August 13, 2011

The Uncanny X-Piles LI

Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force #1
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Simone Bianchi

I’ve been pretty vocal about my dislike for Fear Itself. I gave it 3 issues, but found this “event” is directionless. People are even debating whether or not Bucky is dead, which has taken all the emotional punch out that an event should have. That being said, I was really hesitant to pick up this tie-in with X-Force. I haven’t read anything from Rob Williams of note, although in doing some research, I see that he did some Dark X-Men stuff a while back. So my expectations on this book were really low. But what I found really quickly was that this story has pretty much nothing to do with Fear Itself, I’m thankful to say. The Purifiers are back, or rather a splinter group of Purifiers, and are capitalizing on the fear in the world to try and take out more than just mutants, but all super-beings. Thus, X-Force decides to do something about these fanatics. Williams does a great job of tapping into Rick Remender’s take on these characters. You would almost think this was Remender. He gets Deadpool’s crazy-yet-hilarious dialogue down. He does a good job with Wolverine & Archangel’s relationship as well as Psylocke and Fantomex’s. In fact, if you haven’t been reading Uncanny X-Force, this would be a great jump-on point. You don’t need to know anything about Fear Itself or what’s happened previously in Uncanny X-Force to enjoy this. But what makes this pop even more is the incredible art of Simone Bianchi. He has such a distinct style, and I haven’t always enjoyed it, but have found that it has really grown on me. This is some of his best work. I especially loved the page near the end which had 6 wide-angle panels where Wolverine interrogates a Purifier and ends with a “Snikt!” in the last panel. Overall, this is your typical X-Force killing mutant-haters, but I love that kind of stuff, so this gets high marks! -JJ

Fear Itself: Wolverine #1
Seth Peck
Artist: Roland Boschi

S.T.R.I.K.E. operatives have stolen Norman Osborn’s U.S.S. Prometheus, the ship destined to become the flagship of his H.A.M.M.E.R. fleet. It’s big, intimidating, and has a nuke on board, but is only guarded by two lackey’s whom the S.T.R.I.K.E. guys easily take out. Wolverine gets the call from Steve Rogers to take’em down and get the helicarrier back, but he has to do it solo. After he finishes taking down Marvel’s version of The Scarecrow, who says creepy things like, “I am the lullaby for stillborn children,” Wolverine meets up with his girlfriend, Melita, telling her to lay low for awhile. It came as a welcome surprise that the issue’s focus then mainly shifted to Melita and her budding journalistic career. She’s been covering the events of Fear Itself as an independent journalist, and given her connections to Wolvie and his Avengers ties, she gets special access to information other journalists don’t. Now she’s set on getting to the bottom of S.T.R.I.K.E. which would majorly bolster her reporting career. I hope it does- Jason Aaron has kept Melita around for a reason in the regular Wolverine series, and it’d be cool to see her character steadily evolve over time. Seth Peck’s dialgue can get drawn out at times, but he gets the necessary exposition out of the way, making issue #2 a true test of what he can bring to the table. Roland Boschi’s art is what you would expect from a Wolverine book. It’s sketchy enough so it’s not pretty, which works, but his faces look really jacked at times. Dan Brown’s muted colors compliment Boschi’s style, giving this one a very 80s vibe. -AL

Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt #3
Sean McKeever
Artist: Mike Norton

After reading #1 of this series, I vowed this book wouldn’t make it back into the X-Piles, yet here we are. The villain du jour is Juggernaut and somehow this cast of rejects is supposed to stand up to him. Right, because that would happen. Well, they put up a fight, which was surprising, but I would have thought an amped, mind-wiped Juggernaut would utterly destroy a team of annoying kids. Thankfully, he does kill one of them, but I doubt anyone will know who he is, let alone care that he’s gone. Speaking of things nobody cares about, who the hell are The Liberteens and why do I hate them so much just upon hearing their team name? They have a guy on their squad called Iceberg who looks JUST like Iceman. Is this some sort of sick joke? What the hell Marvel? Oh, and my favorite character of all time, Thor Girl, returns in this one. Hooray! Couldn’t go an issue without having her around. Hopefully we don’t have to return to this series during the duration of Fear Itself. These kids should be fighting the lame villains, like Titania and Crusher Creel, not the cool guys like Juggernaut. -AL

