Alpha Flight is officially back, and whether that’s a good thing or not is still up in the air. Guardian, Vindicator, Shaman, Snowbird, Sasquatch, Marrina and Aurora are Canada’s superhero team. How they came to be alive once more following the events of the Chaos War is unclear at best, but some key members are still missing at the beginning of this issue. Puck remains in Hell (for now) and Northstar has chosen to distance himself from the team because…well, I’m not sure. I also missed where he left Utopia and quit the X-Men. Are Pak and Van Lente reading the X-books right now? …am I? Despite Jean-Paul’s attitude, he eventually catches up with the team out of concern for his sister, Aurora. He feels her power set isn’t strong enough right now for her to be out fighting, so he’s overly concerned. An obsessive compulsive brother/sister relationship? Where have we heard that one before? Whatever. This one starts out with the team fighting Attuma, the Atlantean rival to Namor, all hammered out like every other Fear Itself baddie, wreaking havoc on Vancouver. In hindsight, it’s funny how this battle all takes place in Vancouver, a week before riots broke out there after the Canucks choked against the Boston Bruins to lose the Stanley Cup this year. The fight against Attuma, er, Nerkkod, was weak in comparison to some of the other throw downs in the event. These “Chosen” are supposed to be terrifyingly powerful, but while Guardian is in the heat of battle, he’s talking politics with a PR rep on his headset. Seriously? Come on now. Meanwhile, Iron Man is getting his ass handed to him by the possessed Grey Gargoyle amidst mountains of stony corpses, and crazy Hulk is causing some serious damage to his opposition. Yet here, Nerkkod fails to even severely injure anyone (on ALPHA FLIGHT nonetheless), and doesn’t even get the team’s full attention when in combat. It just seemed counter-productive to the desired intensity of this event. Overall, this issue was underwhelming, despite my being a fan of Greg Pak. There are 7 issues to go, so he and Van Lente can still put this ship on course. Regardless of how it all pans out, Aurora is way hot. -AL
Rob Williams is on pace to make me a believer in his current X-work. Iron Age Alpha was surprisingly decent, and this issue of Daken shows potential, so hopefully his mini-run on Fear Itself Uncanny X-Force will prove to be even better. But I get ahead of myself. Previously, it was upsetting to see Daniel Way leave this book, taking with him the idea of setting Daken against Bucky for revenge against the former Winter Soldier’s murder of his mother. I wanted that story so badly. Williams and Buffagni tease with the opening scene of this issue, putting Daken in a Captain America mask. Har, har. Buffagni’s pencils aren’t the best, and at first felt out of place for Daken, but they grew on me. My major gripe is he has border-line Greg Land syndrome, where characters are smiling like idiots all the time. However, whereas Land does all out toothy grins, Buffagni does an almost faux smile. It’s a bit much. Riley Rossmo though, as expected, f-ing nails his pages. In the story Daken has found a drug that even his healing factor can’t purge from his system, called Heat. When he’s tripping face on Heat, Rossmo does the artwork and it’s the second tease of this issue; you want him to do all of it. Williams amusingly plays to the setting of LA, too, with sexually promiscuous club goers, and egotistical personalities galore. There’s even a flying chopper or two. This issue is yet another jumping on point for this book, and I think it’s worth a shot by any Wolverine fan. Before moving on, it must be said that this cover is atrocious. Forget the fact that it’s boring as hell, but anyone who has ever been to Hollywood or Los Angeles knows that Sunset Blvd. and Hollywood DO NOT INTERSECT! They run parallel to each other. Yeesh. -AL
This title continues to move forward and while most of this issue is lackluster, there is a tiny glimmer of something interesting on the horizon. I’ve been saying for months now that this title is chock full of uninteresting characters. Marvel has a treasure trove of awesome young mutants from New X-Men that they’re not using, but they continue to focus on this cast for some reason. In this issue we get some background on Teon, or Primal, which is his new code name. From what I can gather from Gillen’s wordy and super-analytical explanation, Primal’s power is based on his ability to be nothing but instinct. That’s why he goes around and sniffs things. But placed in certain circumstances, he thrives in order to survive. So when he is placed in a courtroom, he can suddenly sound like a college-educated lawyer to explain himself. It’s like Darwin only much more boring. As for the rest of the cast, Gillen decides to give them code names…in the 8th issue. What is the point of that? By now, we’re all used to calling them by their real names, if we can remember them. Not only that, but Gillen gives them names from their respective cultures, which make them even more forgettable. Kenji ends up being the only one with a kinda cool name, Zero, which reflects the fact that he’s the only character that is proving to be a little interesting. In fact, we find that while he is creepily painting pictures of Hope, he and Laurie are considering betrayal ahead. That’s the kind of twist for which this book is starving. Espin’s art continues to be pleasing, but the way he leaves so much negative space in the panels isolates the reader from these characters even more. I am intrigued by the simplistic cover of the next issue, but I’m getting extremely close to dropping this title. -JJ
