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December 5, 2012

The Uncanny X-Piles 118

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Written by: Jeff
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Welcome to the 118th edition of the Uncanny X-Piles! This week the guys award a full 40 out of 40 for one of the X-Books! An X-Piles first!!!

The X-Piles

Numbers next to each title are the cumulative ranking of the latest issue out of a total of 40. Numbers in parentheses indicate the previous issue’s rating. Blue indicates a raise in the chart from last issue; red indicates a drop; green indicates the book stayed put.

1. All-New X-Men: 40 (34)

2. Wolverine & the X-Men: 32 (18)

3. Uncanny X-Men: 31 (16)

4. Uncanny X-Force: 30 (34)

5. X-Factor: 30 (25)

6. Uncanny Avengers: 29 (32)

7. A + X: 29 (28)

8. Astonishing X-Men: 26 (18)

9. X-Men: 26 (9)

10. Wolverine : 24 (29)

11. Gambit: 22 (23)

12. Age of Apocalypse: 22 (28)

13. X-Men: Legacy: 16 (22)

14. First X-Men: 11 (14)


“A + X” #2
Writers: Chris Bachalo & Peter David
Artists: Chris Bachalo & Mike Del Mundo

A ÷ X = lame.

A + X = fantastic.

After all the hullaballoo concerning AvX, it’s nice to see that some things work better together than they do apart. This little series really shouldn’t be all that good, based on what came before, but two issues in, and I’m hooked!

You don’t have to worry about anything here. The premise is simple. Take one X-Man and one Avenger, put them together and see what happens. It also helps the recipe if you put some good ingredients like great creative teams. The hindrance to “AvX: VS” was that it was tied too closely to the plot of the main mini-seres. This is not tied to anything other than that it takes place after AvX. This gives the creative teams some latitude to do some really fun things.

First, Chris Bachalo, known primarily for his artwork, writes and draws a tale with Rogue and Black Widow teaming up. It’s funny, it’s light, it’s got great action, and the signature Bachalo dynamism for which he’s known. Bachalo is criticized for sometimes not making action sequences clear. Unfortunately, there are a few panels that made me scratch my bald head. Many people dislike this about Bachalo, but I simply don’t care. He gets a pass for me because I spend my time pouring over every panel. His frequent inker Tim Townsend compliments him perfectly once again. Clayton Cowles’ lettering is just as much a part of the artwork as Bachalo’s panels. It’s a really one-off story, and makes me hunger for Bachalo on a series written and drawn by him. I can’t wait for “Uncanny X-Men.”

Second, Peter David and Mike Del Mundo give a great story featuring Kitty Pryde and Iron Man. What’s great here is that it touches on the fact that Kitty had been infected by tiny Broodlings and when she accidentally sneezes some leftover Brood-boogers on some Pym-particles, chaos ensues. David does a great job of using Kitty’s powers to solve the situation, and he also proves a point we’ve debated on the Contest of Champions Live Podcast…Kitty can short-circuit Tony Stark’s armor in battle, rendering him helpless against her.

It’s also nice to see Kitty being recognized for the genius intellect she has. I’d love to see Kitty gain the notoriety in the Marvel Universe that Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Hank McCoy, and Hank Pym have achieved.

Del Mundo’s art works really well in this short story. It’s a clean, cartoony style, with some beautiful colors. I want to see more of his work, perhaps on a book with some teenage characters.

This book is by no means required reading if you’re a continuity buff, but it’s just plain fun. –JJ

Cover: 9/10 Writing: 8/10 Art: 8/10 Relevance: 4/10 TOTAL: 29/40

“All-New X-Men” #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen

While the current timeline’s Cyclops is out recruiting new mutants for his revolution, Beast has travelled back in time to try and convince a younger Cyclops to come back to his time and talk some sense into his older self.

