Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Reign of Error

Or, "Random thoughts I had whilst reading X-Men #69 and #72 about the general direction of the X-Franchise from 1997-1999. SPOILER: Down a hole."

Everyone agrees, seemingly, that whatever their feelings about the state of X-Men comics post Chris Claremont, the Age of Apocalypse was a great summer event. And who could blame them? It was an inspired concept, done in the most gutsy way possible (canceling the books and re-launching them under their altered names really carried the spirit of it along) and it had a certain thematic unity that these summer crossover events--requiring as they did an entire legion of creative types to stay on the same page. In all senses of the word, it was a triumph.

And they were never able to do it again.

"Onslaught" came next year, and as previously mentioned it was the kernel of a good idea, which was then walked back, and then the whole thing got hijacked to do Heroes Reborn, and . . .yeah. It was a big awful mess, but on the plus side, it got rid of that imbecilic teenage Iron Man. Unfortunately it replaced it with Whilce Portacio's Iron Man and so it wasn't a perfect turnaround by any means.

But compared to 1997's installment: "Operation Zero Tolerance," it looks like a tightly plotted masterpiece. Oh lord, where do we begin? Shall we begin with the bewildering scheduling that essentially meant that one core book (Uncanny X-Men) pretty much sat the whole thing out, plot points that should have happened in the X-Men books get shunted over to Wolverine and . . .well, let me slow down.

X-Men #69 is the final chapter of "Operation Zero Tolerance," and a perfect distillation of everything that's wrong with this damn crossover. For it is a conclusion that mainly exists as a conclusion in the sense that this is the last time the OZT logo shows up on the cover, as most of the dangling plotlines won't get resolved until next issue.

But sure this will at least provide a climactic battle that will give us a sense of catharsis and so the follow-up story will seem more like a coda after the finale.

Not this comic, folks. What we get is one of the most bewildering, perfunctory, endings to anything ever, and I've read those issues of West Coast Avengers where the Scarlet Witch turns evil, acts all scary, and then in-between issues is all like "Hey guys! I was evil and then I remembered I'm not!" And then they all traveled through time and fought Oort the Living Comet.

So, here's what happens: Iceman leads the most ad hoc team of ad hoc X-men ever (mind, this is including that time when it was Forge, Banshee, Legion and . . .Sunder from the Morlocks?!?) and Sabra, who you will remember from Contest of Champions is Israel's national superhero and has all the powers of a porcupine with a jetpack.

Iceman spends the first page of this issue looking mournfully ahead in the distance as he ice-slides past a positively staggering amount of narrative captions. Accompanying him on his ice-slide are prospective X-Men Ceclia Reyes (who has the twin mutant powers of whining about being a mutant at a rate of 3.0 Claremonts on the Claremont Scale) and also a force field) and Marrow (who pulls out sharp stabby things from her back and is a lower-tier character in Marvel vs. Capcom 2) More on Marrow later.

Anyways, the main reason Iceman's angsting (beyond the fact that Iceman was Scott Lobdell's pet character) is because these four people are all he has for his final strike against Bastion, OZT's incredibly vaguely-defined villain who was supposed to be all mysterious and had a previous connection to the X-Men which was supposed to be this big secret but was something you could piece together fairly easily if you started reading X-Men books in 1988. Bastion is guarded by a whole lotta Prime Sentinels, which are Sentinels, but normal sized and function as sleeper agents.

Let's examine that for a moment: Iceman makes things cold, Cecelia has a force field, Marrow can stab people, and Sabra can shoot little darts at people. They're going to go fight a guy with a bunch of robot good that are presumably heavily armed and armored. All things being equal, if their ambition was to toilet paper Baston's house they'd be set, but anything else . . .man, I dunno.

I'm selling Sabra short. She actually is an agent of the Mossad, which makes her a badass. Her son was killed in a terrorist bombing and . . .y'know, I wonder, looking at this and Contest, I wonder if that's all American comics writers really knew about Israel: Terrorist bombings and the Mossad, full stop. I'm sure more goes on there, it must do--for instance, I bet it rains from time to time, not that we ever hear about that in comics. Contest, with all its heavy-handed stereotyping was published in 1982. This book was published in 1997. Please note how much has changed since these two points in time, won't you?

