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Sep 8

The X-Axis – w/c 4 September 2023

Posted on Friday, September 8, 2023 by Paul in x-axis

X-MEN UNLIMITED INFINITY COMIC #103. By Steve Foxe, Stephanie Williams, Noemi Vettori, Pete Pantazis & Travis Lanham. Continuing the string of standalone stories with the members of the abortive X-Men team, this is Frenzy’s spotlight issue. I still don’t really understand the point which these stories are supposed to making collectively – if there even is one – but this is certainly the best of the bunch so far. It’s workaholic Frenzy focussing on the important task of teaching visiting diplomats how to handle themselves on Arakko, and Paibok persuading her to take a break. That’s pretty much the whole thing, but it’s a well delivered vignette and a nice little read.

X-MEN #26. (Annotations here.) I have very mixed feelings about “Fall of X”. I’m on board with the bit where Orchis outwit Krakoa and the mutants are forced into exile; I can accept the idea of Orchis getting into a position of influence and rolling out essentially fascist anti-mutant policies, even if it seems a bit weird to be doing it during the Biden administration. What I can’t buy for a second is the idea that this is a state where the “tiniest slipups could send someone to ‘education camp'” without that being, at the very least, massively controversial on a level far beyond anything we’re seeing here. X-Men in particular seems to be treating this as equivalent to the HYDRA takeover of the USA from Secret Empire, which was also silly and didn’t work. The fundamental problem here is that the story is both comically over the top and oppressively miserable – basically, exactly what I dreaded “Fall of X” would be when I read the Hellfire Gala one-shot. The other “Fall of X” books haven’t fallen into this trap, perhaps because they can skirt more effectively around the edges. But X-Men has, and the result is just a bit tiresome.


Sep 7

Immortal X-Men #15 annotations

Posted on Thursday, September 7, 2023 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

“Thirst Things First”
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Paco Medina
Colour artist: David Curiel
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Design: Tom Muller & Jay Bowen
Editor: Jordan D White

COVER / PAGE 1. A zombie Wolverine attacks.

PAGES 2-4. Selene eats Shaw’s soldiers.

Selene is our designated narrator for this issue, even though she isn’t in the desert scenes. She was voted onto the Quiet Council in issue #12 and hasn’t had her spotlight issue yet.

The soldiers are apparently the same ones that Professor X repelled from Krakoa at the end of the previous issue. Although they’re at an Orchis base, they don’t seem to be wearing Orchis logos on their uniforms, as with the previous issue. There were four of them last issue, and there seem to be only three here, but I doubt that’s meant to be significant.

Selene’s captions get a black chess queen logo. Shaw had a similar black king logo on his captions in issue #6, although Selene is a former Black Queen.

PAGE 5. Recap and credits.

PAGES 6-7. Shaw and Selene return to Krakoa with psi-blockers.

Selene is surprised that Shaw was able to build effective psi-blockers. His back story does involve him being an engineering genius, but it’s rarely a focus of this stories, and she’s right that Shaw would normally delegate this to someone else. We saw last issue, though, that Shaw seems to have realised that he needs to look out for himself rather than relying on his allies.


Sep 6

X-Men #26 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, September 6, 2023 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

X-MEN vol 6 #26
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artists: Jim Towe & Javier Pina
Colourist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Design: Tom Muller & Jay Bowen
Editor: Jordan D White

COVER / PAGE 1. The left half of an image of Emma Frost marrying Tony Stark. The other half is on the cover of Invincible Iron Man #10. The solicitation for this issue reads: “WE’RE NOT LOSING AN X-MAN… WE’RE GAINING AN AVENGER!” The moment we swore would never happen-heck, the moment EMMA FROST swore would never happen-is here at last! As the Frost/Stark knot is tied in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #10, Emma’s mutant family reacts to this surprise news!

The issue as published bears no resemblance to that solicitation whatsoever – the marriage only comes up in the penultimate panel.

The cover art features various characters who aren’t available to attend a wedding due to “Fall of X”, but that’s obviously to avoid spoilers in the solicitations.

PAGES 2-3. John Romita tribute.

PAGE 4. Data page: a quote from Ben Urich about the Kingpin, taken from one of his articles. Urich was investigating the Kingpin in Daredevil back in the Frank Miller run.


Sep 3

Daredevil Villains #1: The Fixer

Posted on Sunday, September 3, 2023 by Paul in Daredevil

So, I thought we’d do something different.

Quick: Name ten Daredevil villains. Come on, the book’s been a mainstay of Marvel’s line since 1964, it can’t be that hard. There’s the Kingpin, the Hand, Bullseye, um, Typhoid… um… does Elektra count…? Admittedly, this is not really my area. But I googled a few lists of top Daredevil villains and almost all of them resorted to counting the Punisher. One of them was desperate enough to include Mysterio.

