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X-men comics (January 22, 2014)

January 22, 2014

This week is painfully large, so let’s get into it.

First up, Pretty Deadly #4! It’s as beautiful as always. Buy it. If you’re not buying it, you’re just wrong.

First X-title is All-New X-Factor  #2, by Peter David and Carmine Di Giandomenico. Last issue ended with the reveal of Fatale in the clutches of Dr. Hoffman. She was last seen being sucked into Abyss, along with Reaper. Turns out Hoffman has those two, as well. (PAD, as an aside, was the one who wrote them being sucked in in the first place.) The X-Factor team is making their way through, and they all get separated – Gambit drops into a hole, and Quicksilver’s sucked up a tube into the ceiling. And Lorna finds Fatale, who explains how they got there, and that Hoffman has drained their powers off them. Hoffman then explains that mutants have no idea how to use their abilities – that they all stick with one power, and ignore their full potential. This actually fits a theory my brother has – that mutants can basically do anything, but always stick with something that suits their personality. t seems PAD had a similar idea. We’ll see how much he explores it. This issue is mostly action, and it’s very exciting. There’s some good tension, particularly with the captive mutants, and especially when they see Quicksilver. This is good. The art doesn’t do a lot for me. It’s not bad art, by any means. It’s fairly conventional. But there are some designs I don’t like. The cover for the next issue has Gambit with kitties. Kitties!

X-Men #9, by Brian Wood and Terry Dodson. The team is trying to find Ana Cortes. Jubilee and Karima are trying to track the money, Monet’s in Budapest, Storm and Psylocke meet Sabra and Gabriel Shepard (who’s now apparently a superhero), and Rachel talks to Sublime. Sublime senses Arkea’s active again. She’s in Dubai, having just taken over the body of Reiko, the woman who put Deathstrike into Ana Cortes’ body. Monet finds her and the Sisterhood there. And shows how badass she is. Seriously, Monet is a hardcore badass. Unfortunately, Arkea’s got some big, dangerous plans. This is great. Some excellent action. We also get some nice character stuff here and there. I always love seeing Sabra pop up – she needs to be in an ongoing series. I’m wondering if Gabriel Shepard will hang around, or if this was just a cameo. I wasn’t a big fan of the proto-mutant arc from Wood’s previous run; it was well-written, I just didn’t like the concept. Of course, I feel the same way about Sublime – bad concept, but well-written by Morrison (and now, by Wood). The art’s great. The Dodsons are always good. This is a solid issue.

All-New X-Men #22, by Brian Bendis and Stuart Immonen. This is the first part of The Trial of Jean Grey, a crossover with Guardians of the Galaxy. The kids are all doing their own things. In the cafeteria, Warren, Scott and Jean sit down to lunch, and Jean has an argument with Scott over the things Scott’s thinking.  She’s had a lot thrown at her, but she says she’s dealing with it. And then the Shi’ar attack. The cafeteria scene is great. Really, really good character stuff. Then the fight is really fun and exciting. The art is good, but not up to Immonen’s usual quality. There’s a few panels that look really weird. One, in particular, of Kitty screaming. The art is just completely screwed up in that panel. Bit of a shame. Oh well. All in all, this does a good job setting up what’s going on with Jean, and setting up the story of the crossover.

Marvel Knights: X-Men #3, by Brahm Revel. In town, things are going really, really crazy. Sentinels, a giraffe, a clown – lots of weirdness. Logan wants to kill Darla, the girl creating the memories. Kitty tries to talk to her, instead, but she runs away. Things are insane. Meanwhile, just outside the town, the Sheriff is talking to the guy manufacturing the drug the townies have been using. And it’s made him kinda crazy, but also seems to have given him mutant powers. Rogue and Logan both find Darla, and they have a tense confrontation, with Logan saying some very, very mean things about Rogue. Kick his ass, Rogue! This continues to be a fantastic series. Dark, tense, moody, and increasingly insane without losing the characters in that insanity. I get the feeling Revel might not be much of a Wolverine fan, considering he’s a total jerk in this issue. I really like Revel’s art. I hope he gets more Marvel work. He’d be a good choice for an arc on Black Widow, or Thunderbolts, or Secret Avengers. Or, hell, just a particularly dark and gritty arc of any book. I wouldn’t mind seeing more writing work from him, either, of course. He’s got a good handle on everyone’s voices, especially Rogue. He writes a fantastic Rogue. So if you’re a Rogue fan, you owe it to yourself to pick up this series, because she’s really the star.

