Tuesday, April 24, 2007

UXP # 100: "Changing of the X-Guard # 5: Eve of Destruction"

So . . . we’ve reached number 100 and the end of “Changing of the X-Guard.” Whew!

Let’s tackle the usuals first. We have come to “Eve of Destruction,” which pretty much bookends the 90s era X-Men.

The world is poised at the edge of a genetic war between humans and Mutants, with Magneto rallying all sorts of Mutants and Mutates at Genosha. Why? Well, because the Legacy Virus was cured and suddenly all those sick and dying Mutants and Mutates are up and about and ready to kick ass.

Of course, the X-Men aren’t in the best shape. Storm took her chunk of the team and left. Professor X has been captured by Magneto and is being used as a symbol to rally the troops. So with Wolverine and Cyclops helping Polaris evacuate the remaining humans off of Genosha, Phoenix goes off and recruits a whole new team. There’s Paulie, who is invulnerable. Northstar from Alpha Flight. Hector, who has translucent skin. Sunpyre, Sunfire’s sister. Plus a brainwashed Frenzy and a not-in-good shape Dazzler, who reveals that the Mojoverse has been overrun by Age of Apocalypse X-Babies.

This interim team of X-Men arrive in Genosha in short order and take the fight to Magneto. Magneto “kills” Dazzler and basically tears through the rest of the team . . . until Cyclops and Wolverine show up. They tussle with Mags for a bit, and then are subsequently defeated. Magneto threatens to rip Wolverine’s Adamantium skeleton out again, but Professor X block Magneto from accessing his powers. It turns out that Dazzler faked her death and Jean used the new X-Men to distract Magneto while Dazzler grabbed the Professor and took his place. Wolverine then cuts right into Magneto and the X-Men leave Genosha. Returning to the mansion, the new X-Men depart and Scott, Jean, Logan, and Professor X all leave to get a beer.

Despite the shaky premise, this story actually holds itself together nicely. It’s not the most in-depth tale, but there’s more to like than to hate.

My major critism regarding this story is the choice to bring in these new X-Men. I understand the idea behind it and even appreciate seeing new characters, but as Wolverine points out a few times, there are a number of X-Men out there – not just these three and Storm’s MIA team. Archangel, Iceman, Nightcrawler, Cable, Gambit and even Maggot and Doctor Reyes all would have been fine to bring in. Not to mention other X-affiliates like Forge and Maddrox. It also bothered me that when Magneto and Dazzler were fighting, neither one seemed to remember that they were both on the X-Men at the same time. And where’s Exodus? The Genoshan cabinet?

Despite that, though, the story is decent. It ranges from good to mediocre, and only once did it have a scene where I went “ugh! Come on!” – which was when the X-Men and Magneto explained to each other Jean’s brilliant plan. Note to writers: when the villain has to help explain what the plan, you have to know that you didn’t do a very good job on making it clear as to what really happened. Sorry.

The only other problem I had was its scope. There’s a nice “disaster averted” feel to it, but I wish it had been longer (it was supposed to be). Why not include an issue of “X-Men Unlimited?” Really, just one more issue would have made a difference.

To be completely honest, I wouldn’t have minded a tweaked version of Lobdell’s original post-Operation: Zero Tolerance story that had Magneto coming back and pretty much having an all out war between Mutants and humans with the X-Men smack in the middle. Oh well . . . what we got was pretty good.

There are some nice insight moments here – especially with Magneto, Wolverine, and Jean. Cyclops’ darker side steps into the spotlight, which is good. It lays down a foundation that Morrison and Whedon would later build upon. Amelia Vought also returns and it’s always a pleasure to her character again. Same with Polaris.

Lobdell tosses in little nods to the X-Tinction Agenda, Age of Apocalypse, Operation: Zero Tolerance (kinda), the Legacy Virus, Bloodties, The Twelve, Mojo/Longshot, and Fatal Attractions – which helps make this story seem all the better when placed in the context of X-Men history.

The ending with Professor X’s little speech falls a little flat, but the overall conclusion is nicely done. The story is a enjoyable tie-up of just about everything. Stryfe’s dead, the Legacy Virus is cured, Magneto is down of the count, Genosha is pacified, Apocalypse is dead, and Storm is off leading her own little team of X-Men to find journals that will dictate the future of the world. So . . . what’s next?

- - - - - - - -

Well, here we are at # 100 (if you don’t count the “New Mutants” posting errors and the “Welcome!” entry)! Yay!

I was really kinda debating how to celebrate this occasion. I thought “hmmm! An in-depth look at the X-Men would be a great idea!” But I don’t really have time for that and I’m not really feeling like this is the time for that yet anyway.

So, I’ll take a note from Busta Toons’ Masters of the Universe blog and do a round-up for ya’ll!

