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.