April 22, 2011

The Uncanny X-Piles XXXVII

5 Ronin #5
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Leandro Fernandez

An awesome conclusion to a fantastically original Marvel mini-series. This issue doesn’t star Deadpool so much as the antagonist, the usurping Daimyo. We get his back story and delve into his head, but when a fool stands up to him, it shakes his confidence to the core. Unable to sleep and full of frustration, the Daimyo goes to relieve some stress… Butterfly (Psylocke), whom we met last issue, has her plan come to fruition as her reputation precedes her, providing a chance for revenge on the tyrant. However, the Daimyo senses something is afoul, and is frightened by Butterfly. The big, mighty conqueror further rattled, retreats to his chambers where he’s haunted by the realization that the bold fool from earlier was Deadpool, a former officer of his whom he abandoned to die. Deadpool, like our other 4 Ronin, wants revenge and has been hunting the Daimyo. The series definitely concludes by the final page, and Milligan does a nice job of touching on every character, wrapping up all plot lines with insinuations of a sequel. Unfortunately, the conclusion leaves most of our protagonists right where they began- as wandering Ronin. If you missed this one, buy the over-sized HC. The art in each issue is different but nicely stylized, and Milligan pens an adventurous other-universe story, akin to, but more focused than Marvel 1602. -AL

Age of X Universe #1
Writers: Simon Spurrier & Jim McCann
Artists: Khoi Pham & Paul Davidson

Its been no secret in the X-Piles that Age of X has been a surprise hit. The mystery surrounding why this universe even exists is compelling enough to make it so unlike any other alternate reality tale. So when you throw a tie-in series like this one into the mix, it better hold on to that same kind of intrigue that makes the main story interesting. Or it should at least tie-in to the mystery somehow. Maybe I have too high of expectations, but this issue has none of what makes Age of X interesting. This is just another “What If?” take on the Avengers, if they were deadly mutant killers. This story is set up like a flashback with Legacy remembering these “heroes,” who we are to assume she will ultimately absorb before her death. Captain America leads this team of mutant hunters which feature a zombified version of Tony Stark as Iron Man, an incredibly bigoted Hulk, a silent Jessica Drew, a vigilant Sue Richards, and a Ghost Rider that bites the dust in a matter of seconds. Led by General (Frank) Castle, and with a jaw-less Sabretooth as a bloodhound, this team of psychos fight amongst themselves and wipe out pockets of mutants, including cameos by Marrow and Maggot, which was nice to see. In the end, Hulk goes really crazy, but the story doesn’t add anything to the world of Age of X. If, in the Age of X proper, we are to believe that perhaps there is not a world outside of Fortress X, then why is this story even being told? Simon Spurrier doesn’t really make a compelling case for this issue other than for us to see yet another alternate group of Avengers. Khoi Pham’s art was weaker than I remember him being on other projects. The second story in this issue is a little better, with Spider-Man, who is being hunted as a “post-mutant,” or someone who received powers after birth. What is good about this alternate take is that Peter acts just like regular Peter. Despite being hunted, he is his usual humorous self, and protecting Mary Jane and their unborn child. In the end, he gets captured, but MJ lives to see another day, and that is enough for him. It was a sad tale, and for those of us who actually wish Peter and MJ were still together, it was a nice moment. Overall, unless you like yet another alternate Avengers tale, there’s no need to pick this up. -JJ

The Avengers #11
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: John Romita Jr.

Its been harked about on the internet, and even Bendis himself addressed it, but The Watcher looks god-awful in this issue. Like if the Kingpin were to play dress up with Courtney Love. Sorry to start on that note, but it had to be said. Uatu narrates the issue for us, which is loaded with full page spreads by Jr Jr., giving this issue a fast pace. Thor, Red Hulk, and Namor take on The Hood who possess the Infinity Gems of space, reality, and power. Thor has only the gem of time. That’s not enough to combat The Hood’s arsenal, and he makes short work of the God of Thunder. No easy task. However, Red Hulk isn’t one to shy away from a fight, and gets the red gem of power. Now it’s on! Namor really doesn’t do much in the fight, except float around, but to find out how it all goes down you’ll have to read it yourself. Meanwhile, Xavier’s team, including Beast and Wolverine, are at the ruins of the old X Mansion. They are in the heat of battle against the remains of the Danger Room in order for Charles to access his coveted mind gem, which the lethal holograms are protecting…except The Hood beats him to it. Xavier engages in a super cool mind war with The Hood, who, because of the gem, has been gifted with bolstered psychic defenses. He meets Xavier head on…and Chuck falls. I’ll stop here, but I gotta say the last page has my heart racing with anticipation! A show down of showdowns is on the horizon. Even if you’re not an Avengers fan, X-fans should at least read the Xavier/Hood battle scene; It has been too long since we’ve seen Charles in action. My only qualm with this story line is why in the name of Mr. Rogers’ wool sweaters did Xavier just leave an Infinity Gem amongst the ruins of the X-Mansion? Sure there was the program to protect it, but come on! He couldn’t have hid it somewhere on Utopia? That’s just not something you leave behind. -AL

