30th Aug2013

Panel Discussion #019 with Mark, not Jack

by Mark Allen

No-Jack-Comics

21st August

X-Men #4, Brian Wood, David Lopez, Marvel Comics

Artist David Lopez fills in on this one-shot issue that sees Logan driving Jubilee and her new baby Shogo on a nostalgic tour around her native Los Angeles while Storm and the rest of her team attempt to rescue a falling plane, finding some time to bicker with Rachel Grey about the ethics of her potential decision to kill Karima last issue and whether or not they’re even a team in the first place (SPOILER: they’re a team. This comic wouldn’t exist if they weren’t). While most definitely the B-plot and largely a reason to get some action into what is largely a character-driven issue, it’s still fun to see the team dynamics Wood brings to his characters, with Rogue taking no small amount of pleasure in borrowing Psylocke’s telekinesis in order to attach psychic hooks to the plane’s wings while Kitty hangs onto a strained Betsy on top of the Blackbird. It’s refreshing to see a Rogue unencumbered with the usual lead shoes of guilt she shuffles around in and actually enjoying being a mutant for once, although Betsy’s warnings of moderation suggest that she might be getting a mite too cocky for her own good. Inside the plane Rachel and Ororo come to something of an “agree to disagree” kind of resolution before the latter leaps into the sky to save a free-falling Rogue, conveniently removing the need for a real resolution.

Meanwhile in L.A., much more meaty developments occur as Jubilee shows Logan her old house and they eat food court noodles in the mall where she first met the X-Men. I really got a lot out of this quieter stuff, it being reminiscent of (and in one case actually referencing) the best of Chris Claremont’s character development in the ’80s and allowing me to really believe that these two characters have a rich and storied past together. I think the mark of a good X-Men comic is probably seeing two completely different characters doing something as simple as sharing a meal and yet understanding exactly why they’re great friends, and this issue does that superbly. I even got a kick out of of Wolverine’s jovial interaction with baby Shogo, because who doesn’t love a character that can only say “buh”?

Not everything’s perfect in the issue, though, as Lopez does a fine job on art duties but never quite brings us the fullness and detail we’ve come to expect from Olivier Coipels’s three-issue run. There was what felt like a lot of phoned-in dialogue in the plane rescue storyline and not a real sense of antagonism between Ororo and Rachel. It could be that Wood wants to portray them as friends who don’t want to disagree but it could also be the fact that he makes Rachel use phrases like “leader of the X-Men” twice on the same page and didn’t seem to bother to do another pass on the script to make sure the pair sounded like real people. But then I seem to be the only person who gets really bothered by bad comics dialogue so I’ll just go rant about that on my blog some more.

Avengers #18 (Infinity tie-in), Jonathan Hickman, Leinil Yu, Marvel Comics

Still cautiously optimistic about Marvel’s latest crossover, I picked up Avengers after skipping the last few issues not knowing whether I’d have all the backstory necessary to follow it but thankfully Hickman and Yu’s relatively tight issue simply picks up from where the Avengers’ story left off at the end of Infinity #1, with them heading out to meet a universal council and bring the fight to the world-destroying, ironically named Builders. We get to see things from the Skrulls’ perspective for a little bit as a general relates a story of the first bitter victory against their common enemies, and it’s a testament to both the writing and the art that I felt a pang of sadness for the Skrull soldiers who lose their lives despite them ever being portrayed as devious villains. The rest of the story brings in the Avengers properly and sees them co-ordinate and commence a surprise attack against the builders that doesn’t quite go as planned. There’s mercifully little of Hickman’s mystery-shilling here, just a couple of straight-up space battles that wouldn’t feel out of place in an episode of Battlestar Galactica - thanks in no small part to Leinil Yu’s wonderful linework – and we’re left with a suitably tantalising cliffhanger that means, yes, I will be sticking with Avengers for the time being.

X-Men Legacy #15, Simon Spurrier, Tan Eng Huat, Marvel Comics

After Legion’s sprawling mutant-promoting pranks in Britain last issue we’re given a much more focused story this time around as David meets his estranged mother at the ruins of the Muir Island facility where he spent much of his childhood. The issue largely takes place in the empty hallways of the structure and the prison cells of David’s mind, a somewhat cautious Gabrielle joining him in both and assuaging his fears that the Xavier-like monster locked up in his brain has no real connection to his father other than his f***ed-up memories.

It’s rather a touching story of reconciliation between a mother and her child that neither thought the other wanted anything to do with until now, but one that is – of course – cut short far too soon for reasons that I’d rather not spoil here. Needless to say the ramifications for David’s previously strong handle on his sanity and emotions are bleak at best, and the tease for next issue’s story promises a catharsis that’s been lurking around the edges of this book since #1. Next issue’s cover might give you a bit of a clue:

300px-X-Men_Legacy_Vol_1_16_Textless

So good. A special mention needs to go to Mike del Mundo, who delivers astonishingly original art to X-Men Legacy each and every month. Why aren’t you reading this yet?

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