Sunday, November 16, 2008

The X-Axis - 16 November 2008

Thanks to everyone who downloaded the first House to Astonish podcast last week, and who've been overwhelmingly nice about it. Al and I are planning to do one of these every two weeks, so you'll have to wait till next weekend for episode two.

Oh, and as promised, you can subscribe to it on iTunes now. Just search for "House to Astonish", and not surprisingly, we're the top entry for this little-used phrase. Somewhat more surprisingly, the number two entry is episode six of Knight Rider. Aren't search engines great?

Anyway, let's turn to some new comics. Tons of new titles this week, plus a few X-books in mid-storyline. I'll come back over the next couple of days to Batman: Cacophony #1 and I Hate Gallant Girl #1, but for now, here's the rundown on the others...

Galveston #1 - This is a four-issue mini from Boom! Studios, and it's a historical action drama. It's the Gulf of Mexico in 1817, and Jim Bowie and Jean Lafitte are teamed up to fight... ooh, stuff. They're genuine historical figures. Never heard of them, personally, but I'm willing to assume that's probably a reflection of how little American history we did at school. The credits on this are all a bit weird: it's "created" by Johanna Stokes and Ross Richie (whose name doesn't feature anywhere else in the book), plotted by Tom Peyer and Mark Rahner, and written by Stokes again. And then, just for further confusion, the artist randomly changes after eight pages, from Greg Scott to Todd Herman. Those first eight pages feature some murky and undramatic fight scenes (of the "oh, I guess that was meant to be him ducking a punch" variety), and the rest of the book just plain looks rushed. It's a bit of a mess, really; Bowie and Lafitte come across as a generic odd-couple without ever managing to be especially interesting, and the whole thing feels like it's going through the motions.

New Exiles #14 - This is part 2 of the six-part "Away We Go." Where previous writers have favoured a single big twist for their parallel worlds, Claremont seems to be taking a different route, constructing rather more convoluted societies out of an assortment of Marvel Universe elements. This time, we've got a version of Earth which is all islands and no land masses, humanoid reptiles instead of superhumans, and an army of heroes where the girls are all modelled on the Daughters of the Dragon and the boys are all modelled on Iron Man. (This seems a bit of a short straw for the girls.) And on top of all that, we've got a riff on the late-70s story about Lilandra fleeing the Shi'ar Empire to get help on Earth. And that's before the Exiles show up. There's an awful lot going on here - and from the look of it, next issue will be throwing in yet another evil version of the X-Men - but in fairness, it does actually hang together into something fairly coherent. And if nothing else, New Exiles feels like a book whose creators are having fun, which is more than you can say for a lot of titles. Take it on its own terms, and it's actually quite good fun.

Push #1 - Another WildStorm mini, this time apparently a prequel to a Dakota Fanning movie coming out in 2009. I suppose the idea must be to have the trade paperback out in time for the movie. It's a sort of paranoia action story about a guy working for a spy agency full of superhumans, and increasingly conscious that there are weird schemes going on behind the scenes. There's some slightly clumsy Oirishness in one sequence, but that aside, it's not bad at all. It's all entirely well crafted by writers Adam Freeman and Marc Bernardin (the guys who wrote Highwaymen), and Bruno Redondo's art is also fine. What it lacks is a voice or identity of its own, despite having a passably decent premise of hidden superhumans working as spies among us. It's thoroughly okay, but nothing likely to grab the attention of a wider audience. Still, if the movie does well, at least they'll have a respectable tie-in product in reserve.

Sir Apropos of Nothing #1 - Sir Apropos of Nothing is a character Peter David created for a trilogy of novels, now adapted for IDW into a five-issue mini by David himself and artist Robin Riggs. It's an odd thing, which seems to assume at least a vague working knowledge of the character, even though the source is mentioned nowhere in the issue. He seems to be a sort of self-centred anti-hero, in a story based mainly on tongue-in-cheek set-pieces. It's... y'know, it's alright, but it just feels like a bunch of stuff happening in a row, rather than giving me any particular reason to get involved in the story, and it seems as though the art should be veering a little further into cartoon territory.

Wolverine #69 - "Old Man Logan" continues, with a chapter that feels decidedly padded. I suspect the problem here is that Millar has got some beats he wants to hit in this story, and the pacing leaves chapter four with nothing much to do. Last month ended with the cliffhanger of Hawkeye's daughter turning out to be a villain; next month is the flashback story where Wolverine explains what happened to him. But there's no obvious progression from to the other, so once they've escaped the villain in the first few pages, there's nothing much to do other than wander around a bit until it's time to announce the flashback. In fairness, I can see what Millar's going for - the idea is that Wolverine's returning to his old self the longer they're on the road, which is fine. And road stories are always episodic. Still, it just doesn't feel to me like this is heading anywhere in particular - or perhaps more accurately, it doesn't feel like the events in this issue contribute to it heading anywhere. Some cute ideas, but it doesn't satisfy me as a story.

X-Men: Magneto - Testament #3 - Continuing the Marvel Knights miniseries about Magneto's childhood. With this series, the main challenge for creators Greg Pak and Carmine di Giandomenico is to find the right balance between two competing demands on the story. On the one hand, the story has to work as a Magneto story, otherwise why bother using him at all? On the other hand, it's primarily a historical piece about the Holocaust, and if your serious lest-we-forget story suddenly sprouts supervillains, then you run the real risk of (at best) a jarring tone clash. Thus far, the story has addressed that problem by shoving the fantasy elements to the very margins, confining them to a couple of moments where Max uses his powers in extremely minor ways. When forced to deal with them directly in this issue, the story jumps into an intentionally confused montage sequence to blur it over. All entirely understandable, but it does leave me wondering whether I'm really reading a historical essay with an entirely token X-Men angle tacked on to boost sales. It does work as a historical piece; it remains to be seen whether it can shift gears to function as a Magneto origin story and still retain the necessary sobriety. I can't help feeling that the book will struggle to succeed in both its self-appointed to tasks. But at least, at the moment, it's focussing on the more important one, and largely succeeding with it.