Anyways, they get to Bastion, fight a little, and talk a LOT. Sweet shit, for all Chris Claremont got shit for character speaking reams of dialogue in the split-second of throwing a punch, get a look at this. Iceman gently knock him around while relating his story of how caring for his father, who was beaten by mutant-hating mobs, the #1 killer of X-Men supporting characters behind pork chops and FEMA.

Then SHIELD shows up and tells Bastion to stand down, and Bastion does. He gets arrested. The end.

No, really, that's how it goes down. Does this seem somewhat hollow? It is. When you combine a hopelessly muddled crossover that has totally blown its schedule written by a writer who didn't want to be there and would quit the X-Books altogether over certain points in the new direction he wasn't crazy about, and add on a resolution that doesn't really solve anything, you end up with the story equivalent of what the kids call today "a big hot mess."

But with the crossover out of the way, the new direction takes hold. One of the baffling ironies about the new direction is that two points in this new direction are Lobdell's (he wanted to see the X-Men stripped of their cool house and Shi'Ar tech and other bits of infrastructure that had, in his regards, moved the X-Men away from what he thought they should be. Plus, Roy Thomas did it back in the Factor Three days, and how much could tastes have changed in 30 years?) and Joe Madureria, who wanted to add a character he'd come up with called Maggott to the team. You can read more about him at the link, but suffice it to say Maggott is probably the most poorly thought-out character in the history of the X-Men, and would be for the entire Marvel Universe, if Rage didn't exist. Maggott can kiss my ass, is all I'm saying.

Anyways, where Lobdell disagreed was with the addition of Marrow to the team (Madureria, who as Paul O'Brien once observed, treated getting out of bed as an option he could take or leave was already off the books having moved to Image to not do Battle Chasers, and probably wouldn't have cared one way or the other even if he wasn't leaving) because Marrow was an avowed terrorists who killed the living shit out of people and terrorists didn't belong in the X-Men.

And this is where I ask, as askingly as I can ask, "Mr. Lobdell, are you out of your damned mind?" Or, to be more succinct--Fucking Magneto, who is like the god damned Bell X-1 of mutant terrorists, who on numerous occasions killed people in cold blood on-panel, sank a nuclear submarine with all hands, and threatened the entire world with a ring of nuclear missiles, and he got to lead the damn X-Men for about twenty issues or so. Or Rogue, who was a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, who actually took down a superhero with something you could equate to psychic rape (mind you, they did try to finesse that Rogue had never straight up killed anyone, but is that at all plausible?) and did god knows what other damage before she went straight. Jesus, Claremont would have given his eye teeth for a character like her--it was his bread and butter for most of the 80's.

Or, and let me see if I can get this clear in my head. You can willfully screw with people's minds and unleash some freaky psychic entity that kills the Avengers and Fantastic Four; you can run out on your wife and child chasing your back from the dead girlfriend; you can blow up a freaking planet with millions of people and claim it wasn't you by virtue of a dodgy retcon; you can be a former assassin for the government; you can bang an underage girl; you can dress up in a leotard and legwarmers and claim you're a ninja to the laughter of many; you can be a former member of the Marauders who slaughtered tons of mutants; you can be a forever member of the freaking Brotherhood of EVIL FREAKING MUTANTS; You can even be a god damned former pickpocket . . .but Marrow cannot join the X-Men. She's done too much bad shit.

[Hey kids! Match up the moral lapses in the above paragraph with the corresponding X-Man. It's fun, and interactive. Plus, first one to get all of them will get a favourable mention in the next post here at the Prattle]

Never mind the whole idea of the X-Men being moral guardians is a bit dodgy by this point. Prep schools don't usually have strike teams and stealth jets, that's all I'm saying.

