February 24, 2011

The Uncanny X-Piles XXVIII

Its been awhile, but we’re back with 18 reviews of mutant goodness in the latest edition of The Uncanny X-Piles!

Age of X Alpha #1
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Various

Back in the ’90s, I was shocked that the X-offices had the balls to put all their titles “on hold” while they retitled everything for 4 months for the Age of Apocalypse. It was the best alternate universe story since Days of Future Past and all of us went crazy over it. The premise was simple. No Xavier. No X-Men. Apocalypse wins. It was all built up appropriately and made sense. 15 years later, Mike Carey is wanting to hearken back to that idea, even though this Age of X has nothing to do with the Age of Apocalypse. Instead, there are many factors that are already hamstringing this story for me. First, the fact that it’s only going to be featured in X-Men Legacy and New Mutants makes me think that this is going to be completely inconsequential. They didn’t even change the names of the books! Second, Clay Mann is no Chris Bachalo or Joe Madureira or Kubert brother. The fact that he redesigned these characters does not have the impact that similar stories have had. Now, you may say, “Age of X has nothing to do with Age of Apocalypse,” and story-wise you would be right. But Marvel is certainly wanting to ride on the coattails of that epic story by giving us an introduction through Age of X Alpha, which hearkens back to X-Men Alpha which kicked off the AoA. Not only that, but they gave the cover duties to AoA MVP Chris Bachalo! So let me say this: Age of X is DEFINITELY not the AoA, and this introductory chapter proves it. What is the most jarring about this issue is what Mike Carey almost apologizes for in the back of the book. We have no idea why this reality exists. We have no idea where these characters are from or why they are in the situation they’re in. Carey has said that this is done on purpose, to throw the reader into this world headlong, and to keep us guessing. To me, this is what has completely gotten the Age of X off on the wrong foot. Because this information is missing, I simply do not care about what’s going on. What also hinders this book is that it’s essentially an anthology, giving us a little bit of background on a random selection of characters. The art is so drastically polarizing, with a grim story about Cyclo…I mean Basilisk (why?) drawn by Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s almost silly indie style, and Carlo Barberi giving Husk the most unusual set of breasts in a comic book. Paco Diaz’s Wolverine art is the strongest, and I’m left wondering why he couldn’t have just drawn the whole issue. I understand what they were trying to do, by mixing up the art with the characters’ stories, but it just didn’t make sense. Truly the only thing really spectacular about this issue was Bachalo’s cover, which reminds me yet again that this is not the AoA. -JJ

Avengers #9
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: John Romita Jr.

Brian Micahel Bendis, once again, nails this issue, complete with a meaningful plot and juicy dialogue. He writes one of the best exchanges between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark I may have ever read, and Romita captures every characters’ intention brilliantly. The dude is money. So what’s going down? The Illuminati are a secret no more, as the rest of Marvel’s A-listers discover their little organization. For the first time Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Dr. Strange, Medusa (in place of the late Black Bolt), plus mutants Namor and Charles Xavier, are forced to answer to Steve Rogers and, well, everyone else. The group spills the beans on why, after all this time, they have kept mum about their meetings to others, but more importantly, why one of the most powerful weapons in the known universe is about to fall into the wrong hands. That weapon is the Infinity Gauntlet, and those hands belong to the Hood- he’s never been more hungry for redemption and revenge. Even so, Hood uses what power he has acquired for some good, much to the benefit of Madame Masque. Oh, Beast and Wolverine are in this issue too, and neither stick up for their former leader and c0-X-Man. Of the three main Avengers books, New Avengers is the most fun, Secret Avengers the most gritty, and Avengers the most relevant. It’s great stuff, and Bendis is telling a story that can be readily enjoyed by any Marvel fan. -AL

Chaos War #5
Writers: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Artist: Khoi Pham

