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March 7, 2011
 

The Uncanny X-Piles XXXI

Your X-gene is hungry for more of The Uncanny X-Piles, so read on fellow mutants!

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #5
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Kaare Andrews

At long last, Xenogenesis has reached it’s conclusion. I don’t mind the Astonishing titles being late or having months in between issues, so long as the stories are awesome. This mini-series has pretty much been underwhelming, as has the entirety of Ellis’ run on Astonishing. There’s nothing really bad here, just nothing that will knock your socks off. The X-Men have their backs against the wall in this issue, with a cadre of Furies breathing down their necks. However, it’s Emma Frost who saves the day. But the real breakout character of this series for me is Doctor Crocodile, who’s real name I can’t remember. An obscure character from Captain Britain, he really becomes interesting here. It’s Croc who rescues Emma from an oncoming Fury, ultimately allowing Emma to redirect the Fury’s programming. And when the dust clears, it’s Croc who does what the X-Men couldn’t do with such a threat like Jim Jaspers. The issue ends on a low note, much like Uncanny X-Force from a couple of weeks ago, with the X-Men wanting to choose a moral high road, but instead having the rug pulled out from under them. Perhaps if Remender hadn’t done a similar beat, this one would have had more impact on the reader. Kaare Andrews impresses once again with his dynamic action shots, but like I’ve said in previous reviews, his version of Emma Frost hinders the book, as it’s hard to take her seriously with just exploitation of her figure. I think we were supposed to take her more seriously with her role in this issue, but the way Andrews draws her face just makes her look silly. I want to like this issue, but somewhere it just didn’t connect with me, with the exception of Doc Croc, who I hope won’t fall back into obscurity. -JJ

Avengers Academy #9
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Mike McKone

Marvelites, this may be one of the best books you aren’t reading. Christos Gage has created a great group of interestingly unique characters, and where I think Generation Hope is struggling, Gage has provided a far superior teen-team book that reads to a mature audience. Mike Mckone’s art is killer too, with clean lines, fine detail, and expressive faces. So, lets talk about Quicksilver, the only mutant in this book…that we know of. Gage writes him with a snappy personality, and here Finesse, one of the more adult students of the Avengers Academy, inquires Pietro about his relationship with his father Magneto. She finds herself in a very similar situation, since due to her powerset, she believes her father to be Taskmaster. This statment from Pietro about sums it up, “I have experience with…unothodox fathers. As annoyingly Oedipal as it sounds, if he is your father, helping bring him down will let you forge your own identity.” If Quicksilver’s true intentions about Magneto were ever in question, that should answer most of them. Later, he gets into a verbal spat with Tigra about her moral decision to expell select students from the Academy. He likens the situation to how Magneto used to manipulate he and Wanda as children, and how by letting those kids go, Tigra is merely setting them up to be brainwashed by the first supervillain to take advantage. She doesn’t like it, but Pietro has a very valid point. The only thing I wish he would have added to the conversation was to tell Tigra to put some damn pants on. -AL

Deadpool MAX #5
Writer: David Lapham
Artist: Kyle Baker

What’s the best way to rope in your audience? How about a “holy shit!” moment for an opening that features a boy scout getting gutted by The Taskmaster…who’s a woman!? Do I have your attention? Lapham shows Deadpool’s strange sentimental side in this issue, playing to parental themes; this lady version of Taskmaster was his mother figure growing up, and now he has been charged to kill her. She trained him as a little scout in the methods of awfulness, but the two parted ways when ‘Pool refused to earn his final merit badge, which I won’t state here what it was, other than it’s pretty disturbing. One of the best parts in this issue was a one page montage of Taskmaster taking charge of her troop of child-scouts. In each panel she presents a new deathly merit badge for the boys to earn in a “survival of the fittest” type setting; like running through fire, wading through pirranha infested waters, going 1 on 1 with a rabid muskrat, or drinking poison and fighting for the antedote, and in each consequtive panel, a scout is missing. Wade is the last man standing, and thus, a relationship was forged. With Bob, Deadpool’s straight man, Lapham shows us that there is a through story here, one that is slowly unfolding issue to issue, giving this series a little more subtance than your typical ‘Pool book. Where Daniel Way’s Deadpool series is a more over the top-cartoony take on the character, Lapham’s version is more “real world” (I use that phrase loosely) and adult oriented. Deadpool’s a killer, and he plays to that theme. In Deadpool MAX, the creators are taking Deadpool places you hate to want to see him in, but when he’s there, it’s entertaining as hell to see how it all goes down. -AL

