Week 10: Wolverine and the X-Men #4 vs Batwoman #5

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Wolverine and the X-Men #4

Wolverine and the X-Men #4

Eric’s Book

Eric: So I decided to go for a bit of a challenge this week. Dan hasn’t expressed much love for Wolverine and the X-Men whenever it’s come up. He definitely didn’t like the Alpha & Omega spin-off mini. But I really liked this issue and I figured this was a good a point as any for Dan to jump on as it was after the end of the last arc.

Dan: I’m always a tough critic when it comes to the X-Men. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I used to love them?

Eric: It think it’s at least partially because the authors working in the Ultimate universe have been doing such a good job with the X-Men. While the 616 X-Men have been stale in comparison.

Dan: I don’t even love the Ultimate X-Men as much as I like Spidey or the other books. I dunno, man. Just not my thing any more.

Eric: Well, let’s see if I can convince you otherwise with Wolverine and the X-Men. I feel like I’ve definitely mentioned this before on CP!, but if not, it’s certainly a theme in my reviews on Comic Vine and elsewhere: I love the School and Drama aspects of X-Men. I feel that action works best in cartoons or movies and I often get lost in hectic comic action. So this book is more interesting to me than the Cyclops book right now.

Dan: I can see why you might like that. I’m so out of touch with the modern X-Men that I’m not entirely clear about all the relationships, but in a good book that shouldn’t matter, so let’s get to it.

Eric: So this issue links up with the great work Rick Remender’s been doing on X-Force. They somewhat address that info here, but leave a lot of gaps for those who haven’t been following that book. Basically, Warren Worthinton III, Angel/Archangel finds out that Apocalypse is going to be reincarnated. In addition to the beef that the X-Men have had with him throughout their history, Apocalypse turned Angel into Archangel and he was even an X-Men enemy for a while. So he and Wolverine create a new X-Force team to track him.

When they find him, he’s just a kid and no one wants to kill him. Fantomex plugs the kid and everyone sighs in relief that he did the disgusting thing that no one else could do. Eventually, Archangel ends up taking up the mantel of Apocalypse and the X-Force have to fight him. The end result is that Fantomex reveals he’d cloned Apocalypse (and renamed him Genesis) and when they defeat Archangel they end up wiping his personality.

Jumping into the book, that gets us past page one. I love the little details that Nick Bradshaw has put into the teacher’s lounge like the Cyclops photo on the dart board.

Dan: Wow…that was…exactly why the X-Men keep me far away from their book. Still, a neat-seeming sequence of events. I love those little details too. Good catch, I completely missed that on my read through.

Eric: On this read, I just realized beneath the dartboard are a W and B. Wolverine and Beast are the only ones that really have beef with Scott. The bottom section of panels is a mix of little jokes and a foreshadowing for Kitty Pryde that I totally misread. I thought this author was going to make her an anorexic/bulemic.

Dan: Oh, duh! I saw that panel somewhere else online and I was wondering what was up with it, but that’s interesting.

Eric: Next page is more about the different kids including a joke panel on your *favorite* kid mutant, Quentin Quire. This is exactly what I thought would happen to his character in this book when they whisked him away here. I hope he sees some character growth.

Dan: :shrug: I don’t see him getting much more interesting in the future.

Eric: On the next we have an insight into one of the classes – Future History 101. First of all, I don’t think in Xavier’s school they ever even went to class. But maybe I’m wrong? My memories from that time period are mostly based on the animated series.

Dan: I just remember them playing baseball every so often. The whole joke about taking Future History classes is pretty hilarious. I like the absurdity of it.

Eric: And there’s where this art style fits in so well. It’s not the usual guy, Chris Bachalo, but Bradshaw does a good approximation of his style. I think part of what’s neat about future history is that it’s a) silly because it’s in the future so it hasn’t happened yet and could be affected but b) serious because people from the future (like Bishop) are always butting in and causing issues in the present.

