03rd Jun2013

Panel Discussion #008 with Jack and Mark

by Mark Allen

JandM-Comics

29th May 2013

Jack

X-Men #1, Brian Wood, Olivier Coipel, Marvel Comics

After a couple of delays, Brian Wood’s all female cast X-Men book finally hit shelves this week. I’d been intrigued by the concept and had been looking forward to it for some time. Regular readers will know that I was burned somewhat by All New X-Men (has that actually gone anywhere yet, those continuing to read it?) so my enthusiasm had been tempered a bit. On the basis of this first issue though, I’d say things are looking quite promising for the title.

This issue introduces us to our cast, which includes Jubilee, Storm, Psylocke, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Grey and Rogue and sets up the first of a three part arc. I won’t dwell too much, but the plot here involves a series of unfortunate events that occur when Jubilee comes into possession of a baby that has a pretty dangerous mutant power of its own. I was really pleased to see that ‘part 1 of 3’ subtitle on the title page – in my opinion, setting your stall out with relatively brief arcs instils confidence in the readers. Clearly Wood feels he has the tools at his disposal to tell multiple, self-contained stories with proper beginnings, middles and ends as opposed to long, rambling narratives that go on for months with very little happening (looking at you, All New X-Men). I like that I can make a decision to continue reading or not after three issues.

I’ve got a feeling I may well do so; the writing is pretty decent and Coipel’s pencils look great – I especially like how he draws hair (has Storm always had such a badass Mohawk?). I guess it’s high time I had a Marvel book to read regularly (apart from Batman, I’m aware my entries here are pretty much an Image-fest) and this may be the one for me. My only real concerns are that the book is a little brief to be priced at $3.99 and it would be nice to have a woman writing or drawing this all female title (you do have Laura Martin on colours).

There’s a pretty decent interview with Jeanine Schaefer, series editor, here.

Mark’s Take: I’m with Jack here. I’d been eagerly awaiting this series’ debut since its announcement as I’m a fan of Wood’s intelligent plots and believable characters, not to mention his deft hand at crafting stories with equal parts bombastic action and emotional nuance, and I wasn’t disappointed; Wood and Coipel give us a series opener that satisfies on many levels.

Much of that satisfaction is derived from the book’s evocation of my favourite X-runs: the opening scene is highly reminiscent of Cassandra Nova’s origin in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men and the closing sequence brings back a character (and reversal of said) prominent in the early issues of Mike Carey’s run on the book a few years back – a run that was my first proper foray into superhero comics, fact fans! – and the character drama between not only the leads but also the students of the Jean Grey School has some very welcome echoes of Chris Claremont’s definitive soap opera-ish run in the 80s.

[FYI, Jack: that was when Storm’s Mohawk first made its appearance, and Kitty was none too happy about it then. I think they’re over it now.]

This is more or less everything I want from an X-Men comic: big action and smart stories that make creative use of what is normally terribly messy continuity and stay true to the characters and their voices (Kitty Pryde and Rogue are particular stand-outs this ish, with Kitty’s “babies hate me!” line feeling genuine and reminiscent of yet ANOTHER great run, namely Whedon and Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men) while also progressing them in ways we’ve not seen before.

That’s no mean feat, and I don’t think there’s any coincidence that I’ve mentioned a fair few other creative teams during the course of my review. In other circumstances that might mean that the comic is derivative and unoriginal, but the X-Men are so entrenched in their own legacy that utilising aspects that have worked in years gone by is no more derivative than a long-established TV show retaining its own unique voice. There has to be a reason I keep coming back to those crazy mutants, and while Uncanny and All New haven’t captured that same spirit I connect to so readily, Wood and Coipel (with ample assistance from Laura Martin, whose colours somehow manage to make the latter’s art even more beautiful and add fathoms of depth to the page) have reminded me why I fell in love with the X-verse in the first place at a time when the quality and cynicism of the mainstream industry have been very unbalanced indeed.

Or, if you want the short version: I liked it too. A lot.

Morning Glories #27, Nick Spencer, Joe Eisma, Image Comics

Now here’s bang for your buck. I was rather under the impression that last issue was the start of Morning Glories’ ‘second season’; I guess it was just the prologue as we find ourselves with a double-sized issue to celebrate season two’s launch proper, accompanied by a whole host of variant covers (I picked up this snazzy number by Rob Guillory, of Chew fame).