So I thought I’d read some Daredevil and find out what the hell he’s been doing all these years when he wasn’t fighting the Hand or the Kingpin. I’ve barely read any pre-Nocenti Daredevil before and I have pretty much no idea what happens in the book prior to Frank Miller, other than that there’s a wacky bit where he pretends to be his own twin brother. The general consensus seems to be that early Daredevil is completely skippable. Even at the time, Marvel don’t seem to have thought much of his commercial appeal – between issue #10 in 1965, and issue #100 in 1973, he made less than ten guest appearances in other books, even counting cameos.

And yet he must have been doing something right, because he hung in there when the likes of Dr Strange couldn’t. So I’m going to read through Daredevil and cover the issues that add new villains to his list. Some of these will be pretty short, and it’s going to be an irregular series (in other words, you’ll be getting these in quiet weeks).

DAREDEVIL #1 (April 1964)
“The Origin of Daredevil”
Writer, editor: Stan Lee
Artist: Bill Everett
Letterer: Sam Rosen
Colourist: not credited

This is the one early Daredevil issue that everyone knows, because it’s mostly an extended flashback setting out his origin story. The villain of that story is the Fixer, who is emphatically not going to be Daredevil’s arch enemy.

The original version goes like this. Little Matt Murdock wants to follow in the footsteps of his boxer father Battlin’ Jack. But Jack insists that Matt ignore sports and manly pursuits in favour of study, so that he can break out of poverty and “amount to something” – a promise that Jack made to Matt’s late mother. All the other kids think Matt’s a loser and nickname him Daredevil, which is thoughtful of them. But Matt trains in secret, while also getting straight As. Desperate to pay for Matt to go to college, Jack agrees to be managed by the disreputable Fixer. Meanwhile, Matt randomly loses his sight and gains super powers when he shoves a blind man out of the way of a runaway radioactive waste truck. Matt still goes to college, while Jack goes on an implausible middle-aged winning streak under the Fixer’s management. The Fixer tells Jack to take a dive in the first round of a key fight, but Jack refuses to disappoint his watching son, and wins by knockout. The Fixer has Jack shot dead in retaliation.


Sep 1

Charts – 1 September 2023

Posted on Friday, September 1, 2023 by Paul in Music

After the epic ten-week run of Dave & Central Cee’s “Sprinter”, we seem to be in a phase of the records it held off taking their turn at number one. Two weeks ago we had Billie Eilish. Last week it was Dua Lipa. And now, a record that wasn’t even number 1 in the midweeks…

1. Olivia Rodrigo – “Vampire”

This is the third number one for Olivia Rodrigo, following “Drivers Licence” and “Good 4 U” from her previous album. It’s not even the current single – that’s “Bad Idea Right”, which is a non-mover at 11 this week. “Vampire” is on its ninth week, and it spent the first four stuck at number 2 behind “Sprinter”. It’s never dropped before 5, but it’s still impressive for it to fight its way back to number 1.

The record at number 1 in the midweeks was “Paint the Town Red” by Doja Cat, which winds up at number 2. It must still be in with a shot next week. And if you’re wondering what happened to Dua Lipa, she gets hammered by the downweighting rule this week and drops straight to number 15.


Aug 31

The X-Axis – w/c 28 August 2023

Posted on Thursday, August 31, 2023 by Paul in x-axis

X-MEN UNLIMITED INFINITY COMIC #102. By Steve Foxe, Stephanie Williams, Noemi Vettori, Pete Panazis & Travis Lanham. Continuing our series of short solo stories with the members of the abortive X-Men team, this is Jubilee’s issue. She takes some of the Krakoan kids to the Savage Land on a field trip. They stop some poachers. That’s pretty much it. I honestly don’t understand what this run of stories is meant to be achieving. It just feels like generic filler, I’m afraid.

WOLVERINE #36. (Annotations here.) Part 3 of the “Weapons of Vengeance” crossover with Ghost Rider, which has essentially nothing to do with “Fall of X”. I mean, there’s some passing mention of the idea that there are fewer mutants around, but the plot says otherwise, with the demon Stitcher having no apparent problem finding an endless supply of backwoods mutants to mutilate. This probably isn’t the best issue to raise the point, but: this is actually a problem. We’ve had years where the dominant narrative was that all of mutantkind were together on Krakoa – that was the point, after all – but “Fall of X” keeps trying to do stories about people pursuing the supposed handful of non-Krakoan mutants who, it turns out, were apparently teeming worldwide all along. If this was the direction, why march the rest of the world through the gates? Why not just do it with the population of Krakoa? Or, y’know, do “Fall of X” storylines that are consistent with the premise of there being virtually no more mutants around.


Aug 30

Wolverine #36 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, August 30, 2023 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

WOLVERINE vol 7 #36
“Weapons of Vengeance, part 3: Possessions”
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colour artist: Rain Beredo
Letterer: Cory Petit
Editors: Mark Basso & Darren Shaw

WEAPONS OF VENGEANCE. Despite the “Fall of X” branding on the cover, this arc has nothing whatsoever to do with the arc, unless you count some passing mentions of there not being many mutants around these days. This is a four-part crossover with Ghost Rider, also written by Benjamin Percy.

