Monday, July 21, 2008

Uncanny X-Periment # 151: "Messiah CompleX"

I’m going to lay out the “Reader’s Digest” version of Messiah Complex, because, honestly, most people that are reading this have read it all ready.

The X-Men learn that the first Mutant child has just been born in Alaska. They get there too late, as the Marauders and the Purifiers showed up before hand and clashed. The X-Men press on the Acolytes into revealing where Sinister is. The New X-Men take on the Purifiers, jeopardizing an undercover mission by Richter – they soon find out that the baby is not in the hands of the Purifiers.

Meanwhile, Forge discovers that two new timelines have appeared with Mutants in it after the baby’s birth. Two Maddrox’s are sent into these timelines, and Layla jumps into one of them. They are beaten up and captured and tossed into a Mutant internment camp . . . where they meet Bishop and learn what has happened.

Back in the present, the X-Men collide with the Acolytes in Antarctica, only to learn that they don’t have the baby either. At the school, the ONE Sentinels suddenly go hay-wire and the bodies of their pilots are taken over by the nannites and are unleashed against the school. The X-Men destroy them and the strike team returns, having found out that none other than Cable has the child. To bring Cable in, Cyclops assembles a new X-Force squad consisting of Wolverine, Caliban, Wolfsbane, X-23, and Hephzibah. They meet up with Cable . . . and the Purifier’s new allies, Lady Deathstrike and the Reavers. X-23 takes down Deathstrike and Cable escapes. Caliban is eventually killed during the battle.

Cable makes it to Forge’s lab, where he hopes to spirit the baby and himself into the future. He arrives, only to be ambushed by Bishop, who believes the child is responsible for creating his own dark future. Before Bishop can kill the baby, the Marauders show up and kidnap her. Cable makes it to ousted Xavier and Bishop lies his ass off to the X-Men.

As this is all happening, Predator X is hunting down more Mutants, heading back to the school and killing Peepers along the way.

The X-Men get Cerebra back on-line and use it track the child to Muir Island. There, Mystique uses Rogue’s comatose body to kill Sinister and takes his place, hoping the baby will save Rogue. Gambit is unsure and feels that Rogue would protest to a baby being possibly killed to save her life. The X-Men show up to take the baby back. The New X-Men, injured X-Men, and Predator X are all suddenly accidentally teleported there as well.

The baby saves Rogue, then is given to Professor X, who then gives it to Cable. Bishop goes after Cable, but is attacked by Predator X. Emma Frost takes down Exodus and Wolverine rips Predator X in half from the gut out. Cable in finally confronted by Cyclops, who takes the baby himself, and then decides to trust his son and gives it back. Cable teleports into the future just as Bishop leaps up and fires . . . accidentally killing Professor X. With Professor X dead, Cyclops declares the X-Men are no more.

I’ve been trying my best to figure out just how to judge a story like “Messiah Complex.” It’s a hard story to judge, to be honest. I mean, a lot happened and things got changed, but when it comes to X-Men, things change a lot.

Let’s start with the story first, I guess.

Overall, we have a number of threads being born (no pun intended) out of the birth of a Mutant girl who is so powerful, it actually caused a psychic backlash that fried Cerebra. We’ve got a Maddrox dupe and Layla in the future (Bishop’s future). We’ve got the Purifiers, who unleashed Predator X – both of whom are after the baby. They also recruit in Lady Deathstrike and the Reavers. We’ve got Sinister and the Marauders, who have teamed up with Mystique and the Acolytes in an effort to take the child for themselves. Then, there’s the X-Men themselves, who have to face down ONE and eventually create a new X-Force.

In addition to this, there’s Cable, who has the child and hopes to take it into the future; and there’s Bishop, who wants to prevent the future he grew up in (as seen by Jamie and Layla). There’s also Rogue, who is in the clutches of Sinister and the Marauders.

On top of and along with this are all these character arcs and history from not only Endangered Species, but also Decimation, House of M and even as far back as Endgame.

That’s a lot of material. And while there is some fight scene padding, I’d have to say that in this case, the story is executed nicely. The pacing moves rapidly enough for the reader to hold and the threads all get the right amount of attention. Each character gets a moment in the spotlight (except for Guido), though some more than others.

If there is a flaw in the story, it’s that there’s too much going on. Our attention is too divided. We’re caring about all these different characters – so much so that it’s hard to focus on just the heart of the story. Which is something that can be dealt with, but if there’s one problem, that’s it.

In addition to the whole ‘the future’ story thread that remains the grounding for this crossover, there is also a great “let’s kick some ass” feel to it. The X-Men have had their ass handed to them for a good while now. They’ve been on the defensive as opposed to the offensive. But seeing them take on the Purifiers (even if it is the New X-Men going at it) was a blessing (again, no pun intended). The X-Men have been the Marauders bitches for years and I loved to see them get the jump on Sinister’s assassins. The Acolytes have always kinda been push-overs, but again, it’s nice to them kicked their asses kicked. While I am very uncertain about this New X-Force, I liked the idea of the most violent X-Men being unleashed against the most violent of their allies and their most violent of enemies.

The effectiveness of these fight scenes in their many incarnations is the glue that holds “Messiah Complex” together. The meaning of the crossover is very evident in that everyone has a different agenda and a different ideal goal for the baby, but it’s the clash of these ideals and goals and agendas that pulls it all together.

This story deals with the fundamental shake-up of the X-Men’s corner in the Marvel Universe. We witness the destruction of the mansion/institute (again), as well as the end of the ONE Sentinels. Then there are a number of deaths here – including those of Professor X, Sinister, Lady Deathstrike, Predator X, Caliban, and Peepers. While Caliban and Peepers are more than likely to rot in the ground for a long while, one has to wonder just how long it will take for Professor X to pop out of the grave or for Sinister to be revived or Deathstrike to be rebuild. I mean, this is X-Men, right? These things happen. Professor X has either been dead or in a coma about five times all ready.

The scripts are effective. Even the death of Professor X is rather effective. It’s just that I can’t help but question its ramifications. In fact, I was a little bothered by Cyclops’ statement that the X-Men should end with the death of Professor X. Why should it? Just because Charles is dead, doesn’t mean the X-Men shouldn’t exist.

This also really rattled me because one of the major themes of this story is that Cyclops is breaking out on his own and is becoming the leader we all want him to be. He’s grown out of Professor X’s shadow. Part of this builds from what we’ve seen in Astonishing, though don’t get me started on the continuity there. It also steems out of House of M, where he was pretty much in command, as well as during Decimation and all the revelations and ramifications of that story. Cyclops is fully realized here. Doubtless, certain, but also very human. The flashbacks, the memories, the dialogue . . . this is Cyclops in his element and perhaps at his best. We’re even allowed to see some of his angst and anger over the death of Corsair – finally.

Then there’s Wolverine. The dynamic between Scott and Logan has really changed and it’s very evident here. I think there will always be that sense of uneasiness around each other, but the relationship between the two is stronger than it’s ever been. Scott trusts Logan now more than ever – hence why he gave Wolverine his own team to do “what he does best.” Logan certainly gets some awesome moments – his going after Gambit was pretty neat, as it immediately reminded me of the old “Bang, you’re dead!” moment from Crossroads. I also very much like when he took down Predator X. It screamed summer blockbuster, but damn it, if I wasn’t excited to see it happen.

