Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Comic Review -- Avengers: X-Sanction #1-2 / Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines, & Morry Hollowell

Avengers: X-Sanction #1: Midnight
The cover for this issue isn't bad, but not great, either.  I like the use of colors, and the depiction of Cable and Captain America, who have fought on the same side many times, locked in mortal combat is conceptually interesting, but the facial expressions ruin it for me.  This is a vicious, balls-to-the-wall fight--there should be more expression on both their faces.  Gritting teeth, eyes locked on each other... something more that what I'm currently seeing.  As it is, it just seems too contrived and pre-posed for me.

The Avengers are called out to stop a jailbreak.  As they take on the Lethal Legion, Captain America goes after Whirlwind.  Falcon gets shot while watching Cap's back, and Cable drags him off to his base.  Cap eventually pursues, and upon finding Falcon held captive in a medical vat, gets ambushed by his former ally.  Both put up a vicious fight, but Cable narrowly wins, shackling Cap to a chair, turning a gun on him, and pulling the trigger with a loud bang, ending the issue.

So, apparently Cable's been dead for a while, having sacrificed himself for his adopted daughter, Hope Summers.  Now he's back, looking to kill all the Avengers with the vague goal of protecting her.  It seems that when people come back from the dead, or limbo, or wherever the heck they are that takes them away from the world, they come back with a few screws loose.  It looks like Loeb has decided to take this tack with Cable, and it gives me pause.  Much as I've enjoyed his writing in other stories, I can't help the feeling that, come the climax of the story, we're going to see that Cable's been made into a foolish old man, manipulated by someone else into doing something he otherwise never would have done.

It's not just the sickish sense of discomfort created by Cable so coldly and unfeelingly shooting down Avengers, or viciously beating down his former comrades, which he justifies ad nauseum throughout the narrative.  It's not just how he's able to best Cap in hand-to-hand combat, however narrowly.  It's not just the feeling that this plot feels so much like a flimsy excuse for a lead-in story to the upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men event later this year that I know there's no real risk here.  I mean, really--Captain America's going to die in a limited series, at Cable's gun?  Come on.

It's all of these things together.

I've generally liked Jeph Loeb's work, particularly when it involves showcasing one adversary per issue during a larger story arc, then moving to another.  But this is off to a shaky start, for a number of reasons.  I realize he may be constrained by narrative mandate at Marvel, but I'm so far only mildly intrigued by the Cable-as-Terminator thing we've got going here.  Hopefully it'll get better.

Artistically, I'm only moderately impressed.  Ed McGuinness does a good enough job with the supporting characters--Spidey, Wolverine, and Iron Man all look great in their appearances--but falls a little shorter when it comes to the two heavies in this issue.  Cable, I know, is not a small man, as neither is Cap, but they seem a little too widely rendered at various points in their fight, as if they've both consumed large amounts of cheeseburgers right before their brawl.  I'm also not sure I like how Cable's face is looking, and I don't just mean due to the effects of the techno-virus.  It's like every scar, vein, and wrinkle have been purposely exaggerated, and I don't like it.

Overall, I can't help but feel more than a little disappointed at how this story is starting off.  I like the overall concept, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.  I'm confident in Loeb's ability to turn things around, but I have to say the start doesn't feel so great.  Recommended, with reservations.

Avengers: X-Sanction #2: Dawn
Okay, I like this cover because it basically shows that Cable's playing the role of the Terminator.  It's very simple, but sinister and expressive.  But I have to wonder, does he have to adorn all his guns with stylized X insignias on them?

Iron Man notices that Falcon and Cap have disappeared, and follows Redwing, Falcon's sidekick, to Cable's hideout.  Cable, of course, is ready for him, and they engage in a duel of technological and firepower proportions, with each getting the upper hand on the other at various points.  Cable finally dispatches Iron Man and shackles him to another torture chair like Cap's, and starts his version of monologuing before he's shot in the back by Red Hulk, who's eager for a crack at the mutant from the future.

For someone who's getting closer and closer to death with each passing minute, Cable's putting up a hell of a fight.  He just physically bested Cap, and now he puts his brain and technological know-how to the limit by taking down the "mighty" Tony Stark and his vaunted Iron Man suit.  I'm hoping he'll finally stay down now, with his breathing problems and the techno-virus working him over so thoroughly, but I'm skeptical that will be the case.  By all appearances, Red Hulk is on deck for the fight next issue, and I'm sure Cable will reach deep down and think of Hope and suddenly have the ability to fight him.  I hope not, but that's what I fear will happen.

Artistically, there's been improvement, now that Cap isn't one of the focuses.  Iron Man appears comparatively slight to Cable, which is appropriate.  It looks like there'll be plenty of thick-fest next issue with Red Hulk, which is fine for that hero.  It just really bothered me with Cap.  Cable's facial expressions are also better in this one; there appears to be more emotion in his face and less emphasis on veins, wrinkles and scars.

Overall, I'm still none too impressed.  We're halfway through this, Red Hulk will be the fight in the next issue, and I'm sure Cable will find some way to beat him, too, despite his ridiculously deteriorating condition.  I'm just none too excited for what's coming next.  I'll continue to read, because I'm a completist, but at this point I'm not expecting things to get much better.  I hope I'm proven wrong.  Barely recommended, with serious reservations.

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