The best of the “A+X” issues so far have found ways to be utterly enjoyable but still maintain a tiny bit of significance or at least emotional resonance despite their short length and relatively out of continuity status. Unfortunately, “A+X” #9 by Nathan Edmondson, Humberto Ramos and David Lapham is one of the less successful attempts.
The first story “Animal Cruelty” — written by Edmondson with art by Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba with colors by Edgar Delgado — centers on Captain America and Wolverine dropped in the Congo and trying to rescue a somehow compromised Doctor Strange. Though it’s impossible to deny the fun of the witty banter between Cap and Wolverine, the story actually makes little sense. I read it three times, and still don’t fully understand it, despite the exposition heavy ending that attempts to explain it all. Ramos’ art is fun, particularly his take on Wolverine — broad as a barn door, but short and grouchy looking. Unfortunately, his Cap is far less engaging.
In addition to the story not quite making sense, it was hard to buy some of Edmondson’s character choices. I’m not one of those folks that thinks Wolverine really should be the best at everything, but surely between Wolverine and Captain America, Logan’s the one that should first sense a giant snake approaching, or notice the difference between the slither of a giant snake and the too loud pitter patter of giant sized ant feet? Not so in Edmondson’s script. Wrong character moments like that drew me out of the story repeatedly. In fairness, Edmondson and Ramos’s last panel does almost suggest some weight and ramification to the story, but it’s just not enough to have a lasting impression.
David Lapham’s untitled story features some “Jean Grey School” students — Pixie, Eye Boy and Quentin Quire breaking into Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum on a bet, competing to find the “best” object inside. The plot, despite trying very hard to be fun, is pretty dull and predictable with an ending you can see a mile away and not a lot of laughs before you get there. While I generally enjoy Lapham’s art, this is not his best work; feeling rushed and sedated compared to some of his more bold and unique stories. Additionally, some of the storytelling is straight up hard to follow, especially the action panels where the kids rescue Doc Strange from D’Spayre. It’s a mostly messy looking few pages of magic nonsense. Apparently the theme this month was “rescuing Doc Strange from bizarre and unlikely scenarios,” which is almost the most clever thing about the entire issue — though the idea of Strange needing to be rescued in any of these scenarios seriously strains credibility.
As anyone reading “A+X” month to month can attest, the quality varies wildly, primarily dependent on the creators involved, the cleverness of the tale and (to a lesser degree) the character pairings. Regardless, even for the better tales, $3.99 remains a very high price point for stories with little significance beyond some laughs and pretty pictures. It’s an especially hard sell when you barely get even that, as with this month’s offering.