Usually I’m all about Greg Pak (Incredible Hulk is awesome!), but the conclusion to Chaos War, sadly, fell flat. It tried too hard to be this huge, epic event, when in reality it was just a means to bring Hercules back down to the status-quo, and advance the role of Amadeus Cho a little bit. Which I’m perfectly fine with, but why did it have to be at the expense of all reality as we know it, accompanied by a bazillion tie-in issues? Nobody in any other Marvel title has referenced the Chaos War, so it’s a little confusing to try and figure out where exactly the “event” fits in with the 616 continuity. Perhaps it’s because all the tinkering with reality has allowed certain characters to be at multiple places at once or something? I’m not sure. The reason why we’re talking about the book here in The Uncanny X-Piles is because of the presence of Alpha Flight. It would seem, when all is said and done, that the formerly deceased Alpha Flight members are now back amongst the living. Which is cool, I guess, but it happened without much fanfare; Heck, I’m not even sure if they’re alive again or still stuck in Limbo. Actually, I don’t even now what the hell went down in this series now that I think about it. I get that Herc is now merely a human man by somehow sacrificing his All God powers to defeat the Chaos King or whatever, but how am I supposed to know what’s going on when the characters in the book don’t even know? Check out what Guardian says once the dust settles, “You know, I actually am a rocket scientist. But what just happened?” You know, I actually read all 5 issues of this series, but, what just happened? Khoi Pham’s art is pretty good though, I do know that. -AL

Chaos War: X-Men #2
Chris Claremont & Louise Simonson
Artist: Doug Braithwaite

I truly believe I gave this mini a fair shot. I thought Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson would mark their return to the 616 X-Verse with a triumphant home run…or at least a double. Instead, what we got was a failed bunt. Which is disappointing because I was really pulling for Claremont to make a comeback. The set up was there; a group of deceased X-Men must fight their battle against the Chaos King in the midst of the reality threatening Chaos War. X-Men long dead will live one more day to fight an overly powerful evil force. Sounds pretty cool right? Perhaps it would have been if the cast were stronger. Seeing Thunderird and Banshee in action again was pleasing, but the addition of Esme and Sophie of the Stepford Cuckoos, Moira MacTaggart, some Multiple Man dupes, and nobody else was anti-climactic. Where was Caliban or that chick who died in Second Coming who teleports through doors? Or you know, that blue guy who died in Second Coming who had a huge fan base…or that other guy with a metal arm who died in Second Coming that was kind of a big deal for the last couple years? Or, you know, Jean freakin’ Grey!? I mean come on! How were these characters not present here? A decision by editorial? Are we being led to believe that these characters aren’t really dead (well, at least Kurt, Nathan, and Jean)? Something else? Whatever the reason, I could not shake the thoguht from my head while reading that if even one of these characters were present, how much better this mini could have been. I do like the decision to focus on Thunderbird- it was a nice way to write him without really bringing him back, but the lack of any mention of the events in Necrosha was jarring. He was talking as though he had never been brought back to life before, but he was a little over a year ago in that story. Anyway, I could go on. The bigger let down is how Braithwaite’s art had to be wasted on this series I doubt many people read. His work is quite good here, capturing emotion in the faces of his characters. It sucks that their emotion didn’t ring as true in the words they were speaking, speaking though. It’s just tough to care about what’s happening to some Madrox dupes and the dead Cuckoo sisters when Nightcrawler and Jean Grey could have been involved. Oh well. -AL

Deadpool #32
Daniel Way
Artist: Sheldon Vella

This series has gotten zany again as Deadpool faces off against Macho Gomez, a Mexican space alien guy who has a really sweet ride. A bunch of stuff happens in this issue that’s typical for ol’Pool, and basically all you need to know is that when it’s all said and done, Wade is in space. Which I think is awesome. Off planet Earth, the realm of possibilities for a Deadpool book is virtually endless, and I can’t wait to see what Daniel Way has in store for us. Sheldon Vella’s artwork gives off the right kind of vibes for this title, and his line work is very well done. I hope he sticks around for awhile. I don’t have much more to say about this one other than if you were waiting to read this series, pick up the next issue. Way’s run has been pretty solid so far, with only a few road bumps along the way. Hopefully, this next story arc delivers. –AL

