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November 28, 2012

The Uncanny X-Piles 117

Welcome to the 117th edition of the Uncanny X-Piles! Infinite Speech is taking some time off, so we’re trying to fill his big ass shoes.

The X-Piles

Numbers next to each title are the cumulative ranking of the latest issue out of a total of 40. Numbers in parentheses indicate the previous issue’s rating. Blue indicates a raise in the chart from last issue; red indicates a drop; green indicates the book stayed put.

1. All-New X-Men: 34

2. Uncanny Avengers: 32

3. Wolverine & the X-Men: 32 (18)

4. Uncanny X-Men: 31 (16)

5. Uncanny X-Force: 30 (34)

6. X-Factor: 30 (25)

7. Wolverine : 24 (29)

8. A + X: 28

9. X-Men: 26 (9)

10. Gambit: 23 (25)

11. X-Men: Legacy: 22 (32)

12. Age of Apocalypse: 22 (28)

13. Astonishing X-Men: 18 (22)

14. First X-Men: 11 (14)


“Astonishing X-Men” #56
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Mike Perkins

You have to give Marjorie Liu some credit. After folks like Joss Whedon, Warren Ellis, and Greg Pak have had stints on this book, Liu makes her pitch and says, “I want to center this story around Karma.” Yes, Karma, perhaps the most innocuous character from the original team of New Mutants, who has had a smattering of character development over the years. She’s female, Asian, and a lesbian in a world dominated by white male lead characters. So you have to respect that Marjorie Liu says, “Fuck it, I’m gonna write me a long-ass Karma story.” (I’m certain that’s a direct quote.)

The arc has centered around a mysterious villain who is putting the X-Men through the wringer. She had them mind-controlled, she put a bomb in Logan’s gut, she blackmailed them into being terrorists in Madripoor, and even had Northstar “accidentally” kill Iceman last issue. We found out previously that this villain named Susan Hatchi is really Karma’s half-sister and is really screwing with the X-Men because she has daddy issues.

This issue wraps up all the loose ends with some interesting developments. Of course, Iceman doesn’t really die. Some pretty tragic things happen to Karma (because we all know that the only way to make Karma interesting is to have her tortured physically or mentally).

I want to like this issue because I like Liu’s writing in general. My problems with this story are that it’s dragged on for way too many issues. Ultimately, nothing pressing really happens to the development of the X-Men. Like “Adjectiveless X-Men,” “Astonishing X-Men” have been full of “safe” stories which might focus on a D-list X-Man, but have no bearing on the overall story of the X-Men.

Mostly, this issue is hindered by the art of Mike Perkins. He’s just not a fit for an X-Men book. His style is a little too photo-realistic for my taste, and the X-Men have never lent themselves well to those kinds of artists. Perkins would be better served on a title that has few spandexed characters.

With a mediocre villain, a mediocre central character, and mediocre art, Liu’s first arc struggled. I’m willing to stick around for the next one, as I believe she is a better writer than what “Astonishing” is revealing. –JJ

Cover: 4/10 Writing: 6/10 Art: 3/10 Relevance: 5/10 TOTAL: 18/40

“Uncanny X-Force” #34
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Phil Noto

One thing you can count on in a Remender-written “Uncanny X-Force” book is that someone is going to lose something significant. As opposed to “Astonishing” above, what has made this book so successful is that it has weight. Somehow Remender has been given carte blanche to take these characters to their limits and the further he pushes them, the more we all love it.

This time, the focus is back on Wolverine. A couple of issues ago, we got a flash-forward of Wolverine holding someone at the end of the battle, with Kid Apocalypse standing over them. I had assumed it was going to be Psylocke he was holding, but with the reveal that Betsy would be leading this team in its next iteration, that seemed unlikely. This issues spells doomsday for some of the Brotherhood members, and along with them goes a piece of Logan’s heart.

We have one more issue to go and it will be interesting to see how Remender will wrap up this book. It’s been near-perfect, and we’ll see if he can stick the landing.

My only disappointment is that it appears that Nightcrawler is going to side with Mystique. Marvel revealed a new title called “X-Termination” which has Wolverine and Nightcrawler fighting which may be a good direction for them to head at this point.

Phil Noto continues to do a good job of illustrating this book, but sometimes his figures look a little generic and lack detail. He seems to particularly struggle with Skinless Man, who is a mess of lines. His lines are nice and clean, but lack the depth or weight to match Remender’s script. What if frequent collaborator Tony Moore had drawn this? Frank Martin, Jr.’s colors don’t quite capture the tone that Dean White set when this series started.

Julian Totino Tedesco’s cover is a great reimagining of the foreshadowed scene I mentioned above in a smooth painterly style.

Overall, while this certainly gets us closer to the end, the art holds it back a bit, but it’s still a great book. –JJ

Cover: 7/10 Writing: 8/10 Art: 6/10 Relevance: 9/10 TOTAL: 30/40

“Wolverine” #316
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Paul Pelletier

Here’s what I want: Paul Pelletier drawing Wolverine in his original costume….always.

This book has that and for no other reason should you pick up this book. It looks fantastic and is really quite wonderful. Pelletier is just the perfect artist for a superhero comic book. I’m still mourning that he’s moving over to “Aquaman” at DC, but that book is a good fit for him as well.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t quite match the art, which pains me to say because Cullen Bunn is a real talent. However, this story has somehow lost me. Maybe it’s the amount of turkey I ate last week, but I can’t quite understand why the Dreaming Maiden is such a threat. She makes people go to sleep? I’m just not grasping that part of the story.

