And so Kieron Gillen hangs up the keys to Utopia and hands them across to Brian Michael Bendis as part of Marvel’s new "Marvel Now!" rebrand. At first glimpse this appears to be a move done to consolidate all sides of the business. As a brand, the X-Men sell more than the Avengers even with the Joss Whedon film breaking records all over this year. So Marvel have taken their stronger X-Men writers, Kieron Gillen and Rick Remender as a start, and seemingly assigned them to Avengers. Meanwhile, their marquee writer Bendis gets to write the X-Men to keep his sales looking healthy. The Avengers books get fresh writing talent, which gives them a boost, while Bendis gets the sales bump of the X-Men to keep him in the A-List after a string of failing titles: Moon Knight, Brilliant, Spider-Woman etc.
So far only a few books have been recommissioned by Marvel – we know New Mutants is finally getting the chop with X-Men Legacy and Uncanny both due for cancellation at the same time. So as things stand, we’ve currently lost three books and gained one – All New X-Men. The next few months may bring more cancellations (Astonishing X-Men feels primed to become a Northstar solo, for example), so we’ll have to keep our eyes open. At the time of writing, however, the X-Books have grown in size. I’m of course writing about Dazzler’s new solo series, X-Treme X-Men.
Written by Greg Pak and drawn by a surprisingly shaky Steven Segovia, X-Treme X-Men #1 is actually a revamp of the Exile concept, only this time without many of the traditional Exiles concepts. There’s no sign of Morph so far (excellent), nor Sage (booo!) and the Crystal Castle is absent. Instead we have versions of Emma Frost and Wolverine who are virtually the same as the mainstream ones and a kid version of Nightcrawler. Also severed Xavier head, which acts as their mission control. Dazzler flies into the middle of this and promptly gets stuck in a different dimension where she has to fight a giant squid monster.
Which is all really good fun! Whenever Dazzler reappears you always need to prepare yourself for her new speaking style and personality, but Pak manages to amalgamate an impressive number of previous Dazzler iterations into a cohesive, semi-stoned whole. I’m pretty certain she spends most of this issue completely bombed out, which makes her even more fun as she ignores Emma Frost, makes fun of Cyclops and acts like a proper diva. It’s a great return to form for her, even if she has somehow managed to pick a ridiculous creeper for a new boyfriend. Hopefully he won’t be returning anytime soon. It’s a lot like Incredible Hercules in terms of tone and a welcome change to the other books – mainly because Pak writes everyone in character and gives most of his new team an immediate purpose.
Segovia’s art is, as I mentioned, really shaky here. I don’t know why, but his use of anatomy is really off and there are some really wonky-looking people. Her body alternately squishes and bulges at random places during the rest of the issue, which is fairly off-putting. The writing makes up for it, but Segovia – who is usually rather reliable – is a bit of a liability here.
But anyway, let’s move away from Dazzler’s excellent return. And speaking of different worlds, AvX brought us an intriguing look at a world where people are completely insane and have no rationality. I’m talking of course about the Avengers Academy tie-in story that saw Emma Frost come to the Academy to melt down a sentinel based there. Christos Gage attempted to make this an interesting moral debate over the course of two issues as the sentinel acts as a guardian for one of the kids. However, let’s just get that straight. Either the kid doesn’t have a giant murderous robot as a friend anymore … or there is A GIANT MURDEROUS ROBOT LIVING IN A SCHOOL. Seeing how Emma even offered a fair compromise to the Academy, this was an utterly ridiculous storyline and invariably frustrating.
It speaks to the second act of the event as a whole, which is now making no attempt to hide the fact that the X-Men are the villains. Namor started drowning Wakanda this month over in the main book after being provoked into it by Emma Frost. With the reveal that when someone with the Phoenix is defeated, the energy goes into the remaining members of the Phoenix Five (Highlander-style) comes the point of the story where things become formulaic. We’re likely to see Colossus and Magik wiped out next, leaving Cyclops to fight Emma Frost for overall control of the Phoenix. Meanwhile, Hope Summer continues to be astonishingly poorly-written here as her revulsion at Cyclops’ plan to use her as a vessel for the Phoenix somehow turns into eagerness at Captain America’s plan to use her as a vessel for the Phoenix. Poor Duane Swierczynski and Kieron Gillen must be so confused by the miswriting of their character right now.