Dan: I mean, don’t they even have a future person come and lecture? It’s all silly comic book science.

Wolverine and the X-Men #4 - Burning Books

Wolverine and the X-Men #4 - Burning Books

Eric: Yup, and we’ll get to that pretty soon. There are a lot of great visual Easter Eggs in these two pages as the kids, or at least the most obnoxious ones fight. Quentin’s shirt “Wake me when the humans are dead” is a holdover from Morrison’s time on the series where he introduced the idea of mutant fashion, music, etc. He also has “The Art of War” by him. On the next page Genesis is reading their textbook “Days of Future Past” which was a famous X-Men storyline. I think it’s the one where they introduce Age of Apocalypse (ironically) but I’d have to look that up. (edit: nope, it’s the opposite future timeline – the one where the humans won – and I think Bishop’s timeline) The next page has the blob dude who I’m pretty certain is also a Morrison-era character getting pages stuck to his blobby self. And a couple panels later we have Quentin trying to set his book on fire. Even if I don’t end up convincing you that the story is all that great, I think you’ll end up agreeing that the artist has put a lot of work in this issue for re-read bonuses. (I know I didn’t notice most of this on my first read)

Dan: The art is definitely well done in this book. Just dense and interesting to pick details out of.

Eric: I have to say that Broo is turning out to be my favorite breakout character. He’s from a recent Astonishing X-Men storyline. I love his role as the butt monkey. He’s kinda like Data (Star Trek) or any other of a number of characters whose job is to misunderstand cultural cues.

Dan: Yeah, he’s funny. I assume he’s a mutant?

Eric: He’s a mutant in the sense that he was a Brood member born with morality. We also have Kid Gladiator who, as a Shi’ar, plays the role of the person with super-exaggerated warrior/samurai sensibilities.

Dan: I guess these guys are supposed to be important (per the flash forward later). Are they trying to make a two-tiered story in Wolverine now where you have the teachers doing stuff and the students doing stuff? I guess this really is just a school drama, isn’t it?

Eric: Just like Morning Glories. But with less sex?

Dan: You’ve clearly never read Morning Glories. It’s not on image because of sex. It’s on image because of ridiculous levels of violence…and language…and a little bit of sexual innuendo.

Wolverine and the X-Men #4 - Angel the angel

Wolverine and the X-Men #4 - Angel the angel

Eric: I see. Well, we then move to the other major storyline of this issue. Yo, Angel is weird now! He goes and traumatizes some little kids whose dog just died.

Dan: If I looked like an angel and lost my memory, yeah, I might react the same way.

Eric: Then comes my favorite part of this issue. Kitty Pryde has Deathlok Unit L17 come and talk about the future. I just love how quickly this whole thing goes south.

Dan: I liked the harried expression on Kitty’s face. Good stuff.

Eric: It’s also great fodder for the fan fictions and so on. They give percentages so they can always wiggle out of it later, but as I wrote in a review for Player Affinity, since these comics progress so slowly, it gives us a sense of a future we might never see in our lifetimes.

Dan: It’s used pretty well for comedy.

Eric: I also wonder if some of the shorter timelines are predictors? For example with Kid Gladiator he talks about fighting with and against the Avengers – so will he be involved in this summer’s Big Event? Time will tell. Back to Angel and what is meant to be (and I think comes across as) a huge emotional event. Both Bobby and Warren were founding X-Men so for Warren to not remember him is a huge blow.

Dan: I can see that being a big deal. My Angel knowledge is colored by so many other pieces of media that I forget he was a founding member.

Wolverine and the X-Men #4 - Future

Wolverine and the X-Men #4 - Future

Eric: Then we get the BIG payoff of the book – Genesis confronts Deathlok to know what his future holds.

Dan: So I guess this kid is Apocalypse? I thought you said they killed him.