I am, however, liking the interaction of Logan with Elsa Bloodstone and Seraph’s Angels, which are a group of Logan’s ex-girlfriends who are pulling his butt out of the fire quite often these days. Bunn does well with the dialogue between the characters. I had to laugh at the scene where Logan jumps out of the floating castle he’s in and lands on the flying car one of the ex-girlfriends is driving. Logan smiles and says, “Guess this time I fell for you,” and she smugly flips him off the car. Bunn does well with those kinds of scenes, but the overall arc is troublesome to me.

I’m still sad that this is Bunn’s last story. I don’t think Marvel gave him enough time to really do much with Logan. But I have high hopes that Bunn will pull out a winner in his last issue. –JJ

Cover: 6/10 Writing: 5/10 Art: 9/10 Relevance: 4/10 TOTAL: 24/40

“Wolverine & the X-Men” #21
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Nick Bradshaw

The Jean Grey School for Higher Learning’s faculty has mysteriously disappeared. Reluctantly, Quentin Quire’s curiosity gets the better of him and he investigates the matter further.

Warning: This issue is very wordy. There is a lot of script here and when you couple that with the tremendous amount of foreground and background detail in Nick Bradshaw’s artwork, you get a book that is bursting at the seams with content.

Regardless, Jason Aaron manages to keep the reader entertained and not feel burdened by the heavy dialog. This story comes a little out of left field following the last few panels of issue #19. Aaron puts his active imagination on display, but a book of this type certainly calls for it. Fans of “Generation X” will feel right at home with a story like this. You’ll appreciate the simple things also, like the villain’s monologue to convey his plans and motives. As a reader, you’ll have to decide for yourself if you think it was a cheesy execution, but in my opinion, it was well incorporated into the scene and you’ll probably feel sympathetic toward the protagonist.

This issue probably would not have worked as well as it does without Nick Bradshaw. The detail and versatility he demonstrates is truly impressive. The monologue scene mentioned earlier is particularly poignant because of the sheer dead sadness in the villain’s eyes. One also can’t help but be a fan of the way Bradshaw draws the female figure. The page with Marvel Girl, Warbird and Shadowcat will stop you dead in your tracks. Be sure to take a moment and really savor every page. Look past the numerous word balloons and appreciate all the work that has gone into every panel and every scene. The man can visually tell a story, I’ll give him that.

Regular and occasional readers won’t want to miss this issue, nor the next. This is a very interesting and fun adventure that involves the entire cast of “Wolverine & the X-Men” and I have no idea where Aaron and Bradshaw are going with this, which is half the fun. –SG

Cover: 9/10 Writing: 8/10 Art: 9/10 Relevance: 6/10 TOTAL: 32/40

“X-Factor” #247
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Leonard Kirk

The moment long time X-Factor readers have been waiting for has finally arrived. Jamie and Layla’s wedding night!

While the events of “X-Factor #246” were unfolding, Multiple Man and Butterfly ran off to Las Vegas to get hitched. For those of us that have been following X-Factor since the first dozen issues of Peter David’s current run, this is a real treat. You’ll probably remember reading about Wolfsbane’s vision of the future where she believes to be responsible for maiming and murdering Jamie & Layla on their wedding night. You’ll also probably remember wondering how the heck that was even possible and tried to do the math since Layla was still a pre-teen at the time.

Peter David never fails to disappoint when tying up old subplots and it takes a masterful writer to do it so eloquently eighty some issues later. When you look at that run as a whole, you realize that Peter David is telling his readers that the future has infinite possibilities. Anything can happen in X-Factor and outcomes aren’t necessarily pre-determined. One can’t help but wonder if David had this particular outcome planned from the get go. Only he knows, but regardless, it just goes to show you the amount of respect the man has for what he’s already established and what his fans want to see. His Layla character has come a very long way since House of M, and it’s hard to fathom any other writer being capable of handling someone whose complexity is so fragile. The “Butterfly Effect” is certainly not a theme that’s easy to tackle in a comic book with such an expansive universe.

My opinion of Leonard Kirk’s artwork has yet to change. I’m beginning to get a little frustrated that I am not seeing an improvement in his consistency. In some panels, the characters look absolutely fantastic, but in others, they look rushed and distorted. Every panel featuring the villain of the story was very well done though. You can tell which parts of the issue Kirk was most excited about drawing.

David Yardin fans will be sad to see that he didn’t handle the cover for this issue. Yardin covers have been a staple of the X-Factor series since some time in 2009 and it’s always off-putting when his signature is not present. Although you gotta hand it to Williams & Brown, any cover that has Multiple Man battling undead Civil War soldiers is pretty damn cool in my books.

Aside from the wedding night, we do get a little Vegas adventure for Jamie and Layla. It’s a bit of a throwaway story, but you can also always count on PAD to be setting up or furthering a plot thread to be revisited later on. So take note at what’s being said in this issue, it’ll come in handy later. I promise. –SG

Cover: 7/10 Writing: 9/10 Art: 7/10 Relevance: 7/10 TOTAL: 30/40

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: Uncanny X-Force #34 for me. The deaths in that issue made me happy. Creepy, huh?
SpidermanGeekWolverine & the X-Men #21 Wolverine as a smelly clown, Warbird in a skimpy Native American getup.  What more could you want? Frankenstein’s Monster? Sure, we’ll throw that in there too!

Jeff Jackson




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