Sunday, July 30, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 47: "Blue Team"

X-Men # 4-7

The X-Men face down a ghost from Wolverine's past: Omega Red. Fernis (remember them?) and the Hand have joined forces in the hopes of not only eliminating the X-Men, but also retaining a substance called Carbonadium - which is sorta like Adamantium, except more maleable. The X-Men are eventually all captured, but with the help of Wolverine's old partner Maverick, Logan escapes. To hunt him and Maverick down, the Hand calls in Sabretooth and re-takes control of Psylocke. A battle eventually follows and the X-Men take off.

While this story isn't too bad, it's a little too remeniscent of the "Shiva Scenario." There's some cool scenes, but at times, it's more substance than style. The story tries to be better than the art, but it ultimately fails. That's not a terrible thing as the story isn't as flimsy as others, but it's lacking a certain . . . something.

Character development is mostly geared towards Wolverine. Cyclops and Jean Grey get a little time, and Gambit and Rogue's "relationship" starts. Moria has a great sequence that really deals with the fall-out of Magneto's "death," and ultimately has her leaving, with Sean chasing after her.

Overall, a neat story and amazing art, but not up to par with what's one would expect from the X-Men. But this is still really in the fall-out of Claremont's departure. It gets better.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 46: "Weaon X"

Weapon X trade; Wolverine # 48-50

Similair to the "Rise of Apocalypse" entry, I decided to go ahead and backstep to the limited series that preludes to the story at hand. In this case, it's "Weapon X" by Brain Windsor Smith to "Shiva Scenario" by Larry Hama and Marc Silverstri.

"Weapon X" made me a Wolverine fan when I first read it. I'm not the biggest Wolverine fan, simply because a lot of writers don't write Wolverine in a way that I can relate to him. Claremont may have made him interesting, but I never really felt the character was all he's cracked up to be.

However, "Weapon X" changes all that. In this story, we learn the secret origin of Wolverine (well, part of it anyway). It turns out that he was captured years by a shady organization and is physically and mentally transformed into a living, breathing weapon.

We see Logan stripped down from being a human being into, really, an animal. It really puts Wolverine in a new light for me, making all of the stories that have come before hand stand on more solid ground. Within the context of the big picture, this story makes Wolverine into a better character. We now know that him being a jackass is for a good reason.

The art is amazing and the way that it flows with the writing is great synchorization. It's a brutal story. The POV of the Weapon X heads (the sympathetic Hines; Doctor Cornelius; and the Professor) make it even darker, given us an insight as to what is happening beyond Wolverine's prespective.

Logan eventually busts out of the programming and goes off into the woods.

So, with "Wolverine" # 48-50, we jump ahead a number of years. Wolverine and Jubilee return to the Weapon X project sight and Logan finds certain memories triggered by the sight of the place. However, as he continues to look around - and eventually as Jean and Xavier enter his mind - Wolverine finds that some of his memories aren't even real.

Eventually, it's revealed that Logan had memories implanted into his mind thanks to the Weapon X project. As he gets closer to discovering this, he's attacked by Weapon X's Shiva robot, which is a safety to keep the secrets of the project from getting out.

The "Shiva Scenario" is okay and adds some interesting elements to Wolverine's mythos, but it's not nearly as good as "Weapon X."


Monday, July 17, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 45: "A New Era"

X-Men # 1-3

This story serves three purposes:

1) To bookend Claremont's run
2) To usher forth the new era of the X-Men
3) To tie together Magneto's character arc that reaches all the way back to Uncanny X-Men # 104 (Magneto's restoration)

A group of Mutants are on the run and are eventually chased into orbit, where they wish to seek sanctuary in Asteroid M with Magneto. They do so and Magneto allows both the Mutants and their human pursuers entry into his base. However, when the humans strike against the Mutant renegades, Magneto's animosity for humanity increases once more.

Meanwhile, the Russians are flipping out because Asteroid M is sitting right above their airspace. To avoid an international incident, Nick Fury and Val Cooper get in touch with the recently reoranized X-Men. The mansion has been reconstructed and X-Factor has been merged with the X-Men, created two X-Men teams: Gold Team (Storm, Iceman, Archangel, Jean Grey, and Colossus) and the Blue Team (Cyclops, Wolverine, Pyslocke, Beast, Rogue, Gambit, and Jubilee), with Forge, Professor X, Moria, and Banshee hanging around the mansion.

The Blue Team goes out and intercepts Magneto as he rasies the nuclear sub he sank years ago. Egged on by renegade Mutant Fabian Cortez, Magneto seeks to retrieve the nukes for protection from the human race. This confrontation leads to a radical series of events that eventually end up on the civil war torn Genosha. The X-Men Blue Team face off with the Mutant Renegades, who call themselves the Acolytes. The X-Men are eventually defeated and taken back to Asteroid M.

