December 30, 2010

The Uncanny X-Piles XXIII

Welcome to The Uncanny X-Piles! Please wear a surgical mask and cough into your elbow. We don’t wanna catch any HX-N1 flu in here! What the heck are we talking about? Read the reviews and find out!

Deadpool #30
Daniel Way
Artist: Bong Dazo

Xarus, Dracula’s son and the new Lord of the Vampires, has sent the assassin Claw sect after a small band of mostly tame business vampires called the Mystikos sect. He wants the Claw sect to kill them all for their unwillingness to join his insurrection. In response, the Mystikos hire Deadpool to defend them from Claw sect. Initially ‘Pool turns’em down because they’re nothing but a buncha ‘Draculas’ as he calls [all] vampires, but then these “Draculas” prove to be a rare breed by proving for the last century they have been donating a large portion of their profits to the hospital they live adjacent to. So when Claw sect moves to strike, ‘Pool rescues the hot sexy damsel in distress, but not before the assassins have completely infiltrated the building. Now it’s up to Deadpool to take’em all down. This issue wasn’t as great as the last few with the Secret Avengers playing supporting roles, but it was still ok. Even so, the timing felt a little off for this to tie in with the whole Curse of the Mutants thing, which happened to end this same week. -AL

Deadpool Pulp #4
Adam Glass & Mike Benson
Artist: Laurence Campbell

I thought the character of Stryfe in this series was well played. He belongs to the blood hungry and misguided Party For America; a group of war mongering businessmen, judges, military personnel, etc., who believe war is the only way to help reach America’s true potential of world domination. They need their own Tonkin Gulf incident to get the world war party started, and the Russians are the perfect patsies! It was pleasing to learn that this mini is an origin story, one that takes place before Deadpool’s Weapon X conditioning, opening the doors to future installments of Deadpool Pulp. I like the alternate universe created here, and especially the surreal art by Campbell. It fits the feel of the book perfectly, and the striking covers by Jae Lee just rock. Glass and Benson successfully capture a side of Wade we rarely ever see too: a serious one. My favorite moment of this issue was a great one page scene of ‘Pool’s two inner voices as they countered the mind control Stryfe had placed on him. Any Deadpool fan should pick this mini up as it provides a uniquely successful take on one of Marvel’s most popular characters; He’s efficient, focused, and not much of a loudmouth here…and it works really well. This series succeeded where the Marvel Noir line is struggling to find  a purpose, and fans of ’50s/’60s era spy stories will dig it. All that said, if a sequel does come out, the creators need to pack it with action and just let Deadpool go to town. -AL

Fantastic Four #586
Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Steve Epting

Jonathan Hickman writes one helluva science fiction story. His run on Fantastic Four has been absolutely brilliant so far, this issue being no exception. He is spot on with the suspense, the characters, the setting- it’s exactly what you want to read in a Fantastic Four comic, but to the nth degree. Steve Epting’s art is, well, fantastic; capturing every expression, excitingly portraying battle scenes, and paying acute attention to each detailed environment. It’s one of Marvel’s best books on the shelves right now. Anyway, here Namor is featured as he and Sue Storm agreed to have a meeting with a suspicious tribe of sea dwellers deep in the ocean. Namor essentially kicked in to total badass mode last issue, spearing the tribe’s leader and a bunch of their guards. This sudden display of violence pissed off Sue so she trapped everyone inside of her force field. Sue stays this way until Namor explains to her that this tribe is, at their core, the vikings of the water world, and Namor believes they want Sue dead.

Could she be the one who dies next issue? Possibly, but whomever kills her is going to have to get by one pissed off (and really charged) Namor to do it. Speaking of, I’m thinking it’s going to be Reed who bites the bullet. Here are some of my theories on how/why each of the F4 members could bite the bullet: Johnny: There are currently three active flaming men in the Marvel Universe in Johnny, Toro, and Android Torch. One of’em has to go. Plus, Spidey is joining the team soon so he can replace Johnny’s goofy personality. On the other hand, these two working together would be a good reason to keep him around. Ben: He’s currently stuck in “normal” human mode. So maybe he needs to “Thing” himself, but can’t, and so dies in a moment of tragedy…or heroics. But I think he’s the safest out of all the characters. Sue: She’s trapped far underwater right now, and none of the F4 family knows where she is…and nobody really likes her under the sea. Think about it. Reed: Val has pretty much trumped him on a genius level, and all the other kids living in the building have proven to be just as (if not more) intelligent than Reed. So in a sense, these kids have replaced him in terms of functionality. It’s like when Jean had to go to boost the status of Emma and the Cuckoos. Plus, the opening story line to Hickman’s F4 run was all Reed-centric, so that leads me to believe he may be making his exit. If you’ve never been a Fantastic Four fan, or have been away from the fold for awhile, I highly, highly recommend giving this story line a shot. It will probably get you hooked. Don’t blame me, blame Hickman. -AL