Cyclops #1
Writer: Lee Black
Artist: Dean Haspiel

Dudes and dudettes, what the hell. Right off the bat(roc) this issue pissed me off. Zelda, Iceman’s girl from the original X-Men issues, is featured in this one-shot…without Iceman! Why the f#@$ is she here, but not in the Iceman & Angel one-shot? She was one of his longest running girlfriends for crying out loud. It makes no damn sense! Once again I’m confused about where this issue falls in continuity; does it take place in the 616 Universe, or the X-Men: First Class line? The uniforms say one thing, but the characterizations say another, which is frustrating. Every single one of these one-shots had this error, which is completely unnecessary given the fact that they all had an editor. The art by Dean Haspiel here is stylized, and will most likely turn people away. It grew on me, though: a cartoony look with light hints of Jack Kirby. Cyke takes on Batroc the Leaper and his minions of the Cirque de Crime. As you can probably figure out by that last sentence, the writing is pretty lame, too. Black wrote this story like a Deadpool book, and while it wasn’t terrible, it was too corny to enjoy given who the lead is. Cyclops is the last of these X-Men origin-esque stories, this one being the first to not feature a giant monster as the villain. All in all, I wish this whole set of stories had been approached with a more serious tone. Done in a Marvel Knights style, they could have been something worth remembering. Instead, we get…Batroc the Leaper, giant grey monster thing, purple energy girl, and weird bridge monster. Fail. -AL

Secret Avengers #11
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Will Conrad

I was snookered into picking this up by my partner-in-crime Andy. Actually, we both thought that this was the start of Nick Spencer’s run on the book, so I was at least a bit interested. However, it’s still Brubaker, along with Will Conrad, who does his best imitation of Mike Deodato. I dropped this title after the first arc, and this issue reminds me why. I’m really not interested at all in the Shadow Council or whoever this John Steele character is. Granted, I missed a couple of issues, so I don’t know who he is at all, but this issue doesn’t help me want to know either. What I like about Secret Avengers is the cast, but unfortunately, this issue only features two–Steve Rogers and, for the sake of its inclusion in this column, Beast. These guys are trying to find out John Steele’s secrets. One secret I want to know is why is he the first super-soldier? I thought that was the whole point of the WWII-era program? Wasn’t Isaiah Bradley the first? The super-soldier stuff is so dang convoluted now, that to throw this guy in as well is enough for me to make a paper hat out of this issue. Anyway, Beast and Steve have got Steele hooked up to a memory-viewing machine, and realize that in order to dig deeper into Steele’s memories, Steve has to be hooked up too. We get this scene of Steele and Steve sneaking into some Nazi horror castle, where they fight a zombie. Eventually, Steele freaks out and realizes they’re creeping around in his head in real-time. Hilarity ensues. I guess if I had been keeping up with this series, I might enjoy it more, but overall, everything about this series has been extremely underwhelming. I’m going to stick with it, however, until Nick Spencer starts up in issue #12.1, but if he doesn’t turn this ship around, then I’ve got my life-jacket on tight. -JJ

Ultimate Comics X #4
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Art Adams

Holy cat balls, this book has finally come out again! It’s what, eight months late? Ten? I’m pretty sure issue #3 came out sometime last summer, so regardless of the exact number, its been a looong time. You know what would have been nice to kick off this issue? A bloody recap page. Seriously- Marvel has them in every other comic book, catching the reader up on what went down in the previous issues, but here, after almost a year without one, no recap. I’ve forgotten what the hell has been going on in Ultimate X, and the jury is still out about if that matters. I like this book, but at the same time, I can’t help but roll my eyes at it. Remember Ultimatum? Remember who died in Ultimatum? To name a few: Wolverine, Angel, and The Blob. Guess which characters are in Ultimate X? New teenage versions of Wolverine, Angel, and The Blob. They are different people, but everything else is the same. What the bloody wiener was the point of killing off these characters in dramatic fashion, only to bring them back within a year as watered-down kid versions of themselves? I hate it. There are plenty other mutants to bring to the spotlight that survived Ultimatum, so why give us more of the same? Maybe things will pan out for the better, but right now, I can’t help but think of Wolverine every time I see his “son,” Angel when I see that kid with the wings, and Blob when I see…his son? Yep, The Blob’s son and daughter (Liz Allen, Blob junior’s half-sister) are the main characters of this issue. Which was the cool part, because Loeb writes a disturbingly engaging narrative from Liz’s mother’s point of view. Included are the details on how she met The Blob, made the earth shake with him, and got pregnant with Liz. I had forgotten all about Liz (thanks recap page!), but a quick search reminded me of her first appearance in Ultimate Spider-Man #4 (in the 616 Universe, it was Amazing Fantasy #15– yeah, she’s been around awhile), and that she’s Ultimate Firestar. Which is cool. I guess. Again, I’m not sure if I really care. At times this issue was cheesier than a joke about Kraft macaroni, and I couldn’t help but think of the recently concluded abomination by Chris Claremont, X-Men Forever. However, at other points I liked where Loeb was headed by trying something new. I mean, who would have thought a story featuring Blob Jr. would be quasi-interesting. Plus, Art Adams’ artwork is fan-f*#%ingtastic. If that’s the reason why this book was so late, I can deal. Otherwise, I could probably deal without it. -AL

