Shawn Hill: Lots of big changes this issue, plot resolutions that I didn’t see coming so quickly, but that resound with potential repercussions. Remender is still trying to figure out mutant/human Unity, and bringing in a cavalry of villains (immune to Red Onslaught’s naughty new Sentinels, calling the Oversight Nazi!) only complicates matters. Doom proclaims, lesser threats squabble and insult, and meanwhile Deadpool steals the show with his special brand of irreverence. Yeah, who knew that Tony Stark, with respect for no law but his own, hated being made fun of so much? Remender did, that’s who!
I’m glad this month brought in Yu on art, because he knows drama, and he knows how to draw witchy femmes. We get big moments from both Enchantress and Scarlet Witch this week, and they are both being extra-spooky. Though you could find one channeling a mesmerizing love spell (Amora here seems rather like the beguiling Lorelei from the Agents of SHIELD show), and the other being an anchor for Chaos as being kinda sexist (or at least gender-role specific), Remender makes sure to posit Amora’s love as an opposite to the Skull’s hateful prejudice (“I’ve always loved a challenge.” she murmurs as he hurls insults at her), and Wanda’s no longer Doctor Strange’s student, she’s the balance to his spell of order. And when he falls, and Dr. Doom (somewhat ironically) steps in to take his place, she’s not thrown off her game despite her loathing for former paramour Victor (he found her when she was amnesiac, IIRC, and took advantage).
Jamil Scalese: The issue has a lot going on. If you think about it the first act of AXIS has elapsed over a day or so but it feels like weeks of plots are pouring off the page. It’s a little disorienting, and some of the developments need to room to breathe, but I excuse it because previous events have suffered from decompression. Anyone remember Avengers vs. X-Men?
There is some odd dialogue plaguing this issue, mainly because the entire cast switches over to a group of lesser known characters, a crop of A and B-list villains gathered by Magneto. Oh and Jack O’Lantern. Jack is there too.
Remender labors to give many of the characters a good story beat or two. I love the use of Enchantress, Loki, Doom and Magneto. Tony and Wade’s interactions are sterling, but I could be bias being that I’m big Deadpool fan and this is the first time he’s really had a role in a major crossover. On the downside some, like Sabretooth, Absorbing Man and Scarlet Witch, get bit parts, and for whatever reason Carnage receives the lion’s share of panel time which translates as mediocrity in the form of exposition and banter.
Leinil Francis Yu does his thing, however there is a struggle between the script and spatial limitations. This is one crammed comic, with a bunch of Marvel baddies fighting towering behemoths page after page. Adam Kubert depicted this action a lot better than Yu who makes some questionable choices in terms of angles and camera location. I don’t mind the pace when it comes to story but Remender didn’t give his collaborator a great plot to actualize.
The biggest surprise of the ish is Evan aka Genesis “inverting” into the form of the classic Apocalypse. Many are complaining this moment was glossed over but I’m absolutely certain Remender will address the legacy of one of his main pet characters/concepts. Plus, I’m pretty sure the general dismissal of Evan’s new appearance is a subtle hint the inversions have already taken effect.
Shawn: Yes, I saw that as sort of inevitable (and maybe a build-up to the next X-movie?). It’s one step along the way of the continuing barrage of shocking changes to come. I was more focused on the coda to the final Uncanny Avengers arc, with Alex showing disgust at Old Cap’s obvious loyalties, and dropping him and the Wasp in allegiance with mutant rights. That’s a big blow to the ideal of Unity, and it happens not in an alternate future timeline but right here on the familiar ground of Avengers v. X-Men.
Jamil: Some see this as a redundancy, a step back from AvX, Uncanny Avengers, even Schism, but I think it’s the opposite. The Avengers and X-People have gone through tumultuous times over the last few years and its smart storytelling to toy with that concept, even revisit it as we did in AXIS #3.
The first act, “The Red Supremacy”, was pretty darn good. Remender and his collaborators laid down an exciting foundation for this crossover to succeed. The last month we’ve seen a bunch of teasers evoking previous Marvel stories but it’s important to notice that AXIS is its own beast, a wholly original story mired in storylines built up in mainstream books. I’m clamoring to see how “Inversion” unfolds.
Tie-In Tie Up!
AXIS: Hobgoblin #1
(Kevin Shinick; Javier Rodriguez; Alvaro Lopez)
The best part of Hobgoblin isn’t a costume or gimmick or motive, it’s the legacy.
At first glance ol’ Hobby is a very apparent Green Goblin clone, and it’s easy to dismiss him as such. However, the fuel behind his several appearances over three decades is the way the identity has been used, re-used, contorted and manipulated in the pages of Spider-Man comics. Many early Hobgoblin stories read like a whodunnit and its created a niche for the character amongst the massive web of Marvel personalities.
Kevin Shinick smartly addresses much of Hobgoblin’s history in the first issue of this three-part miniseries. Part of the reason Hobgoblin’s mythology is so convoluted is because the original, Roderick Kinglsey, was thought an unworthy secret identity for such a menacing and popular villain. Here the effeminate fashion designer is put to great use, re-branding himself as the Tony Robbins of heroism.