Anyways, this causes Lobdell to leave and X-Men gets Joe Kelly as writer, who is busy earning lots of goodwill over on Deadpool that he will spend the rest of his career squandering when he gets to DC and won't shut up about the god damned Elite. Kelly will give it his damndest to make a silk purse out of all this (and annoy me unceasingly with Maggott's Claremont-esque relentless South African slang, which is the thing that finally made me hate Maggott, actually--Lord, do I hate Maggott) and, until his plans are neutered and he eventually departs the series, he actually makes it work.

Meanwhile, over in Uncanny X-Men, Steven Seagle will write a lot of comics about birds, and Chris Bachalo does a mighty good job of making it . . .well, borderline readable on a good day.

But back to Kelly. X-Men #72 is one of those moments where it actually works, because it straight-up addresses the Marrow problem, but not in the expected way of "we will harp on Marrow until she believes in Xavier's dream and joins the X-Cult with all her heart." In fact, the overall conflict is a bit more nuanced than that. It's not a minor classic or anything, but it's that brief moment where this whole "new direction" had a glimmer of possibility.

It's basically one long fight between Wolverine and Marrow, wherein Wolverine's goal is to beat the wiseass out of her--up to this point Marrow has quite enjoying being the shit-stirrer among this X-team and relishes her role as the ugly outsider amongst all the pop-sexy mutants.

To make a long story short, Wolverine finally beats her down and tells her she can stay, but she'll be playing the role of buck private to his drill sergeant (we've seen Wolvie be all alpha-male like this so many time it's a cliche in itself) and after beating her to the floor and taunting her mercilessly about what a failure she is, he reaches out to help her, and you're like "Oh, well, I guess Marrow's turning over a new leaf."

And then she stabs him in the throat.

This naturally causes Wolverine to go utterly apeshit and try to straight-up kill her bony ass, and all the X-Men get involved and Cannonball (who is just about to the point where the whole "he finally joined the X-Men but seemed to get a partial lobotomy off-panel" is wearing off) nails everyone assembled to the wall by saying "uhm, how stupid is it that the best way to sell Marrow on Xavier's dream of integration, peace and tolerance is by having Wolverine kick the shit out of her?"

No one really has an answer, and by this time, Marrow's not there to hear it anyways, having run back to the sewer for a sad little coda that lets you know that she really does want to belong, both with the X-Men and with humanity in general, but hasn't the first clue how to accomplish that.

I'm not saying this redeems the whole Kelly run (which has a slightly inflated relationship in retrospect, but . . .really, guys. It was better than what preceded it and way better than what followed it, but it wasn't really good. Kelly thought bringing back the N'Garai was a good idea, for God's sake and I can't imagine one can be that mistaken about anything) but it did point the way forward and suggest some interesting directions that hadn't been tried for awhile.

Couldn't have that. Kelly and Seagle quit the books and basically script the books on the directions of the editorial office, which culminates in one of my favourite bad stories of all time--The battle with the Cerebro X-Men. I am saving that for its own entry, because it was such a gloriously dumb pair of books and I read them now and laugh and laugh . . .and I would totally bring them back in a hot second if Marvel ever let me anywhere near the X-Men, which all the reason in the world to ensure it never happens.

Nevertheless, I hope you've enjoyed this little peek at one of the most muddled moments in the X-Franchise's history. If ever you needed proof of just what a road paved with good intentions but leading to hell all the same looks like, well . . .I actually have a few more of these to get through, heh heh.

20 comments:

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Ah, more material from my Great Time-Out (or, as it turned out, my First Great Time-Out). Always good to have a little more reassurance that I didn't miss anything worth reading. :)

Another likely reason AoA was so successful is that it had a clear ending - it wasn't about setting up a new status quo or the next big event, so the story managed to build up to a proper climax and follow through.

OZT sounded like a good idea on paper - the Sentinels finally making their last, deadliest play - but it doesn't seem to have achieved much in the long run...

So how does one measure characters on the Claremont Scale? Words per panel? Tears shed per issue?