Time travel stories are always tricky to handle, but so far Bendis is doing an incredible job of guiding the reader through it without making things convoluted. What’s fun is that the reader is getting some of those initial questions answered too. Like, “How will Wolverine react seeing Jean alive and well?” or “Who’s going to freak out the most when meeting a past/future version of themselves?”. Those are just a few of the situations you can expect to find in this issue and again, they are handled beautifully. By the time the back cover closes, the reader will be left wanting more. Luckily, you won’t have to wait long as “All-New X-Men” #3 should be hitting your comic book store’s new release shelf right about… now! BUT WAIT, don’t go just yet. You have to finish reading the X-Piles first.

Bendis’ script also works seamlessly with Stuart Immonen’s artwork. Wow, just wow! Before I go on and gush about the pencils, I want to get the rest of the art team’s kudos out of the way. Wade Von Grawbadger (how awesome is that name?) on inks and Marte Gracia on colors. Give these fellas a standing ovation. The color pallet, the depth of the inks, the shadowing… flawless, flawless work.

All-New X-Men #2 is simply a beautiful, gorgeous book. Stuart Immonen tells a visual tale with dynamic camera angles, emotive facial expressions, absolutely perfect body poses and just the right amount of background detail in every panel. Brian Michael Bendis writes interesting X-Men characters and for once, Beast doesn’t sound like a giant cry-baby.

Bottom Line, this book is perfect. That’s it; this review is over. –SG

Cover: 10/10 Writing: 10/10 Art: 10/10 Relevance: 10/10 TOTAL: 40/40

“Astonishing X-Men Annual” #1
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: David Baldeon

The excellent team of Christos Gage and David Baldeon, who I thought did a great job on “X-Men: Legacy,” get a shot at Marjorie Liu’s “Astonishing” team. After a disappointing first arc by Liu that I covered in last week’s X-Piles, it’s great to see Gage and Baldeon pick up the ball and run with it.

There’s nothing really wrong with this team. Wolverine, Gambit, Warbird, Iceman, Karma, and Northstar make a team that is unique and diverse. Gage does a great job of giving all the characters face time, as Northstar’s husband Kyle is stuck with the team on their honeymoon while Northstar is away on a mission. Gage explores the idea of why X-Men relationships rarely last very long, as the demands of the job are so great, and usually relationships are sacrificed for the greater good. Considering Northstar and Kyle’s rather hurried engagement and marriage in our time, it will be interesting to see how long they can stay together.

David Baldeon is bar-none one of my favorite artists at Marvel right now. He has such an animated style that fits a superhero book like the X-Men really well. He understands quiet moments as well as hyper-active moments and his facial expressions convey so much emotion.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable book, and I’d nominate Gage and Baldeon to take over “Astonishing.”

This book also includes the issue of “Alpha Flight” where Northstar admitted his sexuality. Honestly, I couldn’t bear to read it because of Mark Pacella’s “worse than Liefeld” artwork. This guy did work on Liefeld’s “X-Force” in the ’90s and was clearly trying to ape ol’ Rob’s style. Liefeld’s work is like Da Vinci next to this guy. I didn’t read this issue back then, and I can’t read it now. I’m not going to count it’s inclusion against the main story, though. This annual was a good despite it. –JJ

Cover: 5/10 Writing: 7/10 Art: 8/10 Relevance: 6/10 TOTAL: 26/40

“Gambit” #6
Writer: James Asmus
Artists: Diogenes Neves & Al Barrionuevo

Now that Borya Cich has tested his teleportation leash on Gambit and is satisfied with the result, he sends the Cajun thief to Great Britain to steal Excalibur from under MI13’s noses. What could possibly go wrong?

Let’s be honest, so far this series has been pretty slim on any kind of character development. Gambit’s motives seem superficial at best and don’t do anything to shed any kind of insightful light on what makes this character tick. Although Asmus is starting to expand on a support cast for Gambit, those characters still seem expendable at the moment. The reader hasn’t really had the opportunity to love or loathe any of these folks. We can only hope to see more of them in future stories. Bring the tattooed lady back, James.

The art is taking a bit of a nose dive. Those first 6 pages by Al Barrionuevo kind of disrupt the flow of the story since his style is very different than Neves’. He would have been a better fit to fill in for Mike Perkins on “Astonishing X-Men”. Diogenes Neves handles the meat of this issue and although it’s far from perfect, I still rather enjoyed it. You’ll probably feel slightly nostalgic for early 1990’s comic book art after reading this book. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but it helps remind us that our standards have risen since then. There is a certain rawness to Neves’ art that lends itself well to an action heavy book like this one. Some stronger inks could really help flesh everything out.