On Cable’s end of things, given the direction Cable has been moving towards over the past few years, this is exactly what I’d expect him to do. I thought that Cable came through quite well throughout and the dynamic he had with Cyclops was especially enjoyable. The fact that Cyclops, in the end, entrusted Cable with the baby spoke volumes of their relationship.

Man, did I feel bad for Professor X. I think that both the reader and the X-Men themselves have learned that it’s time for Professor X to turn the reigns of the X-Men over to Cyclops. The scene where Professor X is effectively kicked out of the mansion’s ruins is pretty depressing. The Professor just comes across as lost most of the time. His death? Well, I can deal with it.

Bishop was one character that I felt needed fleshed out. We saw young Bishop’s whole POV on these events, but the POV of adult Bishop was missing big-time. In the end, he came off like an evil, crazy person. Despite the fact that Bishop has been a good guy for as long as we’ve known him and has played pivotal roles in key stories in past, it’s a little jarring to see him in such a terrible light. A little more fleshing out would have been appreciated here and remains the biggest flaw in Messiah Complex.

As far as the real bad guys are considered, there’s not a whole lot to say. Predator X wants to eat the baby. Lady Deathstrike is honoring a promise. The Purifiers hate Mutants because they think they’re from Hell and the baby is the Mutant Antichrist. Sinister wants the baby because . . . uh, well, with a name like “Mr. Sinister,” I’m sure it’s simply because of evil reasons. Though giving us reasons why would have been really nice. Ditto with as to why exactly Exodus and the Acolytes were there.

Mystique and Gambit are both there out of pure hope for Rogue, which played to their strengths. Actually, I thought Gambit was great here. You know he’s a good guy, he knows he’s a good guy, but he’s doing what he has to. And falling in with Sinister – plus his reaction to Sinister’s death – are both good signs of his character. Mystique’s pure desperation to save Rogue was well handled, as was Rogue’s reaction.

On the art front, it’s all pretty much on par, though Billy Tan still needs to work on his anatomy/perspective. It’s just awful sometimes. Most of his work is pretty good, but at times, I just shake my head and go “No!” His work blends well with Scot Eaton’s and Marc Silverstri, just as Chris Bachelo’s blends with Humbert Ramos’. We’ve got two very different art styles – more realistic and more cartoony – but they do come together nicely. It works out that the bigger action scenes are dealt with more by Ramos and Bachelo, who are well-equipped for this.

I mentioned how it’s hard to judge Messiah Complex, and in an overall sense, that remains true. A story this large, this complex, and with so many shake-ups is very hard to judge. In some ways, it works out better. In that changes the status quo of the X-Men, it rules on high. But is it perfect? No. Motivations aren’t explored and the story is a little too chaotic at times. It does have a number of high points. Characterization and character development, for one. Great battle scenes, for another.

By crossover standards, it’s perfect. It goes seamlessly from comic to comic, the only differences being in the art style. As an event, it stands tall, though it’s a little too early to see the immediate outcome. With “Divided We Stand” coming, I’m a little uncertain and it makes the long-term effects next to impossible to weigh in on. It shakes things up, as I said, but for how long it’ll all be like this, I have no clue.

It’s a focal point story. We see old plot threads pulled together and new ones begun. It reminded me a lot of the crossovers of old. However, much like the futures seen in Messiah Complex, the aftermath could be rather great . . . or pretty bad.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Uncanny X-Periment # 150: "Unstoppable"

Astonishing X-Men # 13-24, Giant-Sized Astonishing X-Men # 1

Well, we're here at last. Obviously, I'm lacking the "Uncanny X-Periment" title -- mainly because this whole thing is in need of some cleaning up. Hopefully in the next week or so, I'll be able to skim through the recent entries and re-arrange some things, as well as add in the "Emperor Vulcan" review I've been pussy-footing around.

At the moment, it appears (according to my various sources) that this story takes place between Endangered Species and Messiah CompleX. Considering how this story ends, that seems to be the most logical placement.

But anyways, like I said, here we are. At long last, Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men has come to a close. I took the time today, before getting to the issues listed above, to read Astonishing X-Men # 1-12. In retrospect, this is a great way to take in the full strength of Whedon's run. There are some little things here and there that tie strongly into his overall story.

Let's do it like we used to and give you all the spoilers.

We open up with the X-Men pretty much where we'd expect them to be. Kitty and Peter grow closer, Logan's training the few remaining students hard-core style, Hank's in his lab, and Scott's paying his bills. Oh, wait. Where's Emma? Why, she's meeting with the Hellfire Club! Remember? This one led by Shaw? With Cassandra Nova, that girl from Genosha, and the Mysteriously Cloaked Person? Anyways, they determine that now is the time to strike.

While Kitty comes clean with her feelings for Peter and they have sex, Emma sits down Scott and basically tears him down, stripping him of all his confidence -- as well as his powers. He goes unconscious and Emma runs to get the other X-Men. Kitty checks on the students, only to start phasing uncontrollably and goes down into the Earth. Colossus has the snot beaten out of him by Shaw in front of Scott's comatose body. Hank is devolved into an animal and Logan begins a young James Howellet.

Kitty eventually pulls it together as Hisako (Armor, as we'll call her from here on out) joins with Blindfold and Logan. She pulls Emma down into a small little space deep underground, then goes back up . . . where the cloaked person reveals herself to be none other than the White Queen!

Meanwhile, Agent Brand of SWORD learns that the prophets of Breakworld have determined which X-Man it will be that will destroy their world -- Colossus. Danger finds out and she goes to the captured Ord and tells him of this. They manage to escape and head down to the mansion.

Back at said mansion, the White Queen has shoved three years worth of fake memories into Kitty's mind, convincing her that she and Peter had son named Michael and that he's being held in a metal box in the sub-basement. She heads down there just as Logan regains his identity (thanks to a beer can) and Ord and Danger show up.

Kitty pulls the baby out . . . only it's not the baby. It's Cassandra Nova in that alien booger form. Scott then shows up and shoots the White Queen, then Shaw, Cassandra Nova (human form), and the other Hellfire Club members. Armor gives Beast a ball of string that reminds him of his true self and he arrives just in time to help against Ord and Danger. Scott then explains to Peter and Kitty that this manifestation of the Hellfire Club only existed as a result of a mental implant from Cassandra Nova and from Emma's own post-Genosha survivor's guilt. Emma suspected and feared something like this would happen, hence why she brought Kitty on board.

The X-Men are all then teleported up on a SWORD vessel, along with Ord and Danger. What happened to Cassandra's booger-body? Don't know. Never revealed.

Ord and Danger are swiftly imprisoned. The X-Men are briefed on the situation -- the SWORD ship is drawing the Breakworld armada away from Earth and they are all headed for Breakworld. They're going to Breakworld because they have a missile pointed at the Earth.

Now let's pause for just a moment so I can get everything understood about Breakworld. It's a world of pure violence, where the highest and mightiest of warriors are deemed the leaders. The current leader is Kruun. Now, ruling a place that's basically a hospital, is a woman named Aghanne (and her little friend Dafi -- "Like the duck.") Compassion is a sin, apparently.

The X-Men and the SWORD ship are (of course) attacked in Breakworld orbit. Danger, Ord, and some soldiers manage to land on the surface, where they are captured. Some others also make it onto the surface. The X-Men head down in two teams -- Cyclops, Emma, Agent Brand, and Beast in one pod; Shadowcat, Colossus, Armor, and Wolverine in another. The latter's breaks up during descent. Kitty and Colossus make it down separate from Wolverine and Armor and are immediately spotted throughout the capital. The other team makes it to the temple where Colossus in stone is depicted shoving a sun at Breakworld. Wolverine and Armor meet up with them shortly. Again, the team plans and breaks apart.