This issue may be as decent a place as any for new readers to jump on. Not only is narrative getting a little more reigned in again, you’ve also got a neat little illustrated potted history of the series so far at the back of the issue, as well as some ‘study notes’ that take a look at some of the series’ themes and repeated motifs. This is nice, though it’s usually more fun to pick this stuff up yourself.

The reintroduction of Casey to the story is very welcome and her time-travelling shenanigans allow for a particularly moving scene in which she must convince her own mother to agree to send her past self to the Morning Glory Academy, which she now understands to be a very sinister organisation, for reasons that she’s not entirely sure of. Get all that? We’ve still got a lot to learn, plot-wise, but as ever, Spencer leads us down the rabbit hole in such a manner that we don’t really mind how many twists and turns there are, so long as the scenery on the way is this much fun.

Five Weapons #4, Jimmie Robinson, Image Comics

The penultimate issue of Five Weapons picks up after the slightly lacklustre third issue, much to my relief. Tyler faces the Gun Club in this issue and for once allies himself with its best student rather than antagonises him. We also are given some chunky nuggets of backstory – mostly intriguingly exploring the relationship between the school’s principal and nurse – which sets things up nicely for the finale next month.

You could possibly accuse Five Weapons as being a little lightweight, but I think that would be to miss the point. Sure, you’ve got some stuff about assumed identities, the roles of masters and servants, family relationships, revenge and Tyler’s dogged commitment to his pacifism, but Five Weapons’ primary concern is having fun. I was glad to pick this up when I did – a little light-heartedness can go a long way in comics and all too many can be all too po-faced. If you feel the same way, I would recommend that you pick up a trade paperback of this series as and when one is issued.

Jimmie Robinson wrote in 2006 that the average comic reader isn’t helping comics. A contestable opinion, sure, but the basic argument was that rather than sticking to the same old thing, comics fans should branch out more and share their finds. If you’re looking to get the younger sibling or cousin in your life into the medium, then you could do worse than Five Weapons. And no doubt you’ll make Mr Robinson very happy too.

Mark

Angel & Faith #22, Christos Gage, Rebekah Isaacs, Dark Horse Comics

This issue is more or less the one readers have been waiting for since the beginning of the series, so if you’re spoiler-intolerant and haven’t read it yet, I’d suggest you look away now.

Still here? Let’s get on with it, then:

So, you know how Angel killed Giles at the end of Buffy Season 8 (under the influence of the morally murky enitity Twilight, natch) and felt super guilty about it so he decided that he’d bring the guy back to life despite now living in a world without magic which would make it kind of difficult?

Well, he did it. And it didn’t seem cheap at all, which is one of the more astonishing things about this book. Long story short, the ritual begun in #21 is completed at the beginning of this one, successfully bringing watcher Rupert Giles back to the land of the living, but with one small difference; he’s now twelve years old. While some may see a little too many similarities to the Kid Loki of Kieron Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery run, it’s pulled off with enough humour and feeling that the team gets away with it. Besides, the ‘dead character comes back as a child version of themselves’ trope is sorely underused in my opinion.

This being the fourth-to-last (quadultimate?) issue of Season Nine there’s the usual plot stuff to get through concerning this year’s Big Bads, but the bulk of the comic deals with the characters’ reactions to Rupert’s transformation, his irritation at being reduced to a bag of hormones once more and his own belief that they should have left him in the ground rather than risk doomsday once more, which Angel and Faith kinda did.

While I definitely see future dramatic possibilities and interesting dynamics between characters (Giles and Xander bonding over comics!), the joke of ‘horny teen Giles’ when faced with Faith’s cleavage wears a little thin pretty quickly. But all told, this could have been so much worse. While I’ve heaped praises on Gage and Isaacs’ work on this series before, I’ve always had some trepidation about the feasibility of resurrecting such a major character without it feeling unearned…but they did it. (Really, if you’re going to try to get away with it, I guess it’s good to have Joss Whedon on your team.)

And that’s no small potatoes, though I am a little concerned if they’re going to be able to pull off a satisfying conclusion to the season now that the mission of the book has been accomplished. I guess we’ll see.

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