The Early Adventures
Good Guys, Bad Villains
Factor Three
A Shake-Up
End of an Era
Hidden Years
Missing in Action
The New Kids
All Around the World
Perceptions of Reality
The Dark Phoenix Saga
MiXed Bag
The Brood Saga
Enter: The New Mutants
From the Ashes
A Little In-Between
Secret Wars
Wolverine and Kitty Pryde
Let’s Get Personal
Asgardian Wars and More!
Phoenix Rising
Beyonder, Spiral, and Nimrod
The Rise of Apocalypse
Mutant Massacre
What Happened to Maddie?
X-Men versus Fantastic Four
Before the Fall
Fall of the Mutants
After the Fall
The Team Falls Apart
Acts of Vengeance
Cleaning Out the X-House # 1: Days of Future Present
Cleaning Out the X-House # 2: X-Tinction Agenda
Cleaning Out the X-House # 3: Crossoroads
Cleaning Out the X-House # 4: Endgame
Cleaning Out the X-House # 5: Muir Island Saga
Genetically Challenged
A New Era
Weapon X

Blue Team
Gold Team
Cutting Old Threads
The Tragedy of Wolverine
X-Ecutioner’s Song
Fatal Attractions
The Wedding Saga
Phalanx Covenant
Generation X
Age of Apocalypse # 1: Legion Quest
Age of Apocalypse # 2: New History
Age of Apocalypse # 3: The New Beginning
Age of Apocalypse # 4: Resistance
Age of Apocalypse # 5: The Quest
Age of Apocalypse # 6: Finale
Back to Normal
Rising Darkness
Onslaught Aftermath
The Creed Assassination
The Phalanx/Shi’ar Conflict
Operation: Zero Tolerance
New Beginnings
Internal Struggle
The World As It Could Have Been
The Hunt for Xavier
The Magneto War
The Kids
Apocalypse: The Twelve
Mutants No More
Maximum Security
War and Peace
Changing of the X-Guard # 1: X-Men Forever
Changing of the X-Guard # 2: Dream’s End
Changing of the X-Guard # 3: The Search for Cyclops
Changing of the X-Guard # 4: Grand Finales
Changing of the X-Guard # 5: Eve of Destruction (which is what you're reading right now)

With all that, what does the future hold for the Uncanny X-Periment? Well, obviously, we’re entering into a new phase of the X-Men. Plenty of creators to come – Morrison, Casey, Austen, Whedon, Milligan, Carey, Brubaker, plus Chris Claremont (of course). Not to mention a ton of in-coming artists, most of whom are quite talented.

As for the immediate future, I’m debating what’s to come after this. The next logical step is “Origin,” although I’ve been considering tossing in “Exiles,” “Brotherhood” and “X-Force.” But we’ll see . . .

Ultimately, in the long run, I’m looking at having this up-to-date by the time the next big X-Even comes around (being “Endangered Species”), so probably by the end of the year. After that? Well, there’s plenty more to come. Weekly up-dates, special spotlights on single issues and characters, and (maybe, if I play my cards right), interviews.

So, thanks for stopping by and come on back, because this X-Periment ain’t over yet!


Sunday, April 15, 2007

UXP # 99: "Changing of the X-Guard # 4: Grand Finales"

X-Man # 75, Generation X # 71-72, 74-75, X-Force # 114-115, Bishop & Gambit: Sons of the Atom # 0-16

Our next installment sees the end of a number of various series – X-Man, Generation X, X-Force (sorta), Bishop: The Last X-Man, and Gambit. It’s a bit of a mass slaughter of books, but each comic finds it own way to an appropriate (for the most part) ending.

In X-Man # 75, Nate Grey encounters an alien that has supposedly infested all of humanity for the sake of converting them all into energy. The alien – named the Harvester – messes around with a town that he’s made his home and taken control of. A Mutant named Michael defies him and reaches out. Nate arrives, has a showdown with Harvester, unleashes his self-destructive energy upon the Harvester. The world is saved, Nate dies, Harvester is defeated, and Michael becomes a new Mutant Shaman.

Generation X is next up. We first take a look at one day in the lives of the Generation X members (save Banshee and Skin, but we read their story already [link]). Chamber meets a deaf girl, but is too afraid to get close to her because he’s a Mutie. M and Jubilee hang out in NYC, deal with the loss of Everett, fight anti-Mutant terrorists, and try to understand each other. Paige handles ghosts. Then, in the end, the gang takes a hard, cold look at their teachers and their lives. They question what they want to do. Sean is drinking hard after Moira’s death. Emma killed Adrienne. They’re old enough to graduate, so they approach Sean about it. Sean lets ‘em go and the gang has a tearful good bye. (heck, even I tear up!) Chamber is apparently going to join the X-Men.

