Monday, March 30, 2009

The X-Axis - 29 March 2009

Wouldn't you just know it. I go away for the weekend, and there's a whole ton of D-list X-books to write about. Oh well.

I'll come back to the X-Infernus miniseries later, I think - it's a lead-in to the upcoming New Mutants series, which makes it somewhat significant. And don't forget the latest episode of House to Astonish (download here, or visit the podcast webpage, or download via iTunes), for reviews of Invincible, Top 10 and Dark Reign: Elektra.

As for the rest, capsules ought to do it, I think...

Battlefields: Dear Billy #3 - You'd think that by now Garth Ennis would have said everything it was possible to say about war, but he keeps finding new angles. This three-issue miniseries for Dynamite has been one of his strongest miniseries in a while. It's a love story about a nurse and a pilot; she hates the Japanese, for understandable reasons, while he kills them for a living. But beneath it, they're not really on the same page at all. Ennis explores the tension between the nihilist destruction of seeking revenge for everything that happened in the war, and the distasteful realpolitik of letting it all go. Smart stuff, and definitely worth tracking down in the collection.

Jack of Fables #32 - Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham tie up the Bookburner storyline and clear decks in preparation for the Fables crossover starting next month. Jack of Fables, as a spin-off about the most obnoxious and superficial character in fabledom, is fairly superficial in its own right, but usually good for a laugh, especially as it has the patience to spend months setting up a punchline, and the audacity to use blatant deus ex machinas at the same time. This is fairly typical; there's not a huge amount of depth there, let's be honest, but it's enjoyable silliness.

Umbrella Academy: Dallas #5 - Hmm. Not sure about the massive detour to Vietnam. Yes, it's quite funny, but it spoils the momentum of the main story. Still, I can't be too harsh on a bunch of American soldiers led by a superhero and a monkey trying to steal a mummified emperor, even if it's got nothing to do with the rest of the plot. Gabriel Ba's art is spectacular as always, but it's the deadpan embrace of utter absurdity that really makes the book work.

Wolverine: First Class #13 - Peter David takes over as writer, but apparently we're still going with the format of a guest star for every story. This time it's Daredevil, who's an unusually good fit. Not only are they about the same power level, but they both love fighting ninjas. There's nothing particularly new to be found here, but it's a solid, old-school superhero story by people who know what they're doing, and that's what people buy this book for.

X-Force/Cable: Messiah War - This is the lead-in issue for the "Messiah War" crossover, and it's actually quite decent. X-Force writers Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost get the job of introducing the story, and they dutifully devote a fair chunk of the issue to recapping the plot from Cable. If you've been reading that book already, you might find yourself getting restless, but it's a necessary evil. Mike Choi and Sonia Oback are largely on form with the art, and there's some neat comic relief with a future Deadpool - who, thanks to his healing factor, is still around a thousand years in the future, and madder than ever. If we're going to have X-Force as an ultra-violent black ops team, then you really need some humour as well, and they've struck the balance quite well here. Bishop seems unusually sane for a change, and there's even a somewhat promising scene for Cable's other arch-enemy Stryfe. (And you don't see many of those.) Much better than I was expecting, to be honest.

X-Men: Kingbreaker #4 - This, on the other hand, is pretty much exactly what I was expecting. Everyone shows up, yadda yadda, big fight, Starjammers get their win back but the bad guys escape, pieces are duly shuffled into place for the start of War of Kings. I'd normally do a full-scale review of the completed miniseries, but really, what is there to say? It does its job as a set-up, if by that you mean it moves characters from point A to point B. Oh, and it gets rid of That Idiotic Sword, which has to be a good thing. Otherwise, though, it's just a series of events in a row, hoping that nobody will notice it isn't a story. Fine if you want to see these particular characters in action, but there's not much else going for it.

X-Men: Sword of the Braddocks - Not an X-Men story at all, but a New Exiles special, in which Chris Claremont and Scott Clark tie up the stray plot thread about Slaymaster travelling from world to world, killing off the local version of Psylocke. The resolution is exactly the one you were probably expecting (our Psylocke finally beats him in single combat), but hey, it does tie up a plot thread left dangling when New Exiles was cancelled. I'm in two minds about the art; there's some grating T&A elements, but there are also some attractive graceful panels.

The book also provides this week's misleading-the-customer alert, as the four dollar book only contains a 26 page story. What's in the rest of the book? Why, a reprint of "Bloody 'Ell" by Adam Warren and Rick Mays, originally published in X-Men Unlimited #47 (cover date July 2003) - not that the book actually mentions anywhere that it's a reprint, which makes me wonder if they're trying to palm it off as new material. Then again, maybe they just forgot to label it, since the story makes little sense unless you know it was published at a time when Psylocke was supposed to be dead. Either way, it's not in the solicitations at all. Mind you, at least it's a decent story - not a lost classic by any means, but typically bouncy Warren nonsense.

X-Men: The Times & Life of Lucas Bishop #2 - This wholly unnecessary spin-off from Cable seems to consist of little more than a recap of Bishop's origin story modified to fit the current version of continuity. A couple of scenes serve to explain why Bishop hates Hope so much, but that's not the focus of the series. Nor is anything else, really. It's just a bunch of stuff happening, as if somebody had decided to take a perfectly serviceable five-page flashback and expand it into a three-issue-long Official Handbook entry. I haven't a clue what the point of this was supposed to be, but it doesn't work.

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