Comic Reviews 2 October 2013

02 October 2013

A+X #12
Beast, as I’ll get onto in the next review, is the master of dubious moral decisions. Wonder Man is a pacifist in the most judgemental and annoying way at the moment. Still, A+X puts them both together and has them relive their fun-loving past. Their gathering is fairly contrived, but the wistfulness both share about their more innocent (and drunken) days brings up what both the characters and audience have lost lately. The pair drink their way through New York, getting in fights with Z-list villains, pranking Wolverine and enlisting Crusher Creel to their drunken shenanigans. A+X often shows us insubstantial and unnecessary stories but in this time when both Avengers and X-Men are in the middle of massive events, it’s nice to get a side story like this with two currently unlikeable characters having fun like they used to.
The second story in A+X is another unlikely Captain America team-up (the previous one being with Quentin Quire). Captain America takes Vampire Jubilee on a mission where they’re taking down Nazi vampires trapped on a wrecked submarine. It’s interesting for being an unorthodox combination, but isn’t at all necessary in any other way. If Cyclops was still with the main X-teams, it would be his role to get all judgemental on Jubilee, but Cap’s made it his duty to be that guy. It’s good seeing Jubilee’s vampirism being used in a good way compared to just angsting about it. She was turned into a vampire, so the creators may as well run with it now.

ALL-NEW X-MEN #17 (BATTLE OF THE ATOM #6)
We’re over the half way point in the Battle of the Atom crossover event and we finally get an explanation for the Future X-Men. Kind of. Long story short, it’s Beast’s fault. Again.
First of all we get a glimpse into the future and President Dazzler.
Yes, you heard that right. President Dazzler.
That’s pretty damn awesome. The X-Men have the White House! Except something’s gone wrong, President Dazzler is assassinated and all the Madrox security guards are dead. The Future X-Men we’ve seen are traumatised and Beast (who evidently didn’t learn from that time he brought the Young X-Men to the present) starts ranting about how the humans will never learn. Now, when a person says that sort of thing, they’re pretty much in the villain place. So we’re not told all of what happened there, but it’s pretty obvious that bad juju came from whatever happened there. Magik, Young Iceman and Young Beast see that world a few years later, at the Jean Grey School. The people there, including Moustache Colossus, Wizard Iceman and the rest seem quite evasive about what’s going on, unfairly to the audience who want to know everything that’s going on right now. These Future X-Men haven’t heard from the other Future X-Men for a while and while they respect the problems of time travel, they do decide to travel back to stop their allies. So now it’ll be Future X-Men versus Future X-Men and we don’t even know why Beast’s doing all of this. Any Beast, at this point, damn their furry and non-furry hides.

ALL-NEW X-MEN SPECIAL #1
I’ve avoided these multi-part specials in the past, but this one crosses over three titles I already get and with my recent standing order changes, I thought I may as well check this issue out.
“The Arms of The Octopus” crosses over All-New X-Men, Superior Spider-Man and Indestructible Hulk. The only real concern is that these three books have amazing writers, none of whom are on this crossover.
The core All-New X-Men title is in the middle of Battle of the Atom and has been working its way through bigger stories so it’s nice to see the young X-Men all acclimatising to the modern world. There have been some glimpses, but in a large special like this the subject can be explored. Cyclops, Beast, Iceman and Marvel Girl are all dressed like they were in the 60’s and exposed to New York’s bright lights, garish people and people who like mutants. Beast gives up the time travel thing about as easily as Cyclops and Iceman did a few issues ago in the main series, trying to impress a hot science student. Then Dr Octopus attacks… But, he shouldn’t, he’s inside Spider-Man’s head. The Superior Spider-Man joins the fight and is understandably freaked out. With the mystery of Dr Octopus, he enlists the help of Bruce Banner, bringing our trio of titles together.
Kris Anka’s art is crisp and clean, a little simplistic in places like with the chunky look of Beast. The slightly muted colours of Jordie Bellaire help the art pop interestingly and add an autumnal look to the whole story. I haven’t checked the solicitations for the other specials, but I hope they either have the same artist or someone who looks similar to Anka. If so, this will be a good self-contained story.