(As an aside, it actually doesn't rain in Israel very often at all. Three or four times a year, tops.) :)

You know, there is a kernel of a good idea somewhere in there where the big-time superheroes are taken out of play and it's up to a bunch of mismatched C-listers to set things right. Trouble is, I'm reasonably sure that idea's been used much more efficiently elsewhere...

Maggott, the blue-skinned South African with externalized digestive systems. Again, there's a useful notion somewhere in there - that not all mutants have useful mutations, or that sometimes the X-Men might get saddled with teammates who want to help despite their relatively minor ability to contribute - but this was not an era where good ideas came to fruition in the best way possible.

Forget Magneto, I'm having trouble understanding Lobdell's take on X-Men not killing when Wolverine is on every single cover with his claws covered in blood. It's all well and good for specific characters to adopt that position - works great for Storm, as recently as the fallout from "Second Coming" - but when your most popular team member is the one who practically frolicks in his enemy's entrails on a regular basis, you might want to avoid dropping that particular anvil too often.

Ooh, let's see: Xavier, Cyclops, Phoenix, Wolverine, Colossus, Shadowcat, Sabretooth, Rogue, Storm. Did I win? :)

I'm still amazed whenever a new Joe Kelly comic comes out and it's so far away from the solid character work and careful plotting of his "Deadpool" run. Between him and Judd Winick, I'm thinking DC headquarters is built over a multidimensional nexus that feeds on creativity.

Whatever happened to Marrow anyway? From what you're describing she seems to have been built up as the new Rogue, but I don't recall seeing her at all over the past few years. Granted, I'm still reading selectively so she probably could've popped up in some Wolverine book or other...

I love these features. Can't wait for the next one! :)

Kazekage said...

Oh, this was the dawn of my Great Time Out, actually, when the books got too stupid even for me. There was a brief moment where I came back to the books to read Claremont's return. To imagine what that's like, if you remember the first time you touched a hot stove and how fast you jerked your hand away . . .it was a lot like that.

Yeah, and really, the only place I felt like AoA dropped the ball was in bringing some of the AoA characters and kind of cheating the whole "closed off" nature of the story. Plus, if you were to make a list of characters from the AoA that I wanted to see more of, Dark Beast, X-Man, and Sugar Man would not have been the ones I chose.

Yeah, and it just . . .wasn't really. Plus this was gonna be the moment when they finally "sold" X-men fans on the idea of Bastion as a credible threat on the level of Magneto or Apocalypse, and they totally didn't, and Bastion ends up jobbing to Machine Man 2 years later.

Stay tuned! The Claremont Scale will be revealed tonight!

(But there's at least a little variation, yeah? :))

Well, that was more or less the storytelling engine behind the Defenders and the New Warriors, actually. It's almost an established niche in superhero universes, isn't it?

Yeah, and it's certainly a viable concept, and one Lobdell returns to during Eve of Destruction with Wraith, who's even more of a crap X-Men in terms of power set. The trick is, you can do that in a more nuanced way than having s mouthful of stereotypical slang just to remind me where he came from. I mean, it's not 1975 anymore--we can do better. :)

Well, apparently Wolverine just gave people a lot of very light but annoying and very bloody paper cuts, obviously and all the bad guys went "ooowwwww . . .cut it out Logan, you meanie!" ;)

You did! The answers were: Xavier, Cyclops, Phoenix, Wolverine, Colossus, Shadowcat, Sabretooth (and Gambit, really--both fit) Rogue and/or Mystique (again, both fit), and Storm. :)

I know, right? What the hell happened to him? The last thing he did that people liked was that Superman vs. the Authority thing, which he immediately spent the next two years strip-mining and . . .wow, he so totally shouldn't have.

My theory is that DC keeps a load of Starros around, and the minute you have a non-rape, non murder idea . . .you get a face full of mind-suffocating conformity. :)

Well, Alan Davis decided to pretty her up, which forced her into the background because her big angle ("I hate the good-looking mutants, but secretly I want to be one") was resolved by Gambit putting her in an egg. Then they brought her into Frank Tieri's Weapon X book, which was a ghastly mess that ruined so many characters, and I think everyone has decided to pretend it didn't happen. I think Peter David has used her recently as a depowered mutant in X-Factor and I think he played her as a right scrub. Shame, really--she had a lot potential.

