Today, Shelby and (guest writer) James D’Amato are discussing A + X 2, originally released November 28th, 2012.
Shelby: I like fluff. Sure, it’s fun to read something that is very intelligently written and cleverly drawn, and analyze the holy hell out of it. Turns out, that’s kind of our bread and butter here at Retcon Punch. But for every Fight Club, there’s a Zoolander: a vacuous, fluffy bit of nothing that is just dumb fun. A+X is just that fluffy bit of nothing; it pairs up Avengers with X-Men, with no regards to continuity, logic, etc. The whole point of the title is to watch a couple of superheroes kick the crap out of some bad guys, and I don’t have any problems with that at all. The two stories in this issue are a great demonstration of the fact that just because I’m looking for some dumb fun doesn’t mean I want to have my intelligence insulted; there is, after all, such a thing as too dumb.
Before we get going, I want to introduce my friend James, who you all may know better as The Joker from my LCS Halloween Party. Since this is one of the very few times in Retcon Punch history both writers are in the same room (at the same table, even!), we’re going to do things a little differently. Instead of writing a lead and response for each story, we’re just going to have a little chat about it, and record it here for all you fine, fine readers. Hopefully it won’t be a train-wreck!
Black Widow + Rogue
Shelby: The issue opens on Black Widow’s day off. She’s getting her nails did and talking about how much she loves her new car, when it gets smashed to bits by a rogue Sentinel. She suits up and goes to work, getting her hand broken for her troubles, when Rogue shows up to help. They fight a bit and the Sentinel gets away; apparently it has some sort of terrible device strapped to it, so it needs to be extra stopped. BW plans to use her sniper skills to shoot it down, but her hand is too messed up, so she kisses Rogue to transfer her powers so she can take the shot instead. They save the day, and end up going on a lady date for mani/pedis.
Shelby: So, we can both agree that this first story was stupid, right?
James: TOTALLY STUPID. And not fun stupid like a Nicolas Cage movie marathon with your buddies. Stupid stupid like watching Nicolas Cage movies alone.
Shelby: Agreed. I was on board for most of it; Black Widow getting her nails did, being pissed her car got smashed, running into Rogue and the adoring nerds, that’s all fine.
But the kiss.
Oh, the kiss.
James: Right from the first panel you can tell that this comic is going to feature female characters written by male writers who have NO IDEA how to write women. It starts off with our main girl Natalia (Black Widow) getting a mani/pedi CAUSE THAT’S WHAT LADIES DO RIGHT!?
Shelby: It seems more like a spa day, with the robe and whatnot, but right: a lady thing.
James: Thankfully it is not to long before a Sentinel blows up her spa, otherwise I would have learned what a spa day is supposed to look like.
Shelby: It was the point when Chris Bachalo decided that the only way for Black Widow to transfer her powers to Rogue for the kill shot is by kissing her that this title went from dumb fun to fucking dumb. Correct me if I’m wrong, but all Rogue has to do is touch someone to get their powers, right? A simple handshake would have sufficed. And “Wow, good kisser”? Come on, that’s just fan-service.
James: And not even good fan-service! That panel is like two inches big. If you are going to have two well known characters kiss for the amusement of the male gaze you could at least throw it in a splash page. I’ve seen better fan-service moments in episodes of My Little Pony (Rarity/Applejack 4evah!).
Shelby: Right? If that’s the route you’re going to take, then go all out; get their clothes all torn up in the explosion, make it worth it! This is just half-assed.
The rest of the story was mostly meh, I probably wouldn’t have had much of anything to say about it if not for that one tiny panel.
James: When something is this bad I get real nit-picky. Apart from the crazy anti-feminist sex-toy portrayal of our heroines, my biggest complaint is how they act when the meet. Black Widow is all “oh an X-Man,” which is exactly how my mom would have phrased it. “You must be one of those X-fellows I have heard so much about…” Weren’t the X-Men incredibly dangerous enemies of state like five minutes ago!? As a super-spy Black Widow should have at least passing familiarity with all of the people who are considered threats to the nation. Otherwise you could end up shooting at the wrong spandex body suit.
Shelby: Heaven forbid. It’s kind of a failing of the whole title, though; it’s hard to come up with a non-awkward way for these two groups to come together. There are certainly better ways to handle it, I would agree.
James: Yup. This premise is super dumb. I would have much preferred Nick Fury, Wolverine, and Cyclops calling the Avengers and the X-Mans together and saying “We are all totally going to be buds again now. To facilitate that Black Widow and Rouge are on spa duty.” One thing I will say for this comic is I do like some of what’s happening with the art. Everyone is pretty goddamned cute. And I believe Widow’s bust size which I believe is a fully unique experience in my history with Marvel Comics.
