A + X 4

a+x 4

Today, Scott and Drew are discussing A + X 4, originally released January 23th, 2013.

Scott: A + X makes me feel like a kid again, playing with my action figures after school. I would create worlds where Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Wars heroes could coexist, Han Solo and Donatello teaming up to defeat… well, something, I’m sure. It was never really the end result that interested me, but rather the excitement of combining these two things that I loved individually. What it created was an especially fleeting sort of fun, where the initial idea was the best part and it grew harder to sustain the longer it went on. I feel the same way about A +X, which is why splitting the issue into two stories is such a good idea — the novelty wears off much less over just ten pages. A + X 4 pairs Avengers and X-Men characters who compliment each other in interesting ways: first, two who have a lot in common, then two who could hardly be more different.

Beast + Spider-Man

Scott: The beginning of the issue finds Beast and Spider-Man play-fighting when they suddenly realize they’ve traveled into the future, which is filled with zombies. They appear to be cornered, but are rescued by a bunch of Beast-looking troopers who seem to recognize Beast as their god, or “McCoy”. They take Beast to Talia, their Queen, who explains that Beast was responsible for leading the revolution that turned all of mankind into zombies while appointing beasts the dominant species, and that she arranged for Beast’s visit so the two of them could mate. Meanwhile, Spider-Man is taken to a large stadium, where he is to do battle with an especially large beast as punishment for all of the wrongdoings of humans throughout time. Beast spurns Talia and rushes to Spidey’s aid, and they utilize their mutual love of physics to defeat the giant beast. An enraged Talia then banishes them from this terrifying future that they never wanted any part of anyway.

Beast and Spider-Man seem like an obvious pair, a couple of nerdy scientists whose mutual intellects could make for all sorts of interesting conversations. Of course, it’s easier to just have them fighting for no reason, which is what writer Kaare Andrews opts for to open the issue. Their nerdiness does come into play, however, as they spend too long debating how to properly classify the biological status of zombies when they should really be focused on running away from zombies. Later, their understanding — and detailed explanation — of centripetal force allows them to put the beat down on the giant beast.

They look about the same size in this panel

I’m glad this aspect of the characters was played up. It’s fun to see two characters so excited about a scientific concept, but it’s also nice that some thought went into pairing two characters with similar interests.

There’s one thing about this story that I just can’t seem to reconcile. Most pop-cultural representations of the future depict it as dystopian in some way, but this one had an especially grim outlook for mankind. The fact that our downfall was the result of a revolution lead by Beast is even more alarming, and hardly addressed. Beast is eventually going to kill all humans and turn them into zombies to torture them for eternity? Why are neither Beast nor Spider-Man concerned by this? I was able to laugh off most of the absurdity of this issue, like the fact that they were so quick to accept the idea that they had just unwittingly traveled through time, but this seemed a little heavy to me. What did you think Drew?

Drew: Heavy is right. Andrews makes light of the notion, suggesting that Beast eventually just gets fed up because people are rude.

Where do either of these characters keep their money?

That panel pretty succinctly captures the irreverent tone of this story (I’m particularly fond of the ice-cream. It actually reminds me of Deadpool, which coincidentally also features a lot of quipping around undead antagonists. It’s so similar, in fact, that I can’t help but wonder if Andrews really wanted to write a Beast/Deadpool team-up, but that wouldn’t really have fit the A + X format. I’m used to Peter being used as comic relief, but he’s usually the one making the jokes. Here, he’s often the butt of visual jokes, making him feel more goofy than clever. The result is a very jarring shift when he suddenly becomes a competent physicist.

That problem of voice extends equally to Beast, whose made to sound smart at the expense of sounding like a real person. His first line “It appears we are engaged in mutual acts of violence…” doesn’t convey intelligence so much as a hoity-toity attitude and an apparent unfamiliarity with the word “fighting.” Almost all of his lines feature that same verbosity-posing-as-vocabulary, and almost all of those lines suffer for it.

My complaints aside, this story was goofy fun, which I think is exactly what it was aspiring to. I have no idea how they got to the future (or back), but it doesn’t really matter. It was weird, now have some ice-cream.

Captain America + Quentin Quire

Drew: Like Scott mentioned, the pairing of Captain America and Quentin Quire isn’t exactly the most intuitive. In general that’s not really a problem for this series — as we’ve seen, they’re very willing to try increasingly weird combinations with little in the way of explanation — but the thought of Cap recruiting Quentin as psychic security seems particularly thin. In part because Quentin is so resistant to the whole thing, and partially because Cap quickly demonstrates that his mental defenses are essentially impermeable. In fact, when Cap finally does call help, Quentin remarks that it seems a little too convenient that they would run into the one thing he would be needed for.

