April 25, 2011

The Uncanny X-Piles XXXVIII

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #5
Writer: Allan Heinberg
Artist: Jim Cheung

Boy, oh, boy, Jimmy Cheung makes a purty-lookin’ funny book! Seriously, once again, Cheung knocks it out of the park on pencils in the fifth chapter of this Young Avengers epic. I have no problem with this book coming out bi-monthly, or in the case of this issue, even a week or two late, if Cheung continues to draw some really wonderful panels. For me, the art alone makes this a book to pick up. Here are just a few examples of some really amazing panels: the opening splash page of the entire cast of this book in battle, Doom laying the smack-down on Wiccan…again, Vision & Iron Lad’s awkward conversation in front of Cassie, Cassie embracing her father, and the zombified Jack of Hearts panel. One thing I really appreciated about this issue was the details that Cheung put in with these heroes actually getting really dirty in the midst of battle, and remaining that way throughout the story. So often, four-colored heroes step away from a fight looking cleaner than the top of my bald head, but it’s those small things, along with the huge spreads that Cheung draws that makes this such an amazing book. The downside for me in this issue is that the story begins to get a little convoluted with the reappearance of Iron Lad. Granted, I’ve said before that time travel makes my head hurt, but in this part of the story, Iron Lad rescues the Young Avengers and the Scarlet Witch and whisks them to the past just before Wanda uses Jack of Hearts to blow up Avengers mansion. There is a lot of talk about time travel here and how Iron Lad’s technology is supposed to keep them from messing up with the timeline, but of course, it doesn’t and they end up not only restoring Wanda’s memories and rescuing Scott Lang from imminent doom. Only time will tell if this really messes up the timeline or not, but I thought all the discussion between the Young Avengers about whether or not they were screwing things up was unnecessary. Heinberg tends to fall on the side of too much information anyway, and for the first time in this series for me, it got annoying. But it’s still a fun ride and I’m excited to see where this story will land our heroes. -JJ

Fear Itself #1
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Stuart Immonen

My buddies Infinite Man & Aron Fist are covering this event for, and while this issue doesn’t directly hit any mutant beats just yet, I thought I’d throw my two cents in because judging by my fellow writers’ comments in this week’s Chirps, I might be the only one who thought this issue was a complete waste of good glossy paper. I will be the first to admit I’m not reading every Marvel book like Captain America and Thor, so I felt a little bit behind the curve when I picked it up. But, in interviews, Matt Fraction has assured readers that this series would be self-contained and an easy jumping-on point for folks (even without a .1!). This is Marvel’s event of the summer, and with blockbuster movies like Thor and Captain America hitting theaters, they would be wise to make this as new-reader-friendly as possible. However, they failed miserably. A simple recap page would have helped. Let me list some major questions I have about this issue and feel free to comment below with responses to illuminate me since I obviously am out of the Marvel loop: 1. Why were Steve and Sharon at Ground Zero? 2. Since when does a brick to the forehead knock Steve Rogers down? 3. Who the crap is Sin and why should I care? 4. Who is that random Flag-Smasher look-alike standing with the Avengers? 5. So, the answer to a riot in Lower Manhattan is to rebuild Asgard in Oklahoma? WTF? 6. Why didn’t the Avengers check with Odin before they decided to announce on TV that they were going to rebuild his city? 7. Why is Odin such a massive toolbox? 8. Who the crap is Sin’s “All-Father” and am I supposed to know who he is? 9. Am I the only one who thought Thor deserved to get smacked by his daddy? 10. When Steve Rogers has to ask “What the hell is going on?” then don’t you think it’s time to rework the script to make sense of all of this for new readers? 11. Why didn’t Odin recreate Asgard in space to begin with? 12. When Spider-Man has to ask Steve Rogers “What just happened?” on the last page then don’t you think it’s REALLY, REALLY time to rework the script into something more understandable? I have come to the conclusion that Matt Fraction is not a very good writer. I don’t understand why he’s getting billed as this “Marvel Architect” (which also really put me off) when his stuff is really not very good. I’m afraid even as a long-time Marvel fan that I just don’t understand what Marvel is up to with this book. Someone please enlighten me, because right now, I’m “afraid” that this book is trying too hard to address the cultural zeitgeist with really bad storytelling. -JJ

Skaar: King of the Savage Land #1
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Brian Ching

