AXIS: Revolutions #1

"AXIS: Revolutions" #1 takes a look at the "violent outbreaks of hate" resulting from Red Onslaught's attack in the main "AXIS" title. Writers Dennis Hopeless and Simon Spurrier take on the tasks of investigating the impact of Red Onslaught through the events surrounding Spider-Man and Doctor Strange respectively.

The biggest problem is that, right away, continuity and synergy are abandoned in the quest for meaningful stories that ultimately develop into cliches and flat-out boring tales. Spider-Man, as usual, addresses the problem as it hits the streets of Manhattan, but in a morally loaded attempt at transforming an after-school special into a comic book story, Hopeless browbeats readers with the same message again and again. Nothing in "With Great Hate," save for Spider-Man flippantly mentioning the Red Skull as the root cause, makes this tale a must-read for either Spider-fans or "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" event evangelists. This could easily have been a story in the 1990s "Spider-Man Unlimited" series. Hopeless' Spider-Man is a verbose teacher, which isn't a bad choice, but it doesn't make for particularly invigorating adventures.

Ken Lashley's artwork, while packed with energy, would have been as equally at home in "Unlimited." The artist focuses on Spider-Man, but at the expense of everything else. Backgrounds are frequently defined in textures or even through tones applied by colorist Rachelle Rosenberg. Even the antagonist of the story, a punk kid, doesn't maintain visual integrity through the tale, shifting from a pint-sized infant in appearance to a teen and back again.

Unfortunately, the latter half of this issue is no better as Simon Spurrier reduces Stephen Strange to a maniacal madman. Perhaps oddest about this story is that Strange has already been shown as being a major player at ground zero of Skull's attack in "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" proper -- and here, he's back in New York. I'm usually willing to forego stringent continuity in the name of good storytelling, but "Hoary Hosts of Hate" is ten pages filled with a "MAD Magazine" parody of Doctor Strange and Wong. Actually, it's worse than that as it lacks the humor inherent in the funny mag. Rosenberg contributes color and atmosphere to this tale as well, helping the art duo of Tan Eng Huat and Craig Yeung to deliver more than notebook sketches to their portion of "AXIS: Revolutions" #1. Huat has a wider range than he displays in this story, as most of his characters -- which are limited to Strange, Wong, a pair of folks Strange seeks out and a mostly faceless, shifting mob -- look like sketchbook excerpts or warm-up activity.

Marvel has been cranking out event stories and garnishing the presentation with additional tie-ins and crossovers, but in this case, the presentation suffers. Anyone buying this comic book for an appearance from their favorite character is certain to be disappointed, while any event completionists are set up for confusing continuity at best and frustrating dismissal of it at worst. "AXIS: Revolutions" #1 is a comic book with a pair of stories that are fine on their own, but really add nothing to the grander Marvel Universe in general.

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