eXaminations

Playing catch up yet again.  Let’s get straight to it.  You’ll find:

  • Astonishing X-Men #48 in which Northstar gets a little play.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men #0in which we learn about two featured characters.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men #1 in which the Mega Event begins.
  • Generation Hope #17 in which the series concludes.
  • New Mutants #39 & 40 in which Cypher and Warlock team up.
  • Uncanny X-Force #23 in which the Otherworld story concludes.
  • Uncanny X-Men #9 in which Team Cyclops teams up with the Avengers.
  • Wolverine & the X-Men #8 in which we deal with the fallout of the casino story.
  • Wolverine & the X-Men: Alpha & Omega #4 (of 5) in which Kid Omega is in too deep.
  • X-Factor #233 in which the team is under new leadership.
  • X-Men Legacy #264 in which the Dark X-Men come back into the picture.

You know the drill.  SPOILERS beyond the jump.

Astonishing X-Men #48
I’ve asked time and time again what the point is of publishing this book when there are 18 million other X-Men team books floating around, but with the introduction of Broo and then the launch of the upcoming X-Treme X-Men, the answer is to get another 4 bucks a month out of the completists…like me.  So I’ll just shut up now.

This issue starts a new storyline from X-23 writer Marjorie Liu with art from Mike Perkins.  This looks to be a Northstar-focused story, if that’s your bag.  Nothing against the Alpha Flighter, but he’s never exactly been the most interesting of people in the pages of X-Men, and writers have seemed to have trouble getting a hold on his personality (here we have him repeatedly saying ‘Babe’, which annoys me).  As most of his recent appearances have been of late, this one focuses on his relationship with his boyfriend Kyle who has become the male equivalent of the damsel in distress.  He played the role in the Alpha Flight mini, and he’s playing the role here.

Astonishing keeps its flow of scooping up a random cast of and tossing them off on an adventure – so it’s pretty much every other random X-Men team book currently being published.  I will give some props for the reintroduction of Cecelia Reyes as an actual character, rather than “medical-based character that plot requires” that she’s been since Marvel gave a firm decision on whether she was dead or not.  However, she seems to be having a close friendship with Gambit that seems to  have come right out of left field.  Reyes and Gambit were not on the team at the same time, and there was nothing put to establish this.  Iceman would have been a better pick for the role.

So take this one as you will.  It’s a Northstar story for the sake of having a Northstar story.  Whee.

Avengers vs. X-Men #0
The prequel issue that supposedly sets up the HUGE MEGA EVENT (neverminding the mini-series that was published to set up the HUGE MEGA EVENT) is split into two parts – a Scarlet Witch story written by Avengers guru Brian Bendis and a Hope story written by X-Men guru Jason Aaron.  Despite what the promo (and title) might tell you, this really adds nothing to the event itself, but rather gives readers a feeling of where the two characters currently are.  Scarlet Witch, as a super-hero, hasn’t been around since before Avengers Disassembled and Hope is a rather confusing character, mainly because she appears in about half of the X-Men books with rather unsure characterization throughout (which in my opinion makes her the perfect Phoenix host, since no one at Marvel has been able to figure out just what the hell the Phoenix is in three decades).

The Scarlet Witch story has her back in action, with Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman showing up to have her pop in on Avengers Mansion to say hello.  She’s reluctant to do so (being that she killed or maimed numerous members of team, who have all since gotten better) and her reluctance is proven right when the Vision shows up and tells her to get lost.  There will be no forgiveness for using him as a weapon to fight their friends, even though she was mad crazy at the time.  The story seems unnecessarily harsh, especially when not a single one of the Avengers stood up for her (the very same Avengers who defended her tooth and nail at the start of House of M) and made worse when Vision started crying afterwards.  What could the possible benefit be of emotionally demolishing the girl who has proven mentally unstable in the past?

But the most surprising thing for me was that Vision was even there.  Last I checked, Vision was in a teenage form as a member of the Young Avengers.  I’m guessing it happened in Avengers and hopefully it was better than someone finally getting around to repairing the wreckage of him left over from Wanda’s attack.  Not a very good story at all.

