Monday, November 24, 2008

The X-Axis - 24 November 2008

A day later than usual, but to be honest, it's a singularly uneventful week for new releases. There's a bunch of X-books in mid-storyline, which I'll do in capsules, and... yeah, that's about it, really. I can't remember the last time there was so little of interest. There's a new creative team on Thunderbolts, but we already talked about that on House of Astonish, so let's just do the capsules and be done with it...

Uncanny X-Men #504 - We talked about this on House to Astonish too, but what the heck. This is the first solo issue by Matt Fraction, and it's a definite improvement from the previous arc. A large part of that is because he's now working with Terry Dodson, who may be a cheesecake artist, but at least his characters look alive. The story is an odd grab-bag of ideas: Colossus is brooding, Emma's trusting Scott too much (and I do like the idea of casting her in the naive role), and the Beast is... in Argentina recruiting a mad scientist who fights supernazis? There's a slight tone problem here - these are all quite entertaining, but the South American lunacy doesn't feel like it's part of the same story as Peter's depression. But I'm delighted to see the X-Men finally doing something coherent to try and reverse M-Day. It's not just that removing everyone's powers was a bad idea which should be reversed on its merits (though it was); more to the point, it's something the X-Men should have been trying to reverse even if they didn't succeed. That should have been the focal point of all the stories over the last few years. Better late than never.

X-Factor #37 - Why do today's artists all make Longshot ugly? Wasn't he meant to be a pretty-boy character? Anyway, Siryn spends the issue being lectured by Valerie Cooper, while X-Factor are hunted by random bad guys in the basement of a warehouse, and somehow it's all a lot better than it really ought to be. There are some really well-constructed scenes here with clever use of Madrox's powers (and the idea that his duplicates have minds of their own, representing sides of his personality). A strong issue, not so much for the actual story as for the way it's told, but strong nonetheless.

X-Men: Legacy #218 - Scot Eaton's really growing on me. He was rather generic when he started on this title, and he's still not exactly flashy, but he tells a good story. Other artists might perhaps have done more with Carey's "tilt the world sideways" psychic battle scenes, but they might not have been so clear in getting the point across. Anyway, this is part four of "Original Sin", the crossover with Wolverine: Origins. It's ended up as a fairly conventional story by the standards of both books (with relatively little flashback material this time), but that's actually to its advantage. If we're going to have Wolverine's son Daken running around, then he really needed a story where he was treated as a standard feature of the Marvel Universe rather than a throwaway idea from a book that nobody else mentioned or cared about. If nothing else, "Original Sin" has done a lot to help with that problem.

X-Men: Worlds Apart #2 - After a reasonably promising start, this seems to be just a generic X-Men-versus-Shadow-King miniseries. And that's not good, because the Shadow King is a dreadful villain. He's an embodiment of evil, which is possibly the least interesting idea ever. Evil is worth writing about in the first place because it's an aspect of the human condition. A completely external inhuman thing labelled "Evil" is not interesting at all. And no, he's not quasi-mythical, or anything of that sort. (Pseudo-mythical, perhaps.) Look at your actual mythical figures of evil, and they're all recognisably human, at least at one remove - most of them are tempter or trickster figures, which makes the struggle against them a metaphor for resisting temptation, or not straying from the path of right. The Shadow King is just a space on the page where the villain ought to be. Art's not bad, though.

Young X-Men #8 - The kids go after Ink's tattooist, and discover that he's been powering up gang members all over the place. In the sort of quantities where, to be honest, it's surprising they haven't spotted him before. In fact, there's a general logic problem with all new mutants post M-Day: since Cerebro still works, and cataloguing the survivors has been a priority, how did they miss him, or indeed anyone else? (Astonishing X-Men went to the trouble of talking about a blind spot for sensors, which at least acknowledges the issue in a hand-waving sort of way.) Leave that aside, though, and this is perfectly okay. Now that the misguided initial arc is out of the way, we're settling down to a reasonably interesting team dynamic, and it's good to see them going out to do their own stories instead of getting caught up in X-Men mythology. It all helps to give the book its own identity. This isn't a great comic by any means, but it's vastly improved from the early issue.

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