May 16, 2011

The Uncanny X-Piles XLI

Age of X Universe #2
Writers: Simon Spurrier & Chuck Kim
Artists: Khoi Pham & Gabriel Hernandez Walta

If you look at this issue, and in fact this 2-issue mini-series, as a part of the Age of X, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. Now that we know all of this is happening in Legion’s mind, this story really becomes superfluous because these characters don’t really exist. Going into this issue with this knowledge made me wish I hadn’t picked it up at all. The emotional punch of what is happening here is completely stripped away when you know the Avengers really don’t have to make these choices of murdering the mutants of Fortress X because they’re not real. So if you look at this issue through the intended lens, then this is a really pointless and emotionless story. However, if you choose to look at this as an alternate reality Avengers book, then you might be a little more impressed. The idea behind this story is really great. What if the Avengers worked for the government as a mutant-hunting squad? The idea is really quite interesting. The team, taking orders from the Punisher, led by Captain America, with crazy versions of Spider-Woman, the Hulk, and Iron Man sounds like a really cool team of Avengers to me. Throw in the fact that once Captain America realizes that they are murdering innocent people, and he has to make the choice to turn on his country, and you’ve got a really compelling story.  The scene where Cap is forced to take out Tony Stark, who is controlled by his Iron Man armor to kill the mutants, was a real highlight here. So if you can separate the story from Age of X, it’s actually really cool. The back up story, which had a cool reveal about Dr. Strange in this world, had the same thing holding it back. Cool story, but hamstrung by the concept of Age of X. At face value, I would say pick up this book and just read it for the concepts and ideas. But don’t ask me how Iron Man speaks in pie-charts! -JJ

Avengers #12.1
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Bryan Hitch

I miss the Infinity Gems stuff already. I miss John Romita Jr. on art. I miss the high stakes mentality of the previous storyline. Sigh. Jessica Drew has been sent by Abigail Brand of S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient World Observation and Response Department- basically the S.H.I.E.L.D. of space) to investigate an alien anomaly in Wakanda. She has gone missing, so Wolverine, Beast, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, Thor, Marvel Boy, and Brand go to rescue her. While I may miss all the aforementioned stuff on this title, this one isn’t so bad…but unless Maleev is drawing her, I really couldn’t care less about Spider-Woman. That 7 issue run Bendis and Maleev did a couple of years ago was phenomenal, and it is missed. Speaking of the artwork, what the heck was up with Beast in this issue? He looked really weird. Is he a cat still, or back to being more ape-like? Can Marvel editorial make a decision on this, because it’s getting out of hand. Seriously, what the hell? Every artist depicts him differently, and it wouldn’t be such a big deal if his appearance wasn’t so closely tied to his secondary mutation. So lets get it together on what’s going on there, Marvel. Agent Brand doesn’t really do much here aside from deliver the necessary exposition, which is what she usually does nowadays anyway. Overall, this issue was alright, but nowhere near as awesome as the ones prior. An Ultron story does sound kind of cool, but I’m not sold yet. -AL

Namor the First Mutant #9
Writer: Stuart Moore
Artists: Carlos Rodriguez & Sergio Arino

