Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 – The Year in X: Part Three

By Paul Steven Brown

In this installment of the Year in X, I will begin my countdown of the ongoing series currently in the X-Men family of comics, from least favorite to the best. But first, let’s take a look at…

Wolverine and the X-Men (#1 – 3): Since there were only three issues to come out in 2011 of the X-Men franchise’s newest title, I don’t think that it would be very fair to rank it amongst the books that were published throughout all of 2011. Still, I’d like to make a few remarks about Wolverine and the X-Men.

Instead of transforming an existing title like Astonishing X-Men or even X-Men: Legacy (since Mike Carey is leaving), the powers that be at Marvel decided to launch yet another book with the word “X-Men” in the title. I’m sure that they intend to get a bit more extra mileage due to the word “Wolverine” being there, too. Fortunately, writer Jason Aaron and artist Chris Bachelo have made the book unique enough, thus far, to warrant the series’ debut.

The first issue quickly established an “anything goes” sort of mentality from Aaron. He quickly established the teaching staff and a good handful of students, but then proceeded to unleash a whole mess of craziness upon the proceedings. While the first issue was a lot of fun, by the second issue, I could see where this could get a little tiresome if the writer constantly pushed a feeling of madcap zaniness issue after issue. Still, Aaron has proven that he can write X-Men characters other than Wolverine.

Bachelo is a perfect match for Aaron’s over-the-top story. His style remains completely unique; however there is the continued problem of clarity. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell what’s going on. I’m still not sure what Husk was doing in the second issue.

Wolverine and the X-Men is off to a fun and exciting start and I’m really happy to have a classic school setting back in some of the X-Books. Hopefully, Aaron will still find time for some introspective character work once in the while. He was able to do so in the Wolverine solo books that he has worked on over the last few years.

#11 Astonishing X-Men (#36 – 45, Xenogenesis #5): I complained enough about the Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis mini-series at the end of last year, so I have no desire to pick at that particular scab anymore. It was bad and I’m very happy that Warren Ellis is no longer writing the X-Men.

For the most part, Astonishing X-Men continued to be a book that one title created solely for the comic book fans that want to read a book with X-Men characters, but not have to deal with any continuity. As a result, I feel that Astonishing, post Joss Whedon, has been a very soulless exercise. Sure the X-Men have awesome powers and look cool, but it’s the history that keeps me coming back. Astonishing is simply too light for me.

While I wasn’t a fan of Warren Ellis’ run, at least he was a big industry name. So when it came time to find someone to replace him on the X-Men’s boutique book, who does Marvel tap to take over as writer?

Daniel Way.

No disrespect to Daniel Way but he doesn’t have the star power to follow up Whedon or Ellis. In fact, Way has very little in the way of star power. He was best known as the writer of the lukewarmly received Wolverine: Origins. In addition Way’s co-creator, artist Jason Pearson, on his Astonishing X-Men arc, “Monsterous”, was only able to produce an issue and a half of work before being replaced.

In a desperate attempt to keep Astonishing X-Men on a monthly schedule for once, Marvel chose to leap frog chapters with another story arc (this one called “Meanwhile”… get it). The alternating arc had its one separate creative team of Christos Gage and Juan Bobillo. Gage’s work here, a mediocre Brood story, was far from his strongest and Bobillo’s art was no where near as elegant as his past work on Mechanix. Basically, we got two uninteresting stories that bounced around each other in a confusing manner.

Things fared far better by the end of the year. James Asmus delivered a fine Emma Frost and Danger one issue team up. This was followed Greg Pak’s current arc, which has been okay, but not spectacular. However, recent news hit that writer Marjorie Liu and artist Mike Perkins will be taking over the book in a few months. From the sounds of things, they may be on the book for more than one arc. If there’s one thing Astonishing X-Men needs, it’s a focused creative team with a distinct cast and direction that separates it from the other X-Books.

#10 Daken: Dark Wolverine (#5 – 18, #9.1): I’ve never been a fan of Daken. I’m completely fine with his origin has Wolverine’s bastard son (though, we did discover this year that Daken isn’t the only one). I’ve even come to terms with his rather ‘90s look (which comes across much better when drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli). But frankly, he hasn’t been written in a way or in stories that make me that interested in the guy.

Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu’s take on the character was too repetitive. Daken monologues about his greatness, flirts with folks to unsettle them, makes plans to gain some form of power, monologues some more, achieves said goal with hardly a scratch, wash, rinse, repeat.


While the inevitable crossover with X-23 was a slight improvement, it wasn’t until Rob Williams took over as writer that Daken: Dark Wolverine started to get a little more attention worthy. By having Daken addicted to a fictional drug that impaired his healing factor, Williams was able to put the protagonist in actual danger. Also, we were introduced to an interesting foil in the form of Donna Kiel, an FBI agent determined to bring Daken to justice.

While Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art was sorely missed for most of the year, he continued to provide some decent covers. The interior art fluctuated in quality, though. Marco Checchetto had a gritty, but dynamic style, while Matteo Buffagni presented crisp action. Unfortunately, Michele Bertilorenzi’s work made the normally dashing Daken look fairly hideous.

When word came out recently that Daken: Dark Wolverine was going to be cancelled in the early part of 2012, I wasn’t too upset. It is surprising that the character was able to maintain a solo title for about two and a half years. Maybe he’ll get rolled into a team book where he has to interact with a larger cast on a regular basis. That might be the scenario that allows Wolverine’s son to flourish.

Next time: The countdown continues...

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