X-POSITION: Phoenix, Upstarts & More Tear Up Bowers & Sims' "X-Men '92"
Welcome back to two of your favorite Comics Should be Good bloggers geeking out over alternate reality X-Men fun! “The Age of X Dialogues” where Chad Nevett and I discuss every issue of the “Age of X” storyline. We continue this week with X-Men Legacy #245 and New Mutants #22.
Kelly Thompson: Welcome everyone to the second installment of “The Age of X Dialogues” between myself and Chad Nevett. These dialogues came about when we mentioned to one another on Twitter that we were both excited for the “Age of X” story that kicked off this week and will carry on through April in X-Men Legacy and New Mutants as well as Age of X: Universe, a two-issue mini-series. After a long wait, parts two and three of the storyline dropped this week, and so we’re back to discuss…
Chad Nevett: It’s been a while since our first discussion, but “Age of X” has finally begun in a proper sense with the first two chapters shipping on the same day. Instead of discussing both right off, I think we should begin with chapter one, X-Men Legacy #245. My first thought upon reading this issue was “Wow, Marvel should have begun with this and saved Age of X Alpha until partway through as a schedule-filling one-shot.” Did Age of X Alpha even seem necessary at all really? What did you think of the first chapter of “Age of X,” Kelly?
KT: I agree 100%, not only did I love this issue of X-Men Legacy, but it was a fantastic jumping on point and it made Age of X Alpha pale even more horribly in comparison. I really hope that people that were interested in this storyline that bought Age of X Alpha and were disappointed, will give the series a second chance, because this was just a total 180 in terms of quality between the two books. I honestly loved so much about this. The natural flow of jumping into the battle and then the come down after that (as opposed to the forced tense “camaraderie” of a pre-battle bonfire, which could have worked, but for me, didn’t). We learned a little bit about a lot of characters, instead of a little bit about three characters (and that little hadn’t impressed me much with the exception of the Scott/Basilisk story). We also got some really solid art (for both issues) and a lot of completely intriguing hints and mysterious stuff dropped in our laps. The writing overall was strong, with a few awkward bits, but really, on the whole, I loved every second of this issue and where it seemed poised to take us. You?
CN: Yeah, I enjoyed this issue a whole lot more. We immediately got a better sense of what’s going on this world and how it may relate to the regular Marvel Universe as we know it. Something that really made me wish Age of X Alpha had come out after this issue was the reference to Basilisk’s past and how much better his story would have been if we’d gotten it after a few issues of hints about his terrible past. Instead, we know the full story going in and that, oddly, lessens its impact. It would have been more effective to show us a hardened, darker Scott Summers getting chewed out by Cannonball with no explanation for how the top X-Man of the reality we know is this guy here. Same with the Logan reveal. Knowing the back story coming in makes both of their appearances less impactful.
As for the issue itself, it throws us right in and gives a lot of characters some panel time, which is nice. I couldn’t help but compare this to “Age of Apocalypse” and how that event had so many issues to show us how the characters are changed, but Mike Carey pulls it off, often through only one or two small pieces of dialogue. It’s an issue that relies on knowledge of the X-Men a lot more and I didn’t know who certain characters were sometimes – except, that doesn’t matter. Carey makes sure that you don’t need to know every character since the changes in the ones you do know are enough to sell the concept.
My one annoying complaint about the issue was Mike Carey trying to be ambiguous about the narration, to the point of having Legacy narrate ‘I’ instead of the ‘Ah’ she uses later. When it turned out that she was the narrator, I was thrown, because her accent only shows up in the narration once she’s revealed as the narrator and, I’m sorry, but that’s just sloppy, bad writing.
Something we (and everyone else) wanted to know is why this story is happening and this first chapter provided a few clues (with the second giving even more). But, I didn’t find that to be much of a concern at first, because Carey draws us in so well. There isn’t as much time to stop and think “Okay, how did this world happen?” until near the end when he starts to hint at the larger mystery.
