February 29, 2012

The Uncanny X-Piles LXXVIII

Magneto: Not A Hero #4 (of 4)
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Clay Mann
Skottie Young’s first foray into writing a Marvel mini-series ended up being a surprising success! Many times when popular artists make the jump to writing, the attempt falls short. Young seemed to approach this tentatively, and the series was all the better for it. He didn’t try to take on a regular series, or try to redefine any characters, nor did he jump onto a creator-owned tale and expect us to immediately enjoy it (although I know he has put out some creator-owned stuff independently). This was a safe choice for Young, and for that, this series really hit a good note.
In this last issue, Magneto finally confronts Joseph who is trying to blackmail Magneto into being the villain most people think he is. I regret that Young made Joseph a villain, as I fondly remember Joseph as the amnesiac clone of Erik Lehnsherr. This is an entirely new Joseph, cloned again by Astra, who is bitter and hateful. The entire story is to solidify Magneto as a defender of both mutants and humans, and we see Magneto struggle with that at points.
But the real excitement in this issue is the incredibly well-choreographed battle between Magneto and Joseph. When you have two masters of magnetism, you can do so much more than merely throw cars at one another. In this issue, Joseph picks up an entire train of subway cars and uses them as a weapon against Magneto. Magneto not only uses the subway against Joseph, but rescues the people inside! Props to Clay Mann on this entire series. This fight sequence is an example of how he’s grown as an artist. When he first started on X-Men: Legacy, I criticized his blandness. Maybe Young was giving him pointers on dynamism of panels, but it certainly worked!
The only criticism I have of this issue is the ending. It came abruptly, and I wasn’t quite sure what Magneto did to the human group that was in cahoots with Joseph. Did he bury them all? It was a little unclear due to the art, which was a shame as that ending really changes the tone of Magneto’s motivations. If he did bury them, his “heroic” status is still very much in question. If not, then the end is not as strong. Maybe others thought that was obvious, but it left me wondering since Young was relying on Mann to communicate that piece. (EDIT: I asked Skottie Young on Twitter and he confirmed that Magneto killed them in the end.)
This was a  great little series and a good thing for Skottie Young fans to check out. I would love to see Young now do a book for Marvel that he both draws and writes! –JJ
Cover: 7/10 Writing: 8/10 Art: 7/10 Relevance: 7/10

New Mutants #38
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
First, I want to mention that while this run has not been my favorite, the cover artist, Kris Anka, has been doing a really good job in delivering a fresh take on these characters. I find myself longing for him on interiors. His style is stylized enough without copying classic New Mutants artists like Bill Sienkiewicz or Brett Blevins. Instead, interiors are done once again by Leandro Fernandez, who’s style is not complimentary. In some panels, inks are overly dark and try to create a foreboding mood, however, this title is anything but foreboding or dark. Val Staples colors also add to this darkness and do not match well with Fernandez’s pencils. Fernandez’s work also looks amateurish to me, with some of the poses and facial expressions. Perhaps he’s not quite ready to be on a Marvel book. Or maybe I expect too much.
Having said that about the art, I admit that the story was one of the better ones that DnA have written for this series. The status quo of “unfinished business” is a great one for a book like this, so long as the writers take us to places that connect with these characters. While I have appreciated the return of Nate Grey and Blink, neither of them have a connection to the New Mutants team. My wish would be that the “unfinished business” team would include the New Mutants, but would also include a revolving cast that would be pertinent to the mission. With Blink, they could have included Emma Frost, Jubilee, Husk, M, or any of those characters who were with her during her “death” in the Phalanx Covenant.
My point is that this story worked because it was unfinished business that pertained to the New Mutants, specifically Cypher. In Cypher processing his resurrection, he feels he needs to revisit the place of his death, so the team takes a trip to “Paradise Island,” where the Ani-Mator killed him. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been any return to this location, nor any mention of Bird-Brain, the character who brought the kids there years ago. This has been a dangling thread in the X-Men universe for years, so it’s appropriate that the team revisit it.
But pushing the story forward, DnA create a virus on this island, and when Bird-Brain returns and attacks the team, everyone who is scratched is infected. This creates some really great tension for the next issue and I hope DnA know where to take this to continue to build the momentum.
If DnA can capitalize on this “familiar ground/new territory” dynamic, I think this book has a bright future ahead of it. This is a good starting point, and I hope that I can be positive and enjoy the next issue. –JJ
Cover: 8/10 Writing: 7/10 Art: 4/10 Relevance: 8/10

