Jamil Scalese: After a couple mediocre efforts by Marvel, Rick Remender and the rotating art team it appears the AXIS is back on track of achieving moderate success.
First page faux pas aside, the sixth chapter did what these things should and tightened the dramatic tension through interesting character interactions and further clarification of who’s fighting who and why. “Inversion” has been a very muddled affair, a bit too spaced out as it took three issues to figure out exactly which heroes and villains switched sides. Apocalypse’s “Gene Bomb” is a pretty weak MacGuffin but at least it feels like the third act will have a little more substance than the second.
Outside of the Superior Tony Stark most of the concentration is on the Genosha villain team that now feeling a bit more compassionate and jovial. The issue has some sweet moments for Loki, Sabretooth, Doom and Mystique, scenes that bend the characters and their histories in fascinating ways. Though it’s weird that Steve Rogers would gather these longtime foes at Avengers Mansion, (I mean, anyone of them could be faking their Inversion) I’m glad we’re finally there.
One crucial factor that elevates this issue is the better art effort from Terry Dodson. A big flaw still remains, the last half or third of the issue isn’t as crisp as the front, but for the most part the action had the flow you’d expect from the art duo. The scene with Daredevil and Iron Man is fantastically rendered, and the horror feel of Wanda attacking Latveria serves as a good switch from the story’s traditional superhero settings.
Shawn Hill: The way Remender is building on the whole Doom/Witch animosity from The Children’s Crusade is the most fascinating part of this for me. I love seeing even the twisted version of Wanda’s resentment at his manipulations, and what a cool Doom moment to see him abase himself before his people (rather than hiding behind them as he usually does).
Other weird but thrilling moments include Mystique being the one to reason with a scrappy Rogue and murderous Nightcrawler, and Thor refusing good advice from brother Loki. I”m not as taken with Tony’s rampant hedonism in San Fran, or Daredevil as his hectoring father-figure, but then I don’t generally get into Iron Man without Downey Jr. to make it work. Seeing Sabretooth take on Wolverine’s typical leadership role is kinda cool, definitely.
Jamil: I get a similar tone from the issue’s events. Raven and Creed acting as a reasonable people gives me a sense of reader’s vertigo. I’m also love the continuation of the Scarlet Witch/Dr. Doom saga, a story vein I think is important for the Avengers franchise to keep a pulse in. Magneto and Quicksilver swooping in to save Doom because Wanda “would never recover from it” is a smart moment and I like the Maximoff family dynamic right now.
The idea that there are no heroes left to fend off the X-Men from taking Manhattan or that only three or so Avengers remain and they’re all Inverted is an unacceptable plot contrivance. There could have been a better way to insulate the plot from the rest of the Marvel happenings. I really wished we’d get more of an idea of what’s going on over on X side of things, particularly what exactly is up with Apocalypse. Evan too gracefully swayed over to the traditional En Subah Nur persona and it’s almost like there’s something missing from the equation. As is, I’m reading the wholesale switch as commentary by Remender that Fantomex’s method of child-rearing used in Uncanny X-Force definitively proves the nurture over nature debate. Though it’d be nice to get some clarity.
Two thirds through and it seems that what AXIS is trying to do is advance some personal narratives while also pulling double duty as the core series of a major crossover. Characters like Stark, Wanda Sam Wilson, Evan and Rogue get a beat here and there then fall back into rotation. This could work but I’m not loving the execution.
Shawn: The final arc should be their comeuppance, right? Will they realize what they’ve been doing, and regret their actions? It’s definitely more potent storytelling when the manic phase actually ties into a character’s basic personality (which is happening with Tony and Thor the most I suppose, as Thor’s already in a dark place, and Tony has lost it before). But it’s true, the mostly flat and one-note villainy of the X-men had me fooled last month (because of the joy of living up to everyone’s low expectations seemed liberating for them), but it’s starting to wear thin. And while Wanda has just cause for all her grievances, the cackling can only entertain for so long. The question becomes how different will the new world order be this time?
Tie-In Tie Up!