Glad ya like them! Cerebro's X-Men are coming soon! :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I imagine that first comeback must've been an absolutely dire shock to anyone with fond memories of Claremont's original run (moreso to those who thought all the problems plaguing the franchise would disappear if he'd come back). I'm quite sure I felt a part of my spirit shrivel up after reading some of his post-Austen work on "Uncanny X-Men", where Rachel suddenly develops the hots for Kurt because his fur is soooo soft. :/

But if you detach AoA from the larger narrative and read it as a self-contained story, the fact that a few characters crossed over doesn't matter - if I recall, their escape to the MU was only detailed after normal service resumed. AoA itself doesn't give any indication as to the fates of those characters; you just assume they got hit by the nukes, same as everyone else.

Bastion did seem a bit more competent during "Second Coming", but on the other hand, his role as a plot device to "activate" Hope was so transparent that it was difficult to invest in him as a villain, let alone a credible one.

(Not as much as I'd like, certainly.) :)

In any universe with a C-list, certainly. Used properly, it's a convention that can rehabilitate even the most poorly-conceived characters.

Ideally, it'd have to be a sympathetic character whose enthusiasm is endearing rather than irritating; a character who recognizes his or her limitations but is absolutely determined to work around them. If they just sit around acting petulant or foolhardy, they're not going to attract many fans.

Oh, sure. He didn't really decapitate people, he just punched their helmets off. Even if they weren't wearing helmets. Even if those helmets bled profusely.

That's the problem with letting villains on the team - sooner or later you end up with teammates whose actions and motivations uncomfortably parallel some of the "good guys". :)

You know, I actually remember that first story - it's the one where Superman proves he's cool and hip by lobotomizing his counterpart, right? It read like what it was: the frustration of an old-fashioned superhero writer who doesn't understand why the new kids are more popular.

Ah, Frank Tieri. No wonder I hadn't seen her. :)

Kazekage said...

Yeah, I remember reading it and while I didn't have any moment where I went "oh yeah, now we'll see something great" because I'd been following Claremont since 1991 and really, he'd long since burned out on X-Men before that point. It doesn't surprise me that his third go-round was equally awful . . .and Rachel Summers was no better characterised then than she was before.

Very true, and the key there is to take it as a singular entity. The problem is we've been trained to read everything--including self-contained stories, as part of a larger narrative, which means the fallout gets taken along with everything else, depending on how you read it.

So not much changed, really. *L* Oh Bastion, you are this millennium's Mister Sinister--constantly built up as a big deal, but continually undercut at every turn.

(More than they'd ever show in the comics, tho. That's something!)

Too bad we only use C-listers for cannon fodder nowadays. There really did used to be a niche for that sort of thing, but the only thing even close are those Cosmic Marvel books.

Well, yeah. Really, the the thing to do is make them people first and power sets and stereotypes second. That way leads Northstar.

All easily explainable as the accidents in Hot Fuzz.

I dunno. There's a story to be told of a villain who genuinely redeems himself, but doesn't see why you can't occasionally use the more expedient way of doing things. Done properly it adds a bit of tension to the group dynamic and gets the reader to ask some questions about the ends justifying the means in ways hopefully a bit more subtle than the usual. Sort of Chaotic Lawful, if you will. :)

Man, right? Because nothing says "ne plus ultra of superherodom" like lobotomizing people with heat vision! Seriously Joe, what happened?

I tend to ignore him as well. Man's tanked Iron Man in ways it's never recovered from.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

With the X-Axis gone, I can't find the exact quote, but Paul O'Brien said it best: Claremont could have been remembered as the single most influential writer in the entire franchise, but now, whenever people talk about him, they have to quantify his work - "oh, we're talking about the late '70s issues, not that time Jamie Braddock spent an entire arc fighting the X-Men in hoop earrings and a white thong."

