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March 29, 2013

The Uncanny X-Piles 133

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Written by: Jeff
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Welcome to the 132nd edition of the Uncanny X-Piles, where we give you our thoughts on the week’s worth of X-Men books!

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. Uncanny X-Men: 40 (39)

2. All-New X-Men: 37 (36)

3. Cable & X-Force: 35 (23)

4. Wolverine : 32 (30)

5. Astonishing X-Men: 28 (27)

6. Savage Wolverine: 28 (25)

7. Uncanny Avengers: 28 (21)

8. Gambit: 27 (25)

9. X-Factor: 24 (25)

10. Age of Apocalypse: 23 (26)

11. X-Termination (first issue): 21

12. X-Men: 21 (23)

13. Uncanny X-Force: 20 (23)

14. Wolverine & the X-Men: 20 (19)

15. X-Men: Legacy: 10 (15)

16. A + X: 11 (16)

______________________________________________________

All-New X-Men #9
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen

The true balance of writing a good X-Men comic, I believe, is moving the characters forward into new and exciting territory, while respecting what’s come before. It’s almost an impossible task, and thus is why many writers fail at writing the X-Men. Perhaps that’s an unfair expectation, but if you look at who has excelled in the last 10 years and who hasn’t, you’ll find this as the linchpin.

Thus far, Brian Michael Bendis is writing the textbook on how to write the X-Men based on this assertion. He’s literally taking what has gone before, bringing it to the present, and moving the characters and story forward.

The opening scene of this issue is a perfect example. When was the last time we had a quality Danger Room sequence? Sure, Jason Aaron cleverly made the entire mansion “Danger-ish,” but remember the good ol’ days when the team would fight some holograms and it would be the subtext for how they are working as a team? Sure, the good ol’ days can stay in the past. I don’t want to see yet another Fastball Special by Wolverine & Colossus. But I do want to see the Danger Room used as a gauge for how the team is in sync with one another. Professor Kitty puts the original X-Men in the Danger Room against Sentinels, which they have yet to face in their timeline. So now we know that these X-Men are from pre-issue #14.

Not only are these X-Men not gelling, they are a complete disaster. Everyone makes wrong choices, no one listens to Scott, their field leader, and there is absolutely no teamwork. Bendis uses Kitty and her powers in a unique way here, reminding Bobby that she’s not affected by Sentinels due to her intangibility (yes, it does beg the question of why are the Sentinels still a threat, if Kitty is the secret weapon…but let’s not get into semantics). In each character’s flaws in the Danger Room, we are shown more character development.

Jean’s unintentional abuse of her mind-reading powers continue to create tension. Now that she and Kitty know that Scott has been fraternizing with Mystique, the conflict only ramps up more. But no time for that just yet, because, as we got at the end of Uncanny X-Men #3, the present Cyclops, Emma, Magneto, and Magik show up on the school’s front stoop. It will be interesting to see how Bendis tells this story from two different angles. We know that Cyclops is going to cherry-pick some students and perhaps staff, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

We also get the return of Lady Mastermind, whom I have missed since Mike Carey’s excellent handling of the character back on “Adjectiveless” X-Men.

Marvel, I am telling you now, do not ruin this book by taking Stuart Immonen or David Marquez off the rotation. These artists are the perfect compliment to each other without radically altering the tone of the book. Both add a level of emotion and character acting that is perfect. They both excel at action. Check out that full-page panel of Lady Mastermind’s illusion to the SHIELD agents being attacked by zombie-Avengers. Immonen has a level of precision and fluidity that suits the X-Men well.

I’ve now described what makes an X-Men book work: honoring the past while moving the characters forward and complimenting artists who can display emotion and action equally. It’s what Claremont, Byrne, and Cockrum did. It’s what Whedon and Cassaday did. It’s what Remender, Opena, and Ribic did. Now watch Bendis, Immonen, and Marquez take it to the next level. –JJ

Cover: 8/10 Writing: 10/10 Art: 9/10 Relevance: 10/10 TOTAL: 37/40

Cable & X-Force #6
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Salvador Larroca

Hopeless starts this issue off perfectly with having Wolverine visit Colossus at the Raft. A choice that makes perfect sense considering how deep their friendship goes and shows just how in tune Hopeless is with these characters. From here we get a side mission involving the rest of the team breaking into the Raft and we find out that it has nothing to do with their captured teammate. There’s also an unexpected emotional element as Kitty reveals some things to Colossus in a letter.

I just can’t get over how great Larroca and D’Armata are making every issue look. The constant shifts of Peter’s organic steel look is one of those small art details that really sells the mishap with his powers. There’s also a nice level of detail with the tech along with the characters themselves that keeps this one of the better looking books on the shelves today.

My personal issues concerning Forge aside, the team dynamic here works very well. Each character has a reason to be here and it’s not just an appearance to boos the sells or for some overhyped story. Hopeless is slowly making this one of the favorites among the X books and of the titles to be called X-Force.-IS

Cover: 10/10 Writing: 7/10 Art: 9/10  Relevance: 9/10  TOTAL: 35/40

Savage Wolverine #3
Writer & Artist: Frank Cho

I’ll admit…as a warm-blooded male, I can’t help but love Frank Cho’s women. Folks can complain all day about the exploitation of women in comics, and I won’t deny that. If that kind of thing bothers you, then for the love of God, don’t pick up Cho’s run on this title. There is no variety in how Cho draws a female. They are all big-breasted, muscular, and beautiful. Cho will find every possible scenario to draw them in a position that shows off their form. So, buyer beware, Cho’s “Savage Wolverine” is exactly what you think.

