Still working on my X-Men multi-book reading guide (that will accompany my history) – I’m now working on the period between House of M and Messiah CompleX. It would seem that Astonishing X-Men #13-24 (with the Giant Size at the end) will go between X-Men #204 and the Messiah CompleX one-shot. This is completely because of the Kitty Pryde Factor – Kitty was a part of the title in the X-Men story, but was conspicuously missing from Messiah CompleX (leading many readers to guess the ending). The two storylines, however, interlock together giving no break point to allow any other storylines to take place. This was not the case with the first two storylines of the title – in which two issues of Uncanny and a five-issue mini-series fit in – but cannot be avoided here. The X-Men story is the last one before Messiah starts, and Kitty is in that story. Fortunately, Astonishing is really good, so it won’t be a pain in reading.
I’ve been working on an extended history of the X-Men following the main team’s 45 year history. As I sat down to work on it, I realized there was quite a bit in the way of details that I had forgotten, so I went back and started to re-read the series. With my biggest hole in knowledge falling in the mid-90s, I created a reading order list for the two main titles (Uncanny and X-Men) and got to it. Why it took me so long to realize that this would be a good time to work on From the Box is anyone’s guess. But I digress – let’s move on.
This storyline comes at somewhat of a transition point for the X-Men. Falling after Onslaught but just before Operation: Zero Tolerance, the story is basically using three issues to kill time while reminding everyone that the plot point of the Legacy Virus is still out there. Another transition point is that Scott Lobdell was still pulling double duty on the X-Titles, as a replacement for Mark Waid had not yet been added, so while Lobdell was handling plot, Ben Raab took scripting duty. I am familiar with Raab as the closing writer for Excalibur, having the unenviable task of following up an enjoyable run by Warren Ellis. Tough luck, man.
But the main story on the creative team is that it’s the debut issue on art for Carlos Pacheco, and to celebrate the occasion, #62 was released with two covers – both by Pacheco. Even though the book was in its 60s by this point (issue count, not age), Pacheco was just the third regular artist for the title, following Andy Kubert, who came in when Jim Lee left the book. Pacheco would stick around for a year before heading off for other projects, and it was more often good art for Marvel’s merry mutants.
The story features an odd grouping of the X-Men in Cyclops, Wolverine, Phoenix, Storm and Cannonball as the rest of the team – Rogue, Gambit, Beast, Bishop and Joseph – had been sent to Shi’ar space over in Uncanny. These X-Men answer a summons from an old acquaintance of Wolverine’s, but come across a battle between Shang-Chi (Master of Kung–Fu!) and a bunch of ninjas. No, really. Wolverine helps out, threatens Shang for no reason, then all is explained and they go after the fabled Elixir Vitae of Shang-Chi’s father, which may or may not be able to cure the Legacy Virus.
Now let me stop right there, because that’s really all you need to know about this story. Nothing else substantial happens. The X-Men come across a very-much alive Sebastian Shaw who sends them to Wilson Fisk (Kingpin) who actually has the Elixir, then after Shaw and Fisk threaten each other, Storm blows the whole thing up and no one gets anything. Seriously – that’s it. There’s not really even a climactic moment to finish it up – Storm gets tired of waiting for one and blows everything up. The X-Men fly home and all is fine.
There were 2.5 character returns in this story, in Shang-Chi, Kingpin and half of one to Shaw, who had actually returned to life quite a while earlier in the pages of X-Force. Shang-Chi served no purpose in the story, aside from lending his father’s Elixir to the story. For those of you not up on your Marvel B-listers, Shang-Chi’s father was Fu Manchu, though by this point Marvel no longer had the rights to use his name, so he was simply referred to as “your father”. Kingpin had been chucked from the New York underworld by Daredevil, though I have no idea as to his timeline, so I couldn’t tell you how this all lined up. Apparently, though, this was a big deal. To my knowledge, this remains the only interaction between Wilson Fisk and the X-Men, but I’ll fact check myself later.
What really makes this story suck, though, is the writing. Lobdell’s plot is pretty thin, and Raab’s script is downright awful. I cannot recall a storyline in which more exposition has been tossed out in page after page. An entire page is used for Kingpin to share through inner-monologue the entire history of Hong Kong. Shang Chi thinks about the X-Men’s mission statement once per issue. He starts calling Storm ‘wind-rider’ right after he meets her. He also refers to the Legacy Virus as that thing he had been hearing so much of in the news, though the X-Men had just explained it all to him a few minutes prior. Cannonball repeatedly refers to himself as the ‘greenest’ of the X-Men (demonstrating how badly the character was handled at this point) and both Wolverine and Jubilee (in an O:ZT interlude) take turns mentioning that he is the best at what he does.