That would've been the case back when AoA was being published, but I think the way TPBs are packaged now go a long way towards cementing a writer/story-oriented mindset...

And like Mister Sinister, there's probably a kernel of a good idea deep down, but no one seems much inclined to go digging for it. :)

(All right, I'll concede that much. :))

And those are too insular: you either like Cosmic Marvel or you don't, there's little middle ground.

Speaking of which, did you hear that Northstar's gay? I just found out! ;)

And with about the same amount of competence as Nick Frost's character. :)

Of course, this being superhero comics, we're far more likely to get a broken aesop about how the wrong thing done for the right reason is still the wrong thing, or somesuch.

Maybe Warren Ellis got drunk and mooned him, and he took his frustrations out on "Manchester Black"?

Kazekage said...

Well, in deference to Paul and that guy who covered Claremont's run in its entirety over at Remarkable, we still would have had to hedge our bets because the wear and tear was showing even then, really. And I think he had Jamie Braddock fighting Excalibur in his tighty whiteys even then. *L*

True, but that generally leaves out the in-between stuff they were doing before they got to that point that can't really be packaged easily into a self-contained unit.

Oh, there was one right out in the open about the time he was introduced, but no one seemed all that bothered about exploiting it, possibly because of all the behind the scenes chaos that makes long-term planning of any meaningful stripe nigh-impossible.

And some people (like me) only like certain iterations of Cosmic Marvel so . . .yeah. :)

OMG! Really? It's been such a closely garded secret!

He is Judge Judy and executioner. ;)

Yeah, and it would probably be played as the first step down the path to the dark side, but . . .really, must it? Couldn't we try it another way one time?

This assumes Ellis is ever in a state where is not intoxicated or showing his ass in some respect.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I wonder if Jamie Braddock's outfit (or lack thereof) was the artist's very subtle way of telling us the emperor is about one stray gust of wind away from being naked? :)

Good point - I was amazed to discover that the AoA trades don't include "Legion Quest", which I'd always considered to be an essential part of the story... albeit one that was very much grounded in '90s canon.

Of course, now that Sinister has breasts, I'm sure it'll all work out just fine. Cue rolleye. :)

I never would've guessed. It's not like he ever talks about it...

And now I'm picturing Judge Judy wielding a giant axe. Well done, sir. :)

If they had the stones for it, they probably would've done it (and driven it into the ground) ages ago.

There's probably a span of about fifteen seconds from the moment he regains consciousness to the point where he rolls over and grabs the Cuervo... :)

Kazekage said...

Funny as that would be, I doubt that's what the intent was--I think they just figured it would be a scaaaaaary visual. And it was, but not quite the way they thought.

I'm surprised they haven't traded "Legion Quest" yet, actually. It was a fairly compact story and it'd make a nice trade, I think. Lord knows if you're willing to put "The Shattering" and "Eve of Destruction" in print . . .obviously quality is not your prime motivator.

I have no trouble with the notion that Sinister was a tranny, y'know. It was pretty well telegraphed from the beginning.

Yeah it was annoying that that plot thread was never followed up on.

Coming soon to an issue of Thunderstrike!

They would do it badly and make me rue that I'd ever seen any promise in it in the first place.

You know, I'd like to take this moment to thank Warren Ellis--thanks to his whole "drinking is the chic thing to do for comic writers to prove their coolness" thing he was on the vanguard of, it has made me go into eye-rolling paroxysyms or annoyance at what asshole poseur shit that is and how it makes my immediately dismiss anyone, who perpetrates that bullshit.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I think the trouble with "Legion Quest" is its starting point: technically, the story had four parts, but it opens with Legion already awake and being chased by the X-Men. If you wanted the "real" beginning, you'd need that issue of X-Factor where Mystique tries to kill him and accidentally wakes him up instead... but that was just one subplot in a rather messy series...

Well, white makeup and pomade doesn't work for just anyone. :)

Maybe someday it'll get picked up, you never know...

That would be so much funnier if there weren't a Thunderstrike series in the works. :)

Quite right. I suppose we should be grateful - better that they stick with unoriginal mediocrity than take a great idea and botch it so horribly you can't see any appeal in the concept anymore...

