A + X 3

Alternating Currents: A + X 3, Drew and Shelby

Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing A + X 3, originally released December 19th, 2012.

Drew: Size can dictate a lot about a narrative, to the type of tone it can sustain to the very form it’s hung on. We currently seem to be in an era fetishizing ever longer dramatic narratives, hailing television shows with season-long arcs (or longer), and pouring out in droves to see stories broken into multiple epic-length films (coughTheHobbitcough). At the same time, Adult Swim has found success with very short-form comedies, and youtube clips of cats saying “no” have racked up millions of hits. It seems we’ve decided that very short stories are better at supporting comedy, while very long ones are better for drama. A + X, as a kind of clearing house for extremely short-form stories, has largely borne-out this notion, mining a series of absurd scenarios for their comedic potential. A + X 3 carries on this trend in its latter half, but opens with on much more serious (but still fun) note.

Black Panther + Storm

Drew: In the opening story, we find Black Panther experiencing some odd weather-related events, which he suspects may be the work of Storm, his ex-wife. This is all well and good when it’s helping him catch criminals, or allowing schoolchildren to go on their field trip, but when a parade of visiting princesses are rained on, he realizes Storm’s interference may not always be a happy thing. He rides out to meet her, and the two discuss their relationship (while taking down a few poachers). They realize they still care about each other, but can’t really make their relationship work.

It’s a surprisingly mature moment, but one that is also strangely specific. Seeing a couple end amicably is a lovely sentiment, but I’m just not sure the format of this title was really the place for it. One of the things that I’ve really loved about this title is the low cost of entry — we don’t need to understand Wolverine and Hulk’s history, we just need to know that they both want that cake — so the very notion of a cathartic character moment seems at cross purposes. I know essentially nothing about these characters, so when they talk about how much they used to fight, or obliquely refer to Namor’s attack on Warkanda, I’m left blinking dimly.

Ultimately, I’m not sure how vital that information is to understanding what’s going on here, but this is a very short timescale to get invested in their relationship. I can imagine the catharsis of seeing these two characters make peace and enjoy each other’s company again, but since I’ve literally only ever seen them making peace and enjoying each other’s company, it doesn’t exactly feel like progress.

Still, it’s a very sweet story, and one that is told with a striking visual style. Pasqual Ferry’s subtle expressions really sell that final exchange, but it’s Brian Reber’s striking colors that really steal the show.

Black Panther's Party

I first became familiar with Reber when he was the colorist for Batwing, and I remember finding his work to be beautifully evocative of the African plains. That magic works again here, though I can’t help but chuckle at the very specific pigeonhole I now place Reber in.

This wasn’t the most fun I’ve had with this series, but it certainly wasn’t as dumb as that Black Widow + Rogue story from issue 2. I don’t know, Shelby, did you feel any more emotionally invested in this story than I did?

Shelby: You’re right Drew, this is a very sweet story. I don’t know anything about Black Panther and Storm’s relationship, or even anything about Black Panther, but I’ve always liked Storm, so I like spending some quality time with her. While we we may not know the specifics of their situation, there’s enough exposition given for us to understand why their relationship didn’t work. And it may be a  fairly mature moment between these two, but I think the tone of the story is playful enough to work for this title. It’s just so charming to see these two people having this serious conversation about the status of their relationship while kicking wholesale ass; I love the inclusion of super-heroics in a chat that’s not all that unusual.

storm and black panther

I know this story wasn’t nearly as smash-em-up-fun as we’ve seen in other stories, but I just kind of liked it. Storm dousing the other princesses was cute, and her apologizing for it was just as cute. Honestly, it was just nice to see them work things out. It’s a cute little story with a nice, happy ending. I’d be bored reading it every month; hell, I’d probably be bored reading a full issue of it. For that, I think A+X is a good place for it. 

Hawkeye + Gambit

Shelby: Romance is in the air as Gambit takes in an open-air performance of The Tempest of all things, when suddenly the leading lady is snatched from the stage by… something.

something steals the show

The chick is hot, so Gambit leaps into action and gets a surprising assist from Hawkeye. Hawkeye also notices the girl’s hotness, and the two trash-talk each other while trying to take down Big Red. Neither are really doing the trick on their own, and finally Gambit takes the thing out with a stolen incendiary arrow. The actress gives Hawkeye her number (it was his arrow, after all), Gambit steals his wallet with the  number in it, the end.

