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February 7, 2013

The Uncanny X-Piles 125

Welcome to the 125th edition of the Uncanny X-Piles! Better late than never! A new haircut, a new X-Force, and a new challenge for Gambit. What did we think?

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: 37 (34)

2. Wolverine & the X-Men: 32 (25)

3. Uncanny X-Men: 31 (16)

4. X-Factor: 30 (29)

5. Wolverine : 30 (24)

6. Cable & X-Force: 28 (26)

7. Astonishing X-Men: 27 (27)

8. Gambit: 25 (23)

9. Uncanny X-Force: 23 (29)

10. X-Men: 23 (22)

11. Uncanny Avengers: 21 (29)

12. Age of Apocalypse: 20 (20)

13. X-Men: Legacy: 19 (15)

14. Savage Wolverine: 17

15. A + X: 16 (18)


A + X #4
Writer(s): Kaare Andrews & Jason Latour
Artist(s): Lee Loughridge & David Lopez

I’ve come to realize that this series is strictly for satirical purposes only. It’s this revelation that many need to come to if you hope to remotely enjoy this title. This issue follows the same formula as the others and the first story up is Beast and Spider-Man stuck on an Earth where Beast has established a race of blue furred creatures at the cost of mankind. Now Andrews’s story isn’t all dark and violent as there is some great comedic banter between Spidey and Beast. Loughridge’s artwork keeps things light and fun as Spidey fights against a giant blue cat and Beast fights off the advances of the Princess.

Latour and Lopez handle the Captain America and Quentin Quire story which has Cap trying to earn the trust of the young mutant. While investigating an A.I.M. installation they end up battling tiny versions of M.O.D.O.K.S. called M.O.G.O.D.s. This team up isn’t fun as the previous one and these two characters don’t click together at all.

This is a series that is up for grabs and depending on whether you like the characters featured in the issue will factor heavily in your decision to buy this. –IS

Cover: 5/10 Writing: 4/10 Art: 5/10 Relevance: 2/10 TOTAL: 16/40

Astonishing X-Men #58
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Cover: Phil Noto

Marjorie Liu has finally found her stride with this book. She has always excelled at building individual characters. She did that well on “X-23.” She has been spending much of her time on “Astonishing” juggling this squad of X-Men and giving none of them decent panel time to explore their personalities. Yet for this two-issue arc, Liu does what she does best and centers the story on Warbird, the newest and least well-known member of the team.

Jason Aaron had previously set up that Warbird, a Shi’ar warrior exiled to Earth first to babysit Kid Gladiator, and then as punishment for not doing her job to Shi’ar standards during AvX, is actually a mutant of sorts. The Shi’ar don’t believe in creativity or art, as theirs is a warrior race, focused on destruction and domination. Yet Warbird secretly loves to draw and this has made her an outcast from her own people. Liu runs with this concept, pitting Warbird against a mysterious alien from a civilization the Shi’ar obliterated generations ago. This civilization, the Fianden, were a peaceful and artistic people and were destroyed for it. Warbird finds herself in conflict with a supposed surviving member of this race of people, yet in fighting him, she discovers the artist within her heart.

It sounds sappy, and it is, but it’s this kind of duality that makes X-Men characters great. Whether it’s Nightcrawler and his religion, Storm and her claustrophobia, or Colossus and his paintings, there is a rich history of character development that makes these characters lovable. Liu does a great job of giving Warbird a heart and not just making her another uber-violent, over-sexualized female character.

The softness of this book is only helped by the wonderful art of Gabriel Hernandez Walta. I wouldn’t have picked Walta to be on an X-Men book, because his style is not your traditional super-hero type. Walta’s pencils look like two-dimensional storybook pages, which adds to the softness of the book.

If Liu continues to hold this kind of line on this book, I think she can gather a great fan base and create a nice little corner of the X-universe. –JJ

Cover: 6/10 Writing: 8/10 Art: 7/10 Relevance: 6/10 TOTAL: 27/40

“Gambit” #8
: James Asmus
Artist: Pasqual Ferry (w/ David Baldeon & Clay Mann)
Cover: Clay Mann

On his way back home from his latest adventure, Remy’s trip gets interrupted by Fence who received a distress signal from a group of Empire State University students that are stranded in the center of the High Evolutionary’s long abandoned, but not deserted, Forever City.