Much of the issue’s allure hinges on the lively art by Javier Rodriguez and Alvaro Lopez. The book dabbles in humor but sways into dark zones too and the energizing pop-art style fits all desired moods. Rodriquez’s depiction of Hobgoblin’s more gothic and horror-ish elements create fun friction against the new “hero” persona. The colors are a Halloween treat, with tons of neon setting this book apart from the faded tones where Kingsley made his first appearance.
The main antagonist is Goblin Knight, the previous Hobgoblin, and is an appropriate opponent. The story sits firmly outside of AXIS territory; Other than marking the first on-paper appearance of an inverted villain it has nothing to do with the event and reads as something birthed from the Spidey books. If you like the character and the art captures your delight it’s worth a shot.
(Gerry Duggan; Brian Posehn; Mike Hawthorne; Terry Pallot; Jordie Bellaire)
After a very brief digression featuring Wade’s battle with a Dracula-piloted Spider-Slayer this title bolts straight into another major crossover following Original Sin.
This issue is a bit bumpy. Duggan and Posehn have introduced numerous subplots in flashes, a style representative of the book’s main character, sporadic and seemingly arbitrary. Since Deadpool plays a role in AXIS elements of the crossover demand page space, so some of those subplots, like Shikah, Ellie, Kim and the sick Koreans, all get minimal attention. The locales switch every couple pages and not in a calculated way. For example Wade’s purposeful ignorance of Red Skull’s hate wave is played off to be funny but it’s a veiled attempt to buy time to handle the in-queue side stories.
It’s a muddled affair, part business, part pleasure, part housekeeping. A sign of the unnatural deviation is how the issue weirdly jumps into caption narration in the backend. Per Deadpool tradition the comic goes meta and comments on its first appearance in the Marvel NOW era. The writing duo have made it a point not to use Deadpool’s internal monologue so its inclusion points to the slipshod transition.
The swing through to Gensoha is presented only to awaken Wade’s “inverted” personality, a monk-like Deadpool who practices non-violence. This is a weird move for a character built on such refined qualities like mayhem and raunch humor. Still, I’m pretty interested to see where it goes, especially when applied to his supporting cast. This was a splotchy start to a crossover, but Mike Hawthorne props it up, and the cameos are delightful.
(Rick Spears; German Peralta; Rain Beredo)
Another Spider-Foe gets twisted around and holy shit.
I could probably write a lot about Carnage if the time called for it. The character carries an almost inexplicable gravitas and popularity. Marvel has consistently featured Carnage in various titles over the last three years, most which didn’t involve Spider-Man or Venom. Carnage #1 isn’t the boldest or freshest marketing move but it succeeds by injecting vigor back into a recycled character.
There’s a basic idea at the core of this: How the hell can Cletus Kasady be a hero? That’s the problem and the challenge for Rick Spears and German Peratla. Carnage is a walking horror show. This is a guy who literally has made it is his mission to brutally maim, kill and destroy all human life on the planet. He’s the Joker of the Marvel Universe except he’s less clever and wears a suit made of murder. He’s actively pursued goals of mass murder and has even succeed at times. Carnage is the absolute last villain you’d think would be on the redemption trail.
In that concept there is automatic tension, and Spears does a good job playing to the idea that Carnage is a living nightmare trying to make sense of heroism. This whole inversion thing is uneven (and weirdly I like that) and it apparently means different things when applied to certain characters. In the case of Cletus he goes from sociopath slasher to a wellspring of emotions that still enjoys slashing. The use of narration is pretty clunky but nailing an altruistic Carnage is a tough task.
Peralta makes it come alive, then kills it again. This is one brutal comic for not having a MAX on the cover. It’s a creepy affair, and those area are where the pencils excel, but there are spots where the art is plain and unremarkable. The basic necessity of tense storytelling is there, and it’s assisted by the ominous coloring. It’s a spooky book and an appropriate Halloween release.
The dark wit and hardcore action give this mini an edge and separates it far from what Hobgoblin #1 is doing. The villain and main side character are both intriguing and there is enough to invest in the next two issues.
AXIS: Revolutions #1
(Dennis Hopeless; Ken Lashley; Rachelle Rosenberg; Simon Spurrier; Tan Eng Huat; Craig Yeung)
Wrapping up a respectable, though hardly fantastic, round of tie-ins is the obligatory anthology companion title. Revolutions #1 should have been released after AXIS #1 or #2 as it deals with Spider-Man and Dr. Strange’s respective struggles with the hate mobs stoked by the Red Skull’s mind control, but better late than never, I guess.
“With Great Hate” is the rambling story of Spider-Man trying to convince some snot-nosed kid why it’s wrong to be a spiteful dick. It’s one of those Spidey stories that come out every two or three years where someone makes attempt to dive headlong into the philosophy of Peter Parker. Sadly, this one fails in execution. If this idea had more time to grow it would be nice but it’s all very verbose and kind of ridiculous. I mean Pete is just standing there worried about this one kid learning manners while NYC is ripping itself apart.
Si Spurrier typically takes big chances with his writing and “Hoary Hosts of Hate” proves it again with a very snarky and outlandish take on Doctor Strange and his assistant Wong. I could see a resistance to the comedic take on Strange but there is a legit allure to this story. It’s a departure from the more regal take on the Sorcerer Supreme but considering he’s long lacked the draw for a solo series I’m enjoying the fresh take.
These anthologies are always a risk. Depending on your tastes this one is a hit or miss