Sunday, September 28, 2008

The X-Axis: 29 September 2008

I've mostly been too busy to post for the last few days, but let's see if we can't get back on track. I'm still planning to write about Burma Chronicles, and since it's become rather topical, I'm also planning to get to Janes In Love. Um, once I've read it. Also coming up this week, the final issue of Angel: Revelations, and X-Men: Legacy #216.

Meanwhile, here's a round-up of this week's other X-books, and a couple of other things I've read so far.

Back to Brooklyn #1 - This is a five-issue crime mini co-written by Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti. Mob boss Bob Saetta inexplicably turns himself in to the police, learns that his wife and kid are in trouble, and strikes a frankly implausible deal with two ambitious cops who give him the weekend to sort it out. This outrageous plot contrivance out of the way - and the story labours mightily to convince us that it's plausible - we're into fairly standard crime/noir territory. Artist Mihailo Vukelic seems a solid storyteller, but the school-of-Vertigo monotone colouring and intermittently stiff figures leave the page feeling a bit lifeless. Otherwise... well, it's okay, but it's not one of Ennis' best.

Black Panther #41 - Boy, they false-advertised the hell out of this one, didn't they? The cover - showing two Skrulls as Storm and the Black Panther - does actually have something to do with the story inside. But the house ads, which used the same art with the caption "Were they ever king and queen?", was blatantly advertising a story that isn't even teased in this issue. To be honest, since they haven't even solicited any further issues of the book, I've no idea why it even got a house ad in the first place. But false advertising is stupid, guys. It trains people to ignore your adverts. You don't want that.

Anyway, if you did pick up the book, at least you got a very good story by Jason Aaron and Jefte Palo, which distils Reginald Hudlin's idea that anyone who invades Wakanda gets screwed, and cleverly plugs the Skrulls into that theme. It's an odd way of ending the series, if that's what they're doing, but as a story in its own right, it's excellent.

Ultimate Fantastic Four / Ultimate X-Men Annual #1 - This is the concluding half of a two-part team-up; the first half was published under the title Ultimate X-Men / Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #1. The cover is an ungainly pile-up of competing logos, and the content isn't much better. Loosely based on "Days of Futures Past", this is just a confusing mess, and doesn't offer enough promise to make me slog through it another time in the hopes of deciphering the plot. I've read the first half, and I read the recap page, and I still couldn't make head nor tail of it. In fairness to writers Aron Coleite and Joe Pokaski, they seen to have been lumbered with the unenviable task of making Ultimatum sound terribly important without actually giving away anything about what it involves. But the result is still a trainwreck.

Wolverine: First Class #7 - Guest starring the Soviet Super-Soldiers. Are they still in continuity? Really? I know you could see this as a nitpicking point, but when you've got characters talking about "commies" in this day and age, it really throws me. I mean, the Soviet Union dissolved seventeen years ago. If Kitty's old enough to have met Soviet agents while in the X-Men, then she must be in her thirties. And that can't be right. So it seems to me that by 2008, the Red Menace characters really do belong firmly in the dustbin of continuity, next to the World War II career of Reed Richards, and the Vietnam service of Flash Thompson. That aside, it's another solid and inventive exercise in basic superheroics from the ever-reliable Fred Van Lente, with artist Steven Cumming providing a decent rendition of Marvel's eighties house style.

Wolverine: Origins #28 - This is the first part of "Original Sin", a crossover with X-Men: Legacy. The idea is simple enough. Wolverine has finally captured his long-lost son Daken, and is taking him to Professor X for deprogramming. Of course, this being Wolverine: Origins, that's just a framing sequence for more flashbacks, and much of the issue is duly taken up with Mike Deodato re-enacting Wolverine's debut appearance, when he fought the Hulk and the Wendigo. Apparently we're getting the retcon version of why Wolverine joined the X-Men in the first place, but that's a story which could work plausibly enough in both titles. Nothing much really happens here, but the pacing is tighter than usual and Deodato is on good form. It's a pretty decent issue, in fact.

X-Force #7 - Well, hey now, this is a step in the right direction. This is a downtime issue, beginning a second arc with the Vanisher providing an unlikely opponent. That suggests we're getting less of a bloodbath this time around, and more emphasis on the characters. There are moments of humour on display, and while Mike Choi and Sonia Oback's art is probably a little too pretty for this book, at least it doesn't have the sombre pretensions of earlier issues. This is the first issue that really feels like the creators have actually made the book they thought they were making. It still won't be to everyone's taste - and we have to put up with yet another "I haven't changed, I'm not an imposter" speech by Cyclops, of the sort that wouldn't be necessary if his new badass direction had convinced anyone in the first place - but it's a big step up.

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