AXIS Revolutions #2
(Kevin Maurer / Frank Tieri / Paul Davidson)
The last installment of this column only had a couple tie-ins to report on, but then another wave came in and I’m drowning in supplemental comic series. If you’ve been following AXIS, or even reading the feedback from critics and fans, through the division options of its quality you’ll see a lot of people agree that the tie-ins have done a lot of the legwork. Revolutions does this by nature, the last issue focused on the Red Skull’s hate riots and now it gives the Inversion a tad more detail.
The first story is a street fight pitting Sabretooth against Nightcrawler in a battle for Logan’s soul! …Well it’s more of an assault on an indifferent victim. “Ain’t the Man I Used to Be” by Frank Tieri and Paul Davidson is the type of short I crave, a piece of AXIS that needs some context and depth, but it fails by being a little too trite. Inverted Sabretooth is an extremely compelling nugget of an idea, and since Tieri cut his teeth on Wolverine brand comics it’s fitting he gets a crack at Creed. He does a good job setting the tone but the story falls flat somewhere between the fifteenth and twentieth BAMF. Davidson has a gritty, powerful style that can bend and contort into some mean looking action but Rachelle Rosenberg goes heavy on the purple and it blots out a solid pencil and ink job.
“Hammered” works to move Thor from NYC to Las Vegas in a comedy short in the mold of the Dr. Strange story from last ish. Journalist Caxton J. Ford is the main character, a dude that’s totally stoked to be hanging with the son of Odin as they road trip to Nevada. Kevin Maurer’s story starts off charming but gets a little tiresome, especially with the use of tweets and hashtags. The social media stuff was clever for like six months, folks. Like in the first story the art is very good, a style fitting the humor of the script and the attitude of the new Thor. David Lafuente would excel on a book with characters like the GLA or even Spider-Man. It’s a perfectly fine idea that works in parts but runs out of steam.
Pretty simple verdict on this one: With good pencils and a pair of forgettable plots the second issue of the anthology series didn’t warrant a buy.
(Rick Spears/ German Peralta / Rain Beredo)
The first two issues of AXIS: Hobgoblin surprised the webbing out of me. It’s a fresh, approachable series that carries a lot of style. I doubted much else from AXIS would top it.
My pessimism failed me again as the second issue of the Carnage series tickled a fancy I didn’t I know I had. Cletus Kasady as a valiant do-gooder is freakishly rad, a bold concept filled with joyful insanity and a touch of parody. Both writer and art team step up their efforts after a solid first issue.
With the plot set during the day the colors by Rain Beredo are much more appetizing and operate in the sunny Marvel pallet that helps us convince Carnage is now a hero. Peralta draws the Venomson well, like a Spider-Man ecstatic he’s been ripped of his flesh. The action is energizing and straightforward, and the comic is truly great in the twisted flashbacks of the protagonist’s childhood. The script is thought-out and even poignant, a complete surprise for Carnage.
Spears doesn’t exactly capture the tone of a Southern boy like Cletus, however Remender has piled the accent on pretty thick so it’s cool to have a balance. What Spears does do well it portray Carnage as hilariously naive regarding the world of superheroism. The serial killer knows he’s done terrible things and wants to atone but has no idea what to do because he’s batty as shit. A matchup with the apparently occult Sin-Eater is coming up in finale and I’m extremely curious to see how it all wraps up.
Avengers World #15
(Nick Spencer / Frank Barbiere / Marco Checchetto / Andres Mossa)
I’ve dropped this title twice but it still ends up in my bag. I’ve read maybe a dozen collective issues of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers books so a lot of the early stories spotlighting characters like Manifold and Smasher didn’t carry weight for me. When Spencer took over the series got stronger but now the baton is to be passed again as Frank Barbiere joins the team and will take over solo duties when the focus shifts to “Time Runs Out”.
Doom’s grand speech in AXIS #6 gets unpacked in Avengers World #15. Dr. Mood gets all remorseful as he reveals the first step of his redemption plan — build a makeshift Avengers team for his protection against a vengeful Scarlet Witch, and then find a way to siphon her power to put it to good use. Amazing how much things change that they stay the same.
Doom puts his ward Valeria to the task and the young genius channels her best Danny Ocean assembling the available heroes. Val is a funky character and for the most part she’s a delight here, wit and sharp tongue in an adorable package. I’ve never read Barbiere before but I can definitively detect the Spencer charm in Val’s interactions.
