Sunday, September 30, 2007

Uncanny X-Periment # 129: "Enemy of the State"

Wolverine # 20-32

The son of Mariko's cousin Ichiro is kidnapped by mobsters supposedly, leading Logan to step in and make the drop-off. However, Wolverine is attacked by the Hand, "killed" by the Mutant cult leader Gorgon, and brainwashed by Hydra into becoming a super-agent.

Wolverine then goes on a rampage, tearing through the Hellicarrier, busting through the Baxter Building and eventually faces off with Daredevil . . . leading to the capture of Elektra, who was tracking him. Eventually, Wolverine breaks into the heavily secured Xavier Insitute, grabs Marvel Girl and forces her to use Cerebra to kill the President. Rachel manages to disarm Wolverine and the X-Men, SHIELD, Iron Man, and Captain America chase him into the woods. Wolverine goes off to kill Kitty, but she phases and Northstar gets the kill. The rest of the group intercept him, with Captain America giving the final blow.

SHIELD cleans Wolverine out while Hydra/the Hand/Dawn of the White Light (Mutant cult) go after super-people. They bring down the Hellicarrier and afterwards, Wolverine promises Ichiro's family that he'll find their son's body. Wolverine confronts the now-ressurected and brainwashed Northstar, is captured, then rescued by Sentinels. He takes Northstar in, then goes after the Hand, where he finds out that Elektra was working deep undercover when she returned to the Hand. Eventually, Gorgon goes after Nick Fury, but Wolverine takes him. Gorgon accidently uses his own power on himself, gets turned into stone/sand/whathaveyou and is defeated. Wolverine then tracks down the body of the boy.

The summary I've just given is pretty poor when compared to the actual story. I've obviously read a a lot of Wolverine stories, but this one . . . is probably among the best, if not the best. Wolverine is perfect here - feral, honorable, funny. He's brillantly written, captured so perfectly. The internal dialogue is very well done, really showing the struggle he's going through.

The plot itself is rather simple, but I like it. Really, with so many super-people out there, why wouldn't the Hand and Hydra want to bring them over to their side?

In terms of pacing and action, it's all rather great.

John Romita Jr.'s art is pretty good, though at times, his background characters just don't look that great. For example, all of the students at Xavier's school look like they're preteens, when in fact, most of them are teenagers. It's distracting. However, Romita is spot on when it comes to catching the action and the suspense of the whole adventure.

Millar's a genius.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Uncanny X-Periment # 128: "Disassembled"

X-Men # 165, Excalibur # 5-7, Avengers # 500-504, Excalibur # 8-11 (first half)

The X-Men celebrate Christmas by rescuing a family in a insane car wreck, teaching X-23 to not be crazy, and giving Gambit his eyesight back.

Over on Genosha, the target and Professor X/Magneto’s groupies are ambushed by pirates looking to take what they can from the island. Hired by Unus and his thugs, they are all then attacked by none other than Dark Beast. Eventually, Dark Beast is overwhelmed and taken into custody.

In NYC, the Avengers are attacked by insane threats. An exploding Jack O’Hearts; a hidden Ultron command within the Vision; Iron Man getting drunk for no reason; She-Hulk, er, Hulks out; the Kree attack. It’s a very devastating attack and brings about the deaths of Hawkeye, the Vision, and Ant-Man. Eventually, with a full load of Avengers and with the help of Doctor Strange, the Avengers discover that it’s the Scarlet Witch behind all this. Turns out she remembered she had kids and went crazy. There’s a confrontation, in which the Scarlet Witch is left comatose afterwards.

Magneto then comes to her rescue and uses a wormhole to take her back to Genosha. As he does this, Callisto, Dark Beast, and Omega Sentinel contend with the Sugar Man over a hidden vault of supplies. Magneto brings the Scarlet Witch to Xavier and practically begs him to help her.

There’s a lot of controversy in regards to “Disassembled,” and despite it being an Avengers story, the ramifications it has in the X-Universe are quite important to the mythos. So, saying that, we’re going to take a good look at the good and the bad of this story, then move on to the Excalibur issues.