Over on the X side, Hope decides to buck Cyclops’s orders and head into San Francisco to fight some good old baddies and single handedly takes down the Serpent Society.  It’s really a chance to introduce readers to Hope for those that don’t know her (and judging by Generation Hope‘s sales, not many readers do).  There’s not much to say here either – it’s the argument between Hope and Cyclops that we’ve already seen and we will see again.  The most amazing thing about this story is that artist Frank Cho managed to keep himself restrained when drawing Hope’s proportions.

Totally skippable.

Avengers vs. X-Men #1
The start of the HUGE MEGA EVENT, the Avengers find a badly beaten Nova which clues them in on the Phoenix force, which sends Captain America to take Hope into custody, and we have ourselves a fight scene.  For those of you who haven’t taken Hero vs. Hero Event 101, the fight will last a few issues until the Phoenix Force arrives and we get the Big Change for the New Direction and call it a day, likely with at least one new book getting launched.  Oh, and someone will probably die before all is said and done.  My vote’s on the Protector.

This book actually really irked me, but not because of anything going on with the action, but rather the dialogue that has been going on about the Phoenix.  Coming from Wolverine of all people, it seems like the last time anyone dealt with the Phoenix Force was back in the Dark Phoenix Saga.  He talks about Jean Grey’s sacrifice there as if it was actually her, when we all know that it’s been well established that it wasn’t.  And then he talks like Jean’s been dead since that point.

Jean Grey DID NOT possess the Phoenix Force during the original story.  That was retconned away to bring her back for X-Factor.  Jean didn’t definitely establish the Phoenix connection until Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, though there were plenty of hints along the way.  And it wasn’t the Phoenix Force that killed Jean – she had a good handle on the matter until the Xorn/Magneto whatever killed her.  And she’s been dead ever since.  Since THAT point, we’ve had the Phoenix Force come back for Jean’s corpse and have encounters with Emma Frost, the Stepford Cuckoos and even Quentin Quire.  And that’s not even mentioning the ties to Rachel Summers or even Madelyne Pryor.

The Phoenix is a mess of continuity, that much is true.  So trying to simplify it and move on – I’m all for that.  But there’s simply too much material there to try to tie it to the ORIGINAL Phoenix story and pretend that no one will notice.  Especially not in a book credited with five writers, an assistant editor, associate editor, consulting editor, editor, editor in chief, chief creative officer, publisher and executive producer.

So anyway, here we are setting out the conflict and having the fists start flying.  Both Captain America and Cyclops are being unreasonable on this one, but in a story in which you have to have the two hero teams fight each other, logic usually isn’t an option.  It can be explained by Cap getting his intel from Wolverine, who obviously isn’t pleased with Cyclops right now, and Cyclops being defined by the hard choices he’s made for the mutant people (so much so that the Schism split happened).  And anyway, they have to fight or the book would be called “Marvel Team-Up”.

Generation Hope #17
It would figure that by the book’s final issue I would get into the characters.  Not so much that I’m really mourning the cancellation of the book, but enough to the point where I think it’s a shame James Asmus didn’t get to do more with it.  I also think it’s a shame that these kids (save for Pixie, who’s heading over to X-Men when Brian Wood takes over) are going to hit the background art like so many of the New X-Men kids did.  Even the school-based title ignores the kids, focusing on the newer ones it has established itself.  There are no Team Cyclops books for any of the leftover students to shine.  That’s a shame.

Anyway, with the book meeting its end, they take the opportunity to close up all the lose ends – well, at least some of the loose ends – by having Zero go “evil villain” and the kids coming together to stop him from killing Hope.  And it’s not like he didn’t give them enough chances to do so.  He goes all “Bond Villain” on Hope, openly monologing rather than using his assembled crew of mind-controlled baddies to do something about it.  And it comes down to No-Girl to defeat Zero, leaving her once again as a brain in a floating jar, though the dialogue says her new jar has some special features…though I highly doubt any of the other titles will be following up on that.  We also get brain-wiped Sebastian Shaw getting the files on his old life, though we don’t know what he’s going to do with them.

All in all, an okay ending for an okay title.

