Monday, May 22, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 33: "After the Fall"

Excalibur Special Edition, Uncanny X-Men # 228-238

With the world believing they're dead, the X-Men are on the move. But first . . .

The basic X-Men "leftovers" - Nightcrawler, Shadowcat and Rachel (Phoenix 2) - join forces with British mainstays Captain Brtian and Meggan to combat the evil Warwolves and the team called Technet. In the end, the gang joins together to form Excalibur.

Meanwhile, while a fan deals with the death of Dazzler, the X-Men take over an abandoned Australian town in the outback. To do this, they fight off the cybernetic Reavers. The Reavers are, in the end, little match for the X-Men and the team gains control of their elaborate town and underground complex. After a nice Christmas tale, the X-Men go on the offensive.

First stop is the Brood. Following up on the earlier Brood story (see "Uncanny X-Periment # 16: The Brood Saga"), the evil aliens attack the Earth and gain the bodies of Mutants. Now these Broods with powers take on the X-Men and eventually set their goals for an evangelist group (a good one, that is). The X-Men win the day. All the while, Maddie undergoes a vision quest that leads her to damnation.

After that, it's time for a Genosha. The X-Men inflitrate the island nation of Genosha after Maddie is cpatured and taken there and the truth of the island is revealed: that the island vast resources and wealth are built on Mutant slaves called Mutates. The X-Men do their best to start a revolution.

While Excalibur, the issues right after the X-Men's "death," and the Brood Saga (2), are all great stories, both well-plotted, character driven, and drawn very nicely, the Genosha story is muddled with inconsistency and confusion.

One thing I feel I need to address is the X-Men team at this time. It's an interesting team, far more different than really any previous one. You've got Storm, Wolverine, Longshot, Dazzler, Rogue, Colossus, and Psylocke - all quite formidable and, ultimately, much more action-oriented and intense than any other. If there ever was a team that would serve as a great "strike force," it would be this one. However, I feel I should note that I think it's very unfair not to reveal the X-Men's alive-ness to Magneto, the New Mutants, and Excalibur. While Illyana is contacted, I personally feel as though it's the wrong place for Storm to have the team.

Overall, it's an interesting, if not fairly unbalanced time in the X-Men's history.



Monday, May 15, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 32: "Fall of the Mutants"

Uncanny X-Men # 225-227, X-Factor # 24-26, The New Mutants # 59-61

The second offical X-Men crossover is something like the first. While the stories interconnect somewhat, they don't necessarily need to all be read to be understood. They are all linked - each tale - by one recurring theme: death.

When the creature known as the Adversary attacks Dallas, it's up to the X-Men and Freedom Force to team-up to stop him. While they handle damage control, Storm and Forge work through their powers on an alternate planet Earth. During their long stay, Storm's hair grows out and her powers are returned. Long story short . . . she stops being some damn angsty.

Storm and Forge are then captured by the Adversary, who has taken over Roma's omniverisal citidal. Don't know who Roma is? She's a goddess who is in charge of protecting the omniverse. What's the omniverse? All of the alternate realities.

The X-Men have the Adversary on the rocks and ultimately, to stop him, they must allow Forge to cast a spell that will driven him away forever. However, it requires the X-Men (and Maddie) to sacriface themselves to do so. I personally think this was a shitty idea on Storm's part, but oh well . . . the X-Men die and Forge leaves, full of guilt. Mystique's reaction is priceless to hearing that Rogue is dead. Roma, however, restores the X-Men to life, telling them they'll be legends.

Meanwhile . . .

Apocalypse has assembled his Four Horsemen and one of them (Death) is Angel! GASP! They attack New York and X-Factor attempts to stop them. They succeeded, but just barely. A confrontation with Apocalypse on his massive Ship (called Ship), leads to Iceman being able to break Apocalypse's mind-control over Warren. Angel and X-Factor attack Apocalypse, who then escapes with his Horsemen, allowng the team to keep Ship. X-Factor then reveals the truth about themselves to New York, help in the rescue efforts and eventually win big for Mutantkind's PR.

Meanwhile . . .