Readers shouldn’t expect deep routed continuity in the Gambit books. It wasn’t designed that way. This title is there to spotlight Gambit’s solo adventures, so hopefully the fact that he just so conveniently happened to receive a distress signal on his way home shouldn’t rub you the wrong way, but the info dump the reader has to go through in the first quarter of this issue should. Ultimately, you’ll be treated to Gambit just standing around, conveniently pulling a suit, designed by Mr. Fantastic to negate the Forever City’s evolutionary energies, out of his back pocket. If that wasn’t boring enough, you’ll really love when James Asmus decides to instill some backstory via monologue during the only action sequence of the book, utterly ruining any tense action those panels tried to offer. Unfortunately, the main story only picks up passed the halfway point of the book, once Gambit is done lamenting about his childhood and being a superhero.

If there is a positive thing to say about this issue though, it’s Pasqual Ferry’s pencils. He brings a nice touch of style to Gambit. It has just the right amount of an animation feel to it and you will find some gorgeous backgrounds peppered about as well. Rachelle Rosenberg keeps things looking consistent as the final 5 pages are handled by artists David Baldeon and Clay Mann . Speaking of Clay Mann, he delivered Gambit’s best cover yet. All that’s missing is a “COMING, SUMMER 2013!” splashed across the bottom.

Although this wasn’t a real memorable issue, it does try to establish a little bit more backstory for the Ragin’ Cajun and still works just fine as a filler solo adventure story. –SG

Cover: 8/10 Writing: 5/10 Art: 6/10 Relevance: 6/10 TOTAL: 25/40

Uncanny Avengers #3
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday

With Red Skull wielding the power of Charles Xavier he turns his attention to inciting a riot against Mutants. Making the streets of New York City more dangerous as citizens are seeking out random people to assault. The Uncanny Avengers arrive to put a stop to the madness but are unprepared to deal with Red Skull’s S-Men.

Now, what really works well in this issue is the fact that Red Skull is already a great villain and now that wielding the powers of Xavier make him that much more dangerous. Unfortunately, this issue only showcases a fraction of that. Remender sets things up fairly well though most of the impact of the story is saturated in the narration. This takes away from the actual plot and slows things down in a book that already has quite a bit of well written character dialogue. It seems as though with a man like the Red Skull possessing the power of one of the greatest mutant telepaths this seems a little small in scale. So let’s hope the endgame is something a lot bigger.

Cassaday has delivered better artwork that what is shown in this issue. It’s not a bad looking book as the action flows well and we get a cool shot of Thor as well as a tense Havok and Captain America moment. Though as nice as all of that looked Cassaday has done much better than this in the past.

There’s hope that the series picks up since we’ve got a talented creative team behind it and they’ve got some great characters to play with. –IS

Cover: 5/10 Writing: 5/10 Art: 5/10 Relevance: 6/10 TOTAL: 21/40

Uncanny X-Force #1
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Ron Garney
Cover: Oliver Coipel

Knowing that it’s difficult to follow an amazing run of a character, I set my expectations pretty low on this new launch of “Uncanny X-Force.” Sam Humphries and Ron Garney have the near-impossible task of filling the hole left by Remender, Opena, Ribic, Noto, White, and the rest of the original “Uncanny X-Force” team. It’s not really fair to compare Remender’s book to this one, but since it’s got the same name, and it’s dealing with a few of the leftovers from that series, one can’t help but put them side-by-side.

One of the things that has made X-Force as a concept so great is that it has evolved. From the “militant mutant team” led by Cable in the early ’90s to the bizarre transformation into Milligan and Allred’s “celebrity mutant reality show” concept, and then from Yost and Kyle’s early black ops concept into Remender’s version, X-Force has done well in transforming into a new shape, with new characters. The problem with this book is that it’s just not different enough from the previous run to make it stand out.

Carrying over from the last series, Psylocke is having trouble fitting back into her old X-Men lifestyle. Wolverine sends her on a solo mission, but also sends Storm to babysit her, which seemed odd. Storm being the new headmistress of the school makes her seem like a strange partner to Betsy, especially in investigating loose ends. But it seems that Humphries is taking some cues from Brian Wood’s recent arc on “X-Men” in terms of the relationship between Ororo and Betsy. Humphries then throws in two extremely random characters from the X-Universe, Puck and Spiral, neither of whom interest me at all. It’s still unclear how these characters are going to gel to become a team.

