In this edition of The Uncanny X- Piles, Daniel Way takes over Astonishing X-Men, Age of X kicks off in X-Men Legacy and New Mutants, the X-Men: To Serve and Protect mini series comes to an end, and more!
The regular ongoing Astonishing X-Men title is back, and in grand form, with Daniel Way and Jason Pearson at the helm! This issue is the first we’ve had since Warren Ellis’ run on the title, and the Xenogenesis mini, and it’s a refreshing dosage of non-meta, superhero X-Men action. In short, it’s awesome, and a great jumping on point for this series. Basically Mentallo, whom I’m not very familiar with, used a Roxxon oil mining team in order to gain access to Monster Island. Why? Well, the best I could deduce was to control one of the biggest monsters in the Marvel U to terrorize Tokyo: Fin Fang Foom! The X-Men get caught in the situation due to their arrival in Tokyo for the funerals of Armor’s brother and mother. It’s nice to see that Way is going to shine the spotlight on Armor, as the Astonishing X-Men line has been her book as much as anyone else’s- he’s already further developing her power set. Jason Pearson’s art is heavily stylized, but a perfect fit for a book featuring big bads for the X-Men to fight. My only beef is that Wolverine, while depicted well, needs to be shorter. Also take note that Sonia Oback colored this issue; we haven’t seen her work since the recently concluded X-Force title, where she worked with Mike Choi. As usual, she does a great job here, but her stuff has gotten a little less polished, which I like, as it blends well with Pearson’s art. I’m probably in the minority in that I liked Ellis’ run, but Daniel Way brings a simplicity to this book that was desperately needed. The formula is easy enough: there’s a situation, a rather big one, and the X-Men are caught in the middle of it. There. That’s all we need to know to get hooked. -AL
I’m loving this storyline dealing with the Hood’s quest in stealing the Infinity Gems from the Illuminati. He already has two, so in this issue, teams are sent to go grab the remaining three before Hood gets to them. We begin with Namor, accompanied by Thor and Red Hulk, swimming to the dark depths of the ocean. It’s a great scene, as the three combat a ginormous eel safeguarding the entrance to the gem. It’s freaky looking, but is dealt with by Red Hulk who literally bursts through the thing. Once the gem is in hand, Namor passes it off to Thor for safekeeping, much to the chagrin of Red Hulk. This entire opening montage was done without dialogue, which was a great artistic choice. Then we head to Westchester County, New York, to the ex-home of ex-Professor Charles Xavier. Chuck is accompanied by a large posse of Avengers: Spider-Woman, Iron Fist, War Machine, Moon Knight, Medusa, Lockjaw, Ms. Marvel, Maria Hill, Wolverine, and former X-Man (I guess) turned Secret Avenger, Beast. They stand amidst the ruins of the former Xavier Institute, which was decimated in the wake of Messiah Complex. All this time, Xavier has hidden his Infinity Gem inside the Danger Room, and the only way to access it is to defeat a program designed to kill anyone attempting to take the gem. This team must fight that program, and it was an awesome brawl. The defensive holos were of the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the Brood, and an army of Sentinels, so seeing this rare cadre fight those villains was super fun, not to mention the well placed banter between Logan, Hank, and Charles. Even so, I have some beef with this “Infinity Gem hidden in the ruins of the X-Mansion” idea: Why the hell have the X-Men, or Xavier for that matter, just allowed the ruins of the Institute to be left unguarded and uncleaned up? This has bugged me since the school went down, and it’s absurd that no bad guy has rummaged through the wreckage yet for their own benefits. Lots of other neat stuff happens in this issue, but it has nothing to do with the X-Men, so you’ll have to read it yourself to find out what that stuff is. I will say thig though: the last panel was kick-ass, and I’m foaming at the mouth to see what’s going to go down next time! -AL
The opening scene has Star Wars and Facebook references made by a loving alien couple named Bluzia and Wongus, who get blown to space dust as their planet Ongulia is destroyed by ID, the Selfish Moon! Step aside Ego, you’ve been punked! The surviving members of Ongulia are in a space ship and vow vengeance. However, they’re well aware that any attack against ID is suicidal, so they begin their search for the right kind of warrior… ‘Pool has been in space since taking the spaceship of Macho Gomez, whom he killed last issue, as he’s just been drifting around, lost in space. I loved the moment where he checks his star map, and it’s a map of Hollywood stars you can find in Los Angeles. Oh ‘Pool, you silly bum. Carlo Barbieri’s depiction of a masked, grinning Deadpool throughout the issue was hilarious, too. He looks so dopey. Wade ends up getting hitched with this hideously enormous alien woman, who was the widow of Macho Gomez, and the siblings of his bride are forced to incorporate him into the family business, which they begrudgingly do. They need to get rid of Deadpool, and the Ongulians come to the rescue- send Deadpool on a mission to take down ID! Thor may be fighting Ego in Astonishing Thor right now, but ID gets to face off against the terror of Wade Wilson! -AL
