Journalists

December 24, 2011
 

The Uncanny X-Piles LXVIII

Avengers Academy #23
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Tom Raney

In keeping with the complete 360 this book has taken, X-23 joins the team. While I’m sure the writers see this a fresh start for this book, I only see it as this weird revolving door that has the story stalled at the same point. I recognize that this is a time honoured tradition in Avengers’ books (the recruiting new members storylines), but everyone has to be honest with themselves here, this is not really an Avengers book! Sure it has the word, “Avengers” in the title, and there are a couple of Avengers in the book, but this is not a group of kids who are going to become the next Mightiest Heroes for Earth! Christos Gage continues to focus on the interpersonal relationships of these teen characters, giving this book an immature feeling to it. Now don’t get me wrong, I like “school” books (i.e. New X-Men was one of my favourite series of all time!), this one just seems to have a plastic feel to it. It is almost like the teen angst is too forced or something. As I mentioned above, the always moving X-23 lands herself a spot on Avengers Academy. I think I have a problem with this, but it is too early to tell. Here are my current issues with this addition. I think Gage should do a better job of introducing the characters already at the academy before bringing new people on the book. Tell the reader about Lightspeed and White Tiger. Use this time to give us some back story. I recognize that this is going to happen in future issues, but I think that is a mistake. You have to make the initial stages of a new book or a new team crystal clear. I think the intentions of this school and the roles of the students is currently as clear a bowl of mud. I’m not the biggest Tom Raney fan in the world. I find his lines a little oversimplified, especially in the facial department. There is no doubt that the man can draw. Just look at the opening panel which is a full page spread of Tigra tussling with X-23. This is really good work! Unfortunately, not all of the panels are given the same consideration. And for the record, Chris Sotomayor’s colours do not flatter Raney’s lines at all! One saving grace in the art department though, has to be the cover. Rodin Esquejo pencils and colours a beautiful “fastball special” a la Mettle and X-23. So, what’s this issue about? Well, there is lots of teen angst which is dealt with by the sage counselling of other teens…in angst. Goliath has the wool pulled over his eyes ….yet again! (This is becoming like a bad Harry Potter story in which the adults are completely useless!) And of course, like every good bad Avengers story there is the time travelling sub plot. Like I stated earlier, muddy! I don’t think this book has too much more of a shelf life for me. I find my mind wandering while I read it, and I often leaf ahead hoping that something good is coming up. I know Avengers Academy has itself a following, I just don’t think I am fan club material! –CK

Art: 5/10 Writing: 6/10 Cover: 8/10 Relevance: 5/10

Avengers: X-Sanction #1
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Ed McGuinness

Any good Marvel fan knew this was coming, the return of Cable.  The only question was, “How is Marvel going to approach Cable’s return?”  Enter Avengers: X-Sanction.  A story designed to reintegrate Cable back into the Marvel Universe in a way that makes it look like he never skipper a beat.  Successful?  Well, it is definitely too early to tell, but the idea itself has promise. The story bounces in between the future and the present.  Cable’s ability to timeslide of course allows him to occupy past, present and future timelines.  Like always, the future is bleak.  Cable actually offers a guess that he is in the middle of nuclear winter.  It is here however, that Cable runs into an old friend who is actually a time traveller himself, Blaquesmith.  This mysterious creature informs Cable that the future is the way it is because Hope wasn’t around to save it.  Anyone who knows Cable knows that this is the one area in his life you don’t fool around with.  When pushed for further information, Blaquesmith informs Cable that the Avengers are responsible for Hope’s inability to save the world.  In typical Cable fashion, he sets out to the present to nip this “Avenger problem” in the bud. The idea behind the story has real merit.  And you will never hear me argue against a real X-Men/Avenger throw down, but this story does have some problems.   First of all, hasn’t Cable learned yet, that communicating your concerns always beats killing a bunch of people?  I find it amazing that the writers are still writing him this way after all these years.  Sure, it really helped craft some cool stories in the past (Messiah Complex), but to see it over and over again…It characterizes Cable as a 7 year old who has a bad temper and really poor problem solving skills! It was cool to see Cable go toe-to-toe with Captain America; two very similar characters slugging it out.  And I have to tell you, I loved the outcome of that fight!  Personally, I don’t believe that the Avengers would go chasing after Cable one at a time.  I mean, the whole idea of this team is that together they can beat villains that no lone super hero can right?  Captain America is a little out of character while fighting Cable as well, but I just chalked that up to Cable being a better strategist. Ed McGuinness’ art has never been my cup of tea, but the man has talent, there is no doubt of that.  I think, for me, it is the way he draws bulkier characters.  Whether it is the Hulk or Cable, he really goes overboard creating these super thick, vein popping pictures to represent the big boys of the Marvel U.  I for one find it a little distracting. The book itself was alright.  I’m hoping that Loeb can extend the vision of the book beyond Cable taking out one new Avenger every issue.  While fun, the story deserves more than that. –CK