For a series that is mostly aspiring to the fun of the action-figure pairing Scott used to enjoy so much, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, but writer Jason Latour is actually counting on something smelling off. It turns out, the whole plan is a ruse to help Cap open up to the young mutants. By letting Quentin into his mind, Cap reveals his residual self image, demystifying himself a bit, and gives Quentin a space to embrace Caps symbology unironically.

That last point may not sound totally earned, but Latour establishes early on that it’s Quentin’s sense of irony that makes his interactions with Cap so difficult. Quentin is annoyingly ironic, his t-shirts changing nerdy slogans every few panels (my favorite has to be “Magneto: how’s he work?”), and referring to Cap as “too ironic-mustache, even for me.” Of course, Cap new what he was getting into.

Logan and Steve

Penciler David Lopez handles the metaphysical nature of this story with aplomb, but this is easily my favorite panel. This is the only image we see of this exchange, but it tells us everything we need to know — even if we had somehow never met these characters. Look at Logan’s five-and-a-half empty beer glasses next to Steve’s one empty coke bottle, look at their clothes, heck, Lopez even manages to cram an American flag behind Steve. Most importantly, Logan is relaxed, he’s comfortable, he’s familiar, which relates directly to what he’s saying about his relationship to the kids. Is it any wonder closed, uncomfortable Steve is having trouble opening up? This is a brilliantly staged, brilliantly acted scene, even if it only lasts the one panel.

I was really surprised at how clever this issue was, but I didn’t really know what to expect. What did you think, Scott? Did this story find you loving Cap unironically, too?

Scott: I don’t really know what’s ironic and what’s unironic anymore, but I enjoyed seeing this side of Cap. I associate Captain America with a certain innocence or moral purity that makes him seem rather one dimensional, so it’s a nice surprise to see him hatch a plan like this and carry it out so deftly. Even if he is essentially just using Quentin, he manages to come off as much more likable just by virtue of doing something bold — something someone like Quentin might actually appreciate once he stops feeling embarrassed.

While I noted earlier that Cap and Quentin were a less obvious pairing than Beast and Spidey, I didn’t mean it as a negative thing. In fact, I think the incongruity of their skillsets and, especially, their mindsets, is what ultimately makes this the better half of the issue. But are they really so different? I think we’re meant to assume that Captain America tries to maintain a particular image while Quentin couldn’t care less about what people think of him. In reality, Quentin’s persona is a carefully crafted reaction to Cap’s, with his pink mohawk and square-framed glasses serving as the equivalent of the winged helmet and shield. He proves to be the one whose truly worried about protecting his image, although he is in high school, where such such concerns are justly amplified.
Highschool is such a freak show
Is it just me, or is it weird that being semi-transparent would make you exempt from the dress-code?

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 Comixology and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

7 comments on “A + X 4

  1. Scott’s intro really nails the big box-o-toys feel of this series. You always get the sense that the writers are having fun just mashing these characters together, and the aggressively low-stakes nature of the series makes it a great place to do so. The stories aren’t always great, but they’re over too quickly to get too bad, and there’s always a second one to wash out any lingering aftertaste.

  2. Did you guys catch that we got our first little glimpse of continuity in the second story? Present-day-Cap in investigating the something related to the same kind of Nazi Sentinels he, Bucky and Cable took out in the first part of issue #1. We’ve also seen an awful lot of time-travel in these books (maybe that’s just something the Marvel bosses love), so I wonder if any of that will play into the future of this series.

    They go through such specific lengths in the intro page to say that this is stand-alone, fluffy fun-time. Why don’t I totally trust that?

    • Oh, I totally trust that none of this matters. These feel like the shorts from DC Nation, more an excuse to tell goofy stories than craft any kind of continuity. The intro page to this issue points out that both the Spider-Man and Beast that appear in this issue aren’t exactly the ones running around the current continuity. I tend to take a “none of it matters” approach to continuity, anyway, but this series in particular seems to really revel in the idea that these are especially imaginary.

  3. By far the highlight of this issue was Quentin Quire’s t-shirts. Very funny.

    I didn’t particularly care for either story, but I appreciated them for their self-contained comic fun. I think that’s missing from comics these days – Most of the time, if you know something about the hero, you should be able to pick up a comic and read it and get what is a full story. I sometimes feel that comics are now written to fill a graphic novel and they need a story arc to do it rather than accepting that it’s ok to have a completely episodic nature.

    But this was ok. Didn’t love the art, didn’t love the stories, didn’t like the price, but I like what they’re trying to do.

  4. Pingback: A + X 5 | Retcon Punch

  5. Pingback: All-New X-Men 10 | Retcon Punch

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