Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Uncanny X-Periment # 107: "Imperial"

New X-Men # 122-126

The X-Men aren’t in best shape right now. With Cassandra Nova running the Shi’ar Empire into the ground and headed back to Earth, a weird flu (actually Nanosentinels) infecting the cast, and tensions between the school and the rest of the world, the X-Men need a good turn around. And – they do!

Cassandra Nova comes back during a very good-going tour of the school to the media. Ahead of her is the Imperial Guard, who are ordered to destroy all Mutants. Lilandria gets all messed up in the head. Eventually, everything comes together. Jean puts Professor X into her own mind, then every other Mutants, then back into his own head, casting Cassandra Nova out. Emma then places Nova’s mind into the body of a artificial life-form shape-shifter. In the end, we find out that during Xorn’s attack, he healed Professor X’s spine. So he can walk again.

Ultimately, this is among the best Morrison offers. The art goes from great (Quietly), to mediocre (Van Sciver), to really bad (Kordey – but there were problems behind the scenes). There’s some genius stuff here. The way the Shi’ar are portrayed is exceptionally good, perhaps one of the best I’ve seen. The Nanosentinels are a great concept.

The characterization is on high. Jean shines through, especially. All of the X-Men have great moments, here. Damn. What a good story.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Uncanny X-Periment # 106: "Rescue Me"

New X-Men # 118-121; X-Treme X-Men # 5-9

With a mob outside their gates, the X-Men are also facing a problem in the form of the cult-like U-Men, who are out to make themselves into the Third Species by taking parts for Mutants and graphing them to their own bodies. They also seal themselves in suits so as to not be soiled the air and whatnot. Cyclops and Emma head to NYC to confront Sublime, but are then taken down by him. The U-Men then make for the mansion, but encounter resistance from Jean and the students. At the same time, Logan is bringing a fly-girl named Angel to the school after rescuing her from the U-Men.

Meanwhile, the X-Treme X-Men track down Gambit after he becomes the chief suspect in an assassination of a mobster. Three mobs go to war with a man named Father Gow running things. The X-Men secure the mobster’s children – Heather and Davis Cameron – and then have to deal with the mob war, Sebastian Shaw, and all sorts of complicated nuttiness. In the end, the X-Men have two new members, an ally in the warrior Red Lotus, and Gambit’s back!

One of the things I really enjoy about this era of the X-Men’s history is the desire to inject something new into the mythos. Whether it’s new concepts, villains, or new characters, we’re guaranteed at least something new to the world of the X. That being said, none of this new stuff is exactly perfect.

In New X-Men, the gang goes up against the John Sublime and the U-Men, and we get an introduction to the foul-mouthed, trailer trash Angel. Plus, the actual origin of Cassandra Nova is exposed. I applaud Morrison on the introduction of such a radical new villain in the U-Men. The cult-like U-Men make for a interesting foe . . . even though John Sublime is a little lame. I have to hand it to him by bringing in Angel, who Wolverine tries to take in like he did Kitty and Jubilee – only to find her to be a pain in the ass.

There’s also a good amount of explanation here and plenty of plot nuggets to go around. While we learn what and who exactly Cassandra Nova is, we also get more of the Phoenix raptor and the growing amount of distrust between Scott and Jean. Plus, the students are in action. Add to that the art of VanSciver and Igor Kordey, and this book is pretty good.

Over on the X-Treme side of things, we also get some new characters – Lifeguard and her brother Davis. Though both are a little flat, Lifeguard’s “whateverIneed” powers make for a cool concept. Plus, it’s great to see Gambit back and the chemistry with him and Rogue bubbling again. But the problem is that this story is about two issues two long. The silent issue and the “telepathic battle” issue are all just too much. Larocca’s art is beautiful and Claremont does a good job of bringing Jean into the picture to talk to Storm about current events.

The two silent issues are the perfect examples of the good and the bad of Marvel’s little experiment. Morrison’s “Telepathic rescue” is brilliant. Claremont’s is just confusing.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Uncanny X-Periment # 105: "Poptopia"

Uncanny X-Men # 395-400, New X-Men Annual 2001, New X-Men # 117

This will kinda be split in two here. First up is “Poptopia” (plus two issues, though they should be included), which is the first real story by Joe Casey (with Ian Churchill, Sean Phillips, Tom Raney, Ashley Wood, and a bunch of others). The team is made up of just about everyone that Claremont and Morrison didn’t want – Archangel, Nightcrawler, Iceman, Wolverine (kinda) and Chamber. A bit of a sausage fest. They eventually bring a hooker onto the team. It’s a Bachelor Party-type team.

