Sunday, April 30, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 26: "Beyond, Spiral, and Nimrod"

The Uncanny X-Men # 202-209

The X-Men face down with the Beyonder, Spiral, Freedom Force, Lady Deathstrike, and Nimrod in what are seven lackluster issues.

Rachel decides that the Beyonder needs to be defeated. In the process, she comes face-to-face with her personal demons and finally deals with 'em . . . sorta. Afterward, Wolverine faces off with Lady Deathstrike, which (while neat-looking) is actually not very exciting at all -- plus Katie Power is there. Why?

The team then battles Freedom Force for no particular reason, and then hang out in the Morlock tunnels so that Wolverine can get healed from his encouters. Rachel, feeling unsure of herself, seeks out Selene and the Hellfire Club with the objective to kill her. Wolverine, not liking this idea (?!), stabs Rachel (apparently its because he's afraid she'll turn into Dark Phoenix since she's exhibiting the Phoenix powers). This leads into a battle between the X-Men and the Hellfire Club, and then an alliance between them when Nimrod shows up. Rachel vanishes with Spiral, leaving the X-Men.

The art is bad (except for BWS), the stories are lame, and we've definetly reached a low-point for the X-Men.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 25: "Phoenix Rising"

X-Men: Phoenix Rising trade

The Avengers uncover a startling discovery at the bottom of Jamaca Bay, New York. A capsule, generating powerful energy. Taking it back to their headquarters, Earth Mightiest Heroes are joining by the Fantastic Four, who discover that someone is alive within it -- one Jean Grey aka Marvel Girl! But Jean has no memory of her time as the Phoenix. However, upon touching the Shi'ar memory crystal, she gets the gist of it, and we the reader are shocked to discover that Jean and the Phoenix are not the same person! In the fallout, word reaches Warren and Scott, and both head off to meet up with her. Once they do, the trio decide that with Magneto and the X-Men playing the part of good buds, the world needs a new Mutant team! Hence, the original X-Men gather together to form X-Factor, a team of "Mutant Hunters" that would track down Mutants viewed as threats, and then as a Mutant team, give them shelter and train them. The teams first mission is a success!

So . . . what do I think of all this?

It's hard to say. I'm not a fan of the it's-not-really-Jean-that-died, but I love the character and I feel that so much is done with her after this (non-Phoenix wise), that I think it was a wise decision to bring her back. My problem with it is that the explanation is silly and boring. To say that there were in fact two Jeans is an easy out. HOWEVER (and I'll cover this eventually), I think it was left open to be established that while Jean and Phoenix were two seperate people, they both shared the same body.

Now let's talk about Scott Summers. Since issue 200, we've seen Scott basically slip into "dick mode." While attending to the trial of Magneto in Paris, he doesn't bother to call his almost-due pregnant wife. He's unemotional about the birth of his son. He leaves the X-Men only because he lost the duel of honor and not by his own choice. Face facts, Scott's a jerk and a lousy husband.

Maddie wants a life without the X-Men, which we all know Scott doesn't want. It's nice character flaw for Scott. While he maybe an expert on being an X-Men, a life without them is almost unbarable. Throw in the fact that he even admits to marrying Maddie just because she looks like Jean, and there you go. But this is actual trait to the character. For someone that never had a family before the X-Men, then found one with the team, it would stand to reason that he would rather be with his new family than in a loveless marriage, right? I think so. So, despite him being a complete jerk, Scott's characterization deepens.

Seeing the original X-Men together in such a long time is heart-warming and to have them fight alongside each other just like old times is a nice throwback to the original issues. Because I've seen this all as one huge story, the original X-Men being together again is like seeing a high school reunion.

For the most part "Phoenix Rising" fails to really provide the reader with an engaging and original return of Jean Grey. However, the characterization is on high.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 24: "Asgardian Wars and More!"

X-Men/Alpha Flight # 1-2, Uncanny X-Men # 199, The New Mutants Annual # 1, X-Men Annual # 9, Uncanny X-Men # 200, The New Mutants # 35, Uncanny X-Men # 201

Since about Uncanny # 181ish, Claremont has been moving characters into certain positions, almost as though they were on a chessboard. Val Cooper, Mystique, Magneto, Cyclops, Maddie, Storm, the X-Men, the New Mutants . . . each one has been moving along with their subplot and story, ultimately culminating with this batch of books here.

The X-Men and Alpha Flight are whisked into a elaborate ploy created by the "god of evil," Loki. It is during this adventure that Madylen is revealed to be pregnant. This shocks Rachel, and throws into an emotional state. When the story is complete, Cyclops finds out that Xavier is dying. It's never really explained why, but apparently, he is.

