Something that would have really served this issue well would have been a recap page spotlighting the essential “need-to-know” aspects of Alpha Flight. Aside from the X-Men cartoon, their recent off-panel deaths at the hands of Brian Michael Bendis, and the Chaos War, I haven’t read much Alpha Flight, so I’m not crystal clear on their history. That being said, this is a .1 issue, so it should have been an easy jumping on point, right? For the most part, it was. This issue showcases each major player, displaying their mutant abilities, some personality traits, and how they operate as a team. I’m not up on my Canadian politics, so that plot point went over my head. Why were all these people upset about the election? A little explanation on that would have been nice. Also, I had no clue who the main villain was- some purple chick? Beats me. A little background on her wouldn’t have gone unappreciated either. When did Northstar leave the X-Men? I get that he doesn’t want to be affiliated with Alpha Flight (who would?), but when did he go rogue and become, like, the second coming of Warren Worthington? He’s shown in recent issues of X-Men fighting bad guys…so what happened? Other than all that, I think anyone unfamiliar with Alpha Flight can enjoy this issue, especially because of Oliver and Green’s artwork. It’s very pretty, reminding me a lot of Greg Land, but instead of being copied photos it’s actual artwork. Also, the characters don’t all have idiotic grins on their faces, but actually wear fitting expressions. If Alpha Flight ever piqued your interest, check this one out. It has my attention for the upcoming mini-series, which commences as a Fear Itself tie-in. Stay tuned for that. –AL
We move away from our core team combating Fin Fang Foom in Tokyo, and switch focus to the other Astonishing X-Team, which includes Agent Brand, Storm, Beast, Colossus, Shadowcat, and Lockheed. Despite being a different cast, this story still features monsters (well, monster-aliens), as the dying Brood race is desperately attempting to repopulate. They’ve invaded a S.W.O.R.D. experimental station in deep space, which contains not only Agent Brand, but a team of scientists who could really help expedite the Brood reproductive process…in an ugly way, of course. So now it’s up to our team of X-Men to save Hank’s green-haired love, and considering this entire squad has experience combating the Brood, they all agree to go. Additionally, we finally get a resolution scene with Kitty and Lockheed, comically explaining why we haven’t seen them together since Kitty returned from her giant bullet experience. For the duration of the discussion, Lockheed was pounding a bottle of whiskey. Gage’s story telling won’t blow you away, but it shouldn’t push you away either. It’s simple, and to the point, which serves the story. His choice to have Brand respect Storm’s leadership abilities didn’t go unnoticed, and it would seem as if some major character changes are on the way for Brand… I’m on the fence with Juan Bobillo’s art, though. Sometimes his style is really cool, but at other times his faces look warped, almost kiddish. I had a similar issue with Kaare Andrews’ art in Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis, where at first I couldn’t stand it, but by issue #3 it really grew on me. This may be a similar instance. However, once again, Beast looks really, really odd. He doesn’t look like a cat, nor an ape here, but more like an alien…thing. Especially when he’s pissed and snarling. I don’t like it. This is one you’ll have to check out for yourself. I think some people will get into it, but it may not be for everyone. -AL
This book is trying so hard to be liked, and what’s really strange is that I want to like it. I really do. It has all the trappings of an X-book that I really do enjoy: young heroes, interesting concepts, big action. But for some reason, I’m just not into it. Maybe it’s the fact that nothing about this team is original. Maybe I’ve grown out of the “new mutants” trope. But these characters really do not intrigue me. Hope gets more annoying the bossier she gets. Teon muttering “Woof” every panel he’s in is just lame. Idie, with her Rahne-esque religiosity and her Storm/Iceman powers, is just so overdone. Gabriel’s bravado mimics Quicksilver’s as well as Pietro’s powers. Kenji is somewhat interesting, but every word out of his mouth is something about art, which makes him more of a caricature than a character. The only character that vaguely intrigued me was Laurie’s transformation in flight. And with Kitty as liaison, I’m seeing that now she is going to be featured in every X-book like Cyclops, Wolverine, and Emma Frost. Oh goodie. The only concept in this book that is