Free Comic Book Day is behind us (I have the wrist band to prove it) and we’re headed into MEGA EVENT SUMMER, but we’re not quite there yet. The X-Men line seems to be in an all-out sprint to get ready for Schism, which I may get into later. But enough introduction. This week we’re looking at:
- Astonishing X-Men #37 in which the X-Men finally get back to fighting monsters.
- New Mutants #25 in which the team rebuilds from their recent encounters.
- X-Men #11 in which Professor X tells a vampire story.
- X-Men Legacy #248 in which the X-Men deal with the fallout of Age of X.
Follow me after the jump and be warned. There are SPOILERS within.
Astonishing is really a marvel of a book (no pun intended) in that no matter who the creative team happens to be, the book always faces heavy delays. The previous issue came out back in February, kicking off the new creative team and would you look at that, nearly three whole months later, we get the next. Both Joss Whedon and Warren Ellis managed to get out two issues before slamming on the scheduling brakes during their runs…but I digress. I would like to say that this issue was worth the wait, but I simply cannot say that. It’s not to say that the story was bad – it was simply the second part of a story based around Armor. And we won’t even get the third part yet as the book is cutting mid-story to go tell a story with the other cast members who have previously appeared in the book (Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Storm, Beast, Agent Brand, Lockheed)…and thus I am again wondering where in continuity this is falling. This book really makes me sad sometimes.
But here’s a book that does not sadden me at all. Zeb Wells had a hell of a run with the original New Mutants and he left the title with mighty big shoes to fill. I was certain that anyone Marvel picked to replace him would be a letdown, but they proved me very wrong by tapping the DnA team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. But you already knew that. We open the story with a Big Action Scene in which most of the team (minus Cannonball, Magik and Karma) fight alongside Wolverine, Colossus and Shadowcat to give us a nice nostalgia trip, not lost on the characters themselves. This fight serves three purposes – one is to establish Dani as an able-bodied leader for the team, two is to give the team their overall purpose (tying up the loose ends of the X-Men’s Mega Events) and three is to get them out of the house while Cyclops deals with Magik. Despite finishing her obsession and regaining some of her soul, Magik still has to own up to that she put not only the X-Men but all of reality at risk to do so. Cyclops decides she’s too dangerous to simply leave walking around so he puts her under indefinite arrest. Magik fans probably are screaming foul at this one, but it really does make sense. I mean look at all the Illyana has done since returning waaaaaaay back in New X-Men. Would you trust her?
But we also get to see what’s been going on with the other members of the cast. An injured Cannonball is dealing with the actions he took in the last event (namely killing a ship full of villains) and is staying under observation while his injuries heal. Karma is working with the lone member of the villains to come to the good side and also wants to come to grips with her rather monstrous looking metallic leg. But that’s not to say they won’t still be around the book, especially since we immediately are reintroduced to the budding relationship between Sam and Dani (which has been a long time coming). We also get Cyclops spelling out the plot of the book when he summons Dani to his office. Mirroring Cannonball’s “I broke the team” meeting following Second Coming, Dani assumes the squad is being dissolved but instead Cyclops tells her that they will be responsible for dealing with the aftermath of all the Big Events the X-Men have been dealing with. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that this was a statement that the line jumps from Big Event to Big Event so quickly that there is never any time to deal with the fallout, and thus Big Events lack actual meaning for the line. But I know better…right?
Anyway, the New Mutants’ first task is to find out what happened to Nate Grey who has been missing since the Dark X-Men mini-series which took place quite a while ago. He was seen carted off at the end of that story, yet no one has gotten around to saying what became of him after Norman Osborn was booted from his HAMMER job following Siege. Because the X-Men were too busy running around with Necroshas and Second Comings and Curse of the Mutants and…well you get the idea. Unfortuantely, that also means we’re heading back to the Sugar Man, who is one of the most inexplicably long lasting remnants from the Age of Apocalypse. Seriously, how did he outlast Holocaust? Anyway, good start to the title, though the art was a little shaky here and there. The team shot confronting Illyana was well and good…but why were Namor, Storm and Northstar flying?
After a lackluster Lizard story, the most pointless X-Men title around take a moment and heads back to the whole vampire bit and deals with the fallout for Jubilee, who you may recall became a vampire during the vampire story that starred vampires. Finding herself unable to reconcile her new position with her old life, Jubilee bails on her own birthday party and gets a pep talk from Professor X. If you’re familiar with mid-’90s X-Men, you might recall that the two characters formed an unlikely bond, especially after Wolverine left the team after getting his adamantium yanked by Magneto. But if you’re not, the issue certainly isn’t going to give you any clues to it. Instead it’s basically Jubilee being an ass to those trying to help her readjust and Professor X coming out and telling her a vampire story. It’s 22 pages telling you that “not all vampires are bad”. This is an odd filler since we just dealt with Jubilee coming to that realization in the four-part Wolverine and Jubilee, which was much better than this. The art’s also kind of shaky – it seems over-inked. Also, Jubilee’s walking around Utopia wearing nothing but a skintight black leotard. I don’t get what they were going for, but this is a weak issue in a title that has yet to show its strengths.
