A + X 7

a+x 7

Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing A + X 7, originally released April 24th, 2013.

Spencer: We live in an era of comics where six-month storylines are the norm and accusations of decompressed storytelling abound. Some stories are worth the space, but others just feel like they’re grasping for ways to fill out a trade paperback. Regardless, I’ve found myself greatly appreciating shorter storylines as a result, and as a writer who often struggles in vain to be concise, I admire a creative team that can fit a complete story into a small amount of space and not have it feel lacking. This month’s A+X not only tells two such stories, it even manages to throw in a twist ending; color me impressed!

Iron Man + The Beast

Spencer: Iron Man and the Beast have both been called in by S.H.I.E.L.D. to work on countermeasures in case their newest agent, the Hulk, were to go rogue, and neither hero seems all that thrilled to be working together. Things go south quickly as a malicious virus infects one of the countermeasures—a massive suit of armor—and neither Hank nor Tony can shut it down. They fare no better at fighting the armor, but fortunately, the Hulk shows up to save their hides. As the embarrassed heroes leave, Bruce Banner reveals his role in this whole incident:

Don't let Reed Richards hear you say that, Bruce

It must be hard to set up a twist ending in such a short story, but writer Zeb Wells pulls it off without making it feel forced. It also ties into Tony and Bruce’s conflict back in Indestructible Hulk, and for a book that (aggressively) promotes itself as continuity free, I was impressed by the handling of this: readers of Indestructible Hulk are going to catch how this story fits into it right away, but readers who aren’t familiar with that book aren’t going to miss a beat. I wish more stories could handle continuity that way.

Of course, not everything in this issue is pulled off perfectly. Iron Man and Beast are taken out by the armor so quickly that it makes them look like chumps; I realize this is probably due to the page limits, but still, I wish we could have seen them at least fight back. Also, despite the call-back later on, the scene where Beast calls Tony “dude” still bothers me; it’s so out of character that it took me right out of the story, and the joke it was leading up to came too late to fix that. Still, this story is so funny that I can overlook most of its flaws. The game of one-upmanship between Tony and Hank is an inspired comedic engine, ensuring that the insults never stop coming, and almost all of them hit their mark. It’s rare to see a character who can keep up with Tony Stark’s particular style of wit, but Hank McKoy is quite game, and I’d love to see their pseudo-rivalry explored more in the future.

So Taylor, were you as entertained by this story as I was? Any thoughts on the art? And did Beast’s “dude” bother you as well, or am I just being too nitpicky?

Taylor: Beast using the word “dude” did bother me quite a bit actually. Aside from being blue, the trait that Beast is most known for is his smarts. It’s always been an interesting and analytic part of his character that Beast, despite his name and appearance, is actually quite literate and intelligent. The message that things aren’t always what they seem and that you can’t judge a person by how they look has always been a central aspect of the Beast lore, just as swagger and bravado are part of Tony Stark’s. So when I read the “dude” coming from Beast’s lips, I was a little taken aback. While the tone of this story is jocular in manner, that doesn’t excuse something so out of character happening to beast. Why not use synonym for dude, like “fop,” “macaroni,” or “toff” instead? Even though I didn’t like this one aspect of the story, it’s not enough to dissuade me from enjoying this story. You’re right on the money, Spencer, with your appreciation of the back and forth between Beast and Tony. Their personalities are so opposing it would be hard to imagine a story where having them together wouldn’t be entertaining.

Thor + Iceman

Taylor: Thor and Iceman are hanging out battling giant Frost-Giants – you know, like everyone does on their day off. While Iceman is busy cracking jokes, Thor does what Thor does and he tries to smash the Frost Giants into smithereens. Little does he know, they are being led by Ymir, who once again is promising to cover the Earth in ice and snow and eternal winter. To help him in his cause, Ymir has recreated THE CASKET OF FUTURE WINTERS, which, oddly enough, is not the latest album from some bleeding heart emo band. Thor is powerless against Ymir and his casket so Iceman decides to jump into the action. Turns out, he is being fed power by the casket, since you know, he’s made of ice. Anyway, he defeats Ymir and also wins the day by finally getting Thor to laugh at one of his jokes.

