seems willing to accept comrades who use lethal force against Orchis’s soldiers.

  5. Michael says:

    @Midnighter- I have a feeling Ellie will be dealt with next issue. Remember Destiny’s prophecy: “I hear the poisoning lies of the false Captain, his rank earned. The fool who speaks the truth will pay the price.”
    Obviously, “the false Captain, his rank earned” is Hydra Cap. So “the fool who speaks the truth” has to be Wade. Something bad’s going to happen with Ellie.
    But Ellie is one of any number of Chekov’s guns that haven’t been fired yet- Stellaris’s alliance with Stasis, Sinister in the Pit, whatever the Fisher King did to Brand, etc. And there’s only six months left for the Orchis/Dominion storyline. I’m worried they might not all be resolved satisfyingly. The last time there was a run with this many unresolved plots so close to the end was Nick Spencer’s Spider-Man, and we all know what a mess that turned into.

  6. Thom H. says:

    I’m loving the new old Alpha Flight team. The new status quo for Heather is amazing — she’s as self-sacrificing as ever, and it sets up some great conflict between her and Mac.

    Also: I didn’t realize it until this issue, but AF finally has a Wolverine on the team courtesy of Leah Williams setting up the Aurora/Fang relationship. Not sure that was meant to feed into this mini so long after X-Factor ended, but it’s a nice coincidence.

    As I mentioned in the comments for the Jean Grey issue, she’s stuck in the past and seems doomed to remain so. A disappointing conclusion to an otherwise fun mini.

  7. Si says:

    Did Hydra Cap earn his rank? I thought he was created wholesale from cosmic cube juju.

  8. Michael says:

    @Si- the Cube essentially altered history to create Hydra Cap, so yes, Hydra Cap earned his rank.

  9. SanityOrMadness says:

    Si> Did Hydra Cap earn his rank? I thought he was created wholesale from cosmic cube juju.

    From Hydra Cap’s POV, his world was Crisis’d out from under him when the allies, who were losing badly, managed to rewrite the world into the MU; but he’d been semi-preserved in the back of “our” Cap’s mind in support of a prophecy that he would be able to reverse that one day, and the “cosmic cube juju” just let him out. (And the Madame Hydra who recruited him, and had sworn to do whatever it took to make it through the rewrite and be there when he took over, *actually showed up for real* during Secret Empire. He ended up betraying her.)

  10. Nu-D says:

    Off topic ‘cause I don’t know anyone else interested in comics: did I miss a line of dialogue in the Marvels explaining why there was an invasion of flerken eggs? Was it just a coincidence that it happened at the same time as the rest of the film, or was there some actual relation to the plot?

  11. Karl_H says:

    Let’s not discuss plots of movies that just came out here, please…

  12. Josie says:

    Wasn’t the first of these oversized-issues-but-it’s-all-new-material Hickman’s Fantastic Four #600? And then we got some Slott Spider-man books of massive size.

    Notionally I’m not against them, but then I’m exclusively a trade-buyer, so an oversized single issue doesn’t appeal to me specifically. If anything, the collection tends to be “smaller,” in that it ends up containing fewer issues overall, since one of those issues is massive.

    I was kind of a fan of Fables vol. 22, despite the long wait between that and Fables issue #149. Basically, Vertigo opted to print the final (I know, Fables continued, so “final”) issue of Fables as its own full-sized original graphic novel, so issue #150 is simultaneously labeled vol. 22.

    I think it would be kind of great if publishers just went straight to trades and skipped the single issues.

  13. Aaron Elijah Thall says:

    I’m seeing conflicting reports, so I’ll ask here… Did they REALLY make Blob an Avenger?

  14. Michael says:

    @Aaron Elijah Thall- No, what happens is Blob agrees to help them after they learn that Captain Krakoa is Hydra Cap (Blob had been helping Captain Krakoa because Blob thought Captain Krakoa was Cyclops) and then the real Steve says we’ll worry about your crimes later.So right now, he’s just helping the tram against Hydra Cap.

  15. SanityOrMadness says:

    Josie> I think it would be kind of great if publishers just went straight to trades and skipped the single issues.

    The reason this doesn’t generally happen is that everyone not only usually makes less money in that instance, but they also make it *slower* (since serialisation means getting an injection of cash every month or so, whereas the publisher – and, in the case of an Image-style back-end only deal, the creatives – get no money for months). Also, less attention, since as a creator – especially pencillers – you “disappear” from publication for however long it takes to make the OGN.

    Of course, it can work out (and allows more flexibility in terms of variable chapter lengths and reviewing the work as a whole), but only really if the sales go absolutely gangbusters. Average Marvel/DC TPB numbers won’t support much.

  16. Mathias X says:

    Straight-to-trade would probably kill my interest entirely unless it was like, one X-Men trade per month. I like superhero comics more than some family members, but the serialization is a big part of that — it gives me something to do every week, every month, and I think months-long gaps between storylines would totally kill that momentum.

  17. SanityOrMadness says:

    “…whereas the publisher…” should have been “…whereas, with OGNs, the publisher…” in my post above, of course.

    Also, there’s Marvel Unlimited/DCU Infinite to consider now as well. Even on a delay relative to original publication, they rely on a constant cadence of material every week to drive interest. A smaller number of releases there isn’t necessarily made up for in the same way by longer releases.

  18. Omar Karindu says:

    Because comics have gone so far beyond Big Two and monthly format stuff at this point, it’s hard to prescribe any specific format anymore.

    A lot of this is bound up with numbers we to which we just don’t have reliable access

    For creators, there’s more freedom of format away from the Big Two, not to mention IP rights, but also more financial risk.

    (It also occurs to me that I haven’t heard much about SubStack comics since the big announcements and signings some time back.)

  19. Josie says:

    If Marvel and DC started producing serialized OGNs, they would have to change the approach. They can’t just think of them like six issues of a normal comic book.

    I’m reminded of the single Fairest of Them All OGN that was produced maybe a year or so out from the end of Fables. There were something like two dozen artists onboard, producing maybe 5 pages each, and each sequence was a different scene in the story. And while the story wasn’t central to the Fables narrative, it did spill over into the main book.

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