As summer turns to autumn, is there a better time to curl up in front of the TV on a lazy Sunday, watch your favorite football team smash into their opponents, and read a thick pile of comics? Maybe there is! But this is pretty good, and it’s what we’ve got now, so I suggest you enjoy it! And to make your task easier, here are three comics to consider adding to that stack.
Uncanny X-Men #12
The best X-Men Crossover in years continues! This is a classic Bendis issue, in that it’s very talky and then ends setting up a really compelling action scene that I am cranky is not resolved immediately! When I am cranky that a comic didn’t have more pages, it is usually a good comic.
And nobody does talky like Bendis. (Well, Whedon does. And I’m sure Aaron Sorkin could write a fantastic comic. Someone get on that! But anyway, Bendis does it really excellently.) Basically, the story so far: A while back, Beast brought the original X-Men from the 60s (though not literally because comic book timeframes don’t make real world sense and please don’t try and think about the fact that the 60s were 50 years ago. It’s more like ten years or fifteen in comic book time.) to the present. (It really is the real present, though it won’t be later.) (I told you not to think about that kind of thing!) (Sorry.) They were supposed to make modern Cyclops repent of his Mutant Power ways, which totally didn’t happen, but there were adventures to be had, so they stuck around.
But then, some future X-Men showed up and said, Hey! You’re totally screwing up the future in ways we have no intention of telling you, you gotta send them back now. And then the classic X-Men said Nuh-uh, no way man! And Jean and Scott ran off moderately ineffectively, and ended up with Cyclops’s Mutant Power camp.
Both camps of X-Men have an extensive argument on being free to do what you like, vs. forcing the classics to go back home because it is legitimately and clearly the right thing to do. Kitty argues passionately for their freedom of choice, and largely loses. Emma is pro-send ‘em back in the other camp, but instead of arguing with her leader, she just psychically summons the other team to come get them, because she’s a jerk. And then she discovers that one of the future X-Men is an older Jean Grey, and boy does she have a grudge to settle. Backed up by her cuckoos, which are powerful psychic triplets that strongly support her, she challenges Jean to a showdown, which I’m sure will be great, when we read it next week in Wolverine and the X-Men.
It’s a giant X-Mess in all the right ways!
Superior Spider-Man #18
First, he has the hostile takeover of his workplace, Horizon Labs, by Allen Chemical. Then, the Spider-Man from 2099 shows up and tries to stop him from teaching the upstart Stone a lesson. Then one of the Goblin’s goons uses a machine that screws up his spider-sense, and future Spider-Man absconds with Stone. He sets his minions to look for him, while he goes to rescue his thesis work from his lab before Allen Chemicals gets control of his brilliant research and the patents that it will lead to. And then his minions locate the Hobgoblin (who is really the Goblin in Hobgoblin suit, luring him into a trap) and now he has to go deal with that.
What a rough day for a superior intellect!
Otto Octavius is very potent when he’s in control. When he has time to plan. He really is very smart, and makes pretty good plans. But he never won, and why? Because he just can’t improvise. Things start going wrong, and he gets angry, and loses sight of being the smartest man in the room.
Slott’s smartly figured this out, and this is the key to his ultimate downfall. Too much chaos. Superheroes like Peter Parker thrive on adaptation to changing circumstance, but Octavius just can’t. With his superior abilities he’s been able to power through his lapses so far, but we’re very close to a breaking point.
Or maybe not! If there’s someone who can do brilliant work in chaos, it’s writer Dan Slott, and he’s surprised me before!
The heart of this issue is a showdown between the two sisters, Rose Red and Snow White. Rose is in the process of building a sort of Camelot of Second Chances, busy recruiting tarnished Knights to her cause, to be a champion of Hope. It’s a good plan and a strong purpose, and sure to lead to some enjoyable stories. And that’s not just me as a reader talking; stories are a commodity that the Fables themselves value, even if they’re not usually explicit about such things.
What’s the problem with this? Rose has set her sights very high, and proposes to rehabilitate Prince Brandis, the villain of the last arc that critically wounded (if not killed) Snow’s husband and threatened to kill her children (and the kind of threat that he intended to do it, he just was defeated first.) Not to mention giving her a mortal wound that’s being delayed by magic, but nobody knows for quite how long. And being a total jerk about being a villain along the way. Really, he sucks.
But if she can redeem him, Rose will be a true icon of second chances. Snow says No. And if you even try this, stay away from me or my family, because you will be my mortal enemy. And we get some more super creepy backstory on Snow. (The Dwarves in this version were not helpful creatures, to put it mildly.)
What happens when you give a strong-willed woman on a mission an ultimatum? Does it lead to capitulation? Yeah, not very often.
It’s a really nice confrontation, and in some ways the stakes of this are as high as any duel to the death. Fables has consistently strongly written women (in contrast to the companion title Fairest, which is not in practice a girl-power title, alas, but tends towards the women-as-trophy mentality that Fables itself breaks apart.) Tough decisions lead to interesting characters, and this title understands that always.