Generation Hope #4
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Espin

The Five Lights finally make it back to Utopia after the last three drawn-out issues where they battled Kenji. Kenji’s OK now, perhaps, and the group starts to settle into their lives with the X-Men. Perhaps the most interesting part of this issue comes from Dr. Nemesis’ analysis of their powers, which aren’t completely what they seem. But despite all this, I can’t help but feel like this book is just superfluous to the X-Men universe right now. This issue proves the point, there is just so much extraneous garbage that Gillen is throwing in. First, for no reason other than they have similar powers, Wolverine and Teon fight one another. Why? Who knows? Also, Gabriel beats up Dr. Nemesis. One, that would never happen because Nemesis is a bad ass. Two, it served no real point other than to make Gabriel look like a jerk. Gillen tries to hint that Kenji is still dangerous, but it’s so vague that it really doesn’t draw the reader in. So my main question is, what is the point of this book? Do we need more new mutants? I really don’t think so, as none of them really bring much to the table. The New X-Men seem like they could use more attention than these new characters. One thing this book has going for it is Salvador Espin. His manga-influenced style fits well with these characters, and there are some really strong panels in this issue. He has really grown over the last four issues. Whereas there have been successful attempts at bringing in a new generation of mutants, I feel like this concept lacks some oomph. Hopefully, the next arc will prove a bit more focused and give this title the spark it needs. -JJ

Marvel Girl #1
Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Artist: Nuno Plati

This issue continues Marvel’s recent string of one-shot origin stories featuring various members of the X-Men. Before this issue was the disappoinging Magneto one-shot, and unfortunately, this one falls into the same category: It wasn’t bad, but it was far from great. Writing an origin story with such a well-established character as Jean Grey is difficult to do, especially when it’s not a period piece. Meaning, this issue was set in what looked like the modern day, yet we all know Jean “grew up” in the 50s/60s. There’s no doubt about it, this is a vague line to cross in comics, (if the characters aged in real-time they’d be old people by now, blah blah blah), but the reading audience is usually open to suspending their disbelief when it comes to that point. For example, we all know and accept that Magneto grew up in the Holocaust and Professor Xavier fought in Korea without any further explanation, and I think the same angle could have worked here with Jean. Plus, X-Men First Class has claimed the “What if the X-Men grew up in the 2000s” vibe, so here it feels a little awkward in a story supposedly set in the 616 Universe. Actually, this issue very much felt like an X-Men First Class story, and if it were billed that way, I probably would have enjoyed it more. I just found it difficult to believe that this story took place in continuity; that Jean Grey had a childhood friend who was always on her mind, causing her discomfort due to unsettled business. Joshua Fialkov, while an amazing writer (see Tumor and Echoes– seriously, those books will blow your mind), may be a little out of his element with the X-Men. At least in this type of a setting, with a solo story starring one of the most popular mutants in comics. Nuno Plati’s art was pretty good, but polarizing, as those who aren’t a fan of a more manga influence will probably turn away. Again, if this had an X-Men First Class headline, it would be much more fitting. There was another similarity with this issue and the Magneto one-shot: both our protagonists combat giant monster things. I hope that isn’t a trend in the upcoming Cyclops and Angel & Iceman issues due out soon. I’m really looking forward to those. -AL

Thunderbolts #153
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Kev Walker

In this current arc, Jeff Parker and Kev Walker are putting together one of the best battle scenes of the year in comics. This entire storyline has been a battle royal of the Thunderbolts vs. a plethora of giant monsters, and it’s awesome. Mainly because Parker clearly understands the powers of his cast, playing to their strengths and how they operate as a team, and Kev Walker has a knack for the flow of combat moves that make sense from panel to panel. Far too often we see characters using their powers for no real reason other than to “hit the bad guy,” but here, when Juggernaut charges, or Moonstone fires her energy beams, or Songbird “sings,” they do it with intention, and it’s a great thing to see play out. But enough about that, lets talk about the reason why this book is being reviewed here: Juggernaut. If you’re a Juggs fan, you will love this series, especially this issue. Here he goes fist to fist against Hyperion, who’s kind of like a Superman rip off, complete with heat vision, flight, and super strength. Basically Hyperion is a huge dick, leaving Moonstone and Songbird to drown while he tries to figure out how to escape the nanites Luke Cage and co. have injected in his body to keep him under control. Juggernaut sees Hyperion abandon his teammates, rescues them, and then calls out Hyperion. The two engage in a fierce battle which lasts throughout most of the issue. They trade blows, but eventually Hyperion gets an edge, pulling a cheap shot by igniting Cain’s nanite control and kicking out his knee, preventing him from charging. He even melts his helmet, rips it off, and pounds Cain’s face like ground chuck. Juggernaut is nobody’s patsy though, and when Moonstone comes to the rescue (favor returned!), she hits Hyperion with some energy beams, waiting until Ghost shows up to active the nanite’s in the rogue T-Bolt, bringing him down. Moonstone, Ghost, Man-Thing, and Juggernaut proceed to pound the hell out of Hyperion, and it’s well deserved. In Thunderbolts, Parker and Walker are writing one of the top team books being published right now, and I hope they stick around on this title for a long while. -AL

Uncanny X-Force #5
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Esad Ribic

