January 22, 2011

The Uncanny X-Piles XXIV

Hi there, heroes! Welcome back to The Uncanny X-Piles! Sorry for the hiatus this column has undergone these last few weeks. One of our scribes was going through a move where he was without internet for a few weeks, but fear not! The X-Piles are catching up on past reviews and should be on track from here on out. So join in the mutant mayhem and read on!

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #4
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Adam Kubert

I knew it was too good to be true. How could Jason Aaron pull off the whackiest caper Spider-Man and Wolverine have ever been in, hopscotching through time, fighting each other’s past selves, shooting Phoenix guns, and the like? If this book was out-of-continuity, Aaron could have pulled off something reminiscent of a Silver Age story. It didn’t really have to make sense in order to be good. However, this story is in continuity, and the only villain who could be behind this, and it actually make some sense, is the one X-Men villain I want to clonk Chris Claremont on the head for: Mojo. Yep, the overweight, mechanical-spider-legged, TV-obsessed ruler of his own dimension. Only Mojo can make sense of this story, as he has Wolverine and Spider-Man chasing their tails for ratings. I’m pretty sure all X-Men fans let out a collective groan when they got to the end of this issue and saw the reveal. But if Aaron is smart, he will make this story about much more than the tired Mojo-messing-with-the-heroes-for-ratings cliche. So I still have hope. If anyone can do it, Jason Aaron can. Perhaps he’ll even update Mojo and make him more interesting. But despite Mojo’s involvement, this issue is still pretty great. I really like the other villains Czar and Big Murder and their timestick. And let’s not forget that this story is really about Spider-Man and Wolverine, who are just a great buddy team. We get some awesome scenes of insights between these two characters who hate each other the sum of the equivalent of their combined appearances in Marvel Comics. Adam Kubert is displaying some of his greatest art yet, and reminds me why he’s my favored Kubert brother. So while the issue took a bit of a downturn, I’m still excited to see where Aaron is going to take this. -JJ

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #4
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Kaare Andrews

When last we left our heroes, they were staring down the barrel of the guns of a squadron of Furies. For those who don’t know about the Furies, they are from Claremont & Alan Davis’ work on Captain Britain and Excalibur. They are robots who are designed to exterminate super-heroes. They can counter any powers, and in many other realms, they’ve destroyed all the super-powered beings. So these guys are pretty stinkin’ hard to beat. Not only that, but even if they beat them, more will be on their way. How will the X-Men get out of this one?  The story here is actually a pretty fun read. Ellis has a good way with these characters. Kaare Andrews tends to struggle with a few of the characters in his art. His version of Beast is much more ape-than-cat, which is what Beast is supposed to be now. But his Emma Frost is the worst. She simply can’t do anything without touching her temples as she uses her power, like Professor Xavier circa 1964. Andrews’ action sequences are pretty awesome though, especially with Wolverine taking some pretty violent lumps from the Furies. Wolverine does get the upper-hand on a Fury, though, and there’s a great one-page splash (literally) of Wolverine taking him out. Overall, it’s a good issue, and I’m looking forward to the last chapter. -JJ

Avengers #8
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: John Romita Jr.

The Illuminati have, for the first time in a long time, been called to council, and this of course includes Namor and our favorite bald mutant, ex-Professor Charles Xavier. The rest of the group includes Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Reed Richards, and Medusa (in place of the late Black Bolt). Someone is stealing the Infinity Gems in an effort to put together the dreaded Infinity Gauntlet, and the Illuminati need to work fast and figure out who is behind the ploy. Already Reed Richards’ red gem of power has been taken, and before that the yellow gem of reality was also stolen. The latter belonged to the recently deceased Black Bolt, who, for some asinine reason, just left it at the abandoned Inhuman city of Attilan. Not a smart move, and the rest of the Illuminati think likewise. Namor is his usual dick self, and Medusa gives him some flak for it. Ol’Chuck doesn’t really do much in this issue, as it’s primarily a set up for things to come, but it was cool to see him in comics again. Its been a long time since we’ve seen him, back when Cyclops told him to back the F off on Utopia, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Charlie’s power levels are currently at. We saw him disassemble the Acolytes in X-Men Legacy a couple of years ago, when he literally just marched through their base, incapacitating everyone without throwing a punch or breaking a sweat. The issue ends when every other Avenger in existence crashes the Illuminati’s secret club meeting, and none of them look very happy to be there. It seems as if their cover may be blown, and their secret group revealed. Uh-oh! -AL