Wow. Talk about a fall from grace. What started out with such promise with the Curse of the Mutants tie-in story, has suddenly plummeted into the dark depths of comic book awfulness. This issue didn’t leave much to the imagination as to why Namor the First Mutant has been cancelled after #11. Stuart Moore was laying the groundwork for a long tenured series, dealing with Namor’s transition from 100% Atlantean to a man of two people: the Atlanteans and mutantkind, but has been forced to cut his plans short, and the result isn’t good. It was an interesting concept, and one that was bolstered by the artwork of Ariel Olivetti to kick off this title. Unfortunately, Olivetti wasn’t the regular artist, and his work was not present in this issue, which is disappointing and detrimental to the title. He really brought so much to the table with this book, and when he isn’t doing the art, it becomes just another comic book on the shelves, as opposed to something every X-fan should give a look. This one starts out with Namor hosting the Festival of Beasts, which is apparently a regular thing in Atlantis. During the festival, the major monsters and creatures of the ocean are mastered by Atlanteans, proudly tamed and displayed by their people. Think of Dune’s Fremen riding a Sandworm in Times Square or something. It’s kind of like that. Ok, so the book opens with panels, and a full page spread, of crazy looking sea monsters- why in the hell was Olivetti NOT on this issue!? The man draws creepy looking beings superbly, and this would have catered to his talents. Is it because the title has been given the axe, so why pay a top tier guy the coin to try and keep it afloat? Who knows, but it was impossible to not think how much cooler this issue would have been had he worked on it. Stuart Moore seems to have given up, too, despite the grand plan he may have had. The script was horrendous. I often read comics to my 3 month old, who loves looking at the pictures, and man, this one was BAD. If you have it, read it out loud. You’ll see what I mean. A strange character moment presented itself when Namor backed down from Krang, the man who’s challenging his authority as King of Atlantis, which is bull. Since when does Namor back down from anybody? There was also a giant vacuum fish thing, at which point I asked myself, “what the fuck is this?” Pick up vol. 1 of this series. Give that TPB a go, and then stay away. Stay far, far away. -AL

New Mutants #24
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Steve Kurth

Here we are finally at the end of Age of X! We now know that Legion is behind this reality, but how do the X-Men get out? This last part does a good job of tying up this story. At the end of the last installment, “Moira,” or the part of Legion that has created this reality, has the mutants fighting for their lives as the world breaks apart. Legion, who in this reality is set up as a major hero, actually ends up playing the part by deciding to make everything right again. And that’s when this issue becomes really interesting. One of my critiques of the Age of Apocalypse is that once the universe reverted back, no one remembered anything (except a few), and the characters were largely unaffected. However, when Legion pulls everyone back to normal, they all still have their memories of being in the Age of X and slowly begin to regain their real memories. This makes for some really interesting scenarios, most notably when Frenzy lands a kiss on Cyclops after their Age of X relationship, and Cyclops remembers his relationship with Emma. Also, it appears that at least one depowered mutant, Chamber, now has his powers back. Also, now that Legion has once again almost single-handedly destroyed the remainder of mutantkind, what will become of him? It will be very interesting to see where this goes in the next issue of Legacy. Overall, I have to give the Age of X a high score. It was nothing that I expected and in fact, much better. The simplicity of the idea of the story worked as a mini-event, and I’m really glad they didn’t make it a bigger deal than it was. This might have been Mike Carey’s finest work on the X-Men since he first came on all those years ago. If you haven’t been picking this up in issues, it will make a great trade! -JJ

Secret Avengers #12
Ed Brubaker
Artist: Will Conrad & Mike Deodato

The first thing I said under my breath upon completing this issue was, “nice.” Brubaker did a great job wrapping up his run on this series, and has set the stage for Nick Spencer to go to town when he officially takes over in #13 (well, besides #12.1, reviewed below). He reveals just enough about the Shadow Council, who have been the villains throughout these last 12 issues, and gives John Steele believable motivation to work alongside Steve Rogers once more. Will Conrad, whose art I loved on X-23, and Mike Deaodato deliver on their end, as does colorist Rain Beredo, who fittingly keeps things dark and moody. Beast doesn’t really do much of note here, and I’m still not sure why he belongs on this squad. He does perform some science stuff, but again, it feels like anyone could play his role. It’s also weird seeing him wield a gun. Since when does Beast use guns? I thought he has paws? Is he an ape-guy again, or is he still cat-like? …see what I mean? In some interviews I’ve read with Nick Spencer talking about his upcoming run on Secret Avengers, he had mentioned that he plans to focus more on Beast. I’m really interested to see what he has in store for McCoy, as I’m still waiting for a reason why he fits with the [Secret] Avengers and not the X-Men. -AL

Secret Avengers #12.1
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Scot Eaton