The New Mutants embark on a mission to save Bird-Brain's people and . . . I dunno. I don't have issue 60. But it looks stupid. Who the fuck is Bird-Brain, anyway? Doug Ramsey dies and it's tragic. The kids get an unfortunate taste of death and this is only made worse by Magneto. Magneto, who I must note, has some of his old human hatred return when he sees Doug's body.

The New Mutants (despite the great issue with Magneto and the team) presents the lowest point of crossover, as it's just too silly to take seriously - even Doug's death. Uncanny is the middle ground, because it is a very ambitious story with some good development for Storm, but the story dragged out too long, with too much set-up and not enough of a pay-off.

X-Factor is top of the line. Though I don't know why Beast is getting dumber, Scott and Jean have moved on from the whole Maddie fracas. They're falling in love, all over again, with Jean promising to help Scott find Nathan and Maddie. Apocalypse fulfills a lot of the potential he had when he first appeared, becoming a even bigger badass. Great moments for the rest of the gang too, from Iceman to Beast, to Warren to Caliban.


Friday, May 12, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 31: "Before the Fall"

Uncanny X-Men # 220-224

The X-Men battle the Marauders once more as Storm seeks Forge for the restoration of her powers. And that's pretty much it.


The Marauders, led by Mr. Sinister, take another shot at killing Maddie. Luckily, Maddie is rescued by the X-Men, who are being commanded by Wolverine. Storm is off with Naze (Forge's mentor and really the villain known as the Adversary in disguise), looking for Forge in the hope that he can restore her powers.

It's an interesting point, if not a little dull. Not a big fan of Storm's "spirit quest," but I like Wolverine's X-Men. He's such a different leader than Storm, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler as he's far more ruthless and quite blunt. It puts him in a different light - one that suits him surprisingly well.

In the end, we're building up to the "Fall of the Mutants," with the Adversary being unleashed and the Freedom Fighters looking to hunt down the X-Men.

Marc Silverstri is on art and it's fairly good. I like Claremont's use of the newbies, too.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 30: "X-Men vs. Fantastic Four"

Fantastic Four versus X-Men # 1-4

What we have here, folks, is a well-to-do crossover miniseries. Two close-knit teams - the X-Men and the Fantastic Four - face doubt and struggle as the life of Kitty Pryde hangs in the balance.

Kitty is, basically, falling apart. Thanks to the "Mutant Massacre," not only is she trapped in her phased state, her very molecules are drifting apart. The X-Men call upon the Fantastic Four to help them. However, the team is full of doubt, as an uncovered journal written by Reed Richards claims that the accident that gave them their powers was planned and on purpose. Therefore, Reed turns the X-Men down . . . sending them into the hands of Dr. Doom.

Doom promises to help the X-Men out and in the meantime, Franklin Richards' psi-self develops a bond with Kitty and links the two teams as they struggle with doubt and crisis.

Ultimately, this not a crossover in the traditional sense. While yes, there are action sequences and there's a fight scene or two between the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, it's far from your typical team-up. It feels more like an X-Men story and a Fantastic Four story running parallel to each other rather an actual crossover. Each team has its own struggle, it's own problems to work through. In the end, there is resolution on both as their problems converge.

Characterization is good here, but more for the FF than the X-Men. Art captures mood and tone just fine, from the up-beat dinner at the end to Franklin's creepy dreams. All in all, a great read for either X-Men or Fantastic Four fans.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 29: "What Happened to Maddie?"

X-Factor # 13-15, Uncanny X-Men # 214, Uncanny X-Men Annual # 10, Uncanny X-Men # 215-219

Welcome to a good couple issues of X-Factor, but nothing exciting for the X-Men.

In the aftermath of the Mutant Massacre, Angel has his wings amputated. This sends him into a spiraling depression that eventually leads to his suicide. Meanwhile, Scott searches for Maddie and baby Nathan, only to find evidence that they didn't even exist in the first place! Wha --?! Little does he know that over in the pages of X-Men, it's revealed that Maddie was shot by the Mardaurs, and was in a coma in San Fransico.

Scott also fights Master Mold, who makes some comments about "the 12" Mutants. Those who are strong. I've seen the end of this sub-plot. It turns out kinda blah, but it's interesting in its inception.

