January 2, 2012

The Uncanny X-Piles LXX

Alpha Flight #7 (of 8)
Writers: Greg Pak & Fred van Lente
Artist: Dale Eaglesham

This issue was a bit of a save for this series. I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out why this is. I think the reasoning behind this has something to do with the conflict finally coming to a head. That, and the fact that I didn’t feel as though I was being slammed over the head with bogus Canadian stereotypes throughout the book.

I suppose the best place to start this review is with the inclusion of Wolverine in the story. Anyone who has read my reviews knows that I am a diehard Wolverine fan. So I am sure that there are those who might feel as though I looked more kindly on this issue because my favourite claw wielding mutant was in it. Don’t get me wrong, his inclusion in this book was good, but I think the pro’s of this issue go deeper than that. Personally, I love the way Van Lente covers the bases with most of his writing. Wolverine doesn’t just show up in this issue. He is sent up north by Steve Rogers to figure out what the hell is happening in Canada with this new fascist government that has been installed. Wolverine visits both sides of the conflict and quickly realizes that the Guardian and his group of outcast friends are the team to back.

If you want to impress me with a superhero book, throw a couple of good brawls in there and I will be happy. Make them “good guy” versus “good guy” and I am ecstatic. This issue has lots of this. As the cover suggests, Guardian and Wolverine have themselves a mini throw down, but the one I like involves one of my other favourite characters, Sasquatch. The hairy hulk walks over to Guardian and Wolverine and gives them an evil glare. Both point to each other as having started the fight. Familiar with both of these fighters’ durability, Sasquatch uppercuts the two of them deep into the forest! I love this character!

As I mentioned earlier, the Canadiana in this issue is more tolerable than previous issues. In fact, I was actually impressed early on. The Port Elgin reference warmed my heart a little. This is where our cottage is, and we spend many a summer day here. The depiction of the geography there was pretty accurate! First time for everything I guess!

With one issue left, it is now up to Alpha Flight to defeat Alpha Strike (the evil version of Alpha Flight) and take down the new government regime. I am going way out on a limb here, but I think that Van Lente was a little handcuffed with this series. With the early issues loosely rooted in the Fear Itself storyline Van Lente had an underlying mandate with the arc. About halfway through, Marvel dropped the Fear Itself tag from the series. It seemed as though Van Lente had to refine his approach to the story, and now we are finally getting to the denouement. I’m not sure why, but I don’t feel as though this is Van Lente’s fault. I’d love to talk to him about it. Regardless, he has one issue to tie up this conflict. In hindsight, this issue should have happened around #5 or #6.

I thought the art was improved in this issue as well. I know that the artist didn’t change, it just seemed as though more time was put into the lines and the smaller details. Likewise, the colouring seemed to match up a little better this issue as well. Most importantly though is the cover. Carlo Pagulayan really delivers with this awesome cover. I love covers that show a reflection. This one sucks the viewer right into the action. It looks and feels as though Guardian is reaching out to grab the viewer by the throat. Well done Mr. Pagulayan.

Here’s hoping issue #8 really finishes off the series with bang. At the Fan Expo comic-con in Toronto, it was announced that this series was going to become an ongoing. Unfortunately, the product was not strong enough to boast sales, so this offer has been taken off the table. Marvel, if you ever want to publish a worthwhile comic about a Canadian super team, give me a call! –CK

Art: 6/10 Writing: 6/10 Cover: 9/10 Relevance: 6/10

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #8 (of 9)
Writers: Allan Heinberg
Artist: Jim Cheung

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, Allan Heinberg writes the Young Avengers like they were his own family. It was in 2005 when Heinberg introduced us to these characters, and he continues to make readers care today. This nine issue limited series has been a better event than Fear Itself and Regenesis combined!

The next generation of Avengers continue their battle against pretty much everyone in the Marvel Universe, in the hopes that they can save Wanda Maximoff. This, in turn, in meant to help reverse the genocide committed by the Scarlet Witch during House of M. Everyone has their own agenda regarding Wanda. The X-Men want her dead, the Avengers want her rehabilitated, Magneto wants her love, Quicksilver wants her hidden, Doctor Doom wants her power and the Young Avengers want her redemption. With all of these differing agendas, you know there are bound to be problems.

In issues seven, we were left with the fact that Doom had stolen Wanda’s powers right as she was about to restore the X-gene to all of the affected mutants from House of M. With basically what amounts to the power of a god, Doom gives Wanda, and the rest of the heroes, an ultimatum. Of course, the heroes aren’t going to stand for any demands made by the megalomaniac Doom, and the battle begins.

There are many subtle points to Heinberg’s story. The way he is able to weave his intricate story while using so many different characters is amazing. The story always moves forward at a perfect pace, and never lacks passion. Long-time creative partner, Jim Cheung draws excellent battle scenes and layers the multitude of characters very well in every panel.