New Mutants #39 & 40
I was going to start this entry as a “If you’re a fan of the old New Mutants, then this was the story for you!” but then I realized that if you weren’t a fan of the old New Mutants, then chances are that you’re not even reading this title.  Cypher’s death in issue #60 of the original series is one of those events that hasn’t stuck very well in the collective memory of the fanbase.  In fact most of the New Mutants history between “founded by Professor X” and “led by Cable to become X-Force”.  The whole of Cypher’s life was in that down period.  You might have heard his real name before (as in I wish poor Doug Ramsey didn’t have to die) without knowing a thing about him.

Oh, now I’m going off on a tangent.

So you may recall that this story is Cypher heading back to where he died as a means of getting some kind of closure to his death/rebirth.  It’s a neat story that not a lot of revived characters get around to doing.  And especially in X-Men, pretty much every semi-important dead character has been revived recently (we’re waiting on YOU, Banshee).  Cypher’s death (and the side characters left there) have not been revisited even once since it happened, so Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning had grounds to do whatever they wanted.  And they picked having the long-dead villain of that story, the Ani-Mator, leave behind a virus that would end up reviving him…sort of.  So the New Mutants show up and all get infected, save for Warlock since he’s “virus protected”, har har har.

This is a story to reestablish the bond between Cypher and Warlock, which was an important part of both characters.  This also marks the first time the two have bonded into the “Douglock” gestalt since Cypher’s return, this time without fear of him getting the techno-organic virus, since if you remember how he was revived, he already has it.  But the action and wham-bam fighting takes a backseat in the second issue to the joined minds of the two discussing their situation.  That mixed with Warlock’s rather funny style of leadership (talking about it out loud before saying something to his teammates) make this the best story Abnett and Lanning have put out yet, and better than anything involving Cypher in his original 40-something issues of life in the original series.

Excellent work.

Uncanny X-Force #23
I try not to read reviews on other sites before I get to writing my own, but for whatever reason, I did check out other site’s thoughts on the “Otherworld” story.  Most of them seemed to focus mainly on this story not being as good as “Dark Angel Saga” to which I don’t find to be a fair comment.  Of course it’s not going to be as good.  That’s like saying “Demon” isn’t as good as “Days of Future Past” or “Reunion” isn’t as good as “Kitty’s Fairy Tale”.  That may be true, but how could they be?

The problem with “Otherworld”, to me at least, is that I’m not very familiar with the earlier stuff from the UK comics (and stories based on them) – and there has been a lot – to follow everything that’s been going on.  For example, last I remembered, Jamie Braddock was dead (again).  But a quick look back atUncanny#474 told me he was “presumed dead”.  I also questioned why he was a) sane and b) fighting as a good guy.  As it turns out, I was supposed to question that since he was tossed into being the villain (though even he didn’t know it) at the very end as a means of ending the insanity.

And that’s where this story really falters.  There’s no setup of Jamie being the main cause of the problem, especially if you’re not familiar with old Excalibur stories and thus Jamie Braddock.  It ties up the running issue of Psylocke afraid of telling her brother that she’s become a secret assassin by having the means be necessary for the ends whether or not bright and shiny Captain Britain wants to accept it.  But the reveal that Jamie is evil in the future so we have to kill him now really comes out of left field.  It reminds me of Final Fantasy IX, where Kuja is the villain for the entire game, only for Garland, the villain from the first game, pops in at the very end to be the final battle.  Oh, and spoiler alert for a 12 year old game.

It’s okay.

Uncanny X-Men #10
So to set up Avengers vs. X-Men, Uncanny spends its final pre-crossover story having a team-up between Team Cyclops and the Avengers to stop a HUGE CRISIS.  But as Marvel scheduling practices would have it, the story is ongoing as the Huge Event starts, so the issue with the two teams helping each other comes between issues of the two teams fighting.  You’d think that with their bi-monthly releases they’d be able to catch that – ha!  And they don’t care.

The story has the brig of SWORD’s station falling to Earth and the two big teams teaming up to go stop them.  While there are some familiar faces in the villains (when’s the last time we saw the Dire Wraiths?) the main villain is a guy named Unit who looks like a giant flash drive.  If he’s appeared before, I’m not aware of it (a quick look shows he was introduced in Kieron Gillen’s SWORD title).  But he is the big threat here, and the cliffhanger has him tricking Hope into thinking he’s a new mutant so she takes her team in to get him, only to be left alone.