This issue was beautiful. When a story takes place in the Savage Land, you want lush jungles, big dinosaurs, lots of action, and plenty of bright colors; Penciler Brian Ching, with colorist Guru-eFX, deliver all of that. Writer Rob Williams tells a well laid out story too, focusing on Ka-Zar and Shanna as much as Skaar, the title character. The issue starts out with a bang, truly delivering on the splash page as Skaar tries to tame a T-Rex as his mount. He fails, but not before he punches it in the face which was awesome. Meanwhile, Ka-Zar is attempting to convince the many tribes of the Savage Land to outsource with the rest of the world, which nobody is a fan of (even Ka-Zar), and Shanna is hot as always, but gets possessed by some mystical entity that is unfamiliar to me. Brian Ching’s pencils are so clean and sharp in this issue, it felt like I was roaming the Savage Land while reading. With so many dino books out now, it’s a shock nobody has hired Ching to draw the giant lizards until now, because he nails the look of’em all. Rob WIlliams’ writing gives me hope for his upcoming run on Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force too, as standing in Rick Remender’s shadow is no easy task. Here he proves he can handle a core cast of characters well, focusing on each one individually while telling a grander story. However, a title that conveys this being an ensemble book probably would have been more appropriate for the series; every character feels like a major player, but perhaps it’s foreshadowing for something down the line, because Skaar is most definitely not the King of the Savage Land here. It’s still up in the air as to whether or not I’ll keep covering this series in The X-Piles since there aren’t any mutants in the book, let alone X-Men. While Ka-Zar, Zabu, and Shanna may be allies of the X-Men, that alone isn’t enough to have the series reviewed month in, month out in this column. However, I wanted to cover #1 because I did really enjoy it and think it’s worth picking up. If you like dinosaurs, sexy art, and all things of The Savage Land, definitely check this one out- you’ll love it! Click here for a more in-depth review of this issue. -AL

Uncanny X-Men #534.1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Carlos Pacheco

Ding dong, Matt Fraction’s gone! Thanks be to God, Kieron Gillen takes over as writer of Uncanny X-Men! Here, Marvel has put out a .1 issue that actually served the mission they set out to accomplish, which was to provide a good jumping on point for new readers. This one worked incredibly well with a new writer, a much better artist, and some fresh directions for our merry mutants. This issue focuses squarely on Magneto, who has been seriously needing the spotlight since his return to the team. With Magneto back on the X-Men, the team’s PR person has some major spinning to do because of Mags’ very checkered past. Gillen does a good job of revisiting Magneto’s most recent acts of terrorism, or those done in his name, and at the same time plays with the idea of the difference between PR and propaganda. With a PR nightmare like Magneto, what are the X-Men to do? Gillen does his homework, even mentioning recent issues of X-Men Legacy that featured Magneto publicly, which tied up dangling questions that most X-fans probably had. Now, for longtime X-fans, this idea of Magneto joining the X-Men and becoming a good guy after all the hell he has put the team through may seem overdone and cliched. I mean, they are obviously mining old ideas in Uncanny, like Kitty being unable to phase (which happened before after the Mutant Massacre). This hearkens back to the Trial of Magneto in issue #200 but has a much smaller-scale, but also realistic vibe to it. Having Magneto back on the regular X-Men would be difficult to spin, but Gillen does a good job of resolving it in a rather simple way. What’s even better is that Gillen sticks with one main team of X-Men here–Cyclops, Emma, Colossus, Kitty, Wolverine, Namor, and Magneto. Whereas the last run on the title has had so many mutants to juggle, Gillen cuts away the fat and deals with just the main characters. Sure, it’s the same bunch that’s in almost every main X-Men book, but at least it works well. Gillen makes this crew mesh and brings back some much-needed teamwork to the book. Ultimately, Magneto is the hero, which makes me extremely happy. Magneto is one of my favorite characters of all time, so to see him get the spotlight is wonderful. It’s also great to see Carlos Pacheco back on the book after many years. He still has what it takes, and pencils the hell out of this book. I was also struck by Frank D’Armata’s colors, especially of Magneto. Overall, this was a really great issue of Uncanny, and I’m hopeful that the trend will continue. -JJ

Wolverine The Best There Is #5
Writer: Charlie Huston
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp

While it’s not saying much that this issue may be the best yet of the series, we at least finally get to see Wolverine really cut loose. Unfortunately, this opening arc is well beyond the point of no return, and it just needs to end and move on. There is no reason why this story needs to be six issues. The previous four could have been condensed into one, maybe two, issues, and the story would have been much better. The general gist is Winsor, the main villain, is trying to replicate Wolverine’s healing factor in order to save himself from anemia, and whatever other diseases he’s suffering from, by torturing Logan and testing his limits (*cough*Daken/X-23 Crossover*cough*). Winsor has been able to keep Wolverine under his control through a multitude of drugs, only now we find out that all of those drugs were placebos. So wait- Winsor was able to convince Wolverine that he was being mind controlled? Seriously? We’re expected to buy that? Yeah, ok. If all of that nonsense was cut out from the story, it would have moved much faster, and we could have done without the emo dance party that was issue #1. That really got this series off on the wrong foot, and turned away a large portion of the reading audience. The main redeeming factor with this opening arc is Juan Jose Ryp’s artwork. The man brings it here, adding tons of detail to every panel and character. My only gripe with his work is his depiction of Wolverine…which is actually kind of a big deal considering this book is all about, you know, Wolverine. He looks like too much of a pretty boy, and given Ryp’s gritty nasty style (see Wolfskin), I wish he would have depicted Wolverine more stout and ugly. This story line (thankfully) concludes next issue, and I’d recommend giving #7 a shot when the X-Men get involved. We’ll see what happens, but I’m not getting my hopes up. -AL