The X-Men go to London to investigate some Morlock-like Mutants. After being outright kicked out of their little subterranean community, the team is appalled when they found that they were later wiped out by a terrorist by the name of Mr. Clean. They hunt down Mr. Clean and eventually, Wolverine joins and helps finish him. This entire time, Chamber starts hanging out Britney Spears wannabe Sugar Kane . . . until he eventually learns that no, seriously, nobody likes Mutants. He eventually joins the team.

Shortly thereafter, the X-Men head out to Nevada to check out the X-Range, a brothel run by Mutant prostitutes. The X-Range is then coincidentally attacked by the Church of Humanity, who wipe out the house out . . . save for one, a pheromone lizard-like Mutant woman named Stacy X.

The X-Men investigate the Church of Humanity, even engaging in battle with them. As Stacy is accidentally teleported to their Montana base, Wolverine digs up information from one of their own that the X-Men managed to capture. The Priest-foot soldier tells Wolverine about the Supreme Pontiff, who was born a hundred plus years ago and was magical and whatnot. It’s a silly origin, but I suppose it work in context of the Marvel Universe.

Soon enough, the X-Men attack their Church of Humanity headquarters and manage to battle the bad guys and rescue Stacy. Nightcrawler encounters the Supreme Pontiff and something mysterious happens. Then the bad guys withdraw and that’s the end of that.

Up next is more “New X-Men” goodness. The other X-Men team (Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost, and Beast) head to Hong Kong, where Domino is running the newly established X-Corporation. Apparently, Risqué (remember her? Crappy character from 1996? Yeah, it doesn’t matter) was murdered while investigating Mutant organ trafficking. The X-Men and Domino investigate, and discover that cultist John Sublime has been buying Mutant organs from a Chinese general. Why? To graft said organs onto his body in an attempt to become a Third Species. Now Sublime is after a Mutant with a star for a brain named Xorn. The X-Men intervene (during which, Emma comes to Scott’s room is a sexy outfit and a bottle of wine) and rescue Xorn.

Upon returning to the mansion (Xorn’s taking some time to spend with some monks), Professor X prepares to leave for the Shi’ar Empire for a vacation. This is after he’s opened the doors to a Mutant student body (152 Mutant students) and with a Mutie-hating mob at the gates. Meanwhile, Jean confides in Logan her marital problems and Beast is dumped by Trish Tibly. Beast then confronts Professor X in regards to his findings about Cassandra Nova. She and Professor X have the DNA. Professor X then reveals that when Cassandra Nova was in Cerebra, she switched bodies with Charles. She then takes control of Hank’s body, humiliates him, then has a bird-like student by the name of Beak beat the crap outta him. Then Professor X/Cassandra Nova heads off into Shi’ar space.

Starting with “Poptopia,” we’re introduced to some new concepts – not all of them work. First of all, I really like seeing Archangel actually do something. He’s been sitting on the sidelines for far too long and having him out there, leading this new team is good to see. Iceman’s fun to read; Nightcrawler is a bit dark, but he’s not in the best place right now. Wolverine is Wolverine. Chamber is just enough emo punk that it’s believable.

I like the idea of the Church of Humanity. I think they’re really underdeveloped here, but it’s so refreshing to get a decent human villain. Granted, Chuck Austen tears the entire concept apart later, but in the here and now, they’re kinda neat. I like the challenge it brings to Nightcrawler, even though nothing really comes of it.

Stacy is an interesting addition to the crew. I mentioned it’s a sausage fest, but . . . meh, I’m not sold on her. I’ll grant that she’s a curious addition to the team, but it’s nothing to write home about. I know it sounds odd, but I always thought she’d get along Marrow. The X-Range is a neat idea.

I was also impressed by the Sugar Kane. Er, maybe not impressed, but it was interesting. A nice little subplot that really seemed to inject some reality into the book.

Anyways, despite the fact that the Church of Humanity is actually a decent threat, everything about just doesn’t live up to its potential. The Supreme Pontiff’s origin reminds of something out of a 1970s horror comic. The Priests are generic. Mr. Clean is stupid beyond belief.

