In a month when Mojo complained about the rise of lazy reality TV and Pixie got put into a concentration camp by the Avengers, what else have we got to talk about from May? SO MUCH, YOU GUYS.
I may as well start with the biggest news of the month, which was obviously the dazzling Hepzibah spotlight shone in issue #12 of Uncanny X-Men, which is now deep in the heart of Marvel’s big Avengers vs. X-Men event storyline. Writer Kieron Gillen seems to have decided that for the time being, he’s happy to write about things which happen between the pages of the main event, which means this month he chose one of the smaller X-Men/Avenger clashes and opened it up into a 22-page story. While this is good fun on a month-to-month basis, it also means he has to find a way to force a framing sequence into each of his tie-in issues, so the eventual trade doesn’t read like a total disjointed mess — and that’s perhaps the less successful part of the issue here.
The bulk of the story is a fight between She-Hulk, Luke Cage and The Thing vs. Hepzibah, Sunspot and Namor. This is the fun part of the book: The X-Men wander around the newly-created "Tabula Rasa" mini-country. Meanwhile the Avengers storm in, crash their plane, kill some of the local creatures, smash the scenery up and cause a mess. It’s a clever way for Gillen to show how the X-Men are integrators — able to work alongside the new and the strange peacefully – while the Avengers are conquerors, carving a path through anything they don’t understand. And the fight, as mentioned, heavily features Hepzibah, one of the best characters Marvel has ever created. She’s a space pirate with magic galaxy guns and she is aggressive and, in this issue, apparently kinda horny. She flirts a lot with Namor, which … when your choices are Namor and Sunspot, is probably the right choice to make. It’s a fun issue, although jarring when the framing device has to kick back in and yoink Namor away from the action without any thought for his teammates. Cyclops is abandoning his fallen X-Men very, very quickly it seems.
The main event was this month written by Ed Brubaker and Jonathan Hickman, which means things calmed down considerably. Concluding the first "act" of the book, we’ve been able to watch Wolverine fall apart as a character more and more as the event has gone on. First he sides with the Avengers over his fellow X-Men and tries to murder Hope Summers; then he gets kicked out a plane by Steve Rogers for being so murderous, and now he’s been tracked down by Hope once more. She asks him for a compromise, which he agrees to only to then sell her out back to… Captain America. Y’know, the man who just threw him out a plane? Wolverine’s time as part of a team must be really addling his mind, because his ability to think independently has completely shattered over the past month or two. There was also a couple of silent sequences (well, that’s Hickman’s trademark, really) which were impenetrable. What was Thor doing to the Phoenix Force in issue #4? We may never know.
Perhaps an explanation for Wolverine’s crazy madness could be found in his solo title, which is now owned by Cullen Bunn. And here’s some good news, too: Bunn may be leaving the title after this arc to make way for a horrendous-looking Jeph Loeb/Sabretooth story, but he’s coming right back as soon as Loeb is finished killing Dagger! Given that the current arc, with Wolverine investigating the acts of crazeballs brain surgeon "Dr Rot," is rather brilliant; this can only be good news. Joined by Paul Pelletier this arc looks sharp with every scene having a hint of the uncanny thrown in by Pelletier’s pencilling. Here we have an arc which takes elements set up by Jason Aaron and continues them in a crisp, smooth fashion. There’s not drop in quality whatsoever here as Bunn is able to play around with the characters to his heart’s content. If he could throw in some kind of line which suggests Rot has altered Logan’s mind? To make him have some kind of inferiority complex which can only be satiated by cow-towing to people dressed in red, white and blue? That’d explain a lot, thanks!
Let’s not forget that Jason Aaron hasn’t let go of Wolverine entirely, though, as his flagship Wolverine & The X-Men book also moved into AvX territory this month. Chris Bachalo returns for two issues which will bridge the tone of the series prior to a new, more serious angle. Aaron’s work on the book has been fun, but absolutely disposable, and with a threadbare grasp on several members of the cast (like Kitty Pryde, for example, who appears to be slowly heading into a horribly forced relationship with Iceman, who comes across as a dodgy sex creep throughout). With the series now moving away from camp silliness and trying to write the characters to be IMPORTANT, Aaron is struggling just a little bit to keep things revving along. In fact the entire "Gold" side of the X-Men line is in a bit of trouble right now.