First of all, the positive. In terms of style, it’s usual Bendis, which people generally love or hate. Beyond that, the script is pretty strong. There’s great work in terms of pacing and structure. Nice and subtle reliance on facial expressions here, which adds to the unfolding drama. I like that the Scarlet Witch was the culprit. I like that she was the one responsible – but not because she’s evil, but because she’s unwell.

Now, that being said . . .

Wanda here is presented as nothing more than a plot point. She basically goes crazy and blows up the Avengers because she feels like it. It’s silly. There’s no subtly, no real reason. From what I understand (though I’m not 100% sure because I don’t have the issue), the whole “babies are a secret” thing is a continuity problem because apparently, she already knew about them. And just a few choice words from Jan unravels her completely? It just doesn’t work. It’s like going from Point A to Point E in one leap. Sure, you get there, but you skip a lot of points on the way.

The Avengers themselves are portrayed as fairly unprofessional. This really comes across during a scene in front of the hospital. No one talks like that and it’s all really far fetched, even for a Bendis book. Now, certain characters shine through, like Cap and even Hawkeye, but for the most part, the book fails itself in regards to characterization.

I have to really ask this of Marvel: was this story necessary? Now, I like “New Avengers” and “Mighty Avengers” and a lot of what came after this, but was “Disassembled” really a story that had to be told like this? The Avengers betrayed? Not original. The betrayal tearing the team apart? Doesn’t seem likely. Never had before. Tony Stark out of money? Ugh.

See, the whole story just kinda sucks. It’s depressing. And overly so. I can certainly handle the death of Ant-Man. The “death” of the Vision feels . . . wrong. And Hawkeye’s was laughable. The whole Ant-Man/Jack Of Harts thing was enough to drive home the emotional point. The others were too much.

Finch’s art is mediocre with spurts of good and bad. I’m actually a big fan of Finch, as he can really churn out great works of detail and scope. There’s one particular shot of Doctor Strange during his battle with Scarlet Witch that is just awesome. That being said, the scene where all of the Avengers are assembled is very generic, with everyone looking like everyone else.

Overall, “Disassembled” gets more things wrong than it gets right. It should have been developed more and there should have been a stronger effort to not alienate older fans, who are rightly pissed off by this story. Bendis tore down the house so he could rebuild it; but he did so in a way that just wasn’t quite right.

Now, over in “Excalibur” . . .

It’s nothing out of the ordinary, really. I wish we had more time spent on the actual rebuilding of Genosha and getting things down rather than regular ol’ super-heroics. The addition of Dark Beast is an interesting move, but certainly not unwelcome. Same goes for dealing with the Sugar Man (at long last). The pirates and the Trolls were pretty stupid, though.

Strong moments from Xavier and Magneto, I must note. Great characterization . . . however, I find myself shaking my head at certain moments. Half the time, Magneto just doesn’t like Magneto. He’s so limp and blah. I don’t want him batshit crazy, like the Xorn imposter, but let’s make him a little more imposing.

And why not just having Magneto reveal himself to Unus’ gang? Wouldn’t that solve the “we hate each other” problem?

There’s the usual Claremont clich├ęs, but there are some nice moments of insight that are appreciated. Art isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s far from bad.

The X-Men Christmas story is just waaaaay too happy for it’s own good.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Uncanny X-Periment # 127: "Danger"

Astonishing X-Men # 7-12

The X-Men, out to continue to make their reputation a positive one, team up with the Fantastic Four to tackle a huge monster in NYC. Meanwhile, a cured Mutant by the name of Wing commits suicide in the Danger Room. When a defunct Sentinel attacks the school, Kitty herds the kids into the Danger Room . . . where they find Wing's dead body. Trapped within the Danger Room, Kitty learns that the Danger Room has come alive.