Colossus and Kitty are taken in by Aghanne, who believes that Colossus is not the literal death of the world; simply a way of changing it. Danger, striking a deal with Kruun, goes after Cyclops and Emma. Emma convinces her that she in unable to kill them and makes a deal. Beast and Agent Brand pick up a ship and proceed to grab everyone.

Meanwhile, Kruun second-in-command is believed to be in the pocket of SWORD -- when really, he's not. The X-Men head for the launchbase of the missile, a moon basically. However, they can't get to it; a fleet is in the way. A still powerless Cyclops buys them time by launching himself into a one-man vessel and taking on the fleet. He apparently "dies."

The X-Men, Danger, and Brand go back to the captial. Wolverine and Armor are captured as Cyclops is tortured by Kruun regarding something he said about "Leviathan" while on the ship. Cyclops then reveals to Kruun that Leviathan is meaningless, that they knew they were being watched, and it was all basically a ploy to get to Kruun and the reactor that draws power from the core of Breakworld. Wolverine and Armor were captured to give Emma a detailed image of the Palace. The X-Men arrive with their reinforcements, Lockheed is revealed to be a mole in the X-Men for SWORD, and Cyclops starts planning again -- his powers restored and under his control.

Colossus, Aghanne, Cyclops, and Emma go to the reactor, which is an energy that only Colossus can withstand. They show this to Kruun and demand he shut down the missile. He tells them he can't. Colossus enters the reactor just as Ord arrives, pissed as hell.

At the missile, Kitty, Beast, Armor, and Danger try and figure out how to stop. Kitty enters the missile, but the metal is actually causing her pain and she finds it harder and harder to travel through. At that point, the missile is launched. Expect, it's not a missile. It's really a gigantic bullet - with Kitty stuck inside it. It speeds to Earth.

Emma and Cyclops do their best to hold off Ord as Aghanne enters the reactor to force Colossus to destroy it. Reactor looks like the sun, you see? Ord pops in and kills her, only to die himself.

The super-heroes of Earth gather at SWORD's Peak headquarters, but are somehow telepathically rendered unable to stop the bullet. Even the rogue Sentinel that left Earth to deal with his guilt is there.

Colossus defeats Kruun and declares himself master, forcing Kruun to reveal a way to destroy it. He tells that maybe if it something else, it might work. The rogue Sentinels jumps to it . . . and goes smashy. And to no avail.

The bullet heads right towards Earth, with Kitty unable to phase through it. She then decides and is able to phase the actual bullet, though it quite possibly kills or killed her. The bullet slides through Earth and Kitty goes with it.

The X-Men re-group. Scott's control over his optic blasts are gone and he goes back to the visor. Agent Brand has the hots for Hank and, it turns out, is half-alien. Colossus then beings to mourn her.

Now, as usual, this is simply the reader's digest version of the events. There's a lot more to it.

Let's start the review off proper by going over the major flaws of this story.

First and foremost is the fate of Kitty Pryde. It heart-wrenching and actually makes me a little sick to my stomach. That's not exactly a bad thing, either. But what I don't like is how up in the air it is. Is she dead? Did phasing the bullet do her in? Or is she alive, forced to starve to death or something? Will she die when the bullet fall into black hole or hit a planet?

There's more I have to say about this and I'll get to that in a little bit. Right now I want to concentrate on the fundamental problem I have with that. Is it responsible for the X-Men (or the Avengers or Fantastic Four) to let this thing just fly off into space? Are the X-Men really willing to allow Kitty to die like that? Or to let her body, at least, just rocket through space? (I should note, it's not the first time it's happened) Why don't they just hop into a space ship (they should have them sitting around -- or at least someone does, right? SWORD?), warp after it, and have Nightcrawler teleport in with Hank, Forge or maybe even Reed Richards?

A little more closure would have been appreciated. I mean, I know the current thing right now is to make sure that X-Men space stories have downer endings (Emperor Vulcan, anyone?), but this just hurts.

Why does it hurt? Because Whedon made Kitty lovable all over again. At least for me. We've seen Kitty go through all these different phases (no pun intended) and we finally see her as a mature, sweet adult . . . only to have her maybe-kinda die. Again, I'll go into this a little more.

There are a few other problems I've found with this story. After the Kitty issue, there's also the question as to how Aghanne found out that Colossus even existed. Did the prophets actually speak the truth and she just decided to fill in the blanks? Did she find out from SWORD somehow? It doesn't make a whole of sense.

There's also the matter of Danger. What happened to her? She was promised Professor X . . . only nothing came of it. And I mean nothing. What the heck?

And what happened to Cassandra's booger body? Do we just assume that someone saw her laying around and tossed her back into the box or something? I can just picture Iceman and Rogue walking down the hall, seeing it, and tossing it in the garbage. Her existence wasn't even mentioned in the recent "Divided We Stand" 2-parter, a perfect place to sweep something like that under the rug.

So that's the bad right there. All of it. I mean, I guess I could talk about the delays, but . . . meh . . . they've been talked to death, right?

Well, since I've covered all the problems I had with this story, I suppose I should tackle the good stuff.

Really despite the logical holes I covered, it's a great run. Whedon really nails down the theme of sacrifice and redemption. Colossus return from sacrificing himself to cure the Legacy Virus, Professor X sacrificing Danger's freedom for the good of the X-Men, and obviously, Kitty's sacrifice to save the Earth. It's nicely peppered in and even the references to Jean seem to reinforce this idea without over-stating it.

There's some great symmetry here as well. Both the first and last arcs of the run deal with hope, but not exactly in a positive way. Hope is the name of the Mutant cure; it's also what Aghanne said children were . . . only to have the child die not long after she said that.

There's also some nice symmetry done in the last page with Peter's actions mimicking those of when Kitty found him.

Characterization is spot on. Cyclops really breaks out here and leaps forward as the brilliant leader we've seen him become. His relationship with Emma continues to be fleshed out; better here than with any other post-Morrison writer.

Emma comes across nicely, sympathetic enough. She gets knocked down a notch.

Wolverine, of course, is Wolverine. Clever, funny, violent, and occasionally insightful. His playing-off with Armor is fun. She effectively becomes the new Kitty Pryde.

Beast is as enjoyable as always. Whedon does a great job of continuing to show his struggle with his most recent Beast-ness. It was played around with a little in the first half, but it's really very prominent here and dealt with maturity. It's not just "hey, you're not an animal, Hank!" "Oh, you're right! Thanks!" It's more than that. He shoves himself so far away from his beast mentality that you can see that he just wants to be somewhat human again. So to speak.

Colossus himself is, of course, a key figure. Unlike the second arc, he's more developed here. More internal, definitely. He smiles, he loves, he jokes, he agonizes . . . he's alive again. It's wonderful. His scenes with Kitty are heart-warming. I guess we're supposed to interpret Colossus "destruction of Breakworld" as how Aghanne did - merely a destruction of the old ways. Or something.

Kitty herself is probably the biggest star of the book. While there's a spotlight on everyone, she's our eyes on the team again. She walks into the team with Whedon's first issue and leaves it with him. I hate to see her gone. I really do. It kills me a little. But having a writer be able to evoke that kind of emotion is a good thing.

Other characters are hit and miss. Agent Brand is great. Lockheed's revelation is shocking and I have to wonder where he got to at the end. Part of me wonders if he's not attached to the bullet, trying to burn his way into it. Kruun is lackluster and a little cliched. Aghanne is about the same.