Eric: He’s the clone that Fantomex grew. So to expand on what I said earlier, Fantomex decides to do a nature vs nurture experiment. After the rest of the X-Force leaves, he clones Apocalypse and puts him into The World – which can experience accelerated time. (It’s another Grant Morrison construct and it’s related to the Weapon Program – Wolverine is Weapon X, Fantomex is Weapon XXIII or something) There he raises him with what’s essentially a reference to The Kents from Superman to see if that can make a difference. According to Deathlok’s vision, nature might be stronger than nurture.

Dan: Ok, I can see where this is going, then. So Morrison wrote this like years and years ago and it’s only just now turning into a thing? Good planning, I guess.

Eric: It’s more like there are certain elements of his that have remained, The World, Fantomex, Quentin Quire – but the Apocalypse thing is all from Uncanny X-Force. That’s been going for about 18 months. Generally speaking, this scene serves two purposes – to sow doubt in our minds that Wolverine has done the right thing and to mess with the shippers by showing that Oya and Kid Omega (Quentin) get together.

Dan: Pretty standard stuff.

Eric: Logan’s then confronted by Deathlok and Bobby about his various decisions in X-Force. Again, part of this that you might be missing is that the original X-Force that Summers sanctioned drove the X-Men apart and lead to Beast leaving for the Avengers.  So now Wolverine is trying to balance that with the whole point of the Schism – that he doesn’t want children to have to fight.

Jason Aaron also messed with our heads a little because we see that the dog has actually come to life. So maybe whatever scrambled his head really did give him angelic powers?

Dan: Who knows? The powers these guys have are always super fluid and come and go as the plot dictates.

Eric: There are definitely some characters who lend themselves more to that than others. Then we get the surprise that Kitty’s pregnant! Given what she stammers on the penultimate page, I don’t think it’s Peter’s or Bobby’s.

Dan: Also given that it just kind of got huge…Doesn’t seem natural at all.

Eric: Yeah, I’m guessing it’s either some accidental alien pregnancy – like from touching Broo or that nano-sentinels are involved. (Since there was a preview panel about 4 months ago that showed some nanosentinels in her blood)

Dan: Nanosentinels? Mutant killing on a cellular level?

Eric: Yup! And, unless I’m mistaken, another Morrison legacy item.

Dan: Ok.

Eric: Given that he worked on the series ten years ago, that’s not a bad legacy! It’s also why I’m glad I started reading from there, rather than Deadly Genesis as my comic shop recommended. They’ve appeared at least once before – they’re a good magic plot device since you can’t see them so they can be introduced at any time in the story.

Dan: I think we have different definitions of what a good plot device is.

Eric: Haha, I meant good for the writers.

Dan: Ah, I see.

Eric: Shall we move on to your book?

Dan: Let’s do it.

Batwoman #5

Batwoman #5

Dan’s Book

Dan: So I intended to select another book that I’d never read before, but emergencies conspired against that, so I went with one of the best things DC is putting out right now, Batwoman (for those taking notes at home, Swamp Thing is also pretty solid (and a lot of people like Flash, but I haven’t read it)).

Eric: I think it’s a pretty good bet people know we like Batwoman. She keeps coming up!

Dan: You can’t keep a good book down, man.

Batwoman #5 - Apophenia

Batwoman #5 - Apophenia

Eric: We start off with Kate Kane meditating in a page that looks like it was written by Grant Morrison – he’s really into free association-type stuff and the way she comes to her conclusion (along with the visuals) is something he’d dig. Also, on second read it almost seems like a sly dig at the Adam West Batman’s apophenia

Dan: Ha! I hadn’t thought of that. The association seemed a lot less random.

Eric: And so she confronts La Llorona.

Dan: It was a really great scene. Just lots of great art shifts from La Llorona, a lot of water, fire, steam, flashbacks. Kate’s sister. Just cool stuff.

Eric: A lot of beautiful two-page spreads.