KT: I agree completely that both the Logan and Basilisk stories would have been more impactful if they came AFTER this book. I don’t know that the Cannonball or Magneto stories mattered one way or another (yet at least) but certainly so far nothing was ADDED by coming first. Based on the strength of the books this week, I really do hope people interested ignore Age of X Alpha and come back to check this out.
I also agree on the strange choice regarding the narration at the beginning. It was a big mistake to try to mask it, when the narrator has such an obvious tell…but I don’t understand why Carey would bother masking it? When I realized it was Legacy narrating at the end I went back to determine if it was always Legacy and if it was supposed to be, why there was a need for any kind of secrecy…and I couldn’t figure one out. It was a strange decision and a big mistake.
That said, I thought some really cool stuff was set up here. I’m not sure if this is entirely where they are going (although we’ve now read I think 1/3 of the story – so it seems like it could be) but I like the idea that the primary conflict is shaping up to maybe be an internal one, rather than external, which would be a really different take if that’s where Carey is going. I mean, we have the battle with the humans, or preaks, that are constantly attacking the “force walls” (which were pretty cool by the way) but based on events in this book (and New Mutants #22) that looks to be totally secondary…almost just a distraction, to the far more interesting internal battles that are coming to a head. I found myself crazy intrigued, and chiding myself for thinking that Carey needed to establish the “why” of this universe before we got into it. I mean, I stand by wanting that, but clearly it’s going to be a huge part of the story – if not the whole enchilada – as he kind of hinted at. And if he can keep it coming like this…well, I’m definitely on board.
CN: Yeah, in New Mutants #22, it became more apparent that things aren’t necessarily how they appear. Is anything actually beyond the walls of Fortress X? Kitty’s camera seems to suggest not. I wondered about the daily attacks and why the humans would keep it up. Attack the same place on a daily basis for almost three years and never succeed? That’s when you stick some forces outside to make sure no one leaves and be satisfied with that. Of course, if the attacks and the idea of a world outside Fortress X are a ruse or false… what’s the point? Is that how you read these issues? Or did I create a weird little plot inside my head that no one else saw?
KT: Well, I don’t think you created a weird little plot inside your head, because I think that’s definitely one possibility, both the blank camera images and the revelation by Basilisk that he’s got duplicate dog tags from seemingly different soldiers that he’s killed, and also the kind of “sameness” of the soldiers and battles that they’re fighting. Something fishy is definitely going on…but that’s what I’m saying, it’s definitely enough of a hook (see what I did there with fish and hooks! Amazing!) that Carey has me very curious as to where he’s going to take it. I think the great success for me was the feeling I had of being fully transported to a whole new world that would be possible with just slight tweaks.
I liked what they’ve done with Rogue/Reaper/Legacy and how they’ve positioned her in the story, and I like what we saw of others as well, though there wasn’t room for too much with so many players on the board. With Carey’s take on Rogue here it makes me want this to all go on longer and be bigger so I can see his take on more and deeper you know? I’m not trying to complain…like “oh give me something great but I’m still going to bitch because I’m greedy!” I’m just saying that I find myself wishing they’d given Carey even more room because these two issues are the most excited I’ve been about an X-book in a while. And yet at the end of New Mutants #22 I was a little bummed that the actual New Mutants were going to be showing up – although they looked pretty cool – because I’d already seen so many new characters I wanted to see more about – and now here were a whole bunch more – there just isn’t enough page time, y’know?
One thing we must discuss regarding character design…why so many shirtless dudes?…it’s actually a little weird. In one awesome double page spread battle scene early on in Legacy I counted like five or six shirtless dudes (out of eight!) and that didn’t include David/Legion and Julian who showed up later, also shirtless! What is going on?! Is there a shortage of material for mens’ shirts in this reality? I mean, y’know, I’m fine with it if Clay Mann is trying to even the odds on the long running costume disparity between the sexes in superhero comics…but I have to at least comment on it. Am I insane?