Just think how many livers he's saved by making an utter drunken ass of himself. Warren Ellis for Humanitarian of the Year! :)

Kazekage said...

Man, I didn't even remember that issue of X-Factor, which tells you all you need to know about everything right there. That X-Factor pretty much imploded after David left the first time, yet managed to keep shambling forward like the Flying Dutchman is . . .well, sure something to behold.

It shouldn't work for guys named "Milbury," for sure.

Yeah, I know. Remember, comics are so much better off now that we don't do shit like create distaff versions of other characters to glut the market, like when we had War Machine and Thunderstrike. Glad those days are behind us.

And it's bad that I've gotten to that point, really. When I'd rather them not do anything original because I have no faith in them to scratch their watches or wind their assess . . .

Just think--hopefully he'll get on the movie gravy train now and stop publishing stupid funnybooks I despise and will not read, ever. I shouldn't be praying for people I hate to succeed, but comics have driven me to this.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

To be fair, it wasn't exactly the most coherent series during David's tenure either, but I attribute that to editorial interference - if his Hulk run is any indication, the man knows a thing or two about long-term plotting.

And really, everything you need to know about Mr. Sinister can be summed up in the fact that he traded a perfectly appropriate given name (Nathaniel Essex) for Milbury. He chose to call himself Milbury.

I guess we should be grateful they're not still wearing '90s fashion - if leather vests and torn jeans start making a comeback, I'm heading for the Spider Jerusalem Recluse Training Center in the Himalayas. :)

Well, it's not like you got there on your own - at this point they've pretty much squandered any faith they might've earned in the past.

Oh, we should be so lucky. He can go pester Roger Ebert for validation while we get some peace and quiet. :)

Kazekage said...

Well, if I remember right, the damn book could never keep a consistent artist, and even on those rare occasions when it could, the damn book was constantly late, and it was being overshadowed by three other books in the line, and . . .I just never thought it got that much momentum, y'know?

I think even then, "Essex," probably had unfortunate connotations, and this was before he--literally--became an Essex Girl. ;)

Well, the jeans lost their rips and everyone's wearing horn-rimmed glasses, so we've moved fo . . .well, in some direction, for sure. :)

Pretty much. Let's see, I can't read one book isolation without it being a prime candidate for the chop, the approach I prefer with superhero comics is out of fashion, and the people setting the trends in the books I want to read I can't stand. Yeah, they're not giving me much, are they?

He doesn't write video games--at least so far as I know, so I think he might have a shot. ;)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Honestly, X-Factor never had as much of a "reason" to exist as most other X-books - it started out with a gimmick of getting the original five back together, as if that had any inherent meaning in itself. Then they were a government team led by the ever-useless Alex Summers. The detective angle David's working with now is quite good but he can't seem to keep to his own premise for more than three months at a time.

Of course, for all we know, maybe Sinister did vote for Margaret Thatcher. Evil, right? :)

That's our own fault - we wanted comics to move, we should have specified that "downward" wasn't a viable option...

Not much at all, no. Fodder for rage-induced brilliance, perhaps, but I doubt even that's enough for any kind of long-term enjoyment.

Ha! I can just imagine a Warren Ellis video game: a 120-minute cutscene with a Quick Time Event at the very end so you can shoot the bad guy in the face and save the day.

Kazekage said...

It never really did. While I have all the love in the world for Bob Layton, really X-Factor's early issues really show up how paper-thin the gimmick was and how it wasn't really going anywhere. However, I do love the idea that Apocalypse might have been replaced by the Owl. You wonder what might have been. :)

I like to think Sinister does really evil shit just to continually justify the name "Sinister." So whatever he can get up to that day that's wicked and evil . . .he does it so he doesn't have to go back to "Milbury."

Yeah . . .of course, I have every confidence that fear itself will reverse the trend . . .the trend of my giving even the most infinitesimal shit about comics.

Nahh . . .I found more of a rich vein to mine with the older books than I do the current books which just make me feel kinda . . .sad, really.