original is this idea of a new mutant baby still in its mother’s womb. For a minute I thought, this would make a cool Morrison-esque concept of having this newborn baby on the team, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. I really am not seeing the connection between Gillen’s writing here and in Uncanny X-Men. However, Salva Espin’s art took a turn for the better for some reason. While I’m not fond of his close-up panels of Teon’s face when he’s talking to the unborn mutant, or the birth scene where the baby just appears, or when Hope holds the baby up over her head…Ok, maybe it’s just that scene I didn’t like. The baby’s birth was just bizarre, and I’m not sure why they didn’t make that more realistic. But like I said, I want to like this book, but it’s just not doing it for me. -JJ
The “Escape From the Negative Zone” 3 issue mini-series concludes here, with previous chapters taking place in the Uncanny X-Men Annual #3 and Steve Rogers Super Soldier Annual #1. Overall, I liked it. James Asmus captured each character’s personality, and the choice for a different artist to take on every issue was a bold one. Fiumara’s art here is ok; he has a great sense of environment and draws a nasty beastie, but his anatomy is seriously whack. Faces looked wonky, and Cyclops and Steve have bizarre giraffe necks at times. It was cool to see Namor kick the piss out of both Cyke and Steve, settling that age old question on which Invader would win that brawl. Dr. Nemesis is his usual snarky self, and Asmus succeeds in finding his voice. We may now also have an official ruling on what Hope’s power set is- she mimics the abilities of other mutants. I think we all assumed that, but it hasn’t been officially stated until now. …Right? As for the limitations of those powers (how close do the mutants need to be for it to trigger? Does she retail these abilities indefinitely?), well, that’s all still up in the air. Hope gets some much needed schooling here too, as she learns to respect Cyclops at the guidance of Steve Rogers. Good thing, because Hope was in serious need of an attitude adjustment. Lets hope it lasts. The main villain in this one was Blastaar, and while this unusual grouping of heroes may have defeated him, the super powered being is pissed off and looking for revenge. If you’re a fan of any of these characters, this series is worth a shot. Otherwise, you won’t miss much by passing it over. -AL
As a beta team of Thunderbolts trains and is abruptly sent off on their first mission, things don’t look so good for Cain Marko. Our boy Juggernaut went brain to brain with a mind twisting being and lost, which seeded self doubt and thoughts of worthlessness in his mind, causing him to stand up to Thunderbolts alpha team leader, Luke Cage. Bad move as this got him sent back to base and booted to the Raft’s commons for a week. This doesn’t sit well with Juggernaut, and he’s either going to be really pissed off later and take it out on someone he shouldn’t, or it will have the reverse effect, causing him to buckle down and step it up in a good way. I’m sure this conundrum will solve itself next issue when the Fear Itself tie-in takes place, and I’d recommend picking it up to watch the show. One way or another, something (or someone) is going to get absolutely pummeled. -AL
Now that we know a new Ultimate Universe reboot is on the way, the intensity of these final issues of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man has been growing with each installment. The way this one ends is so damn cool, I may have never been pulling for Peter Parker more than I am now. Before we get to that though, there was a super awesome battle scene where Human Torch and Iceman take on the Ultimate version of the Sinister Six. The two buds get home to Aunt May’s house, after exchanging some entertaining banter about making out with girls, only to discover the team of baddies waiting outside, looking for Peter. Johnny and Iceman get into battle mode and get their shots in, most notably torch on the Green Goblin. However, with players like Electro and Sandman on the side of the bad guys, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how to take down this duo; Sandman engulfs Johnny, dousing his flames, while Electro uses Bobby’s ice slide as a conduit to electrocute him. It’s ugly, and just when all hope looks lost, a battle wounded, but battle hardened Peter shows up to kick some bad guy ass. He makes short work of The Vulture and then welcomes the other villains to take him on. And that’s where things end. Upon learning of the Ultimate reboot, I was a little disappointed that this book’s “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” vibe would be going away, but it would seem as though the upcoming Ultimate X-Men series will still feature Johnny and Bobby. YES! As for Peter, well, this story line is titled “The Death of Spider-Man…” –AL
