This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on February 26, 2016.
For more than a year whispers have swirled around Marvel’s X-Men line of comic books. While their far more profitable movie rights are still owned by Fox (see: Deadpool), comics rumor mongers have said this franchise was doomed in funny books. Is there any truth to this though? Are the X-Men bound to follow the other ill-fated, Fox licensed franchise of The Fantastic Four? There’s no way to know much of anything outside of the boardrooms at Marvel, but we can take a look at the line itself to see how it’s faring. So this week Chase Magnett is examining all five of the ongoing series in the X-franchise to see how healthy it is.
Now for today’s review…
All-New Wolverine #5
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by David Lopez and David Navarrot
Colors by Nathan Fairbairn
Letters by Cory Petit
All-New Wolverine #5 shows some real reverence to Silver Age Marvel adventures and that’s definitely a compliment. It has a guest star, puts action at the forefront of the issue, and features weird science plotting. There’s a little bit of strum und drang, and the continuation of a larger plot that mark its place in the current year, but despite the blood and guts on the page, it manages to be a lot of fun.
Tom Taylor plays it safe in plotting the issue though. It’s a story superhero fans have seen many times before including noble sacrifices, desperate stands, and mean-spirited military conspiracies. You know what’s coming next in a way that might be comforting, if only because it allows you to rest in the enjoyment of some go hard zaniness on the page.
That zaniness of battling nanobots in a miniaturized form to save lives is exactly what Marvel Comics can still do very well. It’s an escapism that feels big, even when it’s literally small, the sort of ideas that make you think “wouldn’t it be cool if…” Taylor doesn’t run his ideas into the ground either, choosing instead to keep moving forward and packing in a second, if less satisfying, action sequence. It’s fast paced and quickly understood superhero action.
Artists David Lopez and David Navarrot excel in the mid- or long-range shot. They assemble action sequences clearly always establishing information and positions before diving into the nastiness. Everything about Wolverine and the Wasp battling nanobots is a lot of fun to watch. It coopts Marvel Studio’s obsession with waves of bad guys, but refreshes the concept with specific stakes and a very weird setting. The two women positioned back to back is an excellent opening shot for the battle that makes this issue worth a buy.
Their close ups and work on faces isn’t as clear. The multiple clones of Wolverine look similar for good reason, but Janet Van Dyne’s case of same face is less excusable. There’s an interesting ugliness to the characters when not seen from a distance like they are regularly engaging in kegels.
The series doesn’t have a bad look though and even if the plotting isn’t entirely original, it’s a solid installment of superhero antics. If you’re looking for an X-adventure, there isn’t a better series being published today than All-New Wolverine. Laura makes for a great Wolverine and her adventures take her new, interesting places every issue. It isn’t life changing, but it’s solid and that’s a bar its fellow books should shoot for.
More Human Than Inhuman Wrap Up
Now that we’ve finished looking at all five series it’s time to look at just how well the X-books are doing.
Here’s the thing: Marvel probably isn’t trying to kill the X-Men line, but if they were the current creative direction would be a pretty great way to subtly do so. There might never have been a better time to stop reading X-Men comics. Speaking in the broadest of strokes, the current collection of ongoing X-series are tone deaf, monotonous, and ugly.
Even at the lowest of previous points, the X-Men have always benefited from being interesting. Just take a look at the 90s. No matter how much you may want to dump on something like X-Force, it’s hard to call it boring. Artists like Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee packed those pages with a style and sensibility unlike anything that had come before.
There’s nothing worth talking about in this current lineup. Some of these series appear to be a worn record repeating itself, while others are ugly caricatures of previous ideas. If these books are selling (and they are), it’s because readers are dedicated to buying X-Men comics, not because this current wave represents a quality vision of the property. It’s a sad state of affairs.
Except for All-New Wolverine, that comic is pretty alright.