I’m not sure where I stand on this title anymore. On one hand, I’m enjoying it- Ariel Olivetti’s art is the strength of this series, and Stuart Moore is weaving some interesting plot lines. However, I feel Olivetti’s work is either being wasted on this arc, or he’s phoning it in, and that something is missing from Moore’s writing. To touch on the former, Olivetti made this book his bitch in the Curse of the Mutants tie-in; his monsters, sea creatures, and water vampires were freeakin’ scary, and when he left this series for an issue and a half, it dealt a negative blow to the title. But here, in the Namor Goes to Hell storyline, the book just looks…boring. While I understand why Namor, a being of the ocean, would envision his own personal Hell as a barren wasteland, a desert is far more desolate than vampire infested waters, which is less interesting to look at. At first I was into the “Atlantis demons in the guise of crustaceans” idea, but there hasn’t been that nasty looking monster that makes you pee your pants with fright like in the previous arc. Instead, they all seem rather tame and unintimidating- nothing that a swift kick couldn’t solve to make them go away, and I want more than that. Especially after Olivetti brought his A++ game in Curse. Perhaps he has gotten bored with this book, and has run out of ideas. I certainly hope not, since Moore is planting seeds for this title to develop over time with one of Marvel’s oldest heroes. As mentioned before, I like his choice to shine the spotlight on Loa, a relatively unheard of X-kid. He’s leading us to believe that there are big plans for her down the line, with her Lord of the Rings-esque amulet thingie harboring the ghosts of Atlantis’ Kings. The side plot with Krang and his unruly group of Atlanteans who don’t believe Namor is the true King of Atlantis, also seems to be building steam. Eventually that pressure cooker will pop, and Namor will have some skulls to bash. But why the heck is Dr. Doom here? Is it because the amulet has ties to magic? Maybe, but Doom doesn’t say that’s the reason, instead, he claims to be present because it pisses him off to see his former adversary act like such a wussy…ok…so how did Doom find out about Namor going to Hell in the first place? …and how did he find him? And how the hell does he swim while wearing a freakin’ iron mask? Moore still has time to make some sense of this arc, as the whole “Namor is finding his true self” thing is wearing thin, and despite his good intentions of keeping this series going, Olivetti can only keep it afloat for so long. -AL
I wrote my review of part 1 of Age of X below, so you might want to read that one first. It’s hard to believe that this is actually an issue of New Mutants, and I’m still bitter about Zeb Wells leaving the book, and doing so quite abruptly, since his work was so good. For all intents and purposes, this is just another issue of X-Men Legacy with Mike Carey doing the Age of X story in the interim before someone else takes on New Mutants. This issue picks right up where X-Men Legacy #245 leaves off, in the middle of the mystery of who Kitty Pryde really is, and what she was doing on the other side of the telekinetic force field surrounding Fortress X. Rogue, or should I say Legacy, or should I say Reaper, is trying to figure out exactly what’s going on. We find some really interesting things in the bowels of Fortress X, and to me, this is the crux of my interest in this story thus far. Legacy finds Blindfold as a prisoner, and she is in her regular 616 garb, reminiscent of Bishop in the Age of Apocalypse story who was the only person who knew things weren’t right in the world. She also finds Professor X, who is catatonic, which is really interesting. It seems that Magneto has a bunch of telepaths as prisoners in the basement, and I for one am itching to find out why. In this issue we get a really cool story about Legacy as she starts to unravel the mystery for us. Steve Kurth’s artwork is a good compliment to Clay Mann’s on the first part. His work is not quite as strong as Mann’s, but it’s not so far of a departure that it’s striking. I’m not a fan of photo-referencing celebrities, and it looks like Kurth is modeling Legacy and Kitty on Kate Winslet in a few panels. I don’t like this because one, it takes me out of the story as I’m thinking, “Oh, that’s Kate Winslet!” and two, he uses her template on two different characters. Whereas I was extremely skeptical of this story, I am really on-board for Age of X and am looking forward to where Carey is taking us. -JJ