Storytelling is everything in comics, and even the slightest misstep can throw a book off. Gillen has been doing a great job on this book thus far, and the whole story is really rather enjoyable. But at the end of last issue, he left a whopper of a cliffhanger with Kitty’s throat getting slashed by Haleena. In this issue, he chooses to start the story elsewhere, with Kruun and Wolverine fighting. I liked that build-up, making me wonder what happened to Kitty. But instead of simply showing us, or rather surprising us with Kitty’s return, he very casually has her walking around, talking, and helping people. For months, we’ve been waiting for Kitty’s return to her normal self, and Gillen drops something that could have been really cool with something that was less than stellar. That’s not to say that I didn’t like the way Kitty was restored. I really did. I just wish Gillen had revealed it in a more exciting way. Overall, the conclusion to this whole arc was really good. I loved the use of the resurrection ceremony that the Breakworlders do. And the resolution to what to do with Kruun and his people was satisfying enough. The Dodsons continue to display their superiority in drawing the flagship X-Men book. I wish it were they, and not Greg Land, who was going to be wrapping up this volume. Despite Gillen’s choices with this issue, I think this was a strong story and makes me glad that the X-Men are in his hands. -JJ
What on earth is going on with X-Factor? This story limps along with even more ridiculous demons and god-like beings. Throw in a dead X-Man for no good reason too and that’s about all that is contained in these glossy pages. Rahne and Shatterstar are continuing their escape from a bunch of supernatural beings who want Rahne’s baby. However, along the way, they are guided by the ghost of Feral. Feral? C’mon! She was my least favorite character in the original X-Force and for some reason, David thought it was a good idea to bring her back in this completely stupid way. While Rahne and Shatterstar fight off demon dogs and Egyptian lion goddesses, the rest of X-Factor is back at HQ doing the most exciting thing ever in the history of the X-Men: they are pouring salt around the doors and windows. What? I understand why, but David painstakingly writes these scenes that could have been narrowed down or edited out. The only thing that was nice about this issue was the return of Dennis Calero and his darker toned art. Though, anyone would be better than the artist from last issue. Peter David doesn’t seem to know how to write Feral either. No mention of “Shatty-buns,” no Spanish slurs. It’s like it’s not really her, and if it’s not, why bring her in? I’m getting the feeling that this book is losing its way, and unless David starts to pick up on the more interesting threads of Layla’s mysterious past, Guido’s resurrection, or where the heck is Darwin, then I’m afraid this book will continue to be a yawner. -JJ
Overall, Chris Yost is doing a solid job in providing a retcon story involving the original five X-Men, which is no easy task considering how many years have transpired for those characters. However, how many mind wipes become one too many? He dances on the line here with the bomb dropped at the end of this one, and I’m not so sure how it’ll pan out. I’m optimistic, but the character involved is almost too prominent to tamper with. Yost’s choice to utilize some [almost] forgotten C listers, like Toad, is a cool one, but their being able to subdue one of the Cuckoos who was wearing Cerebra at the time is a really tough sell. Otherwise, Yost has created an interesting concept with the Evolutionaries and their mission to protect mutantkind. I’d like to see the end of this story arc resonate after its conclusion, because if the Evolutionaries are a flash-in-the-pan endeavor, than what was the point of this whole thing and that $4.99 X-Men Giant-Size one-shot? To make a quick buck? To get rid of the Neo? Either would be lame. Dalibor Talajic’s flashback art looks the role, and is generally appealing. However, his body proportions look odd at times, and Jean comes off rather manish in some panels. Paco Medina smokes his pages, as expected. His depiction of Iceman is especially pleasing- it’s a nice blend between X-Factor Iceman and spiky Iceman. His style is fit for this story line, bringing back fond memories of what he did with Curse of the Mutants. So far, so good with this one, but if Yost drops the ball on the aforementioned reveal, and depending how this thing concludes, it could end up being epic or just plain skippable. –AL
One of the things Chris Claremont used to do back in the day was take an issue to allow a character to reflect, maybe revisit his or her origin, and pause. That’s what Paul Jenkins is doing in this mini-series. And while he does it pretty well, I’m starting to get anxious for Schism to actually start. Once again, we get lots of pronouns associated to whatever threat is coming to Utopia. I feel like Jenkins could have done a better job with that. But the really great parts of this book center on Cyclops. As he contemplates his decision to stay or leave Utopia, he draws upon his memories of his mother and the difficult decisions she had to make with him. I can’t remember there being any story of Cyclops considering his own mother. Once it was revealed that Corsair was his father, and with all the other father-figures in his life, I assumed that Katherine Summers wasn’t very important to Scott as a character. But Jenkins does a really great job of showing us their relationship in an emotional way. This is helped entirely by Will Conrad’s pencils who does a fantastic job of expressing emotion on the characters’ faces. In the end, Cyclops makes his decision, which is a move this mini-series really needed to keep the momentum up. Jenkins’ only weakness here is his dialogue for Emma, whom people like January Jones are also having trouble capturing. She keeps calling Scott “boss man” which is so out of character that for a minute I thought she was Jubilee or even Wolverine. Despite that really big misstep, this mini-series continues to deliver thoughtful and introspective characterization of the main characters as we build toward the next X-event. -JJ
Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: I really love retcons that are cool, so I’m going with X-Men #13.
Andy: Daken: Dark Wolverine #10 because I had strong doubts going in, but most of them have been tamed after this issue.