Sunday, June 14, 2009

The X-Axis - 14 June 2009

Goodness, I'm drifting way behind schedule. Still haven't got around to doing a full review of last week's Exiles storyline, and this week we've got Wolverine #73-74 and the end of the Sisterhood arc in Uncanny to add to the list. I'll get to them.

But in the meantime, here's some other stuff.

Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #1 - Another four dollar miniseries. But this one has a stab at value for money, by throwing in a reprint of the character's debut in Thor #337. For some reason, that's not mentioned anywhere in the solicitations, so I'm not sure whether they're reprinting the whole storyline in the course of this miniseries. Seems like the sort of thing you'd want to draw attention to. As for the main feature, Kieron Gillen and Kano go all the way back to Beta Ray Bill's origin story to give him an agenda: he's going to singlehandedly defeat Galactus. I suspect this may be heading in the direction of asking whether Galactus is some sort of necessary evil - whether that works, depends on whether you can make him a metaphor rather than a big guy in purple. But it's a strong first issue, and I'm quite pleased to see Marvel doing more of these three-issue minis; it's punchier.

Fables #85 - More of Jack at the Farm, which is really something of a side issue in terms of the wider crossover. Really, the main story is going on in Jack of Fables and Literals; this subplot feels somewhat like an effort to get the overbearing Jack out of the way by keeping him occupied. It's okay, but it's not the strongest part of the storyline, and Tony Akins' art feels like it's working very hard to fit the house style.

Genext United #2 - Or GeNext or GeNeXt or GeneXt, or however it's meant to be capitalised - I'm never sure. Anyway, for those of you who can't keep track, this is Chris Claremont's second miniseries about the next generation of X-Men characters in (more or less) the world of his X-Men: The End miniseries. Which basically means it's a bunch of teenage heroes in the not-too-distant future. In fact, though, this series appears to be mainly concerned with introducing the heroes and villains of India, all of whom are mythologically themed. It's a nice enough idea in theory, but it's strangely charmless on the page - the characters aren't quite properly defined, and it never really comes to life.

Uncanny X-Men: First Class Giant-Size Special #1 - Following the well-received X-Men: First Class, which updated the Silver Age version of the X-Men, we're now getting Uncanny X-Men: First Class, a miniseries about the 1975 roster. (Between this and Wolverine: First Class, you can't help suspecting Marvel have rather lost sight of the original pun.) This issue is basically an anthology as Scott learns about each of his new teammates, through the medium of the flashback. There's a whole bunch of creators credited, although we're not told who did which bits. Heaven only knows when it's supposed to take place; you'd assume it was early in the day, but Moira's wandering around as an in-house scientist, so it can't be. If this is even meant to be in continuity at all. Who knows? Anyway, it's a mixed affair. The Storm piece is rather good, and Nightcrawler's segment has delightful art; Banshee's is pretty but rather vacant, and Colossus gets a bizarre scene which can't seem to make up its mind whether it's doing an Archie pastiche, and if so, why. But Wolverine spouting a load of gibberish about his past ("Hey, who let the radioactive wolverine out of its cage?") is very funny.

Unknown #2 - Mark Waid and Minck Oosterveer's offbeat detective story continues, and it seems we're doing the "weight of the human soul" idea. Specifically, Waid seems to be interested in the idea that, with quantum physics and so forth, there might actually be something to measure - as he mentions in passing, there's a guy at Duke University who apparently wants to do experiments about this. So while it's notionally a detective story, it's actually turning out to be more about mortality and the outer reaches of mystery. All blended with a Sherlock Holmes type of set-up. Unusual, but quite interesting.

Unwritten #2 - A high concept Vertigo series if ever there was one: Tommy Taylor thinks he was the inspiration for his father's highly successful books about a boy wizard of the same name, but it turns out that, unknown to him, he might actually be the character come to life. This being Vertigo, of course, we all know that some sort of magic is probably going to be involved. So, understandably enough, the story is already focussing more on the mystery of quite what Tommy actually is. The concept is certainly fascinating enough to justify it. Hopefully, with Carey's profile and the previous success of Lucifer, this title will attract a large enough audience for the story to run its full length, instead of being cut short like Crossing Midnight.

X-Factor #44 - Yes, the story really is called "Dirty, Sexy Monet." Groan now. But that aside, it's another good issue from Peter David, who continues to impress me by taking seemingly unpromising characters and making them work. He did it before by grafting a personality onto the cipher Layla Miller, and he's doing it again with Darwin from X-Men: Deadly Genesis. Oka, I'm not altogether sure we need more stories about dystopian futures, but hell, it's a subplot, and I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. Lovely art too, even if Longshot feels a bit creepy.

X-Men Forever #1 - We'll probably talk about this on the podcast next week (bluntly, there's not much in the way of new releases). In theory, this is the series where Chris Claremont picks up the X-Men where he left off in 1991. In practice, it's already becoming a bit confused. The first issue is devoted to the X-Men hunting down Fabian Cortez, a loose end from X-Men #3 which would have made sense for the fourth issue. But half the team seem to have been quietly dumped, and Kitty and Kurt from Excalibur are back for no apparent reason. In fairness, I can understand why Claremont needs to slim down the team - the 1991 roster was designed to sustain two books with separate casts, and it's clearly far too big for a single team book - but this sort of wholesale reshuffling straight off the bat doesn't seem in the spirit of the gimmick. The story itself is a forgettable manhunt with an uninspired payoff, but there are a couple of potentially interesting subplots, as Claremont gets a chance to write that Scott/Jean/Logan romantic triangle that he kept hinting at, and to do the Rogue/Gambit relationship his way.

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