Similar to the episode that proceeded it, this adventure is light and full of humor. This type of tone seems appropriate for these little vignettes and I was pleased to see the mood stay consistent between the two art teams who made up this issue. In particular, I feel like Christopher Yost did a nice job of establishing a funny relationship between Thor and Iceman just as Zeb Wells did with Iron Man and Beast. While Thor and Iceman aren’t as natural a pair as the other pair, they do work well together as characters. I think the reason for this is that Thor has always been a little dense; kind of like the lovable but stupid meat-head we’ve all known in our lives. Iceman, on the other hand, is the wise-ass who knows he’s smarter than his compatriot, but nonetheless enjoys his company, perhaps for the very fact he can assert his intellectual prowess. Because of this set-up we get some funny scenes where Iceman questions exactly how Thor’s hammer works and where Thor finally gets a joke, way after the fact.

The Ice Man ComethAlso hey, look at that art. It’s pretty unique right? While I’m intrigued by the techniques of Orpahns Creeps (is it computer generated or hand drawn?) I’m not sure if I’m totally in support of it. I like the visual style quite a bit, maybe because it reminds me of Reboot, and it’s a new way of doing things, which I always support. However, overall I felt the color scheme was a little to dark and grey and sometimes the action was hard to follow.

What do you think, Spencer? If this art fun or not? Also what do you think of Iceman and Thor being buddies? Seems like they are polar opposites right?

Spencer: I do think the art is fun—partially due to the novelty factor alone—but you took the words out of my mouth about the color scheme and action. The only bright colors are Thor and his lightning, and both are muted far more than normal; at times it’s hard to tell Mjolnir’s lightning from Iceman’s beams of ice. The colors are all just too similar, making the images start to blend together; Iceman in particular shares an identical colorscheme with the Frost Giants, making them hard to tell apart, especially if Thor isn’t in the panel. Also, when we finally get our first real (unobscured) glimpse of Ymir, he looks more like a collectible statuette than a genuine character or threat.

Only $49.95 at your LCS!

Still, this style of art does seem capable of some impressive feats. Thor’s design is lively and appropriately square-jawed, and for whatever issues the backgrounds and colors have with being too monotone, they are able to set a mood like nobody’s business. Just look at the grand scale Orphans Cheeps infuses into the Frost Giant reveal.

Giants in the Mist

I wouldn’t mind seeing more work from this art team in the future; I just hope they get a story more suited to their particular style next time.

As for Thor and Iceman, they are polar opposites in a lot of ways, but what makes them work is that they have more in common than they realize. Thor, for example, isn’t humorless; as evidenced by the end of the story, Thor loves to laugh, and we know he enjoys a good celebration. Thor’s problems with Iceman’s jokes were in part because he didn’t understand the curious Midgardian references, and mostly because he thought it was an inappropriate time to joke.

At least in this story, Iceman seems to agree with Thor, but he wasn’t joking because he underestimated the situation; he joked because he knew he had everything under control. In that battle Iceman shows a level of strength he rarely has access to, and I can’t help but to imagine that Thor was impressed by Iceman’s newfound prowess.

So while I don’t necessarily see Thor and Iceman becoming BFFs, I can totally believe that they’ll go out every once in a while for beers and Frost Giant bashing–and to see how long it takes for Bobby to crack up Thor. Their interactions are especially interesting in contrast to the issue’s first story, where, despite their differences, Iron Man and Beast are just too much alike to truly get along.

Hey A+X! I thought this book was supposed to be fluff! You didn’t prepare me for the amount of content packed into these short stories! I’ll say it again: Color me impressed.

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?

9 comments on “A + X 7

  1. That was an awful lot of talk about Beast calling someone “dude.” Here’s a little more:

    I actually don’t see it as that far outside of Beasts’ character. Remember, he works at a school and converses with children all the time. Beast has a weird habit of not interacting with his intellectual peers all that often, favoring the company of mutants, even if they aren’t as smart and articulate as he is. I mean, there are other rules of Tony’s world that he’s ignoring here – look how he’s only wearing a pair of shorts and not like a lab coat or something.