It’s a mixed bag with Casey – especially with this story.

On the other side of things, we’ve got the New X-Men. The Xorn story is actually the better of the two. Some of Leniel Yu’s best work on X-Men is in here. Morrison is getting better at nailing the characters. Cyclops is on a slow build to getting better. The Third Species idea is a little over the top, but we’ll get to that soon enough. Xorn’s premiere is great, though. A lot of promise with this guy (heheh).

The second New X-Men story is a home run. Morrison has got a bigger story to tell and this chapter is really where the action picks up – with most of the cast unaware. Cassandra Nova is written quite awesomely and becomes a greater threat. The art – by VanSciver – is a little flat, but he gets better in time.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Uncanny X-Periment # 104: "E is for Extinction"

Uncanny X-Men # 394, X-Men # 114-116

We open up with a kid’s 18th birthday. How does he celebrate? He goes to Cape Citadel to tear apart Magneto-style. Apparently, he has the power to draw people and objects into his mind and mess with them. After an argument with Scott, Jean and Logan head to the Cape to deal with Mutant teen. They’re both drawn into his mind. Cyclops and Archangel soon show up and start to put him down, but inside his mind, things are looking grim. As death seems to be staring them in the eyes, Logan and Jean kiss, then pop out of the kid’s mind. The kid takes and the X-Men head back home, with Scott none the wiser.

Later (I’m assuming), Cyclops and Wolverine are rescuing a Mutant named Steve (aka Ugly John) from a Sentinel gone rogue. Meanwhile, a female version of Professor X (best way to describe her) named Cassandra Nova picks up Bolivar Trask’s relative, his nephew dentist. They head to South America and find a Master Mold factory, which uses scrap parts from a 10 mile radius to build “wild Sentinels.”

Back at the mansion, Beast, Jean, and Professor X power up the new Cerebra unit (which takes the place of Cerebro), and the Professor catches a glimpse of Cassandra Nova. He sends the en route Cyclops and Wolverine (and Ugly John) to investigate. As they do, Professor X finds his mind under assault from Cassandra Nova, but puts a gun to his head and tells her to get out or he’d fire.

The Wild Sentinels get the best of Cyclops and Wolverine. They capture Wolverine and Ugly John, then (after killing Trask), Nova tortures Ugly John until Wolverine severs her vocal cords. Cyclops comes in, puts Steve out of his misery, and then helps Logan deal with Nova.

It then turns out that she and Trask sent Wild Sentinels to Genosha. They proceed to wipe out roughly the entire population – including Magneto (and, I hope, Jenny Ransome, because I’ve always found her annoying).

Beast and Phoenix check out the ruins of Genosha and locate Emma Frost, who ended at Genosha somehow (it’s easy to explain). They take her back to the mansion when they find that her skin can now change into diamond. She quickly leaves just as the threat of Cassandra Nova rises up. Nova tears through the X-Men, then heads to Cerebra, where she uses it for about a minute to gain “just one mind.” Emma steps in, snaps her neck. When Nova stands back up, muttering something, Professor X shoots the crap outta her. The X-Men try to recover. Scott and Jean discuss problems they’re having, but are suddenly interrupted when Professor X announces to the world that he is a Mutant.

It’s a lot of stuff going on in such a small amount of time, but that’s okay. I’m going to skip that Uncanny issue, as I mainly just put it there for continuity’s sake. We’ll do more about Uncanny in the next entry. But in the meantime, the “new beginning” continues with this story.

I’ve read “E is for Extinction” a number of times and find it to be a rather remarkable storyline. The dialogue is snappy and fun. The pacing is of particular note-worthiness, as it draws you in and keeps you reading. The art has a creepy feel, but at the same time, an energy to it that is almost refreshing. I’m a huge Quietly fan, and he some fantastic work here. The new costumes/uniforms are great, almost kind of a retro feel to them. I also have a weird love of the way he draws women’s hair.

There’s a whole host of new ideas and new concepts introduced here. The extinction gene, which has been activated in humanity – which means that within 3-4 generations, humans will be extinct and replaced by Mutants. There’s also a new villain in Cassandra Nova; plus a twist on the Sentinels. Magneto and Genosha have been wiped out. New costumes. New look for Beast. Secondary Mutations for Beast, Emma, and Jean (to a certain extent). It’s all great, all fresh, and all just in three little issues.