The X-Men, in the meantime, load up the injured Morlocks and the injured teammates (Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat) and ship 'em off to Muir Island. Rogue and Psylocke accompany, along with newcomers Dazzler and Longshot (Longshot having joined during a really stupid story involving - groan - the X-Babies). These four train on Muir, which is interesting, as Banshee is the one training him (which is something he'll be doing later in his life). Calisto is her usual self.

Havok goes crazy, then, and joins the X-Men. Polaris is taken over by Malice. Storm fights perhaps the lamest villians ever in probably the lamest story ever. The Juggernaut puts in an appearance and is apparently so dumb, he can't tell is someone is either unconscious or dead. Magneto is a member of the Hellfire Club in the wake of the events with the Morlocks.

I'm not going to lie to you here. Despite some shining moments involving Maddie, the Morlocks, and just some general scenes here and there, the X-Men stories are awful. They're lame, cliched, boring and the characterization . . . ugh. It's just bad. They're bad! Awful!

The X-Factor stories are better, but not by much. I don't care about Rusty, Skids, and Boom-Boom. The Warren, Scott, and Jean stuff keeps it going though. Nicely done.

There are some decent scenes with the X-Men. It's nice to see some new members, but what about the old ones? The reason that Colossus and Nightcrawler are in state of non-movement, non-speaking roles (Colossus is quadropalegic and Nightcrawler is in a coma) is because I think that Claremont didn't know what else to do with them. They hadn't had any decent character development since the 180s.

Thankfully, though, I know that things will be picking up shortly.


Friday, May 05, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 28: "Mutant Massacre"

X-Men: Mutant Massacre trade

This is the first crossover between the various X-titles (Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, and The New Mutants) and, as a whole, it is one of the best. It's kinda funny, because it crosses over with Thor and Power Pack as well.

The basis for the story is that mass murderers and assassins called the Marauders head into the Morlock to tunnels and almost completely wipe out the Mutant society. This brings the X-Men into the conflict, as they try and help their Morlock allies. They save a few and bring them back to the mansion themselves, but they take some heavy hits themselves: Nightcrawler slips into a coma, Shadowcat is stuck in her phased state and is actually falling apart, and Colossus is stuck in his metal form. As Callisto and the others take the survivors they were able to find back to the mansion, Storm dispatches Wolverine to find the killers and to bring one back for interrogation.

The New Mutants deal with these victims at the mansion, and then get themselves lost . . . or something.

Meanwhile, X-Factor (at the other end of the Morlock tunnels) try and do the same thing the X-Men did: save as many as possible. They also confront the Marauders, but fair much better against them. Well . . . except for Angel, who has his wings pinned down, then crushed by the Marauders (not to mentioned he's dumped by Candy and is revealed to be the backer of the supposedly Mutant-Hunting X-Factor). Thor luckily manages to rescue him.

As Storm and Callisto struggle with what's happened, Wolverine hunts down Sabretooth (who is part of the Marauders) and then eventually meets up with (of all people) the kids from Power Pack, who were friends with some of the Morlocks. While I'm not the biggest fan of Power Pack, I have to say that their presence adds a unique point of view to the mass death and destruction in the tunnels.

The story has no definte ending. Wolverine and Sabretooth battle it out, allowing newcomer Psylocke (who appeared out of nowhere) to probe Sabretooth's mind. We don't know what she finds out . . . yet. Angel, on the other hand, must have his wings amputated. Thor, in the hopes of restoring some honor to the fallen Morlocks, unleashes a massive fire that burns their bodies away all Valkrye-style.

It's an interesting story, prespective-wise. Despite being centered around the same events, the crossover is split down the middle. Thor and X-Factor on one of the event and the X-Men and the New Mutants on the other side. Besides the X-Men catching the occassional random optic blast or both teams caught in opposite sides of a colapse, neither team interacts with each other. Power Pack is the only group that makes contact on both sides. Walter and Lousie Simonson and Chris Claremont did some incredible coordination, making the stories parallel each other while not exactly requiring you to read it all.

