The X-Axis - 30 November 2008
Also out is Umbrella Academy: Dallas #1, but I think I'll save that for next week's episode of House to Astonish. And before you ask, yes, I know the big issue of the week is Batman #six-whatever, but I dropped Morrison's Batman run about four issues in. Judging from the reviews elsewhere, probably a good call. Anyway, it doesn't seem like the sort of story where it's worth buying the final issue just to review it, so I haven't bothered it.
That leaves, in terms of this week's X-books...
Ultimate X-Men #98 - It's Ultimatum time, and apparently Kurt and Alison have been killed off-panel between issues. Who the hell thought that was a good idea? Aron Coleite does his best with it, giving them some sort of send-off in a brief flashback sequence. Seems counterproductive to me, though. I realise they're going for the "anything can happen in the Ultimate Universe" vibe, and in theory that's a good idea - but only if you kill the characters off in a way that reflects the investment that the readers are supposed to have in them. Otherwise, you're actually sending the message that these characters don't matter, and that the other ones probably aren't worth caring about either. Same mistake that New X-Men kept making after M-Day. Anyway, this is an Ultimatum crossover issue, and frankly, who cares? The book ends with issue #100, presumably to be relaunched, although hopefully not. It feels like a tacked-on ending rather than any natural outgrowth of what came before, and sadder yet, that feels like an eminently fitting end for a book that hasn't really seemed to know what it was about since Brian Vaughan left.
Wolverine: First Class #9 - Another of those guest star issues of which the First Class books are so enamoured. This time, Wolverine teams up with Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, on the thinnest of pretexts, thus enabling him to be frustrated by Zen riddles and achieve enlightenment all within the scope of 22 pages. I realise the First Class writers have a difficult task because they're trying to tell stories within the straitjacket of existing continuity, but it seems to me that this story has fallen into one of the traps: it's too meaningful for the lead character, and transforms him too much. That's not just because of the enlightenment stuff. The villain is Sabretooth, and the story acknowledges the idea that Wolverine can't seem to beat him - in fact, it's used as the plot rationale to justify asking Shang-Chi for help. And then... Wolverine beats him decisively. Years ahead of schedule. Um... no, no, you can't do that. Sorry. Seems odd, I know, to complain that a story is trying too hard to make itself meaningful to the character, and I understand why it's doing that. But if we're going to have entire series in this inherently questionable "hidden stories" format, then it's an innate problem that they've got to work around, and this one crashes straight through it with a sledgehammer.
X-Force #9 - Never a good sign when I pick up an issue to write a review, and the first thought that crosses my mind is "Have I actually read this yet?" It's a passable issue, but not much more than that. The main story is X-Force going after Mr Sinister and his latest batch of Marauders. Cue more slaughter, although the story makes a point of mentioning that the Marauders are clones and "not real". This seems to be an attempt to justify X-Force in killing them, but actually that's a non-problem. Existing continuity had the Marauders reborn in cloned bodies whenver they died - so you could already kill them with impunity, if you were so inclined. Making them "non-people" weakens them as characters to achieve no benefit. So why do it? The other half of the story sees Warpath fighting the Demon Bear with the assistance of random guest star Ghost Rider. This is a reference to an old Claremont/Sienkiewicz story from New Mutants, which was much, much better, not least because Sienkiewicz rendered the bear as a virtually abstract shape seemingly drawn in marker pen. The prettiness of Mike Choi and Sonia Oback, much as I like them, can only suffer by comparison.