Jason Aaron’s Wolverine & The X-Men series managed to not write anybody out of character (at the time of writing – issue 14 isn’t out yet) this month. That’s because the focus was on Warbird, who so far has been mostly characterised as ‘horny for Iceman’ and ‘homophobic.’ We get to see her past in this issue and explore the character. It’s fine and not bad. It’s been seen a hundred times before, but it’s a perfectly adequate story. The book is still struggling to find anything to do with this event, however. X-Men Legacy is in a similar position as well, with a Rogue Vs Carol Danvers story, which is going into some strange places right now. Christos Gage seems set to take them both into outer space for some reason, for them to make up their differences again and for Rogue to presumably be manoeuvred into place for Rick Remender’s upcoming Uncanny Avengers title.
The books which stand aside from the event are some of the strongest this month, with Uncanny X-Force #27 clearly the best title of the lot. Halfway through this ‘Final Execution’ storyline which seems set to end the current incarnation of the series and launch into a new agenda at the end of the year, Rick Remender tells an incredibly compelling story here. Taking a group of somewhat dull heroes, writing them into interesting positions and setting them up to fail against some of the best X-Men villains of all time, the book has all the urgency and power that the rest of the line seem to be losing. It has so much momentum right now that even an upcoming issue with Deathlok in it doesn’t look like it’ll do any severe damage to the storyline. Fantomex left the team in GLORIOUS (he killed my beloved Darkstar! He deserves everything he gets!!) fashion this month, while a new member of the team appeared for what was probably the most exciting shock of the year. Next issue can’t come soon enough, really!
New Mutants wrapped up a particularly godawful arc this month, while X-Factor #240 gave us an issue focused on Layla Miller. This was an excellent little story, essentially cribbing the entire story from the movie Run, Lola, Run but adding a few twists to make it seem not like a total rip-off. David gave so
me depth to the character he made his own (and into, well, a character) with the story, something which can sometimes get lost with the splintered style of storytelling David has been using for the past two years. The art was also great with Neil Edwards putting some real thought into the movement and progression of the story. This Monet/Strong Guy relationship continues to be gross, unusable and unwanted, but that aside, the book has a feeling of forward movement once more.
Over in Wolverine’s world, we got to see the start of Jeph Loeb’s new Wolverine/Sabretooth/Romulus story, to the chagrin of the entire world. This first issue didn’t actually murder Dagger like I thought it would, but did render the entirety of Daniel Way’s 50-odd Wolverine Origins story moot. It wasn’t a terrible issue in all honesty, although it did nothing surprising and disappointed with every new reveal. Nobody enjoyed the original story, and the Romulus character remains a massive mistake Marvel have yet to realise. Hopefully we’ll see the next few issues delete some of Loeb’s more disruptive and pointless changes to Wolverine’s past and clear things up a little.
In final news, we saw Psylocke lose to Daredevil in AvX Vs #4, while Emma Frost delivered an absolutely gleeful, tremendously enjoyable destruction of boring God Thor. Uncanny X-Men #15 and #16 continued to deliver the best storytelling that series has had since Claremont, albeit with an pair of issues which do seem to contain a little bit of filler before we get to the big Mr Sinister/Phoenix Five battle. Age of Apocalypse #5 was consistently decent once again, while various titles combined to make Black Panther a likeable character for the first time in almost literally a decade. Interesting twist …
So that wraps up July! Coming in August … GAMBIT returns to a solo series, while the Storm/Black marriage may finally come to an end! Neal Adams comes back to the world of the X-Men, and Uncanny X-Force/X-Men both enter their respective endgames …
See you afterwards!
BOOKS OF THE MONTH:
- Uncanny X-Force #27
- X-Treme X-Men #1
BOOKS TO AVOID:
- Wolverine #310
- Avengers vs. X-Men #8
NEW MUTANTS UPDATE:
- Absolutely dire this month. Cancellation imminent.
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.