An aspect I enjoyed about this crossover format was being able to observe the massive differences between the X-Men and X-Factor. In particular, Storm's more aggressive and cut-throat leadership makes for an interesting comparison to Cyclops' by-the-book style. The X-Men themselves is composed of a mixed blend, with Magneto, Storm, Rogue, and Wolverine being fairly dark characters; and Colossus and Shadowcat, who are both overcome by the attack on the Morlocks that they contemplate killing (which Colossus does). X-Factor, on the other hand, is comprised of the classic X-Men, each one fairly clean despite tensions and internal struggles.

The art is fairly okay. Some parts are better than others. But the writing, the cooridination efforts, the very nature of this story and crossover makes "Mutant Massacre" an instant X-Men classic.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 27: "The Rise of Apocalypse"

The Rise of Apocalypse # 1-4, X-Factor # 6-9

I decided, since it was in the same trade, to toss in "The Rise of Apocalypse" mini-series, which details the origins of ol' Poccy. We'll start with that.

En Sabah Nur is born in Akkaba, but is immediately abandoned because he's a freakin' Mutie. He's then adopted by Baal, of the Sandstormers, who believe in (wait for it) survival of the fittest. It turns out that Baal foresaw Nur's birth thanks to Rama-Tut's technology (Marvel devotees know that Rama-Tut is actually a time traveler and after this adventure, he goes off to become Kang, and then later becomes Immortus - see "Avengers Forever" for better detail).

Rama-Tut, however, is also after Nur. He sends his vizor, Ozymandias, after Nur, only to have him fail. The straight man to Rama-Tut, the knowledgeable Logos, seeks out Nur and brings him to safety. Eventually, Nur falls in love with Nephri, Ozy's sister and Rama-Tut's appointed wife. Of course Rama-Tut loses interest with Nephri when the Fantastic Four show up and he falls for Sue (this mini-series parallels an early issue of Fantastic Four).

En Sabah Nur comes to terms with his abilities and goes on a killer rampage. He turns Ozymadias into stone and makes him his seer. He then proclaims himself as Apocalypse and that's that, sucker.

The story seems to have some interesting ideas and some cool concepts, but it's also just, well, not very good. With the exception of the last issue (which is awesome), the story kinda stammers through an old Fantastic Four issue and the story of a kid being ass-ugly. At times, it's interesting, but it's mostly disappointing. There are too many cliches, coincidences and short-cuts in this story. And the art is shit.

In the end, Apocalypse rises and that's the only real cool part.

Jump ahead a few thousand years . . . and Apocalypse is hanging out in California with a junkie. Kinda.

X-Factor fights off the Alliance, Apocalypse's Mutants, for the life of a junkie named Michael Nowlan. Mike has the power to increase the Mutant powers of others. When Mike escapes, he runs to his ex (wife? girlfriend? ho? who knows), who then calls X-Factor.

The team fights the Alliance for Michael (I just wrote that) and then they confront Apocalypse himself. It's kinda neat going from seeing Apocalypse in the past, where's just starting to come to terms with his powers and himself, to seeing in the "present" where he's the master of his powers and knows what the heck he's doing with himself. Apocalypse gets just a little screen time, but you know he's up to some bad shit. He slinks away, pretty much damning everyone.

X-Factor then goes home, deals with the Morlocks and then handles Freedom Force at Central Park (in the aftermath of the X-Men story set there).

There's a lot to love here. While the Apocalypse story is sub-par, it is merely the introduction and you can tell that Lousie Simonson has some serious shit up her sleeve. She also tackles the Jean/Scott problems. Jean pressures the guys into revealing Scott's secret and they do. Her reaction is very well-done: she's more upset with Scott and her best friends for hiding this information that Scott actually getting married and having a son. Even her curiousity as to what Maddie and Nathan look like is pretty mature and realistic.

The characters easily slip into the roles they had once had with each other during the original run, though they've grown up some. It's like seeing a bunch of old friends hang out for a week. The interplay and tension between Scott, Jean, and Warren harkens back to the Metro College era, though (obviously) there are bigger issues at work here.

At times, X-Factor's existence is questioned, as to whether or not they're really doing any good at all or are actually making things worse. A nice play there.

Overall, not bad. Next up? The shit hits the fan.