Cable and X-Force #19, by Dennis Hopeless and Angel Unzueta. Storm and Forge argue about neither side telling the other anything, and Nemesis is just enjoying seeing someone yell at Forge. Finally, they start cooperating, except for Boom Boom refusing to hook up with Puck, because he’s old and skeevy. I kinda have to side with Boom Boom on this, as I do on so many things. Anyway, they come up with a plan to build a makeshift Cerebro to let Psylocke track Cable. In Stryfe’s base, he deals with Spiral easily enough, forcing her to teleport away. Then Cable gives up. Stryfe goes to see Hope, and gives her the Psimitar, to let her kill Bishop. But she decides that if Stryfe wants her to kill Bishop, she shouldn’t. Yet. Smart girl. But she does demand an explanation from him. Another good part to the Vendetta arc. The stuff between Bishop and Hope is really tense. The segments with the two X-Force teams provide plenty of comedic relief, especially Puck and Boom Boom. We also learned something: Colossus likes Neil Diamond. Spiral thinks this makes him an idiot. I like Spiral. Though Sweet Caroline is a great song, I don’t care what anyone says. The art here is really good. I like Unzueta. He’s got just a bit of weirdness to his style that’s very appealing. He’s not as weird as Bachalo, or Andrade. His style still looks mostly normal. He’s good. I hope Marvel keeps him working. He deserves it.

Wolverine and the X-Men #40, by Jason Aaron and Pepe Larraz. The kids are confronting the spy brats. A Bamf teleports the two into the bathroom, where a Danger Room session starts. Meanwhile, Wolverine and Scott are beat all to hell, but seem to have finished all the Sentinels in the facility. The two are surprisingly friendly with each other. Back at the school, the two spy brats have a run-in with Krakoa, and then more of the wackiness that is the Jean Grey School. You know, considering the point of the JGS was to try to keep mutant kids safe, the school is a pretty idiotically dangerous place. Everything in the place is trying to hurt or kill everyone. But the kids like it, and are willing to fight for it. Back at the SHIELD base, Scott and Wolverine are drinking and talking. Wolverine wants Scott to be the man he used to be. The conversation is pretty good. The stuff at the school sucks, of course. The stuff at the school has always sucked. It has always been the worst part of the book, and considering it was the focus of the book, that’s a huge problem. The stuff between Scott and Wolverine was OK. Neither comes across as a jackass. They’re both sympathetic, though we’re pretty clearly supposed to side with Wolverine. But, honestly? I kinda wish the scene had never taken place. Because this is the sort of scene that would be effective for the start of Scott’s redemption, and that’s not a story that can happen yet. I can’t remember if I’ve laid it out here before, but here’s what I think Scott’s arc should be: Over the next while – say, a year or so – he should continue to deny are responsibility for Xavier’s arc, and should become increasingly angry about still being blamed for it, and he should just go through a lot of emotional turmoil in general. Eventually, he should move past Denial, and into Acceptance, accepting that he does bear some responsibility for Xavier’s death. At this point, he should choose to turn himself in to the authorities to stand trial. Before he gets the chance, Magneto kills him, and has Mystique take his place and pretend to be him, to continue the mutant revolution, even bringing in some former Brotherhood and Acolytes. The others start becoming suspicious, and eventually, confront Magneto and Mystique. Magneto beats them and leaves with Mystique and his recruits. So I don’t want Scott to return to the X-Men. I want to see his arc end with his death. But the scene here is the kind of scene that sets the seed of Scott returning to the X-Men. And since that’s something Aaron has no actual say in anyway (Bendis is the one writing Scott, after all), I don’t think he should’ve done it. It’s a good scene, but not one that should’ve happened.

And lastly, Origin II #2, by Kieron Gillen and Adam Kubert. Some guy’s in some town, with a girl who’s got a way with animals (and a scarred face), to hear some other guy talk about the dead polar bear from last issue. Sinister shows up to silence his employee. Sabretooth also shows up, working for the first guy and girl, Hugo and Clara. Sinister tracks Logan to a valley, and brings his Marauders to flush him out. It works. After they retreat, Creed’s group tries next, and Clara calms Logan down, which allows Creed to capture him. This is good. Logan’s almost a bit player in this issue. Gillen continues to write a wonderful Sinister. He’s a true gentleman, but still a monster. I love Gillen’s Sinister. Kubert’s art is still great, though this issue wasn’t as impressive as the last one. Still, this is a good issue, if you give a shit about Wolverine.