But, there’s also a subversive nature to Cho’s females. While he knows exactly how to draw big breasts, he also deftly draws their faces in realistic and spot-on emotional poses. Cho’s Shanna is both fierce and funny, and that’s what really draws me to this issue. Whereas other artists can draw a Barbie doll depiction of a female, Cho has managed to give true character to Shanna the She-Devil. Usually playing second-fiddle to Ka-Zar, Shanna has always been used as just eye-candy. However, Cho has breathed life into her in pairing her with Wolverine. She is stubborn in the face of Logan’s experience. Her dialogue is smart and witty. She is also a strong character, fighting the same savages and dinosaurs Wolverine does, only without the adamantium and healing factor. This issue we find out vulnerable she is, and while it appears that Wolverine will be coming to her rescue, which is an unfortunate direction, I have a feeling Cho will find some way to turn the concept on its head.

Perhaps the best moment in the issue is when Shanna stubbornly ignores Logan by climbing a tree and ruining his diplomacy with the natives by falling out when a limb breaks. Cho’s comedic timing is perfect, when not only did she screw up the plan, but she killed the leader of the group in the process. Classic!

This series has gotten better with each issue. Even with Amadeus Cho showing up last issue, he is playing an important role here. I still think he should be a bit younger, but it doesn’t really matter.

This arc will probably make a nice collection, so if you missed the first 3 issues, hold out and read it all at one time. –JJ

Cover: 7/10 Writing: 7/10 Art: 9/10 Relevance: 5/10 TOTAL: 28/40

“X-Factor” #253
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Leonard Kirk

Hell on Earth War: Part 4. Peter David’s ambitious arc is ramping up to its conclusion and unfortunately for this long-time “X-Factor” fan, it can’t come soon enough.

The story continues to focus on Tier, the 7 millionth person to be born on Earth. It just so happens that this particular child is also half-mutant, half god and is the only one capable of killing any and all of the Marvel Universe Hell Lords. Naturally, the Hell Lords want him extinguished and have waged war against each other to do so.

As I said, ambitious.

A story arc of this magnitude simply seems too big for the members of X-Factor Investigations (do they even call themselves that anymore?). Peter David seems to have deviated a long way from the Noire and almost Pulp tone that earned this incarnation of “X-Factor” its loyal following. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to tell people that they can’t keep expecting the same thing over and over, but in this case I feel that “X-Factor” has lost its uniqueness. It used to be a much smarter and grounded book than it is now. PAD moves a few other sub-plots along, but they are overshadowed by the gravity of the main plot.

Leonard Kirk’s art continues to be hit and miss. The overall visual storytelling and the panel layouts are excellent, but there’s an inconsistency in the detail and polish from panel to panel. Some panels are utterly fantastic though. Colors and inks are solid and clean throughout.

David Yardin gives us another kick-ass cover. The fear in Monet’s eyes is palpable.

The bottom line is that it’s high time the Hell on Earth story arc comes to an end and that this team of characters move on to something that is closer to what made “X-Factor” so special to begin with. Truth be told, I miss Multiple Man’s monologue & narration. – SG

Cover: 9/10 Writing: 6/10 Art: 6/10 Relevance: 3/10 TOTAL: 24/40

“X-Termination” #1
Writer: David Lapham
Artist: David Lopez

Well, that was pointless. It’s not that the first issue of this X-title crossover isn’t entertaining, but you can’t help but look at the titles involved in in “X-Termination” (Age of Apocalypse, Astonishing X-Men & X-Treme X-Men) and think that this is a hail Mary play to keep at least one of these failing titles afloat.

Although the X-Termination arc is a collaboration between David Lapham, Marjorie Liu and Greg Pak, Lapham is the one who handled the scripting duties on this introductory issue. He does a good job easing the uninitiated into who these characters are. The setup is fluid and what brings the three teams of characters together isn’t totally out of left field. With that being said, there wasn’t any specific moment in this issue that stood out except for the character death we witness in the final pages which was turned out to be a really intense.

The art by David Lopez is very clean, sharp and consistent throughout. I only have two gripes about the visuals. 1, why the hell does Wolverine look more like Batroc the Leaper than his usual self and 2, the characters all looked like they were just action figures positioned for every panel. They were a little stiff to me.

No complaints about the inks and colors. Kudos.

McGuinness and Hollowell’s cover was phoned in. Nothing spectacular, but still enough to catch the eye when perusing the new releases on the shelf.

The bottom line is that “X-Termination” is a decent book out of the gate, but chances are that you might not care enough about this combination of characters to see this crossover arc to the end. – SG

Cover: 6/10 Writing: 6/10 Art: 7/10 Relevance: 2/10 TOTAL: 21/40

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: Can I love Bendis’ All-New X-Men #9 any more than I already do? Nope!
Infinite SpeechCable & X-Force #6 is really showing some promise!
SpidermanGeek:  “All-New X-Men” #9 is a great throwback to those old Danger Room session stories.

Jeff Jackson
jeff@comicattack.net
@FrJeffJackson

Infinite Speech
infinitespeech@comicattack.net
@infinitespeech

SpidermanGeek
spidermangeek@comicattack.net
@spidermangeek

 

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