Chaos War: X-Men #1
Writer: Chris Claremont & Louise Simonson
Artist: Doug Braithwaite

Ok, here we go: A Chris Claremont story set in the 616 X-Universe. Did it suck? Was I forced to cleanse my eyes with the most base of soaps to purge them of the atrocities I had just seen and read? The answer? Surprisingly, no. This issue was not terrible, not by a long shot, but I wonder if it had more to do with Doug Braithwaite’s sweet looking art rather than the story itself. Before going on, I should mention that Claremont didn’t write this one solo as Louise Simonson, an old X-Factor scribe, lent the assist. Even so, her work has been less than impressive lately, as her recently concluded X-Factor Forever was almost as unbearable as Claremont’s Forever line. But here the duo manages to piece together an interesting story that takes place amidst the Chaos War. X-Men long dead are stuck in a sort of limbo as the Chaos King has eradicated death itself, preventing those who have died from passing back over into the world of shadows. Here we have Thunderbird, Banshee, Moira MacTaggart, Esme and Sophie of the Cuckoos, and a small cadre of Multiple Man’s dupes returned to the realm of the “living.” You may be noticing some major players are missing, like, oh, NIGHTCRAWLER and JEAN FREAKIN’ GREY! Also, how about Caliban and that chick who teleports through doorways who bit the big one in Second Coming? I mean, what the hell? For as well done as this issue was (again, Braithwaite’s art rocked), the absence of these characters took the “oomph” out of the book, and while there is one issue left in the mini, it really doesn’t look like these missing characters will be showing up. The issue ends with Sophie sacrificing herself (isn’t she already dead?) to save the group, and then she turns into some evil looking crow creature…which was weird. Oh, and there was also not a single reference to Necrosha, which felt off considering this issue was told from the P.O.V. of Thunderbird and he played a major role in that story…because he came back from the dead there…for the first time. Oh well. All in all, this issue is enjoyable (probably because of the art), but these plot holes just killed it for me. -AL

Daken: Dark Wolverine #4
Writers: Daniel Way & Marjorie Liu
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli

I’d like to begin by saying I do not want any other artist to work on this book besides Giuseppe Camuncoli for as long as Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu are writing Daken. His style has really grown on me, and the man is money when it comes to capturing Daken’s expressions. Hopefully, he isn’t going anywhere any time soon…as long as this book doesn’t get cancelled (haven’t you heard the rumors?). If you’ve been reading the X-Piles, it’s no secret in the past I’ve been critical of Daken, faulting the writing of his character for giving him no clear direction or sense of identity. He’s always just floated along, done his thing, and that was that. Boring, right? But finally, Daken seems to be headed somewhere. He has a mission, and while we may not know what it is yet, the ambiguous suspense is delightful! In this issue he plays the Fantastic Four in a way that only Daken can, stealing a small red vial of something (which I feel like I should know what it is, but for the life of me can’t put my finger on it) from Reed Richards, and ends up in Madripoor to conduct some unfinished business. But before he steps off the boat and sets foot on shore, he reads the paper and catches a headline that hearkens over to the current Captain America story Ed Brubaker is spinning (which is awesome, by the way). The headline reads, “Trial of Captain America: Cap Revealed As Soviet Assassin, Winter Soldier.” That’s right. Daken now knows who is responsible for killing his mother, and he wants to even the score. Yeah, things are about to get interesting! Speaking of score and things getting interesting, it’s no secret that Daken is a sexually charged person, dabbling with both sexes, but if he and Johnny Storm flirt like that again, I may have to take a puke break. -AL

Hulk #28
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Gabriel Hardman

Seeing Namor punch the bejeezus out of Red Hulk in this one was awesome; you should never call the King of Atlantis a “stinking fish.” Had this brawl taken place on land, I doubt Namor would have handled Big Red so easily, and he even admits this, but that’s ok, I like seeing Namor kick ass. There’s a mysterious back-up story in this one starring The Watchers where the X-Men are briefly featured for a panel; It’s of Cyke and Wolvie combating some sort of veiled being. I couldn’t make out who/what it is/was, but it may be foreshadowing for something down the line. Perhaps Age of X? Anyway, I’m loving this series. I have never cared for the Red Hulk, let alone any Hulks in general, until this year. Greg Pak is doing great stuff on The Incredible Hulk, and here Jeff Parker has really pulled a nice 180 on the Red Hulk franchise. This book was suffering until #25, and Parker, assisted by Hardman’s cool art, has given Red Hulk a chance at redemption that has so far been an exciting ride. X-fans, even if you don’t like the Red Hulk, give this issue a shot, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. -AL