Fantastic Four #587
Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Steve Epting

Lets just get this out of the way right now- Johnny Storm, The Human Torch, dies in this issue. Oh, stop it! It’s not like you didn’t already hear about it. I mean, the news was blasting it all over with the headline, “The Human Torch dies!”, instead of something like, “A Fantastic Four member dies in this issue,” totally defeating the purpose of putting it in a black plastic garbage bag. I ride the LA public transportation system 10x a week, and they have this crappy TV show called “Transit TV” which airs on the buses, and even they did a story about this issue. And guess what? The first thing they say about it is who died, followed by the actual shot of Johnny dying- THE ACTUAL SHOT! I mean, WTF MAN!? ARRRGH! Ok. I’m calm. I’m cool. I’ve got that out of my system. Moving on… Jonathan Hickman is the man responsible for getting me into the F4; his run on this series (beginning with #570) has been nothing short of epic and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us this year with these characters. Before getting into how Torch goes down, lets talk about Namor’s role real quick. He’s been trying to have his way with Sue Storm, and when she lays the smack down on him, all he can say is, “God, you are magnificent.” Sue rolls her eyes in response, as she is now Queen of the fish people, the Ul-Uhari. Lets talk about how awesome Franklin Richards is too. Man, that kid has got some power to him. Watching him develop and grow up will be an exciting thing under Hickman as it’s clear he has plans for the boy. It was genious for Hickman to have Leech be the one who prevented Franklin from ever using his powers to their full potential- Leech was always around Franklin, sapping his mutant abilities. So about Johnny’s death. It was well done, and I may get stoned for this, but I think it could have gone down better. The last page of this issue is the “3” logo with the words “The Last Stand of Johnny Storm.” Problem is, he didn’t make much of a stand at all. We didn’t see him cut loose on the Annihilation bugs. We didn’t see him burn anything. Hell, we didn’t even see him fight. Why the hell didn’t he just supernova and take out all the bugs around him and then fly away? I need an explanation because that is bugging the hell out of me. Besides this though, I thought the issue was fantastic. If you can still find a copy, pick it up. Actually, pick up all the trades of Hickman’s run leading up to this story line, you won’t regret it. -AL

Magneto #1
Howard Chaykin
Artist: Howard Chaykin

This issue was decent, nothing more, nothing less. It takes place before Magneto even thought about founding The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, as it picks up when he arrives to New York, and thus America, for the first time. We learn how he acquired his costume, and see his first action in combat on American soil, which was anti-climactic. Chaykin has this story dictated to us by Magneto in the present day, as he recounts his first memories in Brooklyn. We see a more sentimental Mags than we’re used to; An Erik (Max?) Magnus (Lehnsherr? Eisenhardt?) before he was jaded by the viciousness of mankind against mutant. He’s in love, or at least infatuated, goes on dates, and even eats at ma and pa diners. Sounds kind of boring, actually, but while reading, you just wait for the moment for Magneto to cut loose. Unfortunately, when it happens, it’s against some monster thing that is made up of negative memories of children…or a child. Or something. Really, who cares? At the end of the battle, he wraps the creature up with the metal beams of a bridge, gets in a fight with his girlfriend (whom he only dated for what felt like a day), strikes a dramatic pose, and thus ends the issue. The art is alright. With Howard Chaykin’s work you either love it or hate it, and I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t find it appealing, but I don’t despise it either. I think my major beef with his stuff is how everyone’s faces look really poofy with huge jawlines- like they were stung by a swarm of African bees or something. Also, some of his characters’ faces look like they came off of the short bus, with mangled teeth, agape mouths, and eyeballs going every-which way…which actually sounds like my own art. Heh. Anyway, only pick this one up if you’re a die-hard Magneto fan. Otherwise, just look at the cover and pretend that the story inside is as good as what you’re looking at. -AL