Couldn't be worse than the new Castlevania game! ;)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I don't know, "Age of Owl" doesn't quite have the same ring to it. :)

Of course, now he's stuck looking like a dominatrix, which just goes to show you that even the best evil plans should have failsafes.

Well, "Age of X" might not be a total waste of time, but even then it's trading quite a bit on fond memories of older stories, which isn't so much forward as... well, sideways, I suppose.

On the bright side, you are doing wonders with the old material. :)

Not even if it's about vampires who can drink your blood via cellphones?!?! (Dun dun dun!)

Kazekage said...

Oh, it does to me. C'mon Diana, if it's between "dramatically effective" and "hilariously ill-conceived and stupid," I will choose the latter 10 times out of 10.

So really, being an albino tranny is going to lead to anything but randy fun? YOU LIED TO ME, ROCKY HORROR!

Yeah, which is the problem I have with it--unless this is just an in-name-only, we're just plundering stuff we did before. Then again, if it's not and the names are the only similarity, that doesn't really help Age of X, does it? Because it's not standing on its own.

I try. Like I said, I can usually find something worth liking even in something I go on an obscenity-laden tirade about. For instance--for all my disdain for trading on the past? I would bring back the Cerebro X-Men in a heartbeat. I could make it work. ;)

Here's all you need to know about the mind-smashing stupidity of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Featuring the stupidest "shocking plot twist" of all time. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

True, but then you do get more use out of the hilarious than I do. :)

Mostly it leads to you standing around making cryptic comments that don't actually mean anything. So you could get a steady job on a JJ Abrams show. :)

Eh, I'm reserving judgment at this point solely because I trust Carey to know the difference between homage and rip-off. Otherwise... we'll see, I suppose.

Of that I have no doubt. ;)

Wow. You know, for some reason I'd already guessed the Belmonts were descended from Dracula, but I was sure that was common knowledge since the '90s or some such. Still, at least you have Patrick Stewart in there. The man can read the phone book and make it sound good. :)

Kazekage said...

It's a survival mechanism. It's either that or lose my tiny mind. :)

Well, I do that anyways, so I'm halfway there already I imagine. Alls I'm missing is the paycheque.

Well, from what I've read so far I'm a bit trepidatious, but if I can find a copy, I'll give it a shot. Carey's about the only person who seems like he actually wants to write an X-Men book nowadays.

If by "Make it work" you mean "subtly ruin things," of course.

Yeah, the problem with that line of thinking is it's bog-standard plotting: "Oh, well, they fight each other so they must obviously have a deeper connection" and you know . . .that worked OK in Empire Strikes Back but it doesn't work at all in this context.

Not in this case. This will hopefully, like Star Trek: Nemesis be left off his resume. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

That, and the cadre of conspiracy fans who spin elaborate theories out of every word you say. "See, when he mentions Achewood, he doesn't mean the webcomic, it's actually an homage to Going Green because the wood, it aches." :)

Fortunately, he's about the only one who's any good at it too...

Well, honestly. How much worse could they get? :) (She asked, not realizing she'd just jinxed comics into even lower standards.)

Especially since, as far as I can recall, the whole point of the Belmont clan is that, like van Helsing, they're utterly normal people dedicated to fighting a supernatural threat that's completely out of their league, and yet they pull it off.

I would like to see him in something good again - who has the time to suffer through "Gnomeo and Juliet" just because he's in it for five seconds?

Kazekage said...

Yeah. I don't know what I'm gonna do when GMB has that moment, and as it's building up a bit . . .shit, that might happen. GMB shipper . . .shit, am I ready for that? Is anyone? ;)

Very true, and good thing. I'm for anyone who thinks the solution to the problem doesn;t involve damn vampires. :)

Yeah, and for the most part, they were and that was fine, frankly. It kind of pisses me off that that simple an explanation isn't enough, but then, Lords of Shadow is just some bitch-ass God of War clone they stuck the name on so . . .yeah.

You've seen "Gunmen," I take it? ;)