Shelby: Yeah, the character design falls in line with the sort of chibi, Amanda Conner cuteness, and everyone knows how much I love Amanda Conner’s style. But while I liked the character work, I thought the battle scenes were a little muddy and hard to follow; I had to go back and re-read to see that Black Widow had hurt her hand in the first place.
Really, what I want this story to be is those two trying to go on a lady date, and getting interrupted by monsters and robots, etc.
James: Heck yeah! For me this story ended exactly where it should have begun, with Rouge and Widow dropping their phones into the water and starting their super sweet lady day.
Shelby: Just the idea makes me smile.
James: Also what the hell is up with that ring tone? Black Widow does not have that ringtone.
Shelby: What, your ringtone isn’t some sort of little girl singing “OMG, you have a text!”? Must be a girl thing.
Iron Man + Kitty Pryde
Shelby: Kitty Pryde and Lockheed are getting a tour of Resilient from Pepper Potts. Kitty is impressed by everything she sees, despite a sudden case of allergies. Tony Stark shows up with the real reason for the invite: he wants Kitty to come work for him. He continues to give her the tour, which includes a bunch of the Iron Man suits and culminates in a collection of Pym particles. Kitty, unfortunately, sneezes on the display, and suddenly a bunch of alien Brood warriors show up? Because Kitty was infested with them, and a few of them took refuge in her nasal cavities, and oh yeah they mimicked her phasing power so now they can go anywhere? Tony suits up, and gets knocked through a few walls for his trouble. Kitty, being the clever girl she is, tricks the Brood into donning the extra suits; she phases through them all, which shorts out the electrics and knocks the aliens out cold. Tony is impressed with her ingenuity, but decides that Iron Man probably doesn’t need someone around who can interfere with electronic systems on a whim, so he respectfully withdraws his job offer, and she respectfully accepts.
Enough of that, let’s talk about the story we liked!
James: Yeah! Despite my feminist/nerd-rage at the first story I would actually recommend peeps go out and buy this book! It’s all because of the second story.
Again the first page pretty much tells us everything we need know. These are smart, competent, and tastefully dressed people who have real experiences.
And dragons. One has a dragon.
Shelby: Tastefully dressed, indeed; Mike del Mundo’s art is astonishing. I adore the lanky, angular forms and graceful lines. It’s so stylized and unique.
James: Graceful says it all. Essentially we are looking in on the beginning of a pretty mundane event. Super-science talent scouts making a pitch. Ok, maybe not THAT mundane. But every one looks friggin’ elegant. It is like seeing the sketches from a fashion designer’s notebook come to life. I want to live in your flowing water-colored world Mike Del Mundo.
Shelby: Amen to that. The story is the exact right amount of comic book weirdness; Kitty’s dismissive explanation of being impregnated by aliens is pretty much perfect. We know enough to understand the situation; moreover, we know that it’s weird enough that it’s best to just accept it and not ask questions. Very cheeky, Mr. Davio.
James: The humor is spot on. The clearly Robert Downey Jr. inspired Tony Stark is charming and flirty in a way that gives you a really good sense of the character but not so much that he outshines Kitty.
Shelby: Exactly. Even Pepper’s personality shines through in her brief stage time.
James: I loved her snark face when she is rolling her eyes at Tony! Also when Lockheed ate that watermelon I literally shouted in excitement alone in my apartment.
Shelby: Why, because it was adorable and hilarious?
James: His satisfied smug expression was how I felt after reading this comic. IT WAS A DELICIOUS WATERMELON OF ART.
Shelby: I GROW FAT WITH SATISFACTION.
But seriously, this story is exactly what this title should be. The plot is simple, to the point, and fun. The characters are developed just enough that we get a sense of their unique voices. Honestly, I would read The Adventures of Kitty Pryde and Iron Man on a monthly basis.
James: I would pay $4.99 for it.
Shelby: You hear that, Marvel? We want to give you money!
James: So much praise and we have not even gotten to the action sequences! The alien invaders look so neat.
Shelby: Especially once they put on the Iron Man suits; something about seeing their bug-like heads popping out of those suits makes me chuckle.
James: And when they are not in armor they actually look kind of scary and dangerous. Kudos again to Del Mundo for making them look other worldly and expressive enough to play humor and action roles.
And kudos to Peter David for thinking of that way to show off Kitty’s powers. And kudos to Clayton Cowles because I’m sure lettering is also difficult.
Shelby: There is some neat stuff with lettering, actually; the Brood’s word bubbles look … scary, I guess is the best way to say it, and I love how Tony Stark and Iron Man have different styles of lettering.
Basically, we love everything about this story.
James: Go spend your money.
James D’Amato is a comedian who lives in Chicago. His podcast is called The Overshare, which can be found at www.facebook.com/theovershare. He is also working on another podcast called Quicksilver Radio Theater, which will turn old comics into radio plays; it can be found nowhere because it doesn’t exist yet. He is also a disappointment to his mother.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?