For a while now, Archangel has been spiraling downward. When Chris Yost and Craig Kyle brought him in to their run on X-Force, I was a bit surprised, but quickly found the concept really cool. I loved when Warren became a Horseman of Apocalypse way back in the original X-Factor, and when he lost those abilities in the ’90s, I was a bit let down. Then, when Chuck Austen decided to give him healing blood and hooked him up with Husk, I think he hit an all-time low. But since X-Force rebooted, Archangel has been awesome, and he’s been a ticking time bomb. Remender, knowing all these things about Warren and totally running with it, has been planting the seeds of Archangel’s heel turn for a while, and in this issue, things begin to pay off. Warren goes so far as to kill a reporter who has found out about X-Force…and the Dark Angel Saga begins. Remender just continues to nail the solid beats in his large story he’s telling, while making the individual story fire on all cylinders. But what makes this story even cooler is the end, where, in order to help Warren, X-Force has to break Dark Beast out of prison (which was a nice tie to continuity from Gischler’s X-Men arc) in order to get his help to save Warren. But in order for them to fix Warren, they have to go to….THE AGE OF APOCALYPSE!!! YES!!!! Even though the solicitations and the promos have been spoiling this, and it really would have been even more awesome if they hadn’t, this idea has been begging to be done. And if anyone can, it’s Remender. Now, the bad news here is that Billy Tan, who started strong a couple of issues ago, really dropped the ball with the last half of the book. However, Rick Elson (who’s work I’ve never seen before) does some good interiors, but I’m not sure he fits on a book like this. Billy Tan’s faces are just plain unappealing. Whereas Paul Mounts’ colors unite the art in this book, I think they would have done better just letting Elson do the whole thing. But have no fear because one of my favorite guys, Mark Brooks is on next issue. So pick this up if you want to jump onto the Dark Angel express! -JJ
Recently I commented on how Astonishing X-Men is currently evolving Armor’s power status, which is cool, and here Marjorie Liu is doing some great work on X-23. After the events of the Daken/X-23 crossover story, Laura has exorcised some demons, but has come across a kill list documenting every victim she has eliminated over the last year. It’s long, and she’s feeling the guilt and pain of those murders. This whole series has been about Laura on a search for her identity, for her soul, and it’s obvious in this issue that she is no longer a mindless killing machine. Naturally, though, this all comes with a price, and this list triggers an emotional response. Basically X-23’s feeling the emotional burden of all her past kills, so much so that she’s taken to cutting herself as a form of depressed relief. She goes so far as to accidentally lash out at Gambit, the one person who has been a beacon of stability for her as of late, and that prompts Remy to call in for some help. Enter Wolverine and Jubilee. We get some great scenes between Gambit and Logan, as Remy questions Wolverine’s motives for having Laura on X-Force, and why he caters to Jubilee, but not to her. Meanwhile, Jubilee and X hit up the streets of Paris for some girl time. As for the last page, well, a bleeding neck never looked so hot. Without a doubt, X-23’s character is growing, becoming more…human and less of a clone. So props to Liu on pulling that off successfully so far, and props to her for bringing back Jubilee for a few more issues. –AL
I feel like Peter David should have held onto this story for a little while longer. Last issue ended with the SCARs, a new team of some pretty bitchin’ babes, getting away, while Guido mysteriously is healed by Layla. It was a good ending for this arc, I thought. I expected this issue to move to another story, and then in 3 or 4 more issues, he’d bring back the SCARs and finish them off. Instead, he decided to drag it out one more issue, with Black Cat and the rest of the X-Factor team going after them. Overall, this isn’t much of a complaint because the good guys win. What was weird was that the team picked up Wolfsbane, who hasn’t really been involved in this story at all and who is very pregnant, to go after the SCARs. There is a strange couple of panels where Rahne fights Ballastique which felt out of place to me. That, and the fact that my paternal instincts kicked in and was wondering why she was in battle when she’s that pregnant. But what’s really caught my interest in this story is the Guido/Layla stuff, which only got one page. The fact that Guido might turn evil after his resurrection, which happens to everyone Layla brings back from the dead, is a neat idea that I hope David follows up on soon. Emanuela Luppachino is doing such a good job on this book and seems to get better with each issue. I’ve heard people complain about how she draws women, but I’m certainly not one of those people. This book just continues to stay steady and there’s not really much to say other than keep up the good work! -JJ