In Ghost Rider / Wolverine: Weapons of Vengeance Alpha #1 (and don’t get me started on “Alpha #1″) and Ghost Rider #17, extended flashbacks show us that “many years ago”, Ada Flores brought a little boy called Bram Straub to the X-Men Mansion to seek help from Professor X. Flores is the only social worker who has stuck with Bram after everyone else quit. But Bram is not a mutant; he’s demonically possessed. After establishing that fact, Professor X declines to take Bram on (though he does offer to try and put Flores in touch with someone more suitable). Wolverine takes an immediate dislike to the kid because he can sense the demon. Back at the orphanage, Bram (or his demon) kill all the kids in his dormitory and assembles their bodies into some kind of spire before returning to the X-Men Mansion on his own to fight Wolverine. Wolverine and Ghost Rider both go after the monster and get into the usual hero-versus-hero fight, during which the demon escapes.


Aug 26

Charts – 25 August 2023

Posted on Saturday, August 26, 2023 by Paul in Music

As anticipated, Billie Eilish only manages a single week – which means she’s now had two 1-week number ones. We’re still in Barbie territory, though.

1. Dua Lipa – “Dance the Night (From Barbie the Album)”

Climbing to number 1 in its thirteenth week on chart. This has grown on me somewhat, but it still strikes me as something of a generic Dua Lipa track. It’s her fourth number 1, following “New Rules” (2017), “One Kiss” (2018) and “Cold Heart” (2021). The Billie Eilish track is at number 2, and we’ve also got “Barbie World” at 9, “Speed Drive” at 15, and “I’m Just Ken” at 22. Overall, the Barbie wave seems to have crested, and given how long it took Dua Lipa to get here in the first place, I suspect she won’t be here too long.

In an absurdly quiet week for new singles, there is just a single new entry on the top 40. There’s also a slightly baffling re-entry for “Dog Days are Over” by Florence & The Machine at number 27, which appears to have had its downweighting reset on the very tenuous basis that it’s in a film soundtrack on Disney+ – but it already reached number 21 earlier in the year.

But what about that new entry? Ah. Well.


Aug 26

The X-Axis – w/c 21 August 2023

Posted on Saturday, August 26, 2023 by Paul in x-axis

X-MEN UNLIMITED INFINITY COMIC #101. By Steve Foxe, Stephanie Williams, Noemi Vettori, Pete Pantazis & Travis Lanham. Somewhat bizarrely billed as part of “the countdown to Fall of X“, which of course is well underway. The idea seems to be to do a spotlight story on each of the characters from the abortive X-Men team, and rely on the Gala issue to add some poignancy, but what it amounts to in practice is “Sam visits his home town and helps out with a flood because he’s nice.” It’s perfectly competent but I just don’t understand what the point is.

X-FORCE #43. (Annotations here.) Unlike most of the “Fall of X” books, we’re jumping back to the Gala itself here, as Colossus’ storyline finally comes to a head. Kind of. The basic idea is that Colossus was meant to be helping Mikhail Rasputin to mount his own completely unrelated attack on the Gala, only for Orchis to charge in first and make everything that Mikhail’s spent years working on utterly pointless. It’s hard to figure out whether this was always the plan or whether it’s an actual change of direction in response to the Gala, but it works surprisingly well – Mikhail’s plan going off the rails and leading to a bemused X-Force winding up on his doorstep is a more interesting direction than either having Mikhail sign up with Orchis, or having him duplicate their scheme. I’m less convinced about just plugging Kid Omega back into his old role, and Percy seems to have no real role for Omega Red – though he is Russian, and he does have a history with Mikhail, so maybe that’ll come to the fore in the next couple of issues. X-Force can be hit and miss but on the whole I’m quite liking this.


Aug 25

Realm of X #1 annotations

Posted on Friday, August 25, 2023 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

“The White Witch”
Writer: Torunn Grønbekk
Artist: Diógenes Neves
Colour artist: Rain Beredo
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Design: Tom Muller & Jay Bowen
Editor: Lauren Amaro

REALM OF X is a 4-issue miniseries tying in to “Fall of X”… though possibly only in the sense that “Fall of X” provides the occasion for the story to happen in the first place.

COVER / PAGE 1: Mirage and Magik charge into action through a Krakoan gate. More of a misdirection cover for the solicits than anything much to do with the contents.

PAGES 2-10. The cast wake up in Vanaheim in the middle of a fight.

The name characters, and a bunch of random generics, evidently wound up here after being marched through the Krakoan gates by Professor X in X-Men: Hellfire Gala 2023. This is plainly not the alien landscape where we saw Forge in X-Men #25, or the featureless desert where Exodus and co wound up in Immortal X-Men #14 – despite Exodus claiming in that issue that the “whole population of Krakoa” was there. To be fair, they were a much larger group than the one we see here, so they may well be the vast majority of the Krakoan population; this issue’s recap page refers to “a handful of other mutants” accompanying the name characters, and Dani later mentions a “dozen” being wounded. We still don’t know why the mutants have been scattered in this way, although some sort of scheme involving Destiny and Manifold seems a realistic possibility.