Sunday, May 10, 2009

The X-Axis - 10 May 2009

This week's podcast has reviews of New Mutants, Power Girl and Fin Fang Four Return. And for blog readers, I'll come back to New Mutants later on. But first, here's some other stuff from this week's books.

Astonishing Tales #4 - More reprints from Marvel's digital comics service. I'm mentioning it here for the X-completists among you, since it's got a Wolverine/Punisher serial and a Mojoworld story both underway. I've written about them before, of course, and there's nothing new to report. The Wolverine/Punisher thing is a serviceable action story, but it does have some striking artwork going for it. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra's Mojoworld story, though, is ridiculous but genuinely funny, with Cannonball and Sunspot pausing at the end to argue over how old they're actually supposed to be these days. ("We were first published in 1982... that makes us, what, 36...?") You also get a throwaway Iron Man 2020 story which spends most of its page count on fighting, and an atmospheric, virtually-silent Daredevil short with little plot but a cute use of his powers. It's not a bad package, as superhero anthologies go.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8 #25 - If you're wondering how "Season 8" got up to issue #25, it's because the series is meant to have roughly as much story content as a full season of the TV show, and obviously that's rather more than 25 standard comics. Anyway, after 25 issues of subplot about Dawn being turned into a giant, this is the pay-off. Or, perhaps more accurately - after 25 issues of subplot about Dawn being turned into a giant, this is the pay-off? It's a story about an off-the-peg jilted boyfriend, who nobody really seems appropriately angry about, with a very odd B-story about a sort of abusive Gepetto in the Scottish hills, who rather gets forgotten about at the end. The ideas are fine, but the treatment doesn't fly.

Cable #14 - Part four of "Messiah War", the crossover with X-Force. And it's better than you'd probably expect, to be honest. There's some good material with Bishop trying to keep up his facade of loyalty for Stryfe's benefit - and I like the way the story is using Stryfe, as a guy who thinks he's Cable's arch-enemy, but is actually just a nuisance in the path of the other characters. On the other hand, there's a weird torture scene which manages to be simultaneously too graphic and not graphic enough, and a very strange subplot with Apocalypse that doesn't seem to achieve a great deal. But I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and assume it pays off somewhere down the line. And there's a strong cliffhanger, taking advantage of the fact that Hope doesn't know all sorts of stuff which the readers are familiar with. Pretty decent, really.

Exiles #2 - Ah, a twist on the format. For some reason, even though they keep travelling between parallel Earths with counterparts of the familiar Marvel characters, the Exiles have generally managed to avoid bumping into themselves, or getting mistaken for a local. I'm surprised it hasn't been done more frequently, to be honest. But since this version of the Exiles is using high-profile characters like Wanda Maximoff and the Black Panther, I suppose we're going to get it more often. And indeed, we get plenty of scenes of the Exiles bluffing their way past the locals by crossing their fingers and hoping things generally played out like they did at home. The Blink subplot continues to build nicely, as well, simply by having her take a back seat in the story and gently nudge the characters now and again. Obviously it's a book for the devoted Marvel fans who get all the references, but that's fair enough in a parallel-worlds set-up. Good fun, and I'm pleasantly surprised that Jeff Parker has managed to reinvigorate the format.

Fin Fang 4 Return - We talk about this on the podcast, but it's a collection of shorts from the Marvel website (plus a reprint of the Christmas story, though they didn't mention that in the solicitations). If you haven't seen Scott Gray and Roger Langridge's strips before, the basic gag is that a bunch of monster characters from the fifties have been shrunk to human size and forced to live in the relatively prosaic setting of Marvel New York. So Fin Fang Foom is a chef, Gorgilla is just a well-meaning talking ape, the loveable Electro is a hopelessly out-of-date robot, and Googam, Son of Goom, still spends all his time scheming to take over the world. It's a simple set-up and the strips are generally very funny (the Madonna one is particularly good). Silly, but in all the right ways.

Power Girl #1 - Again, see the podcast, but I may as well reiterate my big question: what is the concept of Power Girl, other than that she's a Supergirl knock-off? The set-up in this series is that she's running one of those charitably-inclined technology companies that heroes tend to end up with (regular capitalism being a rather unfashionable occupation these days), but since there's no mention of any technical genius or vast wealth, I have no clue how she ended up with it. It's basically fine if you can live with the gratuitous T&A jokes, but the real problem here is that Power Girl comes across as a generic character.

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #2 - One part convoluted metaphor to three parts dreamy nonsense, but it's the sort of book where that's a ringing endorsement. Features perhaps the most unlikely bullfighting scene in history. A series this absurd won't be to everyone's taste, but it has a strong enough plotline to hang together through the weirdness. I love it, personally.

X-Men: First Class Finals #4 - Um... more greatest hits from earlier X-Men: First Class stories, strung together with a loose "let's travel inside Jean's memories" plot. The pay-off is something about Jean dreaming about her fears, and frankly, it seems a bit of a weak justification for a four issue miniseries. Oh, and judging by the ending, we've also given up any pretence of First Class being more than a loose parallel to mainstream continuity (as the book apparently forgets to write out Hank before diving into Giant-Size X-Men #1). Anyway, it's perfectly inoffensive, but in its eagerness to remind us of First Class stories of yore, it doesn't manage to deliver a story on their level.

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