We’re in the lull between mega-events at Marvel right now, so I’m focusing my monthly pull on X-titles. Those titles are currently dealing with the aftershocks of the recent Avengers vs. X-Men crossover.
And what a crossover it was! It saw the the Phoenix force return to Earth, possess five X-Men thanks to Ironman’s failed attempt to destroy the Phoenix, and the eternal cosmic power’s subsequent defeat. The Phoenix force dispersed, countering the effects of the House of M, in which the Scarlet Witch caused the mutant gene to all but wink out of existence.
So yes … Cyclops was right.
Except Cyclops also killed Charles Xavier in a fit of Phoenix-powered megalomania, and he’s trying to inspire a mutant revolt. Meanwhile another faction of X-Men, led by Wolverine, tries to promote Xavier’s vision of humanity and mutants living side by side.
It’s something I’ve been waiting for, and I’m glad to see the long decline of mutantdom finally reversed.
Havok has long been my favorite X-Men, and I’m a sucker for whatever comic book he’s appearing in or team he’s leading. He’d recently returned to X-Factor, where he vied for control of the mutant detective agency with Jamie Maddrox (aka Multiple Man). After AvX, he was approached by Captain America to lead a new Avengers team, one featuring both superpowered humans (Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye) and mutants (Havok, Scarlet Witch, Rogue).
Their first villain? The Red Skull, who gained telepathic powers after grafting Charles Xavier’s brain into his own.
Yep, that’s right. Two brains. OK, sure it’s gonzo, sure it’s insane, but hey, this is the Red Skull and a little insanity is to be expected. I liked the initial arc in spite of its innately silly premise, and its next arc — involving a certain Avengers super villain — promises to be even better.
Marvel temporarily killed off Uncanny X-Men a few months ago, sending it on a three month hiatus before relaunching it again. I found the move infuriating; they’d already killed the venerable book once, and this new run only lasted two dozen issues. Continuously killing off lines to keep the volume numbers low seems like an idiotic tactic to me, and I’m sure its alienated more than a few fans.
The re-launched title follows the Cyclops branch of the X-men. Scott Summers still leads the team, which includes White Queen, Magneto, and Magik, but his powers are unstable thanks to his possession by the now-banished Phoenix Force. Summers is wanted for the murder of Charles Xavier, but he blames that (perhaps justifiably so) on the Phoenix. Regardless, even if he owned up to the killing he’s a man with a mission: gather up the new mutants manifesting around the world, train them to use their powers, and lead them in a revolution that guarantee his people are forever safe.
Sounds a lot like Magneto eh?
This title is a misnomer, because the “all new” X-Men here are actually the original X-Men, brought forward in time by Beast to confront their adult selves. Normally you’d expect Beast to be against such mucking about with the timeline, but he’s a desperate mutant, and things the only way to reign in Cyclops is to have his horrified younger self confront him.
Naturally, this is having unintended consequences. Jean Grey, the original Phoenix and long-dead in the Marvel Universe, is stepping up to lead the team while young Scott wrestles with the ever-present Summers’ angst. Issue #8 had a great standoff between Beast and Captain America; none of their dialogue was included, but Kitty Pryde and Iceman offered their amusing take on what they were probably saying. I’m still undecided on this title; the future-shifted premise lets Jean Grey live again (yeah!) but time travel hijinks can quickly get old. We’ll see how it goes.
X-Factor is, as always, a island onto itself. Writer Peter David’s corner of the X-Verse is notable for its strong characters, witty dialogue, and surprising plots. The current storyline brings the Lords of Hell to earth seeking to kill the seventh billion person born on Earth … who just so happens to be Wolfsbane’s werewolf son.
Yes, I do realize that comic books are soap operas by another name. Now leave me alone so I can get caught up on my stories…
Unfortunately the real-life story behind X-Factor has also taken an unexpected turn. David suffered a stroke in January 2013; you can learn more at his web site: http://www.peterdavid.net/.
He’s still writing, and still working on X-Factor, but obviously he’s got a lot of rehab to work through as he fights to get back to where he was before the stroke.
Guardians of the Galaxy
I’ve never been a Guardians of the Galaxy fan. I’ve thought about picking up Marvel’s resident space opera title, but never got around to doing it. That changed because of two things: 1) Guardians is one of the Marvel Phase 2 movies and 2) the title just relaunched. Written by Brian Michael Bendis (who seems to be writing half of Marvel’s titles these days), it tells the expected tale of super-powered heroes battling to save the Earth and the galaxy at large from various threats.
The lineup includes Drax, Gamora, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Starlord, and Iron Man. I have no idea who the first five characters are, and I question the inclusion of Iron Man. Ok, I realize that he’s there for tie-in purposes (all the more important with Iron Man 3 coming out this year) but having Tony Stark flying around the galaxy while also serving on the Avengers seems like a stretch to me.
Then again, these are comic books … actually these are Marvel comic books. If Wolverine can be in 20 titles at once, I suppose we can handwave Stark’s extraterrestrial excursions.
The book’s setup is simple enough. Apparently Starlord is the son of an intergalactic king; a king who crashed to Earth, had a passionate relationship with a woman, got her pregnant, and then left for an intergalactic war, never to return. This origin is covered in Guardians of the Galaxy #0; in Issue #1 Starlord’s grown up and having the expected (and inevitable) father issues. This is compounded by the fact that his dad and a bunch of other intergalactic rulers have declared Earth off-limits to space-faring civilizations. Naturally, those self-same civilizations decided this meant the planet was ripe for invasion.
It’s not a bad setup; it gives us the basic introductions and got me up to speed on the basics of the team. I’d like to go back and read some of the older trades so I have more history, but so far it looks like it’ll help to scratch my ever-present space opera itch.