Namor the First Mutant #6
Stuart Moore
Artist: Ariel Olivetti

I couldn’t be happier to see Ariel Olivetti back on this book. When he is not doing the art on this series, it lacks that special something which sets it above the norm. After the whole vampire story, and a brief interlude, Namor is at it again, this time against demons rooted out of the dark history of Atlantis. Olivetti nails the eerie atmosphere of Moore’s story, creating creepalicious crustaceans for our title character to face. Moore’s inclusion and development of Loa, a (former?) X-Woman who can now breathe freely underwater, is enjoyable to watch as this series continues. Her involvement is subtle, but I hope he continues with her story line, and actually does something to evolve this character who is relatively unknown. The inclusion of Emma has potential too; it’d be cool to see her more involved. Sure, the “gone to Hell” thing may feel a bit overplayed, and I admit it’s treading risky water, but it does have potential here. Especially with Olivetti providing the visuals. X-fans, while I don’t think Namor the First Mutant is for everyone, it may be one of the better X-titles you aren’t reading. Give it a shot, and report back on what you find. -AL

New Mutants #21
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artists: Leonard Kirk with Andrew Currie

It’s really too bad that Zeb Wells left this book so abruptly, as you can really see how condensed this epic has become in this last issue. Wells has done some things with the New Mutants that hasn’t been done in years. He’s made them truly stand on their own as a team of X-Men. He has made us actually care about them as they go through hell both literally and figuratively. Not only that, but he built up this story to make real changes among the team. For instance, Illyana has been spouting that Magma was going to get killed, which would have really shaken up the team. Also, they’ve been preparing for the ultimate evil in these Elder Gods who are going to wipe up Limbo and Earth. But in a matter of panels, none of this actually happens, and everything that was supposed to change the course of the New Mutants future is cleaned up spic and span. Unfortunately, Legion makes the save and becomes a deus ex machina. The real shame in this is that they had a perfect opening to introduce the Age of X, which is coming next issue, in what could have been a great homage to how the Age of Apocalypse started. Instead, everything is put back completely, only Pixie has her soul back and Illyana is finally free from her link to Limbo…supposedly. We don’t know what happens to the Inferno Babies or Dr. Noc and his cronies. General Ulysses is destroyed. Basically all the things that made this storyline great were put away. So I was disappointed, as it seemed like this was not what Wells intended, but that editorial made him put the pieces back in the cabinet for the next creator. It really is a shame because Wells’ run was incredible. Leonard Kirk does a good job once again on art, but is assisted by Andrew Currie, who’s style I can’t really distinguish from Kirk’s. As I said above, I am not at all interested in the Age of X, and am disappointed that this story ended in such a way as to shoehorn yet another event into this title. -JJ

Secret Avengers #9
Ed Brubaker
Artist: Mike Deodato

Holy hell, this series just hit its stride. After a rocky opening arc, this issue has propelled Secret Avengers over the hump, and into the realm of awesomeness we all wanted it to be from the beginning. The plot is centered around Shang Chi, but even if you aren’t a fan, Brubaker is threading other plot lines that can pull your focus. What really made this issue sing though, was Deodato’s artwork. He provides one of the best combat scenes I’ve seen so far in any of the recently re-booted Avengers books. The one-on-one with Rogers and John Steele was brutal, and when the rest of the team jumps in to save the day, my inner geek wet himself. I think I’ve finally figured out why Beast is on this team too- the dude can brawl with the best of them! In the past, I’ve questioned Hank’s role in this book, comparing his duties to those of Sharon Carter, and while Sharon is no slouch in combat, she definitely can’t do what Beast can. Here, Deodato gives him the spotlight in a couple panels of fierce combat of the likes we haven’t seen with Hank McCoy in awhile. Even if you haven’t been reading this series, this issue is worth checking out on its own just for that scene. In fact, if you haven’t been reading Secret Avengers, this is a good place to start. Brubabker and Deodato are on a roll. -AL