Besides the fates of Kitty, Danger, and (really) Breakworld itself, Whedon does his best to handle some of the other strands left hanging. The rogue Sentinal was a pleasant surprise and it was nice to see its final fate. Cyclops powers, Armor's relationship with Wolverine, and even a nod at Professor X . . . all handled well.

Ultimately, I think Whedon was going for something different with Astonishing X-Men. He was definitely looking to make them into super-heroes. Not just Mutant freedom fighters like we've seen since, oh, Uncanny X-Men # 1 -- but genuine super-heroes. That would have been a great thing back in 2004 when this story began. But now? Not so much. Astonishing X-Men became a victim of it's own delays. The effects of this comics were forced to be felt about six months ago. That's when Kitty disappeared. That's the problem when an entire franchise hinches on a singular comic.

I have to applaud Whedon. Despite the flaws that these two story arcs suffered (as well as those of the original pair), he managed to crank out a great comic. The script was fantastic; great pacing and dialogue. He knows what he's doing.

Cassady's art is fantastic, but is there really a need to say that?

Overall, I'm still not sure how rate it all. It's a rather good book, even with it's problems and its lack of closure. But I think, now that's all done, it's time to move on.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Up-Dates Coming

Sorry about the lack of up-dates lately. Things have gotten pretty busy here. I meant to review X-Men: Emperor Vulcan for weeks now, I was so disappointed in the ending of this series that I just didn't feel like it. You'll see an X-Periment entry by the end of the week, though.

The future of this blog has been decided, by the way.

Like I mentioned, Emperor Vulcan will show up by the end of the week. When Giant-Sized Astonishing X-Men comes out, you'll see that post made (and moved, I think) within the week of that. For the most part, that'll put us pretty much up-to-date.

As far as "Divided We Stand" goes, I'm a little uncertain. At the moment, I'm only buying three X-Books - Uncanny X-Men, X-Men Legacy, and Wolverine Origins. Y'all might just have to wait for the trades to show up before I tackle X-Force, Wolverine, and Young X-Men.

If I get really bored, I'll post an X-Periment for "X-Men: Die by the Sword."

Not sure about "Secret Invasion." If an X-Men tie-in is released (other than X-Factor), I'll pick it up. Not doing what I did with Civil War though (which is all messed up for some reason -- it's missing a large chunk of its review).

As things calm down around here, expect some other entries. I plan on going back and doing reviews of other X-Books including X-Force/X-Statix, Exiles, X-Factor, etc. as soon as I pick them up. Which might be a while, but I have a lot of comics. It'll be fine.

I have some other things cooked up, but it will most definetly have to wait a few months.

The reason why things are slowing down here (other than the fact that we're pretty much in the present) is because on top of school and work, I'm also getting married in September. It's expensive and time-consuming. So, pretty much after mid-October (post-honeymoon), this blog will be up-dated more often.

In the meantime, stay tuned and thanks for stopping by.


Friday, March 07, 2008

Uncanny X-Periment # 149: "Endangered Species"

X-Men: Endangers Species, X-Men # 200, Cable/Deadpool # 42, X-Men # 201-204, Uncanny X-Men # 587-591, New X-Men # 42-43, Endangered Species back-ups

There’s a new threat against the Mutants and it’s unlike any they’ve had to face before. They are now faced with the possibility of extinction – of becoming an Endangered Species. It’s under these themes that the X-Men must react to the conflicts around them.

Members from the X-Men, X-Factor, and New X-Men head to the funeral for a Mutant teenager who rejected an offer to go to Xavier’s in pursuit of a “normal” life, only to get hit by a bus. The funeral causes the X-Men to come to terms with the idea of being an endangered species, as well as what role they play in a post-Decimation world. This includes a run-in between Xavier and Sebastian Shaw.

Afterwards, Rogue’s team heads to Mystique’s old home because she wants to (probably because she’s slowly going crazy). Once there, Iceman contacts Scott and asks them to come on down and look into Rogue’s mental state. Meanwhile, on Providence, Cable is targeted by Gambit and Sunfire. As Cable retreats to the power core of the island, Deadpool fights off Senyaka (how is this guy still alive?!) and is eventually tricked by Cable into teleporting away. Cable blows up Providence along with himself.

Back at Mystique’s house, Wolverine, Beast, Emma, and Cyclops arrive. They look into helping Rogue, but are swiftly ambushed by the Marauders – with the opening strike coming from a Malice-possessed Sentinel and Lady Mastermind. Mystique then reveals herself a traitor as well when she shoots Rogue. Emma gets taken down, but mentally takes control of Cannonball and Iceman and makes them flee. The two do battle over the Appalachian Mountains (I’m assuming) with Sunfire, whom they eventually take down.

Meanwhile, the mansion is attacked by Exodus and the Acolytes, who are looking for Destiny’s Diaries. The New X-Men, Colossus, and Shadowcat fight them off and the Acolytes leave, having discovered that the diaries at the mansion are all blank and the real ones are hidden somewhere. Back at the house, the remaining are trapped and the Marauders leave them there, with Rogue in tow. Emma reveals that Kitty knows where they are, but the location is hidden within her own mind, locked up with a hypnotic key. Kitty figures it out and Cannonball and Iceman are on the case. In the meantime, it’s revealed the Marauders targeted the Witness, the alive-but-now-dead-again Vargas, Cable, Gateway, and Blindfold to keep information about the future away from the X-Men – hence why they’re after the diaries. The duo confront the Marauders and Sinister himself at where the diaries were buried. They get destroyed during the battle and Sinister leaves Cannonball’s mind hollow before they storm out.

Cannonball recovers (as does Blindfold, who kinda killed herself to keep safe earlier) and it turns that the only reason Gambit and Mystique teamed with Sinister was to save Rogue, who is now comatose.

Over in the Uncanny and taking place within the same general timeframe (I imagine it being a day or two later), Caliban turns up at the mansion, back in his skinny form. Storm, Warpath, Hephzibah, and Caliban head into the Morlock tunnels to find out why the Morlocks did this to him. They find some strange prophecy written on a wall in the Alley (as a continuity nut, I should point out the Alley is flooded [LINK]).

Professor X and Nightcrawler go searching for Magneto while this is happening.

Masque, it turns out, is back in charge of the remaining Morlocks – Skids being among them. Masque launches an attack on a subway train that mutates the appearance of all those on board. Skids disagrees with this, feeling that he misinterpreted the words of someone. Storm uses her resources at the Baxter Building to pinpoint the Morlocks headquarters. ONE also tracked them down and were slaughtered. When these four show up, a Sentinel arrives to arrest them, but Skids awakes from where she was left unconscious during the battle and reveals herself to be a SHIELD undercover agent. She tells Storm and Caliban that Morlock named Delphi wrote a book off prophecy that tells of a great change and conflict to come and that Masque’s Morlocks are misreading the book.

Masque arrives with the captured Warpath and Hephzibah and takes them all under a cathedral he’s going to blow up with the X-Men in it so it looks like they did it. Storm uses her lightning to free herself and eventually Nightcrawler and Professor X show up and all are able to defeat Masque. Skids steals the book of prophecy and delievers it to Magneto, telling him that it says that he’s still a Mutant.

The New X-Men come to terms with all the death and destruction in their lives, as well as their current place in live in terms of them possibly being the last generation of Mutants. Meanwhile, the Purifer-released Predator X turns from his quest to kill Sand.

