May 25, 2011

The Uncanny X-Piles XLII

Avengers Academy #13
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Sean Chen

It’s funny how fans love stories where their heroes just kick back and hang out, without having to go fight some big, all-powerful bad guy in an epic battle. That’s what this issue is; the Avengers Academy, both students and faculty, celebrating life and each other’s company. The adults have thrown the kids a prom to help them release a little teen angst, and forget about all the problems plaguing the team right now. Of course, the drama dial does get tuned to “high,” but that’s bound to happen when hormones are allowed to run wild. It’s a fun issue, complete with character moments with the entire cast, and even some s-e-x! Uh-oh, don’t show the kids! Besides the typical Avengers Academy cast, the Young Allies make an appearance, including Firestar who has a funny freak-out moment. The most heartfelt engagements in this issue included scenes with Pym and Tigra, and Hazmat and Mettle. The pairing of the latter was particularly endearing. They’re growing on me as my favorites in this book, and have a “Rogue Complex” in not being able to touch another human being…except for each other, which seems to be working out just fine. -AL

Avengers Academy Giant-Size
Writer: Paul Tobin
Artist: David Baldeon

Paul Tobin takes on the characters of Christos Gage’s Avenger’s Academy and Sean McKeever’s Young Allies in this 80 page one-shot featuring one of the oldest standing X-villains- Arcade! What starts out as a simple day on the streets of New York City, turns into an all out fight for our young heroes’ lives. The kids of Avengers Academy get captured first, as Arcade’s stylized robots make short work of them, followed quickly by the abduction of the Young Allies. Only Reptil and Spider-Girl manage to avoid their traps, and it’s up to them to save their friends…which won’t be easy. Finese and Striker are contained in a glass dome, underwater, with great white sharks circling it; Veil has to climb through a series of metal tubes, some of which are lethally electrified, and if she turns into her gaseous form, she’ll get sucked up by a giant vacuum cleaner; Firestar is surrounded by bombs; and Toro is surrounded by poisonous gas where if he pops out for air, he finds himself in a giant whack-a-mole game. It’s typical Arcade madness, and a typical one-shot story where nothing really matters when it’s all said and done. I am not really a Young Allies fan, but believe¬†Avengers Academy to be one of the most underrated books on the shelves since it debuted over a year ago. However, this issue is skippable to say the least. Sure, it’s cool to see Arcade again, but he’s very watered-down to fit the motif, and I couldn’t help but think how much better this could have been starring some X-kids. Speaking of mutants- why were Hazmat and Mettle completely excluded from this issue? Or the rest of the Young Allies for that matter? Plus, the $7.99 price tag is absolutely ridiculous. -AL

Fear Itself #2
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Stuart Immonen

Last month, I did a pretty thorough trashing of Fear Itself #1, which many of you disagreed with. I was very surprised, but to each his own. You’ll be happy to know that I thought #2 was slightly better, even though I still hold the general opinion that this even is the epitome of lackluster. One good thing is that the issue begins with a recap page, which the first issue desperately needed, followed by a “Who’s Who” page which was good to see. We get some clarification as to the major players and what the stakes are in this event, which I had to do some research on after spending the last issue in confusion. The fun thing about this issue is that we get to see who the Serpent is choosing to be his “Worthy.” We don’t know why they’re worthy, they all seem to have some similar characteristics in that they are some omega-strength-level superhumans, including the Juggernaut, Grey Gargoyle, Hulk, Titania, and one of Namor’s villains from the ocean. Supposedly Absorbing Man is going to get a hammer, and another one that’s fallen on Yancy Street, perhaps Ben Grimm will get his hands on. While it’s kinda cool to see all these characters get some power-ups, I was disappointed that they didn’t focus on all of them. They do a good job of showing Juggernaut, Hulk, and Titania, but the other guys barely get a nod. I know that their stories are going to pop up in other books, but it would have been good to see some consistency in their transformations. For instance, I have no idea who the ocean guy is, which really downplays his power. One other thing that’s good to see in this book is that the stakes are really high. Steve Rogers and the Avengers are completely overwhelmed by the number of attacks that are happening. The scope of this book is really far-reaching, which makes it a little more interesting than I thought. The problems with this series thus far has been the introductory parts, so as Fraction moves deeper into the story, I expect it to build to some cool stuff. Finally, I was expecting a really strong last-page reveal or surprise since #1 didn’t have one. I guess Fraction’s just not into building the story in this way. Overall, I would say this issue is better, but this event is in need of something incredible soon. -JJ

Uncanny X-Force #9
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Billy Tan

It seems like this book is coming out all the time now! Remender is putting out X-Force books faster than Andy and I can get the X-Piles out (zing!). I like how seamless Remender flows the story from issue to issue. After Archangel’s questionable murder of a soldier, the team comes back to find Magneto in their HQ! We don’t really know how Magneto has found out about X-Force, but I guess it could be tied to the .1 issue where Psylocke kills some Reavers on Utopia under the noses of he and Cyclops. I really love how Remender portrays Magneto here. Deathlok is no threat to him, and he pretty much blackmails Wolverine into helping him go after a Nazi war criminal. This issue is pretty simple in that Logan goes by himself to take out the Nazi, but again Remender builds the status quo of this title with the ethical dilemma posed this time to Wolverine. Just about everyone in this book has been forced to make a tough decision. Perhaps the interesting thing here is that killing comes so easily to Wolverine, that we don’t know if he really struggles with his decision or not. The real treat of this book is that the readers are the ones left to decide if the actions of X-Force are justifiable. While this issue continues to play with the idea, I think in comparison to other issues, this one was rather weak. Mostly it’s because of the art. Last time I praised Billy Tan’s art, but this issue seems to be a return to his awkward faces. For instance, Magneto’s helmet seems to hover on his head rather than rest comfortably on it. Tan tries so hard to communicate emotion in this issue but his lack of symmetry in facial expressions tends to hinder him. The colors of Dean White continue to give consistency to the book, but that doesn’t really help Tan’s pencils. Next issue brings Mark Brooks talent, which is a completely different style than the artists before him. Remender continues to build this title into a strong story, but Tan’s art handicaps this issue, making it the weakest one thus far. -JJ