    • Also, Beast is an X – Man whose characterization drastically and repeatedly changed in the last years (basically, each X – writer portrayed him in a completely different way from the others), so at present it’s difficult to say “Beast would never do or say that.”
      Actually, I don’t like when a character changes his/her attitude so heavily during the years. For example, the Punisher is a natural born killer, and he must go on being like that. If he started sparing the life of his enemies, he would lose his most defining and unique detail: his absolute ruthlessness.
      This is the main reason why I hated Green Arrow’s rejuvenation due to the reboot. His distinguishing mark was his maturity: now he’s just a young hero like (almost) everyone else, from Spider Man to Superboy. I understand they had to link the comic book to the upcoming tv series, but they could have done that in a far smarter way: for example, they could have created a comic series narrating his early days as Green Arrow, as Marvel did with “X – Men: First Class.”
      When you reboot a character, you can change everything but his spirit: DC didn’t follow this simple but essential rule, so they haven’t been faithful both to their tradition and to their public.
      Luckily Lemire is fixing up this mess in a brilliant way. I’m so thankful to him for making Green Arrow great once again. But I’m going off the point, so I’d better end my comment here.

    • I didn’t think the “dude” was weird because he’s a scientist and scientists in particular don’t say dude, but because Beast in particular doesn’t usually talk like that. Beast talks in giant, complicated five dollar words with almost no slang. For all its terrible, terrible faults, “X-Men 3” got something right when it envisioned Kelsey Grammar as Beast. When I read Beast’s dialogue I hear it in a very “Frasier-esque” voice, and I just cannot imagine Frasier ever saying dude (at least unironically).

      I love your theory about Beast working in a schol though, Patrick. While Beast usually doesn’t talk down to the students, I can imagine him maybe trying to use some younger slang if he was having a heart-to-heart with one of the kids. That would be an acceptable use of the term to me. But this issue acted like he let the word slip, like maybe he purposely tries not to talk that way but secretly does sometimes, but that feels wrong to me.

      It also doesn’t help that Beast was off panel when he said it, and I had to spend a few moments trying to figure out if it was actually him speaking or not.

      • And yes, this is pretty much the definition of a silly nerd argument, but at least were all civil about it here haha

    • When I was student teaching my students said “scurse me” (no typo) all the time and various other things that I doubt I’ll ever work in my vocabulary, so I don’t bite on the school bit. Also, part of the thing is that in the popular perception of him, Beast is almost always like a middle-aged guy. Sure there have been different versions of him, but the perception of him being in his late 30s and 40s is the one most people seem comfortable with . Now, the word “dude”, for the most part, is pretty much associated with the young and the burnt out, neither of which Beast fits neatly into. So I think that’s part of the reason why his use of the word really is kind of odd.

  2. So I had originally wanted to talk about the art in the Iron Man and Beast segment, but I ran out of room, and everything else I wanted to say seemed so much more interesting. But if I could sum up that artwork in one word, it’d be “competent”, which is probably why neither Taylor or myself felt compelled to mention it. There were a few wonky aspects here or there, but not enough to really ruin the art, and similarly, nothing really stood out enough to make anything pop.

    Except one page. I loved that splash page when Hulk comes crashing in, flattening the armor. It was a great Hulk entrance, and I think the artist drew a particuarily nice-looking Hulk. He was even colored a little differently than everything else in the story. It popped. I just wish more of the art in that story did.

    • Yeah, I kind of dropped the ball on talking about the art in the Beast/Iron Man segment. It’s nothing flashy but it gets the job done. I felt like the coloring in this portion was done quite well, however, so a shout out should go to Norman Lee for his work. Especially, I like the effect on Beast’s eyes. The soft orange glow of his eyes makes this depiction of him so much cooler. Oh, and he still wouldn’t say “dude.”

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