Today, Ethan and Scott are discussing A + X 15, originally released December 11th, 2013.
Ethan: A + X revels in the chance to turn big name team-ups into superpowered Laurel & Hardy shorts, and A + X 15 follows suit. Along the way, we get a rehash on an age old question of metaphysics, a bio of a famous president, and the alien invasions of our fast-food franchises.
Beast + Doctor Strange
Ethan: Someone used alien magic to hijacke the bodies of an entire yoga class in Manhattan in order to create an interdimensional portal. Who better to solve the case than mutant supergenius, Hank “Beast” McCoy? Doctor Strange disagrees with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s choice, so the sorceror supreme shows up uninvited to offer his own services instead. They enter the portal and find themselves in the Dark Dimension, where an alternate-universe cast of Beasts and Doctors Strange have assembled to destroy our dimension in an attempt to stop that pesky portal from destabilizing the multiverse. Beast & Strange sucker-punch and run away, discovering that the Impossible Man is the one behind it all, and the two call upon their alternate selves to subdue Impossible and shut down the portal without frying our universe.
Eminent scientist working alongside master of the arcane? Yes, we are firmly in the realm of the standard “science vs. magic” debate, and Jai Nitz does a great job making Beast and Strange the mouthpieces for each side. They’re both terrifically self-important and smarmy, but they’re also both stuffy bookworms who like to pretend that they are polite. Great recipe. While the stock assertion that magic is just unexplained science is the alleged fulcrum of their quibble, it really just boils down to the fact that their obsessive study of their respective fields make them feel important, so they feel the need to justify why it’s better than the other. Who cares about spells or unknown physical laws; what’s REALLY important is who gets to drive.
There’s a lot of clipped condescension and silly one-upsmanship to be had, and it’s a credit to Greg Smallwood how perfectly the expressions mirror the dialogue. I also enjoyed the little touches like the ZULUUM and POINK sound effects of Strange’s and Beast’s teleports as further cementing their different styles.
Scott, was the whole thing a little too on the nose for you or did you enjoy their bickering, too?.
Scott: I enjoyed it quite a bit. When it comes to the science vs. magic debate, I’m inclined to side with science, as I assume most readers would. I believe the mysteries I encounter in life can be explained with science, even if science hasn’t found the explanation yet. What’s interesting is that this philosophy seems to prevail in the Marvel universe as well, where many occurrences seem to defy science in a way we don’t ever see in the real world. But magic isn’t even part of the discussion for S.H.I.E.L.D. Strange has to invite himself along to even get his side of the debate heard. In the end, this story doesn’t settle anything, but Strange certainly doesn’t come out looking like a fool. The debate lives on, which in itself probably counts as a win for magic.
Also helping to keep the debate alive: when it comes time for Beast, the genius scientist, to think of a plan, the best he can come up with is ‘snatch and run.’
But hey, it works! There are a few moments throughout the issue that feel a little too easy, but that’s certainly a product of its brief 10-page run time. The interplay between the two characters is enough fun that I wouldn’t have minded seeing this story stretched out to a full-length. Smallwood’s art is a perfect fit for this for this story. His layouts become very creative once the story steps into the Dark Dimension, including a page that resembles an exclamation point. I can understand his excitement: this story is lots of fun.
Captain America + Cyclops
Scott: Part three of Gerry Duggan’s six-part story begins with Cap and Cyclops taking their dead Skrull back to the casino to run some tests. Turns out he isn’t dead, as he managed to rearrange his organs before he was hit by Dr. Doom. He promises to take Cap and Cyclops to a Skrull safe house, but only if they grab a bite at Bryson’s Bison Burgers first. It’s a trick – the burger joint is the safe house, and the disguised Skrull stage an attack. With the help of Emma Frost and Stepford Cuckoos, along with Hank Pym, the Skrull are defeated. But there’s a bigger problem: the Skrull may have already poisoned the country’s beef supply.
The first two parts of this story were dominated by the quarreling of Cap and Cyclops. There’s no time for that here, as Cadre K — the group of Skrulls bent on revenge against humanity — finally become a real, live threat. It’s a nice change of pace, as harping on Cyclops’ role in Professor X’s death was only holding this story back. I’m not sure if Cap will be ready to forgive Cyclops any time soon, but getting this story into gear will at least give Cyclops a chance to prove his worth and, hopefully, explain himself.
The best thing about this issue is that, while it’s packed full of cameos, each character gets his or her moment to shine. Anyone who reads Gerry Duggan’s Deadpool knows he has a great sense of humor, and it’s on full display this issue. Check out Frost after she finally breaks through the Skrulls’ psychic defenses. She’s on a roll.
This story is good for a laugh or two per page, perfect for an issue of A + X (or in this case, six issues). With artist David Yardin also bringing his A-game (check out the fast food employees shifting into their Skrull forms), I’m eager to read the next part of this story.
What do you think, Ethan? Will you be going near a bison burger anytime soon?
Ethan: Heh, well, even if I weren’t already doing the vegan thing, the prospect of biological attack via burger would give me even more pause about chowing down on one of those.
Since the Cap + Cyclops piece turned into more of an ensemble affair, the banter wasn’t as highlighted as it was in the previous section, but it was definitely still there. One of my favorite bits was Cap’s told-you-so attitude to the disorganized mutant movement:
So often we only see Captain America doing his Inspirational thing, his Compassionate thing, and his Beat-‘em-up thing, so it’s always nice to get the chance to see him fling a little snark around. As if to say “You say that the global mutant revolution is hitting some speed bumps? You can’t all get on the same page? You people could avoid being such a big, floppy mess if you’d only grow up and get some ID cards.” Cap, who’s all about planning ahead and serving your country, isn’t well positioned to see how standardized registry and identification can seem to a group that feels like it’s being hunted. Never mind the matter of that little Marvel Civil War thing we did a little while ago.
Speaking of big, mixed-reception story arcs, after the Secret Invasion I was pretty sure I never wanted to see another skrull ever again. So I have to give props to Duggan for spinning these green-skinned goblin-ish aliens into a slightly sillier bunch. I mean, not only does the same skrull try to play dead TWICE in the same mini-issue, but he gives a sheepish “aw, shucks” sort of reply when called out on it. The second time, he doesn’t even open his eyes as he makes his excuse (“Had to try”), as if maybe he can still make this work. The action was a little forced and very brief, but the dialogue definitely sold it, and I’m with you in looking forward to the next installment.
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?