What made Remender’s run great was that it was accessible while also pulling from X-Men lore. Humphries does the opposite. He relies on the reader to know X-Men lore in order to know or care about any of the characters. Do we need to know that Puck was in Hell? Do we need to give a hint as to why Psylocke and Spiral hate each other, but give no explanation to it at all? Even as a longtime X-fan, I found this a bit too reliant on the past and not fresh enough to carry it into the future.

The strangest thing was the random arrival of Bishop in the middle of the book. It seemed so out of place. To top it off, the cliffhanger at the end would make no sense to new readers.

Garney’s art is stronger than it was on the “Wolverine: Weapon X” series he did with Jason Aaron. It feels very classic X-Men. And Olivier Coipel’s cover looks like it was stolen from the sketch book of Marc Silvestri from the late 80s. It’s hard to tell the tone they are going for in this book, but it doesn’t feel like anything new.

If they had called this book anything but “Uncanny X-Force,” I might have liked it more. But unfortunately, this is not the best kind of follow-up to the series that was at the top of the X-Piles for over 30 issues. –JJ

Cover: 8/10 Writing: 4/10 Art: 6/10 Relevance: 5/10 TOTAL: 23/40

“Wolverine and the X-Men” #24
: Jason Aaron
Artist: David López
Cover: Ramon Perez

Storm deals with a need for change, Kitty and Bobby go on a date while Wolverine is left to stand watch at the school for the evening. Quentin has a conversation with Jean, Beast visits Abigail, Idie visits Broo and the Black King goes hunting with Sabretooth.

I’m just going to get a little thing out of the way first. I do not like the way Jason Aaron writes Deathlok. The cyborg is a specially designed, highly intelligent killing machine from the future and he’s been reduced to the role of Administrative Assistant for the school’s headmasters. Every piece of dialog that Aaron gives him serves as comic relief. Deathlok may not be the most well-loved character, but Unit L17 went from total bad-ass in Aaron’s pages of “Wolverine: Weapon X”, to a complete joke in “Wolverine and the X-Men”. As a fan of the character, I wish he was better utilized in the latter title. Instead, Jason Aaron gave us Eye Boy.

Aside from that little nugget, this was a decent issue. The writer brings us on a journey into the current emotional/mental state of some of the school’s faculty. For anyone who’s been through a serious break-up, Storm’s actions will be familiar and relatable. For anyone who’s been a kid brother or kid sister or has been the younger, less experienced member of a group, you will connect with Kitty and Bobby’s conversations. For anyone who’s undergone a major, life-changing event and is merely trying to hold on to anything that was good about the past, you will understand Wolverine’s frustrations.

Jason Aaron always manages to cram a lot of stuff in a single issue. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. For “Wolverine and the X-Men” #24, it works. Aaron has so many characters in play in this issue, but still manages to move all of their individual stories along without it being overbearing to the reader. It’s nice and fluid.

David López affords Nick Bradshaw a well-deserved break. For the most part, the facial expressions are fantastic and this issue required it. His Storm is gorgeous and his interpretation of Wolverine is one of the best I’ve seen in a while. There really isn’t much to complain about in the art department. Well done.

That cover by Ramón Pérez and Laura Martin is simplistic, but enticing none the less. I almost wanted to skip right to the final pages to see what I thought I would see, but I didn’t and neither should you. The anticipation makes the reading experience worth it.

Bottom Line is that “Wolverine and the X-Men” #24 feels like we are jumping right back into the meat of things at the Jean Grey School and the reader should feel a good sense of accomplishment as quite a few events of some significance transpire by the time the back cover closes. If you care about even less than half the characters mentioned in this review, you’ll be left wanting more. –SG

Cover: 8/10 Writing: 8/10 Art: 8/10 Relevance: 8/10 TOTAL: 32/40

Most X-Cellent Pick of the Week:
Jeff: My surprise favorite from this week’s batch was Astonishing X-Men #58.
Infinite Speech: (Jeff had to pick for Speech and went with Uncanny X-Force #1.)
SpidermanGeek“Wolverine and the X-Men” #24 was a pleasant surprise that continues to satisfy the palate long after the “Next Issue” solicit page has passed.

Jeff Jackson

Infinite Speech



One Comment

  1. Aaaaaand Jeff picked correctly!

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