Eventually, the Danger Room (now calling itself Danger) takes a humanoid form and pretty much massacres the X-Men, then heads to Genosha to confront the Professor. The Professor manages to take her down, but it activates one of the dormant Sentinels and it attacks the restored (by Elixer) X-Men. Kitty shows the Sentinel what exactly it did on Genosha. The Sentinel, now having an AI, can't deal with it and leaves the Earth. Danger is defeated, but it's revealed that the Professor knew that Danger existed, and yet "ignored" her and continued to use her in the Danger Room.

And in the end - we learn that Emma Frost is reporting to a new Hellfire Club consisting of Shaw, Cassandra Nova, a hooded figure, and one of her students on Genosha.

Again, this story isn't very original. Danger reminds me a lot of a more emotional Cerebro. We have Emma reporting to the Hellfire Club. We have word of a mole within the team. The X-Men have lost a little more faith in Professor X. It's nothing new, I'm sorry to say.

Now, again, that's not to say it isn't told well. Incredibly well, really. Pacing, art, dialogue . . . it's all really great. I just wish there was more to the substance than there was to the flash.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Uncanny X-Periment # 126: "Choosing Sides"

New X-Men # 1-6

It’s a new semester and the kids are getting back in the game. First up, after some fretting, the school is divided into teams with advisors: Alpha Squad (Northstar), Corsairs (Cyclops), Hellions (Emma Frost), New Mutants (Dani Moonstar), Paragones (Wolfsbane), and a pair of unnamed squads – one under Gambit and one under Rogue. There might be more and I’ll point you over Uncanny for more info.

Anyways, there’s still a rivalry between the New Mutants and the Hellions. This overflows into the Field Day exercise, which brings about more tension between the team because the Hellions manage to win it. After that, there’s the returned Kevin Ford. At first, he’s all about the New Mutants, but when the FBI come calling and Dani thinks it’s best if he goes with them, the Hellions are the ones that step up. Eventually, the FBI let him go and because he’s pissed at Dani and the New Mutants, he joins the Hellions, allowing Jay Guthrie to take his place.

I’ve had, for the longest time, an issue with “New X-Men” and really wasn’t until this reading that I realized just what it was that bothered me so much. Now I know. I don’t really like this book. Don’t yell at me, yet, please.

First of all, let’s address what I generally do like about this book. I like the characters. I like David, Josh, Laurie, Sophia, and Kevin. I even like Julian and Santo. Dani and Shan do well with me here. Scott comes across nicely, breaking from the stern and stiff mold and being supportive and reasonable. I appreciate the scope of the series too, but that’s where the problem lies . . .

There’s simply too much going on here. And beyond that, the focus isn’t in the right place. Concepts and goings on in this series thus far? Okay, well . . .

Laurie is crushing hard on Josh, who is making out with Rhane (who is a teacher) in his spare time. Meanwhile, David and Nori might have a crush on each other. Nori doesn’t like her roommate, Dust, because Dust thinks that Nori dresses like a slut (basically). Nori works at the Grindhouse coffee shop, whose boss has a thing for Shan. Julian has a thing for Sophia, even though they are on separate teams. There’s also Cessily, who has a thing for Kevin, despite being on separate teams (though Kevin heads over there soon). Then there’s Jay, who has post-Austen angst. So there are two teams – the New Mutants and the Hellions – whose rivalry stretches even to the team advisors, Dani and Emma.

And on top of all this, there’s also the fact that these characters are in school and have to do school things and training with powers things.

It’s just too much. What I want out of this series is for it to be about a group of teenagers attending – basically – X-Men school. “Mutant High,” y’know? We don’t get that. We get Drama City, which makes things messy and ugly. The characters are not very unique and we don’t spend much time understanding them. They’re good characters, but they simply don’t fulfill their potential. There’s no depth given to them and in the rare moments there is, it’s brief and we get into mediocre relationship stories.

Had the writers focused more on one tight group of characters as they made their way through “Mutant High,” this would have been a stronger book. Even bringing the rival characters in the Hellions would have worked better. Rivals in class, rivals outside. Instead, it’s a messy, tangled web of characters and crushes that are just too complicated for me to care about . . .

