Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing A + X 9, originally released June 19th, 2013.
Shelby: I grew up watching TGIF on ABC every Friday night. Full House, Family Matters, Step by Step, Boy Meets World, the Peterson household was all over it. So too I am quite familiar with the family sitcom format that delivers a bite-sized portion of morals every episode. I gobbled that up as a kid, but now the 20-minutes-from-conflict-to-lesson-learned setup generally isn’t enough for me. I want more complexity in my story-telling. That lighter fare can still certainly be fun, but lay on the morals to thick, and it becomes a lesson you’re trying to force down my throat instead of fun and mindless entertainment. A+X usually falls on the “fun and mindless” end of the spectrum, but this issues seems to be trying to teach me a lesson, and it’s bogging things down.
Captain America + Wolverine
Shelby: Cap and Logan are… somewhere.
Doctor Strange was trying to rescue a shaman friend before the militia killed everyone in town, but all our hulking heroes find is dead militiamen, townsfolk, and giant snakes and ants who try to kill them. A fight ensues until Doctor Strange summons them to a cave, where they find a chimp wielding the shaman’s stick. Short story shorter, the shaman died, the chimp found the stick, and tried to use jungle power to drive the militia away but actually ended up killing everyone. The End!
This story was weird, I think Nathan Edmondson was trying to do too much. If this were just a tale of Cap being super good and Logan rolling his eyes at Cap as they battle giant creatures inadvertently summoned by a chimp, I would have enjoyed the heck out of it. That’s exactly the kind of straight-up nonsense I expect from this title. Instead, Cap bemoans killing creatures that mean them no harm, that all life deserves respect, while Logan says it’s kill or be killed. Then Strange comes in, and it turns into something that’s part power of the jungle, part all humans are destructive whether we mean to be or not. It’s not terrible, per se, but it’s all laid on pretty thick. The heavy-handed application of these various lessons to be learned left me wishing for something a little more light-hearted.
Taylor: The morality that Edmondson is imposing on us in this issue is a little thick. Normally I’m alright with authors telling people how to behave since I think humans act kind of shitty most of the time and need a little guidance. However, there needs to be some subtlety to the process. Did we ever really listen to our parents when they yelled at us about being bad? Probably not. More likely we learned how to behave through thousands of subtle cues and situations. In the same way, stories that hit us over the head with moral messages aren’t all that effective in comics and are best left to sitcoms and religious texts.
I guess what also bothers me about this issue is that the voice of morality is coming from Captain America. While Cap is certainly a stand up guy, this whole idea of not killing any creature, no matter how small, seems a little untrue to his character. This isn’t to say that Cap is a heartless bastard, but when did he become so granola? I understand his reluctance to kill other humans (or things that talk) but his stance of “kill no ant” strikes hollow coming from a guy who regularly beats people to a pulp with his shield. Oh, and remember how he just decapitated a snake with that thing? Does he really have the moral highground in his debate with Wolverine?
And that’s why this story has a few issues. It tries so hard to present a moral message that will impact its readers yet this message is consistently undercut by the actions of our protagonists. This isn’t to say it wasn’t weird and fun. I mean there was that monkey with a magic staff. But this issue probably would have been better if it had left the philosophizing at home.
Doctor Strange + Quentin Quire, Pixie, and Eye-Boy
Taylor: The morality tales continue in the second part of this issue of A+X. I’m not sure if Edmondson and David Lapham spoke to make sure their respective stories were linked somehow, but they are and that’s kind of neat. Yet, while I like this type of collaboration, I’m not sure that themes used for both stories were all that appropriate for this title.
So Pixie and Quentin Quire have a bet. They want to see who can break into Doctor Stange’s house and swipe the most outlandish thing he owns. They’ve brought along an reluctant Eye-Boy to judge their sophomoric shenanigans and it turns out that he becomes the hero of this story. While Pixie and Quentin are busy searching for stuff to steal, Eye-Boy finds Doc Strange passed out in his study with a demon attempting to suck out his soul. With the help of Pixie and Quentin, he dispatches the evil spirit and saves Dr. Strange. Thankful for having his life saved, Strange gives Eye-Boy a present and confiscates the swag stolen by his compatriots.
Once again the focus of this portion of the issue is morality. Pixie and Quentin, despite being X-Men and therefore heroes, seem to have little qualms with stealing from Dr. Strange. This is part of a bet the two have placed with each other with the loser either having to wear a diaper for a month or go on a bikini date respectively. It’s childish and silly, yet it oddly fits in with the somewhat infantile morality lesson that is being served up here. Yes, we all know stealing is bad and the fact that the Eye-Boy, who doesn’t steal anything of Dr. Strange’s, just reinforces this obvious lesson. Like you said Shelby, this title is silly and it’s a little odd to see these weird little moral tales in play here. I think this issue would have been more enjoyable had our heroes just been bumming around Dr. Stange’s house finding weird shit. Seeing Strange lounging in his study while having a demon suck out his soul is proof enough of this.
Shelby: When I first saw that page, I said out loud, “Doctor Strange is on a bender!” Wouldn’t that be hilarious? Doctor Strange just has a really tough week, and gets stupid drunk and makes all sorts of embarrassing phone calls and summons demons and sleeps on the bathroom floor? I would have been much more interested in the X-Men having to deal with crunk Strange and his inevitable hangover from Hell then seeing some kids break into his house on a dare.
I understand the motivation of the story: kids will be kids, and they need to learn a lesson about it. I don’t mind reading stories about teenagers; Young Avengers is one of my favorite Marvel titles right now, and I wish I could hang out with all those kids in real life. But a story about teenagers being shitty and getting scolded by an adult is not especially compelling, even for a throw-away bit of fluff like A+X. Much like the first story, the morality tale is too heavy-handed for me to have any fun here. Pixie and Quentin learned not to steal from mages, Eye-Boy learned good deeds are rewarded, and Doctor Strange hopefully learned to not try to summon demons when he’s wasted, a lesson I would have thought unnecessary. Everyone got what they deserved, and Eye-Boy even got to see some boobies; tune in next time when Danny Tanner teaches D.J. an important lesson about peer pressure.
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?