Sunday 11 August 2013

The Comics Ramble Goes Soap Opera

I've always liked a dose of soap opera in my comics. Most likely this is because I got into comics through the 1990's X-Men cartoon and black-and-white collections of the Chris Claremont run. I just bring this up because soap opera dynamics seem to be something of a theme in the comics I bought this week, the Marvel ones at least.

All-New X-Men #15
I don't hate Cyclops but I have to admit the character has rarely interested me. All too often he has this “perfect soldier” character to him that I can't get into at all. Even the teenage version of the character, both here and in the Sixcties comics, has this problem. In this issue, however, Bendis has him do something that made me absolutely love the character:

He and Bobby Drake use their powers to stop a car thief the police are pursuing at high speed. They do it casually, with affected nonchalance, as if this is a doddle and somehow beneath them. They don't do it because of high-minded morals or in accordance with Xavier's dream but because they want to impress some girls they've only just met.

Actually all the scenes with the random girls (who I hope turn up later) absolutely shine, especially when Scott hears one of the girls say she wishes she was a mutant. This absolutely bemuses Cyclops:

“... we're just so used to people hating us […] that it's - - it's just odd that anybody would romanticize our situation.”

And then I started to understand Scott because suddenly his personality related to something real I could understand. This Scott comes from a time when there was no public mutant culture, no visibility for people like him and because his mutation is outwardly and explicitly dangerous he's had more reason than most hide what he is. Scott is, in an allegorical sense, a homosexual who has just moved from a place where he was totally closeted and even vaguely ashamed of who he was to somewhere he can “come out” in relative safety. He can now be publicly associated with being a mutant and, whilst one guy does a runner in fear, he can even use it to impress cute people.

Yet in spite of all this the best scene of the issue is Jean Grey meeting her future daughter Rachel for the first time. This has to be a heavily-anticipated meeting, I admit I've been looking forward to it for a while. Bendis, genius tease that he is, reduces it to a perfectly executed sight gag where neither woman can figure out how to handle this incredibly bizarre situation.

Dial H #15
Was this the end? I don't remember the series being announced as ending but it seems a pretty conclusive close to the story.

Regardless of whether this is the end or just the “season finale” this was a grand tying up of threads (wires?) from the rest of the series. We got the origin of the dials, a glimpse of the world of the Exchange and even the identity of O. The Exchange is an absolutely perfect Meiville creation, well up there with Railsea or the inter-dimensional weirdness of The City & The City.

Unfortunately it was so good I can't bear risking the spoilers that doing an It's The End, But... post would entail.

I just hope that someday we see Open Window Man in a comic of his own.

And talking of series I'm going to miss...

X-Factor #260
Only two issues to go! Aw.... but Peter David is certainly leaving on a high. I like that he isn't just giving the characters inconclusive endings, which I admit was about the only thing I didn't like about Dial H #15. My favourite conclusion so far was having Rahne join the church as trainee deacon.

This issue was Polaris getting drunk and then having a punch-up with her half-brother Pietro, former semi-regular X-Factor pseudo-villain. It was worth it just for scenes of Polaris drunkenly explaining the crap she's been through since joining X-Factor to a bemused and slightly frightened bartender. The superhero fight with Quicksilver was just icing on the plate.

The end did leave me curious as Polaris was offered a place with another X-Factor. Peter David is going to be a hard act to follow but I'll give a chance so see if I like it. Upon which subject:

Superior Spider-Man #15
I cannot, for the life of me, work out whether I like this series or not.

On the one hand I love the innovation: Peter Parker's body possessed by the mind of Doctor Octopus is absolutely brilliant. I especially like Anna Maria, Doc Ock's study buddy and potential girlfriend, who makes a wonderful addition to the sprawling Spider-Man supporting cast.

I also like that people are starting to catch on that something is up, not least of them Peter's ex (and CSI) Carlie Cooper. This unfortunately brings us to the part of the story I am not enjoying: the way Doc Ock's arrogance plays off the supporting cast. Whilst I can see that the angle is firmly on Ock frittering away his second chance at life the cringe comedy of his interactions with others (most especially the Horizon Labs cast) grates on my nerves.

I know, as everyone knows, that Peter will be back someday but I also know that this isn't in the immediate future or Slott wouldn't have killed off the “ghost” of Peter haunting Ock. Much like the series as a whole I don't know how I feel about this: the series is interesting but there are significant aspects of the writing that I don't like.

To drop or not to drop? That is the question.

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