Month: March 2007

New X-Men: Mercury Falling (33-36)

I wanted to congratulate Craig Kyle and Chris Yost for making it through an entire story without killing anybody, but then I remembered Mammomax. I’m sure someone’s going to miss him.

After making it through a series of depressing stories meant to pull the new team together, we’re treated to a story about X-23. Sure, it’s got Mercury’s name in the title, but this is the X-23 show. Surprisingly, I’ve grown to like X-23 (something I never would have said when Claremont had her in Uncanny), but that’s largely because her creators are writing her. I’ve heard both of her mini-series (also written by Yost and Kyle) are also quite good. Good thing to get a character with a very shaky premise (a Wolverine clone, for crying out loud) over in the minds of fans.

However, it can’t be forgotten that this is not a book about X-23. It’s about the New X-Men. While Hellion gets a featured role in the story (setting up to be X-23’s main man probably had something to do with it) and Mercury plays the damsel in distress, Rockslide, Surge, Elixir, and Dust do practically nothing through the entire story. Of course, this is just one story. As long as the X-23 and Friends show doesn’t continue on, the book will be fine.

The tie-in to William Stryker seemed to be weak. If scientists are going to breed horrible monsters using a mutant’s power, and they just happen to be in X-23’s origin, then run with that. No need to tie it in to the previous story. Again, I hope this doesn’t lead to a habit in this title. If it does, it may have been a better plan to keep Stryker alive at the close of the previous story.

Since all my complaints are about the possible future, I’d have to say this book is doing quite well right now. Of course, the next story looks to be bringing back the long-dead Illyana Rasputin (see my earlier rant on death in comics), so we’ll see how that one goes. As for now, though, good stuff.

Rant: Give it a rest!

When the smoke settles, nothing will ever be the same!

How many times have we heard this catchphrase, or a variation of it? If you’ve been keeping up with comics over the past couple years, then more often than you probably should have. Marvel readers have been following House of M, then into Civil War, keeping a side look on Annihilation, and are now preparing for World War Hulk. DC fans followed the entire lead up to Infinite Crisis, the event itself, then jumped ahead a year with the characters, but still kept up with 52 to bridge the gap, and gearing up for Countdown to keep the story going.

Both companies have been featuring a ridiculous amount of “major events” and show no signs of slowing. Sure, the events are major, but in the process, they may be overwhelming the fans who they’re bombarded upon week upon week. Both companies have their own way of doing such, but both take a toll on the readers.

The mega-crossover is nothing new for Marvel. The company that brought us Secret Wars, Secret Wars II, the Acts of Vengeance and many others have largely followed a uniform process. The main story is presented in a mini-series, while some regular monthly titles will tie in to flesh out the event. It was extra, but not too much of a burden. After all, it was a special event.

House of M strayed a bit. Besides the regular books and self-titled mini-series, the event spawned numerous other minis to keep some regular titles from sacrificing their issues to contribute. Fans of Spider-Man found a new four-issue mini on their buy list, which really added nothing to the story or the character. Aftermath minis (Son of M, X-Men: the 198) came as well, showing the changes that the event caused since, of course, the regular books couldn’t be bothered with such trivial matters.

If you haven’t caught it yet, the changes hyped so heavily in the extra books didn’t do a whole lot to the big picture.

Of course, the effects didn’t have very long to take root, since Marvel immediately jumped into Civil War, again promising that everything would change. Again, side minis were solicited along with the main one, but this time Marvel promoted that most books were important to get the entire story. Civil War stretched out for almost a full year, but at least did change certain aspects of the Marvel Universe.

So, of course, they’re immediately gearing up for World War Hulk, with the same promises of mass change coming forth.

If that wasn’t enough for fans, side-mega events also have been popping up. Along Civil War came Annihilation, which featured many of Marvel’s cosmic characters. Next to World War Hulk will be Endangered Species, an X-Men crossover that will deal with the fallout of House of M, as well as an Annihilation follow up series.

Unlike Marvel, DC chose to spend a lot of time on a single event. Before their major event, Infinite Crisis, DC launched four mini series leading up to the main story. When it was taking place, nearly every DC book was drawn into it. Unlike Marvel’s tactics, though, this meant that it was a fair bet that readers would be missing at least a part of the story if they didn’t pick up most of the main DC books to follow the story.

It was the aftermath, though, that really made Infinite Crisis feel important. After the final issue of the mini series, every DC book’s story jumped forward one year. Mass changes were widespread, and a new direction was being traveled. To cover the gap in space, DC put out a truly unique concept. A limited series, 52, that would be released weekly for an entire year. Fans were willing to drop the extra three bucks a week to follow it, and it’s been quite successful.

However, at the close of 52 (47 is being released this week), DC announced that they would immediately start another 52 issues of an event called Countdown that would, you guessed it, change everything. That’s 104 issues, coming out every week for two straight years. They’re pushing their luck.