Wolverine and Hercules: Myths, Monsters & Mutants #2
Writer: Frank Tieri
Art: Juan Santacruz

If you’re looking for a mind opening, super original take on these two characters, you won’t get it here. However, if you’re looking for a quick, fun, flash in the pan adventure starring two of Marvel’s most brawny and bawdy, you’ll walk away satisfied. I’m really liking the simple, direct approach of this series. Frank Tieri is writing an easy to follow story, pitting Herc and Wolvie against two of their long-standing rogues, in a tale that takes place in the recent past (before Herc lost his powers). This installment loses a little of the joviality between these two heroes that the previous issue had, which was a little let down, but that’s ok because the whole thing was one big fight with our heroes against mythological creatures! Juan Santacruz’s art is stiff at times, but for the most part he does a solid job. I like the brutality in the combat, especially from the titular characters. If you’re not a big fan of Hercules or Wolverine, it’s probably best to avoid the series as it won’t get you hooked on them. However, even casual fans of these two will delight in this mini so far, and it’s worth the $2.99 to give it a shot. -AL

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: Uncanny X-Men #534.1 barely squeaks ahead of the Avengers kids for me!
Andy: Uncanny is close, but I’m going with Skaar: King of the Savage Land #1. I went in with low expectations, but was very pleseantly surprised.

For more tantalizing editions of The Uncanny X-Piles, click here.

Jeff Jackson

Andy Liegl



  1. Aron

    I agree with you, Jeff. FEAR ITSELF #1 IS a waste of glossy paper! You can’t even comfortably wipe your butt with it? It’s good for nothing. 🙁

  2. Billy

    I think I might have to pick up that Wolvie/Herc book…

  3. Great reviews, guys! I agree with most of them except Jeff’s take on Fear Itself. I also, only read X-Men related books from Marvel, but I was not completely lost on what was going on. Did I have questions? Yes, but it’s barely the first issue and they are not going to reveal everything that’s going on in the first issue! I think if you stick with it you will be able to figure out enough to enjoy the story.

  4. I think a lot of people went into Fear Itself thinking everything was going to be put on display for you all in the first issue. That’s never how it’s done with any story arc. And maybe Marvel did assume too much by thinking that everyone also picked up the prologue book but even if you didn’t Fear Itself can still be an enjoyable read.

    If Sin is a brand new villain to someone does that make her a waste? Nope. Does that make the story any less exciting? Not yet. Thanos, Dr. Doom, Mandarin, Omega Red were all brand new at one time so I don’t understand when people say “who is this bad guy?” and use it as a negative for a story. Sin has actually been around for decades but I think it’s only recently that she’s been given a push like this. Brubaker started it several years ago in his Cap run and I guess the buildup has been to this. People are always saying that they want something new but it really seems like they want the exact same. If Fear Itself had starred the Red Skull instead believe me there would be those complaining that a new villain wasn’t involved.

    Also, I can see if the story behind Fear Itself was several years old and the fans had to be brought up to speed but it’s only been a few months of prep time. So I don’t see why a lot of recap pages would have been necessary for the story. Maybe a couple of character bios at the end but I don’t think enough has happened to justify a recap.

  5. Nice reviews guys.
    Though, I am going to have to disagree with you Jeff on a couple of notes. For one, I’m a big fan of Matt FractiAson’s I thought he did a great job during his run on Uncanny X-Men. Also, I’m with Nick, I usually only read the X-books (and not even all of them) and Children’s Crusade, but I didn’t really have a difficult time following the issue. The only thing I was confused about was the All-Father, but then I don’t usually expect to know the big bad in the first issue of an event.

    I did enjoy Gillen’s work on Uncanny’s .1 issue. I thought it was a lot better than he’s been doing on Generation Hope. And I’m still lovin’ Children’s Crusade.

  6. I think that with these types of big events, they should be easy for new readers to jump onto. I’m not a new reader, but I was still confused. This is a problem to me. I shouldn’t have had to read an issue of Captain America or Thor to understand the premise of what was going on. I didn’t even know that the Red Skull even had a daughter who was the new Red Skull. Things like that could have been explained a little better.

    I don’t expect everything to be revealed by any means, but I did expect to have the foundation laid in the first issue. I thought Fraction did a poor job of laying that foundation. Some of my questions may still be answered as the series goes on, but I had basic questions about the premise of the whole event that could have been cleared up with an introduction page.

    I was also disappointed that nothing really exciting happened in the issue. The only thing that was close was Thor’s beatdown by Odin. But I needed something to draw me to the next issue, and felt like it didn’t.

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