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. Uncanny X-Men: 39 (39)
2. All-New X-Men: 35 (37)
3. Cable & X-Force: 31 (28)
4. Wolverine : 30 (24)
5. Astonishing X-Men: 28 (27)
6. Uncanny Avengers: 28 (21)
7. Gambit: 27 (25)
8. Age of Apocalypse: 26 (20)
9. X-Factor: 25 (30)
10. Savage Wolverine: 25 (17)
11. X-Men: 21 (23)
12. Uncanny X-Force: 20 (23)
13. Wolverine & the X-Men: 19 (32)
14. A + X: 16 (18)
15. X-Men: Legacy: 15 (20)
When paired with the right artist, Marjorie Liu can really make an awesome issue of X-Men. This issue kicks off the impending crossover between the lowest-tiered X-books, “Astonishing,” “Age of Apocalypse,” and “X-Treme X-Men.” This crossover just screams “Please bump our sales!” so they’re pulling out all the stops including tying up a loose thread from Rick Remender’s hugely successful “Uncanny X-Force” series which has nothing much to do with these three other series.
This loose thread involves the AoA Nightcrawler who betrayed Wolverine and his secret team and now has to be dealt with. Luckily for us readers, Liu does a fantastic job of setting up this premise rather seamlessly. Since Wolverine’s X-Force has disbanded, it falls to his field team of X-Men, the ones found in this title to search for the rogue Kurt Wagner. But because of his ties to the Age of Apocalypse, it makes sense to connect that book. X-Treme X-Men seems like the wildcard, but that book hasn’t been doing too well (and is the only X-book not being reviewed here because of how rotten it was), so they need all the help they can get. Since that team hops dimensions, I guess they can go to the AoA too.
But back to this issue. Liu is really good at making this feel like another great adventure for this team. She’s already established a great cast and their relationships with each other. She’s done good work focusing on why the team exists. Northstar and Kyle still tend to take the spotlight, this time there’s an issue with Northstar’s citizenship. Liu does a good job of balancing this with the other plot thread of Nightcrawler; neither overshadow the other. My only complaint is that I find Northstar and Kyle incredibly boring. They’re almost too normal, which I know is what Liu is going for here, but to have them in the forefront of the issue dealing with banal problems seems counterintiuitive.
The real plus to this issue is Walta’s art. I think Walta is a perfect fit for Liu’s dialogue, and his art just keeps getting better with each issue. There is something simple, yet warm to Walta’s art that makes it appealing, and really fits on a book like this. His conveyance of emotion and conversation (at which Liu excels) really fits and makes this book not lean on the serious too much. The coloring of Cris Peter creates a dull tone, which again works well. This is not a bombastic X-Men book. It’s about relationships, and the team of Liu, Walta, and Peter craft a fine relational issue. Phil Noto submits a nice cover of Northstar that looks like it could be the cover of a romance novel.
I hope that this crossover doesn’t drag down the momentum of this book, but I’d be happy with this team staying on for a while. –JJ
Cover: 7/10 Writing: 7/10 Art: 7/10 Relevance: 7/10 TOTAL: 28/40
Writer: James Asmus
Artist: Clay Mann
The Borya Cich/MI13 adventure that Gambit found himself in ended with a bit of a fizzle and after the lackluster filler issue we reviewed last time on the X-Piles, I am happy to report that Gambit has found traction again in this latest offering by James Asmus and Clay Mann.
Let’s be honest, there’s nothing really deep or even much character building going on as far as Gambit goes. The really interesting characters are the Ragin’ Cajun’s supporting cast. Remy’s “gadget guy”, Fence, provides the perfect backboard for Gambit to bounce some good banter off of. Joelle plays her role perfectly as the mysterious damsel in distress where the titular character, along with the reader, can’t quite trust. There’s something to be said for a woman who’s potentially more dangerous than you think are.
Clay Mann returns in full form and boy have we missed him. His character poses are absolutely perfect. Yes, we could nitpick that the lines and inks could be cleaner and crisper, but the bottom line is that every page is beautiful and offers something utterly convincing about what the reader is seeing. There’s realism to the absurdity that we are witnessing.
I don’t know who came up with the idea of housing the previously destroyed Bar with No Name inside a former Bank and transforming it into the Club with No Name, but it’s absolutely ingenious. Seeing a bunch of villains dancing away with “groupies”, kicking back and enjoying some drinks while some of the bigger fish are using the vault as a VIP room just makes sense; using it as the backdrop for Gambit’s adventure makes even more sense.