Thunderbolts #160
Jeff Parker
Artist: Declan Shalvey

Finally we get to see Juggernaut in an issue of Fear Itself: Thunderbolts! The Alpha team made up of Mach V, Ghost, Moonstone and Satana, and led by Songbird, goes to take him down. It’s nice to see Jeff Parker use a well-rounded team approach in how the T-Bolts attack Juggs, a la the X-Men. Songbird gets him dizzy, and then Moonstone shows off her tricks at making men swoon. Of course, her voice of reason doesn’t totally get through to a hammer-ridden Juggy, but this is the woman who can make Man Thing think twice. Satana and Ghost then move in to get inside Cain’s head. What happened next was one of the more original moments of the Fear Itself event; Declan Shalvey portrayed what’s happening to the minds of The Worthy and what the Serpent is doing to corrupt them. It’s a cool scene. Kuurth, Breaker of Stone, eventually kicks them out, then this one ends with a bang. That bang has either taken out Juggs or it laid some serious hurt on a lot of people. -AL

Uncanny X-Men #540
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Greg Land

Ok, remember what I was saying about Fear Itself? I freakin’ hate it. So now it’s creeping into Uncanny X-Men, which has been on a pretty good roll since Kieron Gillen took over. I have a feeling that this kind of issue is driven by the editors rather than Gillen, and this is a weak issue for it. In order to drag the X-Men into Fear Itself, they pull Juggernaut in, who’s in like 17 books this month. It feels so shoehorned, even though Juggernaut is an X-Men villain. Juggs gets a herald, though, which is some really annoying guy. In order to get Uncanny readers up to speed, though, Gillen opens the issue with this guy randomly (and by himself) talking about the effect of the events of Fear Itself in the world, until, lo and behold, Juggernaut lands conveniently right next to him. It seems so forced. Meanwhile, Scott has yet another pointless conversation with the mayor of San Francisco and Kitty and Peter and Illyana have a conversation which has no precursor in this series, unless you’ve read recent issues of New Mutants. Both conversations are boring. The only bright spot in this issue is the conversation between Emma and Namor, which heats up their relationship and begs the question as to why Emma and Scott are together these days. But the real complaint of this issue is once again Greg Land. I realized why I don’t like his work. He has a photo-realistic style, yet over-exaggerates every expression and every action. His characters overact in every panel, whether it’s with a goofy smile, or a screaming person. It takes me completely out of the story. My remedy for this issue is for the editors to leave Fear Itself out of this and let Gillen write his own stories and get Greg Land off this book ASAP! -JJ

Vengeance #1
Joe Casey
Artist: Nick Dragotta

Whew! There’s a whole lot going on in this issue and it’s all damn good. Joe Casey is telling multiple stories simultaneously, making the cast of this mini numerous, even without including the carousel of villains who are going to show up throughout. This issue, it’s Magneto, and while he may no longer be a bad guy, he does still consider himself a guardian to mutantkind. He’s looking for Stacy X for reasons unknown. The Ultimate Nullifier, a character who would be played by Leonardo DiCaprio if Vengeance were a film, is having a “good time” with Stacy and some rocker chick, when Mags decides to crash the party. He spots Stacy in the act, and proceeds to give her a lecture on the morality of her situation. Then he throws down with Nullifier. We find out why he has that name, and in the process we get one of the best Magneto scenes since he bowed down to Cyclops in Nation X. It remains to be seen if Mags will return to this mini, but even if he doesn’t, this book still has plenty of mutants to go around. Topping the list are Beak and Angel from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run. They’ve teamed up with Nullifier and others, working the comms and radios, playing a sort of “Oracle” role for their team. In their opening scene, the couple is in the middle of guiding Miss America (hey, the name works far better than “Thor Girl”) on a resuce mission, and her rescued is a super-powered character we don’t know much about. Whether he’s a mutant or not, we don’t know, but he is an avatar for some sort of cosmic evil madness that looks nasty. Casey is weaving even more plot in this single issue, additionally featuring the Red Skull in WWII, and members of the Last Defenders (like Nighthawk, She-Hulk, and Namor’s old nemesis, Krang). Yeah, I wasn’t kidding about there being a lot going on here. Things move fast, but not fast enough to miss out on a Star Wars reference, and the book has a very “Nextwave” vibe to it, but without all the zany. Casey can do zany (see Butcher Baker), but he gives this one a more natural feel. It’s obvious Casey has a handle on how to voice young adults. Nick Dragotta’s art is just great. He captures expression, mood, intent and attitude excellently. Every character has their own face and body language, just like Casey gives them their own voice. Both are easier said than done in comics. To conclude, just look at that cover by Gabriele Dell’Otto. It sets the tone for what’s inside. -AL