Uncanny X-Force #22
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Greg Tocchini
There is no question about it, this is the best story delivered by Marvel in the past year! Writer Rick Remender has found a unique way blend superheroes with Tolkien’esque fantasy in his recent installment of Uncanny X-Force, “Otherworld”. The story is told on multiple fronts, investigating a variety of stories which all interconnect in a cerebral way.
Remender continues to wow the comic book world with what many refer to as Marvel’s most consistent title.  He has a really firm grasp on who each of the X-Force characters are, and has brought many of them out of obscurity on this title.  Likewise, Remender never falls into the trap of overusing the already overexposed character, Wolverine.  Rather, each character plays an integral role on this team.  The other impressive thing about this title, is the way Remender has managed to move the team away from being a “hit squad” and instead converted them into a necessary “action” squad that is integral to the safety of mutants around the world.
In this, chapter three, Psylocke continues her rescue of Fantomex, making huge sacrifices along the way.  Wolverine, Age of Apocoplypse Nightcrawler and Deadpool reluctantly agree to help the residents of Otherworld, by staging an attack on on the powerful mage known as the Goat and his forces.  We also find out a great deal more about the “skinless” assailant, who turns out to have a long history with Fantomex.
There is nothing lacking about this issue.  We are treated to a beautiful cover from the master of line himself, Leinil Francis Yu.  The interior art has it’s usually dream-like quality thanks to Greg Tocchini, and of course, Remender brings his regular “A” game to the book, scripting a layered story that both develops the characters and crafts a wonderful tale.  Not to mention, there is an amazing exchange between Deadpool and Wolverine in which Deadpool tries to convince Logan that he suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  I nearly peed myself when Wade tells Logan that the two of them should go float in the ocean together like a couple of heterosexual pals!
I like this series so much that I plan to purchase the Trade Paper Back version so that I can keep a copy of all the stories on hand and easy to access.  Remender has stumbled onto something new here, and I think the rest of the House of Ideas needs to take heed.  This is comic book writing at it’s very best! –CK
Cover: 8/10 Writing: 10/10 Art: 8/10 Relevance: 8/10

Wolverine & the X-Men #6
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Nick Bradshaw
If you have a relative new eye to comic books, and may not be able to distinguish one inker from another, look at the cover of this issue and the interiors and compare. The cover was inked by Morry Hollowell, who compliments Nick Bradshaw’s distinctive detail perfectly. The cover is jam-packed with weird creatures surrounding Wolverine and Quentin Quire, and so an inker who can give the attention to detail is important.
The interior inks were done by 4 different inkers: Walden Wong, Jay Liesten, Norman Lee, and Cam Smith. Now, I’m not skilled enough to tell which one did which page, but the contrast to the cover is stark. I can only assume that the double-shipping of this book has increased the need for inkers on the book. I think Bradshaw got a good head start on his issues of this series, but they needed more inkers in the crunch. This made the artwork looked more rushed than it need to be, and is one of the fearful trends I think we’ll see more often now that Marvel is pushing more titles to be double shipped.
Despite the inking flaws, the art was still strong. Bradshaw knows how to pack a panel with interesting backgrounds. Nothing is wasted on these pages. Every panel has so much to view. Bradshaw is truly becoming the heir of Art Adams, and that’s about as high a compliment as I can give.
Jason Aaron seems to have put the story on cruise control. He has set it on one speed and hasn’t slowed down since. The great conflict in this issue puts most of the team inside Kitty Pryde to fight off the Broodlings inside of her. Meanwhile, a new villain, with more Brood in tow, comes to reveal the real reason behind this invasion…the student Broo. I’ve always like Brood stories, and Aaron once again has taken a classic concept and given it a spin that is fresh. I’m glad that Aaron is tying all of this together in a cohesive manner.
The weak part of the story has to do with Wolverine and Quire going to an intergalactic casino to win money for the school. With Wolverine’s recent altruism, I find it a stark change to have him cheat to win. While it puts Quire and Logan in an interesting buddy-scenario, I’m not convinced that there’s no other way for them to raise money for the school. With Professor Xavier out there in character limbo, or any other crazy Jason Aaron idea for fundraising, I think this one is a weaker choice.
Despite this small criticism, this book still continues to amaze me and gives me hope for the future of the X-Men books. –JJ

