Sunday, May 31, 2009

The X-Axis - 31 May 2009

Well, heavens, there's just a ton of X-books out this week, isn't there? Next week is a bit quieter, with just Exiles, New Mutants, and something called Wolverine: Revolver. But this week, Marvel are in the mood to drown us.

Three of them, however, are the concluding parts of storylines, so I'll give them full reviews in the next couple of days. That would be Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk, Wolverine: Origins and X-Men: Legacy. (Although I might as well point out now that if you're a Rogue fan, you probably want this issue of Legacy, because it's quite important for her.)

Also out this week...

Battlefields: The Tankies #2 - Garth Ennis's latest war miniseries has a rather uneven tone. It's obviously going for black comedy, but seems to waver back and forth between grim and slightly too silly. That's not to say it falls apart - Ennis is too good for that - but it does feel at times as though two slightly different stories are fighting for space, instead of complementing one another. Even the art seems unsure how graphic it's supposed to be, which means that at times we get fairly innocuous drawings drenched in blood-red colouring in a way that doesn't altogether work. But there's some good stuff in here as well, with Ennis' usual eye for detail, and a rather sweet scene where, for once, the obligatory hesitant, nerdy officer turns out to be talking sense after all.

The Literals #2 - Part 6 of The Great Fables Crossover. You know, I'm a little vague about how these Literals characters are supposed to work. Obviously they're some sort of personification of abstract literary concepts, but what does a personified genre actually do all day? And if they're elements of fiction, in what sense did Kevin "write" the real world? Probably best not to think about it too much, because they work best as a vehicle for a series of jokes, rather than as proper characters. And while that means the stories from their perspective have an uphill struggle, it still largely works. After all, they're the villains of the crossover, and they function rather well as obstacles for the Fables cast to deal with. Besides, the jokes at the expense of the genres are funny.

Rapture #1 - As the week's only significant new release , I imagine we'll probably talk about this on the next House to Astonish (that okay, Al?). But for the moment: it's a six-issue miniseries by Taki Soma and Michael Avon Oeming. It's an unusual collaboration; as well as co-writing, they've shared the art, with Oeming working over Soma's layouts. The result has some of Oeming's usual stark, angular approach, but a bit less stylised and a bit more cartoony. To be honest, the resulting art hovers somewhere between Oeming's usual work and Philip Bond, but that's no bad thing. The story is a sort of post-apocalyptic love story set in a world recently devastated by a war between rather generic superheroes, a premise that seems a bit forced at this stage - not least, the plot-convenient but enormously implausible idea that people are still taking commercial flights during this ostensible global catastophe. That's such an odd feature that a bit of me wonders whether it's deliberate weirdness. Like the art, then, not so sold on the story.

Wolverine #72 - The penultimate chapter of "Old Man Logan", which will be wrapped up in a one-shot at some point down the line. And yes, you guessed it, Millar and McNiven have taken seven issues just to get to the point where Wolverine finally snaps, pops his claws, and goes out to take on the bad guys. It's the sort of lightweight throwaway thing that will probably work well enough as a mildly silly graphic novel, but can't help feeling massively overextended in serial form at eight issues. I realise that this sort of story requires a long build-up for The Big Moment, but again, it's a question of whether you're pacing in page count or publishing schedule. In a big hardback slab, the build-up is probably about right. But in serial terms, we've taken the better part of a year to reach a moment that everyone saw coming last autumn, in a basic story with no real twists along the way, and that's too long to get to the point.

Wolverine: First Class #15 - This month's guest star: Thor. Kitty wants to meet him to impress her friends; Wolverine helps out because he thinks it'll be funny. All good straightforward stuff, but it's very solidly done. Scott Koblish provides art this month, and it's got a comedic quality I don't recall seeing from him before. (With Skottie Young scheduled to do Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, there are some interesting art choices afoot for the all-ages titles.) One other thing: I like the way David has found a new angle on early Kitty Pryde by seizing on a lacuna in the original stories. Those stories made a huge deal about her ballet classes (and even pointed out that she enjoyed them because she got to hang out with normal kids), yet we never actually saw any of her classmates. It would be stretching a point to say that we desperately needed stories about Kitty's dance classmates, but if we're going to have a Kitty and Wolverine series set at this point in history (and despite the title, it is a Kitty and Wolverine series), I'm glad they've found a legitimately underused angle.

X-Force #15 - Messiah War, part 5. Everyone hits one another. Punchy punchy. That's about it, really. So far this crossover has exceeded expectations, but I'm afraid we've finally reached the obligatory mid-storyline punchfest - not really something that plays to the murky strengths of artist Clayton Crain, either. Just to test my goodwill a little further, the story also makes Bishop look like a moron. Not only does he get the chance to kill Hope twice and fail to take the shot, but the second time he actually pauses to say that he won't hesitate. What a dimwit.

X-Men: Future History - The Messiah War Sourcebook - Completist fodder if ever I saw some. It's basically Cable explaining in nice short chunks about the various characters and concepts that have surrounded Bishop and Cable over the years (though Cyclops gets a few pages to tell us about X-Force too). As a catalogue of discarded concepts and aborted interpretations, it's actually quite readable and somewhat interesting. It does pick up on ironic contrasts with earlier stories, and I believe it may be the first comic to acknowledge openly that X-Treme X-Men was the most embarrassingly awful name in history. ("Storm claims it was an inside joke, and blames Gambit. Gambit blames Rogue. I blame society.") So I don't want to be too harsh on it - for what it is, it's entirely fine. But what it isn't is anything much to do with Messiah War, and there's the rub.

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