May 16, 2012

The Uncanny X-Piles LXXXVIII

Age of Apocalypse #3
Writer: David Lapham
Artist: Roberto De La Torre

On paper, this book just shouldn’t work. An “X-Men” book where the humans are the heroes and the mutants are the villains? Yet somehow, Lapham and De La Torre are making this book stand out, giving it a unique voice of its own as it stands apart from every other X-book, and also breathing new life into a concept that has no business carrying its own title. This book does not rely on typical X-Men tropes, nor does it lean on the sure-fire solutions of previous takes on the Age of Apocalypse. It’s moving in a really interesting direction as these characters try to fight an impossible battle. This issue focuses on the plans of Dark Beast and Sugarman to revive past AoA mutants to fight the war with the humans. That idea may be slightly worn, but in this context, it provides some important relationship development between the resurrected characters like Cyclops and Havok, who hate each other immensely, as well as giving the X-Terminated a further reason to hate their lives. In the meantime, you have a depowered Jean Grey (who in my opinion has been used so much as a powerhouse at Marvel that it’s nice to see her be the weak link on the team), a drunk Graydon Creed who keeps calling opponents “bish” (bitch), and an intriguing William Stryker. The fun thing about this book is that it takes these characters in new directions. Also, this book is dark. Not just because of De La Torre’s artwork, but the world itself is just bleak. At first I was worried about how the artwork would match or not match this book, but those fears are subsided. There are some gory panels here that hearken to a horror book, which Lapham is accustomed to writing. Using Harper Simmons as a POV character is a good fit, as he tries to make sense of how these people survive and what makes them tick. If Lapham is wise, he will make Simmons devolve like those around him. If this is not a book you’re picking up, I would highly recommend it, but if you’re looking for the AoA of the past, you won’t find it here. This book is dark, bloody, and fascinating, and I can’t wait to see where it will go. –JJ

Cover: 7/10 Writing: 8/10 Art: 7/10 Relevance: 4/10

Avengers vs. X-Men #3
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: John Romita, Jr.

This issue is heavy on words rather than fists and shows us how much of a third wheel Wolverine is in this event. If you were looking for the issue where ol’canuckle head finally decides which side he’s on, this is the one. As far as major Marvel events go, AvX has already been a monumental letdown. The fights and their outcomes (or lack thereof) have been ridiculous to say the least. Regardless, you can rest assured that AvX #3 rises above this somehow and turned out to be a pretty decent comic book.

Ed Brubaker handled the script for this one and did a good job of giving all of the major players some panel time. After Hope escaped Utopia in the last issue, we open the cover to find Wolverine recovering from that altercation. Spider-Man fills Logan in on their current situation. Cyclops has surrendered and while he and the X-Men await their fate, Captain America and Iron Man argue about what to do with them. Logan knows that Scott’s got something up his sleeve and reaches the group just in time to witness the Mutant Leader make his escape thanks to some help from Magik. All of that happens in the first few pages. I don’t want to spoil the rest, because this issue is actually worth reading.

Art wise, it seems to me that John Romita Jr. has put forth more effort than usual. I’ve always been a JRjr. fan, but I’ll be the first to admit that his body of work has been going downhill in the last handful of years. It had just gotten lazy and uninspired. AvX #3 gives me hope that there’s still great art left in Marvel’s most loyal penciler. Make sure to take a moment to appreciate Romita Jr’s mastery of the human form. The faces still need work, but he really went the extra mile with the detail on the bodies and most importantly, the eyes.

Be sure to check out the Marvel AR (Augmented Reality) stuff if you have the app. Brubaker will pop up at one point sharing how he originally intended to have Vision or Prince of Orphans duke it out for the big fight in this issue. We also get treated to expert medical opinion about what a fall from 10,000 feet up would do to the human body.

Marvel gets a “golf clap” from me for this issue. At least now AvX won’t COMPLETELY suck. –SG

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

Wolverine & the X-Men: Alpha & Omega #5
Writer: Brian Wood
Artists: Roland Boschi, Dan Brown, and Mark Brooks