Cover: 8/10 Writing: 7/10 Art: 6/10 Relevance: 9/10

X-Men #25
Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Jorge Molina
Turning Jubilee into a vampire was a brilliant idea. Her character was really going nowhere, and connecting her to this larger world of Marvel vampires really develops her and gets the X-Men doing things we rarely get to see, like hunting vampires. This issue is chock-full of old-fashioned vampire-stabbin’. Gischler’s assembled team is one of the strongest teams of X-Men in recent years, and fits this story extremely well. Storm has lots of vampire baggage, and that baggage begins to show when starts getting desperate in her hunt for Jubilee. She starts to take out major frustration on the vamps she comes across. Colossus in his darker Juggernaut persona handles the muscle, while Psylocke, Domino, and Warpath are great X-Force alumni. All of them make up an effective team for getting this job done.
Gischler is at his best when he’s writing the X-Men taking on vampires. Now that he’s introduced this team of the Forgiven, even more antagonistic dynamics are created. This issue pits the two teams together and the sparks fly! Jubilee is caught in the middle, and just when things seem bad, Gischler adds another layer to the story by making the leader of the Forgiven, Raizo Kodo, a wanted man, with tons of assassins headed his way, and subsequently, the X-Men’s way. Now mutant and vampire are forced to work together.
Jorge Molina is a perfect fit for this book. His style is very reminiscent of Oliver Coipel’s style, so you get dynamic action, big, sprawling scenes, and great characterization through the art. His characters act their parts well, from Warpath’s cocky attitude to Storm’s frustration with dealing with the vampires.
This book has found it’s legs again, so kudos to Gischler and Molina! –JJ
Cover: 7/10 Writing: 8/10 Art: 7/10 Relevance: 7/10


X-Men Legacy #262
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: David Baldeon 

What do you get when you put Exodus on one of his religious rampages and have Wolverine and his team realize that they are the only ones who can save Cyclops and his team from the carnage that is sure to ensue…..pure gold!  Christos Gage has really created a tense situation in this book, putting Wolverine and his team in a tough position.  On one hand, maybe Cyclops deserves the full wrath of Exodus.  On the other, it is kind of Logan’s responsibility to safeguard people against these types of threats.  What to do, what to do?

If you like slugfests in comics, then this is the book for you.  From start to finish we watch Exodus pulverise the X-Men. Sure he takes some pretty hefty shots, but in all honesty, this guy is a one man team wrecker.  He battles Rachel Summers on the Psychic Plane, while ripping the skin off Wolverine and going toe-to-toe with Cannonball. Frenzy and Iceman!  One thing has been apparent for a long time now, Gage knows how to script an old fashioned throw down!

It’s too bad that Mark Brooks isn’t in charge of the interior art.  His cover for issue #262 (like his covers on past issues) is just beautiful.  We are treated to a full figured pose of a war torn Rogue, and it is gorgeous!  The interior duties are handled by David Baldeon and they are somewhat….stylized in comparison to Brooks’ style.  Exodus’ face from one panel to the next is excruciatingly hard to look at.  In fact, he almost looks like Beta Ray Bill in certain panels, not good!

Gage leaves this book off on a great note, and I for one can’t wait for issue #263.  I can’t wait to see the second round of this slugfest, and I really can’t wait to see how Rogue’s decision to overstep Wolverine will affect their relationship in the future.

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

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: Boy, this was tough because of the sheer number of books, but I think I enjoyed X-Men: Legacy #262 more than any of them. A team of X-Men battling Exodus is just classic X-Men goodness to me.
Capekiller: Uncanny X-Force #22 for me.
Jeff Jackson



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