Sunday, May 03, 2009

The X-Axis - 3 May 2009

See, I finally got around to writing about "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" That's below. We'll get to X-Men Origins: Wolverine - the one-shot comic, not the movie - later.

Thanks to Steven Grant for plugging House to Astonish in his weekly "Permanent Damage" column, which is always much appreciated. In turn, wrestling fans might want to follow the link, since he's got a lot of thoughts about the state of wrestling storytelling this week. And I couldn't agree more about the BBC's Tonight's The Night, a John Barrowman vehicle for which the word "misconceived" doesn't begin to describe it. British masochists can watch the latest episode here - the rest of you may be able to see the BBC's chosen still photo of John Barrowman dispensing stardust to a grateful world, which pretty much sums up the experience.


Battlefields: The Tankies #1 - Another Garth Ennis war story, this time drawn by Carlos Ezquerra. It's just after D-Day, and a rookie London tank crew find themselves under the command of an incomprehensible Geordie veteran. More or less a return to comedy compared with the serious tone of some recent Battlefields stories, and to be honest, it's a bit light on plot, and a bit heavy on jokes about the Geordie accent. Mind you, there's a point in there somewhere, with the 1940s Londoners knowing absolutely nothing about the rest of the country. Doesn't look like a classic, but it's perfectly good fun.

The Literals #1 - Billed as a three-issue miniseries, this is really chapters 3, 6 and 9 of "The Great Fables Crossover". It exists, I suppose, to fit the structure of the story that Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges are telling: one chapter for the Fables cast, one for the Jack of Fables cast, and one from the Literals' perspective, in strict rotation. The Literals are the bad guys in this story (most of them, at least), if only because they seem so indifferent to the consequences of the plot, but this chapter blithely takes everything from their perspective regardless. In tone and appearance, it's basically an extra issue of Jack of Fables, which is fine by me.

Phonogram vol 2 #2 - The idea here, if you've forgotten, is seven different stories, all in the same club on the same night from the perspective of a different character. This time, it's Marc the emo kid (the one who refused to dance last issue), reminiscing in self-pitying fashion about an abortive relationship with an unnamed probably-Polish free spirit - or at least, that's evidently how he chooses to recall her. Phonogram being vaguely magical, his recollection of her still manages to have a better sense of perspective than he does. Actually, there's not much magic in this story, but it dovetails very cleverly with what we saw last issue: a minor sequence which we already saw in issue #1 serves as the ending of this story, and thanks to the shift of perspective, it works.

Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk #5 - Wow, this just gets dumber and dumber. Not that Damon Lindelof would disagree with that - he's clearly aiming to go insanely over the top, and the result is the sort of endearingly well-intentioned gibberish that works well enough if you switch your brain off, but doesn't entirely belong in an ongoing continuity where, y'know, future stories might want us to believe that Wolverine isn't functionally immortal. Ignore that consideration, though, and it's harmless nonsense - too throwaway to withstand the scrutiny coming its way after such the inordinate three year delay between issues, but it can time a joke, and it still raises a smile.

Uncanny X-Men #509 - You've got to love the cover, in which the two versions of Psylocke appear to have the same face, aside from a bit of shading of Kwannon's eye to acknowledge her ethnicity. As for the story... well, let's be honest, this series has problems beyond just Greg Land's art. There's just too much going on for any coherent momentum to emerge. Yes, the opening pages are full of demented grinning, but they're also a lecture on how awesome San Francisco is. The "Proposition X" subplot is introduced, billed as a major deal, and then ignored for the rest of the issue. Pixie is getting angry. The science team are thinking about building a time machine, for reasons that frankly amount to some handwaving and a "Just because." Psylocke's return is still being built up, but she doesn't get anything to do just yet. The Red Queen spends three pages delivering cryptic dialogue, the thrust of which is probably "She's Phoenix." Scott and Emma are having trouble. The Sisterhood attack the X-Men and seem to be after Wolverine. Now, in the last arc, Fraction didn't really bother trying to keep all the plates spinning, and just focussed on the ones that were immediately relevant - which didn't read very well, as it meant that the X-Men just stopped talking about things they should logically have been very interested in. This time, he's keeping it all on the page, but as you can imagine, there's no space to really develop any of these ideas; if the story is about anything in particular, it's about the Sisterhood, but their threat is so mysterious and ill-defined that it's hard to know what's supposed to be at stake. Oddly, there are plenty of stories here I'm potentially interested in, but none of them are actually being told, and the Sisterhood is probably the least promising of the bunch. It's a book full of ideas that I like in theory, but which aren't quite working in practice. I'm sure it's heading somewhere, and it'll all settle into some sort of structure in hindsight, but this just doesn't have the focus for a monthly serial.

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