Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Uncanny X-Periment # 154: Manifest Destiny – Ghostbox

Astonishing X-Men # 25-31

The X-Men are joined by Storm and are swiftly asked to consult on a murder. A man if found floating and burning. After inspecting his DNA, Beast concludes that he’s an artificial Mutant – he has three strands of DNA, not two. And this artificial Mutant was chasing down someone by the name of Subject X. Subject X is found on an alien spaceship dumping ground, where he is charging something called a Ghostbox. The X-Men destroy the ship he’s on, steal the Ghostbox, and Subject X kills himself. Doing more research and consulting with Agent Brand, they discover that Ghostboxes are basically bridges between alternate worlds and that Subject X was a Mutant from another planet. The X-Men believe that the artificial Mutants and the alternate reality Mutants are waging a secret war.

Researching the artificial Mutant’s records, they journey to a dead zone in China called Tian, where they found half a floating palace and half a fallen palace. Within, they confront more artificial Mutants and learn they were created by Forge. They find Forge at Wundagore Mountain, where he has his own team of New Mutants (artificial ones), ready to invade the alternate reality. Forge claims that the alternate reality Mutants are planning on annexing this world – they’ve sent one scouting team, which Forge killed; the second one was wiped out by Forge again. The X-Men frown upon this, Forge opens the Ghostbox, demanding that the X-Men listen to him. The X-Men don’t and instead, blow the crap outta Wundagore Mountain with the help of SWORD mega-laser. The laser’s main beam journeys through the Ghostbox into the alternate reality. Forge and the fake New Mutants dead and the staging area for the invasion assumed destroyed, the X-Men head home.

So, the good. Well, marks for creativity. Though the story was way too confusing and sometimes I had to remind myself what exactly was going on, it was at least interesting and more creative than what we’ve seen from the X-Men in a good while. Character-wise, it’s a little all over the place. Armor got annoying after a while, what with her quips and Twitter and what-not. Wolverine was . . . well, Wolverine. Same with Emma. Cyclops was hardcore and Storm was shallow at times. Beast was pretty consistent. However, the interaction between these characters is one of the high points; especially when it came to death and killing.

Of course, after the moral debates, no one bothered to try and save Forge. Forge’s biggest issue was that no one really respected and everyone just kinda used him, then dismissed him. How is that not true? Granted, he’s done some crazy shit, but he’s dedicated so much to Xavier’s dream and rarely gets any love. By anyone.

Forge’s betrayal and descent into insanity layers a story that has one too many turns. And ultimately, I didn’t feel much at the end of this story other than that Forge kinda got screwed over by the X-Men. I should have, though. Forge – sure, he had a couple of break-downs – but he’s been such a loyal character over the years. He only “went insane” once and that was when he first appeared. He had his shaman powers, which helped defeat the Adversary. When the X-Men were ‘dead’ after that, he helped fill in for them. His death (?) was way over the top and the fact that the X-Men left him behind troubles me.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Uncanny X-Periment # 153: Manifest Destiny – San Francisco

Uncanny X-Men # 500 (until “Epilogue Two”), Young X-Men # 6, X-Men: Free Comic Book Day, X-Men: Manifest Destiny # 1-5, Nightcrawler: Manifest Destiny one-shot

An art collector by the name of Guy buys some March One Sentinels for a “kitschy” Mutant pop art display. The X-Men learn of this while giving the Mayor of SF a tour of their new Graymalkin Facility. The X-Men attend the event in question, only to have it crashed by Magneto. He subsequently activates the Sentinels, which the X-Men must deal with while handling Magneto at the same time. Eventually, the Sentinels are taken down (the one by Archangel destroyed rather mysteriously) and the battle comes down to Magneto. Magneto is defeated, his powers being manufactured by an armor created by the High Evolutionary. Magneto escapes, declaring that the X-Men’s current drive will end up being the end of Mutantkind. Meanwhile, Storm witnesses the High Evolutionary doing something to the Dreaming Celestial. In the aftermath, Cyclops declares San Francisco open to the Mutant population. Also, Wolverine finds Guy dead.

The Young X-Men are brought to Graymalkin Facility and, under the tutelage of Cannonball, Moonstar, Sunspot, and Magma, are to be taught to become defenders and actual X-Men. Moonstar herself goes Anole and recruits him back.

Back in Wales, Pixie faces off against some N’Gari. The X-Men come and help her destroy the Carren that’s allowing the N’Gari to manifest, and then the gang heads home.

Mystique and Iceman play a game of cat and mouse, with Mystique pushing Bobby to use his powers in different ways. Mystique, torn over not being able to have someone in her life, leaps off Golden Gate Bridge, but really just escapes.

