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August 8, 2012

The Uncanny X-Piles 101

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Written by: Jeff
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Welcome to the 101st edition of the Uncanny X-Piles! After 100 weeks of reviews, we thought it was time to include an actual “pile” of X-Men books, based on the ratings in our reviews. We’re constantly getting asked which X-Men books are the best, and which ones folks should stay away from, so here is our official chart of the current X-Men titles.

The X-Piles
Numbers in parentheses indicate last issue’s rating. Blue indicates a raise in the chart from last issue; red indicates a drop; green indicates the book stayed put.

1. X-Men Legacy: 33.5
2. New Avengers: 33
3. Avengers Vs. X-Men: 33 (32)
4. Wolverine & the X-Men: 31
5. AvX: Vs: 31
6. X-Factor: 28 (31)
7. Uncanny X-Force: 26
8. Age of Apocalypse: 26 (19)
9. Uncanny X-Men: 24
10. Astonishing X-Men: 20.5
11. First X-Men: 20 (new title)
12. Avengers: 20
13. X-Men: 15 (11)
14. New Mutants: 10
15. X-Treme X-Men: 10
16. Wolverine: 8


Age of Apocalypse #6
Writer: David Lapham
Artist: Renato Arlem

Way back in the original Age of Apocalypse, there were many missing mutants. Among them was Generation X‘s M, Monet St. Croix, although there was mention of her as “Know-It-All” who was a member of Generation Next. It never was clear if Know-It-All was Monet or not. Now we see a resurrected Monet taking on the identity of Penance, a great nod to the original Generation X character of the same name, who happened to be Monet trapped in a diamond-hard body. Yes, it’s complex, but these are X-Men characters we’re talking about. Monet makes her return, and is shown to be a formidable ally to Prophet and his X-Terminated team. We still aren’t sure what Prophet’s grand scheme is, but Lapham does a good job in stringing it out and making it fun.

Lapham continues to make a compelling vision of this alternate universe. He uses the 616 counterparts in creative and unique ways. Weapon Omega’s team of mutants makes me happy. My only complaint is that Weapon Omega sounds nothing like Wolverine. I know that he’s not supposed to act like Wolverine, as he’s the new incarnation of Apocalypse, but his dialogue doesn’t seem to match Logan’s. If there was one thing Lapham could improve on, it would be that.

Despite that, Lapham continues to make me interested in the main cast, and in this issue, he focuses on Deadeye. We get a little bit of insight into what motivates her, and it’s a rather gruesome story of her and her brother, who we know in the 616 as the mutant-hating Matthew Risman. Not much difference between the two counterparts, however, his sister Zora makes for a three-dimensional character at Lapham’s pen.

Renato Arlem is perfectly suited for a dark book like this. His style has a roughness to it that helps reveal the bleakness of  the world. But he also is great with showing emotion in the eyes of the characters. On cover, you have another great Humberto Ramos piece, albeit a sketchier style than we’re used to.

This book continues to surprise me and satisfy me, but it’s enjoyable every month. It’s strength is it’s detachment from the other X-Men events, but that might prove to be it’s flaw if people don’t start reading it. –JJ

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

Avengers vs X-Men #9
Jason Aaron
Artist: Adam Kubert
The battle between the Avengers and the X-Men has been confusing and sometimes downright annoyingly misleading. It’s only recently that we’ve been treated to several bright spots in this event and Jason Aaron is able to pull out a very strong issue here. The opening shows a (then) unknown hero being hammered to death by Colossus. The story shifts to the present time with the Avengers in  retreat as others are falling in battle and the amount of dreat is just on every panel. Aaron does a very nice shift with making this a darker toned story than any of the others have been. Emma is beginning to fear what she’s becoming and abuses her power. Wakanda is in ruins and mirrors the relationship between Storm and T’Challa. Though none of that tops the sacrifice that takes place in the pocket of Limbo that Magik has summoned to Earth. The entire sequence was pretty damn moving and was put over the top with the blood splatter in the caption boxes of the character’s inner monologue.
This half of AvX has definitely seen the better group of artists lend their talents and Kubert continues to hold up that quality. The opening panels were simply awesome and had a greater impact once you get to the end of the story. From then on it’s panel after panel of an action packed book with some very creepy and dark moments thrown in. I will say that as good as it was there was a panel where Colossus punches Spider-Man and his face seems like it’s more elastic than anything. This slightly throws off the mood but things settle right back into normalcy after that.
There is a bit of confusion as to how and why the Avengers that were trapped on Utopia (Cage, Spider-Woman, Hawkeye) are now in this patch of Limbo and getting rescued. This might come down to editorial not keeping track of where everyone is and what’s going on.  Regardless, this is one of the stronger AvX issues and it’s a shame most of them could not have had this type of emotional tug or even this quality of art and writing when this series started. Hopefully this continues and the last three issues really pay off when this is all said and done. – IS

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

First X-Men #1
Writers: Neal Adams & Christos Gage
Artist: Neal Adams

Only in the last couple of years did I read Neal Adams’ original run on X-Men. It’s been 40 years since Adams was on an X-book, and Marvel is letting him team with Christos Gage to tell a new tale of the X-Men, pre-X-Men #1.