I dropped Secret Avengers after the first story arc because I just wasn’t buying Ed Brubaker’s take on these characters. I picked up #11 & #12 on Andy’s bequest, realizing why I had dropped the book. But I got this issue because I am really liking Nick Spencer’s work on other books, and I have loved Scot Eaton’s art on Wolverine Origins and X-Men Legacy.  So with a creative team like this, how could I go wrong? They certainly didn’t disappoint. Nick Spencer was made to write an espionage story, and this being the Avengers-as-spys, he does an excellent job. The premise here is that someone is “wikileaking” secret information that will implicate many of the Secret Avengers informants. So the team has to do what they can to protect the informants. Spencer excels at giving the scope of this problem. They have so many informants, but can only really help one. So even at the outset, the mission is doomed. After some excellent action sequences and Spencer using the strengths of all the members of this rag-tag team, we get a bit of a surprise at the end, which is what Spencer is known for doing. The idea of the Avengers as a black ops team is not a bad one, but you really have to have the right person writing these kinds of adventures. I’m still not sure this team makes a good black ops team, but they are unique enough to make them interesting. The reason this is in the X-Piles is because of the Beast, who doesn’t play a huge role, but gets a few panels in there. Scot Eaton has a great line in this issue and with some heavy inks that this book is known for, and some darker colors, the art is a perfect fit. My only real complaint is that I always hate when someone in a comic turns on a TV and it happens to be tuned to the exact channel of the news at the exact moment when they are reporting on something pertinent. Other than that minor detail, this is a great book, and I hope that Spencer and Eaton will be on it for a while. -JJ

Uncanny X-Men #536
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Terry Dodson

It’s like Kieron Gillen has somehow tapped into Joss Whedon’s mind to write this sequel to the original Breakworld story. Whereas this once looked like it was going to be a return to Breakworld, Gillen has done something really original and has brought the Breakworld to Utopia. The Breakworldians are now refugees, which for a super-violent society, is a hard pill to swallow. Gillen does a great job of illustrating the culture of Kruun and his fellow refugees in this issue, playing with the ideas of how their ideas of violence and war now have no meaning as they have been weakened in their plight. But once Gillen plays those ideas up, we see that there is much more to Kruun here than meets the eye. I don’t want to spoil the issue, but Gillen does a great job of adding some action and suspense to this tale. I think what I just love about this story is that it’s actually original. I can’t remember the X-Men being in any kind of situation like this, having to take an alien race in as refugees. The concept is fresh and takes the X-Men into some neat territories. Also, keeping the main cast to just a few is a boon to this title. Those of you who think Wolverine is everywhere will be happy to note that he doesn’t even appear anywhere in this book, which goes to show that if you focus on a few good X-Men you don’t need the fluff characters to make cameos. I am wondering why this magic hasn’t appeared in Generation Hope, but so long as Gillen can keep up the good work here, I am satisfied. Of course, the Dodsons are a great fit for this title and continue to make this book look excellent. If you’re a fan of Whedon’s run, now is the time to jump back on Uncanny! -JJ

X-23 #9
Marjorie Liu
Artists: Ryan Stegman & Matteo Buffagni

Erm…have I been reading this wrong the whole time X-fans, or did someone at Marvel make a boo-boo? Last I checked, the main villain’s name in this story was Malcolm “Concord,” but here he’s referred to as Malcolm “Colcord.” If I’m to blame, than my deepest apologies, but if not- I demand answers! Anyway, the X-23/Daken: Dark Wolverine crossover entitled “Collision” continues here, as some key reveals are made. Co(n)lcord has a substance in hand that will make X-23 go berserk and indiscriminately kill anyone and everyone around her; a dangerous weapon, looming over the head of our protagonist. Daken, yet again, is playing his own game. Due to him, X-23 has been captured, but here, he literally cuts her free of captivity. He needed to use her to see if Colcord was planning on re-opening the Weapon X project, which he is. That doesn’t sit well with Daken, given his familial ties to the program. There was a great scene between our two titular characters, where Daken is being his usual dick self, cutting into Laura about being raised in a lab. Laura bites back by reminding Daken he was shaped by Romulus, a man. While it may seem like we’re not going to see these two throw down again anytime soon, they will be forced to fight back to back next issue, which is the conclusion of this crossover. Tyger Tiger and Gambit play more of a background role here, as we see a more sensitive side of both characters. If you haven’t been reading this series or Daken: Dark Wolverine, but have been curious, I recommend checking out this graphic novel; it will give you a pretty solid idea of what these two books are all about. Oh, one other thing we learned in this issue? Laura wears thongs. Dig it. -AL

