In a month where Warbird outed herself as a raging homophobe and Colossus regained the ability to use polysyllabic words, what else have we got to talk about from June? SO MUCH, YOU GUYS.
The big story for the month was Astonishing X-Men, which hastily rushed into Northstar's big gay marriage before his boyfriend had even accepted the proposal. Now, this was a fascinating mess of a comic storyline, really, as Marjorie Liu has been flashing back and forward through time to tell two different narratives. The past sequences show Karma mind-controlling various members of the team into fighting each other, and trying to kill each other. The even more past sequences show Northstar proposing to his boyfriend whatshisname, and getting rejected. Meanwhile the present-day sequences show Northstar and whatshisface getting married. So yes, the present-day sequences render the other two sequences dead in the water. We know they're going to get married, and we know they're going to survive Karma's attack. There's no tension in seeing these sequences out-of-sync. Chronologically, this story would've been stronger.
And Astonishing X-Men #51 is a terrible mess, with poor character decisions and storytelling crippling much of the issue. The main problem here is that Liu simply isn't strong enough at joke-telling. While her melodrama is spot-on, she can't elevate the material with knowing jokes and references — so whenever we see Rogue talking about HER gay parents, the joke feels just that bit too watery to be entertaining, and the moment falls flat. There are a lot of flat moments in the issue. People have been praising it fairly consistently online — but if you look to see how X-Men fans feel about Northstar's new sappy attitude? They're not pleased with it. An issue for people who like gay marriage, but not an issue for people who like the X-Men, therefore.
Speaking of the gays, as I do often, Kieron Gillen managed to sneakily out Mr. Sinister, of all people. Not exactly as homosexual, but more as an asexual who doesn't see the need for women when he can simply create more clones of himself and keep them around. This was in the best issue of Uncanny X-Men in perhaps a decade, issue #14. Another spotlight issue for a villain (Gillen has been doing a lot of this, which was perhaps the greatest criticism levelled at his run), the issue builds up Mr. Sinister's plans for The Phoenix Five, who were created during Avengers vs. X-Men. It's a clever, smart approach to the character, and gives him new focus. It also builds heavily upon his appearances during "Messiah Complex," and is an incredibly rewarding read as a result. There are two kinds of X-Men writers, you see: ones who wonder how the theme of the X-Men might work for them; and those who wonder how they might work for the X-Men's agenda.
Rick Remender is firmly on the side of the latter, with his dense research (composed, we believe, primarily in a rotting attic somewhere in a lighthouse) really starting to pay off with his new arc of Uncanny X-Force — his strongest since The Dark Angel Saga. The Final Execution is the name of this one, and it loops all the ongoing plot points into a series of intensely satisfying cliffhangers for every member of the cast. Apart from Deadpool, but who cares about him right? Mystique takes on Fantomex, Psylocke is led astray once more, Wolverine is being destroyed by fans of Omega Red (who was killed during Wolverine Origins), and everything is generally going rather badly. With Phil Noto drawing, the story hooks readers quicker than a mass-murdering Russian with hooking-in powers could, and shows great use of character and story to look at how the X-Men operate.
This was also the case with the arrival of Brian Wood to the X-Men, as he took over two books this month. While Jason Aaron's relative ignorance of his characters led him to create new ones and mainly ignore/miswrite the old ones he retains (step forward Kitty Pryde), Wood's characterisation is spot on, even if his dialogue is a little off. With Ultimate X-Men, this is no problem — he's got everything down pat. With adjectiveless X-Men, his slight mishandle of characters like Storm and Colossus is more noticeable. But it's still strongly written, because while it's strange for Colossus to give a mission briefing and Storm to be so informal — it's not strange for Colossus to be the one coming up with a plan, or for Storm to be proactive. And thank the Goddess, Wood writes Storm like a fully-capable human being. One of the biggest problems has been the inability of writers to get a handle of Storm, who — like Wonder Woman — can sometimes be so grandiose and "important" as an icon, it becomes impossible to write a story about her.
Not so in X-Men, which gives her a juicy story of her own, at a time when she's barely featured in Avengers vs. X-Men whatsoever. And as we're on the subject, let's take a quick moment to look at what really is one of the biggest problems in this whole event storyline: the Avengers. Not the characters, but the books. Brian Michael Bendis is in charge of New Avengers and Avengers, and has chosen in both cases to write stories which add extra bulk onto the side of the main story, without ever really participating in it. New Avengers is currently all about Iron Fist, while Avengers is about Protector. At no point have either books tried to weave in and out of the main story, and enhance it. We have no look into what motivates Captain America or Iron Man as they prepare for war against the mutants. While Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine & the X-Men are both heavily involved, developing Cyclops's team and Wolverine's… the Avengers titles have done nothing for their characters.
Christos Gage is the only one to come close, although he's rather fumbled the story in his tie-ins. Interestingly, Gage seems able to handle only one school book at a time, as whenever Avengers Academy is good, X-Men Legacy is not — and vice versa. Luckily, while this is a borderline crazy month for the Academy (in which the Avengers refuse to let Emma Frost fix a Sentinel which is still set to “kill mutants” mode and is positioned in the school), it's a great month for Legacy once more. We start out with the origin story of Frenzy, the angry anti-human mutant who used to be
Magneto's right-hand man. This is a neat done-in-one tale which doesn't soften the edges around her character, whilst still giving her a sympathetic backstory. It's smartly put together, and adds to the character instead of taking from her. Meanwhile, Rogue continues to flourish somewhat, having begun to jettison the overwrought emo baggage saddled on her by the end of Mike Carey's run, and returning to her old ways.
But not as a retcon or reversal of what came before. Rogue is still growing as a character, even while Gage drops her intelligence level a little (Carey was never able to write characters as non-intellectuals) and makes her more punchy and aggressive. She's finally becoming fun to read about again, and that's a massive relief for everyone. In other quick updates — X-Factor remains okay, but is really starting to stretch out the storylines — AvX Vs gave the X-Men two victories as everybody thought it would, and Age of Apocalypse (hadn't forgotten about you!) remains an excellent read, if not exactly a gift for new readers.
So that wraps up June! Coming in July, we can look forward to DAZZLER's glorious return to stardom in the pages of Greg Pak's X-Treme X-Men…
See you afterwards!
BOOKS OF THE MONTH:
- X-Men Legacy #268 & 269
- Uncanny X-Force #26
- X-Men #30 & 31
BOOKS TO AVOID:
- All the Avengers tie-ins to AvX
NEW MUTANTS UPDATE:
- Crossover complete. Kinda boring again.
Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet's 139th most-favorite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. He's on Team X-Men, you guys.