Marco Checchetto has done fine job when his turn is on art comes up every three or so issues. He draws faces very well, and action always looks powerfully statuesque and precise. The art, the chilly pencils combined with colors by Andres Mossa, is darkly neutral, still within the realm of an Avengers comic but shadowy and with a hint of noir.
This extremely approachable story still falls into the title’s mission statement which is to expand the Avengers brand, both in-universe and in our world too. The Latveria-based Avengers, made up of solid C-listers like U.S. Agent and Valkyrie and forgotten runoff like 3-D Man and Stringray are a playful bunch and I’m eager to see how the infantile team deals with a (again) wacko Wanda. Much like the other tie-ins it does a commendable job of picking up the slack of the core series.
(Gerry Duggan / Brian Posehn / Mike Hawthorne)
In this issue an enlightened and pacifistic Deadpool tries to find his place in a life he no longer recognizes. I, too, have became enlightened…about the current run on this title.
I’ve been pretty hard on Duggan and Posehn but I will admit they’ve brought a swath of legitimacy to Deadpool in a time he desperately needed it. Deadpool is now a fully fleshed out comic book character rather a parody of one. He has real problems and the absurdity has been scaled back and delegated to supporting miniseries. The character and his world no longer needs a setup, he’s a low A-lister now and there’s a certain respectability that comes that. Deadpool is at the point where his title can withstand two crossovers back-to-back and still saunter on.
Of course as vetted comic readers we know the art is always a massive part of a title’s success. Mike Hawthrone has quietly become the main artist and proves why with every finished issue. I’ve been confounded too many times before by Marvel’s art choices on Deadpool comics, often assigning unpolished creators with very animated and flamboyant styles. Hawthorne is the antithesis, an incredibly neat and orderly talent that can get weird and/or frenetic when he needs to.
Not too much of a need for that here. The Inversion has not only made Deadpool a follower of non-violence it’s also sapped him of his humor. That’s right, folks, the character that is built on zany antics no longer performs for the laughter. Deadpool #37 has some funny moments, namely a scene on the subway with Trapster and Batroc, but it’s a pretty straightforward superhero book. The examination of Zenpool works as a perspective of what Wade is not and I’m thankful to see the narrative captions return as an avenue for old Deadpool to speak his mind.
I do have to wonder how the hell Rachel Summer is Inverted despite her non-presence on Genosha during the spell. Kind of seems like a misstep by the writing team, if only because it’s dangerous to mess around with that character and her passionate fanbase.
Superior Iron Man #2
(Tom Taylor / Yildiray Cinar / Guru-eFX)
As a fan, I’m a little sore AXIS hasn’t fulfilled all my needs and I have to turn to the tie-in titles to color in some of the empty spaces. As a critic, I think the format has succeeded at this point. Remender’s framework is barely decent but the attached titles are rife with possibility.
If I was forced to choose one of them to follow I might pick Superior Iron Man. That’s not a decision feuled by quality but rather a curiosity. It’s a little crazy the Armored Avenger has now gone rogue and is pretty much holding the Bay Area hostage. I respect the creative move because it’s no mystery how important Stark is to the overall brand. Anyone who says Marvel only cares about the movie universe status quo should pay attention to stuff like this.
The Iron Man/Daredevil dynamic is enlarged as the two poke and counter each other in a dispute over Extremis 3.0 . The tech removes the genetic defects of its buyer, but with an astronomical price tag crime has become chic in the city. Matt Murdock takes on a big role in this issue, he’s practically the protagonist, and if this were a Daredevil book I might bump up the rating a half star.
But it’s an Iron Man book and it’s lacking in that element. The best part of the first issue was the Pepper subplot revealing a contingency plan for a wayward Stark and that aspect is missing from issue two. I’m a fan of this series giving us a look at a new Tony, a guy who isn’t that much different from the old Tony, but it’s not working as well as it should for such a strong move.
Again, it’s heavy on Daredevil, and those parts are fine. Cinar works better in the action, street-level setting than he does the high tech world of Iron Man. Taylor has some clever snips of dialogue, and the last page is a good piece of drama to drive a wedge between Matt and Tony. I’m eager to see how long this idea lasts and what the creative team can do with it. Right now it’s OK, something to check out later perhaps.