Sunday, September 27, 2009

The X-Axis - 27 September 2009

Thank heavens for Diamond UK. This would have been a rather heavy week for me, but fortunately the brave distributors have managed to lose Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine: Origins (along with six other Marvel books). Apparently we'll get them next week, once everyone at the warehouse has had a thorough search behind the sofa. But for once, Diamond have actually done Marvel a favour, since that still leaves us with two X-Men books and two Wolverine books. Three of each seems a touch excessive even by Marvel's notably unrestrained standards.

Anyway, the blog should be back to something approaching regular service now. So that long-promised X-Men Forever review will be on its way shortly, as will the round-up of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's "Old Man Logan" story, which ended with this week's Giant-Size Wolverine: Old Man Logan one-shot. I might also do a full-length review of the "Utopia" crossover - by which I mean, I can't honestly think of much more to say about it, but I'll read it again and see what comes to mind.

Also out this week...

Dark Reign: The List - X-Men - Now, I haven't ordered any of the other List one-shots, but I could have sworn I remember some hype suggesting that they were meant to be important to the plot somewhere or other. What actually happens here is that Norman Osborn throws a tantrum about Namor's betrayal, and sends a big monster to kill the Atlanteans, leading to the obligatory fight. And naturally, it all ends in another stalemate, since nobody can win outright at this stage. (Which is turning out to be the big problem with most Dark Reign stories: the creators are having tremendous difficulty convincing me that something might happen.) To be honest, it all feels a bit peripheral, as if somebody wanted to pump out a few more one-shots based on the Dark Reign set-up - and since we've just come out of an X-Men versus Norman storyline, it seems premature to do it again.

That said, this is more of a Namor story than an X-Men one, so the emhasis is slightly different. And it's got art by Alan Davis, which is a selling point in my book - especially because he's one of the remarkably few artists who's figured out that Atlanteans don't walk, they swim, and whose Atlantis is interesting to look at as a result. As a fight story where the X-Men and Namor battle a sea monster, it's pretty good - but if this is typical of the List books, I don't see how they're advancing the wider plot, except perhaps by having Norman be slightly madder than usual.

Dark X-Men: The Confession - This rather odd one-shot is the pay-off for a long-running subplot about Scott and Emma keeping secrets from one another. I say "rather odd", because you'd expect this story to be written by Uncanny X-Men writer Matt Fraction - it even picks up directly from one of his scenes. Instead, for some reason it's been assigned to X-Force writers Craig Kyle and Chris Yost. Granted, that series does play into the subplot, since X-Force are one of Scott's secrets, but this is still primarily a Fraction plot. So it's rather jarring when the big conversation suddenly starts picking up on plot threads from the tail end of New X-Men and apparently laying the groundwork for the "Necrosha-X" crossover.

That aside, though, I quite liked this. Artist Bing Cansino isn't familiar to me, but his work is reminiscent of Georges Jeanty, and he has the subtlety to pull off a decent conversation scene. His Emma isn't quite as imposing as she ought to be, but in the context of the story it largely works.In the angst-ridden world of the X-Men, it's rather nice to see that Scott and Emma never actually have the big screaming argument depicted on the cover - instead, they sort of look a bit embarrassed at one another, apologise a lot and make up. And, admittedly, they recap the plot a lot - in some very choppy flashback scenes where the narration loses all sense of actual conversation. But I'm pleased to see these two acting like adults, since there are plenty of other characters in the X-books to take the adolescent role. It's the way I wanted to see this story pan out, and it's a welcome surprise to get my wish.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #5 - Oh, we're back with the fill-in art again. Not often you get a six-issue miniseries with two issues of fill-in art. Luckily, Eduardo Pansica turns in a decent job here - the style shift from ChrisCross is noticeable, but it's more than acceptable work in its own right. As for Joe Casey's story, it certainly looks like we're heading for the natural climax where the Super Young Team finally emerge from being pretend superheroes to become genuine ones. Like a lot of Casey's superhero work, this is all terribly postmodern and satirical, but with a seemingly genuine desire to emerge on the other side with an updated, fit-for-purpose genre. Yes, it's got some serious credibility problems if you try to take it at face value, but there are more than enough interesting ideas in here to justify letting Casey run with it, no matter how absurd the notional plot may be.

Hellblazer #259 - I can't quite believe I'm writing this, but guest artist Simon Bisley shows unexpected restraint in this issue. Yes, Simon Bisley. Restrained. I know. But there's a point in the story where everything is supposed to go mental, and a slow build leading up to that, and much to my surprise Bisley plays it straight and makes it work. To be fair, it's been a few years since I've seen his art, but there's a lot more range here than I was expecting. Meanwhile, in the story, it turns out that Peter Milligan's not finished with Phoebe just yet - after all, this is Hellblazer, and just because a character is comprehensively dead is no reason to write them out. There's a good case to be made that John Constantine is basically just a superhero without a costume, and that nothing here is particularly outwith the range you'd expect from a regular Marvel or DC Universe title, but as long as Milligan continues to write the genre well, I have no problem with that.

Spider-Woman #1 - Ah, the Motion Comic. Now, the Motion Comic isn't available in the United Kingdom, for some unfathomable reason, so all I've seen of it is the clips on YouTube. And it's certainly entertaining to hear an actress wrestling with some of Brian Bendis' most overwrought dialogue. But from what I've seen, I can't imagine this being the way forward. As with many earlier attempts at "enhanced comics", what they've ended up with has ceased to be a comic at all, and become a piece of low-budget animation instead.

Anyway, here in Britain, we just get the plain old regular comic. And the art is certainly lovely. Maleev makes great use of colour, and does a fabulous Madripoor. (And thankfully, despite the excruciating cover, this turns out not to be Spider-Woman and her Amazing Friends.) But as a story, it's all rather dreary. Jessica is very unhappy because she's been replaced by a Skrull; SWORD offer her a job hunting down Skrulls; she mopes around for the better part of an issue feeling sorry for herself in moody lighting. It's all terribly ponderous and gloomy, and there's really no obvious reason why you'd want to spend time in the company of this whiny character. With a premise that boils down to a straight revenge plot, it ought to be more of a B-movie romp, but instead it seems to take itself far too seriously (an amusing comic relief cameo from Abigail Brand notwithstanding), and it simply isn't much fun.

Underground #1 - A miniseries from Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber? It's bound to be good. And it is. Yes, the set-up is pretty familiar: businessman wants to turn local cave into a tourist attraction, our heroine is a park ranger who wants to protect it. Nothing particularly new there. But it seems to be mainly a device to get the characters into a cave setting, and the real measure of this book will be what Parker does with them once he's got them there. In the meantime, Lieber is on the usual excellent form. He's always been a great character artist, and the cave scenes allow him to play with shadow and colour in all sorts of fun ways. Even if this does turn out to be just a stock plot in a cave, it'll be worth reading for Lieber's art - but I have faith that we're going to get more than that once the plot hits its stride.

Wolverine: First Class #19 - Peter David is reunited with former X-Factor artist Dennis Calero - which goes to show that the all-ages titles seem to be more of a priority for Marvel than they used to be - as Kitty and Wolverine go into space and fight Skrulls. Now, after Secret Invasion, I've had enough Skrulls to last me for a long while. But this is good fun regardless - the aliens are really just foils for Kitty in space, and David comes up with plenty of little details to make the story work. As usual with this book, it's a straight story aimed at the younger end of the market, but with plenty to enjoy if you just want to see a more traditional sort of X-Men story - besides which, Peter David is writing some of the best Kitty Pryde scenes in years.

Labels: , ,