There’s the X-titles. But a few other books to mention.

Mighty Avengers #5.INH, by Al Ewing and the biggest frigging hack artist in the comic book industry, a man who I would argue is actually worse than Liefeld, because Liefeld’s  problems are his own weaknesses, not the result of being a damned tracer who recycles the same damned faces for every single woman he draws. Greg Land is a pox on the comic book industry, and if Marvel fired him tomorrow, I would be a happy man. Fuck Greg Land. Anyway. Spider-Ock is talking about leading the team, in the hilariously arrogant way that only Spider-Ock can pull off. After calling a time-out to send DW off with Dani, Luke and Jessica start beating the shit out of Spider-Ock and his robots. Over in Attilan, Quickfire (or Pepper Potts/Susan Storm/Wasp/Every single woman Greg Land has ever drawn in his entire miserable career, the talentless son of a bitch) is looking for something to steal for her boss. Ronin, Monica, Falcon, Power Man and White Tiger also pay a visit to Attilan. Back at the fight, Spider-Ock and his minions get the upper hand, until Luke’s lawyer drops in. The writing in this comic is great. Ewing is just killing it on writing. It’s hilarious, with some good character insights, and is developing a really interesting storyline with the Deathwalkers. The scene with Monica fighting Quickfire was really well-handled. Al Ewing is fantastic. Which just makes it even worse that he’s been saddled with the biggest frigging hack in the industry. The fact that Land is actually going to be coming back after only a few issues from Schiti is so frustrating, because this book deserves so much better than Land. I would be happy with almost any other artist, but no, Marvel’s keeping the artist whose work I most loathe and despise, whose work I find most offensive, on this book. I support this book. I buy it, because I really like the fact that it’s a minority-majority team, and I really like Ewing’s writing on it. But dammit, it’s really, really hard to keep paying for anything with Greg Land. Anyway, now that 5 issues are out of the way, I’ll stop reviewing this series, but I urge you to pick up the Valerio Schiti issues. He’s great.

Black Widow #2, by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto. We start in Shanghai, with a plan apparently going to hell. Then we cut back to see how she got there. She meets with a powerful man who asks her to find her son, who was captured by other powerful men. She sneaks aboard the boat he’s supposed to be on, but there’s no one there except a couple guards and a corpse. And a scorpion. And a bomb. When she goes back to meet the powerful man, he’s dead, and someone comes at her with a sword. And that gets us caught up. Meanwhile, back in the US, someone tells her lawyer they want payment for damages she did to them. As an aside, she’s still not letting the cat into her apartment. She’s a cold one, that Natasha. But she’ll give in eventually. She won’t be able to resist Liho for long. You mark my words, before the end of the year, Black Widow is going to be a pet owner. And I will cheer when that happens. In fact, I’ll even cheer about it on here when it happens. Anyway, this is a great issue. It sets up a recurring threat. It shows how morally grey her world is. (When someone accuses her of being a murderer: “Your brother was a murderer. I’m a killer.”) It’s a very dark world she inhabits, and Edmondson doesn’t shy away from it. Neither does Noto – his pencils are a good match for the tone of the book. They give a bit of a noir feel to the book, which works well. This is a really good book. I hope it does well. It’s not something I’ll buy – it’s just not really my thing – but it does deserve to be a success. Especially because Marvel really, really needs successful female solo titles. The new volume of Captain Marvel needs better numbers than the previous volume got, too.

Avengers World #2, by Nick Spencer (and Jonathan Hickman) and Stefano Caselli. I’m going to be honest, the cast page alone gave me a feeling of relief. It showed Smasher, Cannonball and Sunspot, and Cap, Banner and Hill. Only six characters on the cast page. When the cast is that small, it means that there can be some actual characterization, beyond a handful of quips and exposition. Anyway, Smasher is in an energy cell, trying to smash her way out. The head of AIM is going to send her out to space as their messenger. On the Helicarrier, Bruce delivers a briefing about AIM Island’s growth. Back on the Island, Smasher has a memory of almost falling down a hill trying to get a box she saw, then wakes up and gets out of the cell. She meets with the AIM guy, and then has a memory of her grandfather showing her a Captain Terror mask. And then more with the AIM guy. This is good. This is the sort of thing I want to see. It’s got some real character focus, and some development for Smasher. My fear, however, remains that this development won’t really be touched on for another few issues, while it shifts focus to another character or group of characters, and moves through the whole team. I’m worried that there won’t be any consistent character focus. And I think that’s important. It’s why I think this book would be better off taking a specific subset of the team, and making them the primary focus for the whole run. Other characters can get focus here and there, but there needs to be a relatively small core group who gets the bulk of the attention. And I’m still worried that that won’t be the case – that next issue will jump to the team in Madripoor, and then after that to the team in Italy, and then to this character, and then to that. And that just won’t be satisfying.