Art: 5/10      Writing: 6/10        Cover: 7/10 (I got the blank variant!)            Relevance:  7/10

Magneto: Not A Hero #2
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Clay Mann & Gabriel Hernandez Walta

I had stopped collecting comics in the late 90’s after the whole Onslaught thing. At the time, Joseph was still quite possibly a reborn and mind-wiped Magneto. It would be years before I would pick up the Magneto War issues to find out that Joseph was really a plot to get back at Magneto by a long-forgotten original member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Astra. Eventually, Joseph died, and while it was a relatively good idea, it had no real long-term implications. Astra disappeared and the whole Magneto-clone (clones were so popular in the ’90s) was cleaned up really nicely. I’m not convinced that this limited series is a good idea, drudging up all of these characters with such convoluted history. As much as I love Skottie Young, I’m trying to see how this book will end up doing the franchise any good. Either Young will put everything back the way they were before he started, or he’ll leave some dangler which will only complicate things. This issue doesn’t really help any readers unless you happened to read the stuff from the ’90s. We get some back story on how Astra brought Joseph back again. But the real head-scratcher is why Joseph is now evil. Are we supposed to think that Astra brainwashed him? Overall, this story is not really compelling. I think the problem really is Astra. She has no real character of her own. She’s like Selene, Sinister, and Zaladane (remember her?) all rolled into one. A more realistic take on her could have helped, especially since she’s basically Magneto’s ultimate stalker. Young also seems to rely heavily on old X-Men tropes to get him through here. Astra’s journey to the south pole to resurrect Joseph seemed like every time Magneto has returned. Magneto sitting in a bar watching a news program on a mutant-hating guy spout his opinion has been done way too often, although usually with Wolverine in the scene. The clone vs. original fight where the clone says that the original doesn’t deserve the name feels like deja vu as well. The only thing that seems to really develop in this issue is Clay Mann’s art. He’s just getting better with each issue. For some reason, they through in a flashback artist, who’s art doesn’t really enhance that it’s a flashback. I think Mann could have pulled those pages off better. While this issue isn’t bad by any means, it dabbles in the tricks of the past, and I’m just ready for something new. –JJ

Art: 6/10      Writing: 7/10        Cover: 7/10            Relevance:  7/10

Ultimate Comics X-Men #4
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Paco Medina

My criticisms of this book still remain, and unfortunately this issue doesn’t change much for me. We’re 4 issues in and not much has really happened. For instance, Quicksilver is still in a meeting with the President and Val Cooper. I’m not a comic book writer, but even I know that when you have the same meeting lasting 4 issues, it’s time to be all done. No conversation or meeting is that interesting. Meanwhile, this issue is largely focused on William Stryker, Jr. (couldn’t they have just given him another name?) and his motivation for being a mutant hater. Guess what? It’s the same as any lunatic human in the X-books. His family is killed as a result of Magneto’s flood, his dad beats him up and tells him he’s a sissy, and he’s an evil pastor. Once again, another writer is dabbling in tricks of the past. The only real interesting thing in this issue is the tension between the X-Men. Kitty is afraid of losing another friend like she did Peter Parker, so she’s reluctant to fight. Bobby and Johnny want to go kick some tail, which ends up with Johnny calling Kitty out and her jacking his jaw. That was a great scene and makes these characters a little more dimensional. Despite the weakness of the story, Paco Medina continues to draw the hell out of it. His pencils are so tight and clean. He fits on a book like this, although I would love to see him step up to the big leagues. I have decided to keep reading this just for Paco, however, he’s likely not to be on the book long-term, and once he’s gone, and if the story doesn’t pick up, I’m dropping this. –JJ

Art: 9/10      Writing: 5/10        Cover: 7/10            Relevance:  6/10

Uncanny X-Force #18
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Jerome Opena & Esad Ribic