Wolverine & The Black Cat: Claws II #1
Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artist: Joseph Michael Linsner

Picking up where the first series left off, Wolvie and Black Cat are having dinner when things get wild. Arcade is the villain, and he and his sexy Harley Quinn-esque sidekick, White Rabbit, make their way from the Savage Land to the restaurant Wolvie and Felicia are dining. Joseph Michael Linsner’s art is hot, but his style isn’t for everyone. There’s some cheese in the dialogue and the general attitude of the characters is very cavalier, but overall it works just fine. Before Arcade arrives to ruin a good time, Logan and Felicia go at it in the restaurant, further adding to the question- “Who hasn’t Wolverine slept with in the Marvel Universe?” Black Cat is smokin’ though, so I can’t blame him. Anyway, there’s a surprise guest appearance by Killraven and it looks like things are going to get really weird next issue. Check back here in a couple weeks to see what goes down. This issue, while silly, was very enjoyable, and easily read; if you missed volume 1, it doesn’t matter as you can jump in just fine. –AL

X-23 #12
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda

X-23 is accompanied by Wolverine, Gambit and new found best bud, Jubilee, as they are forced to fight people who have caught wind of the deadly “trigger scent” in gaseous form. X caught it before the civilians, and struggled to overcome its effects in order to subdue her blind rage. It certainly felt like a character defining moment for Laura when she succeeded in suppressing the effects of the trigger scent. As I’ve been saying since issue #1 of this series, Marjorie Liu writes the supporting cast very well, smoothly incorporating them into the story without pulling too much focus from the title character. She writes some humorous banter between Gambit and Wolverine, but I really like her choice to incorporate Jubilee so prominently in this book. Liu has established a kindred connection between these two ladies, and I hope it lasts a long while. Sana Takeda’s artwork has grown on me, as her Japanese-influenced style and colored palette makes this book pop. This story line concludes to make way for an FF guest-appearance beginning next issue, but I hope Jubes isn’t away for long as I’d like to see more scenes with her and X. The conversations these ladies have are revealing to their character, and humanly written. I know this is X’s book, but she and Jubilee work great together. -AL

X-Men #14
Writer: Chris Yost
Artist: Paco Medina & Dalibor Talajic

Oh boy, am I loving this story line. It’s not often that two artists with very distinct styles can make a book look this good. But here, the story serves these styles perfectly. First, you have Paco Medina, who in my opinion is the best X-artist going right now. His scenes of the battle in the present with the Evolutionaries are dynamic and extremely exciting. Paired with Dalibor Talajic, who does some of the coolest flashback sequences I’ve seen in a while. I would love to see a regular flashback book with him on it. Art aside, this is just a really fun story, comparing two time periods of the X-Men really well. Retconning Emma as a pawn of the first Brotherhood has been really great. We don’t quite yet know what all the Evolutionaries did to the original X-Men and Brotherhood, but Yost is doing a great job of teasing it out over this series. Yost also revisits his great strength in writing the neglected New X-Men, who put up a great fight with Toad and his cronies. Overall, Yost is proving that he can write the hell out of a main X-book, and I don’t know why Marvel isn’t tapping him for more. I know for a fact from an interview he did a while back that he would love to be a more regular writer, so I hope that after Schism is over that this might happen. This just continues to be a strong story, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. -JJ

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: X-Men was certainly fantastic, but the surprise of Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force #1 makes it my pick of the week.
Andy: This is tough- X-23 and Thunderbolts were both really good, but I’m going with Vengeance #1. I didn’t know what to expect, and it proved to be the best mutant-themed book this week!

Jeff Jackson

Andy Liegl


One Comment

  1. Billy

    Vengeance #1 was great. I thought it portrayed magneto like he should be being portrayed right now -tough, no apologies, I’m the man Magneto!

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