It’s official folks! Andy and Jeff have been covering the world of X-Men for a full year! We thought it would be fun to look at our Most X-Cellent Picks of the Week to see what we’ve enjoyed the most in the last year.
The clear winner of the year has been Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force. The first 4 issues alone were both Andy and Jeff’s picks of the week, which is quite a feat. Overall, it was picked 7 times by both Andy and Jeff. Andy’s second best book of the year has been Jason Aaron’s Wolverine, which he picked 5 times these past 52 weeks. Jeff’s second best was adjectiveless X-Men, which he picked 6 times, thanks to Victor Gischler, Chris Yost, Paco Medina, and Chris Bachalo. Rounding out the top 3 picks of the year was a tie between Daken: Dark Wolverine and X-23, which Andy chose 3 times each, and a tie between Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine, which Jeff picked 5 times each. Honorable mentions go to Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, Wolverine & Jubilee, X-Men Legacy, New Mutants, and X-Factor, which all got multiple picks.
Overall, it was a great year of X-Men books! The next year promises to be just as good if not better with all all the Schism-related madness. And speaking of Schism, check out below to see what Jeff thought…
Talk about a major turnaround from issue #1! Whereas the first installment of this series was campy at best, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente up their game in this second issue, raising the stakes for our major players and starting out with a punch to the gut. Heather and Mac (Vindicator and Guardian, the backbone of Alpha Flight) lose custody of their daughter, Claire, in a heart wrenching court battle versus family. To say that Mac was livid with the sentence would be an understatement, and this custody battle is the catalyst for his anti-government stance. The court scene was great, and I wonder why it wasn’t included in #1, since it takes place 6 months prior to the events of Fear Itself. To lose one’s daughter…I don’t even want to think about it. For reasons still unclear, Heather has betrayed her husband, and her team, by siding with the pro-government forces. She and her robots drop each Alpha Flight member one-by-one with a specialized attack, like using Quasar Level Gamma Rays to couneract the “Hulk-stuff” in Sasquatch’s cells. Northstar escapes though, and quickly becomes the most interesting character of this series. Brooding and pissed works with him, and it reminds me of an old-school Quicksilver. Pak and Van Lente do a great job capturing Jean-Paul’s voice, and if part of the focus stays on him throughout the series, that would be great. Dale Eaglesham does what has become expected of him and draws beautifully. He fits so much into each page, adding to the overall experience. I gotta say it too- his Aurora is gorgeous. My only major gripe with this issue is Heather’s reason to turn on her friends. I really don’t get it and it feels forced, especially considering she and her team have been given another chance at life following the events of Chaos War. Speaking of being back from the dead, Puck returns here, too, but we don’t get enough of him in this issue to accurately see what his motives are. How members of Alpha Flight came back to life during the events of the Chaos War are still unclear to me, but Pak and Van Lente have done a surprisingly solid job on this issue, especially with characterization. If you skipped #1, just jump on here; this installment shows a level of quality lacking in the first chapter. -AL
Daken has conquered the Madripoor crime scene, now he’s out to get Los Angeles under his rule. In order to secure his position as the Kingpin of Crime in LA, Daken’s first plan of action is to position himself with those behind the hottest drug on the market, Heat. Daken’s interest in Heat proves to be for business and pleasure, as it’s the one drug that can cut through his healing factor. Essentially, Daken trips serious face when high on the stuff. When he’s high, his inner monologue is one of death, as his list of victims grows. As the story progresses and Daken sets his plan(s) in motion, ever the unpredictable one, we discover he doesn’t want control of the Heat drug ring at all- he’s out to make the largest cash robbery in American history. These drug lords are going to be his pawns. Matteo Buffagni captures Daken’s facial expressions, but his environments leave much to be deisred. They’re very plain, usually just a splash of color, which is unfortunate. Los Angeles is a setting that the artwork should play off of, but that element is missed here. Riley Rossmo depicts the scenes where Daken is high, and his stuff is just awesome. Rossmo’s style is unlike any other out there, with an electric use of color and chaos. Check out Image’s Proof or Green Wake for more of his work. On a personal note, Williams’ use of Catalina Island was well played. I actually have family there, so it was fun seeing the location in a comic. Williams is showing that he understands Daken’s character, and next issue he squares off against Task Master…on drugs. That should be good. -AL