I get what this story is supposed to be. We’ve got a couple of knights competing to save the damsel from the dragon and then give her “the night of her life,” as Clint so elegantly puts it. And I tried really hard to see a couple of guys who don’t like each other but begrudgingly respect each other playfully duke it out and save Princess Peach from Bowser before he whisks her off to another castle, I really did. In the end, though, all this story was to me was a couple bros trying to out-bro one another to impress the girl, and that is just not something I’m interested in. I’m not looking to turn this into an “omgSEXIST” rant, because I don’t think that’s the aim of the story. It’s way too dumb to be something like that. I guess it’s kind of funny that while Gambit and Clint were busy peacocking, the actress was looking for a little %^#$# help. And Gambit and Clint do make for a pretty funny team-up, especially when neither of them have the moves to back up their words without a little help from the other. Mostly, though, this just played out like a superhero version of the dudes I see macking on girls in Wrigleyville every weekend. You know what would have been comedy gold? If , when the monster was vanquished, the lady tried to give her number to the champion, and instead the two dudes decide to have a beer and start a bromance of their own. What do you think, Drew? Am I looking too much into this story, or am I maybe just really, really, really outside the realm of the intended audience for this?

Drew: You know, I don’t think you’re being too hard here. I was really enjoying this story until the last page mucked things up. Clint and Gambit’s “mine’s bigger than your’s” game could have been dumb but charming if the irate, objectified actress had chewed them out for their egotistical behavior — a little moral can go a long way — but instead, their totally reprehensible behavior is rewarded with attention from the very woman they were barely able to pay attention to moments ago.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more mad I am about this. The girl is treated as a total maguffin, which is inherently objectifying, but would be excusable in a little bon-mot such as this (she could have just as easily been a kid or a sack full of money, but the point was really to give these characters a reason to chase this monster). The issue is that James Asmus draws our attention to how little the characters care about the girl in having them distracted with their one-upmanship. Again, this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem in a short, frivolous story such as this, but its suggested that the only reason the heroes are helping is because the girl is attractive (replace the girl with the sack of money maguffin, and their personal interest rightly comes off as totally reprehensible), making them total skeezballs. I could accept that as maybe just who these characters are — I have relatively little familiarity with them, and I’m told Clint hasn’t always been such a great guy — a reading which explains their borderline discussion about the “hot actress.” But (and this is a BIG but) this doesn’t explain why the girl goes from being totally ignored to totally grateful. It’s probably because she isn’t very smart (what with the blond hair and the breasts and the uterus and all).

Barf.

The fact that their totally shitty behavior pays off in attention from this girl belies a pretty low opinion of women. After realizing this, I couldn’t help but view this passage in a biblical light.

It's "Adam and Eve," not "Avengers and Thieves"

 

This might be a stretch, but the girl is Eve, the monster is the serpent, and the fruit is the apple (which I’ve actually seen interpreted as a pomegranate, but I’ll accept “Indian apple,” as a reasonable alternative). That makes this sequence kind of a reverse-original-sin story, where Adam (here represented by both Hawkeye and Gambit [cause bros stick together when fighting the forces of evil and women, amirite?]) rejects the forbidden fruit, sending Eve and the devil packing. This manages to turn the story of Adam and Eve into even more of a misogynist fantasy, which, you’ve got to hand it to Asmus, is kind of a feat.

That’s not my most compelling unlikely reading, so I’m sure I’ll hear about how strained it is in the comments, but it only occurred to me after I had already realized how poorly women are portrayed in this story. That I then found more stuff to complain about might just be a coincidence, but I blame this story for starting it. At any rate, this story only makes me madder the more I think about it, so I’ll quit before I start with any of my really crazy theories.

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?