The problem with these repetitive ‘mega-events’ is that it’s just too much, too fast. Sure, an event that changes everything breathes fresh air into a setting that can occasionally become somewhat stale. But once those changes have been done, readers want to take a little while and get used to them. To change them so soon after being done takes away from the event itself, and it makes future ones seem less important that creators are trying to make them out to be. If the after effects of Civil War are washed over by the effects of World War Hulk, why did I spend so much money picking up all the extra issues to follow it?

So let’s get through Countdown, World War Hulk and all the other upcoming events, then let’s take a break and get the whole picture back together before rushing out to shake it up again. I, for one, could use the break on my wallet.

Civil War: Front Line

One week after the close of Civil War comes the close of the sidelines book. So many different stories took place in this run, I’m going to have to break them up by individual storylines. Bear with me.

EMBEDDED (Issues 1-11)
This is the main story of Front Line, following longtime Marvel reporter Ben Urich and Sally Floyd, fresh off her story in the post-House of M Generation M mini. The two basically float around for 11 issues, talking to random figures in the Civil War, and come to the big revelation that Tony Stark was pulling strings for some purpose. That purpose was to get the whole registration process to work by planning the Atlantean assassination attempt (see Sleeper Cell below). It works when explained in the final issue, but unfortunately not really when looking at the whole story.

A major problem here, as with most of Civil War, is that Tony Stark is made to be the bad guy. Throughout the first 10 parts of Embedded, Urich and Floyd’s efforts point towards Tony Stark being a shady figure behind the scenes, as well as a king douche bag in the forefront. That’s all well and good, but then with his side winning the war and Stark becoming a prime force of the new Marvel U, suddenly he has to be seen in a bright light, so part 11 features a massive turnaround, where Floyd and Urich see the wisdom of his plan, so they won’t tell anyone.

So all is right with the world, except for me, who had to wait months and months for this non-resolution. Nothing was quite as bad as issue 10, where Floyd and Urich keep trying to tell each other Stark’s secret, but are distracted each time. With all of the other stories done by issue 10, was there really a need for 11? If nothing else, D-list heroes Bantam and Typeface get killed during this storyline. Sad day.

THE ACCUSED (Issues 1-10)
This story features Speedball, who is the sole survivor of the New Warriors after their fateful Stamford mission that started this whole mess. Devoid of his powers and quickly arrested, he’s offered amnesty by registering, by again and again refuses to do so. When he’s given his day in court, he’s shot by a man in the crowd. He comes to, decides to register, and creates the identity of Penance, wearing a costume with spikes on the inside, so he can use his powers (now activated by pain).

This is another story that goes one way for over half its run, then suddenly turns towards the end. The entire series runs on Speedball maintaining that the New Warriors did nothing wrong and should not be treated as criminals. Even when he agrees to register, it seems to be more out of personal motives, rather than seeing the good in doing so. But in the last chapter, suddenly he’s angst ridden about the deaths of the people of Stamford, and creates the new identity as a way to atone for his crimes. This ending came directly out of the blue, and didn’t fit with the rest of the story at all.

Another thing this story featured were the inhumane conditions of the 42 prison facility. With Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, and Yellowjacket in charge, and Captain Marvel running it, these conditions are completely out of place. It’s somewhat explained as a part of Stark’s plan to get heroes to register, but still, when heroes are killing themselves, something’s wrong with the story.

BACK-UP STORIES (Issues 1-9)
These were no more than three pages at the end of each issue, showing scenes from Civil War next to similar scenes from American history, with voice overs giving commentary. Not really even worth mentioning.

THE PROGRAM (Issue 2)
This was a couple pages showing Norman Osbourne’s reaction to Spider-Man unmasking. I guess it would be a setup to his inclusion in the Thunderbolts, but not really important.

SLEEPER CELL (Issues 3-9)
This story, featuring agents of Atlantis disguised as regular humans, spanned three seperate storylines. The first was a signal being sent out for the sleeper agents to shed their disguises…which largely went nowhere. Why couldn’t they have just been Atlanteans sneaking above the water that day? There was no point to the hiding…at least not at this point in time.

The second saw SHIELD draft a reluctant Wonder Man to investigate. The story I picked up here was SHIELD forcing a registered super-hero into action against their will, but this was a point quickly dropped when Wonder Man was taken down. The agents he was fighting? I really don’t know what happened to them. Don’t worry about it, I guess.

The third saw an Atlantean diplomat shot by a gun-toting Norman Osbourne. This act apparently was part of a master plan (see Embedded), but at this point, it served really only to justify Namor’s rage against the humans, and hinting at his appearance in Civil War #7. This story really could have only had this part, and nothing would really have suffered for it.

Front Line was not a bad read, but it suffered a great lack of importance. Nothing substantial took place in it, and what did was swept away at the story’s close. Though Penance is set to be featured in Thunderbolts, I doubt he will serve any significant purpose in the grand scheme. The sleeper agents are an interesting concept which may be picked up in upcoming stories. Rather bland, but somewhat neat for what it was.