A while back Marvel presented a teaser image stating that Brian Wood was going to make his return to Marvel on a Wolverine book. Turns out, this was what it was. I haven’t read a lot of Wood’s stuff, except some things from back in the early 2000s so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The way he was being touted, though, I felt like this was going to be a really great mini-series. Now, having read it all, I’m left with one major question: what was the point? I think there’s a real answer here and it has to do with the relationship between Quentin Quire and Wolverine. Something needed to be said about how this omega-level telepath is not totally obliterating Logan every issue. To that end, Wood completed the mission. Quire trapped Wolverine and Armor in a construct and had trouble getting them out again, all for Logan to gain Quentin’s respect and vice versa. However, there were some major problems with this issue and this series. First, it was about 4 issues too long. This could have easily been reduced to a single issue of Wolverine & the X-Men and with the proper artist could have been told much more succinctly. So much of this book is superfluous. Armor serves no part whatsoever and her inclusion makes no sense since Quire and she had no previous relationship. The slow burn of realization for Logan and Armor felt ponderous at times. On the other side, you had a savage Wolverine running around and Rachel Grey trying to figure out what to do, which also served no point to the story since she ended up doing nothing. Second, the art of this book was troubling. Pairing two artists like Boschi and Brooks was painful. Both styles are drastically different. I wonder what would have happened if their portions had been reversed. Boschi’s skinny and unattractive figures are contrasted every other page with Brooks’ sleek and well-rounded style. As the series went on, the art got worse and worse and the contrast more pronounced. The end to the story had no sense of weight and once again made me realize that Marvel mini-series like these have no intrinsic value. Everything of interest either happens in a main book or in a major event, so don’t waste your time on these little books, no matter how much hype there is. –JJ

Cover: 6/10 Writing: 3/10 Art: 4/10 Relevance 1/10

X-Factor #235
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Leonard Kirk

We’re now back to solving crimes in this issue, and like Peter David is so good at doing, we already can see the layers involved. First, you have the main bad guys behind all of these super-hero killings: Jezebel and the Isolationist. But then you have the actual crimes themselves which are always intriguing. Throw in your favorite mutant detective agency and the many issues they’re dealing with interpersonally, and you can see how David excels in developing a story that is so much more than just a detective mystery. And at the heart of it, he throws Madrox, fresh off of being dead. It’s amazing how David makes characters interesting. Shatterstar was my least favorite X-Forcer from back in the day, yet I love him in this book. Madrox and Shatterstar go undercover this issue to find out who is killing superheroes in Seattle. They quickly find out who’s doing it with this Lobo-esque-looking character. But to deepen the story, David also tosses in something that happens to Longshot. Since PAD is so good at not leaving things hanging, I have a feeling we’re about to delve into Longshot for a bit, which would be good. Longshot is another character I had no love for until this series. It’s just refreshing that in the midst of the horror that is AvX, there are writers who are plugging along, telling well-crafted and layered stories, and being paired with excellent artists. Leonard Kirk once again proves that he’s a fit for this book, both in terms of the action and violence in the book and the character moments. There’s one page where the team is watching video footage of a hero getting killed and their expressions are priceless. X-Factor makes me happy, and the fact that Marvel continues to let PAD do what he needs to do in order to tell a story gives me hope that perhaps they haven’t lost all sense of direction.  –JJ

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

X-Men #28
Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Will Conrad

First and foremost, covers that show characters that are not in the issue are annoying. Even worse is when the cover artist is the same person that handled the interiors. Ugh. Don’t expect to see Skrull versions of Colossus and who I assume is either supposed to be Magik or Shadowcat. Instead, we get Warpath and Domino.

This is totally a filler issue that has barely anything to do with current X-Men continuity. There’s nothing wrong with “taking a break”, but the story needs to show some character progression. Instead, we’re treated to a short story that seems to have been picked off the editing room floor of Secret Invasion. A rogue group of Skrulls use Pixie to gain access to the Baxter building to retrieve a part needed to power a remote device that will control a ship to presumably take the Skrulls back home. Borrrrring! And to try and salvage this shitty story, they decided to throw in some guest appearances by Spider-Man and the Future Foundation. The dialog from the Skrulls was also quite atrocious. At one point, one of them even says “Hey, It’s cool. Really, I just got carried away, ya know?” Do Skrulls actually talk like that to one another? Double Ugh.

Will Conrad’s art was overall mediocre. Reminds me of a stale Mike Deodato Jr. It wasn’t horrible, but none of the pages really stood out. It was safe.

The cover preview of next issue shows every Marvel hero and their grandmothers in an attack formation… to take down four Skrulls and an alien robot? Paint me uninterested; call me when it’s over. –SG

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

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: X-Factor #235 deserves all the praise! What a great series!
SpidermanGeek:  AvX #3 wasn’t stellar, but I think it’ll be one of the better issues of this stink bomb event.



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