9 comments on “A + X 3

  1. I think using the pomegranate as weapon of choice is weird enough to warrant unlikely readings. What kind of fruit vendor sells pomegranates on the street? Maybe it’s the story of Persephone as told from Hades perspective; they’re saving her from a monster, not tricking a girl into a date. Also, does Gambit really think she’ll go on a date with him? If I give a guy my number and get a call from his very obviously Cajun friend, I’m gonna call shenanigans and write them both off as assholes.

    • I always wonder about that. There are a few Seinfeld episodes that revolve around getting a girl’s number from someone who isn’t the girl. I can’t imagine cold-calling someone for a date.

      • I think it’s an out-dated concept now. Even either of them really wanted to get to know the girl and/or ask her out, they could look up her name in the playbill (of the fucking play that she is in before, during and after this issue takes place), and then look her up on facebook or twitter instagram or just stick around and talk to her afterwards. Honestly, who calls someone anymore?

  2. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why they’d be at The Tempest. I understand that not every choice needs to have meta-textual significance or even thematic relevance, but surely there’s a more appropriate play for the first couple panels of this issue. Any time you drop Tempest into a work of fiction, you automatically evoke a handful of concepts: endings, magic, the writer inserting himself into the work, even the concept of theatrical performance. The Gambit and Hawkguy story wouldn’t have the first fucking clue what to do with those themes.

    • Again, though, it’s such a weirdly specific choice that one assumes THERE MUST be some deeper reason for it. They could have easily just been at generic Shakespeare in the park, that would have been perfectly appropriate to set the scene.

    • I’d argue that it’s weird to introduce any text into a narrative without reference to its themes or ideas. I get that they wanted to imply Shakespeare in the Park, but with so many plays to choose from, they could have at least chosen one that was more tonally appropriate. Come to think of it, a three-hour play with day-long lines for tickets seems like an unlikely place for someone to meet their fence. Since the fact that she’s an actress doesn’t come into play AT ALL (besides, you know, putting her in a damsel-in-distress gown), their meeting could have just as easily happened in a coffee shop.

      • You know, that’s probably it. They needed an (unnamed!) female character to be rescued while barefoot and in a princess dress, so Shakespeare in the park it is! Probably went with Tempest because it’s not Romeo and Juliet or Midsummer’s Night Dream, but still something most people will recognize as Shakespearean.

  3. Pingback: A + X 4 | Retcon Punch

  4. I just bought this issue last weekend, and I liked both stories. =D

    I know more about Storm than I do Black Panther, but it was still enjoyable. All you had to know was that they were married and now, for whatever reason, they’re not. Pretty straightforward.

    I don’t know much outside of what I’ve read online about Hawkeye, but Gambit is my favorite Marvel character. He’s gotten some weird and badly devised storylines over the years (and his on-and-off relationship with Rogue has become a love/hate relationship for some fans)… I tend to chalk it up to writers being unsure of what to do with him. The fallback, “safe” way to approach him is to have the charming Cajun flirt and banter while performing acrobatics and blowing stuff up. From what I know of Hawkeye, the basic approach to him is kinda similar. I don’t like static exaggerated characters, but this issue is meant to be a bit of fun. I would have preferred the girl turning them both down, yes — esp considering her few lines to them — but I think the phone number was just an excuse for the ending joke of Gambit stealing Hawkeye’s wallet. Y’know, they shake hands and make peace, but then one of them has to go and ruin it… That sort of thing. Just because one of them calls her, doesn’t mean that she agrees to go out with them or that it’s her real number. =P

    I’ve never thought of either man as a misogynist or a womanizer. Heck, part of me is waiting for Gambit to be confirmed as bi or pansexual (or “omnisexual” — he’s basically the Captain Jack Harkness of the Marvel universe XD). He’s not one for serious heart-to-heart discussions about his life (b/c of his often sketchy backstory), so he’ll crack jokes and bat his eyelashes to cut the tension and change the topic. He’ll use the same tactic while fighting enemies, but it doesn’t mean that he’s superficial about any innocent (and not-so-innocent) people involved or that he’s not trying his best.

    Btw, Hawkeye’s quip about Gambit not being a “good guy” alludes to his fluctuating membership in the X-Men and his current status as an internationally wanted thief (which is what’s happening in his current solo series, also written by Asmus).

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