Jamil Scalese: I’ll make like Rick Remender and spare you the graceful intro.
Unlike many previous event comics published by the House of Ideas over the last decade AXIS #1 starts hard, fast and doesn’t relent. Original Sin also had this type of feel but by it’s nature it was very coy about exactly what was going down and who would be involved.
Not here. This story has been building for at least two years in Uncanny Avengers, and there are threads that go back even further than that. This first issue of AXIS is shockingly unfriendly to new readers, but almost refreshingly. Dozens of Avengers and X-Men make appearances, and many subplots are born in short flashes. If you haven’t been paying attention to Remender’s Marvel work some of the subtleties and gravity of what’s going is going to be lost on you.
Thankfully, Shawn, we’ve been keeping a keen eye on the happenings on the Avengers Unity Squad and this is the pay off we’ve waiting for. In Uncanny Avengers there as always a sense that, even with the wide berth of penning the “flagship” title of the company, Remender didn’t have the entire Marvel toolbox at his disposal.
With that said I expect big things for this series. Although this issue was a solid B+ for me I’m expecting a 3.9 GPA at series’ conclusion.
Shawn Hill: This is very hard stuff to deal with, right off the bat. Established racism. Species-phobia. Entrenched insanity, so key to the Marvel program since the very beginning (I’m struck over and over by how useful and necessary the Nazis are to Marvel’s whole agenda, always; from giving kids and their heroes a clear enemy in WWII to keeping things tricky during the Cold War to now) and here exploited by Remender to the fullest in the way this generation understands the best: threats to personal autonomy, individual freedom and family. Betrayals of love and loyalty. Violations not of religious or moral natures, but to personal concepts of honor, loyalty and love. Red Onslaught is a nasty piece of work.
You’re right, Jamil, I feel lucky to have been keeping up with Uncanny Avengers all along, not to mention Uncanny X-Force before it. Remender is utilizing every bit of continuity he’s established along the way. I also think he’s proven with the epic scale of his Unity Squad story that he plays well with the whole toolbox, given the chance. He wove a time travel tale that both destroyed major characters we loved and hit the reset button, but in clever ways that still left scars at the end. Rogue and Wanda, two women deeply involved with mutants and Magneto, have healed their breach, but Alex and Janet (an unexpected but logical pairing given Janet’s resistance to the new teammates invading the Mansion and Alex’s anti-Scott politics) have come together but lost their heart’s desire along the way.
So when Ahab (Remender makes him almost more vile than the Skull) hurts Teen Apocalypse (sorry, “Genesis”), I know what it means, and I don’t like it all! In that good way that I also hated Red Skull stealing Xavier’s brain (will we ever tire of seeing Charles’ sliced-open head? The indignity!), or the deaths of Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch and Rogue.
I’m also happy to see Adam Kubert on art chores, as he’s given us some great Uncanny moments already and is an old hand at Marvel mini-series. But really, what could be better than the first act foe of this episode, the ever underwhelming but always earnest Plantman!? I love that guy!
Jamil: The last time Plantman had a significant appearance was back in the Avengers/Thunderbolts miniseries and he had a more redemptive deposition then. I’m guessing the Skull’s hate-wave contributed to his sourness in the opening scene because Remender is typically a stickler for continuity.
Adam Kubert creates a sturdy foundation for this opener though I’m not astonished by the effort. A lot of the action is satisfactory but not dazzling. There’s a sequence of Ahab attacking the Summer brothers that could have been a lot more dynamic and fluid, and on that same page Kubert draws Ahab’s staff twice in the same panel. There are a good number of double page spreads utilized here and the layouts are packed with several medium-sized panels, which for the most part don’t convey enough. It’s a stuffed script, and Kubert does a good job unpacking it, but there is really no eye-opening sequence. I feel a little guilty with that critique, because its a lovely looking comic, it just lacks a certain quality.
Another thing that I felt wasn’t up to snuff? The jokes. A staple of Remender’s writing is a blackened backdrop punctuated with moments of unexpected levity. So far AXIS is dark, real dark, I mean it’s literally about the heroes trying to fight being made of pure hate, so the humor is welcomed, but it’s so forced and odd. Nightcrawler has been known to crack a few over his career, but Storm and Colossus? C’mon!
I liked the first issue, but these new-style crossovers typically start off hot, cool in the middle and deliver lukewarm finales. Knowing the writer and his talent for long-term plotting I’m confident this won’t wholly fail, but as stated, I’m looking for a grand slam, not a ground-rule double. It’s about time one of these events kicked major ass.
Shawn: I get what you mean about wanting more drama from the art, but Kubert’s compositions are often a bit quirky. Still, he works wonders with huge casts like this. That’s a whole lot of stuff to keep track of, and if he helped me hate Ahab, fear SkullSlaught, and worry about Wanda, Rogue and Havok I remain pleased. Also, I think in this new darker, scarier age, Ahab may have been upgraded to as many staffs as Hawkeye has arrows! It’s worst-case scenario for the good guys all around!
I don’t expect a mid-stream falter from Remender this time, not like the last two series we’ve covered anyway. I think Remender has an endgame in mind; I’m just happily surprised Marvel seems to have handed him the wheel.