Comics Disassembled: Ten Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by Dawn of X Thoughts

After taking a week break, Comics Disassembled is back in action. Let’s look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the past week (plus) in comics, led by some thoughts on the biggest game in town.

1. Dawn of X, Forming Divides

This week was, in my opinion, the strongest one yet for the whole Dawn of X initiative. Only two titles arrived in the X-Men relaunch effort, but both were absolutely dynamite, making it a week of pure positivity for me as a reader. We had the incredible, deeply engrossing political machinations of Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Yu’s X-Men #4 as well as the big, weird fun of Gerry Duggan and Matteo Lolli’s fifth issue of Marauders. Each title felt like they were doing something new, unique and fascinating that developed this new world order for our merry mutants, with Hickman clearly having a blast writing Magneto and Apocalypse while Duggan continues to expand his cast. Yu provided his strongest work yet in this conversation-centric issue of X-Men (which is surprising, as that isn’t normally his strength) and Lolli did the same, albeit with a different angle (also, shouts to colorist Federico Blee for getting his house in order…he did nice work here).

It was a great week, but it also underlined something that has become abundantly clear to me: there’s a very, very hard divide between the best comics in this line and the ones that aren’t working quite as well. X-Men and Marauders are the only titles that have a 100% hit rate so far, and unsurprisingly, they most feel like they are specifically designed to exist in the post House of X and Powers of X world. They have their own corners, and they’re thriving within them. On weeks they drop together, I love the Dawn of X initiative.

But on weeks like December 18th, where five titles – none of which are X-Men – arrive, I question my interest in the line as a whole. Let’s look at the other four really quick.

After a strong start, New Mutants has started treading on the footsteps of X-Force in a way, with a same-sy plot of humans being violent towards or trying to gain advantage of Krakoa’s gifts. New Mutants features terrorists (of a sort) from a struggling third world country getting its very own power dampeners (there must have been a run at Costco on power dampeners as soon as Xavier’s message went out to everyone) so they can use children as ransom for drugs (versus the straight murder plans in X-Force). It features “new mutants,” but it’s such a sea change in the tenor of the book from the first two issues that it’s more like two two-issue minis stapled together.

Meanwhile, X-Force was positioned as this Mutant CIA book, but the preamble to get there was a bit more on the “let’s torture Domino!” side of things than I’d prefer. The foundation of the book was laid out in the fourth issue, which is good, but it has luxuriated on the misery to a degree in getting there. The whole Mutant CIA premise is great idea and one that fits this new era, but I’d like to see that idea executed.

Excalibur seems like it’s doing everything and nothing at once. It’s ostensibly about the magic side of things, but it’s a schizophrenic read, juggling a slew of plot lines without really doing much with any of them as we go along. It kept me onboard with Pete Wisdom, but he feels more like a plot device than a character, so that hold is weakening. Meanwhile I dropped Fallen Angels after #3. I just couldn’t hang with its grimdark-ness, which was just incredibly off vibe for the whole enterprise.

These four are struggling to separate themselves from one another as well as books from the past – save for New Mutants’ first two issues – and there’s little reason for any to specifically exist in this current state. Save for the occasional resurrection, there’s little here that says to me, “This needs to happen now.” I struggle to see how they are taking advantage of or reinforcing this new status quo. That’s a problem.

Maybe that’s by design. Maybe they’re just meant to be parts of the world rather than representing distinct parts of it. Or maybe they’re just slow-builders, and to be fair, it’s still early. For some, that’s fine. I’m not trying to take away from anyone’s reading of these books. But there’s a clear hierarchy in my reading experience, and questions appearing in my head, wondering when the others will get to a point where they feel like they’re representative of the Krakoan Age. Or, perhaps more crucially, whether I’ll last long enough for them to get there. We’ll see, but I fear the volume of releases will chase me out of another title sooner rather than later, and certainly well before they get to establish their own identities.

2. Biff! Bang! Pow! Comics Sure Are For Kids These Days!

NPD Bookscan released a list of the ten best selling graphic novels of the 2010s, and to the surprise of hopefully no one reading this, nine of the ten spots were taken up by two names – Raina Telgemeier and Dav Pilkey – while the tenth spot was the first volume of Rachel Ren Russell’s Dork Diaries, a graphic novel that’s somewhere in a nebulous gray area between comic and picture book of a sort. But the key is they have one thing in common: they’re all aimed primarily at kids.

There’s little point in digging into this, as the popularity of youth oriented comics and graphic novels is hardly news at this point. It’s a little surprising that maybe the first volume of The Walking Dead or its first compendium or, I don’t know, something super random like The Killing Joke didn’t take on spot, but it was also a prolific period of giant sellers for Telgemeier and Pilkey. There just weren’t a lot of available spots. The former didn’t even feature as many books as she could have, as Ghosts didn’t rank and Guts presumably was too new to make its way onto this list. Tough times for Raina. I suppose she’ll just have to take solace in locking down three of the top 10 spots and two of the top three. Thoughts and prayers in this time of great struggle.

Also: this isn’t going to change any time soon. I’m pretty sure the Pilkey empire will only continue to grow, while Raina’s reign will as well. I’m predicting a heavy mix of the same next decade.

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