Remender comes right off the success of his first arc on this series and jumps into a tale that is a continuation of something Jason Aaron started over in Wolverine: Weapon X. I was not very impressed with that story, mainly because unless it has to do with tightening up the concept of Weapon Plus and the World that Grant Morrison started way back when, then what’s the point? Instead, Aaron tied in an alternate future and the character Deathlok into the mix, and as far as I was concerned, made the whole thing more confusing and uninteresting. So the fact that Remender is tackling this thread does not get me excited. That said, he does a pretty good job of summing up Fantomex’s connection to the World, and bringing new readers up to speed on what’s going on. Fantomex, who is the breakout character of this book after last issue, is rightly the focus of this one. He is attacked by Deathlok-versions of the Avengers, which is pretty cool, and once again Fantomex shows his stuff. I can’t help but wonder why he doesn’t use his misdirection power against them. He used it against Apocalypse’s Ship last issue, so why not these guys? Remender thrusts us right into another adventure and for that, I’m thankful. Meanwhile, the rest of X-Force gathers to discuss what happened last issue. I admit, I have not read much of anything with Deadpool in it since this book, but when did he get so soft? He calls the group together to be the moral compass of the group, which I find extremely out-of-character. But maybe people who are more up on Deadpool can correct me on this. It just seems like Psylocke would have been a better decision to stand in that role than Deadpool. I mostly liked this issue, and enjoyed that Esad Ribic is trading off with Jerome Opena. It keeps the tone of the book similar, even though I prefer Opena’s work to Ribic’s. Maybe my real problem with this issue is not that it isn’t crafted well, but that I just am not interested in the alternate future tropes and the complex Weapon Plus stuff. So while that might not be for me, if you like that stuff, check this book out. I’m remaining optimistic that Remender will work his magic in this arc like he did last time. -JJ

Wolverine #6
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Daniel Acuna

Now this is what I’m talking about! The last arc was great except for the art, but brining Daniel Acuna on board takes this storyline to new heights for me. After battling his way out of Hell, Wolverine is almost back, with the exception of the many demons that have taken up residence in his body. This issue fires on all cylinders. Cyclops has the ultimate plan for taking down Logan, and it looks like he might get his chance to use it. Remember when Magneto ripped out Wolverine’s adamantium? Yeah, that’s part of the plan. And now Magneto’s on Cyclops’ team. Uh oh, Logan. Add Namor to that mix and you have the one-two punch that can really make a mess for Logan. I loved how Jason Aaron comments on Logan’s history of being mind-controlled. This story could easily be an eye-rolling, “here-we-go-again” moment, but Aaron does a good job of tying that into Cyclops’ motivation to have a protocol in place to take out the oft-brainwashed mutant. Once again, Aaron proves that he just gets the entire Wolverine concept, and he knows how to use the beats to his advantage. Acuna’s style might not be everyone’s favorite, but he certainly has the ability to tell the story well. I really just love the way he draws Logan’s face. This is a great issue, and another strong example of how Jason Aaron might be the best Wolverine writer in decades. -JJ

Wolverine and Jubilee #2
Writer: Kathryn Immonen
Artist: Phil Noto

I love this mini-series. Sure, I’m a big time Jubilee fan (don’t judge me, I grew up with the X-Men cartoon and Jim Lee), and her character devlopment here may be the best of any X-Man in a long, long time. For years now Jubilee has been far in the background of the X-Men, as nobody really knew what to do with her. She co-led the New Warriors for awhile back in 2007-2008, and maybe some of that character development has rubbed off here, but otherwise, Jubes has been non-existent in the X-verse. Then Victor Gischler came along and turned her into a vampire, leaving Kathryn Immonen to take the reins and run with them- which she has done amazingly well so far. Which has come as a pleasant surprise to me since I’m usually not a big fan of her work (except Moving Pictures, that indie story was very cool). In this second installment of a 4 issue mini, we see the roots of the relationship between Jubes and Wolverine- there’s definitely a father/daughter love there, and it’s incredibley refreshing to read an X-Men comic book with only two characters, loaded with so many character moments. Jubilee is struggling to control her vampire nature, along with adapting to her new vamp powers, like super strength, and Logan is there to show her the way. In the past, Jubilee played sidekick to Wolverine, but here, Jubes isn’t a kid anymore, and she makes that very clear. Phil Noto’s art is nothing short of wonderful. He captures Jubilee perfectly, from her attitude, to her look (Asian!), and he even adds an element of maturity to her composure which we’ve never seen before. My favorite scene? Watching her go toe to toe with dozens of blood thirsty Zombie-Vampire things. Holy hell that was awesome! Give this mini a shot X-fans, I think you’ll dig it. -AL

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Andy:
Oof, this is tough. I want to say Wolverine and Jubilee #2, but Uncanny X-Force #5 was great. Fantomex is such a cool character, and it was an interesting choice to see karma catch up with him here.
Jeff: Wolverine #6 gets my pick this week!

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Andy Liegl
andy@comicattack.net

Jeff Jackson
jeff@comicattack.net

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