Sunday, October 23, 2022

Them Guys Ain’t Dumb 13 (X-Force #33)

This is it: the final Judgment Day tie-in. All that remains after this is the conclusion and the epilogue. So, naturally, the final page of X-Force #33 takes place quite explicitly after Judgment Day has ended. That brings the conversation around to spoilers. (I will give you a few paragraphs before I actually discuss the final page in detail, so, if you actually care, maybe get out now.)

At some point in an event, a tie-in spoils something. Not necessarily anything big, just something. The nature of these large, lumbering projects involve various office and editors and creator schedules means that, usually, some comic ships on time while another falls a little behind and something gets revealed a little too soon. It already happened in Judgment Day when AXE: Starfox #1 revealed the hard reboot of The Machine that happened in Death to the Mutants #3, which wound out coming out a week later. That was the rare “writer of the event spoils his own plot point” move. The spoiler on the final page of X-Force #33 seems more egregious, however.

Firstly, the Starfox/Death to the Mutants spoiler was of a relatively minor plot point. The reboot of The Machine matters, but is only a portion of the efforts to stop the Progenitor from destroying all life on Earth. Learning it a week early didn’t alter the reading experience too much. Additionally, for some readers that are more tuned in, Kieron Gillen warned folks both on Twitter and his newsletter that they may want to hold the Starfox issue back until after they had read Death to the Mutants. While that may have only reached a fraction of the affected audience, it was an effort to diminish any spoilers for those who would be bothered by them.

Secondly, depending on your expectations and views on these matters, the final page of X-Force #33 is a large spoiler in what it says/shows post-Judgment Day. Yet, I’d be lying if I said it was a surprising glimpse into the future. I’m torn on giving into my worst instincts and blowing this out of proportion as I’m wont to do when it comes to the ‘ethics of events’ (which would be the course I would teach if I taught courses on comics), and acknowledging that the substance of the spoiler is hardly surprising or anything that couldn’t be inferred from the solicitations for comics post-Judgment Day. You may have noticed that the Marvel Universe is still there and most comics are proceeding as if Judgment Day never happened. Yet, anything that shows some of the after effects of the event matters.

Thirdly, there was a decision made to release this comic, whose story has barely tied into Judgment Day at all, the week before the final issue of the event and show something from after its conclusion. I’m always fascinated by those choices. The entire thought process that went into deciding that this four-part story would be a Judgment Day tie-in at all has me incredibly interested. It wasn’t needed. There was a small thematic connection with Kraven and judgment – and taking place at the same time that the Eternals attacked Krakoa added a little bit of drama – though, the timeline is incredibly messed up in this story given the large overlap of Eternals attacking Krakoa and the stuff with the Progenitor’s judgment... looking back, I must admit that, despite the Celestial ordering the Eternals to stop attacking Krakoa, it seems like they resumed doing so at some point... or I misunderstood that the “Cease!” command was temporary (me misunderstand a comic...? Never!). Ultimately, Kraven finding a way to come to Krakoa to hunt mutants didn’t require Judgment Day and was not made better by the connection, so having this be the tie-in that jumps ahead to after the event is over is particularly galling. This has been my go-to example of a comic that slapped a banner on the cover in an effort to take money from people and I continue to stand by that assessment.

It’s not the fact that one of the after effects of Judgment Day was spoiled necessarily; it’s that this was the comic to do it. It’s like they took my $15.96 USD (more in Canada) under false pretenses and, then, ended the entire exercise by spitting in my coffee.

But, you may be wondering what that final page actually spoils. I’ve held it off long enough, so, if this is actually a major spoiler in your mind, you have only yourself and Benjamin Percy to blame.

On the final issue, Kraven has returned to the North Pole after surviving the destruction of the Shadow Room. Scarred and injured, he stands over Avengers Mountain, returned to the dead Celestial it was before the body was used to made the Progenitor. The key part of his narration is: “A god has fallen. And the Avengers are in the process of occupying its body like mites on a rotting whale. I had to return here, to the North Pole, to bear witness to this encouraging reminder. Everything dies. Everything.” Somehow, the Progenitor will be defeated and it will die, returning the body of the dead Celestial back to its original place, and the Avengers will resume using it as their base of operations. Not exactly shocking, somewhat surprising in how literally things do not change with regards to Avengers Mountain... but not shocking in the broad strokes.

I guess I’m left wondering how this happened and why anyone thought it was a good idea. The spoiler is arguably minor in the details. Why release it the week before the finale of the event? Why suck any air out of that room if you can avoid doing so? We just had issue 32 of X-Force last week, so there wasn’t a rush. This could have come out the same week as Judgment Day #6. If the concern was having nothing this past week, then, I don’t know, maybe shift a few of the nine tie-ins from last week to this week?

Look, I get it. I spend a lot of time talking about shit like this. Release schedules and how effectively tie-ins reflect the main series, and everything except the actual comics. I would love to discuss the actual comics (and I have) in place of the mechanics surrounding the roll out of the event. Except Marvel can’t get out of its own way. Choices are made that highlight these things. Someone decided that, yeah, let’s release nine tie-ins one week and then a single one the next week that spoils part of the end of the event. Someone decided that this story would have a few token Judgment Day elements grafted on and wind up being the series with the most tie-in issues despite barely having anything to do with the damn event. What, am I going to talk about fucking Omega Red and Deadpool like that has anything to do with what I’m writing about here? No, someone decided to slap a Judgment Day logo on this comic, stick it in the checklist, and get me to buy it because I decided to buy this entire event.

This has been one of the best events I’ve read in a long time when I’ve read comics written by Kieron Gillen, Al Ewing, and Si Spurrier. Thankfully, that makes up more than half of the entire event at 22 out of 37 comics (on the checklist – 59.5%, for the record). But, the other stuff has been solid to fun game to see how different interpretations of the Progenitor’s criteria works to insulting money grabs that cheapen the story the event is trying to tell and, quite frankly, the stories the creators are trying to tell. And those stick out like a sore thumb. And it detracts from the entire thing. It absolutely does.

But, it worked.

I gave them the money and they got what they wanted. As I’ve been saying since the beginning, them guys ain’t dumb.