In a month where Storm broke up her marriage by breaking her husband’s nose and Rogue came close to owning a harem of cat-people, what else have we got to talk about from August? SO MUCH, YOU GUYS.
Let’s start off with the man who was everywhere this month, Wolverine. I know, right? Who would’ve thought that Wolverine would be appearing in so many comics? This month saw him take the focus, however, as he was revealed not only to be the founder of the Weapon Plus programme – and therefore responsible for Captain America, Nuke, Fantomex, The Stepford Cuckoos and countless others, not less himself – but also the first person to have the idea of an "X-Men." I’m talking of Jeph Loeb’s Wolverine redux, of course, the book which this month threw out the entire premise of Loeb’s original Wolverine Evolution miniseries. Previously Loeb attempted to tell us that Wolverine was part of a group of "lupine" mutants which for some reason included Feral and Thornn, and Logan’s entire life had been dictated by someone called "Romulus."
This month, the sequel shows us that this was all lies, and a character called… sigh… Remus revealed that Wolverine caused everything himself. He founded Weapon Plus, and bonded adamantium to himself, and then forgot about it. It’s an utterly bizarre twist designed to be a shock rather than a story. It also weakens Wolverine, because now we know he’s always been a dick, and the strangeness of his actions over the course of AvX were merely him returning to his original personality.
AvX … well, it’s barely worth talking about, really. It’s going in a pretty obvious direction now, and fans of the X-Men have now got to resign themselves to a month of Wolverine and Captain America being "right," and the X-Men being apologetic and subservient. Let’s talk instead of The First X-Men, Neal Adams’ miniseries which revealed that Wolverine was, yes, the man who first created an X-Men team. The book shows Wolverine and Sabretooth (who partway through says he isn’t a fan of jailbait’, which is the least in-character thing ever seen) assembling a team of mutants in order to protect mutant rights. If you like Adams’ art, you’ll like this. There’s a much tighter editorial lasso around him here than with Batman Odyssey however, so the story isn’t as bonkers as you’d like. It’s still choppy as hell and bizarre and out-of-character for everyone though.
Xavier especially comes out of things badly, as we see that he too was a dick when he was young, just like Wolverine. If the past few months have told us anything, it’s that the X-Men were founded by a couple of jerks who had no intention whatsoever of making the world a better place. Xavier is expected to be doomed by the end of AvX, you might have heard, so this is a pretty appalling tribute to him. You can see how, from the perspective of an X-Men fan, it might be tough right now. Cyclops and Emma have been turned into the villains of AvX, while Wolverine has become unlikeable, Hope has joined the Avengers for no apparent reason, and Xavier has become far less reasonable than Magneto! What is going on here?
Thank goodness for the satellite books, because Gambit launched this month and finally explained just why the character is so beloved by fans. Along with Rogue, Gambit has always sat in the shadow of his cartoon counterpart, who was much more fun and introduced a generation of teenage girls into womanhood. James Asmus and Clay Mann are the dreamy dream team involved in this title, which at the moment seems to be giving us a heist an issue. There’s a sense of humour and joy in this book which has all-but-evaporated from the ‘important’ titles. Gambit is free-spirited, and the different aspects of him are finally intertwined. He’s no longer a lovesick puppy thief whom the X-Men distrust. He’s now a fully-evolved character in his own right with a purpose and motivation.
Just like Dazzler! DAZZLER!! She’s always been one of my favourites, which is why it’s such a treat to find that X-Treme X-Men is doing her justice. Dazzler has always struggled when put in the "dimension-hopping" guise – think Longshot, think mysterious pregnancies and even more mysterious miscarriages – but writer Greg Pak embraces her as a character rooted in fun rather than seriousness. You’ll never match the original Dazzler run, which was soap opera in its purest form. Instead, Pak throws concept after concept at her, and uses her breezy, presumably-stoned attitude to make fun of it all. Issue #2 in particular pits her against a group of mutants who think they are Gods, and finally resolves the long-brewing “could Dazzler beat Thor?” question fans have been asking for decades. And the answer is YES!
X-Factor also had a good month in August, finally managing to push away from status quo in order to challenge the characters. The five-issue “Breaking Points” storyline has been a shot in the arm for a book which struggled to match entertaining dialogue with a coherent direction for the characters. Set over five days, each issue will show a member of the team self-destructing in some way, and so far we’ve seen Darwin trying to kill Wolfsbane’s child, while Strong Guy finally snaps and quits the team. Which has been great fun to see because the book desperately needs to get Strong Guy out the cast. He’d become too much of a focus while Madrox and Havok were sidelined, and he’s really not the kind of character who can hold a book. Leonard Kirk’s artwork seems to be back to the similar style he used in Captain Britain and MI13, which I like.
Meanwhile, the two main books took a bit of a stumble. Kieron Gillen’s last issue of the Mr. Sinister arc rushed somewhat to a fairly predictable closing, although the dialogue remained excellent. Likewise, Jason Aaron is now slowly leaving his AvX tie-in storyline, as various characters are forced to apologise to Wolverine for being wrong about the Phoenix Five. Even though the Phoenix Five only exist because Iron Man created them! Gah. It’s an infuriating beat, as is seeing all the characters now decamp to Westchester in a regression of massive proportions. I’ve not been a fan of this series since the first few issues made it clear that it had no intent on building a story or characters. It’s goofy, and that’s all there is to it.
I did, however, really enjoy Jason Aaron’s big finale to the month, which was the penultimate issue of AvX VS – AKA the fight where Storm and Black Panther came to blows. This was a decent story, with entertaining beats, and an immensely satisfying conclusion. If you’re a fan of Storm, you’ll love it. And don’t forget to read Brian Wood’s X-Men series while you’re at it, which now looks like it will continue into the Marvel NOW era. The book continues to tell intricate stories with a deftness of touch you wouldn’t expect from an X-Men title, with Wood the consummate storyteller in his element. Storm is great value in that series.
Quick updates – Age of Apocalypse continues strong, and I p
romise I’ll get to writing about it soon, while Ultimate X-Men delivered yet another progressive, character-focused action story. With politics! Uncanny X-Force had a bit of a skip month, although remains high-standard, while Astonishing X-Men improved in story (Northstar and Kyle remain the weakest characters in the title) but still struggling with a misplaced Mike Perkins on art. And finally, X-Men Legacy is treading water until it gets relaunched, really.
So that wraps up August! Coming in September, we can look forward to Karma finally getting her revenge, Dazzler in the wild west, and Uncanny X-Force kicking things into overdrive.
See you afterwards!
BOOKS OF THE MONTH:
- Gambit #1
- X-Treme X-Men #2
- X-Factor #241/242
BOOKS TO AVOID:
- Wolverine #311/#312
- First X-Men #1
NEW MUTANTS UPDATE:
- Still going?