Wolverine and Hercules: Myths, Monsters, & Mutants #3
Frank Tieri
Artist: Juan Santacruz

This series continues to be the zany fun ride one would expect from this pairing. This chapter starts off with Herc beating the living hell out of a mob of zombie gangsters- mostly with their own limbs- in order to get to his uncle, Pluto. Pluto is the only one Herc can think of to reverse the effects of Medusa on Wolverine, who is currently in a Han Solo-in-Carbonite-esque state. Meanwhile, King Eurytheus and his minotaur guy are watching the newly resurrected mythological creatures wreak havoc on The Hand…much to the chagrin of Matsuo (for those of you who read the recent Psylocke mini-series, this story takes place around the time of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men). The major mcguffin here is that Matsuo and the other bad guys are planning to resurrect a certain major badass from mythological lore, one of the greatest strategists of all time, and bring them on their side. Obviously, that’d be really bad news for our beer-friendly duo.¬†Writer Frank Tieri captures the fun side of Herc which is only now starting to re-appear in current continuity (ever since Chaos War, Herc’s been a little too serious); He has humorous mimbo moments, but is still wily enough to get out of a sticky situation. Tieri keeps the exposition to a minimum and uses fast transitions in-between scenes which works well for this mini. If you’re a fan of either character, give this book a shot. It’s definitely making a case for there to be more adventures starring these two once this one concludes next issue. -AL

Wolverine the Best There Is #6
Writer: Charlie Huston
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp

Just when you thought a crappy storyline was over, there are enough loose ends left dangling to worry you elements could creep back at any moment. This dreading thought could be the final nail in the coffin of a series that has been getting blasted since issue #1. Not by me though- I actually gave Wolverine the Best There Is a fair shot, but by #4, it became clear that the widespread criticism had some merit. This storyline could have easily been condensed into two issues. Instead, it was long winded, annoying, and felt completely irrelevant to anything else going on in the world of Wolverine. Which was unfortunate, because Juan Jose Ryp’s artwork is a nice fit for Logan; His grotesque expressions and gory panels work for a guy whose M.O. is to slice and dice, but the storyline…oh, the storyline! I don’t even want to talk about it because it’s finally over, and the wait to put this thing in the rear view mirror has been highly anticipated. Starting next issue, it would seem as though some X-Men will join the cast. A plus to be sure, but as mentioned, who the hell knows when certain characters from this story will pop back up. Hopefully they either never do, or this series gets cancelled before they have the chance to. -AL

X-Men: Prelude to Schism #1
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Roberto De La Torre

It seems you can’t have an event without a build-up mini-series to the event these days. Paul Jenkins lends a hand to write this 4-issue mini series leading up to the next big X-event, Schism. This issue has the main X-Men gathered around to fret about the next oncoming threat. There is major debate over what they should do, although the threat is hidden from the readers. The decision is left up to Cyclops, who is now really a full-fledged dictator of the mutants. I miss the days when the X-Men just leapt into a major decision without having to consult with whoever the leader was, but as the mutants are set up these days, Cyclops is the big kahuna, so he has to decide the future of mutantkind. That’s the little bit of annoying stuff that I found in this issue. Overall, this book was great because it focuses on relationships. Most specifically, Jenkins zeroes in on the complex relationship between Cyclops and Charles Xavier. Xavier has been relegated to background scenes and bit-parts since he exited X-Men Legacy as the central character. The least they could have done was send him someplace to do something. Instead, he has become a joke of a character. Seeing as how he’s the lead in the upcoming X-Men film, I guess the editors have decided to give him some more spotlight. Cyclops leans on his old mentor for advice, which takes us to some reflection on Xavier’s part on Scott’s development to the person he is today. This is really nice and reminds the reader of how great these characters are. The X-Men truly are at their best when they are struggling through their relationships. Despite the rocky relationship between Scott and Charles in the last 10 years, it’s nice to see Scott reach out to him. We get a glimpse of some identification that even though Charles made some bad decisions, he did so in times like which Scott is in now. Scott has done well leading the X-Men to this point, but it looks like some bad decisions may be up ahead. De La Torre’s art was a welcome surprise. His sketchy style is good on an issue that deals with such abstractions. Only one small spoiler is that it looks like Kitty Pryde will soon become tangible again and out of the “bubble suit.” Other than that, this was a solid issue that gets me pumped for Schism. -JJ

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: X-Men: Prelude to Schism #1 was a surprise for me this week, and gets my top pick.
Andy: I agree- X-Men: Prelude to Schism made me jism. Loved the art!

Learn more about mutantkind.

Jeff Jackson

Andy Liegl



  1. Billy

    Good reviews guys. I can’t wait to read Schism!

  2. I think I’ll read the Schism prelude as a collected series.

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