The thought of Hope being in any real sort of danger is laughable, being that she’s the focal point of the crossover.  And that’s an issue I have with so many characters appearing in so many different titles all at the same time.  Storm is on two Team Cyclops teams as well as the Avengers.  Beast is with Team Wolverine as well as an Avengers team.  Psylocke is on both Team Wolverine and Team Cyclops teams.  Wolverine – well, he’s Wolverine.  No threats to any characters (save a Velocidad or Warpath) can be taken seriously since so many other titles have them around.  And if there was a threat to a major character, you’d know it was coming because Marvel would have promoted the hell out of it beforehand.

But this is a fun little story with an interesting villain and a chance to establish the Avengers and X-Men both as heroes (in each other’s eyes as well as the fans’) before the crossover.  So good stuff.

Wolverine & the X-Men #8
Though this would seem to be the start of a new storyarc (being that the art team has swooped back over to Chris Bachalo), it’s really more of an epilogue to the previous story which sets the next one in motion.  The story is split in twain, one with Beast heading up to the SWORD satellite to get a device needed to fix Wolverine’s broken legs (his Adamantium prevents his healing factor from mending the bones), while the other has the student body heading back to the casino to avenge their mangled headmaster.  You also have a bit more of the Hellfire Club kids, now being trained (sort of) by Sabretooth.

Now I have no reason why Sabretooth is alive.  Last I checked, Wolverine had beheaded him using his Master Sword (which is the only thing that can kill him).  You might have missed it, since it happened in a Jeph Loeb Wolverine story that was quite possibly the worst Wolverine story ever told (it, Ultimates 3 and Ultimatum are the reasons I avoid Jeph Loeb like the plague).  But as random resurrections go, I’m all for it since Sabretooth is a character that needs to be popping up in Wolverine’s life from time to time.  He’s much better alive than dead.

But Wolverine’s off the board thanks to his legs and thus it’s Beast who has to fill in for him, with Sabretooth doing his usual “threaten the girlfriend” schtick to Beast’s lady-love Abigail Brand.  Beast has an interesting tale to tell here as his long-apparent similarity to Wolverine is made the focus.  They are very similar characters, though where Wolverine goes the way of rage, Beast goes the way of logical thought.  He’s forced to put that aside to save his woman, though the finale of the fight isn’t quite clear, thanks to Bachalo’s art.  Did Beast really jump into space without a helmet on?  How did he get back to the station?  Ah well.  It worked.

As for the kids, they go and trash the casino.  The idea was Angel’s idea in a “Lord works in mysterious ways” kind of thing, with Quentin Quire picking it up via telepathy and the others coming along for their own reasons.  It gives a way to bring Angel and Genesis together, and the two form something of a bond, which of course is trouble since Genesis is the resurrected En Sabah Nur, while Angel is the resurrected Horseman of Death.  Ruh roh.

This was a chaotic and fun issue.  Another good work from Wolverine and the X-Men.

Wolverine & the X-Men: Alpha & Omega #4
We’re at the penultimate issue of this mini and now the final crisis is apparent.  Quentin Quire created a mental trap to lock Wolverine (and Armor because she was there) in to prove that he was superior, but didn’t think matters through and has no way to end it.  While this is going on, Wolverine’s actual body has gone into instinct mode (without his consciousness to control it) and is looking to kill Quentin.  You know how that goes.

Now Quentin has gone in to fix things from the inside only to realize that he can’t.  It’s an interesting place for him to be in, and the issue ends with a hell of a cliffhanger where he simply manifests an ‘off’ switch and the story ends just as he and Armor push it.

This has been a hell of a mini, and I’m glad I didn’t decide to drop it.  I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this ends.

X-Factor #233
In the investigations side of the X-Men world, Jamie Madrox has been dead for a while and the team has moved on with the recently returned Havok and Polaris taking the leadership spot in his absence.  So this issue sets up what the team’s been doing while Jamie’s been dead, while he’s been getting filled in by Layla Miller (and vice versa, if you’ll pardon the pun).