Remember when I said back in the New Mutants section that the X-Men usually don’t take time to deal with the fallout of their Mega Events? Leave it to Mike Carey to prove me wrong. While being touted as the issue establishing the book’s new direction (adding Gambit, Professor X, Legion and Cargil to the book’s usual duo of Rogue and Magneto) it’s more of an epilogue to Age of X dealing with the X-Men having to face a lifetime of memories left over from their seven day trip to Legion’s alternate world. With many of the mutants dealing with post-traumatic stress symptoms, Cyclops and Emma Frost decide that should anyone want the memories repressed, the island’s psychics will oblige. Some – like Cannonball, Iceman, and Madison Jeffries – want the experience completely wiped from their heads. Others, like Pixie, want some of them gone but with a little keepsake to remember things by. And then others, like Rogue and Joanna Cargil, want to keep the memories altogether.
This issue gives Mike Carey an easy opportunity to update several characters in ways that no X-book has the time to update. For example, Pixie can now mutate her wings based on her mood and mindset. Thus, in her usually bubbly and cheery mood, she’s sprouting her normal butterfly wings. But in her darker more risquee Age of X incarnation she had bat wings to match her personality. It’s probably the most development Pixie’s gotten in ages, which is surprising because she pops up all over the place. Also, Hellion has gotten to keep his telekinetically controlled arms, thus ending his self-loathing “I have no hands” run. Despite being one of the cooler visuals of the Age of X (where there were a bunch), it gives Hellion a chance to be a good character again…but I feel like I’ve said this before.
Carey also takes time to get a couple of long-missing X-characters back into the fold. Chamber has gone back to the “I have a hole in my chest/face” mode that identified the character for so long during his days in Generation X. Chamber’s a character that creators have worked long and hard to mess up. First he had his chest repaired by Weapon X, but then that was ignored during M-Day when he lost his powers and simply was a guy with most of his chest/face missing. Then he was brought back looking like a mini-Apocalypse and joined the New Warriors as Decibel. If anyone desperately needed a press of the reset button, it was him. He’s also become another member of the mutants who got around the whole M-Day matter club, joining the likes of Iceman, Professor X, Magneto, Polaris, Quicksilver, and Jubilee. Does anyone else notice that Legion can likely restore mutant powers? I’m just saying.
The other big revelation is just who the Phoenix character is. Marvel’s been surprisingly adamant about keeping Jean Grey dead (“Endsong” and “Warsong” notwithstanding) and some dialogue during the story made me suspect it was Rachel Summers, and look at that, I was right. Rachel, along with Havok and Polaris, have been missing for quite a while now, since they decided to head back to Earth to investigate the missing Phoenix Force and are theoretically still in transit. We learn here that Rachel was trying to telepathically contact Professor X when the whole Age of X bit started and was pulled into it. So now she’s the astral projection of Rachel’s mind unable to return to her body. I suppose getting Havok in particular back into the fold is inevitable since he’s a character in the X-Men: First Class film coming out next month.
This was an excellent issue and I’m pretty happy with everything that came about. The art was pretty good as well, save one sequence in which Rogue’s costume was zipped up in one panel, then zipped down in its usual “check out my sweet, sweet breasts” mode in the next. But in all fairness, she was talking to Gambit at the time, and that man’s damn smooth.
- Astonishing X-Men #38 which is not a mistake. They’re actually putting out two issues in two weeks.
- Uncanny X-Force #10 making this the fourth issue of this book to come out in six weeks.
- X-Factor #219 where I’m not really sure what the next storyline is.
- X-Men Giant-Size #1 which is really just the next issue of X-Men, making this another title coming out twice in two weeks.
- X-Men: Prelude to Schism #2 just two weeks after the last issue.
Okay, you may be noticing that I’ve been complaining about the schedule (or lack thereof) in which Marvel has been churning out its X-books. You may also be thinking ‘What the hell, man? More comics!’ But really, I’m thinking of this not as a comic fan but as a bills-paying adult. I buy monthly comic books with money budgeted that they come out once a month. That means in 8 weeks, I should only be paying $8 for Uncanny X-Force. Instead, in just six weeks, I’ll have paid $16 for it. And this is not limited just to that. It feels like all of the books Marvel has bounced the price up to $4 – Uncanny X-Force, Astonishing X-Men, Uncanny X-Men and X-Men – have been coming out more frequently. Astonishing and X-Men are coming out twice in two weeks, and the issue of X-Men is bumped up to $5, likely to put a shitty reprint in the back of the title for 20 more pages. X-Men Legacy has another issue coming out in two weeks and many of the X-Books including all the $4 ones have two issues solicited for both June and July.
I never thought I’d say this, but sometimes there’s just too much outpour. But I can see what Marvel’s doing – they have an X-Men movie coming out in June and they’re trying to get all their big events going by the time it comes out. That means X-Force’s Age of Apocalypse story, X-Men’s young vs. old bit and Schism for the rest of the line. This reminds me of what led to my horrid case of burnout that hit me in the middle of Second Coming. But I suppose if it was that big of a deal I’d stop buying. I’m just grumbling. I’m allowed to do that.