In a month when Merzah the Mystic made his shocking return, Kid Nightcrawler committed genocide and Ultimate Kitty Pryde became the leader of mutantkind, what else has been going on in November? SO MUCH, YOU GUYS.
Let’s start off with X-Factor, which has now wrapped up "Breaking Points" and is slowly setting up an event storyline for next year. The book has dropped several cast members over the last few months, including Havok, Siryn, Wolfsbane and Darwin and now has a more manageable team. While some of the departures are highly welcome, it has led some of the remaining characters into strange places. Polaris has yet another terrible costume redesign to live with, for example, whilst the defection of Strong Guy has been another crippling blow for Monet – once the best character in the book. Monet has completely collapsed as a personality now, withdrawing into herself to the extent where there’s no believable reason for her to remain with this team
However, Monet aside, the book has regained much of the momentum of its earlier years, especially now Peter David has started taking more risks with his characters. Pip the Troll got a spotlight issue this month, improbably enough, and it wasn’t that bad either! Drawn by Paul Davidson (which always helps), the story worked as a pastiche of the earlier noir tone the book used to have, and many of us still missed. But the only reason is worked is because of the ending. Without that moment, the issue would’ve felt like a waste, so it’s nice to be reminded that David can still write a surprise when he wants to. With the book on a roll, 2013 looks like it’ll be a big year for the series.
Same can’t really be said for Wolverine & The X-Men, which is again on the verge of totally falling apart. This really does feel like a book written for people who don’t like the X-Men with every character written bizarrely and for laughs rather than for character. It’s a gag series which for some reason has been called a “flagship,” when it offers nothing to the X-Men as a whole. The storylines are repetitive and most of the jokes obvious and plain. It has some of the best art of any X-Men book, but the writing is absolutely terrible still, and Aaron’s choices for tone and narrative are baffling and consistently poor. I’m really not enjoying this book so it’s good news that Marvel have decided to push it to the sidelines in order to promote All-New and Uncanny X-Men as their future ‘flagship titles’.
Neither of which I care about either, but still. If I had my way, the flagship of the X-Men would now be X-Men Legacy, from Si Spurrier and Tan Eng Huat.
Taking one of the least interesting characters in X-Men history — Legion — and immediately reinventing him and investing him with a voice and personality of his own for the first time, the book is an immediate joy. It’s a book which is obviously written in Spurrier’s overdone style with portmanteau and neologism being the order of the day here. It’s likely not a style of writing which will appeal to everyone, but there’s a strong sense here that behind the babblespeak is a carefully considered storyline, which is going to hit emotional notes as well as camp melodrama and very funny one-liners.
It’s an exciting debut because it’s yet another case where the X-Office have hired somebody with a different voice to join their books with this current crop of titles having more diversity in them than ever before. Marjorie Liu is over in Astonishing, completing her long, somewhat jumbled Karma arc, whilst Greg Pak is writing whatever comes off the top of his head in X-Treme. Every kind of style and voice can be found in the X-Men right now, and it’s very exciting to see. Speaking of X-Treme, Greg Pak used the title this month to bring back forgotten Chris Claremont darling Sage to the X-Men. It was once thought that Sage was being kept in limbo because of the somewhat petty way Claremont and the X-Men editors parted ways (he’s still on contract with them but hasn’t written anything since X-Men Forever concluded). Her return here confirms what I’d been thinking about X-Treme X-Men: this is Pak’s tribute to Claremont, filled with characters he’d like and phrasing he used consistently.
The spirit of Claremont also hovers over All-New X-Men, with Brian Michael Bendis using his first two issues of the series to pitch his premise at readers. The idea is that Beast has, for reasons known only to him (he’s an idiot, and the most reckless and awful X-Men member at the moment), forced Stan Lee’s original five X-Men to the present. He then plans to use them to guilt trip current-day Cyclops. While Bendis is using the Stan Lee characters, however, the book is defiantly in the shadow of Claremont. Storm and Kitty Pryde take focus from Wolverine and Iceman, while the original five sound far more like when Claremont wrote them than when Lee did (possibly because Lee didn’t write them very well …).
Bendis has a tendency to hype the premise of his books and then take far too long re-explaining them, and that’s the case here. After two issues we’re finally onto the storyline he has planned, and things seem to be unfolding in a very predictable fashion. He’s done his research into the characters and history though, making this far less of a disaster than I would’ve predicted. Bendis is unable to write a team series, though, and this is only his first arc. First arcs are easy. Once we head into the ongoing narrative, we’ll have to regroup and see how things are going. Will all the team members have different voices, and will focus ever leave Jean Grey? Who knows.
Another series which is somewhat predictable right now is the sad conclusion of Rick Remender’s run on Uncanny X-Force, which wraps up next month. The book hit a creative peak with “The Dark Angel Saga” storyline which it never matched again. “The Otherworld” arc that followed was really, really bad, and since then the book has struggled to regain stride. “The Final Execution” has been spotty as a result, with great moments and good characters mixed with terrible ideas and obvious plotting. Wolverine ostensibly ends the threat of the villains this issue by drowning his son Daken, which was a move everyone predicted would happen, as it was the same way “The Dark Angel Saga” ended. And again, Remender used a nostalgic “what could have been” sequence during the death to make readers feel sadder about it.
It didn’t really work. What did work this week, and caught me by surprise, was how strong Seth Peck’s writing was for adjectiveless X-Men. The book switched gears from Brian Wood’s superlative run but remained a damned entertaining read with Peck focusing on a Domino/Deadpool teamup storyline which sparkled throughout. The dialogue was funny, the plot light but entertaining, and the overall tone of the storyline made it clear that Peck was relishing the chance to write the X-Men. It was a surprise, but a happy surprise.
So — that wraps up November! Coming December? CABLE is back. FORGE is back. HOPE is redeemed. Cable & X-Force start their mission!
See you afterwards!
BOOKS OF THE MONTH:
- Ultimate X-Men #18.1, #19
- X-Men #38
- X-Men Legacy #1, #2
BOOKS TO AVOID:
- Astonishing X-Men Annual
- All-New X-Men #1 (skip to #2)
- Uncanny X-Force #34