It’s really unfair to the other X-books that this issue came out. I couldn’t help but compare everything else to this issue. I’m going to say it right now: This issue was the best comic book I have read all year. It might be the best I’ve read in many years. However, don’t go picking this up until you have read the previous issues. This issue concludes the inspired Dark Angel Saga. Remender has put these characters through absolute hell. Rarely have the X-Men been as down as they have been here. Wolverine has been eviscerated, Deadpool has been shattered to pieces, Deathlok has been taken over, and the Age of Apocalypse X-Men have been ripped to shreds. All that stands between Archangel and his destruction of the world is Fantomex and Psylocke, who are way too emotionally attached to each other and Warren to be much of a threat. Knowing that this is where the story starts, Remender has nothing else to do but systematically drop our jaws with every page. Whether it’s Warren stabbing Fantomex in the head, the revelation of the new Pestilence carrying Warren’s child, or Psylocke unleashing on Archangel, every panel includes something that actually means something. But just when things go from bad to worse, Remender gives us an awesome twist. Fantomex has proven to be such an excellent character under Remender’s pen. He proves that he has one more Hail Mary in the form of a cloned En Sabah Nur who has been trained to be a hero. This “Kid Apocalypse” is called Genesis and he comes to bring the fight to Archangel. Remender proves that you can take old ideas and make them new with things like Genesis’ upbringing. While all the individual things are really cool, what makes this issue wonderful is the emotional beats that Remender includes. It’s one thing to have an awesome villain, but to have the hero deeply love the villain puts an entirely new twist on the story. In his dying moments, Psylocke shows Warren what his life should have been like if they weren’t X-Men. It’s heart-wrenching, and I admit, I got choked up. In the end, Remender chooses to put both Warren’s death and resurrection in the same issue, bypassing the fact that death is no longer a real statement in comics anymore. However, he puts a twist on it once again, and leaves us breathless. But as good as Remender’s story is here, it could have been wasted if not drawn by Jerome Opena. The amount of emotion he puts, especially in face of Psylocke throughout the issue, is intense. She is really losing her true love here, and we can all feel it. Esad Ribic helps out in the telepathic scene of Warren and Betsy’s could-be future, and boy, does his art pull at the heartstrings. Even though this issue is the end of this arc, Remender has a TON of stuff left to do, and I’m on board for more. This story will easily go into my top 5 X-Men stories. –JJ

Art: 10/10      Writing: 10/10        Cover: 7/10            Relevance:  10/10

Wolverine: The Best There Is #12
Writer: Charlie Huston
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp

It’s tough for me to get a read on how popular Wolverine is in the comic world anymore. He has had his ups and downs over the years. Not that his overall popularity ever declines. Rather, the group that embraces the fuzzy Canadian changes. In the beginning, it was only hardcore comic enthusiasts who cared about Wolverine. Then, as his popularity grew, comic fans grew to resent seeing the mutant’s face everywhere. House of M helped restore some of his intrigue within the comic world. Then his movies and 50 000 books seemed to ruin that again. One thing is certain for me though, this is a story arc that Wolverine fans need to own! The feature villain; who starts off under the name of Winsor but ends as Contagion, is one of the best new villains Marvel has created in years. I think what intrigues me the most about this character is the scope of his powers. Winsor is able to create viruses and infections. Anything he dreams up, he can create. In an attempt to make himself more powerful, he captured every person he could find with a healing based power. His goal, to create viruses so powerful they could kill a god! And for a time, it seemed as though Winsor was going to reach his goal. This story had a real gritty feeling to it. Whether it was Juan Jose Ryp’s over-detailed lines or Charlie Huston’s twisted ideas for new viruses, this book was gross! I mean that in the best possible way of course. For instance, Dazzler was treated to a synesthesia virus. Allison starts to taste everything she hears and smells everything she sees. She instantly falls to her knees, vomiting everywhere! I won’t ruin all of the great viruses Winsor whips up, just know that they are awesome! With issue 12 representing the conclusion of this arc, we’ll have to see where the story goes from here. I know it has received some overly critical reviews from some other sources. I for one think it is a nice throw back to an era when comic stories were allowed to be stand-alone tales. This story represents what Wolverine should be, complex, passionate and dangerous. –CK

Art: 7/10 Writing: 7/10 Cover: 5/10 Relevance: 8/10

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: Pick of the week? More like pick of the year! Uncanny X-Force #18 all the way!
CapekillerWolverine: The Best There Is #12 – Love Winsor as a villain. This was a great arc!

Capekiller
capekiller@comicattack.net

Jeff Jackson
jeff@comicattack.net

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