Namor the First Mutant #5
Stuart Moore
Artist: Ariel Olivetti & Brian Ching

As long as Ariel Olivetti is doing the art, this series will survive. His work really gives off that vibe of a story that’s meant to be set in the ocean depths, and truly sets the tone. Don’t get me wrong- Brian Ching’s work isn’t bad, far from it actually, it’s just that his style does nothing to set this book apart from the other two dozen titles on the shelves featuring our merry mutants. Namor may be Marvel’s first mutant, but he’s far from its most popular, and Olivetti gives this series that extra “oomph” it needs to sell well. Ching only drew the flashback scenes in this one, so maybe it was to allow Ariel to make up for some lost time. We’ll see, I suppose, but I am glad that Ching replaced Blanco who worked on the last two issues in support of Olivetti. This is the first issue of this series detached from the Curse of the Mutants story line. It’s about Namor meeting a woman from his past, whilst the mutant Loa appears to shift into the co-star role of the book. Namor used to date this blond named Betty, who, to be blunt, brought out the turd in Namor. He becomes quite the ladies man around her (but in the mushy way), and even pushes his luck by hitting on Betty’s best friend…who was holding her baby at the time. This entire issue was pretty much one big scene taken out of a soap opera, and not the direction I was expecting it to go after the dark, bloody, vampire story line. We also learn about the past of Alani Ryan, a.k.a., Loa. One day the villain named Great White, a muscle dude who rides a freakin’ shark, attempted to kill Alani’s father right in front of her. The stress of the event is what ignited her mutant power. Her character gets some added depth in this issue, and I like the direction Stuart Moore appears to be headed with her. If he can tell an evolving story with Namor while writing a character driven tale with Loa, I’m all for it. -AL

Secret Avengers #8
Ed Brubaker
Artist: Mike Deodato

I’m still trying to figure out why Beat is on this team, and I’m starting to conclude that it may be because nobody knows what to do with him. He didn’t conform to where the X-Men were headed, so he left the team, clearing out any opposition to a Cyclops-led island nation of mutants. On the Secret Avengers though, Hank is still trying to find his groove, doing nothing that Sharon Carter couldn’t do, and coming off like an exposition driven talking head who’s more than expendable. For instance, in this issue when the team’s helicarrier gets boarded by the enemy (John Steele and Max, the Nick Fury body double), Beast goes down very easily by getting shot in the chest (despite an alarm going off, announcing the breach). Sharon Carter actually lasts longer than him, and even gets some hits in on their assailants. Beast’s usual job is akin to being the (occasional) “Oracle” of Steve Rogers’ black ops team, and it’s kind of…boring so far. Before getting incapacitated, Beast tells us Shang Chi’s family history, focusing on his father, and delivering us the necessary exposition we need going forward. Like I said, boring. I’m only talking about Beast specifically in this series, as I don’t mean to knock the Secret Avengers title as a whole, which is pretty solid at this point in its run. The opening story arc was a bit much, taking place in space when our team is made up of mostly street level combatants, but Brubaker has since toned it down a bit with this Shang Chi story line, and things are flowing nicely. This story arc should have been the one to kick off the series. Anyway, I love Mike Deodato’s art; his battle scenes had real substance in this one, particularly the sequence where Rogers saves Valkeryie from a demon ninja. Hopefully Beast soon finds his footing and Brubaker gives him something worthwhile to do. -AL

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #151
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli

I’m happy to see Bendis isn’t completely abandoning the “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” vibe in this series. It only lasts for a couple of pages here, but it’s enough to keep me satisfied. Bendis captures the youthful swagger of Peter, Bobby (Iceman), and Johnny (The Human Torch), and really does a nice job spotlighting them in their own moments of glory. Here, Iceman gets the treatment when he unsuccessfully hits on a lady character introduced in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1, a little over a year ago. Yes, the Iceman gets iced! The scene where Black Cat takes on Mysterio was very well done, and may prove to be a key exchange in the issues to come. So now with the Avengers training Peter one on one to become a better superhero, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the supporting cast! There’s a new artist on this series too for all those people who wrote it off due to Lafuente’s “manga” styled art (which I really liked). Sara Pichelli’s work is the polar opposite of Lafuente’s, and it’s a great choice for this series as Ultimate Spider-Man continues to be the best Ultimate comic book on the shelf. -AL