Guys, it’s called X-Men: Giant-Size, NOT Giant-Size X-Men! How many of you skipped this one because you thought it was a re-print of something much more classic? I had to tell many a customer that it wasn’t just that, as most of my X-readers passed it over at first glance. Happily, the pages inside contain an original story, mostly focusing on the original 5. Essentially, a sect of the Neo have come to Utopia to kick the crap out of the X-Men. The Neo are an offshoot species of mutantkind, only bigger, stronger, and faster. They’re pissed off because there have been no new Neo births nor power manifestations for over a year, and they want to know why. They blame mutants for this anomaly, since Hope and the Five Lights put an end to the X-gene dry spell. The story then changes to a flashback with the original 5, combating the first generation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The best part of this scene is the inclusion of an X-Man who has been on the sidelines for years, despite being the coolest mutant of them all- Iceman! I like his look here, slightly more spiky than usual, but not out of control. He takes on Quicksilver mano-a-mano and comes out the victor. Great artwork here by Talajic as he not only captures that classic X-look, but provides a variety of angles and detailed panels throughout. It’s just nice seeing Jean, Scott, Hank, Warren, and Bobby in action again together, in a story that’s relevant to current continuity. That continuity having to do with the X-Men’s first encounter with the Evolutionaries, which comes into play when the story swings back to real-time. Cyclops lied to the all-powerful beings about something, and they’re pissed. So pissed, in fact, that they commit genocide on the Neo, completely obliterating the species from the face of the Earth. The bottom line: You don’t F with something called an “Evolutionary,” but Cyclops has. Yikes. -AL
One of the best X-books I’ve read in the last few years was Magneto: Testament by Greg Pak. I’m a big Magneto fan, and his history during the Holocaust was so well done, yet I didn’t hear many people talk about it. In this issue of the Prelude to Schism, Paul Jenkins revisits some of that stuff from Testament and while it’s nowhere near as good as Greg Pak’s mini-series, it’s still pretty good. This issue actually takes place a few moments before the last one, with Magneto giving Cyclops advice on the decision he has to make. This is really a focus on Magneto and his past and the difficult position his own father was in during the Nazi regime. While we get some good history on Magneto and his relationship with Scott, I just didn’t think this issue was as strong as the last. One reason was Andrea Mutti’s art. While the historical stuff looks OK, the drawings of the X-Men and Magneto in costume were sloppy and unflattering. Also, the constant use of the pronoun “it” to describe whatever is coming to Utopia is starting to get really old. I don’t mind a surprise coming, but to continually dodge it in conversation is unimaginative and just not good writing. This issue also doesn’t have anything that hasn’t been in previous issues, with the exception of Magneto admitting that he was impressed with Scott the first time they met at Cape Citadel in the X-Men’s first public adventure. Most everything else was done better in Magneto: Testament, which is a must-read for Magneto fans, or the last issue of this mini. My hope is that next issue’s focus on Cyclops is not a retread, but another hint to whet our appetite for Schism. -JJ
Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: It was close between X-Men Giant-Size #1 with the awesome Paco Medina art, but I think I’m going to give it to Uncanny X-Force #10. To hear more about what I thought about it, listen to Tales From the Water Cooler #17.
Andy: X-Men Giant-Size #1 was great because Iceman was heavily featured, but I’m going to go with X-23 #10. It’s very clear in this issue that Liu has been handling Laura very well, and all too often these days writers only have flash in the pan tenures with characters. That doesn’t seem to be the case here, and it’s paying off.