Thunderbolts #152
Jeff Parker
Artist: Kev Walker

X-Fans, I’ve been sayin’ it since the beginning- read this series! Kev Walker’s art is spot on, and Jeff Parker has a good handle on these characters. Especially Juggernaut. Parker writes him with this non-chalant attitude that fits Cain perfectly. Why would he care about anything? He’s the Juggernaut, bitch! In this issue Luke Cage leads the heavy hitters of the T-Bolts in a battle against ginormous monster-beast creatures that dwarf even Juggs. Regardless, this doesn’t stop him from smashing the hell out of a giant lobster thing, and toppling a wannabe Godzilla. Against the lobster, Songbird lends Juggernaut some support in giving him a runway to charge with, but with the Godzilla dude, Juggy takes him on by his lonesome…and ends up getting tossed. But still, it was awesome! It’s clear Parker understands how the powers of his characters work, something that is all too often forgotten or overlooked  in comics. I’m a fan of his choice to keep the dialogue to a minimum in combat sequences, trusting Walker to tell the story, who definitely delivers. Juggernaut fans will love this series, as will anyone who’s looking for something a little different from the typical Marvel comic. Parker has found the perfect blend of humor and characterization, keeping things fun without losing the dramatic edge required to make this book work. -AL

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #152
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Sara Pichelli & David Lafuente

Month in, month out, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man continues to rock. Um, is it still called Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, or is it just Ultimate Spider-Man again? Whichever it is, this series is always amusing and never fails to be entertaining. In this new story line, Spider-Man is destined to be trained by the Avengers in the art of superheroics, whilst Black Cat and Ultimate Mysterio are up to no good. But we don’t care about any of that jive here at the X-Piles, as we’re just focused on one dude: Bobby Drake, a.k.a., Iceman! Ice is still playing sidekick to Peter Parker along with Johnny Storm, and as usual, the three of them crack me up. Bendis has done an excellent job capturing the buddy-buddy nature of this trio, and I’m happy to see that the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends element of this series appears to be sticking around for awhile. I mean, the three of them perform absolutely zero superheroics in this issue, and yet that’s totally ok, as it’s almost more enjoyable watching these three fellas interact as kids. Take this conversation as an example: “ICEMAN: I’m saying I think both of us would be having a lot more luck with girls if they knew who we really were. I mean, if I could come up to a girl and say: ‘hey, look, I’m Iceman’ and put, like, ice cubes in their drink…I think– I mean, I know— it’s an icebreaker. TORCH: You didn’t just say that joke. SPIDEY: Really, Bob. ICE: I wasn’t saying it to be funny. SPIDEY: You’re right about that. ICE: You know what I mean. TORCH: Why don’t you come up to a girl and say: “ice to see you”? SPIDEY: “Is it hot in here or is it just you?” ICE: Johnny, I’ve seen you use that line. SPIDEY: Tell me you didn’t. ICE: He came right up to this girl on The Ultimates and he said: “is it hot in here or is it just me?” And then he lit himself on fire.” See what I mean? Bendis has found the perfect balance with these characters, and has proven time and time again that if there’s one Ultimate book to be reading, it’s this one! -AL

Uncanny X-Force #4
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Jerome Opena