It saddens me to think that there is only one more issue of this series left. I wish more than anything that Heinberg had his own Young Avengers ongoing title. That is something I would spend my hard earned money on. Thanks for the ray of hope in what has been a pretty bleak landscape for Marvel this year Mr. Heinberg! –CK

Art: 7/10 Writing: 9/10 Cover: 6/10 Relevance: 8/10

Astonishing X-Men #45
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Mike McKone

Guess who doesn’t know what to do with Astonishing X-Men, yet again? How freakin hard is it to come up with stories about a diverse group of superheroes that number in the hundreds and have a variety of back stories ranging from historic to unknown? Obviously damn near impossible for Marvel! Here’s my idea, fire Alonso (EIC), Quesada (CCO), Buckley (Publisher) and Fine (Exec. Producer). How much have you lost sight of “comics” when you turn out crap like this? There are a lot of people who point at the digital age as being responsible for the downfall of comics. Some say the internet, because it is destroying to desire to read from paper mediums. I disagree completely. I think, if you offer a great product people will buy it. Why are Marvel comics falling short these days? They lack consistently strong products. Sure there are a couple of good titles out there. But let’s be honest, your flagship titles (X-Men, SpiderMan and Avengers) have to amazing to survive in this economic client. Of the three examples I mentioned, SpiderMan has been good of late, Avengers are hit and miss, and the X-Men are mostly garbage. Here’s the thing, X-books have mostly been garbage since Messiah Complex which was published between 2007 and 2008. That is a long five years to have to wait for a strong story. Anyway, I digress, and apologize for using this particular story as a springboard for discussing the state of Marvel comics.

The latest installment of Astonishing X features Scott Summers being sucked into a parallel universe where he finds himself imprisoned with alternate reality Wolverine, Emma Frost, Nightcrawler and Kitty Pride. Each character is from a separate reality and different in character than his/her 616 counterpart. Nightcrawler, for instance, is a child who cannot teleport. The captured mutants quickly realize that they are being held by a super powered individual known as the Saviour. Turns out he is using each mutant as a type of battery to power different aspects of his society. After some investigation, the group realizes that Saviour has been kidnapping X-Folks from a variety of realities for some time.

The story itself isn’t completely horrible. It borrows many elements from past storylines like Days of Future Past and Genosha. The problem is that this story by Greg Pak reeks of the House of Ideas having no clue what direction to take this book in. This does however seem to be consistent with the X-verse as a whole.

Mike McKone’s art is oversimplified and very generic which just helps hammer home the insignificance of this story.

All in all, Marvel is making it harder and harder for me to justify continuing to spend money on my X-Men collection. –CK

Art: 5/10 Writing: 4/10 Cover: 4/10 Relevance: 1/10

Ultimate Comics X-Men #5
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Paco Medina

There’s not much more I can say about this book that I haven’t already said. Spencer continues to drag out this storyline to the point where it’s getting really annoying. Quicksilver is still in the same room talking to the President and Val Cooper. William Stryker continues to be both uninteresting and one-dimensional even though Spencer is trying his hardest to make the readers care about him. In this issue, we discover that Stryker is actually a mutant himself (who didn’t see that coming?) and can talk to machines. Also, we get some flashbacks to Rogue deciding to jump on with Stryker. The problem with Stryker is that this type of character is so over-done in X-Men books. He hates mutants because he’s a mutant himself and mutants killed his family. He has an abusive father who he’s trying to please. It’s disappointing because Spencer has free reign here to be creative and instead he falls back on old tropes. The situation with Rogue hearkens back to the 616 version who sought to rid herself of her powers, but having her betray the team is a poor choice. Either she’s playing both sides, which is a tired concept, or she’s not, which is just lame. I was excited about this book because I thought that Spencer, who is an extremely talented writer, would reinvent the Ultimate version of the X-Men like Bendis is doing well with Miles Morales as Spider-Man. But again, this proves why I have never been a fan of Ultimate X-Men, it’s either trying too much to be like it’s 616 counterpart, or too different. With a great cast of characters here, Spencer is wasting them on an old plot. And please, enough of this Quicksilver crap! Spencer could have reduced the number of issues here greatly. However, this issue isn’t all bad, as Paco Medina keeps turning in some of the best pages of his career. Yet again, this is a complete waste of a fantastic artist. Medina should be on a top-level book, not spending his time messing with this junk. Unfortunately, I have already ordered the two months of this book, but when I make my next order, this book will not be on the list. –JJ

Art: 9/10 Writing 2/10 Cover: 4/10 Relevance 0/10

Uncanny X-Men #3
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Rodney Buchemi, Paco Diaz, & Carlos Pacheco

Thank you, Marvel, for not only renumbering the longest running title, but at the same time making it the least likable book on the stands. This book is just horrible. Are they trying to make me drop it?