It's there that Mangeto and Cortez find problems with Magneto's powers. Cortez uses his own power to increase Magneto's, but Magneto is growing addicted to him. He goes off and faces down with Professor X and Moria, then, and kidnaps them. He finds out that Moria manipulated his genetic structure when he was de-aged. Magneto is pissed, now forced to question every decision he made since his restoration.

Magneto has Moria use the process used on him against the X-Men and he's able to get them onto his side. The X-Men Gold Team mount a rescue and fight their companions, only to find out that as soon as they use their powers, the effect is gone. Moria eventually reveals this to Magneto, but not before Cortez betrays them. High-jacking a plasma cannon weapon that was almost ready to destroy Asteroid M, Cortez blasts the orbital base. The X-Men take off as Magneto and a few remaining Acolytles stay aboard and start to burn up in the atmosphere.

Claremont brings his version of Magneto and the tremendous growth the character went through under his pen to manifest here, using this story to end his long run. The full amount of post-baby Magneto history is used here to create a great character-driven tale. From his frienship with Xavier in Israel to him being headmaster to his closeness with Rogue to his Bryne/Cockrum era, Magneto is presented at his finest.

Jim Lee renders the X-Men's new designs goreously, making all the characters look fresh and new. He also does a great job conveying the emotions of the script, from the intense battle scenes to Magneto's final words as he screeches into the atmosphere.

Magneto "ends" here, at least under Claremont's pen (well, for about a decade at least). However, for the X-Men . . . it's a brand new beginning.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 44: "Genetically Challenged"

X-Factor # 71-75, X-Force # 1-2, X-Factor # 77-78

Peter David makes me giddy.

He weaves together a great story during his X-Factor issues that take a realistic approach to the X-World. Great characters, snappy dialogue, and a great plot all make the new X-Factor a fantastic book.

Mr. Sinister is back and working behind the scenes against X-Factor. Manipulating Mutant Senator Shaffren, Sinister is looking to put the new, government-sponsered team of Mutants into big trouble by taking them out one by one.

The cast of X-Factor is suberb, ranging from across the Mutant board. Havok, Polaris, Multiple Man, Wolfsbane, Quicksilver, and Stong Guy (aka Guido) each get their moment in the sun and stand out as a team of loners among loners. Each one is interesting and complex and the way their interact is great.

Switching over to X-Force, we have a very different type of X-Team. While both X-Factor and X-Force pull from a wide spectrum of X-world, X-Force is the renegade team. Cable has brought together Cannonball and Boom-Boom from the remains of New Mutants, and teamed them up with Feral, Warpath, Dominio, and Shatterstar to serve as a Mutant strike-force.

Both X-Force and X-Factor encounter Stryfe and the Mutant Liberation. I can't help but get nostalgic about Stryfe and remember just how cool of a villian he is. This guy is bad-ass, pure and simple.

For the most part, as we enter into this new era of the X-Men, we're given a great first step. While X-Factor is better book, I found that I enjoyed X-Force quite a bit as well. Knowing what I know about what happens, it makes for some interesting reading.

Unfortunately, the art in both books isn't very good. Larry Stroman's work just doesn't suit X-Factor very well and some of the panels just look messy. Over in X-Force, Rob Liefeld's art continues to decline is quality. It's still not too bad, but I honestly can't stand the way he draws legs.


Monday, July 10, 2006

UXP # 43: "Cleaning out the X-House # 5: Muir Island Saga"

The New Mutants # 99-100, Uncanny X-Men # 278-279, X-Factor # 69, Uncanny X-Men # 280, X-Factor # 70, Excalibur # 41

This wraps up the "Cleaning out the X-House" segment of the Uncanny X-Periment. As the last threads are (for the most part) wrapped-up, we close an era that I personally believe began with the end of the "Dark Phoenix Saga."

Let's look at the big picture . . .

In many ways, "The Dark Phoenix Saga" served as the resolution of the plotlines and stories that started with "Giant-Sized X-Men" # 1. In a similair way, this entire phase of the X-Men has gone back and touched on ideas and characters established post-"Dark Phoenix," bringing the many subplots and story archs to their end, allowing for a new wave of creativity to sweep over the books.

Now, for the books at hand . . .

"The New Mutants" # 99-100 brings the book to a close, and spends most of the time setting up for "X-Force." Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of time in the issues spent on developing this. Cable, driven by the idea that Mutantkind is at war, shakes up the New Mutants. In the end, only Cannonball and Boom-Boom are left. The team pulls itself together at the end with new additions Domino, Shatterstar, Feral, and Warpath. Sadly, the characterization and story is razor thin.