For any of you who think I am too critical of the X-Men line right now, pay attention to the words I’m about to type. Uncanny X-Force is the absolute best X-Men comic published by Marvel in the last 10 years. There. I said it. And I feel good about it. I never thought that the last volume of X-Force could be topped, especially with a book that stars both Wolverine and Deadpool. But this 4-issue arc by Rick Remender and Jerome Opena has made me realize exactly why I love comic books, and why I love these characters. First, Remender continues to impress me with even the smallest ideas he throws into this book. He alone has made Fantomex the most compelling mutant in the Marvel Universe right now. Fantomex’s powers are handled incredibly well, and even make the reader buy into the illusions he casts. For instance, I really thought that E.V.A. was destroyed back in issue #2 and in fact, argued to my buddy Infinite Speech that she was. However, the power of misdirection works again, and I’m highly impressed by what Fantomex can do. Deadpool saves Archangel by feeding him his own flesh! Holy cow! But what really makes this book shine is the moral ambiguity the characters find themselves in. They have finally gotten their target, Apocalypse, in their sights. They have him at their mercy, which was the whole reason they formed the team, only to have Psylocke and Wolverine decide that they shouldn’t kill a boy who may or may not grow up to become one of the most powerful mutants of all time. I won’t spoil what happens, but it takes this team of X-Men into a whole new level as they deal with the decisions they make. Add to this amazing story Jerome Opena’s intricate and mesmerizing art, and you’ve got a masterpiece. I can just spend hours looking at his attention to detail. One of the things that hinders X-books these days is that nothing really has long-term effects. The teams go up against a major threat, and at the end they are set right back to where they were before the story started. Sure, someone might be killed, or might leave the team, but we rarely ever get the sense that the characters themselves are fundamentally changed. Remender has the skill to show that the actions that this team takes will change them irrevocably. We’re left to wonder what we would do in their shoes, and if a writer and artist can pull me in to consider such ethics, then they have created a book that is worthy of the praise I gave in the beginning of this review. -JJ

X-23 #5
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Will Conrad and David Lopez

Marjorie Liu is doing a nice job of layering X-23 in this series, setting up her character for further development, and Will Conrad’s great artwork is very easy on the eyes. Laura is doing some soul searching, and in the process has uncovered a strange facility housing what appear to be orphaned children… She’s accompanied by Gambit in this discovery, who makes a believable guide to Laura on her journey of self understanding. It’s a good thing Remy’s along for the ride too, because an old nemesis of his is the man…er, woman…or is it man(?) behind the proverbial curtain, Miss (Mr.) Sinister! As mentioned, Conrad is nailing the art in this series. His characters look the part, and his attention to detail is tough to miss. I’m not a fan of Miss Sinister though, and her hoebag wardrobe. Selene, Madelyne Prior, and of course, Emma Frost, have perfected the skanky outfit routine, making Miss Sinister look like a model for the failed Derelicte campaign…without Blue Steel. Happily, this problem is remedied at the end of the issue…I think. Liu’s writing of steamy romance novels rubs off a little here too, adding sexual overtones that are both exciting and uncomfortable. One thing I have to credit Liu for is how she manages to incorporate character moments with substance utilizing the supporting cast. She does it here with Gambit, and in the past with Storm and members of the New X-Men, like Surge and Hellion. The title X-23 is appropriate for this book, but X-Men fans will delight in how many other mutants pop up, and how the things they do feel relevant. -AL

Uncanny X-Men #532
Writers:  Matt Fraction & Kieron Gillen
Artist: Greg Land

Oi! This is just bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. What else can I say about the atrocity that is Uncanny X-Men? This book hasn’t stunk this bad since Chuck Austen decided that Nightcrawler was the son of the Devil. Once again, Fraction is juggling way too many characters and stories. Quantity does not equal quality. While the title of this arc is Quarantine, the book only half-way deals with the X-Men who are stuck on Utopia fighting off the mutant flu. Emma, Kitty, and Fantomex are dealing with the idiotic move Fantomex made last issue by dropping Sebastian Shaw from thousands of feet up. How is it that while Rick Remender can make Fantomex the most awesome character in Uncanny X-Force, Fraction makes him a complete moron? The uninteresting and completely random team of Angel, Pixie, Northstar, Dazzler, and Storm fight the Collective Man, who has yet to prove why he’s a bad guy all of a sudden. I hate a team that is so random, yet that randomness doesn’t serve any purpose. Cyclops has a conversation with the horribly typecast Lobe villain who is behind all the sickness. How do all these villains get Cyclops’ personal Skype information? In almost every X-Men book, Cyclops is talking trash with a villain over video chat. Wolverine puts the fear of God into the X-Men wannabes, which means absolutely nothing. Not only is this story limping along, but it’s only made worse by Greg Land’s oversold art. For instance, for no particular reason since she’s a background character, there’s a full page shot of Danger projecting Lobe for Cyclops to talk to. It makes no sense other than to “showcase” Land’s affinity for drawing whole figures in not-sexy poses. I don’t know anyone who is enjoying Land’s art, and can’t figure out why he’s still on this book. Finally, I will pinpoint my biggest pet peeve of Fraction’s run. THOSE INCREDIBLY ANNOYING BOXES NEXT TO EVERY CHARACTER! I know that Fraction is trying to be new-reader friendly with those, but come on! We’re 3 parts into this story. If people want to know who’s who, they can go to Wikipedia instead of those cutesy descriptions of the characters and their powers, which are not at all funny. And when they are repeated panel after panel, it only makes it worse. Do yourself a favor, buy Uncanny X-Force or X-Men this week, and just pretend that Uncanny X-Men is on hiatus. -JJ

