Umm…ok. This one starts out oddly. When we left off last time in X-23 #8, which was part 1 of this mini-crossover called “Collision,” Daken and Laura were squaring off, exchanging cuts and blows. Here, by the end of the second page, the two don’t even slap each other, let alone hack or slash. Instead, they stare for a few beats, exchange some brief words, Daken thinks about Wolverine’s eyes, and then go their separate ways. Huh? Did I miss something? I thought we were about to see a showdown of showdowns! Nope. Not so. Instead, we get an answer as to why Daken has paired up with a child cloning scum bag like Malcolm Concord; he wants the scientist to elevate his abilities beyond that of the Weapon X program, which goes hand-in-hand with Concord’s research to replicate a healing factor. Poor Daken. He’s always fighting to step out of his father’s shadow. As always though, Daken is playing his own angle and ends up betraying Concord to X-23 and Gambit. We get to see his sexually manipulative side too, an exquisite part of his character, however uncomfortable, as he tries his luck on Gambit, which ultimately fails. If things came to blows (hah!), Remy has had plenty of sparring time with Wolverine in his prime, so his kid shouldn’t be much of a match in comparison. Who knows though, as Gambit has been getting his ass handed to him lately (see X-23). X shows her sadistic side, filleting Concord finger nail by finger nail, cutting for information. Marco Checchetto and colorist Frank D’Armata do a great job with the art in this issue. It feels like a ninja noir movie with a Clayton Crain influence, and Gambit looks particularly badass. I still miss Giuseppe Camuncoli since there was so much more story telling in his depiction of Daken, but I’d be ok with this new team staying on the title for awhile…as long as they don’t recycle panels to the extent done here. Seriously, it happened at least 3 times. My only beef with the writing has to do with a misrepresentation of Gambit’s powers. Last I checked, he could not kinetically charge organic material, but here he charges Daken’s arm. He does this in X-Men #10 too, where he charges a lizard, throws it, and it explodes. Did I miss something somewhere? Can Gambit charge organic material now? If so, when did this happen? Regardless, check out this mini. It’s a nice introduction to these characters if you don’t know them, and if you stopped following Daken or X-23, this is a good time to check’em out again. -AL
I really want to like this book. Sean McKeever has made me a believer in the way he has directed the Young Allies, but this issue was the first one that fell really flat to me. The number 3 issue in a 4-issue mini is supposed to give you a good crescendo, but this just feels like it really lost some steam. This issue was heavily focused on the relationship between Rikki Barnes and Onslaught. Is Rikki Barnes really real? Or is she just a construct of Onslaught? I really don’t care, and that ultimately is the big crux of this series. If I don’t care, though, then they’ve lost me. There were lots of things that just felt out of place. First, Beast, who was impaled a number of times in the last issue seems to be doing just fine. I know he has a healing factor, but the guy was seriously wounded. Second, Steve Rogers argues that the life of a fake kid is more valuable than the rest of the world, to which Moon Knight and Black Widow take issue. I know Steve is a boy scout, but even that is stretching it. It would have been better to have the Young Allies take up for Rikki rather than Steve. The art here also takes a dive. I really liked Andrade’s work in the last two issues, but this one just caught me wrong. The panel of Sharon Carter flushing her ear out of Ant-Man had me scratching my head for a few minutes until I figured out she was at a sink. The fight between the two of them was rather ridiculous too. I still don’t know what purpose El Dragon and Toro serve in this story at all. Wasn’t El Dragon working for Onslaught? So why again did he unplug that machine? I just didn’t get it. Plus, there’s this obscure machine that empowers Onslaught? Very lame. But just when Onslaught looks defeated, guess what? He’s not…so we have one more of these issues to slog through. -JJ
This is the second chapter of the “Escape From the Negative Zone” story, the first of which was in Uncanny X-Men Annual #3. Jeff, my X-partner in crime hated that issue, but it grew on me, and after reading part 2, I don’t have many negative (ayo!) things to say about this installment. The best part about this one, which was a significant step above the previous issue, is the artwork by Ibraim Roberson. Wow, this dude can draw! It’s Deodato-esque, but with softer overtones. I like it a lot, and hope to see him work on more X-books in the future. Asmus writes some quippy dialogue, my favorite exchanges being between Steve Rogers and Cyclops. Also, props to Rogers for putting Hope in her place- he isn’t the only one whose noticed how bitchy she’s been since the end of Second Coming. Again, my only problem with the writing has to do with a possible misunderstanding of a mutant power. As far as I knew, Cyke needed solar energy to fire his optic blasts. Well, to fire them with some “oomph” anyway. Therefore, a lack of sunlight would result in his beams becoming weaker, and since this story takes place in the Negative Zone, sunlight isn’t exactly plentiful. If Namor is affected by the lack of H2O, shouldn’t Cyke be similarly affected by the lack of UV rays? However, after a little research, apparently it has now been discovered that his beams are powered through cosmic energy, as well as pulled from another dimension. If the latter is the case, ok, but if it’s the former, than how the hell is Cyke using his beams here? The Negative Zone isn’t in the cosmos, it’s somewhere else- so how is he using his blasts at full force? Maybe I’m nerding out too much here, but I’d like an explanation of how this is happening. It was jarring to me, so if anyone can clarify, by all means please do. Speaking of mutant powers, what the hell is Hope’s power exactly? Have we figured that out yet? Is it to fire really big guns? Does anybody know? Ugh. I really don’t like Hope. This story won’t blow you away, but even if you’re a casual X-fan, I think there’s something there to be enjoyed. -AL
