Sunday, October 04, 2009

The X-Axis - 4 October 2009

I was planning to get around to that "Old Man Logan" review today but... well, yeah, maybe tomorrow. And thanks to Marvel's ever-crunched publishing schedule, two more Wolverine storylines wrap up this week: "The Adamantium Men" in Wolverine: Weapon X #5 and "Romulus" in Wolverine: Origins #40. So we'll get back to them. In the meantime, though...

Echo #15 - Terry Moore hasn't exactly been racing forward with this storyline. Over a year into the series, we've finally got to a story point that most writers would have covered in act one. (After all, why did you think the series was called Echo?) Most people wouldn't get away with this, but Moore's good enough with the details that he can carry this sort of slow-burn storytelling, and use it to make the book seem firmly grounded before he starts bringing in the more outrageous parts of the premise. It's the art, though, that really bring the characters to life, and adds the depth to make the book work. Always a pleasure, this title.

Fantastic Four #571 - Well, this is what I'm looking for in a Fantastic Four story. Yes, some of the familiar elements are dutifully namechecked, but basically the Fantastic Four is the Marvel Universe title that can get away with big, sweeping, insane ideas. (I'd say "cosmic", but this isn't the 1970s and it's way past time we thought of a better term.) You could say that this is basically a Reed Richards solo story - or perhaps more accurately, that Jonathan Hickman has created a team book made up entirely of Reed Richardses - and yes, granted, the rest of the team aren't getting a great deal of time just yet. But I'm happy with this; written well, Reed's the most interesting character of the bunch, and I'm glad to see him being used properly, in a story that seems to get what this book is good at.

G-Man: Cape Crisis #2 - So cute! This is Chris Giarrusso's creator-owned book, with his own characters done in the style of the "Mini Marvels" strips that used to appear at the back of Marvel comics and were generally better than the main story. They're kid superheroes in a world with adults, so we've got them fighting bank robbers and delivering papers, with none of that angst-generating secret identity stuff to worry about. Oh, and there's a subplot about dandelions. It's a sweet and genuinely funny book, and what more would you want?

Jack of Fables #38 - Jack Frost keeps trying to start his career as a professional hero, while in a subplot, the title character continues to be tormented by the artist. To be honest, they're going a bit over the top with that subplot, which wasn't exactly subtle to begin with. Naive rookie hero Jack Frost, who achieves very little but looks very earnest in the process, is more entertaining. I'm not really sure where any of this is heading, though - Jack of Fables tied up most of its outstanding storylines in the recent crossover, so the jury's still out on whether it's laying the groundwork for a new direction, or just sort of meandering a bit.

Marvel Divas #3 - Better than the early covers would have you think. Not to mention the title, which is both thunderously awful and utterly unrelated to anything on the interior pages. It's really not the book that people were expecting - more accurately, dreading. In reality, it's a fairly relaxed drama about some C-list Marvel heroines, and the main selling point is the minimal but attractive art from Tonci Zonjic. Now, that said, it's certainly a bit Disease of the Week, and the referencing of Sex and the City feels terribly dated. There's a few overfamiliar elements. It's not a classic. But if you judge by the interior pages, there's still something quite likeable about it, for all its many flaws.

New Mutants #5 - This is a transition issue between the first storyline and the upcoming "X-Necrosha" crossover. (And please tell me it's not going to be Blackest Night with mutants and circuit boards.) Zeb Wells ties up some loose ends from the Legion arc, and establishes why Dani Moonstar is on this team despite having no powers. It's all done perfectly well, but most notable is the guest art by Zachary Baldus. His characters are a bit off model, admittedly, but it's beautifully expressive stuff, and he even pulls off a decent version of Warlock, always a challenge for artists who have to adapt him to their style. I'd cheerfully see him as the regular artist. There still doesn't seem to be much of a premise to this book beyond "let's reunite the New Mutants from 25 years ago", but at least it's being done well.

Uncanny X-Men #515 - This came out last week in America, but Diamond UK managed to delay it. It's the first part of "Nation X", as the X-Men settle in on their new rock. Greg Land is back on art, which is not good, but he doesn't actually do too much damage to this story - although there's an embarrassingly bad Psylocke scene. Fraction seems more focussed than usual with this issue; instead of worrying about his cast of thousands, we've got interesting scenes with Scott and Xavier talking about where the team's going, and a potentially promising new direction for Emma. Thinning down the herd of characters is very much for the best; there's still quite a few balls in the air, but it's enough for Fraction to keep track of and for the stories to actually get across. I was pleasantly surprised by this issue; it's one of his better scripts for the series.

Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh #1 - Despite the issue number, this is effectively the second arc of Mark Waid and Mink Oosterveer's Unknown, since the first miniseries only finished last month. The basic set-up last time was a terminally ill Sherlock Holmes-type detective applying her powers in search of evidence of the afterlife. The finale of that story was maybe a bit much, but the idea was good. With this story, Waid cleverly inverts the premise and throws up all sorts of other questions. It's an odd book, this, a curious mix of the traditional detective story with explanations so bizarre that even the X-Files would have baulked at them. (Yes, infrasound has been credited as a possible explanation for ghost sightings... but not ghosts that look like Zzzzax.) It could easily be very irritating, but it's self-confident weirdness is strangely engaging, and certainly unique.

X-Factor #49 - The penultimate chapter of the seemingly never-ending storyline? Surely not! Actually, about half the issue is devoted to Guido, Rictor and Shatterstar awkwardly discussing homosexuality, which starts off amusing, but ends up labouring the point somewhat. Meanwhile, the plot lumbers gamely on, with one last cliffhanger twist. I'm sure it'll all read much better as a complete story, but as a monthly serial this feels like it's taking forever, and the story even draws attention to one of its own plot holes. There are good bits in here, but it's not really coming together right now.

X-Men Forever #8 - In which Chris Claremont's version of the X-Men fights a Sentinel in the jungle, and then explores one of those remote scientific facilities that bad guys like to build. It's as melodramatic as ever, but it's decent melodrama which holds together on its own terms, and which sets up its mysteries well. Of course, there's always something to live with: this issue, it's Kitty explaining that she doesn't notice the claw coming out of the back of her hand because it's so sharp. Um, fine, but it's clearly much wider at the base, so that doesn't work. (And besides, why isn't she bleeding?) But I'm willing to give Claremont some room with this book, because for the most part he's winning me over. This issue's art is by Steve Scott; his Beast is a bit clumsy, but otherwise it's a solid effort.

X-Force #19 - I have no idea what's supposed to be going on with the cover; it doesn't have much to do with the actual story. This is mostly an X-23 solo story, as she tries to escape the Facility with the help of Agent Morales. X-Force being X-Force, it's something of a bloodbath, though this time it manages to keep the really excessive stuff down to a couple of spots that actually have a chance to mean something. There are some irritating plot glitches - if shooting Kimura on page 4 keeps her down for a couple of pages, why not do it again later on? - but it works as a B-movie chase sequence, and there's something oddly interesting about X-23's deliberately flat dialogue in this sort of story.

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