May 18, 2012

The Uncanny X-Piles LXXXIX

Avengers Academy #29
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Tom Grummett

As far as tie-in issues go, this was a good one. Avengers Academy has been shoehorned into events and mini crossovers before (Fear Itself, that Thunderbolts crossover back when the title first launched), so Christos Gage doesn’t miss a beat with continuing his own story whilst tying in with Avengers vs. X-Men. Since Cyclops and his “Extinction Team” (I’m still waiting to find out why they’ve been dubbed that) split from Utopia in AvX #3, leaving the students behind, Wolverine and the Avengers have taken it upon themselves to have them relocated at the Avengers Academy… which contains at least two mutants already in Hazmat and X-23. The cast of X-Men new arrivals includes the Stepford Cuckoos, Pixie, Dust, Surge, Prodigy, Martha the floating brain, Loa (remember the recently cancelled Namor series?), Sebastian Shaw, Madison Jefferies, Dr. Rao, and the Generation Hope team (minus Hope). I thought there were dozens more mutant kids on Utopia, but apparently this was the cast handed to Gage by Marvel Editorial, and he makes it work. There are necessary moments between Logan and X-23 about the choice made to relocate the X-kids, Surge remains her spunky self by standing up to authority and Giant Man, and Sebastian Shaw’s presence adds an X factor nobody is sure how to deal with. All these altercations make the tie-in part of this issue flow smoothly and organically… even if the main event itself can’t be called either of those things. Gage also has Hercules involved as he was a guest teacher at the Academy that day, introducing the students in the art of classic Olympian sport. The opening page of the issue got an audible laugh out of me, causing the realization that I miss Amadeus Cho and Herc in a regular series. Obviously Herc’s going to throw down with Sebastian Shaw at some point who, if you’ve been reading your Generation Hope, you know may not be as ignorant of his former self as he’d like others to believe. Tom Grummett’s art is the right fit for this book, too. If you can remember back when that atrocity, X-Men Forever, was being published, I griped here in the X-Piles about how it was a shame Grummett’s talents were wasted on that dirty napkin of a series. It’s nice to see him get his due diligence here, as he captures the youth of the main characters nicely. If you’ve never read Avengers Academy, or if any members of the cast in this issue interest you, give it a shot. As a tie-in, it stands well on its own, especially when considering the mess AvX has been. -AL

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

Exiled #1
Kieron Gillen, Dan Abnett, & Andy Lanning
Carmine Di Giandomenico

Speaking of shoehorns, this first chapter of the “Exiled” event, which is passing through New Mutants and Journey Into Mystery, was a lot of fun! Like Avengers Academy, both New Mutants and Journey have been subject to event invasion since they began anew. I have no clue who wrote what here, but Gillen, Abnett, and Lanning put forth an enjoyable and humorous opening chapter with this one-shot. Both writers are hit or miss for me with their other Marvel work, but Gillen has been hitting home runs with Journey since it kicked off, while comparatively, D & A’s run on New Mutants has been hot and cold. However, all three compliment each other here. The terrifyingly lethal Disir have escaped the confines of Mephisto’s Hell, which has caused a stir in Asgard. The current New Mutants (Dani Moonstar and Magma in particular) are no strangers to Hell or Asgardian influence (most recently with Siege and Fear Itself), so it only feels natural that these groups would all clash together once again. Even in lieu of such a dangerous threat on the loose, there’s a lighthearted tone throughout this issue, with little jokes sprinkled throughout that play well. This mood and style is fitting for both titles involved. My favorite came from kid Loki as the newly escaped Disir descended upon our heroes: “Stop, everyone! They’re not after the mutants new! They’re after- [SPOILER ALERT]!” Gillen’s run on Journey, and this issue, is riddled with word isms like that, and when you catch them it’s akin to the feeling of finding the lone frosted mini-wheat that has a blanket of frosting. Know what I mean? Anyway, this was a great start to an event that is severely overshadowed by AvX. It’s unfortunate that it will most likely get lost in the shuffle, as the ending threw me for a jolly loop. Check below for a review of part 2 of “Exiled,” which went down in this week’s issue of Journey into Mystery. -AL

Cover: 7/10 Writing: 8/10 Art: 6/10 Relevance: 5/10

Journey Into Mystery #637 (Exiled part 2)
Writers: Kieron Gillen, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico

Not much more to add that wasn’t already stated above, other than part 2 was even more amusing than part 1. Spoiler alert, seeing the gods walk around as normal people, completely ignorant of their godliness, is far more entertaining than expected. The writing team keeps on hitting their marks, even if it’s not completely clear who is writing what. Although, it could be assumed that Gillen had more to do with this issue than D & A with Journey being his series. That will be the real test of this mini “Exiled” event- if the New Mutants installments will be up to par with the first two chapters. Carmine Di Giandomenico’s art is growing on me, especially the panels with character close up’s. Kid Loki has been a blast since day one, and so far, “Exiled” is offering some of the best stuff yet. –AL