INFINITY: THE HUNT #1 & 2
I missed the first issue of this series, so in a quieter week, I thought I’d catch up.I say ‘missed’, I didn’t realise this was the comic I wanted. Two issues in the title doesn’t appear to make any sense, the cover for the first issue didn’t really do much for me and wasn’t indicative of the comic I wanted to read. I’d remembered that an Infinity tie-in was going to be released involving the members of various Marvel Universe schools, I couldn’t remember the name and nothing about issue one looked like it was what I wanted. Luckily issue two had Quentin Quire on the cover which is a surefire way to get me paying attention.
Aside from making a D-list comic title a difficult one for its audience to find, there is more to talk about with Infinity: The Hunt.
The Avengers are almost all off-world with their interstellar war, and the super-teens of the Marvel Universe need something to do. Hank Pym, constant purveyor of brilliant ideas, decided to make a Contest of Champions to allow all the schools to compete against each other. I like the use of the name, but this feels doomed to failure, especially when it’s not all that far removed from Arcade’s Murderworld shenanigans in Avengers Arena. All it takes is another Hank Pym mood swing and then ALL the Marvel kids will be in deadly games.
The Hunt follows the perspectives of a vast amount of young heroes, mainly new additions. The Avengers Academy and Braddock Academy are both missing members, the Future Foundation are mainly the comedic chorus of Moloids and the Jean Grey School kids are being led by snarky Quentin Quire. There are several other schools which I assume were made for this series and hopefully some future coverage of the schools. There’s the Pan-Asian School for the Unusually-Gifted, the Wakandan School of Alternative Studies, the Atlantean School and the Latverian School of Science. Seems like an odd choice of school to collaborate with, but I like the sound of it. I used to love the ‘legacy’ aspect of DC Comics and seeing Marvel’s legends opening schools and training new generations is a nice touch.
The first issue shows us the cast in a large group assembly, all apart from the Latverian School who are suffering from malfunctions and the Atlantean School who are destroyed when the Cull Obsidian wreck Atlantis.
Issue two shows the schools uniting to deal with the Cull Obsidian’s invasion, with the kids being sent away while the heroes deal with the attackers. The Latverian school isn’t having any of it and wants to launch an attack at the forces in Atlantis, dragging the other students with them.
That this Contest of Champions is Hank Pym’s half-arsed idea makes sense, the man’s still got a touch of the ‘Doofus Pym’ to him that he had during the Bendis years. He couldn’t even think of a name for this contest himself, which seems a bit daft. I like seeing the swathe of new characters, even if a bunch will probably die before the series is out. Like Avengers Arena, I’m interested in seeing who sticks around after the series ended. I hope there’s a continued series following this plethora of schools and the young heroes. There are mutants, gods, people with gadgets, each character feels like they fit in the Marvel Universe, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of them distinguish themselves as the series continues.

IRON MAN #16
We’re almost at the end of the Secret Origin of Tony Stark. Previously, an alien recording robot, 451, revealed that to protect Earth he’d massacred tons of people and engineered Tony Stark so he’d become the technological genius he is today. When Tony didn’t play ball, he pointed a five-mile-long suit of armour at Earth and threatened to blow it up. Last issue he confronted the stupidity of that plan and how his attempt to protect life led him to destroy more than he’d ever protect.
With this realisation, 451 has decided to remove himself and everything he’s made from the universe. That includes Tony. Iron Man’s genius helps him out of this situation, but it does feel a bit sullied that he was made to be this smart and innovative. He didn’t do this all by himself.
The last half of the story has Tony back on Earth for a significant but unspecified birthday party, where he realises something about 451’s plan and something which is up with his secret origin. I assume next issue will be the end and I’ll give the next storyline a chance, but this doesn’t feel like a great use of Gillen’s talents. If it doesn’t shape up then I might quit Iron Man for a while.

MARA #6
I thought this series ended two issues ago in number four, but this is the proper conclusion. I say proper, it’s a bit of an odd one. The issue is almost all delivered as a monologue from Mara as she floats in space, following the first manned space flight in years. She’s been bullied by the dystopian state, threatening to kill her, to kill her brother, to turn her into a weapon. Last issue was her despair and anger at Earth’s populace for what they did, but now she gains some hope for them.
There’s a lot of talk about the Superman-level heroes and how they need to be made human by giving them flaws or making them act like jerks. This series has been a great look at a hero at that level and their inner conflict showing us their humanity. Mara’s despairs at the horrors of her world and in seeing the endeavours they are making, might see something to love and something better.
Brian Wood’s take on powered characters in Demo was great, and this feels like it’s an escalation of that look at character. Ming Doyle’s art is at times similar to Jamie McKelvie’s clean lines, but there’s a rough edge to some of her panels, especially the look of the stumpy child Mara in a flashback where we see her parents leaving her at the academy we’ve seen in previous flashbacks. Mara’s always been conflicted and difficult as a character, whether it’s an angry child, a hyper-competitive celebrity or a hateful god. Now she’s tempered by her experiences in the series, and comes out of it with hope.

BOOK OF THE WEEK
I apologise to all other books coming out while Battle of the Atom is happening, it’s hit so many highs that it’s difficult to knock it off my top spot for the week.
All-New X-Men #17 finally explains some of what’s going on with the future X-Men, shows us the motives behind their actions, the Jean Grey School of their timeline and President Dazzler! How could any other book win without President Dazzler?

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