X-Men #7
Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Chris Bachalo

I have exclaimed over Victor Gischler’s X-Men book and have found it to be the flagship book I have been yearning for since Matt Fraction has been on Uncanny. But granted, Gischler did a great job on his first arc, Curse of the Mutants, and I was interested to see what he could pull out with his second, To Serve And Protect. The last arc was enhanced by Paco Medina’s awesome pencils, and to prove that Marvel really does love me, they got Chris Bachalo back on-board. Bachalo has been one of my most favorite X-artists since I first saw the cover to Generation X #1 back in the mid-90s. He has meandered to and fro from the X-universe, and most recently he did the Storm & Gambit one-shot. But here he is again, with his long-time inker Tim Townsend, to settle me back in and make me feel at home again with the X-Men. Bachalo’s art can be polarizing for some fans, but I am definitely a fan. From the stubble on Logan’s chin to his side-views of the sewer tunnels with the X-Men making their way down them like a Nintendo game, Bachalo’s art has never looked better. Somehow Gischler just understands how an X-Men book, even one with multiple characters, should work. There’s a threat, Cyclops assembles a team, and that team is focused on in the entirety of the book. In this story, Cyclops gets wind of a problem in the sewers of New York. He sends Logan, Emma, Storm, and Gambit to check it out. First of all, this team is a solid team of X-Men. They work well together, and Gischler knows how to make them interact with one another. Second of all, they kick major ass when a horde of lizard-people descend on them. But Gischler also knows how to lure us into the next issue. We all know from the cover that Spider-Man is going to make an appearance, but Gischler surprises us by putting Spidey on the side of protecting the perceived antagonists. It’s a great twist that makes this book really fun. Gischler is on a roll with this book! Keep it coming! -JJ

X-Men Forever 2 #16
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Ramon Rosanas

Why this series was ever created is beyond me, but I’m happy to report that it appears to [finally] be over. For now at least. After last issue’s brawl with the Avengers, Claremont quickly w(c)raps things up and puts a “The End?” stamp on the last page. I could get into detail about this finale issue, but I’d rather get this over with and bid good riddance to this series. On the opening page where the cast is listed, it reads, “Now, in an unprecedented comics event, Claremont returns to his iconic run on the X-Men.” Unprecedented, eh? That’s not too surprising considering how, save for a few moments, this whole series felt like a fanfiction that was being made up issue to issue. It’s difficult to comprehend why this series was solicited to veteran readers when it would have been better suited to a far less seasoned X-crowd. If you haven’t read X-Men since the 90s, I doubt this title would bring you back into the fold, and if this was your first X-Men comic book, I’m sorry that this had to be your gateway into a world that holds a special place in many of our hearts. So lets just forget this series ever happened, don our favorite X-clothes, and go read Uncanny X-Force together. -AL