"The Uncanny X-Men" and "X-Factor" issues deal with the long-running Shadow King/Muir Island subplot that's been around since the 250s. It's nice to get some resolution to the subplot, despite the lackluster story. More changes here. Xavier can't walk again; Legion is in a coma; Shadow King dead; the X-Men, X-Factor, and a bunch of non-affiliated Mutants seek a new purpose. All great set-up for what's to come. There's a great moment when Professor X and the original X-Men decide that a change is necessary.

"Excalibur," I really just threw in because I've been ignoring the poor title. The team basically reacts to the X-Men being alive.

With everything now resolved, we officially leave one era of the X-Men and are about to begin a new.


Friday, July 07, 2006

UXP # 42: "Cleaning out the X-House # 4: Endgame"

X-Factor # 65-68

More tying things up, this time with X-Factor and some of the goings on there. While the X-Men are off in space with the Shi'ar, X-Factor faces off with Apocalypse, who is out for revenge against X-Factor for his past losses.

Apocalypse infects Ship with a virus, which ultimately leads Ship to destroy himself - save for a small, living piece of itself. At the same time, Apocalypse captures lil' Nathan Christopher. Also, he unleashes the Riders of the Storm (aka, the Dark Riders and I'll be calling them that from here on out), a team of Mutant mercenaries. All the while? He's capturing Inhumans.

Apocalypse sets himself up on the moon, where he's contending with the attacks by the Inhumans. X-Factor and Detective Charlottle Jones eventually meet up with the Inhumans and join in on the battle against Apocalypse. As they do, a woman in the body of a robot has traveled back in time and has taken the name "Askani." She wishes to take the dying Nathan into the future - for only there can the virus that Apocalypse has given him can be cured. As it turns out, 'Poccy is up on Nate's potential to overthrow him.

If he only knew . . .

The story is by Claremont, Jim Lee, and Whilce Portacio. It's not bad, though I wish Simonson would have written it since she made X-Factor her's. Claremont does a decent job. He attempts to draw parallels of sacriface and loss in this story to those in "The Dark Phoenix Saga." It comes off as flat.

Scott is the star of the story, and his struggle to send little Nathan to the future is nice.

This is a key moment in the Apocalypse/Cable mythology. It'll be touched quite often for the next decade or so. While it's a fairly decent story, it's missing a something that I just can't put my finger on.

That is fab.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

UXP # 41: "Cleaning out the X-House # 3: Crossroads"

Uncanny X-Men # 273-277

The X-Men are whisked off to the Shi'ar galaxy while Rogue and Magneto content with the Savage Land.

As Claremont continues to wrap up his old plotlines, the X-Men are teleported into the Shi'ar Empire - which, as you may recall - is in the thores of a civil war. Deathbird, having claimed the throne a good long while ago (over 100 issues ago, to the be precise), gathers the X-Men to kill Xavier. The X-Men are confused, but eventually join up with the Starjammers and Lilandra. Deathbird is taken of, the X-Men are reunited with Professor X, and Lilandra is running the show again. All is good, right? Wrong.

Turns out Xavier is a Warskrull. What is a Warskrull? I dunno. A bigger Skrull, it seems. The X-Men eventually defeat the Warskrulls, meet up with the real Xavier, and then hightail it back to Earth. And Lilandra is in charge again.

But that's only half the story . . .

Magneto, Rogue, Nick Fury, and Ka-Zar are all involved in a massive campagin against Zaladane and Magneto's old Mutates. While it's a high-adventure type story, the center spine of the tale is Magneto. Claremont brings Magneto front and center, giving us an understanding of the character that is vast and insightful. Magneto mulls over his past: from a holocaust victim to a super-villian to a terrorist to an X-Man, the reader is immersed in Magneto's memories and his feelings towards this current struggle.

I don't think I've seen such a great interpretation of Magneto as I did here. And while the Shi'ar story is pretty good, the Mangeto character arc is better.

In the end, Magneto is done with the X-Men, the Hellfire Club, and the Savage Land. He's breaking out on his own, out to save Mutantkind from tearing itself apart and being threatened from forces within itself. By killing Zaladane, Magneto is back as a bad guy.

At the same time, Storm questions her decision - even her place as a leader - to have the X-Men go into hiding. There's some nice interaction between Storm, Cable, Cyclops, and Jean regarding that.

Jim Lee continues to impress me with his amazing art. As good as he's gotten, this early X-Men work is just astounding.

This is probably the highlight of Claremont's later work. While he'll always be remembered for what he and Bryne did, he and Jim Lee did just as well.