During and around all of this, Beast goes searching for a way to save Mutantkind. After long and dead-ending consultations with Mr. Fantastic, Yellowjacket, and even Iron Man, Beast has no choice but to turn to villains: Pandemic, Mr. Sinister (pre-Blinded by Light, I’m assuming), Arnim Zola, Sugar Man, Spiral, Kavita Rao, and the High Evolutionary. Everyone turns him down but Rao and Spiral, who make half-empty promises. The High Evolutionary seems to waver and gives Beast enough of a reason to make him confront him. He heads up Wundagore Mountain, bumps into the Knights, and then finally sees the High Evolutionary. Wyndham tries to convince Hank that this is natural way of things and that was done was done and that since magic created this mess, science would not fix it. He told that to Hank’s colleague. Colleague?! What?!

Hank then goes to Rao, who offers him Mutant samples that have now gone inert. Rao leaves Benetech for India. Hank hits another dead-end, but gets a file folder from her marked ‘Neverland.’ Hank gets the information about Neverland from Wolverine, and then heads their himself. Turns out that when Neverland closed, they killed all of the Mutants there (probably around the time of War of the Programs [LINK]). It’s there that none other than the Dark Beast shows up, the so-called ‘colleague’ the High Evolutionary referred to. Hank decides to team-up with Dark Beast in the hopes of figuring this out. They head on out and as they fly, Dark Beast gives Hank a sample of his memories of the Age of Apocalypse. Dark Beast suggests grave-robbing Nate Grey’s body, but it’s not an option. They go to Alamagordo, New Mexico (former home of the Black Womb). Turns out they killed Mutant babies and Hank immediately rejects the research. They also encounter a SHIELD robot that was supposed to kill them, but they destroy it and get out, believing the Sinister had been there all ready. The duo head to Genosha next and dig up bodies to recover samples, but find that most of them don’t have viable X-Genes anymore. They go in search of MGH, hoping that it might be enough to inject viable X-Genes into Mutants. This takes Hank to Bishop and District X, where a dealer in MGH tells them that all their samples are (shocker!) inert. The dealer pisses Hank off. Bishop talks to Hank about the future and Beast realizes that perhaps alternate reality Mutants might hold the key.

Hank goes to Forge, who found a way using Nimrod technology to scan alternate timelines and alternate futures for Mutants. Each one of them has flat lined, meaning Wanda’s power has affected more than just 616. He rejects Forge’s help and goes back to Dark Beast, who believes that perhaps the best option would be going to human parents of Mutants. This idea takes them to the Guthrie’s. She refuses to give them a sample because of all the pain and hurt having Mutants in her family has caused and is unwilling to bring that to anyone else. As Hank tries to change her mind, Dark Beast goes and meets up with young Lewis Guthrie, who is a Mutant wanna-be. He offers him an injection that might give him powers, but it causes a terrible reaction. Hank takes on Dark Beast, but is beaten. Luckily, Lucinda shows up with a gun and shoots Dark Beast and allowing Hank to save Lewis and declare that he is finished with Dark Beast.

Spiral shows up shortly thereafter, telling Hank that magic might be the key. This sends Hank to Doctor Strange, who shows him that Wanda’s declaration is now a permanent part of reality. Strange sends Hank to sees various other realities, where his quest has gone ever with failure. Finally, Hank has a dream of Wanda which sends him on a mission to find her. He does and she tells him a “be careful what you wish for” story before sending him on his way. Hank stops back at Neverland and buries the dead, trying to make peace with everything he has to do and with the failure he has been met with.

As whole, these stories pull together very well. “Blinded by the Light” is the strongest of all the offerings. Mike Carey really makes me a fan of his writing with this story. Not only does it tie heavily into the whole “Endangered Species” theme, but it also serves as Carey’s first real knock-out home run of a story. He handles all of the characters with great appreciation and depth, and serves them up in a state of chaos. It’s great to see Gambit again and Carey does a fantastic job on tackling the relationships between these various characters. The sheer chaotic sense that comes from this story is played brilliantly. By diving into the mythos and history of the X-Men, Carey solidifies himself as someone who knows something about the book he’s writing. Add into the mix Sinister, Exodus, the Marauders, and the Acolytes and we’ve got a presentation of a threat that is great once again after so long of being on the bottom rung. More than anything, though, there’s an energy in “Blinded by the Light” that’s been missing from the X-Men for too long.

The “Cable/Deadpool” part is as usually expected. Enjoyable, funny, but a little sad too.

I wish I could say the same about Brubaker’s “Uncanny X-Men,” but if there’s one thing lacking from “The

Extremists,” its energy. That’s not to say it’s not a vast improvement of the otherwise bland “Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire.” In fact, “The Extremists” is a great bounce back. It puts these small group of X-Men in a similar style position as their adjectiveless counterparts, where they’re being told about this harsh and conflicted future. Except where Sinister and Exodus are out to wipe out the knowledge of the future, the Morlocks are acting in extreme ways about the future. It’s a great parallel, though it might have worked better had the ‘book’ written by Qwerty been revealed to be one of the diaries of Destiny. But that’s okay. There’s still the same sense of history that was presented in “Blinded,” though this one in terms of the characters themselves. I do have to chide Brubaker for not giving us a proper scene of Scott grieving over Corsair. Indeed, I would have played this up a lot more – with Scott dealing with the death of his estranged son and estranged father. Man, what great angst was wasted . . .

“Children of X-Men” presents a story with the students dealing with the possibility of being the last Mutants. Played along with the angst and drama baggage that this group has been carrying around for months and months, it’s well-presented and handled excellently. Plus, the looming threat of Predator X plays out well.

“Endangers Species” does an awesome job of pulling the aftermath of “Decimation” back into the spotlight and focusing in on the mechanics of the event. It’s honestly exactly what the X-Men line needed and though we’ve waited for so long post-Decimation, it works pretty okay with the long span of time. Putting Beast and Dark Beast together and then on a tour of the X-Men’s corner of the Marvel Universe was a brilliant idea and it’s probably some of the best character development Hank has received since he almost took ‘Hope.’

As an overall whole, these stories connect well and play off each other with strong results. The threat of “Endangered Species” propels the X-Men into a direction with a full tank of gas. And it’s about freakin’ time.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Uncanny X-Periment # 148: "Evolution"

Wolverine # 50-56

Wolverine is haunted by dreams in which he and Sabretooth appear throughout history, along with some phrase that means "What I am, you will be" (or some such). He goes and confronts Sabretooth about it (who is hanging out at the mansion) and the two tussel. Creed drags Logan to Wakanda, where Storm and T'Challa show Logan a recent find that has two animal anthros skeletons. Logan is then told about the Lupin, apparently animal-type Mutants evolving from anthros instead of humans. This apparently includes the mysteriously repowered Feral and Thornn, as well as Wolfsbane and Sasquatch. Shortly afterwards, Wild Child captures Sabretooth. Wolverine and the aforemention animal-Mutants chase after Wild Child and Creed, finding them at the old Weapon X site. Sabretooth has completely lost it and eats Feral before he runs off.

The rest of the group gets taken out by Wild Child and they all head back to the mansion, where Logan gets the Muramasa sword back from Cyclops so he can kill Creed. He confronts Creed at the cabin where he killed Silver Fox. Logan lops off Creed's head, killing him. It's then revealed by a freshly arrived Wild Child that Romulus has had Creed kill Logan's past loves to control him. It all goes back into the mythology of Romulus - blonde versus black, the whole Lupin thing. Wolverine then swears he'll kill Romulus.