Wolverine #7
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Daniel Acuna

Jason Aaron does a lot of things right with Wolverine. He pays close attention to Wolverine’s history. When he brings in other X-Men, he uses them all really well, and when he puts Logan’s back against a wall, he really makes it exciting. Still reeling from his trip to Hell, Logan is trying to free himself from the demons who have control of his body. Instead of just having him fight off the demons by himself, Aaron places Wolverine’s battle on two planes. First, the X-Men are battling him in real-time, and these demons controlling Logan really wipe the floor with them. Reducing the mighty Magneto to nothing with a memory of being in Auschwitz, and taking Namor under the water in an off-panel battle that leaves him doing the dead-man’s float, these demons are awesome. He almost takes out Cyclops, when Rogue, Storm, Kitty, and Jubilee show up to help out. They, along with Emma, decide to help Logan on the second plane on which he’s fighting: in his mind. There, Logan unlocks all his past incarnations to battle the demons, which added some fantastic geeking-out excitement from me. Seeing young James Howlett fight with Weapon X and with feral Wolverine is a really neat idea with which Aaron plays. The X-chicks show up on the mindscape as well to join the fight, which was really great. But the issue ended with a surprise from out of nowhere. Logan’s memories of dearly departed X-buddies are coming along to help out as well, which will lead to some really interesting stuff next issue. This is a really fun story and Jason Aaron continues to show his gifts of writing a Wolverine book. Daniel Acuna’s art is not the best suited here, even though I like his style. I wonder what Ron Garney could have done with this script. Acuna’s modus operandi is one of minimalism–background characters don’t need faces and solid-colored backgrounds. He relies on color for detail rather than inks which doesn’t really fit a violence-packed title like this. I wouldn’t mind seeing him on something more light, but it’s really Aaron’s handle on the characters that really makes this book awesome. -JJ

X-23 #8
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Ryan Stegman

“Collision,” the crossover event with X-23 and Daken, officially kicks off in this issue. First of all, props to Ryan Stegman for taking over artistic duties on this book. His work is in the style of Will Conrad, but a little more…comic booky, which works. Marjorie Liu handles the writing duties well too, especially with Tyger Tiger. I didn’t even know much about this character until she showed up in Daken, and I’m falling hard for her. She’s got brains, sex appeal, and is totally badass. There’s a great scene where Tyger takes advantage of a rare moment and plays Daken, using Gambit and X-23 as decoys. Daken and Gambit have some macho exchanges, teasing at a throw down between the two. If a fight were to happen between these two fellas in X-23, history dictates that Gambit would get his ass kicked (seriously- it has happened to him in almost every issue so far). It doesn’t matter though, as Gambit doesn’t evern get a shot off at Daken, because he and X-23 throw down before Remy could even draw a card. That fight doesn’t get resolved, but most likely will in the next installment. I’d say X-23 is winning so far, but it’s impossible to tell, really, and I doubt we’ll get a clear cut winner. I hope this isn’t one of those team-ups where the good guys fight each other, make-up, and then take down a common enemy. What I couldn’t figure out is why Daken is so willing to fight X-23 as opposed to talk with her. He knows who she is (a clone of his father), so why not go that route first and pillage for information? Daken is conniving, one who usually does his research before jumping headfirst into a situation, so why not here? I don’t like that, as it seems out of character for him. Other than that, this story is off to a solid start -AL

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:

Jeff: Wolverine #7 continues Aaron’s trend of making the character exciting again.
Andy: 100% agree. Wolverine #7 gets my vote, too.

For more of The Uncanny X-Piles, click here!

Andy Liegl

Jeff Jackson



  1. Yay! I need more X-Piles in my life.

  2. 5 Ronin will probably read better as a collected series. I dropped it after the 2nd or 3rd issue so I’ll probably grab the HC.

    The Age of X Universe book was great Jeff. The fact that you don’t HAVE to pick it up in order to enjoy the core title is great as unlike most tie ins you’re not forced to read it. It’s nice to take a look at what else is going on in the Age of X Universe but with the recent revelation of how the universe came to be I’m now questioning the validity of this issue.

  3. […] This one starts out oddly. When we left off last time in X-23 #8, which was part 1 of this mini-crossover called “Collision,” Daken and Laura were […]

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