This issue was just a guilty pleasure. It was fun and had me wanting to see what’s next. Will Gambit’s attempt at being the knight in shining armor come back to bite him in the ass? –SG
Cover: 7/10 Writing: 6/10 Art: 8/10 Relevance: 6/10 TOTAL: 27/40
“Uncanny Avengers” #4
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday
We open with a nice little flashback page of the day that Scott and Alex Summers lost their parents before being brought into the present day battle taking place in Manhattan between the Uncanny Avengers and the Red Skull.
Remender makes an interesting choice in the use of an anonymous narrator. It allows the reader to pull back from the action just enough to change the perspective and effectively changing the tone of the entire issue. It’s like witnessing a bad dream that just feels so real, yet there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s chaos all around that simply leaves you paralyzed and I think Rick Remender wanted the reader to feel just like Havok, Scarlet Witch and Captain America should have been feeling in those exact moments. There’s a feeling of helplessness running throughout the issue and none should have felt this more than Captain America as he was being convincingly lectured by his arch-nemesis. That same lecture is really what stuck with me after I was done reading. I constantly struggle wondering if Captain America, as a character, is even still relevant with today’s America. Red Skull puts that into question in this issue.
Remender also offers a little “three months later” cliffhanger at the end which seemed a little forced, but should still have the reader wondering how this book is going to eventually get to that moment.
John Cassaday must either be on some really tight deadlines or his focus is on some other project that is probably nearer to his heart because his art since issue 1 has just been bad in relation to his previous works for Marvel. Scarlet Witch slamming a semi-truck in Thor’s face was pretty damn cool, but other than that nothing stood out at all. The characters generally just look lifeless. Something needs to give here; either John needs to step up his game or the editorial staff needs to find a replacement that fits better with this title.
Although not one of the top books on the X-Piles list, Uncanny Avengers has its moments and those moments are what is keeping this book going. The art definitely needs to be more kinetic though. –SG
Cover: 6/10 Writing: 8/10 Art: 6/10 Relevance: 8/10 TOTAL: 28/40
Uncanny X-Men #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist & Cover: Chris Bachalo
With arguably the best title of a story in an X-Men book ever, “Poink is the New Bamf” continues to showcase the brilliance of Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo, both who were born to write and draw the X-Men respectively.
Seriously, I dare you to name something not awesome in this book. First, Bendis nails the relationship between Scott and Emma. For those of us who were never really convinced that these two were meant to be, Bendis does what he does best: he has them talk it out. They’re no longer together, but Bendis doesn’t just sweep their relationship under the rug. He knows that their relationship will have lasting implications, but in the current X-Men climate, they don’t need to be together. I love how he did that in just a few pages.
Next, he lays out the new characters while at the same time, introduces the new headquarters in the old Weapon X facility. I don’t think I have mentioned it before, but locating Scott’s team at Weapon X is the “F-U” to Wolverine that has been coming since Logan renamed the school after Jean. I like these subtle jabs.
For some reason, I am taken with these new mutants much more than the new ones over at the school. I love that Fabio creates golden balls. Perhaps it reminds me of Speedball, but I just think it’s great. I also love the power sets of the other newbies and think they are strategically good choices to include on the team. And who doesn’t like a cut-away of the entire base?
Underlying all of these great moments is Magneto’s impending betrayal of the team which we learned about last issue. Luckily, Bendis is going to let this one hang for a while, and for that I’m grateful.
Bachalo is known for his dynamic style, but I find him at his best in the quieter moments. Bendis is known for these type of “talking head” moments, but I think they work well with these two guys. I’m loving every minute of this book and am so glad to see the flagship X-Men book in it’s rightful place at the top of the X-Piles. –JJ
Cover: 10/10 Writing: 9/10 Art: 10/10 Relevance: 10/10 TOTAL: 39/40
Uncanny X-Force #2: Something about this book is just not clicking for me. I don’t quite get the status quo they are presenting. Why are these characters being drawn together? What’s their purpose? And Bishop’s inclusion seems so random and weird. Humphries really isn’t doing justice to any of them. Garney’s art is nice to look at, but the color palette of the book is unappealing. I hope things pick up soon. –JJ
Cover: 7/10 Writing: 4/10 Art: 6/10 Relevance: 3/10 TOTAL: 20/40
X-Men Legacy #6: As Infinite Speech said on the latest Tales From the Water Cooler, there’s no way the X-Men would just let Legion walk. This book is way off the rails. While I think Legion has potential, this direction is tedious and nonsensical. The only decent thing about this first arc has been Mike Del Mundo’s incredible surrealistic covers. –JJ
Cover: 7/10 Writing: 2/10 Art: 4/10 Relevance: 2/10 TOTAL: 15/40
Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: The only Uncanny for me is Uncanny X-Men #2!
SpidermanGeek: Uncanny Avengers #4 had me riveted for most of the issue and it stuck with me after I closed the back cover. Cassaday’s art is on life support though.