Sunday, October 19, 2008

The X-Axis - 19 October 2008

I've spent the day at work, so this is going to be a quick round-up of the X-books. We'll get to X-Men: Worlds Apart #1 and (honest) Burma Chronicles in the next couple of days. But in the meantime, here's the other stuff that the X-office put out this week:

Astonishing X-Men #27 - If you like exposition, you'll love this issue. Six pages of Scott and Hank talking about a box. One page of Abigail Brand travelling to the X-Men's headquarters. One page of her arriving. Six more pages of her explaining the plot. Then they go to China, and then they talk some more. I mean, in the broader scheme of things, it's a fairly well constructed plot; there's some clever misdirection about where these odd not-quite-mutants are coming from, and the basic idea has some potential as a twist on M-Day (by introducing a possible source of new mutants). But it's not exactly dramatic, is it? Poor Simone Bianchi is saddled here with almost an entire issue of talking heads, livened up more by typical Ellis cynical wit than by any sort of physical action going on. It'll probably be passable as the middle chapter of a trade paperback, but it's still not exactly breaking a sweat.

NYX: No Way Home #3 - Well, this is all a bit angsty. Mind you, that's what people used to like about the X-books, so it's not necessarily a bad thing. There's not much to say about this series that I haven't said before: Marjorie Liu's story is much better constructed than Joe Quesada's original series, but also rather safer. Artists Kalman Sandrasofszky and, now, Sara Pichelli can't reach the heights of Josh Middleton's work, but they're still good solid artists, and well served by the colouring. (One legacy of Middleton's involvement may be that this "street-level" book escaped the usual curse of portentous murky grey.) It's fine, and it's much more readable than the original series, but doesn't have such a strong voice.

Uncanny X-Men #503 - The X-Men chase Empath through the streets of San Francisco, and in the way of these stories, Pixie shows up to confront her demons and save the day. Fine in theory, but a bit ropey in practice. Pixie seems to be immune to Empath's powers for no readily apparent reason, and the plot is decidedly overfamiliar. And Greg Land is still drawing people with plastic grins, and excruciatingly stupid bondage gear. What's really starting to worry me, though, is the opening scene with Sam, Dani and Xi'an talking about how "I can't get used to the fact that so many mutants are just here, are living here out in the open." It's rather obvious that they're going for a "visible minority" deal, but post M-Day, there are too few mutants to make that work. If there's only 198 of them on the planet (or even anything in the ballpark of that number) then the ones who show up to San Francisco are going to be a fairly tiny quantity. Once again, we're seeing what a thoroughly bad idea M-Day was: it undermines far more stories than it supports. The San Francisco set-up is infinitely weaker for it. Then again... you could also wonder why Dani is so surprised at something which was utterly commonplace during the Grant Morrison period. Hell, District X had its own series. So... what's new about San Francisco, exactly? Nicer weather? I'm starting to get a sinking feeling that either the writers haven't quite thought this whole thing through, or at least that they're not managing to get the point across to me. The book has its moments, but we've seen what Brubaker and Fraction are capable of, and so far, Uncanny isn't in that league.

Young X-Men #7 - Hmm. After that awful first storyline, this book is starting to come together, as the proper team go on their first mission to deal with a mysterious island. And we all know what happens with X-Men teams go to mysterious islands on their first mission. I wouldn't say it was a runaway success or anything, but it's certainly a huge improvement from the first arc; the team dynamic is starting to work, the characters are well defined, it all makes sense, and there's a definite direction and momentum starting to emerge. I wouldn't go so far as to recommend it to the general public, but any X-Men fans who tried the first arc and gave up might want to give this one another look.