In the meantime, Magneto and Kitty visit the Holocaust Memorial, where Mystique and the Brotherhood ambush them. Magneto, seeing the look of shock and disgust on his fellow Holocaust survivors as he launchs himself into action, surrenders. It turns out that Mystique and her team are looking to become government run and they take Magneto into custody to be judged by a United Nations court.

The X-Men and the New Mutants jaunt over to Asgard again. This time, Loki has given Storm the powers of Thor. A confrontation follows and the two teams arrive in Paris, just in time for Magneto's big trial.

As expected, the trial is awash with both pro- and anti- Mutant right protesters. With the New Mutants back on Muir Island, the X-Men are framed for numerous terrorist attacks. These attacks, as we discover, were really the act of Baron VonStrucker's children, the twins known as Fernis. Fernis attacks Magneto and Xavier. Magneto saves the day, but Xavier is dying. As he lay there, on the brink of death, Xavier asks Magneto to take over teaching the New Mutants and to work with the X-Men. Magneto protests, but has no real choice. Luckily, Lilandria and Corsair show up and whisk Xavier away to heal him . . . but can't return him, as the Starjammer has been super-damaged.

AND SO . . . the X-Men and Magneto return home. The New Mutants have trouble with Magneto, until he exacts revenge on some Frat boys for nearly raping Dani. I really like that scene.

Moreover, Cyclops and Storm duel for leadership of the X-Men. Storm gets the position. Cyclops decides to head home with his family - as his son was born while he was in Paris. Cyclops, apparently, didn't call once while he was over there.

This is some great stuff. Despite my general disdain of magic and the X-Men mixing, the Asgardian stories were filled with a lot of grand adventure and fun enough for even ME to enjoy. The trial of Magneto was great too, presenting both sides of the case. Is Magneto a super-villain or a terrorist? Or is he a crusader, fighting only out of self-defense? These questions are never really answered, which is a good thing. It allows the reader to anwer it his or her self.

Character arcs are as good as you'd expect from Claremont. The art, though, isn't. I'm not a fan of John Romita Jr.'s art during this peroid. It's too . . . I don't know . . . shaky.

We get a nice feel for Scott's life right now. Some fantastic lines from Maddie regarding the state of the marriage as she accuses him of putting his duty to the X-Men before her. Some great ones from Magneto as well, concerning what he's done in the past.

A very great story, with fine characterization, and an excellent set-up for the future.


Uncanny X-Periment # 23: "Let's Get Personal"

Uncanny X-Men # 192-193, New Mutants # 26 – 29, Uncanny X-Men # 194-198

It's an interesting time for the X-Men . . . though aren't they all?

This time, we get a closer look at the X-Men, looking at the team in a more personal light. Storm leaves on a personal quest to Africa. In her absence, Nightcrawler leads the team, though he suffers from crippling doubts.

The X-Men tackle with Magus (Warlock's Dad). It's a blah kinda story. After that, though, things pick up when Thunderbird's brother, Warpath, seeks the X-Men out for revenge. After nearly killing them, Xavier allows Warpath to seek his vengance one on him. Warpath nearly does, but then learns that Thunderbird found honor in his time with the X-Men.

We jump right over to "The New Mutants," where Xavier comes face-to-face with his son, David Haller. Between the eerie style of the art and a story that sprials deep into the Multiple Personality suffering mind of young David, it's remarkable creepy. Xavier attempts to help his son, but ulimately fails in doing so, and only instead halts a internal psi-war between the various personalities.

In the meantime, Xavier contacts Magneto as he senses the Beyonder approaching the Earth. What's Magneto been up to? Hooking up with Lee Forrester, Scott's ex-girlfriend. That's right. A human. Perhaps his time on Battleworld shook some faith in humanity into him (let's also consider that his grand-daughter is a human). Magneto, having learned that violence solves very little (check out Uncanny 150), starts hanging around the X-Men.

The X-Men content with Nimrod and the Juggernaut in a fairly entertaining story. The Morlocks, who have captured kid super-heroes the Power Pack, take the stage for a fairly boring and dumb-downed issue. Rachel reveals her past to the X-Men (again) when the team goes searching for some looking to plant a bomb at Columbia State, to kill a Mutie. And Kitty and Peter come to terms with their relationship and it's falling apart while fighting Arcade. Wrap it up with Storm coming to terms with her powers being gone and you've got quite a good tale here.