And the art is pretty bland too.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Intermission: Just a Few Things

Hello Interweb land! It's me, thew40!

I'm pausing in my reading/reviewing for just a moment to put a few things out there.

First of all . . . how many people read this thing? I'm aware of three (a fellow blogger, a guy who commented, and someone from the Avengers Assemble! boards), but who else is out there? I'm not begging of course, but I'm just curious and wouldn't mind some feedback.

Secondly, I need to make mention of a couple of issues/problems this blog could be facing down the line. The biggest one of all is the fact that we are slowly but surely catching up the regular MU. By my calculations, I'll be up to speed by the time the current "Endangered Species" story concludes at the end of November. Now, that being said, here's the issue we have . . .

The "Onslaught Reborn" mini-series suffered a major delay. Even though there is one more issue to come out, I have no idea when it'll be. This may mess us up a bit.

Then there's the current story in "Astonishing X-Men," which is hard to place continunity-wise, as well as needing 2-3 more issues until it wraps up. This is major problem. What I may end up doing is reserving a number for it and then, when the last of it comes out, go back and retroactively post the review. What does everyone think of that?

As far as the frequency of up-dates go, I can't promise anything. I'm working, I'm going to school, and I'm planning my wedding. Life is busy and sometimes comics need to take a back seat. But I'll do my best, dang it!

Okay, well, back to the show . . .


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Uncanny X-Periment # 125: "Gifted"

Astonishing X-Men # 1-6

Kitty rejoins the X-Men just as the new year starts. Scott has decided that his team (Cyclops, Emma Frost, Kitty, Wolverine, and Beast) are coming to be the more public/super-hero face of the X-Men. This becomes quite true when an alien named Ord leads a group of mercenaries and takes hostages. As the X-Men intervine (and are rescued by Lockheed), Dr. Kavita Rao of Benetech announces a "cure" for Mutants.

The X-Men regroup at home as Hank gets a sample of the cure. He cross-references it and discovers that it matches up with someone in their database. The X-Men head back to Benetech, where the team handles security; meanwhile, Ord (who is an ally of Dr. Rao and provided her with the research to create the cure) heads to the school and encounters students Wing and Armor. He "cures" Wing as a warning to the X-Men, then heads back to Benetech.

Kitty, in the meantime, explores beneath Benetech and discovers a starship below . . . and an alive and well Colossus. She takes him back up to the surface, where he beats down on Ord before SHIELD and Agent Brand of SWORD (an organization that keeps an eye on other planets) shows up and tells the X-Men Ord has diplomatic immunity. Turns out Ord's planet of Breakworld is destined to be destroyed by one of the X-Men. Instead of wiping out the Earth, Ord made a deal with SWORD and gave Rao the means to create a cure to use against Mutants. Colossus was taken as a test.

Ord decides to take off and wage war against the Earth, but Wolverine and Colossus manage to stop him by using the old "Fastball Special." Ord is then taken into custody.

Joss Whedon is the new writer (obviously) and does a pretty good job at handling the team. The characters are well-realized, the dialogue is smart, the story has a good pace to it, and he does a good job at capturing nostalgia.

The story itself isn't anything new, though. An X-Man is destined to do something terrible isn't anything new, as we saw something similar with the whole "traitor" subplot back in the 90s. The idea of Mutant cure isn't exactly a new one either, as we've had two cases of it (that I know of). The return of a dead X-Man (Colossus) is far from new.

But it's the style in which all this comes back that makes it fresh and crisp. Honestly, if you had told me that basics of this story a year before I actually read it (the first time), I would have rolled my eyes. Yet, reading it, the story jumps out with a great energy and pace that just draws me right in.

The art is what really helps make the difference. John Cassaday's work here is amazing. His action scenes leave a little to desired, but other than that, he really captures the heart of the characters and produces a damn fine product.