Have you ever bought a Marvel coloring book at Wal-Mart? If you look at the drawings of the pages, it looks like someone took a picture from a comic book, and traced it with big dark lines so that kids can color it themselves. They are not detailed images at all for maximum color-space. They aren’t very good drawings of characters either. I’m convinced that Leandro Fernandez is the guy who draws those coloring books. No matter how well Andres Mossa colors the pages, Fernandez’s lack of detail and storytelling has really hurt Abnett & Lanning’s first arc on this book. Just think, if the right artist had been on this book, it could have been a really creepy take on a doofus villain like Sugar Man. The guy was mutating people in order to get them to find alternate dimensions and ultimately getting them killed. If there had been an artist who had a really dark tone, this book would have been really cool. DnA do a great job of making Dani Moonstar a relevant character despite her lack of powers, and she gives ol’ Sugar Man a real beating here! But sadly, the excitement is all but sapped because of the art. Nate Grey is returned to the X-Men, but he’s knocked down a notch in power, thank goodness. I really want to like this book, but until there’s a new artist, I’m afraid I don’t see a good future ahead. –JJ
Jason Aaron’s awesome revenge story takes a bit of a turn for the weird. Aaron has done a great job of setting up a formula for this story–Wolverine fights a “Mongrel” while we get some background on the members of the Red Right Hand. This story sticks to that formula, but adds in a few bizarre things. The stories of the Red Right Hand are just heartbreaking, and you can see why these folks hate Wolverine as much as they do. However, in this issue, a guy loses his pregnant wife on a highway where Hulk and Wolverine are duking it out. I don’t quite see why he was so mad at Wolverine and not Hulk, but maybe there’s not a secret-society of Hulk-haters. Meanwhile, Logan fights two more lame-named villains-Fire Knives and Saw Fist, who are just as awful as you might expect. I think Aaron could have done better to make these cannon-fodder henchmen a bit more deadly. But the real weird thing is that Aaron throws in a creepy zombie kid with a dog and red eyes who convinces the guy who lost his wife to join the Red Right Hand. Later, they do a cultic ceremony and bring out this huge snake. I started to get a little lost at this point and am thinking Aaron made this more complicated than it needed to be. It’s obviously tied to how they got Wolverine to Hell in the first place, but somehow it just didn’t work for me. Guedes’ art once again is strong in the flashback parts, but once Wolverine gets on-panel fighting villains, it looks horrible. I’m looking forward to the end of this arc and hopefully a new artist. -JJ
Ok, remember Prelude to Schism? Turns out that it had nothing to with Schism. Jason Aaron even pointed that out in an interview. That big threatening “It” will never see the light of day. That’s the disappointing part which I blame squarely on Nick Lowe and Marvel editorial, but otherwise, this issue wasn’t all that bad. Carlos Pacheco’s art was a bit weaker than it was on the Uncanny .1 issue a few months back, but it’s still rather pleasant to look at. Wolverine looks a bit bulkier under his pencil and Cyclops’ poses look a bit awkward, but everything else looks OK. Aaron’s strength really is in how he creates and writes villains. In this issue, we’re introduced to Kade Kilgore, the most badass 12-year-old you’ve ever seen. He takes over his father’s company, kills him, joins the Hellfire Club as the new Black King, and sets the ball in motion for the X-Men’s destruction all in this one issue. And it works extremely well. However, Aaron has been saying that the philosophical split that will happen amongst the X-Men will have fans debating as well. Just judging on this issue, I’m seeing Wolverine as the more sympathetic person, even though the split is not quite clear. The “schism” appears to be taking on the classic Xavier/Magneto divide of whether or not mutants and humans can ever live peaceably. I hope that’s not the issue. But while this wasn’t the most riveting first #1 of an X-Men event, it holds some promise, and I’m interested to see where it will go, especially once we get to the Frank Cho and Alan Davis issues. –JJ
Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: I think of the books I read, X-Men: Schism #1 was the best of the bunch.
Andy: Unlike Jeff, I thought Schism was a big disappointment. My vote goes to Alpha Flight #2 because #1 was nowhere near this good.