The premise is about what was happening to mutants before Charles Xavier and Magneto began gathering them for their respective sides. We all know that there were many mutants existing before the X-Men, including Wolverine and Sabretooth. With Wolverine starting a school in current continuity, perhaps there was a time when he felt the need to gather and protect mutants. So this book is fully a retconning-type of prequel, but is it a story worth telling?

I’ll admit I was intrigued by the premise. It does make sense that mutants were gathering together before Xavier. However, the execution of this issue left much to be desired.

First, we’re thrust into Wolverine’s mission to gather new mutants without much of an explanation. We know from Logan’s history that around this time he was serving as a mercenary or some time of black ops agent. Why, all of a sudden, does he want to protect mutants? Also, Sabretooth’s inclusion seems really out of place. Creed has always been a wild card, so even if Wolverine pays him to care, it seems out-of-character for him to want to team up with Logan.

We’re introduced to a couple of new mutants, who we know won’t make it far since we’ve never heard of them. That makes them a bit difficult to want to care about. Logan and Creed visit a young Charles Xavier, who wants nothing to do with mutants and appears to be in denial that he is one. It’s almost a reversal from the X-Men: First Class movie, where Charles and Eric try to recruit Wolverine. This only serves to muddle Xavier’s history even more.

The issue ends with the group going to meet a Nazi-hunting Magneto. I may stick around to see how Magneto is portrayed, but the first thing that has to happen is a change in Magneto’s hairdo! What is that?

This leads me to Adams’ art. Adams still has some tricks up his sleeve, but I can’t help but think if he wasn’t inking this, it might have looked better. Everything felt just a little bit off. Unlike Walt Simonson’s work in Avengers last week which was horribly over-rendered, Adams’ challenge seems to be in the faces of the characters. Wolverine and Sabretooth look like they have a mouth full of marbles and plastic vampire teeth. And don’t forget Magneto’s hair.

This is only a mini-series, and I’m at least moderately interested to see where this goes. I certainly trust Christos Gage, but I hope he’s not being strong-armed by Adams.  –JJ

Cover: 3/10 Writing: 5/10 Art: 5/10 Relevance: 7/10

X-Factor #241
Writer:  Peter David
Artist:  Leonard Kirk

Well, the cover’s fantastic! Then we’re greeted with a panel of Dormammu dressed like Doctor Strange, Vanora and a Deathlok’d Steve Rogers.  They all stem from different alternate timelines, but have gathered by Damian Tryp in the current Marvel continuity for one purpose only, to kill Jamie Madrox. Got that?  Good.

Long-time X-Factor readers will appreciate that Peter David is starting to tie up some loose ends. In this issue, a lot of little things happen that keep moving a bunch of old storylines along, but what I really enjoyed was much of the banter between the characters.  The Tron references getting lost on Havok we’re golden. Otherwise, the story was mediocre with the only real “wow” moment was when Polaris showed up to save Havok’s ass. I also liked Jamie’s thoughts on Polaris at the end of that scene and Leonard Kirk’s panels brought it all together nicely. It felt like a Magneto moment.

Speaking of the artwork, it wasn’t Kirk’s worst work, but there were some major inconsistencies in the level of detail from panel to panel. The Madrox/Longshot/Havok scenes were beautiful, but then the park scene at Deathlok’s ambush were lacking. Guido also looked to be of different size and proportions throughout the issue. It just looked like Kirk was putting in his usual efforts, but then started running out of time and rushed the rest of the pages.

The final page kicks off a plotline for Strong Guy, which has piqued my interest.  I’m not entirely sure what PAD has planned for Guido, but the potential to give the character a major overhaul and shift in status quo is there. –SG

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

Briefly X-Posed:
X-Men #33: Once again, this book proves to not hold any weight since it’s not tied to AvX. The art is incredibly bland and the story has no lasting impact on the X-Men mythos. They should have kept Gischler on this book. –JJ

Cover: 6/10 Writing: 3/10 Art: 2/10 Relevance: 4/10

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: When I look at the big picture of writing and art, plus what I enjoyed reading the most, Age of Apocalypse #6 gets my pick.
Infinite Speech: Avengers vs X-Men #9 is definitely my pick for this batch of books. Simply amazing.
SpidermanGeek: Avengers vs X-Men #9. There’s just something about seeing Spider-Man not giving up, even when he should.

Jeff Jackson

Infinite Speech




One Comment

  1. I actually thought that UXF would be slightly higher.

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