CN: They live in a battle zone and fight all of the time… shirts wouldn’t last. And yet the women all have tops. Strange. I’m now waiting for the follow-up “Age of XXX” storyarc where they’ve been fighting for so long and are cut off to such a degree that they have no clothes at all. Make mine, Marvel!
I liked the initial concept of Rogue/Legacy/Reaper, so much so that I’m disappointed that she’s the main character of the story. It’s an interesting take on the character as an angel of death/collective living memory of the fallen mutants that I’d rather she stayed in the background more. She’s more interesting in that position. Once she’s in the foreground, she loses that mystique and becomes less interesting, more generic. The way she uses her powers to investigate is smart, but seems to go against how she’d acted in this world to that point. Then again, I’ve never been a Rogue fan. Never gotten the appeal of the character.
I guess that’s a problem with a mystery story like this: the way that certain ideas are introduced create impressions upon the reader and he/she fills in the blanks, making the eventual revelation or expansion of an idea possibly worse to said reader because it doesn’t meet the expectations. Take the character ‘X.’ At some point, it occurred to me that X being Charles Xavier would be a cool way to subvert expectations with him being the unseen military mastermind support of the mutants, making the mystery of how Magneto rose to his position even greater. I’m not saying the eventual revelation will be a letdown, but seeing Xavier in the prison was a small one, because that seems less interesting on the surface than the story I’d crafted in my head. Does that make sense?
KT: Haha. Shirts, who needs em?! Maybe there’s a shortage of large pieces of material out there…hence the women being more clothed…yeah, makes no sense. But sign me up for “Age of XXX” for sure.
Well, from what I read in a few interviews and such, Rogue is only going to be a lead/focus character initially and then it’s going to hand off to someone(s) else. As a non-fan of the character that’s good news for you. I’ve always loved the character, and I particularly like the character when her powers are not under control, and when creators really think about her powers – both the ways to utilize them effectively, and the ways that they would make her (and others) vulnerable. So this really works for me. I’ll be disappointed when the handoff comes – assuming it does.
I was kind of assuming – and it’s a big assumption – that “X” is that Doug/Phalanx thing, and I guess I don’t really know where I got that idea, and since he/it is seen in the field pretty regularly in these two issues it kind of suggests that’s not true…but the Professor X thing is a good thought…and would have been really intriguing. But you’re right that Xavier being in the prison definitely undercuts that pretty clearly, as does “Blindfold’s” rantings at Legacy. You’re right that hinging all of this on a a mystery where we as readers are trying to fill in the blanks is risky. It could totally end up being underwhelming to where we as readers expect/hope/think it will go. But it’s always risky I guess telling a story like this though.
I think at this point, I’d say that Carey has me good and hooked on the what these reveals are going to be. Maybe because I’m a bit sick I’m not putting enough thought into it and if I tried harder I could come up with some better theories…but for right now I just have no idea where he’s going and am enjoying the ride. Overall do you like what we saw in these two issues? You seem…less enthused than I am, no?
CN: I think I am a little less enthused. To put it in CBR reviewing terms, you seem around four stars, while I’m only at three-and-a-half. Still very positive, just not as much as you are. Part of that is the art. I didn’t hate the art, but I didn’t love it either. It’s serviceable and doesn’t really rise above a certain level for me. And that’s fine. Oddly, I’m really looking forward to Age of X Universe #1 in March, because I’m curious to see how the Avengers of this world are handled. But, before that, we get chapters three and four (not on the same day, thankfully). I’m more enthused when I think about three of the next four weeks having a new part of this story.
KT: Yeah, I’d say four stars is a fair assessment of where I am. But like I said, it’s less about thinking these are two perfect comic books, than being excited about where we’re going, which is far too uncommon for me these days in comics…so that holds a lot of weight for me. The one thing that I suppose Age of X Alpha DID do for me, is significantly lower my expectations on something I was really excited about, which sadly, isn’t always a bad thing. And now my expectations are back up a bit, but at more reasonable…manageable perhaps, levels. Overall, I’m excited to see what X-Men Legacy #246, New Mutants #23, and Age of X Universe #1 are going to bring us in March.
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