Call the newspapers folks, because I have something amazing to say in regards to this issue. After months of dogging Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men and Greg Land’s over-postured art, I have to admit, I actually enjoyed this issue. The reasons I have not been liking Uncanny are focused on the fact that Fraction has been juggling way too many characters and way too many story lines in each issue. It’s not to say that his ideas are bad, it’s that his issues have gone for quantity over quality. This issue finally gets the balance right. In this Quarantine arc, there have been two main stories going on: 1. Emma and her team handling Sebastian Shaw, and 2. the other X-Men dealing with sickness caused by Lobe and the Sublime Corporation. However, in the last few issues, they also threw in pieces of Scott and Emma getting a PR person, the Collective Man doing something sinister in Chinatown, and these other new wannabe X-Men fighting crime in San Francisco. The way the Collective Man stuff was being built up, it looked like that was a major story brewing. However, Fraction takes the hint and in this issue decides to cut off the fat in this book, focusing solely on the two major stories. Because of this, there are a lot more great character moments that occur rather than 20 or so characters showing up for one or two panels. The fight between Shaw and Emma, Kitty, and Fantomex was excellent, with Shaw calling Kitty’s bluff as she phases into him and says she’ll solidify. Angel’s team finally confronts Lobe and finds themselves caught in a room with hundreds of people who want to have mutant powers. Once Lobe tosses out his product to them, the stakes get really high. I even laughed out loud when Lobe asks the crowd which powers they want. “Wolverine!” “Deadpool!” “Wolverine!” “Deadpool!” “Adam-X!” “Really?” Another hindrance to this book has been Land’s art, mainly because his “photo-realistic” figures are so posed from the fashion magazines he uses as reference, that everyone tends to look completely stupid grinning like scarecrows in the middle of fights. However, his faces tend to be more expressive in this issue. His ability to “act” his drawings takes a step in the right direction. There are still goofy poses, but it works. The issue ends in an exciting way, with the sick, depowered X-Men taking the fight to the humans hopped up on mutant power juice. I’m just as surprised as you are by this review! -JJ
The opening X-23 story arc wraps up nicely, leaving some loose ends, but answering many questions. Most notably, who in the hell is Miss Sinister? From what I understood, she’s been possessed by Mr. Sinister this whole time who is slowly, but surely, taking over her body and mind, eliminating all traces of Claudine Renko’s identity- her personality, her memories, everything. Mr. Sinister can, for a time, take control of Claudine’s body, completely melting it down and reforming it into the guise of the Sinister we know of old, but eventually the clock runs out, and he reverts back to the form of Claudine, a.k.a., Miss Sinister. Thank you Marjorie Liu for clearing that up; its been driving me insane since Miss Sinister first appeared in X-Men Legacy #214. Her reasons for wanting X-23 are simple enough: she wants to prevent Sinister from eradicating her memories, etc., so she needs a new host to house them. She could care less about losing her body, so long as the new one has a healing factor, an ability she currently possesses, and X-23 is the perfect candidate. After all, what’s the point of youth if you can’t keep it? We also learn that this is the reason for the Alice clones too- Miss Sinister was working in tandem with a member of the Weapon X program, Malcolm Concord, who was using the clones as test subjects for a healing factor he was trying to create. Once successful, Miss Sinister would be given the body of a clone, and would go on her merry way. However, why wait for science when X-23 is there, ready for the taking? The ending to this arc didn’t seem rushed at all; I commend Liu for tackling such a confusing element in the X-verse, and successfully clearing it up. The loose end left dangling will no doubt come into play later. Will Conrad and David Lopez nailed the art in this story, and considering Liu’s penchant for steamy sexuality, they capture the look of the major players very well. I’m interested to see where the next issue will take us in Laura’s search for her soul. I hope Gambit sticks around, and I wouldn’t be opposed to more mutants joining in the fun…some members of the New X-Men perhaps? -AL
I’ve said it before, but Victor Gischler is proving to be the top-tier X-Men writer today. This story is just good, even if it doesn’t have important ramifications to X-Men continuity, or long-reaching status-quo changes for the entire line. It’s just a good X-Men story. Gischler has effectively made this book “X-Men Team-Up,” with Blade in the first arc, and Spider-Man in this one. It’s great to see the X-Men mixing it up with villains that aren’t in their classic rogues gallery. There are a number of things in this issue that made it good. First, the threat that the X-Men and Spider-Man are facing is sinister, creepy, and somehow “realistic.” Of course a villain would prey on outcast kids through the internet. The realistic nature of that alone gives this story a depth and a creepiness that is rare in an X-Men book. Also, it’s cool to see the X-Men care about people who aren’t mutants and who are just underdogs of society. Awkward teenagers need champions too! Gischler also just knows how to write these characters. I love that after slogging through sewers, Emma sets up a mobile HQ in a ritzy hotel. But the real treat in this issue is the exquisite art of X-Men icon Chris Bachalo. His rendition of the Lizard alone is worth the $3.99 cover price. I also love his version of Wolverine, his use of black and white in flashback sequences, and his attention to detail in backgrounds. It really is a treat to see. Plus, his style of art goes perfectly with a darker-toned book like this. To me, this is simply the strongest of the four (wow, are there really four titled “X-Men” on-goings now? Astonishing, Uncanny, Legacy, and Adjectiveless) main books. -JJ