Overall, the personal stories matter more here than the action ones. Nightcrawler and Colossus get some long overdo character development. Magneto, Storm, Kitty, and Rachel all get their moments in the sun. Storm's Africa adventure is quite good, allowing her to break away from the angsty woman we've been seeing (and way too much) and really grow into a new, much more stable character, filled with confidence and strength.

Xavier gets some great development as well. He becomes a Professor at Columbia, only to get the shit beaten out of him and almost gets blown up. His meeting with David is good and akward. His trusting of Magneto is interesting, though I wish there had been more time for him to deal with it.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 22: "Wolverine and Kitty Pryde"

Wolverine and Kitty Pryde # 1-6

For the most part, this story is enjoyable. It seems a bit like some forced characterization for Kitty, but it's an entertaining story.

Kitty's father gets in some trouble with the Japaneese mob. Kitty goes to Japan to help her Dad and ends up in the hands of a samurai-demon-guy by the Ogun. She manages to contact Wolverine for help, but is then kidnapped by Ogun. Ogun proceeds to brainwash her, making her into a great warrior.

Logan shows up and battles Kitty and frees her. The process in which Logan de-programs her is very interesting and probably the best portion of the story.

The confrontation with Ogun is great. Wolverine's battle with Ogun is dynamic. Al Mligrom is masterful when it comes to the action.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 21: "LifeDeath"

Uncanny X-Men # 181, New Mutants # 15-20, Uncanny X-Men # 182-183, New Mutants 21, Uncanny X-Men # 184-191

I'm a little conflicted here. You'll see why.

The X-Men return for Battleworld, only they end up in Japan. It's there they battle a dragon that has fallen in love with good ol' Lockheed. Awww. Sunfire and Val Cooper guest-star.

Meanwhile, the New Mutants face off with their rivals, Emma Frost and the Hellions. The X-Men then return to the spotlight and we see the government begin to take steps in fighting Mutants. In an effort to do step up, the US contracts Forge to build a weapon that takes away Mutant powers. While Henry Gyrich wishes to use this weapon on Rogue, Storm gets caught in the way and has her powers stripped away. Forge takes her in and after a beautiful love story, Forge is attacked by magical alien (!?) called the Dire Wraiths. Luckily, the X-Men show up and help save the day.

For the New Mutants, the fight a menacing mystical figure called the Demon Bear, and the X-Men are introduced to Rachel Summers, from the "Days of Future Past" timeline. Also, Selene shows up, as does Juggernaut, and we conclude with a fantastic story in where the New York is transformed into a fantasy realm by Kulan Garth. ALSO - Warlock shows up and Magneto's Asteroid M base is destroyed, and injured, he's rescued by Lee Forrester (you remember her).


Here's the break-down. There's some good and some bad.

First, the good. When it comes to the Mutant Control Act, Claremont does a spectacular job. From the hunting of Rogue, to Storm's sacriface and her brief love affair with Forge, the idea of a weapon that can take away powers is intriguing. The characters involved are either old faces like Senator Kelly, Mystique, and Henry Gyrich -- or new ones, like Val Cooper (though she's appeared before) and Forge. Each of these characters are interesting as they each bring something to the table as far as conflict and interaction. Add in Rachel Summers, who has seen the ultimate fate of the Mutant Control Act in her own timeline, and you've got a story that is both character driving and intriguing.

The Mutant Control Act strikes right into the heart of the X-Men, as does Rachel's presence. Nightcrawler, esspecially, gets a great moment where he doubts both his place with the X-Men and the very idea of the X-Men. Luckily, the matter is straightened out, but Nightcrawler does such a great job of shaking up the ideals of the X-Men in just a few panels.

Colossus and Kitty both get some great development, as they find themselves ending whatever kind of relationship they had. Kitty heads home for a bit while Logan gets Peter totally trashed and has him face down the Juggernaut mono-e-mono. The beautifully rendered Storm/Forge story (186) is fantastic. Rogue continues to come to terms with her position on the team and her past with Ms. Marvel is explored.

On the New Mutants front, I have to say that I really like the idea of the Hellions. They are to the Hellfire Club as the New Mutants are to the X-Men. It's a great concept.

That being said, there's some stuff here that I'm not a big fan of, namely, the mystic story. Ugh. I'm sorry, but to me, magic and Mutants don't mix. The Dire Wraiths dumb down the Mutant Control Act subplot, and as cool as the Kulan Garth story is, it comes out of nowhere and ends up in just the same place.

