Jamil Scalese: Two of the most generic critiques in comics are “Nothing happened” and “It was out of character” and sadly I must attribute these complaints to AXIS #5.
The first act was pretty crammed with story although it basically amounted to one long fight scene. So far, “Inversion” has worked to unspool Rick Remender’s dense plotting but in unsatisfying snippets that aren’t really delivering what I expected from this segment of the series. The switching of the character’s identities it being played way too coyly, which might be justified if we didn’t live in an age where most major moves are telegraphed months before they even hit the printer. In the fifth issue we spend a lot of time with Nova and Spider-Man as they discover that a core segment of Avengers are planning on establishing a new world order and have shrunk and captured the major Marvel heroes. Peter and Sam are a natural pair, two optimistic characters prone to making mistakes, but I found their portions of the story fluffy and elongated.
I’m typically a fan of Remender’s dialogue but he failed here in many capacities. As I stated last week, a trademark of his writing is a certain underlying cynicism and pessimism (in fact, he’s stated he structured his creator-owned series Low as a counter to this ), but with all the heroes turned into unrelenting douchebags there is just way too much of it. Not only that, but non-Inverted characters like Beast, Vision and Invisible Woman share a panel where they use strong, angry language that seems pretty out of character for all three. Moreover: SPIDER-MAN TELLING A DIRTY JOKE? Feels hyper unnatural. I’m still kinda convinced Peter Parker and Mary Jane have never even slept together.
Shawn Hill: Doesn’t mean his mind doesn’t go there though, Jamil, c’mon. He’s both trying to befriend and impress Nova in that moment, it’s all Spidey-posturing. And he’s already been thrown a little off his game by the weird Carnage behavior last issue. It’s not out of character for Sue to be wary, Beast to pontificate, or the Vision to be kind of curt (though I admit I’m not sure what personality Vision is supposed to have these days). They’re all in an odd setting that they’re on the verge of intuiting is a trap.
And as for the Inversion character transformations, I’m seeing those as a kind of extended Mirror Universe Star Trek moment; the Avengers think they’re being all sneaky and bad-ass, but then the Genosha X-Men show up it’s all swaggy and too cool for school. They really know how to put on a show of domination and control. It’s like all those years of fighting Magneto have taught them all his tricks.
Jamil: The issue served to firmly cement that heroes like the new Captain America, Medusa and Storm are not only truly rotten to the core, they’re aware of the change, and like it. Problem is that we receive too much of this as exposition and not enough as character examination. The tie-ins have done a good job of providing the latter but not enough of this is in the core series. For example, what did the good-natured, though proud-to-a-fault, Sunfire turn into? An unconfident, humble villain? Everything is one-note and it bothers me.
Shawn: It’s still building, and there has been some cleverness along the way. The use of Pym particles reveals a not-quite murderous restraint still present in the megalomaniac Avengers. And Wanda is descending into Chthon-esque darkness rapidly, already ditching her human allies. Medusa’s word balloon of “Damn, neither of them are awakened like us … “ has to be misdirected, though. Since when has Medusalith Amaquelin Boltagon spoken with such common grammar?
Jamil: There is certainly time for the series to rectify itself. The appearance by Apocalypse and the X-Men put a much needed “ticking time bomb” into the story that dissipated after Skull was thwarted.
The art by Terry and Rachel Dodson is perfectly adequate, but the pizazz I was hoping for isn’t there. The comic is better in the (few) action moments, but the slick and fluid style is a too-steep departure from the slightly jagged work of Yu. The new Cap is rendered well, but Kluh, in his second appearance, is uneven and the neither the narrative nor visual case has been made for his inclusion. Terry Dodson’s specific aesthetics are always a treat but like some of the issues previous there wasn’t too much cool stuff for him to draw. And if I gave Leinil crap for it I have to call out Terry: draw the webbing on Spidey’s costume each and every time!
I think after Original Sin I’m still adjusting to the wider lens. That series starred a handful of underutilized characters, this one is trying to weave in the Avengers, X-Men, Inhumans and bad guys. The tie-ins are picking up the slack, but I’m looking for Remender to deliver on the story he started.
Shawn: I agree the canvas is much more broad. And isn’t that the inherent promise of Uncanny Avengers, that Remender was making an epic anyway with his established cast, so why not take on the whole shebang? I hope the way of doing that isn’t just decompression, because each Uncanny Avengers was so crammed full of detail, that was part of the excitement. And I agree about the Dodsons. I thought the crowd scene at Avengers Tower especially lacked details, suffering some of the same shortcuts that you found in Yu last issue. However, he knows what to do with the cool kids of the X-Men, and his Wanda does truly seem as glowingly demonic as her father implies. So I’m enjoying the broad strokes, but am bummed to think that many of the personal beats will be saved for the tie-ins.
Jamil: Speaking of which…
Tie-In Tie Up!
AXIS: Hobgoblin #2
(Kevin Shnick; Javier Rodriquez; Alvaro Lopez; Munsta Vicente)
Visually dynamic and charmingly sardonic this tie-in is the early winner for Best in Show.
Hob-Heroism is sweeping New York like a plague and it doesn’t sit right with Phil Urich. The Goblin King, formerly known at varying times as Goblin Knight, Hobgoblin and Green Goblin, is pissed at Roderick Kingsley for a variety of transgressions and wants a huge cut of the original’s hero franchising pyramid scheme. Things escalate when Hobby reveals he has hypnotized someone Phil cares about, a continuation of a subplot from Superior Spider-Man.
Shnick and Rodriguez follow in the footsteps of the once ongoing, now outgoing, Superior Foes of Spider-Man leaning heavily on gags and visual flair. The tone is silly but with a lining of dark, a combination of satire and comic book goofiness. Roderick proves to be just as a big a jerk as Phil by being minimally heroic, always working an angle or profit scheme. The inversion hasn’t made too big a difference, but hey, it looks good.
Muntsa Vincete really does a great job laying a cozy pallet for the issue. Not a lot of characters rock orange as their primary color so this book and character really stand out in that regard. The Hostess gags drawn up by Will Sliney and Veronica Gandini work extremely well and together with Rodriguez’s pencils AXIS: Hobgoblin starts to creep into “highly recommended” territories. Ride the Hob and check this one out.
Superior Iron Man #1:
Check out this week’s Sunday Slugfest for the staff’s take on Inverted Tony Stark’s new title!