A+X Volume 2: A+X=Amazing

Reprinting A+X #7-12

Writers & Artists: Various

Marvel Comics, $17.99, color, 136 pages

I enjoyed the first and second A+X collections, but I can see why this title is going to be canceled soon.

For those who don't know, A+X features two stories per issue teaming one Avenger with one X-Man, and prides itself on the reader not needing to know any continuity to enjoy the story. This usually results in a fun story.

But it's also, by necessity, a pointless story. Characters can't be affected emotionally or physically in any lasting way (since that would affect continuity, which this book avoids). Nothing can actually "happen" except for pointless fisticuffs. The status quo at the beginning of the story must be returned to by the end of the story.

So while the stories are often fun -- sometimes the juxtaposition of two given characters is snort-worthy -- they are forgettable froth. In fact, I had to go back through the book to remember any of them! Even the intros, which features two unnamed readers discussing how awesome and continuity-free the stories in the book are, became so redundant that I stopped reading them.

So I can see why the book will be canceled, in that it's aimed at imaginary new readers instead of the existing continuity-minded fan base. I haven't checked the sales, but I imagine that they're not top tier and likely to get worse. Kudos to Marvel for putting out a product for potential new readers, but subtract points for using the same ol' distribution system, which can't put the book in front of those potential new readers.

Having said all that, the various stories range from OK to very good. Like any anthology, some stories are better than others, so I'll take a brief look at each:

  • Iron Man + Beast (Zeb Wells/Dale Keown): Tony and Hank try to prove each is smarter than the other, which is an amusing twist on male competition. Another big-brained character makes a cameo, leading to a fun twist ending. This may be the best story in the anthology.
  • Thor + Iceman (Christopher Yost/R'John Bernales, Chris Turcotte): The Thunderer and Bobby Drake battle Frost Giants who are invading Earth, with fairly predictable dialogue and results. I'm not a fan of the art, either, which looks like screen grabs from Green Lantern: The Animated Series.
  • Spider-Woman + Kitty Pryde, Lockheed (Gerry Duggan'Salvador Larroca): The pair battle A.I.M., Hydra and the Absorbing Man for possession of a mysterious, powerful space metal (read: Macguffin). I don't recall Kitty Pryde ever being so b!tchy, and I didn't know that Lockheed had ever spent any quality time with Spider-Woman, much less become smitten with her. I assume the catty dialogue was supposed to be amusing, but I found it a little mean-spirited. S-W mentions at the end that she exudes pheromones that make women dislike her, so I suppose that's our explanation, but that doesn't explain why we were forced to watch this unpleasant display. The upside is Duggan demonstrating that the Absorbing Man,usually an unstoppable powerhouse, has absolutely no chance against Kitty Pryde.
  • Hawkeye + Deadpool (Christopher Hastings/Reilly Brown): Two clowns clowning around on some adventure or other. Mildly amusing.
  • Captain America + Wolverine (Christopher Hastings/Humberto Ramos): The duo chase a mystically-powered chimp, while brushing briefly on their conflicting philosophies. That actually raises more questions than it answers, but you get the idea without getting bogged down. Still, since it doesn't advance the debate, it only serves as a reminder that there is one.
  • Doctor Strange + Quentin Quire, Pixie, Eye-Boy (David Lapham/Lee Loughridge): Cute little story as a bet gets the X-kids in over their heads.
  • Black Widow + Fantomex (B. Clay Moore/Kris Anka): Love the Widow, can't stand Fantomex. The pair are after a Macguffin in Russia, where they fight doppelgangers of Russian superheroes. Widow ends up disliking Fantomex as much as I do, which I found satisfying. Otherwise forgettable.
  • Scarlet Witch + Domino (Adam Warren): The pair try to destroy a Macguffin that only they can approach, because their reality- and luck-altering powers, respectively, allow only them to approach. Wanda is stuffy and serious, contrasting with Domino's irreverence, but not enough for me to overcome my dislike of Warren's manga-esque art. (I just don't care for that style.)
  • Thor + Magik (Mike Benson/Mark Texeira): Thor ends up in Limbo accidentally, which messes up mystic something-or-other and Magik goes to get him out. Thor tries to arrest her, she calls him arrogant. Pointless fights ensue.
  • Superior Spider-Man + Cyclops (Jim Kreuger/Ron Lim): More delicate tightrope-walking with the new Spider-Man to demonstrate that he's good at being Spider-Man without letting anyone catch on who's in the driver's seat. More continuity referenced than you'd expect, with both Spidey and Cyclops. Interesting for fanboys; inexplicable, I imagine, to new readers. ("Wait! When did Cyclops become the bad guy?")
  • Wonder Man + Beast (Christos Gage/David Williams): The pair meet up for the first time since Wonder Man's turn to pacifism (which he initially expressed, inexplicably, by putting together a team of super-villains to attack the Avengers). I was pleased to see Beast thinks that position in a world full of superheroes and villains and Galactuses is dangerously naive, which I think as well. Otherwise, though, it goes just as you'd expect, and the pair are best buds again. (I doubt their fans would accept any other ending.)
  • Captain America + Jubilee (Justin Jordan/Angel Unzueta): The duo fight Nazi vampires. Sure, why not? Seriously, the threat is real, but Cap takes Jubilee instead of going solo in an effort to give her a worldless life lesson about how she needs to handle her vampirism. That's a little heavy-handed, even for Cap, but it made for a nice little tale.

That's it for this volume, and I imagine Volume 3 will be the last. I'll probably get it, because these stories are usually pleasant, if forgettable. That's better than forcing myself through another volume of Thunderbolts or something.

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