New Mutants #20
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Leonard Kirk

Ok, I see now what they’re doing. Last issue was the last part of Fall of the New Mutants, and this here is Rise of the New Mutants. And boy, do they rise! After getting the worst beating of their lives at the hands of the Inferno Babies, the New Mutants start fighting back. Zeb Wells has created a truly epic storyline with the Muties, and once again I have to say, I hate to see him go from this title. Things are looking pretty rough for the team, even though Illyana escapes with Pixie and Karma. We find out here that Karma has a pretty significant role to play in the battle, unleashing the locked-away Legion, which is what we’ll get next issue. But the tide really starts to turn with Dani Moonstar, who is proving to be a thousand times more awesome without powers than she ever was with powers. Dani has been tormented by one of the Inferno Babies who feeds off of emotions. Once General Ulysses and his gang unleash their weapons against the demons of Limbo, the demons burst into Dani’s holding cell. She not only uses the demons’ attacks to free herself, but when her tormentor opens the cell to see what’s happening, the broken-armed Dani is standing there with a bow and arrow held with one hand and one foot! It’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while, much less by Dani Moonstar. Next issue is the end of this run, and I’m pretty bummed about that. But I’m not at all bummed about this issue! -JJ

What If? #200
Writer: Marc Guggenheim, Various
Artist: Dave Wilkins, Various

Holy balls this comic book was KICK ASS! Before we get into it, let me clear up the credits: the main story, which we’ll focus on here, was written by Guggenheim with art by Wilkins, but there were some more shorts in this book with different creative teams. But they didn’t feature any X-Men, so who cares! Ok, this landmark issue of What If? asks the question: What if the good guys lost the Siege of Asgard? If you don’t like spoilers, turn away now because I’m going to spoil the hell out of this issue because it was a bloody good time! We all know what happened during Siege; the Asgardians win the day in the end, but not before Norman Osborn, with Sentry and his Dark Avengers, cause some serious damage. Well, here Sentry just goes INSANE and murders practically everyone and it’s AWESOME! And so begins the play-by-play. He punches through Luke Cage, wastes Thor, and decapitates Captain America with his own shield. Meanwhile, Venom devours Spider-Man, Bullseye blows up Iron Man with an energy cannon, Daken guts Cyclops and decapitates The Thing, and Bullseye stabs Domino in the throat. Oh, and Sentry punches the heads off of Wolverine and X-23. And this is only the beginning. At this point in the battle, the characters who haven’t been gruesomely murdered realize they need to rally, and Dr. Doom shows up, teleporting away Emma Frost, Nightcrawler, Namor, Magneto, and Beast. Loki is there too. This small group of survivors come up with a plan to turn Sentry against Osborn and his Dark Avengers by revealing to him that Bullseye was the one who murdered his love (see the Dark Avengers series). The team teleports back to the fray, and Namor punches the crap out of Bullseye. The team wastes no time in revealing the aforementioned info to Sentry via a psychic link with Emma Frost. And the carnage continues. Instead of having the desired effect, Sentry goes even more insane and with one swing of his fist, smashes Emma’s head into a bloody pulp. Holy hell! He then puts a fist through Bullseye, and lets out The Void who fries Doctor Doom rather easily. The dark being then kills some more people and tortures the hell out of Osborn for manipulating him all this time. Oh, and then The Void blows up the Earth. Holy shit. This is hands down the best issue Marc Guggenheim has written in a long time, and Dave Wilkins art is absolutely phenomenal. If you can still find this issue on the shelves BUY IT! It’s f***ing killer. -AL

X-23 #4
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artists: Will Conrad and Marco Checchetto