X-Force continues to do spook business by blowing up buildings where they experiment on Mutant babies or something. The team then track down something called the World Engine, which uses genetic material from regular humans to create a new breed of technology. X-Force blows it up, supposedly dying in the process, though Domino survives and (apparently) Pete Wisdom is alive and believes that X-Force is still alive.

Then we go to Gambit/Bishop. Bishop, it turns out, has an alien symbiote (no, not Venom) called Le Bette Noir living under his skin. They figure out that Stryfe is after it and head on down to New Orleans to speak with the Witness to figure out how in the world to deal with this. Stryfe followed them down and they learn that Cable is going to kill them. After eating at a diner, Cable tracks ‘em down and we have a battle in the nexus of realities – aka Witness’s home. The Le Bette Noir manifests itself and Stryfe (feeling guilty about his life) sacrifices himself to save the world by taking the Le Bette Noir into his body and then blowing up (hey! Just like Nate Grey!). Cable heads out and Gambit and Bishop leave.

From the bottom up, we’ll start with Gambit/Bishop. This story has a nice nostalgic feel to it, with Stryfe and playing off the Gambit/Bishop dynamic. But that being said, there’s not a whole lot to like about this. The art is sufficient, but nothing amazing. The story is lame. Stryfe? He’s only in there because some writer brought him back and didn’t get rid of him.

To be completely honest, if we were going to get a big Stryfe/Cable story, why even have Gambit and Bishop involved? If I were there, I would have combined it when “Search for Cyclops,” brought in Nate Grey, and had a big ol’ Summers/Askani jamboree! Oh well . . . Stryfe’s death is workable, I guess. I preferred his being all blown up on the moon, but whatever.

X-Force was just too much. It was too muddled, it was too much explaining (over-explaining, really), and the ending was just too anti-climatic. I like that they went out doing what they do best – the extreme of fighting for Xavier’s dream.

Generation X is the best of the group. I really liked their finale. It was logical, emotional, and to the point. Despite the lack of fanfare that brought them together, the break-up of Generation X was very well done and really ended on a positive note (which is really depressing, considering what happens to some of them from here).

X-Man is a little flat, as most of the character plotlines were tied up by the end. My only real problem with the issue is that we don’t see any sort of response to his death from anyone else. But it’s a fitting end, I guess.

Overall, not a terrible bunch, but not incredible.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

UXP # 98: "Changing of the X-Guard # 3: The Search for Cyclops"

X-Men: The Search for Cyclops # 1-4, Uncanny X-Men # 391

Just a quick note: my apologies on the lateness of this entry. I’ve been sidetracked by not only my huge “Civil War” review, but also just real life stuff. However, everything is now in order and we’ll have up-dates on a more regular basis.

Down to business.

“The Search for Cyclops” is simply that. Scott is running around Egypt all amnesic and is eventually taken in by a cat-like Mutant named Anais. She tries to lead Scott to Akkaba, which was the birthplace of Apocalypse (remember?). Meanwhile, Gauntlet has been secretly hired by Blaquesmith to assassinate Scott, as he holds Apocalypse’s essence within him. Finally, Ozymadias point Cable and Phoenix in Scott’s general direction. Along the way, everyone bumps into Caliban who is released from service.

Everyone converges on Akkaba, where Apocalypse gets freed. A battle ensues and in the end, Phoenix separates Scott from Apocalypse and Cable kills whatever is left of Apocalypse with a firm poke from his psismiter. Yay!

Before returning home, Scott spends a weekend with his Dad, Corsair. It’s rather emotional.

I’m a little mixed on this story. While it nicely undoes the events of “The Twelve,” it also stands on its own merits. Cable gets some nice development. Jean gets some nice development. Scott, er, comes back and eventually gets some nice development.

Tom Raney’s art is beautiful and is coupled with some fantastic colors here. Joe Harris brings us a decent story.

But ultimately, I found it was lacking a certain something. It works good, it reads well. But it really lacks the kind of energy and scale a story like this should have. Things wrap up too nicely and there are too many questions. How did Scott end up in Egypt as an amnesic? Why didn’t Cerebro pick him up earlier? Where’s the Living Monolith?

In addition to all this, the story itself lacks a certain amount of dramatic weight. Anyone how picks up this mini-series knows that in the end, Cyclops will be back and alive and have Scott Lobdell writing him again before he gets shipped off to Grant Morrison. If there’s one thing that ultimately damns this story, it’s that. You know just how it’s going to end. Maybe not the details, but you’re pretty much assured from the moment you look at the title it’s a sure-win.

Despite all this though, it’s a decent read and while it doesn’t quite make up for the ending of “The Twelve,” it brings a nice story to the table.