Sunday, July 19, 2009

The X-Axis - 19 July 2009

First, the obligatory plug for this week's House to Astonish: don't forget to listen to this week's House to Astonish. This week's reviews cover North 40, Wednesday Comics and Creepy. Download it here, or go to the podcast webpage, or subscribe via iTunes.

And now, this week's comics. Just a couple of X-books, and they're both bogged down in the middle of a storyline, so we'll do the long-awaited "Messiah War" review at some point too.

Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #2 - There's something deeply wrong about the way the Silver Surfer looks on that cover. It's the teeth, I think. Oh, and the blood spattering from an indeterminate location. Anyway, you'll be pleased to hear that the Surfer looks perfectly normal on the interior pages. This is the middle chapter of Kieron Gillen and Kano's miniseries - Marvel have suddenly started producing an awful lot of three-issue minis, and it's actually a perfectly decent length for a lot of stories. The big idea is that Beta Ray Bill has set out to starve Galactus into submission. But he's not going to fight Galactus - he's just going to blow up every world Galactus targets, before the big purple guy can eat it. A neat idea in theory, but in practice there's just one slight problem: the locals don't want to play ball. It's a strong idea, with plenty of inventive details and a lovely closing sequence. Good book.

Dark Avengers #7 - Part three of "Utopia", with your guest creative team of Matt Fraction and Luke Ross. Which means it's really more of Uncanny X-Men #513-and-a-half - and indeed, the issue seems more interested in Emma's new X-Men team than in Norman's Avengers, who seem to have been included in their own book out of a grudging necessity. It's all quite good fun, though, in a cheerfully over-the-top kind of way. There's a very odd scene with Cyclops and Norman Osborn, with Cyclops trying to play the ice-cold alpha male, and Norman just gawping at this deluded loser in disbelief. To be honest, the way Fraction's been writing Scott, I'm with Norman - and I'm not altogether sure that was the idea. Oh, and so far the story hasn't really made much use of Cloak and Dagger, which seems a bit of a waste. But it's a reasonably entertaining crossover story, and to be honest, Uncanny could kind of use the help.

Fables #86 - It's the origin story of the Darkness - the Sandman-type guy who took over Fabletown and got sidelined during the recent crossover. This is a one-issue flashback story explaining how he got captured in the first place, by the brave men of the Boxing League, who've spent centuries dealing with particularly nasty dark creatures on behalf of the Emperor. Of course, as imperial forces, they'd normally be villains in this book; but thanks to their singleminded dedication to dealing with really, really nasty things, they come across more as having higher priorities to worry about. It's an odd little story about warrior monks that doesn't really have an ending, but then I suppose it's always possible that we're coming back to some of these characters later on. Jim Fern is this month's guest artist, and while some of the early dialogue scenes are a bit stiff, he really picks it up towards the end.

New Mutants #3 - Hey, the scene on the cover is actually in the issue! That's unexpected. It's part three of the opening Legion storyline, and effectively the second straight issue of the New Mutants fighting Legion. To be honest, it's starting to feel a bit drawn out, particularly since there are no subplots to break up the action. On the other hand, though, there's a nice sequence with Sam hamfistedly trying to protect Dani (who doesn't have powers any more), and the final scene with Magik is nicely unexpected. But a two month fight scene, with a third month evidently to come, seems a bit much to me.

Unknown #3 - This really is turning into one of the strangest books that Mark Waid has put out in quite a while. Detective Catherine Allingham applies her skills to investigate the "mystery" of what happens when you die. This issue, our villain turns out to be a guy who thinks it's his job to keep the life and the afterlife separate. Either way, he usually keeps himself occupied dealing with dodgy magicians, but weird scientific experiments attract his attention too. Then again, he might just be stark raving mad. At this point, I'm not really sure what this book is. It started off as a slightly offbeat detective story, but it increasingly seems to be wandering into areas of bizarre philosophy. Waid seems to be deliberately leaving it ambiguous as to whether the final issue will be full-blown mysticism, a story about obsessive maniacs, or a bit of both. A lot depends on whether he can pull it all together in the remaining issue, but it's certainly an interesting read.

Wednesday Comics #2 - Okay, now that the book is getting into its stride and past the "origin recap" stage, I'm starting to get into some of these strips as more than just vehicles for the art. That said, it's still a strange mixture of nostalgia object and technique showcase. But there's good stuff in here; the Batman strip works, Deadman makes good use of the page, Paul Pope and Kyle Baker are doing excellent art, and even the Metal Men strip looks pretty. Oh, and the Flash strip (divided into "Flash" and "Iris West", with slightly different art styles) is rather clever. On the other hand, I'm not sold on Neil Gaiman doing comedy, the Teen Titans and Wonder Woman strips are something of a mess, and the Kuberts' Sgt Rock strip has the pacing all wrong. DC were presumably going for a mass audience by throwing continuity out of the window and hyping the book in USA Today - I have my doubts how many people outside the existing audience will be willing to pay $4 for something modelled on a colour supplement. But there's something quite appealing about it, and there's enough good material here to make it more than just a novelty.

X-Factor #46 - Good lord, this story is getting complicated. At this rate, I'm going to have to sit down with all the relevant issues and a flowchart. Peter David has got quite a few balls in the air by this point, and he's still introducing more. That includes a villain who, last I checked, would surely have been too young to show up at the Summers Rebellion... but okay. Is this meant to be the same timeline as we've seen before? I'm honestly not sure. Anyway, maybe I'm just not in the mood today for particularly involved plots, but I'm starting to feel this is a bit too complex for its own good. There are some great moments in here - the fight scene with Darwin and Monet is very well done - but the big picture all seems rather obscure.

Labels: , , ,