Dan: La Llorona is a good first villain for the Batwoman book. She’s a villain defined by regret, which, we all know, is a strong driving motivation for Batwoman.

Eric: Very good point.

Dan: It’s that whole school of thought where the villain represents that which the hero could become if she let herself go down the same path.

Eric: Indeed. And before she dies….or rather is dispelled, she lets Batwoman know that Medusa has the kids. Whoever that is.

After she looks at a photo of her and her sister, cutting off her dad, she gets the terrifying knowledge that she’s not alone in her home.

Dan: I read it as her thinking her cousin was in the apartment at first since she doesn’t know her cousin got hurt.

Eric: Oh, I see what you mean. Yeah, I didn’t even notice the smoke in that panel until my third read. So she’s confronted with the information that her cousin’s in the hospital. And Mr. Bones tells her that her dad could get in trouble for funding her and so on.

Dan: It’s their recruitment/blackmail speech. I like the story touch. She didn’t want to roll with Batman because she doesn’t like taking orders (I guess), but now she’s part of something even more restrictive and she’s technically Bruce’s enemy.

Eric: Yeah, it’s definitely more complicated than they’re letting on in the book. I don’t know how much has changed post-New 52, but in Batman, Inc she was working tangentially to Batman – inserting herself in things, but never accepting his invitation to join. And I think they referenced that in the first issue of this Batwoman volume, but at any rate, it’s a complicated relationship.

Dan: I like it better this way. More interesting.

Eric: The last page has her promising the parents that she will find the kids.

Dan: First we take on Mexican mythology, but now it’s time to face off against Greek mythology! Maybe she’ll intersect with Wonder Woman…man, that’s a good book too. I forgot to plug that up above. Wonder Woman is awesome.

Eric: Yeah, as soon as you said Greek, that’s what I thought of.

Dan: Speaking of battles (close enough)…

Battle!

Eric: Alright – so we have the beautiful end to one story arc and the fun beginning of another.

Dan: That’s a good point. Arc end vs. arc beginning isn’t really a fair fight, at least in terms of payoff, but Comic POW isn’t about fairness

Eric: It certainly isn’t! So, even though Batwoman wasn’t your first choice, what’s your favorite thing about this issue?

Dan: It’s always the art in Batwoman. That’s not to say that the rest of the book is slacking off, but there’s no arguing that this book is anything but beautiful. The art feels less like it’s there as a vehicle for story and more like it’s the reason we’re here. Comic books are a visual medium, after all.

Eric: I agree with you that it’s beautiful. Maybe even the most beautiful thing out there. (Although, Emma Rios did do the most recent Amazing Spider-Man)

Dan: You’re making me lament the fact that my shop was out of ASM! Waid wrote and Rios was behind the art?! A definite must buy for me.

Eric: Yeah, when I saw that and you’d told me you weren’t able to get it. Ouch! But, back to this POW!, I think that WatX has art that works so well with the type of story they’re telling – fun, goofy, almost self-aware. And I did like all the Easter Eggs, but it’s nothing compared to the art in Batwoman.

Dan: WatX has a good artist. I’m a fan of it. You don’t need hyper-real, gruff-looking dudes for a school comic, which is what it looks like this book is becoming. I think I might be able to get behind an X-Men school manga, but, then again, I really dislike every character (save Kitty. Kitty’s cool).

Eric: While WatX has lots of great in-jokes and just the right mix of info for an X-Head, I’d definitely concede on story beats. It’s not a bad first issue of an arc – I’ve seen MUCH worse. But, it’s definitely not on the same level as Batwoman.

Dan: I’ll concede that you’re getting closer and closer to me actually liking an X-book. the trick is to just stop listening when you start talking about all the backstory and culling from Morrison’s day and to ignore Quire.

Eric: Yeah, it’s the most rewarding and frustrating part of X-Men. Well, I think I’d have to give it to Batwoman.

Dan: There was a 57.8% chance that you’d say that.

Eric: haha!

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