Uncanny X-Men #531
Writers: Matt Fraction & Kieron Gillen
Artist: Greg Land

Marvel now has three monthly X-Men-proper titles. All of them feature Cyclops and a random smattering of X-Men fighting some kind of battle. And all three of them came out today. Sigh. Talk about overkill. So basically, three different creative teams are writing three different stories about all the same characters. If that makes sense to you, please explain it to me. I used to really care about continuity in the X-Men titles, but things like this make it impossible to get a sense of what happens where, which also makes all of the X-Men’s battles seem meaningless and non-threatening. Is Wolverine’s healing factor turned off to fight vampires or is his healing factor being suppressed by the HX-N1 virus? Is Cyclops being a jerk to Hellion or to Blade? You know what? It doesn’t matter. And you’d think I’d lay these complaints at the feet of Matt Fraction, who I’ve been disliking more and more every month (and even moreso after his Fear Itself promo video)! Nah, I’m gonna lay all the X-Men’s troubles at the feet of editors Axel Alonso and Nick Lowe, who are diluting Marvel’s once-flagship title to a watery goo. But I digress. Here’s my review of this particular issue of Uncanny X-Men: BLEAARRGGGHH! That’s me blearghing. Greg Land is a stinker. Almost every character in this book is grinning like idiot circus clowns. It’s like he’s not even trying. Who likes this guy? And why is he on Uncanny X-Men? Finally, Kieron Gillen comes on board to lend a hand with the thousands of characters in this book, but I can’t quite tell where Matt Fraction ends and Gillen begins. The stories are almost fun, or could be, if the art complimented the words. There’s finally a solidified team of X-Men doing stuff, too bad I don’t happen to care about any of them. Fraction hasn’t made me care about them. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize that Land is the perfect artist for Fraction’s run on Uncanny. These characters are written as flat and plastic as Land’s renditions of them. None of them have any characteristics that matter. Perhaps Emma is the closest to having a personality in her sub-story with Shaw. That’s the only interesting thread in this book, but not enough for me to give his book a good review. If ever there was a time the X-Men needed a complete overhaul, that time is now! -JJ

X-Men #6
Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Paco Medina

The finale to Curse of the Mutants doesn’t have quite the pop as the penultimate chapter, but it’s fun nonetheless. The big battle is over, but there’s that one pesky little thing left to do…take care of Dracula and Xarus. Now that the story is over, I have to admit, I’m not quite sure what role Dracula played in all of this. It looks like he’s going to be a bigger figure in the Marvel Universe, but other than that, I think Gischler could have used him a little more in this story. Instead, we get the tired cliche of the poppa bear coming back to clean up the mess his cub made. Dracula makes quick work of Xarus, thankfully, because I’m not sure what made Xarus important to begin with. But of all the X-Men writers who make Cyclops look like a jerk, Gischler wins the prize. His Cyclops is a little more craftier, not only stabbing Blade in the back, (or should I say blasting him in the back?) but also playing quite a bluff to get Dracula to stand down. Only we don’t know if Cyclops was bluffing. Fraction and Carey should take a few lessons from Gischler. This is how you juggle a large cast, plus develop the main characters. Not only that, but he sets up Jubilee to be quite an interesting character once again. Paco Medina outshines all the X-artists once again, with stunning pencils that hearken back to John Byrne’s days on the X-Men. I hope that he remains on the book for while. But herein lies the problem with all of these books with the same characters. They are too easily comparable. Part of the reason I dislike Uncanny is because Gischler and Medina are rockin’ on this title. But I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. At least I have one good X-Men book to enjoy. -JJ

X-Men Legacy #243
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Paul Davidson

I’m so glad someone is doing something worthwhile with Hellion. He became one of my favorite characters in Kyle & Yost’s New X-Men and has largely been left untouched until the aforementioned writers cut the dude’s hands off in Second Coming. As if the guy wasn’t already unstable, now he’s a handless unstable mutant. Carey’s two-part story only sets Hellion in a direction he was already going, but it’s handled pretty well. However, like the books I’ve mentioned above, the juggling of too many characters only hinders this book, but Carey does it better than Fraction. However, Carey should stick to a select group of characters. When handling Rogue, he does pretty well. However, he has never been able to find Cyclops’ voice, and this issue is a perfect example. Hellion goes off the deep end (kinda) and beats the stew out of the Omega Sentinel, who isn’t functioning properly. The basis of this issue and last was Cyclops interviewing everyone present to see how it happened. In the end, Cyclops gives Hellion a berating which would carry some weigh only…if…he…hadn’t…been…behind….X-Force! You know, the mutant death squad? And now Cyclops is giving Hellion morality lessons? That is so out of character for who Cyclops is right now. It would have been a stronger impact if it was Rogue who was straightening Hellion out. But Carey has all but emasculated Rogue since Second Coming, once again, writing Cyclops to scold Rogue at every turn. Again, I say, Carey doesn’t write Cyclops very well. I don’t think the interview/flashback way to tell this story really worked well. Some of that has to do with Paul Davidson’s lackluster work. His panels last issue had no distinction between present and past scenes, so there were a couple of “huh?” moments. This issue was better because I knew what to expect, but it contains the same techniques which don’t really work well. So while Carey progresses Hellion’s story forward a little more, overall this issue was pretty average. I found myself rooting for Hellion the whole time, which I’m not sure was Carey’s intent. -JJ

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week
Andy: Sadly, my pick isn’t even an X-book- Fantastic Four #586.
Jeff: X-Men #6 is the only main X-Men book worth reading. Skip the rest.

For previous editions of The Uncanny X-Piles, click here!

Andy Liegl

Jeff Jackson


One Comment

  1. Billy

    I hope Marvel puts the first 6 issues of the new X-Men into one Tpb so I can enjoy it all at once! Nice reviews guys.

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