Jamil Scalese: Another issue and another rotation of AXIS. Try not to get dizzy.
After a slightly disappointing middle act the seventh installment of this mega crossover sparks off a huge battle royale on the island of Manhattan pitting the Evil X-Men versus Steve Roger’s group of now-good villains. I believe this “team” are to be dubbed the Astonishing Avengers although they’re never referred to as such here. You might remember the first act was basically one long fight scene so there’s a bit of a bookend feel to the action of this comic.
As big Deadpool fan I really enjoyed the heavy spotlight he received here, first in a team-up with Spider-Man and then in a very talky brawl with Apocalypse AKA the despot formally known as Evan. Many feel that Deadpool was the emotional center of Uncanny X-Force (I don’t necessarily agree, he was a bit player for much of the series until the end) and some significant character threads are revived between the former friends. Remender writes a more interesting Zenpool than the one appearing in Deadpool and overall I really enjoyed the tone of his segments.
My fav character got a good bit of quality page time and so did one of yours, Shawn. Before I get into it, what did you think of Wanda and the MAJOR reveal exposed in this issue? It’s a status quo change I think most were expecting but it still kind of caught me off guard.
Shawn Hill: The extreme developments this issue definitely caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting quite this level of intensity, as I’m sure Deadpool and Pietro weren’t, either. Rather than backing down the evil mutants are moving in for the kill, worse in every way than even Red Skull was, and while it gives us a glowering Queen of Chaos, it also leads to that unexpected reveal.
You know, Wanda and Pietro have had so many parents by this point. Miss America and the Whizzer. Django Maximoff. Magda, whomever she was. And then Magneto himself (who’s also had a lot of lives and identities to live down). If we’re to believe he’s no longer their father, perhaps never was … well, he certainly never brought them any legacy they wanted. Even when she’s sane again she might be happy over this change, and I’m willing to see where it goes.
Jamil: You’re certainly right about the switching ancestry of Wanda and Pietro, an ongoing narrative in the MU that kind of receded in recent decades. I think we can safely assume this move is for cinema-related reasons but it certainly has roots in the comics. I felt the creative team executed it well with powerful art full of Chaos magic and with tense dichotomy in the dialogue — spiny and biting from Wanda and impassioned and quixotic on Mags and Pietro’s side.
As an issue I felt this one was very strong. A healthy serving of action, interesting character pairings, appropriate nods to tie-ins, subplots and whatnot. It mostly works. As a piece of the larger story it defuses some things I felt were strengths. The Astonishing Avengers are dismissed way too quickly and the erasure of Evan bummed me out a little. Just when I’m digging an aspect of this story it’s thrown back into the shuffle.
Adam Kubert returned on pencils and though I didn’t love everything he did in the first two issues I’m happy he’s back for this one. There are some very impressive sequences, and up until now he’s been the best at packing in the story and giving the big moments their due.
Shawn: Kubert is giving me flashbacks to some of the 1990s crossover events (the first Age of Apocalypse maybe?), which is a good thing. And of course he was one of the best parts of Age of Ultron, and works very well with Remender. Doesn’t all the convincing En Sabah Nur is trying to do sound like Deadpool is touching a nerve after all? It’s just the sort of thing Apocalypse would say to anyone bored enough to listen, and the ultimate example of the crazy talk coming from all the mutants in this story, so I’m hoping Evan may still be somewhere in there when the spell reverses.
Jamil: It does feel like Deadpool pushed some of the right buttons. I loved the line “Dude — No one liked En Subah Nur! But everyone loves Evan!”
One thing I think this series could benefit from is a supplemental series. AXIS has taken the place of Uncanny Avengers with a relaunch forthcoming but it’d be nice if Remender had space to expound on some of the ideas here. While he’s a writer of this event it kind of feels like he’s not really in the driver’s seat at times. Hopefully, the next two issues can put a neat bow on this.
Tie-In Tie Up!
Avengers World #16
(Nick Spencer: Frank Barbiere; Marco Checchetto; Roman Rosanas; Andres Mossa)
A group of patchwork “Avengers” + Scarlet Witch X Latveria = Resurrection?!
Yeah, that’s about the gist of it. The conclusion of this two issue tie-in is satisfactory enough and actually works to deliver a meaningful, even unexpected, result.
Valeria Richard’s team, the “Available Avengers”, find themselves stuck between a Witch and a Doombot as they attempt to stall the corrupted heroine and her mission of vengeance. All the players get a really good moment or two, and for the most part the story is played up for laughs, though it never manages to slip in silly or sarcastic tones. It’s very much a hero’s tale, with that notion demonstrated in scene where Stingray saves some Latverians from drowning while declaring: “It’s what I live for. It’s just who I am.”