Pacheco’s art is the bright point of this story, as all of his characters are quite nice to look at, though Phoenix and Storm have a bit of the overly rounded look (if you catch my drift) that was so prevalent in the 90s. His Wolverine looks awful, but that’s hardly his fault. This was during the time when somebody thought it would be a good idea to devolve Wolverine into a beast-like humanoid, and give him a perpetually ripped costume with bandana. He looked strange in it, and downright horrible with ‘street clothes’ on. Fortunately, just after O:ZT, the look was abandoned and Wolverine returned to being human.
This story is recommended only for completists and those wondering just how the X-Men got on a plane for the start of O:ZT. Other than that, try to stay upwind from this one. It’s a stinker.
Newsarama had an interesting article calculating the total cost if someone were to buy everything tied into both major events. In a nutshell if you do not want to read the article, for someone to buy every Secret Invasion tie-in, it would cost them $378.78. That is 125 issues, averaging a monthly cost of $29.14. For Final Crisis, there are two ways to look at it: without Countdown and Death of the New Gods, and with those two series. The other Countdown tie-ins have nothing to do with Final Crisis. So, the total cost for Final Crisis without (and with) is $135.08 ($317.56). The “with” figure totals 95 issues with an average monthly cost of $15.12, aided by the year-long nature of Countdown.
Blue Beetle getting cancelled.
This has been suspected of getting cancelled for some time, as its sales have been abysmal for quite some time. I gave this series a chance when it started, but it got cut after issue #4. It was not cut because it was a bad book, I was just trying to cut back. I have always heard good things about this book, but it seems like it could not find an audience. Kind of like Manhunter.
There is a new preview for Watchmen on Yahoo! Movies. It is neat. If you have not already seen, I suggest you do.
DC confirmed to Newsarama that they were canceling Nightwing, Robin & Birds of Prey, with February being the last issues to come out. DC did not confirm why these books were getting canceled, but I have a few thoughts on the matter.
First thought that comes to mind is the timing of it. Didio has said that the DCU will reflect what happens in Final Crisis starting in March. Also, the R.I.P storyline in Batman is almost completed. After its completion, a “Battle for the Cowl” storyline has been hinted upon, and teased, as shown by the promotional buttons I received at The Zone. (There was also one picturing Hush, but I did not feel like finding it for the picture.) Also, sales on these titles have been solid. Not necessarily good, but solid. This leads me to believe that the cancelations are story-driven.
Now, from a story-driven cancelation, there are two likely possibilites. These books are canceled, and new books are launched, starting with issue #1. (I personally do not understand the fascination with #1 issues for the sake of giving someone a place they feel like they can jump onto a title. Likewise, I do not buy the excuse for not getting into a book because it has too much history. I do not pick who I talk to based on the amount of history I have to learn about them. But I digress.) The rumor I saw floating around is that after “R.I.P.” two books would be launched, titled Red Robin and Batman & Robin, with the mystery (as of this writing) of who would be in what position, this could work. Another possiblity is that the books are only going on a hiatus for a little while, and then starting where they left off.
Either of these scenarios is possible, and would not be new for DC. When Bart Allen became the Flash, they started Flash: Fastest Man Alive, and this book lasted until his death. When Superman “died,” his books went on hiatus for a few months to convince people that Superman was dead.
So, what is the better scenario? Beats me. Anyone that proclaims they know that one of these options will be bad before reading anything is a moron, and does not know what they are talking about. However, I will make a bold prediction. The people that post on the comments pages of CBR and Newsarama will not like whatever Dan Didio says is going to happen. Call it a hunch.
I’ve not made it a huge secret that I haven’t been a big fan of Jeph Loeb lately. As it turns out, the execs at NBC have had some issues with him as well, as he has been ousted as a writer/producer for the not-as-much-of-a-hit-as-it-used-to-be Heroes, as has Jesse Alexander. The studio is apparently not pleased with the creative direction the show has been going in and the subsequent dip in ratings.
I can’t say one way or another whether that was the correct move, as I have no idea of the influence Loeb or Alexander had on the show. What I am aware of is that Heroes needs a bit of fixing to make it once again the powerhouse that it was in its first season. Currently (as of episode 8 of the third season) the show is hardly recognizable from what it had been two seasons prior. Most characters have changed drastically, and some with no purpose whatsoever. Pieces of the plot seem to have been thrown in just to give the main cast something to do, and some characters got way to much screen time only for their stories to go nowhere until they eventually faded away (Maya, Monica). I’m not saying that I’m not still glued to my screen every Monday evening, but the show could probably use some work.
Will this help? I guess we’ll see with Chapter 4.