Sunday, November 02, 2008

The X-Axis - 2 November 2008

Just a round-up this week, for a variety of reasons. One, I'm very busy. Two, Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #1 didn't show up at my store. And three, it's a week of largely forgettable stuff that doesn't really merit a full review anyway. There's the last Minx digest, Token, but I haven't had time to read it yet. Might get to that later in the week.

In the meantime, let's run down a week which was relatively high in volume, and relatively low in memorability.

Captain America Theater of War: Operation Zero-Point - Or however you're meant to punctuate it. The cover actually has no hyphen and the colon after "Operation", but hey, things get convoluted when your sub-title has a sub-title. Anyway, this is the first in a series of one-shots about "the length and breadth of the larger-than-life legend of Captain America," whatever that means, "as told by the industry's leading experts in the field," which apparently means the Knauf brothers and Mitch Breitweiser. In practice, it's a 40-page filler story set in World War II, with Captain America fighting Nazi flying saucers. The tone's a bit wonky - it takes itself a little too seriously to get away with a plot as silly as that, and Cap himself feels out of character, bitching about foreigners who are supposed to be on his side. But it's passable enough if you like that sort of thing, and Breitweiser's art is excellent, giving the thing an air of reality it doesn't entirely deserve. Art fans may want to pick it up for that; otherwise, though, it's a fill-in writ large.

Giant-Size X-Men: First Class #1 - For those of you keeping track, X-Men: First Class has been cancelled, only to be replaced by this one-shot and a miniseries apparently called X-Men: First Class: Finals. You'd have thought it would be simpler just to cancel the book in seven months time, but oh well. This is an Hallowe'en anthology of fairly short stories where the X-Men go off and investigate Weird Stuff, much of which is the wrong sort of weird. The art is the selling point here; Dean Haspiel does solid work with a very silly Arctic story, and Michael Cho's makes great use of limited colour in his piece. There's also a very odd two-pager by Roger Langridge which would actually be more amusing without the tacked-on X-Men connection. And, entirely unmentioned in the solicitations or on the cover, half the issue turns out to be a reprint - of X-Men #40, an X-Men-versus-Frankenstein story which is one of the weakest Silver Age issues, but happens to fit the theme. It's very tough to recommend this at four dollars, but it does at least experiment with some art styles you don't normally see at Marvel, and deserves credit for that.

Mirror's Edge #1 - A video game adaptation, god help us, and if I'd realised that, I wouldn't have bought it. Still, WildStorm's got to keep itself occupied somehow. Mirror's Edge (the game) is apparently something to do with parkour, set in the near future, and with lots of jumping between rooftops. Mirror's Edge (the comic) has the unenviable task of translating that appeal to static images, and bolting on a plot. They do okay on the first point, and go through the motions on the second, with some very familiar stuff about grumpy old mentors, and a thuddingly cliched cliffhanger. In fairness to the creators, I don't think the concept lends itself to comics in the first place. Eminently missable, even so.

Battlefields: The Night Witches #1 - A new Garth Ennis miniseries for Dynamite. Can you guess what it's about? That's right, it's another war story. This one's set in Russia during World War II, and told from the perspective of a German footsoldier and a Russian woman pilot (a novelty which the regular air force treat with all the enthusiasm you'd expect). It's everything you'd expect from an Ennis war story: the familiar themes are present and correct, and done as well as usual. Artist Russ Braun holds up his end, telling the story clearly and effectively. It's good, but doesn't bring anything new to Ennis' already exhaustive exploration of the genre.

Secret Invasion: X-Men #3 - Is that woman on the cover meant to be Dazzler? She looks nothing like her, but I can't figure out who else it could be. Regardless, the Skrulls are still invading San Francisco, the X-Men are still fighting back, and Mike Carey is still throwing in enough little details to make this very basic story better than it deserves to be. Artist Ma Sepulveda does some good stuff with the psychic battle scenes, though the scenes in the real world often look a bit washed out. Still, all good throwaway fun.

Wolverine: Origins #29 - This is part three of the "Original Sin" crossover with X-Men: Legacy. As usual with both books, there's a present day story (Wolverine goes after the Hellfire Club to try and rescue Daken), and a parallel set of flashbacks (how Xavier reprogrammed Wolverine to be one of the good guys). The flashbacks are a bit of a retcon, but I don't have a problem with them - a fair case can be made that they're inserting an explanation for what already happened, rather than undermining the original stories. The present day stuff doesn't come off so well, largely because Wolverine has to spend most of the issue fighting a Hellfire Club "Inner Circle" composed entirely of random no-names whom we're given no reason to care about. (In fact, unless I missed it, only one of them even gets a name.) If we're supposed to take the Club seriously as players, then they need to be better developed than this. And if we're not supposed to take them seriously, why are we wasting so many pages on them? It's also awkwardly apparent that the artists of X-Men: Legacy and Wolverine: Origins are on entirely different pages about their approach to Miss Sinister, which is something that the editors should have sorted out. Still, the storyline is working out better than I'd expected, and it's done something to increase my interest in Daken.

X-Force #8 - X-Force versus the Vanisher. Setting our sights a bit low here, aren't we? This is a definite improvement from the first arc. There's less gratuitous bloodshed, there's more personality, and the plot makes more sense. But it's still got some fairly serious problems. The Vanisher is given an utterly gratuitous pseudo-cool revamp; everyone seems entirely unbothered about levels of violence that ought to concern them; the supposedly secret team attack the bad guy on a busy public street in full X-Force regalia; Archangel's "Death" persona lacks any subtlety or nuance, even by the standards of a book like this; and astonishingly, we're asked to believe that Wolverine isn't recognisable in his X-Force costume (which is basically the same as his regular costume, but light blue). So it's an improvement from the first arc, but it leaves a lot to be desired...

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