However, to say it’s flawless would be wrong. Morrison drops the ball a bit with characterization. I appreciate his handling of Scott, but he comes off as just not the same Scott I’ve been reading about. Granted, it’s explained a bit with the whole “I was possessed by Apocalypse and now I can’t deal with the thoughts he put in my mind,” but he just doesn’t seem like himself. Same with Professor X – he just doesn’t seem the same to me.

But that being said, it’s still a fantastic read and quite refreshing in the long-run. It’s a little hard to see it with all the history behind it, but it’s just the beginning of Morrison’s run. And thank God for that.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Uncanny X-Periment # 103: "The Hunted"

Wolverine # 162-166, Deadpool: Agent of Weapon X # 1-4

There’s a lot going on here, so I’m going to summarize it rather shortly.

Wolverine finds himself dreaming of people dying – people who he later finds out are connected somehow. When he discovers that one of his dreams has come true and he is blamed for the death of a Senator, he and Beast go on the run. With the help of Nicky Fury, a mystical bounty hunter called the Shiver Man, and Maverick, Logan tries to unravel the mystery.

Unfortunately, SHIELD agent Brent Jackson tricks Logan and Beast and captures them. They end up in a prison called the Cage, where the pair are harassed by the various gangs and the guards themselves. Eventually, a French vampire-guy called Mauvis comes to kill Wolverine, but after eating Logan’s eye, he moves on. Then, Wolverine is freed by Sabretooth (who has his Adamantium back) and some soldiers. They take Wolverine and Beast to a facility, where Logan discovers that a new Weapon X project has begun. Led by a man who Logan scarred badly years ago, the new Weapon X project is quite different that the previous version. It’s so far separated from the old project that Wolverine was used as a sleeper agent to kill all those associated with the old project.

This Weapon X project gives Mutants the option to either serve them or die. If they serve, then they can get their powers augmented. If they don’t, they’re killed. John Wraith and Maverick are both approached due to their involvement with Team X all those years ago. Sabretooth kills Maverick for refusing and then kills Wraith for the helluva it.

Logan is just about to be given new implants with the Shiver Man shows up and helps free both Logan and Beast. Sabretooth tussles with Wolverine but loses and Wolverine and Beast return home.

In the meantime, Weapon X looks to recruit Deadpool. Deadpool agrees and spends a crapload of cash celebrating when they’re able to restore his face. However, when a Mutant kid is killed by Kane, Deadpool is fool of doubts. The Director then gives Deadpool a new mission – to kill his shape-shifting ex-girlfriend, Copycat. Deadpool instead tries to get her to safety, but fails as when he fights Kane, she is killed by Sabretooth. Deadpool then decides to go after Weapon X. He takes out a bunch of soldiers, crashes into their facility and almost gets away with killing them all, but is pretty much just wiped out. He dies giving the Director the finger. His hand (his only remaining body part, and bare in mind his middle finger is missing) is sent to Wolverine as a gift from Weapon X.

. . . er, he comes back later.

As a whole, this is an enjoyable bunch of issues. Tieri gets a little off course when he brings in the Shiver Man and Mauvis, but for the most part, it’s readable. The Wolverine issues are the stronger of the set, simply because Deadpool comes off as more annoying than funny. The art in both books is rather good, with Sean Chen being the better.

My major critism is that the characters spend too much time explaining to themselves what is happening. Sometimes it’s out loud, sometimes it’s in a thought boxes. It’s nothing new to comics, but it’s something that’s getting outdated fast. It makes this series feel like it’s coming from the mid-to-late 90s. Not that that’s a bad thing.

The really like the Weapon X concept here. Actually, what I like about is that while it’s somewhat based on the old Weapon X project, it’s pretty much become something new. It may have a tie or two to the old project, but it can stand on its own. Expect to see the Weapon X series to show up here on the X-Periment.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Uncanny X-Periment # 102: "Destiny"

X-Treme X-Men # 1-4

It’s a new era for the X-Men and Storm’s team is on the forefront. Storm is leading a team consisting of Rogue, Bishop, Thunderbird, Psylocke, Sage, and Beast. Gambit and Gateway pop by as their adventures go on.