X-Men: To Serve & Protect #3
Writers: Various
Artists: Various

Not to be confused with Gischler’s story above, To Serve & Protect #3 is another X-Men anthology book. So far, this hasn’t been that bad of a mini-series. As with all anthologies, there are bound to be a couple of stinker stories in the mix. But this issue only had one that I could find a complaint about, which makes this the best issue of the series yet. In the first story, Chris Yost continues his Rockslide & Anole tale, this time pitting the buddy team against the Serpent Society. I’ve always wanted to know what makes a team a “society.” Wouldn’t they be more badass if they were called “The Serpents?” Interestingly enough, Rockslide and Anole display some impressive chops against these old time baddies. Yost once again proves why he rules at writing the New X-Men. Derec Donovan’s art is strong here too. Next, the one story that is found lacking is the Storm/Thor story. For some reason, Thor brings Storm the hammer that Loki used to control her, and then they’re both surprised when Storm grabs it and begins attacking Thor! Why would you bring a dangerous weapon known for controlling someone to that exact person?!? Then I realized that Marc Guggenheim wrote this and understood. Guggenheim was the creator of that god-awful Young X-Men book. He should just walk away from the X-Men slowly. The best story in the book comes next when Kitty and Peter go to get help for Kitty’s intangibility problem from Reed Richards. Funny enough, just the other day, fellow writer Aron White and I were discussing this very thing. Last time Kitty found herself stuck intangible, she went to Reed Richards who fixed her (in the classic X-Men vs. Fantastic Four mini-series). Well, this time, Reed somehow can’t fix her, and we get some really poignant moments between Kitty and Sue Richards. Nick Abadzis did a great job on this heartfelt story, and Steve Sanders, whose art I have not liked before, pulled out some touching panels. Finally, Chris Yost follows up on a dangling plot thread from the Necrosha storyline, focused on Blink, who had been manipulated by Selene to kill. Emma Frost and a team of Husk, Blindfold, Warpath, and Pixie go with Dr. Strange to help Blink detox from the evil Selene injected her with. I really liked this story, and the assembled team actually makes sense. I hate a team of X-Men that are put together for no good reason (see Uncanny X-Men above). Together, they free Blink, and now we have a potentially awesome character in the Marvel Universe akin to her Age of Apocalypse counterpart. Overall, I think that these anthologies do well if they follow up on dangling plot lines that the other books aren’t going to touch, or if they develop the characters a little clearer. This issue proves that it can be done and done well. -JJ

Phew! That was a huge X-Pile!

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week
Andy: Is there any question? Uncanny X-Force #4 without a doubt!
Jeff: If you don’t know by now that Uncanny X-Force #4 is my pick, then you need to check your ocular receptors.

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Jeff Jackson

Andy Liegl



  1. I thought Age of X was great. I’ve never gotten around to reading Age of Apocalypse, because, well, I feel like it has too many unnecessary issues. Age of X, feels much more concise. And since I’ve read a bunch of the back stories and interviews that had been released prior to the issue, I didn’t feel particularly lost. I loved the rebranding of some of the characters, Scott Summers, especially.

    On the other hand, I didn’t like X-Men #7. I really liked the first arc, but I thought this issue had a lot of problems. I thought certain characters were portrayed in an odd way (Emma in particular, though everyone felt off). And I thought the art was all kinds of bad. (Not a Bachalo fan, so not all that sad that he’s not on Age of X)

    I did love Uncanny X-Force though. I agree with the both of you, that it was the best pick of the week.

  2. Jeff Jackson

    I have to admit, the first 2 chapters of Age of X were decidedly better than the one-shot. More to come in the X-Piles for this week.

  3. that Age of X one shot was barely readable IMO and that’s because I only barely liked some of the plot points about Basilisk/Cyclops/Scott ugh!

    It’s about time someone started building on what Claremont started with Franklin Richards sooooo long ago and if Hickman is doing that good of a job then I can think of no one better! I’ve wanted to see Franklin do something more than play with toys in the middle of the living room with “Unca Ben”. He’s poised to be one of THE most powerful mutants on the planet one day.

  4. Marie

    Great reviews gentlemen!

  5. Jeff Jackson

    Agreed, ‘Speech. I’ve been waiting for that kid to be the top hero of the Marvel Universe forever. I think he could be awesome!

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