Where to start? I have previously complained about the fact that this story does not fit the effect they are going for with bringing in new readers. This issue is full of long-winded and convoluted points from Sinister while the X-Men stand around and listen. Seriously. That’s all that happens in this book. There is very little action other than the X-Men destroying Sinister just to have him pop up in another body and talk more. The other looming threat was the Celestials, but that proved moot as Cyclops simply talks smack to them and they leave. It’s completely ridiculous. I know Gillen is trying to make the X-Men the top team in the Marvel Universe, but you don’t have to do it by having them show how big their dicks are.

The only remotely interesting thing in this arc was Emma losing her arm. However, that is undercut because I guess Emma feels no pain anymore since when she turns back from her diamond form, she continues to talk normally despite the fact her arm is a bloody stump!

To add to the horrible script, you have 3 different artists in this issue. Unless Marvel can figure out how to make double shipping and artist’s schedules work, I’m afraid we’re in for more of this type of lazy storytelling. It can be done, though. Look at Rick Remender and Jason Aaron.

For a first arc, this was just sad. Gillen needs to get a solid and consistent artist to team with, he needs to focus on a few characters and not fall in to the trap Matt Fraction fell into by juggling a huge cast. He needs to cut out the extraneous dialogue that means nothing in the long run. He needs to have the X-Men doing awesome things rather than standing around talking about how awesome they are. If Gillen doesn’t, I’m afraid we’re in for a some dark times on this “flagship” book. –JJ

Art: 4/10 Writing: 1/10 Cover: 6/10 Relevance: 3/10

X-Men: Legacy #260
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Khoi Pham

Congratulations Mike Carey on a long and fulfilling run on the X-Men! Carey has been a great benefit to the books over the years. Not everything he did was great, but overall, he had a successful run. Remember Rogue’s team with Sabretooth, Mystique, Omega Sentinel, Cannonball, Iceman, and Cable? Remember when Xavier was the star of this book? Remember Age of X? All of that was Carey, and he did well.

However, I expected a little more on his departure, which makes me wonder if he was forced off of this book. This issue is the last of his run, and it ends with a whimper. The focus here is Rogue trying to rescue Ariel from wherever she is. What doesn’t make sense here is that you would think that Ariel had played a huge role in this book. But she never did! Carey is both trying to tie up all the loose ends while also setting up the next writer’s arc. He goes to great length to add some weight to Rogue’s decision to leave Utopia. However, that point is moot since we know where Rogue is going to go. Instead, we are forced to see Rogue and Magneto sleep together, which I thought was heavy-handed. I have not been convinced by their relationship in this book, and to see that felt awkward.

Carey is a great writer. If you don’t believe me, go read The Unwritten. Yet I feel like Marvel editorial has neutered him on this book. Everything he’s done in the least few issues feels mandated and disingenuous. It’s a shame because Carey has proven that when he has latitude to be creative he can really shine. All of the above story lines prove that.

Khoi Pham is one of the laziest artists I’ve seen. There is absolutely no passion or interest in his pencils. The inks on this book also reflect a lack of interest or care. There is no imagination in any panel as figures just stand around and faces appear awkward and one-dimensional. Very disappointing.

While I feel hopeful about the new creative direction on this book, I hate that Carey ended his run with this issue. It was one of the worst issues of Legacy ever, and not reflective of Carey’s contribution to the X-canon. –JJ

Art: 1/10 Writing: 3/10 Cover 5/10 Relevance: 3/10

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Capekiller: X-Men Legacy #260 – the bar was set low in a very weak week for X-books.
Jeff: Despite the amount of books this week, none of them were really that great. I guess Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #8 was the best of the mediocre.



  1. Capekiller

    Tough week….

  2. Last Crusade was taking too long for me so I made up my mind to just pick it up when it hits trade form. I’m glad it’s stayed this good for this long though. After reading this month’s Previews I also see why it’s been stretched out for so long too.

  3. Jeff Jackson

    Indiana Jones is in that book too? I wouldn’t be surprised. 🙂

    Yeah, it was a rough week…too much quantity, not enough quality.

    • Smart ass lol

  4. SpidermanGeek

    Haven’t read Alpha Flight #7 yet, but thanks for the review Cape. At least now I won’t dread having to read it.

    As for the rest of the UXP, it looks like the X-brand in general is going down the crapper.

  5. Billy

    Well, lots of bad X-books…imagine that. 😀 😀 😀

  6. Capekiller

    Don’t listen to Billy, he doesn’t buy new comic books. Like Dr. Fate, he is just here for the friends!

  7. Billy

    @Hey, I bought 12 new Marvel books last month! LoL

  8. You had to love the reference though!

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