Much of what was promised last issue is delivered here, just as any two-parter should do. Scarlet comes for Dr. Doom’s head and the Valeria’s Avengers unwittingly enact Doom’s plan to siphon off Wanda’s reality altering powers. They succeed, but it’s revealed that the team only obtained enough energy to rectify a single mistake. As Spencer and Barbieie skillfully explain, Doom has plenty of rights to wrong, but the one he picks conveniently flows right into one of the co-writer’s upcoming projects.
I don’t have too much to say about the art that I didn’t already praise last issue. Checchetto does an even better job this time around with the fearsome battle scenes and heavy impact action. He works very well with common superhero visuals like magic and lightening and there’s a certain neutrality to his style that allows him to draw someone like Elsa Bloodstone alongside 3-D Man. In particular the final sequence is expertly depicted.
If you’re looking for more depth to the Wanda/Doom elements in AXIS this book could satisfy but at the same time you could skip it and wouldn’t miss too much. More likely this is for the fan with a little extra room in their comics budget who likes one-off stories showcasing underused characters. It was fun, I enjoyed it, but now I’m completely dropping this title as it switches over to “Time Runs Out”.
AXIS: Revolutions #3
(Ray Fawkes; Pepé Larraz; Rodrigo Zayas; Frank Barbiere; Victor Sands)
After two barely average issues AXIS: Revolutions heats up with a couplet of sexy and action-slammed stories that finally deliver on the storytelling promise of the Inversion spell.
First up is a heist starring Kitty Pryde as a cute and ruthless one-woman wrecking crew. Shadowcat hasn’t had a part to play in AXIS, I don’t even know if she’s had a single line of dialogue, but it’s pretty cool to see her have a moment here. The story by Ray Fawkes is refreshingly straight forward, like a scene from a big budget action flick, and it works because of the beautiful illustrative work by Pepé Larraz. I recently finished Deadpool vs X-Force and I’m keeping my eyes on Larraz, a very polished talent who excels in realms of heavy action and animated force. He’s comparable to Stuart Immomen, with maybe 10% less polish and some propensity to get wild with the details. I’ve never been a huge Kitty fan but it was very neat to see her use her powers in such a reckless and frenzied way.
The second story was actually even better. Main character Flint Marko, aka Sandman, enacts a plan to break a former partner out of jail while also setting up the mob that put him there. If you’ve been following AXIS you probably had the same thought I did: Sandman wasn’t on Genosha during the Inversion, so what the hell does this have to do with anything?
Turns out, after seeing Absorbing Man acting heroic on the tube Sandman decides to follow suit. The little twist to have Sandman “invert” without the use of messy magic works as a clever hook. Frank Barbiere captures Flint’s voice well and shows an established side of the character that is often forgotten. Sandman has dabbled in anti-heroics before (even as recently as the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon) and his switch to the good guy side reads smoothly. The art by the appropriately named Sands is a tasty treat for sure, a divergence of what you’d traditionally find in a superhero book. The action scenes are pretty wonky and the script does not mingle perfectly with the pictures but it’s a very subdued aesthetic that helps unpack the story in a way you wouldn’t expect.
I was generally unfamiliar with both writers and I’ll say their efforts here were really good. One story is appropriately barebones and drawn beautifully and the other is chock full of good ideas and takes some chances with the art layout and style. The stories in Revolutions #3 are great examples of what these shorts can do.
(Gerry Duggan; Brian Posehn; Mike Hawthorne)
Another issue of Deadpool, another “Meh, it’s OK” from Jamil. This one worked to further examine Zenpool, finish off the battle with the Inverted X-Men and to push the main character to where we find him in AXIS #7.
At the Jean Gray School the anti-hero and his sick Korean friends fight off the evil X-Men in the Danger Room before scuttling off to the Monster Metropolis, home of Deadpool’s wife, Shikah. The advancement of the book’s subplots is a main concentration here and for the most part it’s done well. Zenpool continues to find himself at odds with his old life, in particular a wife who misses the violent and impulsive spouse with whom she fell in love.
Much like last issue this one is again low on the jokes. Deadpool has just about fully crossed from the realm of niche humor to mainstream drama, and honestly, I’m getting used to it. As long as Marvel keeps producing series like Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Howard the Duck I’m OK with Wade’s maturation as a character, and a property.
Hawthorne continues to prop his book up with sturdy pencils and strong layouts. His style would allow him to work in just about any corner of the Marvel Universe, and he excels on Deadpool because the book often sways from straightforward superhero comic to wacky four-colored romp and even to areas of the occult. He originally scored this gig because he worked as a smooth placeholder for Tony Moore but over the past two years Hawthorne has authoritatively taken the reigns as the main artist.
I’m still interested in Zenpool but I’m wondering how much this tie-in is advancing the overall narrative versus just being a gimmick to put Wade Wilson in a new costume.