Sunday, February 22, 2009

The X-Axis - 22 February 2009

It's one of those weeks where I don't really have time to do more than run through the capsules, I'm afraid. So we'll hold off for now on the final issues of NYX: No Way Home and New Exiles, and hopefully I'll get to them later in the week. Otherwise...

Birds of Prey #127 - The final issue of a once rather-good title that seems to have been getting by on sheer inertia for years - by which I mean, it already exists and despite a lack of particularly compelling ideas for new stories, nobody has hitherto felt sufficiently moved to actually cancel it. The final issue is a load of running about which kind of pays off a long-running storyline about supervillains in Silicon Valley, but also ends with a decidedly tacked-on "so let's break up" schtick. Not absolutely awful, but mediocre enough to make me grateful that the book has been put out of its misery.

The Great Unknown #1 - I suspect we might end up talking about this on next weekend's podcast, if only because this was such a quiet week for new book. This is a five-issue miniseries by Duncan Rouleau, whose work on books like Metal Men has tended to feature very interesting ideas told in an insanely convoluted way. The Great Unknown marks something of a departure, because while the central idea is still refreshingly oddball, the art and writing are both stripped back and much more straightforward. Zach is an obnoxious genius who has inexplicably failed to achieve anything in his life; the story is about him finding out exactly why that is. And no, it isn't because he needs to be a nicer person. The book takes the high-risk approach of having a massively unsympathetic lead character, but he does have an abrasive charisma. Pretty good, and I'm pleased to see Rouleau taking a more direct approach with his storytelling - it's usually for the best.

Ultimate Fantastic Four #60 - This is the final issue? This? Half the team run around fighting Atlanteans for the whole story, and then a caption saying that the story is continued in Ultimatum and Ultimatum: Fantastic Four Requiem? Christ. With comics like this, it's no bloody wonder nobody gives a toss about the Ultimate imprint any more. Awful.

Uncanny X-Men #506 - In which ex-mutants start seeking refuge with the X-Men, Colossus rescues some women from slave traffickers, and the science team track down the guy who created Red Ronin back in those 1970s Godzilla comics. It's a pretty book, and Terry Dodson is doing some great work here, but there's still something missing. It's less than the sum of its parts. Perhaps the problem is that there's a bunch of Stuff going on, but I'm not getting the sense of a bigger picture or an overall direction. There are several plot threads in evidence, but nothing that seems to connect them. Now, sure, there are bits that look like they must be set-up for something, such as the ongoing theme of recruiting mad scientists from old comics. And I've no doubt that Fraction has a plan in mind - but it doesn't seem to be filtering through to give any particular structure to the stories I'm reading right now. I'm getting restless here...

X-Factor #40 - Once again, Peter David asks us nicely not to reveal the ending - not that I would have done anyway, since in this case it's the closing twist. Most of the issue involves a depressed Madrox going back to visit John Maddox, the stray duplicate who built a peaceful family for himself. As such, he now represents the embarrassing proof that the real Madrox didn't have to screw up his life quite so badly. Madrox has provided some of Peter David's best material over the last few years, as he's managed to take a mildly ludicrous gimmick superpower, and use it as an effective vehicle to tell stories about identity. This is no exception, with David and artist Valentine De Landro both at their best. Very good.

X-Men: Kingbreaker #3 - Sorry, but does this book serve any purpose at all, other than to get the Starjammers into position for War of Kings? I mean, is this story actually bloody about anything? Because it doesn't seem to be. It just seems to be some random action sequences designed to get the characters from A to B, and my interest is waning rapidly.

X-Men: Legacy #221 - It's one of those weeks when they deluge the market in X-books, in case you hadn't guessed. Of course, this is one of the better ones, at least for those with a decent knowledge of X-Men history. Professor X and Gambit are looking for Rogue, and they track her down in the X-Men's old Australian base - which is currently running a giant Danger Room simulation of stuff from Rogue's past. Great if you know all the references. But as so often with this book, I can't help but wonder what you're supposed to get out of this if, for example, you don't recognise re-enactments of scenes from the mid-1980s, or you've forgotten that Havok was briefly a brainwashed Genoshan guard for a handful of issues nineteen years ago. Legacy is very good at what it does, but what it does must surely be of niche appeal.

Young X-Men #11 - The penultimate issue, and apparently we're teasing the death of Dust. Actually, I strongly suspect they're not going to kill her - partly because the story has all the hallmarks of a feint, and partly because there's just no point killing off a perfectly decent character in the final issue of a third-tier X-book which bombed inside a year. The book isn't worth it. Anyway, the basic idea here is that Dust is dying and Donald Pierce claims he can help her out. It's an okay premise that doesn't quite come across. For this to work, we have to believe in Dust betraying the X-Men to try and save herself, and she just never seems desperate enough for that. Nice cover, though.

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