X-Men #10
Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Chris Bachalo and Paco Medina

This is the last issue of the “To Serve & Protect” storyline and I have to say, while it was mostly enjoyable, I’m ready to move forward. This story was probably one issue too long, and you can tell by the fact that Bachalo didn’t finish the pencils on the last few pages, that they were rushing to get through it. It’s not that this issue was bad by any means. After Dark Beast transforms Wolverine, Storm, and Gambit into lizards, it’s up to Emma and Spider-Man to save the day. The real high points of this issue are the quips between Emma and Peter. But my criticism is one that my fellow writer Aron White noted on Tales From The Water Cooler a few weeks ago. Gischler’s first arc was the X-Men vs. Vampires. Gischler’s second arc was the X-Men vs. lizards. Wolverine got turned into a vampire in the first arc. He gets turned into a lizard here. This is where too much Wolverine gets to be a problem. While Jason Aaron is doing a great job of exploring Wolverine as a character amidst being demon-possessed in his solo title, the idea of turning Wolverine against the X-Men is getting old. REALLY OLD. It no longer has any meaning and is becoming laughable. Gischler would have done much better in this story if he had left Wolverine at home. I know that doesn’t make much sense business-wise, but there you have it. And I’m actually one of the few people who doesn’t really mind Wolverine being on the X-Men and the Avengers! Bachalo’s art is still fantastic, although you can tell it’s much more rushed than the first issues of this arc. Paco Medina pinch hits in the last two pages, which also look rushed. This was one of those cases where I don’t think we would have minded this issue being pushed back a week or two. But oh well. It looks like Gischler is going back to vampires next issue, or maybe just focusing on Jubilee. While I have praised this title since the beginning, I’m starting to wonder if this book is really necessary. -JJ

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: Once again, Uncanny X-Men gets my top pick with issue #536.
Andy: Nothing really blew me away this week. I guess I’ll go with New Mutants #24.

For more of The Uncanny X-Piles, click here!

Jeff Jackson

Andy Liegl



  1. Marvel just keeps finding ways to kick itself in the face and balls at the same time. After finding out the reason behind Age of X I agree that the AoX Universe books seem like a total waste. It’s nothing to do with an alternate reality but the fact that nothing exists at all and there is really no need for the story to exist. I praised the first issue before the Legion reveal but now I just feel silly for liking it.

    Beast’s depiction was the main gripe I had w/ the Avengers book as well Andy. Stuff like that just doesn’t make sense to me since it would be like giving Steve Rogers red, brown, or black hair in various panels. Maybe they’ll try to get us to accept that Beast actually mutates every 15 seconds.

  2. Jeff Jackson

    Hate to tell you, Andy, but it’s always been Malcolm Colcord since the Frank Tieri Weapon X team book.

    So, ‘Speech, you didn’t like the Legion reveal at all? Yeah, I know the Age of X Universe stuff was a waste, but you didn’t like Legion being behind it?

  3. Well slap me silly!

    It’s a trick o’the eyes I tell ya. Wow, I have been reading that name wrong this whole time. How the heck does that happen? Maybe it’s my mutant power- seeing things that aren’t there…like where did this raccoon on a mini trampoline come from, and why is he wearing mittens?

    My apologies X-fans. Error noted, and raccoon executed.

  4. Jeff – I saw Legion being behind the whole thing for a bit but the extent at which events took place were a bit of a surprise. The reason for the AoX Universe books now seems to be just a complete waste and I actually liked the first issue because I thought the Avengers were just caught up Legion’s warped reality. Now to find out that none of it actually happened is more like a slap in the face. I just have to tell myself it’s a “What If” story w/o the official title.

  5. Yeah, that’s how I felt too. It made no sense. But beyond that, the story was OK.

  6. Billy

    @Jeff- Did you like the art in AoX? I’m a big fan of Pham, and met him a couple of times at a local Con. SUPER nice guy!

  7. Meh….I can’t remember what else he’s done but I thought I liked him. But this was not his best work.

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