You know I hate Deadpool, right? By virtue of being a creation of Rob Liefeld, Deadpool has never been on my favorites list. But I’ll be darned if Rick Remender hasn’t made him my favorite X-Forcer yet! This is the end of the Deathlok storyline, which I have not been too excited about because of the art of Esad Ribic, but also because I just don’t care about future timelines and this whole Deathlok angle that Remender and Jason Aaron have been spinning. In fact, the first 3/4 of this issue was just more of the same, and Esad Ribic’s art continued to bore and underwhelm me. But around the time that Deadpool and Fantomex have an argument and go in different directions inside the World, which is where they are to kill someone named Father in order to save the future, things start looking up. Deadpool is now the most overplayed character in the Marvel Universe. He’s in everything, he’s so slapstick now that he’s lost all credibility, and he’s just the epitome of watered-down. But in the hands of Rick Remender, Deadpool becomes everything he can be. He’s sympathetic because he’s searching for approval from his teammates. He wants desperately to be a good hero despite his psychosis and past. So when you think the Father is going to turn him against the team, you almost understand why. But then Remender uses the other thing for which Deadpool is known–humor–and makes him the MVP of this issue. And to top off this story, which I bet will read much better in trade, Remender leaves us with a bombshell of an ending that just leaves me wanting more (good thing the next issue comes out next week!). This book is just the most fun an X-book can be, and if Remender can take a character I didn’t like, such as Deadpool, and develop him so well in just a few issues, I can’t wait to see what else is coming. -JJ
My Uncanny is BACK! After a few years of perseverance through Matt Fraction’s run, this title is finally in the hands of someone who gets it. If you left Uncanny because it was awful, now’s the time to come back. And I’m pretty sure you could jump completely over Fraction’s run and not miss a beat. Kieron Gillen does a phenomenal job of pacing this first issue of a story arc and making it accessible to new and old readers alike. First of all, he and artist Terry Dodson do a recap page, which is not just the blank summary pages that we’ve grown accustomed to. This is an original page which goes ahead and introduces the main characters. No more of those horrible, quippy name tags on every page for every character. Also, there aren’t 60 mutants running around here. There’s one story, one solid cast, and one direction. Yes, the cast is the same as almost every other X-book, but Gillen does a good job of centering the story on Kitty and Peter, who have not been centralized since Joss Whedon handled them so well in Astonishing X-Men. And speaking of that, Gillen channels everything that was good about that run and follows it up extremely well here. This issue has great character interaction, fantastic action (including a fastball special), and some funny moments as well. Also, for those of you who were fans of the defunct S.W.O.R.D. series, you’ll love that Gillen returns to Abigail Brand and the creepily sinister Unit in a great conversation. Hopefully he will return to that mystery in this run. The Dodsons bring their A-game back onto the book, which has been missed. With excellent storytelling, excellent art, and an excellent direction, I feel like the flagship X-book is on the right course once again. -JJ
The X-Men are known for alternate realities, future timelines, and the like, so Mike Carey went out on a limb in introducing the Age of X. He even did dared to call it “Age-of-something,” which got expectations either really high or extremely low because of comparisons to Age of Apocalypse. But the one thing he managed to do was surround this story in mystery. And that’s why Age of X is working really well. This issue is the payoff where the mystery is revealed and it’s done in a really nice way. Everyone in the story is now asking questions about their reality, and when Charles Xavier, a man they don’t remember, shows them the truth, it’s just plain awesome. The way Carey tells this story is done really well. The readers are clouded like the characters, with only guesses and wishes filling in the blanks. But Carey uses Xavier, a character he has done extremely well with in the past, but one who has fallen out of the spotlight recently, to be the key to determining who’s behind this reality. I’m not going to spoil it just in case you haven’t read it or in case you haven’t read Marvel’s solicitations for July which do a good job of spoiling it. You see, that’s the only thing that hurts this book…the publisher. Marvel did a great job hyping this story, and it wouldn’t have killed them to put a “Classified” stamp on the upcoming months of Legacy’s solicitations. That’s the only downside. But if I pretend I hadn’t been spoiled, then my guesses would have been confirmed as to what was going on, and I would have been really pleased. Way to go, once again, Marvel. Clay Mann’s art is just stellar, and for someone who was deriding him months ago, I have truly come around. If the X-office will just let Carey keep a core group of characters and let him do whatever he wants with them, then this book might be the mega-hit it was in the ’90s once again. -JJ
Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: I wanted to go X-Force because I really loved that ending, but Uncanny X-Men #535 had the whole package of good story and good art, so that gets my pick!
Andy: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Uncanny X-Force #7. Loved the bomb dropped at the end.
For past editions of The Uncanny X-Piles, click here!