I’m a bit of a Jeph Loeb fan and having read his work over the past few years, I’ve found he mainly deals with either one of two different types of stories. Stories that are romantic or sentimental, such as Fallen Son, Spider-Man: Blue, Daredevil: Yellow, and Superman For All Season. These are usually of a slower pace and deal with the characters emotions to a larger extent than his other type of stories – which would be the more blockbuster-esque, action/adventure type of stories. This would mainly include Superman/Batman, Onslaught Reborn, Hush, and the like. The only time I think he’s actually done a good job at combining the two would be with Batman: The Long Halloween and its squeal, Batman: Dark Victory.

While I re-read Evolution, I was trying to figure out what kind of story he was trying to tell here. It was obviously something he thought would be profound and interesting and offer insight into Wolverine and build upon his mythology in a creative/innovative way. Eh . . . sorry, Jeph, not quite.

The dialogue is good, the pacing is steady, and the characterization is nicely handled. The art is fantastic, but we’ll get to that soon enough. The big problem, unfortunately, is the plot itself. It’s not very good.

I talked about Romulus here and went on about all of the questions regarding Romulus that need to be answered. Even though this was originally released parallel to the later arcs of “Wolverine Origin,” it does very little to explore Romulus. Which, at the heart of the story, is the biggest flaw here. I can look past the Silver Age-like coincidences, but Romulus is one of those concepts that absolutely needs to be explored.

Romulus just doesn’t seem real to me. I mean, in addition to all the “oh yeah, he arranged the deaths of all these important women in Logan’s life,” he just seems too out of this world for me to take seriously. All that nonsense about the Lupine evolving into human-like Mutants that are fairly anthropomorphic? What? I can’t take that seriously! It’s over-complicating things. Not to mention the whole blonde-fur/dark-fur idea.

With all that tied to Romulus, I already am not fond of this character and these new developments. There’s nothing personal to make me care about Romulus. Oh, what’s that? He had ties to the Weapon X project? Well, hell, for a while it was implied that Apocalypse did. Then it was hinted that Sinister was involved. Finally, it was John Sublime. And now Romulus? Gasp!

Don’t get me wrong – I think Romulus has the potential to be a great villain. In fact, I’m hoping he does. I want to understand him more and I need to see more of his personality and motivations, but until then, he’s practically not a character. If he continues on this track, he’ll become a one-note villain the likes of Onslaught, Bastian, the Adversary, and Factor Three. All hype and no bite.

As far as Sabretooth’s death is concerned, I’m fine with it. I’m not overly-excited about it and it won’t surprise me to see him pop up again, but it’s cool. I’m fine with Feral’s death, too.

On the art-side, I have to give it up for Bianchi. This is one of those artists that you can just tell are going to be the next John Romita Jr’s or John Cassady. Everything is rendered absolutely beautifully and with a graceful style that only lends to the storytelling.

Again, there’s potential here for this story to really be something. But until it achieves that potential, it’s just nothing but flash in the pan.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Uncanny X-Periment # 147: "Red Data"

X-Men Annual 2006, X-Men # 194-198, Cable and Deadpool # 40, X-Men # 199, Cable and Deadpool # 41

Rogue, Mystique, and Cable take the comatose Northstar and Aurora to the SHIELD Helicarrier in an attempt to fix their minds. When they do, Exodus, Frenzy, Tempo, and Random show up and use Cable’s knowledge to create an advanced Cerebra that allows him to look for Mutant babies or even potential Mutant babies. Exodus finds nothing and with help from the restored Beauber twins, takes off with his gang . . . and meets with Sinister.

The X-Men finally get a lead on Pan and it turns out to be a doctor that Rogue went to see when she first joined the X-Men. An old colleague for Professor X’s. The X-Men track him down, when Rogue is captured and has her powers changed. Turns out Pan has given himself her powers, except with the ability to steal someone’s entire life and in the process, killing them. An X-Men rumble follows and Rogue emerges with this new addition added to her power, but also dying and feverish. With Pan defeated thanks to quick thinking from Sabretooth and Cable, the X-Men head to Providence Island (Cable’s island paradise) to deal with Rogue.

It’s then that it’s revealed that the old man that appeared at the X-Men’s doorstep was a Mummudrai. It hitched a ride with Lady Mastermind after the old man collapsed and in due time, it reveals to the X-Men that it was captured by Shi’ar scientists and was copied and mimicked to create the Hentacomb, a weapon that rips minds out of bodies and captures them. Cable and Mummudrai mind-meld while Providence titters on the edge of being destroyed. He tries to tackle the Hentacomb, but then Rogue steps in, absorbs the 8 billion minds inside the Hentacomb, and the Conquisdor smashes into it. After the X-Men leave, Sabretooth escapes and fights Deadpool before Cable tosses him into the ocean.

While I’m not overly impressed with both Pan and Hentacomb, I do have to credit Carey (and Nicieza) for their character work. The stories are noting to write home about, but the characterization and character development is on high. Rogue gets some great new additions to her increasingly unstable personality. Mystique’s apparent love of her foster daughter is a nice layer – as well as her flirting with Iceman. The Cable/Cannonball relationship is an enjoyable feature. The instability and distrust when it comes to Sabretooth and Mastermind adds some chemistry.

Even the guest-stars are enjoyable here. Exodus is actually cool in this story as we continue to learn the ever-increasing damage done by M-Day. Domino, Deadpool, Irene, and the other X-Men are used well here.

The art is hit and miss, but I enjoy the way in which the Mummudrai and the Hentacomb are presented. Very neat.

I guess we’re supposed to assume the X-Men picked up Creed or something, because he’s back at the mansion for our next story.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Uncanny X-Periment # 146: "Emperor Vulcan"

X-Men: Emperor Vulcan # 1-5

Up in space, the Starjammers are still leading a resistance against the Shi'ar and Vulcan. During a battle, the Shi'ar are suddenly attacked by Scy'Tal, a race whose homeworld was taken by Shi'ar because it possessed the M'Kraan Crystal. The Shi'ar fleet is destroyed by a sun-teleporting weapon called Finality. Both the Starjammers and the Imperial Guard team up to defeat the Scy'Tal. Lilandria and the gang hang out above the World (the home of the M'Kraan) to protect it while the Starjammers and Imperial Guard go to the solar nest where the Finality is teleporting suns from. Vulcan and Havok battle the Scy'Tal Eldest and eventually defeat him. Vulcan then tosses Havok into a sun and launches the Imperial Guard at the Starjammers. Meanwhile, he also fires a Finality probe (which opens the gate for the sun to come through) at the World. Rachel and Korvus go off to stop it; Ka'adrum allows the probe to blow up, destroying the entire Scy'Tal fleet as well as the M'Kraan. He then tells Lilandria to leave as he is joining Vulcan. Havok returns, more powerful than ever, and nearly kills Vulcan . . . right when Deathbird and the Imperial Guard show up with the defeated Starjammers in tow. Havok is forced to surrender. Lilandria, Rachel and Korvus are still out there, somewhere, and Vulcan now has the love of the Shi'ar people.

As much as I enjoyed the look into the Shi'ar's past, the heavy anti-religious sentiments were just so over the top. Add to it the fact that it adds zero closure to this story and I just . . . ugh, I just don't like it.

Havok gets some nice moments, but everyone else is just kinda there. Vulcan just needs to stop being so whiney. I want him to start hanging out with Dakken.