After that Age of X one-shot from a couple of weeks ago, I was extremely worried about this story from Mike Carey. I like Carey and have mostly liked his work on the X-Men over the years, but I’m just going to block out that one-shot and start clean with part 1 of Age of X here in X-Men Legacy. When creators do a story like this, it can be easy to make the thrust of it about why the world has changed and what the changes actually are, as opposed to what we’re used to in the 616 universe. For example, the flashy part of a story like this is seeing the difference between Cyclops and his Age of X rendition, Basilisk. If that’s all a story like this is, than it’s done for. What made Age of Apocalypse cool is that every book had a story to tell in a world that was completely upside down. In the lead-ins to this story, Carey has begun with character bios and preview images that didn’t tell the reader much about the story he wanted to tell. Perhaps this is what he was going for, but it didn’t draw me in. Now that I’m holding the first two parts in my hand, I see that Carey actually has an intriguing to play out. It centers around Rogue, who is called both Legacy and Reaper in this world, who has the crummy job of absorbing dead mutants so that their memories will live on through her. But when Kitty Pryde shows up wrapped in a mystery of her own, things start getting interesting. Lots of questions are immediately raised in this story, and not just “What happened?” First and foremost in my mind is why Magneto has a bunch of telepathic mutants as prisoners in his basement? I thought mutants were the victims in this world. That’s a question that is really drawing me into this story and makes me wonder ultimately what really is going on here. Carey also does a good job of focusing on some lesser-known characters like Frenzy and Legion in this world, which is exciting. As for the art, I was really not excited to hear Clay Mann was the main artist on this story. His previous work here seemed so bland. However, I have to say, what he produces in this issue is really fantastic. The panels that really draw me to him are the ones that are heavy on the darks, like the scene with Magneto and Danger. His storytelling has also increased and his panels are more cinematic than they were in previous issues. I thought that maybe there was a change in inkers or colorists, but Jay Leisten and Brian Reber up their game here as well. I am very impressed with this story and can’t wait to see what happens next. -JJ
Let me start by saying that if you want to see some great art, be sure to pick up this book. All the above artists do a phenomenal job with every story in this anthology. Stuart Immonen especially knocks it out of the park and makes me excited for the upcoming Fear Itself event. Derec Donovan completes a great run on the Rockslide/Anole story, which gave this mini-series some good continuity. Sheldon Vella’s art is unorthodox but really dynamic and I especially liked his roller-skating MODOK (yes, there is a roller-skating MODOK in this book). The team on the Hercules/Psylocke story was really strong, especially Miguel Munera’s flashback sequences. His facial acting was perfect for a story like this. So buy this issue if nothing else than to see pretty pictures. But DO NOT waste your time on reading these stories. Well, that may be too harsh. Read the Chris Yost story because he writes the best Rockslide and Anole ever. But the rest is utter garbage. I haven’t forgiven Kathryn Immonen for single-handedly getting Runaways cancelled. I thought that maybe she just needed to find her stride on another book, but her Pixie mini-series was terrible and this Gambit/Hellcat story was utterly unreadable. I have never read a story in a comic that made absolutely no sense. But this was like one random unfunny panel after another. It had nothing to do with anything. Why were Gambit and Hellcat even together in a bar? I think Immonen was intimating that Scott and Emma set them up, but it was laced with such obscure dialogue that I had to go back and re-read it multiple times to figure it out. As good as Stuart is, his wife is not good. The Jed Mackay Dazzler/Misty Knight/Colleen Wing story was equally bizarre. Finally James Asmus throws in a strange tale about Hercules hooking up with Psylocke and not remembering it. It was humorous, but still too random for my taste. Why would Psylocke sleep with Hercules? Thankfully, this mini-series is done until the next anthology Marvel sends us. Lemme guess…X-Men: Fear Itself? -JJ
Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Andy: Age of X was solid, but Avengers #10 was easily the most entertaining. It was nice to see Xavier in comics again.
Jeff: I’m loving X-Men #8 if nothing else than Bachalo’s rendition of the Lizard.
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