Sunday, September 14, 2008

The X-Axis: 14 September 2008

Having taken a couple of weeks off, and returned to an absolute mountain of titles, I'm more convinced than ever that it's time to scale things back. Quite bluntly, ploughing through all this stuff every weekend is just a bit of a chore these days. So, for the moment, I'm just going to run reviews as part of this blog, spread over the course of the week. We'll still cover all the major X-books, although I think it's fair to say that the days of trying to squeeze a full-length review out of every single issue of X-Men: First Class and every who-the-hell-cares Wolverine one-shot are behind us.

The website will remain in place as an archive; I'll mess about with the front page when I get a chance and turn it into something more suitable.

I also have some other things in the pipeline, but more on those in the coming weeks.

There are way too many comics out there to even think about trying to catch up on the stuff that came out while I was away, but there's plenty to write about from this week's batch, what with the final issue of GeNext and the first issues of Deadpool, Civil War: House of M and Magneto: Testament. We'll be looking at those over the coming days.

Also coming out from the X-office this week alone...

King-Size Cable Spectacular #1. Quite what makes this a Spectacular, as opposed to an Annual, I'm not entirely sure. But it's an issue of Cable told from Bishop's perspective, as he continues chasing Cable through time. It's marginally important to the plot (because Bishop figures out that Cable can only travel into the future), but mainly it's just more of Bishop being self-righteous in the pursuit of baby-killing. Although we still haven't had any explanation for why Bishop wants to kill the kid, he's certainly being played as passionately well-meaning, which results in an odd dynamic: instead of an implacable pursuer, he comes across as more of a beleaguered underdog, and I'm not altogether sure that's what they were going for. Art comes from Ken Lashley, who used to draw Excalibur years ago, and wasn't very good. He's improved a lot, although the pages are rather over-busy with detail, sometimes at the expense of clarity.

New Exiles #11. We're back to the story of Madame Hydra, Slaymaster and their cronies travelling through various worlds, picking up new recruits and killing off the local Psylocke. The story blithely assures us that this will continue until our Psylocke kills Slaymaster, more because of thematic necessity than any discernible plot reason. (Why can't somebody else kill him? Why can't they just lock him up?) Bounces along quite nicely, though, and there's attractive clean art from Paco Diaz Luque.

NYX: No Way Home #2. It's better than the original series. Kalman Andrasofszky's art doesn't have the grace of Josh Middleton's, but it's perfectly up to standard, and Marjorie Liu has yanked Quesada's haphazardly designed characters into a far more coherent story than they had before, discarding some of the silly self-conscious street-ness. It's also a bit blander than the original title, which for all its flaws was at least trying to go out on a limb. But it works reasonably well.

Secret Invasion: X-Men #2. Well, there's the X-Men, right, and there's these aliens, and they fight. The subplot with Nightcrawler and his Skrull Bible is quite intriguing, and Mike Carey's doing his best to liven up the whole affair with little details - the Stepford Cuckoos' dialogue is spot on, for one thing. But at the end of the day it's an extended fight scene, and four issues seems excessive.

Ultimate X-Men / Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #1. This is the first half of a two-part mini, although the second issue is called Ultimate Fantastic Four / Ultimate X-Men Annual #1. They did this once before a couple of years back. It was a stupid idea then, and it's a stupid idea now. Surely the idea of labelling your product is to help people find what they're looking for, not to confuse them beyond salvation? Anyway, it's a loosely adapted Ultimate Days of Future Past, with Franklin Richards in the Phoenix role. For the most part this is a passable version of the theme, but it's been jazzed up with gimmicks at the expense of the story. For example, all the Sentinels look like Wolverine, presumably because somebody thought it was cool and nobody figured out that giant robots work better as the symbols of a faceless dystopia. A bit confused, but acceptable. By the way, I'll probably be giving these sort of books a full review.

Wolverine: Saudade. This is a story by Jean-David Morvan and Philippe Bouchet which Panini commissioned for the French market at the tail end of the Grant Morrison era. Presumably Marvel's hook-up with Soleil has led to them dusting it off for the US market. It's one of those stories where Wolverine goes to a photogenic location (Brazil) to find a local mutant (which he does), and rescues him from local bad guys. It's slight stuff, the creators haven't quite nailed the character, and the whole thing seems to have been designed for a slightly larger format (resulting in some crushed lettering). But the art's excellent, and the book's certainly got something, if only a different tone.

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