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

Uncanny X-Force #25
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Mike McKone
I never thought I’d start a review by talking about a colorist, but it’s hard to deny that part of the success of this book has been the incredible work of Dean White. This issue simply highlights the fact that he is truly a master in setting the tone of this book and making it wonderfully consistent. I have enjoyed Mike McKone’s previous work on books like Exiles and most recently Astonishing X-Men, but never has his work looked better, and it’s all due to White’s exquisite coloring. This is most evident in the scene between Psylocke and Fantomex. The way McKone draws faces is certainly unique to him, however, the color palate and the softness of the blending of shades only enhances the mood of the scene. Marvel should really learn a lesson from this book in making a consistent color tone of a book despite rotating pencilers. Besides this, Remender continues to pull us further into the complicated lives of these characters. Back to Psylocke and Fantomex for a minute, we finally see the consummation of their relationship, however, because of Psylocke’s lack of emotions, the act is completely moot. This moves Psylocke to decide to leave the team, with Fantomex close behind. While it appears they are leaving, I highly doubt Remender is done with them. This leaves Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Deadpool, although the latter X-Forcer is caught in quite a bind as he does some reconnaissance for the team. We see a little bit more into Remender’s connected world between the books he’s writing, as this secret assassin organization, where you can create your own killer, has many ties to Father, Weapon Plus, and the robot stuff going on in Secret Avengers. What’s most intriguing is the introduction to not one, but 3 descendants of Omega Red, a villain who has been in need of some reintroduction. Once again, Remender proves that he knows his history and thrusts that history into the future in a sensible way. The end of this 25th issue contains a couple of old stories by Remender and Opena. Both are solid short stories, but boy has Opena really grown as an artist. Either that, or this highlights once again that Dean White is the secret weapon behind the success of this book. –JJ
Cover: 8/10 Writing: 9/10 Art: 9/10 Relevance: 9/10

Wolverine #306
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Paul Pelletier
It seems to me that despite all the hubbub about Wolverine in AvX, the place to find some really great Wolverine stories are found in books that aren’t connected to AvX at all. Cullen Bunn has decided to test Wolverine’s mettle by throwing him headlong into the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Not really, but the connections are certainly there. Logan is investigating his newest arch-nemesis Dr. Rot’s sordid history, which leads him to all kinds of wicked and disgusting places. Seems that Rot is one step ahead, though, leaving traps of all kinds for Wolverine. I never read the original Dr. Rot storyline that Jason Aaron wrote, so I can’t really compare these two stories. Dr. Rot is one half Leatherface and one half Hannibal Lector, and has the best of both horror legends. We get to meet some of Rot’s “family,” who are throwaways from a hillbilly torture film, and boy do they do a number on Wolverine. The surprise of this arc so far has been the choice to put Paul Pelletier on art duties. You would think that someone with such a clean, traditionally super-hero style would not work on this graphic horror tale. However, it’s precisely his clean style that allows the detail of the gore to shine through. We can almost feel Logan getting sawed in half, we are grossed out with Logan when Dr. Rot’s father is revealed to have had his brain removed and in a jar next to him, and we wince when Logan’s face gets blown off. Far too often, Logan’s healing factor is glossed over visually, but Pelletier does a superb job of reminding us that it takes a while for flesh and eyeballs to grow back. So if slasher films aren’t your thing, you might not like this story. However, there’s much more to love about this book, especially the art. Pelletier is also a master of facial expressions, and body forms. Kitty Pryde’s form is appropriately proportioned, and Melita Garner doesn’t look like a porn star, but remains attractive. Overall, this is a fun, yet disgustingly disturbing story, and I’m excited to see where Bunn and Pelletier will take us. Throw in the excellent Chris Samnee cover and you’ve got an all around great issue. –JJ

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

Wolverine & the X-Men #10
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Chris Bachalo
Jason Aaron and Rick Remender are writing the best X-Men comics on the shelves. This is the tie-in issue X-fans have been anxiously waiting for- the confrontation between Cyclops and Wolverine. Or, rather, the dialogue. Aaron plays out the verbal showdown between the leading X-Men, and reinforces it with well-written snippets of the supporting cast. I commend Aaron for what he does with Iceman, Angel, Gambit, and a few others, referencing specific moments in their history which cause them to make some surprising (in a great way) decisions. As an Iceman fan, I’m beginning to finally feel like somebody has an understanding of the character. Not many of you were probably keeping track, but not many writers can write Iceman. Given what’s coming next issue, I may need to purchase some diapers. A word on the artwork. I was never huge on Chris Bachalo- he’s a polarizing kind of guy with his style. It’s very busy, almost to the point of chaotic, and there always seems to be a panel or three where it’s impossible to decipher what the hell you’re looking at. A lot of his faces, especially of women, can look alike. And he draws Wolverine really, really tall. But he makes this book something different. Without Bachalo on this title, it’s just another X-Men book at a school. His depiction of Iceman is one of the best, and his method of conveying the unspoken attributes of his characters through their physicality is gratifying, even to the longest reading X-fan. Look at Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers for evidence of this. –AL

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

X-Men: Legacy #266
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Rafa Sandoval
What can really be appreciated about this issue is the fact that laced within the story, you get a full recap of the entire AvX storyline so far.  The faculty have a staff meeting, the conclusion of which has Iceman and Marvel Girl jumping ship to join Cyclops.  The remaining faculty then receive a visit from 3 Avengers.  Moon Knight and She-Hulk lead by Falcon. After some confrontational dialog, somebody finally throws the first punch.  From then on, the fists keep flying until the Avengers trio pull a hail Mary play.  This story also helped shed a light on how valuable of a player Rogue could be in AvX.  It’ll be interesting to see if Rogue sticks to her guns or decides to pick a side. 

Christos Gage gives us his usual performance as scribe.  This issue could actually serve as a great intro into AvX, if anyone’s still interested in getting into this event.

Rafa Sandoval’s art is admirable, although he does make all the ladies look like they’re wearing a helmet wig.  Still, the panel layout and storytelling style as well as the pacing remind me a lot of a young Chris Bachalo.  Good on you Mr. Sandoval.  Keep up the good work. Mark Brooks also delivers another stunning cover for Legacy. The cover alone made me want to buy this issue.  She-Hulk and Rogue yanking hair…  what’s not to love? –SG

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

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: Lots of good books this week, but Paul Pelletier’s art wins me over and makes Wolverine #306 my pick.
Andy: Wolverine and the X-Men. So well written.



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