This rogue team of X-Men heads to Spain to find Destiny’s books, only to be attacked by Spain’s special military unit Action Force, which captures all but Rogue and Sage. The X-Men then go through a maze, with Beast and Psylocke getting separated. The pair then have to face off against the super-super-human named Vargas, who beats the crap outta Beast, then kills Psylocke. It turns out he was there for Rogue (who he also faces) and tipped off the Action Force. Action Force and the X-Men make amends and haunt for Vargas . . . to no avail.

Beast leaves this team of X-Men because of his injuries. The X-Men then claim Destiny’s house and plan their next move and mourn while Gambit himself encounters Vargas.

Claremont definitely brings it back with this. Granted, he’s not at the top of his game, but these four issues are better than the entirety of his whole “Revolution” fracas. This is really Claremont is his element – with characters he’s either good at writing (Storm, Rogue, Sage), apparently likes (Bishop, Beast), and characters he’s created (Gambit, Psylocke, Thunderbird). The characters are done rather well. The action is nicely handled. There’s promise and hope and a lot of potential in all of this.

However, on top of all this, the writing suffers from some of Claremont’s biggest failings. There are very, very long-winded monologues. The characters seem to have to explain their powers to each other, which is quite annoying. When the dialogue becomes skippable or just skimmable, it’s a clear sign it’s either no good or not interesting.

The art is quite excellent. The Claremont/Larocca team is one that works. Larocca’s designs, actions scenes, facial expression . . . they’re fantastic.

A nice start, even if it could use some work.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Uncanny X-Periment # 101: Origin

Origin # 1-6

A young woman by the name of Rose is brought to the Howelett estate to be (basically) a playmate for young James Howelett – the thin, sickly son of the rich John Howelett and the crazy Emily Howelett. They befriend the boy called “Dog,” how is the son of Thomas Logan, the groundskeeper. Logan is in love with Emily (who went crazy after her and John’s first child died). Eventually, trouble is a brewing and Thomas Logan and Dog get kicked out of the estate.

They return to the estate, kidnap Rose and make her take them to Emily, so as to take her with them. Once there, the commotion brings in both James and John. Logan kills John, and then James pops some claws from his hands, kills Logan and tears up Dog’s face. Rose is later blamed for the murders and she and James go on the run (with the help of James’ asshole grandpa).

They make their way to a small mining camp, where James begins to discover a wild, animal side to himself. His memory is all messed from the trauma. Rose calls him “Logan” to help protect them. So as Logan goes out and plays with wolves, then works in the mines and deals with a man named Cookie, Rose begins to fall for the leader of the camp, Smitty. There’s some rivalry between Logan and Smitty, but Logan eventually stands aside . . . and that’s when Dog shows up, now sporting blonde hair.

A fight breaks out between Dog and Logan, with Rose getting in the middle and getting stabbed. She dies, Dog runs off (I guess), and Logan just goes off into the wild.

I’m very mixed about this one, to be honest. On the one hand, it’s a well-told story and the first half is really quite good. On the other hand, it flakes out a little bit in the end.

The theme of the story is not so much “Hey! It’s young Wolverine!” as it is about this boy going through all this shit and growing into man – all the while dealing with this animal within himself that grew out of all the mess that his pretty young life covered up. It’s a very interesting and appropriate origin for Wolverine.

Unfortunately, while the theme holds it together, it suffers from being predictable in the end. You know from the moment that Rose shows up that she’s going to die. And while having James turn out to Logan is a surprise, having Dog turn out to Sabretooth (right?) is just a little too much; it was exactly what you’d expect. A show-down between Logan/James and Logan/Dog? Rose gets in the middle and James/Logan accidentally kills her? Yep. That was coming from a mile away. And just how does one die of a wound in the upper, right-side of the chest? Even in those days? It didn’t even look that deep.

Despite the predictability, there’s some fleshing out here. John Howelett (James not-real father), Dog (as a youngin’), Thomas Logan (James’ real father), Smitty, and Cookie all add so much to the story and really paint Wolverine’s early influences rather well. You can see a little bit of John’s honor in Logan in the modern day, just like you can see the gruffness of Thomas Logan (up-bringing versus heredity).

The art is phenomenal. Andy Kubert’s best work, hands down. Isanove also brings his A-Game. These two really bring to life almost every panel, breathing life into the story.

In spite of the predictability of the story as it neared it’s ending, “Origin” does offer a decent and somewhat insightful true origin of Wolverine.