Thursday, August 06, 2009

The X-Axis - 6 August 2009

Okay, then, let's make a start on the backlog. I'm not exactly racing through my pile of comics, partly because I've been kept busy with other stuff this week, and partly because I'm confidently expecting this week's books will be late too. Still, let's at least catch up on the X-books.

Dark Wolverine #76 - That title, that title... It's the sort of title so embarrassingly bad that you almost feel compelled to apologise for writing it down. Like I'm doing now, really. I wonder how long you have to spent saying "Dark Reign" fifty times a day before it all just becomes meaningles noises, and calling a book Dark Wolverine starts to sound like a good idea, rather than a skin-crawlingly awful one? But actually, Daken's kind of growing on me. There were a whole bunch of problems with the character in Wolverine: Origins - not least that he was connected to the Romulus storyline, which is an absolute lost cause. If nothing else, "Dark Reign" has got him away from that quagmire, and given him a better context. The story's pretty straightforward: it's Daken politicking within the Dark Avengers, and the basic question is whether he's trying to expose Bullseye as a traitor or set him up - and vice versa. It's nicely ambiguous about everyone's motives, while still making perfect sense. But I'm actually starting to see something promising in Daken here, as a guy who clearly fancies himself as the smartest guy in the room, and whose main concern in life is just to prove that he's in control of his own life. He likes the fact that his teammates don't trust him, because it means they don't believe they can control him. There's something in there, you know. I'm not sure where you go with him as a lead in the long run, if they're even planning to - he seems like more of a supporting character - but I'm coming round to the guy.

Dark X-Men: The Beginning #2 - Fans of pulse-pounding negotiation-packed talking won't want to miss this issue, which features three thrilling stories of non-stop conversation. Oh, all right, that's a bit harsh. But this issue, we get the recruitment scenes of Cloak & Dagger, Michael Pointer and Daken - and despite the best efforts of the writers, that's really just three scenes of Osborn making people an offer that they can't refuse. Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk (who seems to be channelling Rick Leonardi) have a stab at giving C&D a plausible reason to join the team, and kind of get to the right ballpark. But they rush through it in a way that doesn't give the duo much chance to put up any resistance, and they end up coming across as a bit timid. The Weapon Omega piece is a contrived blackmail scenario that makes you wonder why Osborn would possibly expect this guy to have the slightest loyalty to him. And Daken... well, there's a couple of nice ideas about his character, as he regards himself as the only sane one in the Dark Avengers. But it really is just a conversation. It's pretty clear that this is one of those series they commissioned first, and figured an idea for the content would come along later.

Wolverine: First Class #17 - This issue, Peter David digs up Patch, Wolverine's old disguise from the Madripoor stories. And then doesn't go to Madripoor. It was David who torpedoed this idea in the first place, during a short run on Wolverine where the supporting cast finally got to roll their eyes and make clear that of course they recognised the guy with the really distinctive hairdo. ("But if the psycho with the claws wants to think he's fooling people, hey, let him...") That's kind of the approach here, with Wolverine evidently convinced Patch is an awesome persona, and Kitty finding it all a bit bizarre. It actually comes off pretty well, getting the basic idea to work, without getting into the continuity. The story itself is about a politician from a dodgy Madripoor family; Kitty thinks he's great, and Wolverine's convinced he must be crooked because, well, he's dodgy, isn't he? David manages to tie up the story without giving a clear answer to that question, and still make it satisfying. There's also strong artwork from Ronan Cliquet, who has more than a hint of Darick Robertson. This is a good issue.

Wolverine: Noir #4 - It's the final issue of the miniseries, and I suppose at some point I should go back and re-read this just to see if it works any better as a whole. But at first glance, it's just another tread through the usual noir cliches mixed with recycled X-Men plot elements, and I still don't see why that's supposed to be a worthwhile exercise. At the very least, the front-and-centre artifice of it makes it impossible to get into the story as anything other than a pointless parlour game. I see they've commissioned another X-Men: Noir miniseries, but I don't plan to bother with it.

Wolverine: Origins #38 - Wolverine and Omega Red have a big fight in a prison. It's a pretty good fight, too. And Scot Eaton continues to get better as a superhero artist. Of course, it's all supposed to be building up to some revelation about Romulus, which is the point where my enthusiasm runs out. But he's not really in this issue much - it's more a stalling device to drag it out a bit longer, which happens to pick up on a more interesting subplot from earlier in the series. There's not much to say about it beyond "it's a fight scene", but at least it's a decent one.

X-Force #17 - Ooh, nice cover. I don't normally much care for the generic pin-up covers, but that's a nice X-23 picture. Anyway, if you were expecting Elixir to explain who the baby was, well, think again. We're back to the Leper Queen storyline which the crossover interrupted in progress, so apparently that's going on the back burner for now. That irritation aside, it's not a bad issue - the good guys get to do some heroism, and there's a promising subplot with Wolfsbane that suggests the book might be planning a story which isn't quite as depressing as its usual fare. And we've got Mike Choi and Sonia Oback on art for this arc, whose art is much more enjoyable than Clayton Crain's murk. On the down side, the book is still going for eye-rollingly gratuitous violence in an effort to justify its brand, which I could live without. But, hey, not a bad story.

X-Men Forever #4 - You'll be pleased to hear (unless you're indifferent, which come to think of it might be more likely) that despite the cover, this story does not unveil Dark Shadowcat. Instead, we get Kitty Pryde with one of Wolverine's claws, which doesn't make a lick of sense, but Claremont just about gets away with it by having people act astonished throughout the issue. X-Men Forever is off to a very odd start; in theory, this series is supposed to be picking up where Claremont's original X-Men run left off in 1991, but even if you leave aside the difference of tone between Jim Lee and Tom Grummett's art, it's hard to believe that a continued Claremont run would have featured anything like this. On the one hand, you've got stories he'd never have done at the time - teasing the death of Wolverine, going back to the Kid Storm period from the late eighties. On the other, you've got things like Sabretooth reverting to his late eighties persona and disregarding the way he's been written for the last twenty years. It's all very strange. But there's a certain enthusiasm to the book that carries it along. I'm not sure how much sense any of this will make to readers who don't have a fairly detailed knowledge of X-Men stories from 20 years ago, but somewhat to my surprise, it's proving oddly compelling.

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