And finally, All-New Invaders #1, by James Robinson and Steve Pugh. In the Egyptian Desert, some Kree find a piece of the Gods’ Whisper. Then we cut to a small town in Illinois, where Jim Hammond is working as a mechanic while feeling guilty about the events from near the end of Remender’s run on Secret Avengers. Then he’s attacked by Tanalth, which forces him to go Torch. She shoots him with a beam that makes him remember a mission in WW2. The Invaders – Human Torch, Namor, Bucky and Major Liberty – are fighting a bunch of Nazis who seem to have called forth Hela. The Torch, Namor and Bucky from the present are all seeing the same memory. Hela kills Major Liberty, and the memory ends. And the fight continues. This is good. Some nice writing, some nice action, some nice art. The art’s actually very good, though not quite my preferred style. It’s very crisp, with an action movie feel. I generally prefer my art to be a little more intimate, and a little less photorealistic. But that’s a matter of personal taste. Pugh certainly fits the popular style of the day, which puts this book at an advantage. Robinson’s also got a bit of an action film sensibility to his writing. He does a good job with Jim Hammond, first showing his attempt to get over his guilt and shame and fear, and then showing his anger. In the end, this feels a little conventional. It feels like an Important Book. It’s more personal than Hickman’s Avengers, and a lot less pretentious, but it’s got that same sense of Importance. I don’t particularly care about Importance, so that’s not a draw for me. It’s not a turn-off, either – it’s something that just doesn’t particularly register with me either way. But it does seem to be something that a lot of people care about, so I have a feeling this book will have very good sales. Probably better than Black Widow, which is more intimate, and I would argue has better writing and art, but which doesn’t carry that sense of Importance.  So, I don’t think I’m going to really care one way or the other about this book, but it’ll probably be a big one. Which is a little disappointing, as well, because it’s a book about four straight white males. That doesn’t really sit well with me. A lack of diversity always bugs me, and this book takes that to an extreme. Hopefully, Robinson doesn’t take too long to add some characters to the cast. I’m rooting for America Chavez – female, Latina and lesbian – a triple-shot of diversity. Plus, she’s got an awesome attitude. If Chavez is added, there’s a good chance I’ll actually pick this series up. I don’t care what anyone says, I love her. Another neat idea might be for Jim Hammond to be revealed as bisexual. He’s an android, so it’s not unreasonable for him to not really fall into conventional views of sexuality. He was created at a time when homosexuality was considered a mental disorder, so he would’ve simply defaulted to heterosexuality because that was what was right and proper, but maybe living in a world that’s becoming much more accepting of homosexuality could lead his own attitudes to evolve, and even to realize that gender isn’t important to him in terms of romance and sexuality. And frankly, considering how little history he really has in contemporary comics, it’s actually not unreasonable for him to have come to the realization a long time ago and it was just never brought up on-panel. It won’t happen, of course. Truthfully, I don’t expect alternative sexuality to be brought up at any point in this series, any more than I expect it to come up in Hickman’s Avengers. As I’ve said, these books are a lot like action movies – they’re all about straight white males saving the day. Minority characters, and even women, are mostly just there in supporting roles. In Hickman’s Avengers, if Captain America is out of commission for any reason, it’s not going to be Captain Marvel who takes over command, it’s going to be Iron Man. Hickman’s said that one of his Avengers is LGBT, but I can almost guarantee that will never come up in his book. It’ll be revealed in World, but even there, it’s not likely to be a recurring element. There will be an issue where it’s revealed, and then it’ll never be brought up again. And Invaders will just not have an LGBT character at all.

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From → 2014

One Comment
  1. Yeah, I heard this week’s Wolverine and the X-Men was actually kind of good. In fact, it’s been a good week overall (except for the wallet).

    For my tastes, Pretty Deadly 4 was the best comic this week, but the cafeteria scene was the best scene of the week.

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