John Romita Jr. does a fairly good job artwise, though I'm glad he gets better. At times, it's just plan blah. Brian Windsor Smith comes in and does the 186, doing probably among the greatest artjobs on the X-Men yet.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 20: "Secret Wars"

My apologies for the delayed up-date. I've been uber-busy with real life stuff. Hopefully I can get back on track here.

"Secret Wars" was, and is, a huge ass story. Of the many events in the Marvel Universe, I'd say "Secret Wars" is probably among the top in both quality and importance. Basically, the story goes like this - one by one, the X-Men, the Avengers, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, and Iron Man are teleported to "Battleworld" by a being known as the Beyonder. The Beyonder also brings the Wrecking Crew, Absorbing Man, Galactus, Doctor Doom, Magneto, Kang, Klaw, Doctor Octopus, Absorbing Man, and Lizard Man along for the ride. Upon arrival, they all learn that whichever team ("heroes" versus "villains") takes down the other team, wins whatever they desire.

Of course, this all goes askew when Galactus decides to eat Battleworld. And then things get crazy when Doom not only absorbs the power of Galactus, but then takes the power of the Beyonder as well.

There's a lot going for this story. There's a surprisingly large amount of character development and character subplots, especially the size of the cast. There's not a character featured that at least doesn't get some moment in the sun. We see Cyclops and Mr. Fantastic talk about the wives, we see Magneto break away from the heroes in an effort to seek out his own role, Colossus falls in love, etc.

The ideas brought in here break it away from the standard mega-crossover. Doom's omnipotence is featured very well, as we see just what happens to a mortal when he has all this power. These great, bold moments overpower any of the weaker ones.

The art fits the story, from the arrival on Battleworld to the teleport away, capturing both huge battles and intimate character moments.

In so many ways, "Secret Wars" is an epic of its own time. I think its best viewed as a product of its age: ambitious, larger than life, and just a massive story. I see it as the "Ben-Hur" of Marvel comics. Sprawling, epic, and momumental. Maybe not the best, but damn, if it's not a great read.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 19: "A Little In-Between"

Uncanny X-Men # 177-180

This is a short little batch of issues, simply because it falls between "From the Ashes" and "Secret Wars."

Mainly, we're given stories that - while there is action and adventure - characters get a fair amount of development.

As Kitty continues to deal with Storm's change, and her relationships with Colossus and Doug Ramsey, Rogue is confronted with Mystique.

Mystique has the Brotherhood battle the X-Men so she can make an effort at getting Rogue back to her side. While she fails, the Morlocks kidnap Kitty, forcing her to fulfill a promise to marry Caliban. In the end, she's released from the promise. After all this, Kitty and Doug head off to the Mass. Academy (which is run by Emma Frost and the Hellfire Club), while the X-Men investigate some telepathic scanning waves and vanish!

We're given a lot of insight here. Storm, Kitty, Rogue, Mystique, and even Professor X . . . we're all given a deep look into who they are and what is currently motivating them. However, as per usual, poor Nightcrawler and Colossus barely get anything other just a scene or two.

It's a little wishy-washy story-wise and art-wise (which is by a young John Romita, Jr.), but the character development makes up for most of it.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 18: "From the Ashes"

The Uncanny X-Men # 168-176

This Chris Claremont in his prime. While he does indeed tell great stories beyond this, this collect of X-Men issues is perhaps some of the best - peroid.

In many ways, "From the Ashes" is a tragic story for the X-Men, filled with characters with unfotunate twists in their lives that make them seemed sad and somewhat doomed.

The Morlocks - Mutants so ugly and freakish that they must hide in the sewers and tunnels beneath New York City.

Wolverine and Mariko's wedding - cut short because of Mastermind's intervention, but ultimately because Mariko finds Logan unworthy and without honor.

And Rogue, who can not touch anyone skin-to-skin without absorbing their powers and personality.

Along with this, the X-Men are given some character growth. Kitty proves herself capable of standing on her own two feet when she refuses to join the New Mutants - as well as kissing Peter. Storm gets that wild mohawk and becomes a lot more punk.

Tying together these stories is the subplot of Scott and Madelyne Pryor's love affair. Maddie, resembling Jean Grey, becomes the new love of Scott's life. Despite what eventually is revealed about her and her fate down the line, Maddie is still interesting because she is capable of being her own character while being tied to the whole Phoenix/Sinister/Jean story (thought that's subtle at this point).

Despite this being a darker era for the X-Men, it's still a fantastic story. With Claremont writing and Smith, Romita Jr., and Simonson on the art, this is some of the best X-Men stories yet.