Can this story end soon?


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Uncanny X-Periment # 145: "World War Hulk"

World War Hulk # 1 (1st half), X-Men: World War Hulk # 1-3, World War Hulk # 1 (2nd half) - World War Hulk # 5

After being jettisoned to the planet Sakaar by the Illuminati (sans Professor X, who was missing at the time; and Namor, who disagreed with the decision), the Hulk has returned to the Earth uber-pissed. He believes that the shuttle that took him to Sakaar exploded on purpose, wiping out the world and his wife and unborn child. Now, with his gang called Warbound, he’s ready to unleash his rage upon the Earth.

He arrives on the moon first and takes down Black Bolt. He then heads to New York City and demand that it be evacuated and that Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Strange present themselves for punishment. Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic go to see the Sentry, who they believe is the only person who can defeat the Hulk. But he’s too crazy to be of any help. As the New and Mighty Avengers evacuate the city (with help from some guys in tie-in issues that I didn’t read), the Hulk decides to check in on our favorite Mutants to see what Professor X would have said.

Hulk tears through the New X-Men team, who are then joined by the Astonishing team. Professor X steps out and Hulk confronts him. Xavier reads his mind and Hulk wants to know how he would have answered. Xavier tells Hulk that he would have shot him into space, but only for a limited amount of time – ie. when they have developed a cure for him. Hulk tells Professor X to get his ass in gear, but the X-Men refuse it and step in between them. Emma reaches out to the other X-Men teams – Uncanny, Excalibur, and X-Factor. Hulk manages to beat the crap outta Wolverine when the Juggernaut shows up, having teleported over by Cytorrak. Hulk punches him out, bends Colossus’ arms outta shape, and is then confronted by the Uncanny team and X-Factor. Guido puts up a good fight against Hulk, but his heart is still in bad shape from about a million and half years ago. He goes down, but that’s about when Hephzibah crashed the Blackbird into Hulk. Hulk shrugs that off, but now has to deal with the Juggernaut in full-Cytorrak power mode. He battles with the Hulk again, but goes down. Hulk chases after Professor X and catches up with him and Mercury at the graveyard. It’s there Mercury yells at the Hulk about how their lives are already a mess. Hulk sees that Professor X is already living in hell. He then heads on out. So does Juggernaut.

The Hulk returns to New York City and not long after the city is evacuated, he confronts the heroes. Iron Man steps up in his new Hulkbuster armor and the two beat the crap out of each other. Eventually, they crash into Avengers Tower. Hulk emerges victorious and goes to beat up the rest of the heroes with his Warbound. In addition to the Mighty Avengers and half the New Avengers (Luke Cage, Spider-Man, and Spider-Woman), there’s also Samson and She-Hulk to battle it out. They eventually fall to the Hulk – even after She-Hulk tries to talk some sense into him. Hulk then launches himself at the Baxter Building to face down the Fantastic Four. Black Panther fights the Warbound whilst Storm and the Human Torch launch themselves at the Hulk. The trio fails and Thing tussels with the Hulk before himself going down. Mr. Fantastic tries to pretend he’s the Sentry, but to no avail. He goes down, along with Sue.

With the super-heroes finished, the Warbound goes in search of Dr. Strange and Rick Jones confronts the Hulk. Hulk merely brushes him aside. The Warbound make short work of Ronin, Echo, and Iron Fist and Hiorim the Fallen remains behind to seek out Doctor Strange in his Sanctum Sanctorum. As he’s being assaulted by the military and General Ross, Doctor Strange reaches Banner within Hulk and tries to calm him. The Hulk fights back and breaks Strange’s hands. Ross and his military eventually lose to the Hulk. Strange lets the demon called Zom into his body and uses its power to battle the Hulk. The battle takes them through New York and even endangers civilians – but Hulk saves them and is victorious over Strange.

Hulk then puts the Illuminati through the same trials he had to face on Sakaar – concluding with a fight between the four of them. As the Hulk watches on, the Sentry is at last unleashed. The Hulk declares the fighting at an end, making it clear that the world sees them now as traitors and liars and that he will destroy New York now as punishment. The Sentry collides with him and two war it out, with the Sentry continuing to lose control. The Hulk beats him down and in it, he is finally calmed and exhausted, becoming Banner again. Rick Jones reaches out to him . . . only to be stabbed by the Hulk’s best friend, Miek. Banner Hulks out and beats the crap outta Miek, when it’s revealed that it was Miek that watched/allowed the followers of Sakaar’s fallen ruler the Red King to load the bomb onto the ship that destroyed Sakaar. The Hulk goes crazy with rage, radiation and energy rippling from him. He tells them to stop him and Tony puts him down with a gigantic laser beam. The Hulk crumbles, the Warbound goes into hiding, and Hulk – as Banner – is taken into government custody and rendered comatose.

And thus, yet another Marvel crossover ends.

My opinion of the Hulk is a little strange. To me, the Hulk is only as good as the stories he’s featured in. For me to really enjoy Hulk, it has be a story that is going to interest me or, otherwise, I’m fairly “meh” when it comes to him. Luckily, both Planet Hulk and World War Hulk are just those kinds of stories. Having loved Planet Hulk, I found World War Hulk to be a great compliment to that epic. World War Hulk is full of all those battles I always wanted to see – Hulk versus She-Hulk, Thing, Juggernaut, Strong Guy, and Colossus with the Avengers, X-Men, and Fantastic Four tagging along. Plus, considering everything the Hulk has gone through, it’s hard not to understand his rage at these characters. We get plenty of insight into the Hulk and the characters of the Warbound are well-rounded and interesting.

The X-Men aspect (which is really the only other book I can justify being part of this crossover other than Hulk and Frontline, which I decided not to read with this entry), plays out nicely. It’s a nice story with surprising character development. Juggernaut gets some development. The relationship between Professor X and Cyclops – while tense – is played off well here. There are plenty of continuity nuggets dropped here and there as well. From Guido’s heart problems to Juggernaut’s previous battle with the Hulk and even the long-standing Hulk/Wolverine battles.

As an overall, World War Hulk is a great read and is probably among my top three favorite Hulk stories. But I do have offer a complaint against Marvel. “Avengers Disassembled” was about the Scarlet Witch destroying the Avengers. “House of M” was about Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch destroying Mutantkind. “Civil War” was about Captain America fighting Iron Man. And now we have “World War Hulk” that pits the Hulk against the elite of Marvel heroes. Got a question – when is this super-hero on super-hero violence going to end? Please let “Secret Invasion” be a departure from this.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Uncanny X-Periment # 144: "The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire"

Uncanny X-Men # 475 - 486

Vulcan has decided to kick some Shi'ar ass and the Professor, unable to reach his ex-wife, decides to head on out and stop him. He recruits Rachel, Polaris, Darwin, Nightcrawler, Warpath, and Havok takes off. Eventually, they come across an outpost and rescue two Shi'ar's that have been attacked by stranded Warskrulls (who were themselves stranded by the Annhilliation wave). The Shi'ar catchs wind of Vulcan's attack and his subsequent taking of a warship and they launch the Imperial Guard at him. He gets taken captive. Meanwhile, a Shi'ar named Korvus (who has a sword with a piece of the Phoenix in it) goes off to take down the X-Men. After a brief battle, the piece of the Phoenix and Rachel bonds her with Korvus and the two fall in love.

The exiled Shi'ar take Professor X away, but luckily, Darwin stashes himself in their ship and follows. The X-Men join up with the Starjammers and rescue Lilandria, then some General that was like an uncle to her.