This series is getting better with each issue, and the addition of Gambit to the cast was a great move. X-23 continues her quest of discovering who she is, to learn if she has a soul, and what her purpose in life may be. She is walking wherever her feet lead her, with no clear destination in mind, when she meets this girl with a black eye whom has clearly fallen victim to some form(s) of abuse. She learns that the girl was a ploy to capture Laura, as she later happens across her potential kidnapper on the side of a dark, desert road. The girl’s lifeless body is in the grasp of a man who clearly has some issues, and a fight ensues. X kills the guy and then Gambit shows up as a sort of moral compass. I know, what an amusing notion. I kind of like it though, as Gambit is no stranger to taking a young girl under his wing; remember a de-aged Storm in Uncanny X-Men #266? Gambit reveals to Laura that clearly something is afoot as the man she just killed had a photo of her on his person. What our heroes don’t know is that Ms. Sinister is the villain(ess) here, and while I’m not a fan of the confusing sex change in the character, I like how there is history between (s)he and Remy from the Mutant Massacre way back when. Marjorie Liu is doing a great job on this book so far; she’s telling Laura’s journey of self discovery in a very believable way, and the supporting cast spices things up. Plus, Will Conrad’s and Marco Checchetto’s art is the perfect compliment to Liu’s script. Their clean, detailed style sets the bar for excellence, and John Rauch’s colors seal the deal. Even if you’ve never been a fan of X-23, I think the supporting cast is enough to keep any X-Men fan interested, and I strongly suggest giving this series a shot. -AL

X-Men Forever 2 #14
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Andy Smith

As we keep reviewing this series here in The X-Piles, there is the occasional decent issue that finds its way into the mix, and this issue is an example of that. Maybe it’s because I was in a good mood reading alternate U stories after reading What If? #200 (see above), or maybe this issue was just decent, but whatever the reason, I liked this one. It was the calm before the storm (hah!) as it looks like a battle royal is on the horizon for next issue. The Avengers made up of Vision, Norse Thor (remember this series “takes place” in the 90s), Cap, Spider-Woman, Quicksilver, Hawkeye, and Wanda are ready to throw down with the X-Men for breaking international law. They have invaded Wakanda to take down psycho Storm, and that was just a bad move in the eyes of the government. There were some fun character moments in this one, with Gambit and Sabretooth breaking into a weapons cache, and even Kurt and Rogue have an amusing moment, taking down a goon. Although, Mystique kind of ruins it when she thinks, “My children–at last–together and happy. As am I.” Yeah, sorry, but Mystique would never say that. Andy Smith’s art is pretty good too. I’ve said it before: I think his art looks better than some of the stuff we’re getting in the main X-books. Is it weird to say I’m looking forward to the next issue of this series? I want to see this battle, and Andy Smith may have the chops to make it look cool. -AL

X-Men: To Serve & Protect #2
Writers: Chris Yost, Ray Fawkes, Stuart Moore, & Simon Spurrier
Artists: Derec Donovan, Ron Chan, Garry Brown, & David LaFuente

Part two of this X-Men anthology series is pretty much like the first issue. One good story and the rest not-so-good. The good story is Chris Yost’s X-Dudes tale of Rockslide and Anole kicking some serious butt and getting into some serious trouble with some major villains. Somehow Chris Yost just gets these characters and their relationship with one another. Derec Donovan provides some excellent pencils here, too, and his style fits these characters well. The rest of the stories don’t bear much mentioning. One is a clumsy team-up between the Stepford Cuckoos and Spider-Man. The story is awkward and the art didn’t do a good job of explaining why the bank robbers were standing in weird poses, and why Spider-Man was randomly hitting them. Very weak story. Next is a short Colossus/Iron Man team-up, which was good in some ways because you never see Colossus teaming-up with anyone solo. This was an OK story that did some good reflection on a hero like Tony Stark and a hero like Peter Rasputin. The last story was another bizarre team-up between X-23 and Ghost Rider, which loosely tied in to what’s going on in the X-23 series. What made this story stink was David LaFuente’s art, which is usually really good on books like Ultimate Spider-Man. But this was a darker-toned story and it did not fit his style at all. And since when did Ghost Rider talk like Wolverine? Unless you’re an X-Men completist, I’d say steer clear of this mini-series, as I think I see a pattern forming. -JJ

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Andy: What If? #200 no question. It blew my mind.
Jeff: I have to go with New Mutants #20 simply because of Dani Moonstar’s awesomeness!

For previous editions of The Uncanny X-Piles, click here!

Andy Liegl

Jeff Jackson



  1. Billy

    Wow, that What If book does sounds crazy! I think I’ll have to get that one. 😀 Good reviews guys!

  2. Dang, you guys came out swinging! These reviews were all spot on! It’s like you guys can read my mind.

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