The inclusion of Pete Wisdom and MI13 was a nice touch and even though the art and writing are not stellar compared to other books this week, “Gambit” remains a fun adventure driven series that leaves readers wondering how the Ragin’ Cajun will get out of his next jam. –SG

Cover: 5/10 Writing: 6/10 Art: 5/10 Relevance: 5/10 TOTAL: 22/40

“Uncanny Avengers” #2
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday

Captain America, Thor, Havok and Wolverine are cleaning up the mess left by Avalanche’s outburst while Rogue and Scarlet Witch are being held captive by the Red Skull.

Rick Remender is amazing on team books. He manages to give such a distinctive “voice” to each of the characters that they just leap off the page. It’s too bad that John Cassaday’s pencils can’t accommodate Remender’s script as well as they should. Cassaday is a fantastic artist, but it just feels like he’s phoning this one in. All the faces look vacant and dead. The action sequences also fall flat. Rogue’s escape attempt is the action highlight of the issue and it was simply unimpressive. The panels look like staged stills rather than action shots. Also, it could be a matter of personal preference, but there was something fundamentally off about the way Red Skull was drawn. I don’t like it when artists draw Red Skull without lips. Those are some giant-ass teeth! Couple that with the googley eyes Cassaday gave him and it looks like Johann Schmidt is wearing a Halloween mask rather than it being his actual face. He just looks silly.

Remender’s writing is really what’s carrying this book right now as he’s managed to keep the reader guessing as to what’s coming next. It’s terrifying to think the amount of damage Red Skull can do with even a fraction of Xavier’s power, unfortunately the issue’s cover conveys that sense of terror more than the interiors do.

Bottom Line, Uncanny Avengers is still a worthy book and the character building we are seeing right now will be essential for a successful and entertaining team dynamic later on, but Cassaday needs to start bringing his A-game. –SG

Cover: 6/10 Writing: 8/10 Art: 6/10 Relevance: 8/10 TOTAL: 29/40

“X-Men Legacy” #2
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Tan Eng Huat

Back in the early 2000’s, Marvel took some risks with their X-Men books. They removed all the classic X-Force characters and replaced them with the team that would become X-Statix. They turned Nate Grey into a mutant shaman. They jumped 6 months into the X-Men’s future for no real reason. Some of these worked, others didn’t, but you had to respect Marvel for trying.

In many ways, the Marvel NOW! initiative is much like that attempt a decade ago. When I saw that “X-Men: Legacy” would be getting a relaunch and focus solely on obscure character Legion, I got my hopes up. Would this be the new “X-Statix?” Or would it become the new “X-Man?”

I’m afraid it’s the latter.

Despite my respect for Simon Spurrier for taking this title in this direction, it’s just not working. He has the challenge of introducing the main and secondary characters, establishing a status quo that both sets Legion apart from the X-Men as well as includes them, and cuts through the confusing issue of Legion’s multiple personalities. Perhaps that’s too much to accomplish in a couple of issues. If Spurrier took out one of those feats, perhaps this issue could work. This issue is entirely too wordy, with the conversation between Legion and the strange creature he meets taking up a lot of time.

Another hindrance is Tan Eng Huat’s art which lacks any sort of urgency or dynamism. The colors in the book seem muted. There’s just nothing in this issue that pops. However, there is a great cover by the aforementioned Mike Del Mundo. He might have been a good choice to carry this title. I don’t have much hope for this book to continue unless something awesome happens soon. –JJ

Cover: 7/10 Writing: 3/10 Art: 2/10 Relevance: 4/10 TOTAL: 16/40

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: All-New X-Men #2 was exactly what I want out of a Bendis-written X-Men book. Fabulous!
SpidermanGeek: With what is essentially perfect artwork and a completely compelling story, “All-New X-Men #2” should be on top of everyone’s “must read” list.

Jeff Jackson




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