Vulcan is rescued by a cult that follows D'Ken and Deathbird. Vulcan and Deathbird team up and the two fall in love. Sooner or later, they end up waking up D'Ken and in an attempt to draw out Lilandria and the X-Men, Deathbird and Vulcan decide to get married in front of the M'Kraan Crystal and execute Professor X there too (probably after the toast, but before the cutting of the cake).

Of course, everyone shows up and the party gets started. Vulcan marries Deathbird, kills D'Ken, and declares himself Emperor. He then goes to kill Lilandria, but she is rescued by Corsair - who is killed in her place. Professor X is tossed into the M'Kraan Crystal and returns with his powers thanks to Darwin.

In an effort to save Xavier, Lilandria teleports him, Warpath, Nightcrawler, Darwin, and Hepzibah up to their ship and has it launched back to Earth. The rest of the X-Men, Starjammers, and rebellion then withdraw.

One of the advantages of the Uncanny X-Periment is the gift of hindsight. Seeing this story in the context of history (even recent history) allows me to understand that this is simply the second part of a trilogy. It began in "Deadly Genesis" and continues into "Emperor Vulcan."

I'll be honest when I say that this continuation hurts the story. It lacks a solid conclusion. We spend basically ten issues of build-up for very little pay-off. It's a non-ending.

For the most part, it's a rapid paced story with enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. But there's something lacking and I'm not sure what it is.

There's not a ton of originality here. It's a lot like many other Shi'ar space operas that we've seen. The idea of a Shi'ar civil war was explored years ago. This is pretty much the same, just with Vulcan added

While the story itself is a little more than dull, the characterization is on high. Vulcan is nicely shaped as the "punk teen in a super-powerful adult body." Professor X's angst rings quite true here. Kurt, Alex, Lorna, and Rachel all get some much needed development. Warpath enters into the spotlight and is probably among the highlights of this story. The Nermani's are about as driven as ever, but nothing really incredible.

Corsair's death was not unexpected and was heroic, if not quick. The lack of mourning on the part of Scott really bothers me.

The show-stealer for me is Darwin. He's brillant. Both power and personality-wise, he's an interesting and dynamic character.

As for the art . . . eh, I've got issues with Billy Tan. His action sequences are almost always great, but every other scene seems . . . off. People's heads and shoulders look out of proportion. Everyone's body looks generall the same with just small changes. Clayton Henry's work is good, but it doesn't mesh well with Tan's.

As an overall whole, it's not that great. The characterization is good, but in it of itself, the story just doesn't live up.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

UXP # 143g: "Civil War: Epilogue"

Amazing Spider-Man # 538 (rest of issue), Civil War: Frontline # 10 (Pages # 6-17), Civil War # 7 (Rest of issue), Civil War: Frontline # 11 (rest of issue), Ghost Rider # 8 - 12, Fantastic Four # 543, Captain America # 25, Civil War: The Initiative, Civil War: The Confession (Rest of issue)

Peter Parker returns to the sleazy hotel room after being counted among the missing. He embraces his wife and aunt, then the snipers shoots. He shoves MJ out of the way . . . and Aunt May gets the shot straight in the gut. The story continues off in Back in Black and One More Day.

Ben and Sally go off and interview Captain America and Iron Man to get a perspective on the registration act now that the Civil War is pretty much over. The interview with Cap quickly devolves into Sally yelling at Cap for not knowing what America is all about. She and Ben then leave and open their own news website – Then they go off to interview Iron Man and tell that they know that he’s the traitor. He pushed for a war between Atlantis and the US to up the amount of heroes registering. He then manipulated his stock to create a pension fund for firemen, police officers, and super-heroes. With the fear of a terrible prison out there, he hoped more people would register. It’s diabolical and people died, but it was for the greater good. Tony gets pissed, but Ben assures them they won’t run the story. They leave and Tony cries.

Not long after this, a heartfelt letter from Reed gets to Sue. She returns to him. Tony meets with Miriam Sharpe aboard the SHIELD Hellicarrier, as he is now Director of SHIELD. He tells her of the new future they’re building and that 42 was named such as it was 42nd of a list of 100 ideas.

In Sleepy Hollow, Illinois, the Devil has taken control of Jack O’Lantern’s Punisher-killed body. Ghost Rider goes and helps a Sheriff deal with him. There’s zombies too.

During an anniversary television special, the Fantastic Four reunite. However, Reed and Sue decide to take some time off to deal with their recent problems – effectively replacing them with Black Panther and Storm.

Captain America is marched into an NYC courthouse. As he is, Sharon Carter and Winter Soldier both are present in the hopes of either rescuing him or just wanting to witness. However, as he’s walking before a crowd, a sniper shoots him down. In the chaos that ensues, Sharon goes to him. He orders the crowd to depart for their own safety, and then is shot again.

Winter Soldier goes to the window where the sniper was located and with the help of the Falcon, they quickly track down Crossbones. Winter Soldier beats him up, then Falcon orders him away as Capekillers arrive. They take Crossbones into custody.

On the way to hospital, Steve Rogers tells Sharon how beautiful she is . . . then dies.

At the hospital, Red Skull’s daughter gives Sharon a trigger word that forces her to remember what exactly happened when she ran up to Steve’s body. She killed Captain America.

Despite Cap’s death, the Initiative is still in full swing. 50 super-hero teams for 50 states, plus Omega Flight in Canada. Iron Man also peeks in at footage of the new Thunderbolts team. Afterwards, he speaks to Ms. Marvel regarding an encounter she had with Spider-Woman. Turns out she told Spider-Woman that Cap was alive in the hopes of bringing her and the rest of the group (read: New Avengers) back into the system. Tony disagrees with this tactic, the two part ways, and Iron Man decides to form a new team of Avengers.

Shortly thereafter, Cap’s body is brought to the SHIELD Hellicarrier. Tony locks himself into a room with it and confesses to Steve’s fallen body. He tells him that he feared a war would come between those with super-powers that despite how much he knew it was coming, it wasn’t worth the price he had to pay.

There’s a lot of good aftermath material here. The Ghost Rider story was particularly fun. The Fantastic Four was light-hearted and yet, meaningful. I like the idea of Reed and Sue taking a vacation and T’Challa and Ororo taking their place.

The Spider-Man snippet was effectively powerful. I have to comment and say that it’s nice to see the fallout from Peter’s revelation coming out now in the aftermath of the chaos of Civil War. It’s too bad none of it matters since “One More Day” – which was the laziest, sloppiest amount of storytelling I’ve seen in years. I mean, come on . . . (rants)

Ben and Sally completely lost me. The sheer amount of unprofessional actions just killed that book for me. It stopped being interesting and became, well, stupid and lame.

With these various books, we see a very interesting Tony Stark. On the one hand, when dealing with Sharpe and setting up the Initiative, Tony is smart and smooth and just all together with it. On the other hand, we also see full of guilt and shame. When confessing to Cap, there’s a bit of relief to see him come to terms that he’s done a lot of bad things that – despite being for the good – just aren’t worth it in the end. It’s well done and makes a very balanced Tony Stark.

Captain America’s death is wonderfully brutal. It hits hard and while getting shot in the back may not be the best death for Captain America, it serves its purpose. Plus, did Sharon really kill Cap? We don’t know yet – that’s besides the point. His death is like the last explosion in this story. It’s the final thought. He’s dead, the Marvel Universe has changed, and the future is uncertain. And everyone is charging right in.