When we started the Regenesis branding, the Gold side had all the best characters, a stronger premise and books, which seemed to align with each other without stepping on each other. A few months down the line though, and Uncanny X-Force and X-Factor have completely splintered away from Wolverine’s school. Rick Remender seems to have put the Psylocke/Captain Britain arc of Uncanny X-Force being him now, thankfully and is now moving onto what looks set to conclude the first part of his long-form black-ops story. Meanwhile Peter David and Leonard Kirk’s run with X-Factor continues apace with the cast split up once more. That means each issue focuses on a different couple of characters with the most recent issue a simple fight between Shatterstar and a generic Mojo flunky whose name I do not recall because generic. It’s fun with several splash pages, which either work really well or do not work whatsoever. Kirk’s art is harkening back to his stuff on Captain Britain more than his work with New Mutants, which is good news for all. Next month will see a shift across to the sub-plot regarding Polaris, Wolfsbane and the other female characters.
David’s done this sort of thing before, juggling storylines on an issue-by-issue basis in the run-up to hiss #50 of the series. This is a little more successful than last time, but there still remain certain plots which are far more interesting than others: Madrox is currently in the position of being one of the dullest characters intriguingly. And the Strong Guy storyline continues to straggle along awful as it is. Hopefully crazy Polaris will brighten up June! But hey, speaking of awfully boring characters, New Mutants is actually starting to pick up! All it took was a big crossover with Journey Into Mystery to do it, but the title finally seems to be starting to understand itself and the characters. As I said last month, this is mainly because they’ve stolen the premise of X-Factor, but hey — if it works, it works. "Exiled" is tremendous fun so far with the jokes and dialogue picking up dramatically with the influence of Kieron Gillen’s Asgardians. The book seems to be gaining a little momentum, and it certainly helps that everybody involved has decided to completely ignore AvX.
That’s something, which the final book of the Gold side, X-Men Legacy, probably shou
ld’ve joined in with. A step down from writer Christos Gage’s superior Avengers Academy, the title struggles with Rogue every time she appears. The current direction dictates that she emotes and acts defensively instead of yell things in a dodgy accent and punch stuff that annoys her. Here we have yet another storyline where random characters (in this case a collection of random Avengers including Moon Knight and Falcon) show up to the school and cause trouble. This has been the same plotline of EVERY SINGLE ARC in X-Men Legacy thus far – and in Wolverine & The X-Men, too. We really need to find a new direction for the school storylines because if Rogue has to yell “No! Don’t let the interesting student characters fight!” one more time, I’m going to have to give up on her entirely.
I do like the haircut Rafa Sandoval gives her though!
Astonishing X-Men is in a very strange place right now, you guys. Everything seems geared around the idea there will be a gay wedding in June’s issue, but the story and art aren’t meshing at all. Mike Perkins’ art is great but needs to be on a different storyline to this. Meanwhile Marjorie Liu’s story is rather wonky, with a strange overall tone which seems to be sinking the book. It doesn’t help that there in no premise for the title whatsoever. While X-Force is ‘the black-ops team’ or Legacy is "Rogue and the students," there’s no way to sum up Astonishing for new readers. It simply exists, telling average stories which do not currently seem to be heading anywhere. SPEAKING OF! Brian Wood will take over Adjectiveless X-Men next month, to make it readable again. I cannot tell you how excited I am to have Pixie back in a regular book I can actually read, without any fear of beige vampires showing up at any point.
Avengers Vs X-Men hasn’t proved to be the black hole that many feared it would be for the X-Men books — at least not yet. While some books are good and some are bad, AvX isn’t the problem. We’re always going to have variable quality amongst the titles, so let’s just consider ourselves lucky that the event isn’t smooshing everything beneath its boot-heel. There’s good stuff here, in a variety of places. And Hepzibah! Who DIDN’T DIE! Countless thanks to the X-Men creative people for that.
So that wraps up May! Coming in June, we can look forward to some more of that Jeph Loeb writing we all love so much, Oliver Coipel’s return for Act 2 of AvX, and a rush-job marriage between two gay characters in Marjorie Liu’s Astonishing X-Men…
See you afterwards!
BOOKS OF THE MONTH:
BOOKS TO AVOID:
NEW MUTANTS UPDATE:
Mid-crossover! Not boring!
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.