Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing A + X 10, originally released July 17th, 2013.
Shelby: I don’t expect a lot when I read A + X. I figure stupid fun at best, and just stupid at worst. Usually I’m dead on the money, but sometimes these stories give me a little more than I expect. It doesn’t happen every time, and it almost never happens twice in one issue, but I’m always pleasantly surprised when it does.
Black Widow + Fantomex
Shelby: Black Widow is in Russia trying to do some good. There’s rumors of new activity by the same folks who trained her to be a super spy, including a digital record of the DNA of all Russia’s state-sponsored heroes. She’s out to take that record to try to prevent other people from being forced into the same lifestyle she was when Fantomex bursts onto the scene, being pursued by a bear-human hybrid. I can only assume that is something that happens in Russia all the time. They are joined by a tiger hybrid and a woman shooting dark matter. Turns out, they’d all had their DNA altered to turn them into copy-cat versions of previous state heroes. Black Widow fights them off while Fantomex steals the DNA record. He gets away, but lets Black Widow catch up and gives her the record, stating he didn’t like seeing governments mess with people’s DNA and that he only wanted to steal it to prove he could do it.
This is unfortunately one of those times where my lack of familiarity with the deeper cut of the Marvel universe does me a disservice. I definitely wrote this story off as “Black Widow and guy I’ve never heard of” after my first read-through. But I looked Fantomex up on ye olde Wikipedia: he’s a graduate of the Weapon Plus program. His birth was the result of the government first creating a race of technorganics and then fertilizing one of them with a machine. Suddenly, his reasons for giving Black Widow the DNA record seem a lot more meaningful.
I actually really liked this story. On the surface, it just seemed like a little bit of nothing for Marvel history buffs. But by pairing up these two characters, B. Clay Moore turned it into something more. Both these people’s lives were changed forever by their governments, and without their say-so. They both had to break away from what they were created to be and forge their own paths as best they could. Black Widow did it by becoming a hero, an Avenger, Fantomex did it by becoming a master thief and kind of a dick, but they both were able to get away. All they’re trying to do here is give more people the same chance they had; it’s actually pretty touching, for a 10-page throwaway story outside regular continuity.
Taylor: Whereas you go into reading an issue of A+X with limited expectations, Shelby, I enter with virtually none. The Marvel universe is simply huge and the chances of me missing all the little head-nods and allusions to other comics in these issues is far too great. Because of this, I feel like I have license to enjoy these little, silly stories solely for what’s on the page. I never really know what to expect from this title when I open the page and I actually really enjoy that aspect of this title.
With that being said, when I saw that one of the main characters in this issue was Fantomex I was prepared for virtually anything to happen. So when a giant manimal bear suddenly shows up chasing Fantomex out of a window, the latter guns blazing, I was howling with delight.
For me, comics are a medium that allow some of the more weird and creative ideas by some of today’s bets story tellers come to life. Books and movies seem to have to pass through too many checks and balances before they are released causing them often times to be watered down and predictable. However, that’s not the case here. Instead we get a pretty “out-there” action sequence made all the better by how run of the mill this all seems to Black Window. I can see how some would find this seemingly random bit of action off-putting, but as you mentioned Shelby, it’s actually all based on previously established Marvel lore. It’s commendable that this story can function on both these high and low levels respectably and at the same time.
Scarlet Witch + Domino
Taylor: This same sense of just having to go with the flow also pervades the second story in this issue. Scarlet Witch and Domino are high above Yellowstone Nation Park trying to prevent a Celestial Extermination Drone from activating a huge volcano that will destroy the entire Earth. While Scarlet Witch is busy outside blocking the drone’s probability field, Domino is busy sneaking inside of the would be world destroyer in an attempt to destroy it by taking out its core. After a little hard work, Domino accomplishes this, only to realize that she can’t complete her job without dying. And then, hey, it was all just a probability run that Domino ran (that is her power after all). Realizing the plan won’t work, Domino throws Scarlet Witch into the drone, causing a singularity which destroys the drone but leaves our heroes intact. Huzzah!
This second story didn’t have quite the same charm the other did for me and I think the reason for that is banter that takes place between Scarlet Witch and Domino. While banter between the two heroes has become somewhat of a staple in this title I found it a little off-putting on this particular occasion. Perhaps it’s because Domino is such a sarcastic asshole the entire time or maybe it’s simply that the formula is becoming a little stale at this point. Whatever the reason, I found that this banter did little to lift up what was kind of a weak plot. While I recognize there isn’t a lot of time to develop a story in about ten pages, I’ve come to expect a little more from A+X than simply having the story end in a psyche-out.
I did really enjoy Adam Warren’s art in this portion of the comic though. It’s bubbly and fun and I think it captures the tone of A+X accurately.
My only knock against this art is that in some places it got a little too busy. While I really liked all of the little cues explaining who people are or what things do, at times it made for a page that was a little cluttered and claustrophobic. However, that’s wasn’t enough to keep me from enjoying a unique take on the way comic book superheroes can be portrayed.
Shelby: I feel exactly the same. I couldn’t shake the idea that every time Domino called her partner “Witch,” she was doing so in a derogatory way. That in turn summoned up this weird, Puritanical vibe of men calling women they disagreed with witch, and just set a really strange tone for the whole story. I get that her hero name is Scarlet Witch, but why wouldn’t you call her Scarlet? Or, you know, Wanda. I also struggled with wrapping my head around the whole probability generator concept. Every time Scarlet Witch used the word “probabilistic,” my brain short-circuited a little bit. I guess I just didn’t play enough stats-building games as a wayward youth to really grasp the concept of increased luck skills.
The art, though, is so adorable I’ll almost forgive the less-than-stellar writing. I’m a sucker for big-eyed, chibi, anime girls, and this story is chock full. I also like the visual representation of Domino’s luck skills: that she can see which paths will end with her untimely demise.
It’s a quirky and clever way to show us the concept of “overclocked luck skills in a probabilistic mine field.” It still doesn’t change the fact that I don’t understand what it is I just said, or that cute art will only get you so far, especially when you’ve only got 10 pages to tell your story.
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?