It’s a smart move to have this issue before Jamie makes his presence known to his team because if readers don’t get how Havok and Polaris are doing as leaders, then there’s no depth to the conflict of which leader the team will choose.  And it will be a hard choice, since while Jamie’s always been leader and the team was happy with him, Havok and Polaris are far more effective and decisive leaders.  Jamie’s obviously not going to like working mainly with Val Cooper and Team Wolverine, but we may find him being set up as merely a team member (or maybe simply a landlord), since neither Havok nor Polaris have really dealt with him since the 90’s X-Factor where he was mainly the team prankster.  He’ll have to prove himself to them as well as the rest of the team if he wants to regain the leadership role.

Or maybe I’m looking too much into it.  Either way, this was a fun issue.

X-Men Legacy
It feels like Christos Gage really hasn’t gotten the feel of this book’s identity since taking over from Mike Carey, but in fairness it seemed like Carey himself was starting to lose a grip on what it was supposed to be.  Legacy had been set up as Rogue dealing with the students of Utopia, but had shifted into a quickly aborted team format before becoming mainly about the Rogue/Magneto/Gambit love triangle before Gage took over.  Now it’s something of a team book with little to it besides being a place for some not widely used characters to show up, much like X-Men over on Team Cyclops.  But that’s not to say it hasn’t been enjoyable.  If you like guys like Cannonball, Iceman and Gambit, then you probably have no problem with this book.

This issue starts a new story in which Mimic brings Weapon Omega to Beast as his powers are going out of control.  Neither Mimic nor Omega have been seen since the Dark X-Men mini series, and the whole team was quietly dropped when Norman Osborn lost his position at the conclusion of Siege.  The other half of the team, Dark Beast and Mystique, have long since departed (though I don’t know where Mystique is now) so these two have been doing a whole lot of nothing.  And I suppose it’s good to get them both back onto the board, especially Mimic whose been around since the 60’s but has had nearly nothing done with him ever.

But Omega’s a tricky sell.  He was introduced in a pretty awful New Avengers story as a means to explain what happened to all the mutant energy extracted after M-Day.  But the story didn’t really make sense.  It had something to do with the Xorn/Magneto thing, Alpha Flight died in it, and it was suggested that Magneto got his powers back, only to have it ignored inUncanny#500.  Since then, Omega’s done pretty much nothing.  He’s not really an interesting character and thus unless he’s blowing up, it’s hard to really care about him.  Good thing.

We respark the Gambit/Rogue relationship by having Gambit give Rogue some encouraging words before the climax of the issue, but by this point I’m kind of done with the whole matter.  I wasn’t a fan of Rogue and Gambit when they were all hot and heavy and I think Rogue being with Magneto is the far more interesting story here.  Give Gambit something – ANYTHING – else to do, please.

Next Week
More like tomorrow, really.  We’ll be looking at:

  • Uncanny X-Men #10 with the Avengers team up taking place during the Avengers fight.

And that’s it?  I think I missed a couple of titles between the last edition and this one, so I’ll go back and look at those as well.

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5 comments

  1. With regards to Sabretooth its a bit more then him just being dead. In Wolverine goes to Hell Wolverine cut Sabretooth into a million pieces using The devils sword, Im paraphrasing here but its stated that for the wounds it makes there is no such thing as healing. Also on a side note Mystique popped up in that story as well to help get Wolverine back from Hell (after helping trick him into going to Hell)

    Like

      1. Its more the How Id like to read about. I have to say though after all the Romulus descended from dogs nonsense I hope it is the real Sabretooth and not some Mr. Sinister clone.

        I always thought of Sabretooth as Wolverines Joker, the guy who will keep turning up to screw with him in the worst most personal way, Evolution just made him look like a puppet for some Mary-Sue Uber-Creed who knew Wolverine better, could play better head games and could kick Wolverines ass easily (not that I would call Loeb a repetitive hack but that description could also be used for Hush) I just wish Marvel had treated everything that happened in that Loeb abortion like it wasn’t in main-stream continuity

        Like

      2. It felt like Origin was establishing Dog to be Sabretooth, which would have made so much sense. The similar powers, the similar appearance, the hatred for each other. Half brothers. Duh! But descended from wolves – SO much more sense, Marvel.

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