In San Francisco, Mutants begin to gather and deal with the recent shake-up in their lives. Shan struggles to control her powers. Meltdown faces down with a super-villain who has the power to put people to sleep. The Juggernaut wrestles with the decision to be good or bad – eventually deciding on bad. Emma Frost deals with the mistrust from the other X-Men. The other X-Men try and cheer up Colossus, to no effect. Graymalkin – being well over 100 years old – reveals to Anole that he was buried alive for being gay. Mercury deals with looking strange, fights the Hellfire Gang, and is cheered by X-23. Nightcrawler gets some aggression out while mourning the loss of Kitty and trying to figure out his place with the X-Men. Dazzler fights her manager on a plane back to the states, and then is invited to play in a club regularly in San Francisco. Avalanche, trying to make a new life for himself, is confronted the X-Men, who warn they’re watching him.

Nightcrawler, feeling out of place with the X-Men, leaves for Winzeldorf, Germany to check out the Nightcrawler museum. Once there, he learns that the town is being terrorized by some sort demon-monster thing. Nightcrawler fights it and eventually faces the monster in the woods, only to learn that he’s just a 16 year old boy cursed and transformed into that monster. A mob arrives and after the boy nearly kills an old man, Nightcrawler talks him down . . . only for the boy to kill himself. The mob departs and Mephisto arrives. Nightcrawler maintains his faith despite his heritage. Nightcrawler then returns to the X-Men.

Again, I’m torn. This is a really mixed bag here. Some of it is good. Uncanny X-Men # 500 gives us a clear message and an idea as to what the X-Men’s lives are going to be. The highlight of this issue is Magneto’s debate with Cyclops about the X-Men’s role in preserving Mutantkind. What I like about it is that it reminds me a lot of the old Xavier/Magneto debates – except now the subject is survival and Cyclops doesn’t have that familiar relationship that his mentor had. Cyclops has had Magneto trying to kill him since he was seventeen and will take that position against Magneto no matter what.

Some of the vignettes are pretty good. The Nightcrawler stories are particularly good – a nice blend of fun, sentiment and angst. The Pixie story is far from exciting. All the others are just so all over the place, but most of them are just so angst-filled, it makes reading them a chore. I cringed with every new story. What’s that? An X-Man having trouble adjusting to life? Using their powers to fight some sort of low-level baddie? Snooze.

I’m fairly certain this marks the end of Ed Brubaker’s run on Uncanny X-Men. Gotta be honest, I’m not sorry to see him go. I honestly believe Brubaker is one of the best writers in comics today. His work on Captain America alone has made for one of my favorite comic runs ever. But his run on Uncanny X-Men? It was boring, slow, and just didn’t seem to work. He had some nice ideas, but in execution, most of them just fell short. Deadly Genesis was interesting, but in retrospect, didn’t do much for me. Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire was inconclusive and predictable. The Morlock story was slow. Messiah CompleX was good, but that was mostly because he was working with other writers. Actually, the one arc I liked was his Divided We Stand story, and that was only mainly the first issue.

As for the X-Men’s move to San Francisco (which I swear, I’ll spell correctly someday) is a logical one and I’m pleased to see a change of venue for once in the Marvel Universe – having everything set in New York gets a little hard to believe.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Uncanny X-Periment # 152: "Divided We Stand"

X-Men: Legacy # 208-214, Wolverine # 62-65, X-Men: Divided We Stand # 1-2, X-Force # 1-6, Young X-Men # 1-5, Uncanny X-Men # 495-499

Turns out Professor X’s body was stolen by the Acolytes right from under the X-Men’s nose – thanks to Tempo. They’ve spirited him away to their neat little hide-out, where Sentinel and Exodus seek to restore him. Unfortunately, even after his brain is repaired, his mind and memories are fractured. Exodus has no choice but to reach out to Magneto. Magneto and Sentinel are able to revive Professor X, but his memories are still fractured. Cargill seeks to kill Professor X, but Magneto steps in and takes her out. Shortly thereafter, Exodus goes to kill Magneto, only to be stopped by Professor X. After a psi-war, Exodus proclaims that the reason he wanted Professor X to live was to lead the Acolytes into a new future. Professor X refuses, speaks to Amelia (who he barely remembers), and he, Magneto, and Sentinel leave, opting to go their separate ways.

A few days later, Professor X decides to pay a visit to the now powerless and insane Carter Ryking (aka Hazard). Carter helps Professor X regain some memories of what their parents did at Amalgodo. At the same time, a machine Sebastion Shaw’s father created explodes and Juggernaut is assaulted by a strange and brief mental attack that his helmet repels. That night, Ryking comes up dead and Professor X is targeted by assassins. Saved by Gambit, the pair head back to Amalgodo. On their way, the assassins strike again – this time taking Xavier hostage. Shaw and Gambit then team up and track Xavier down. Turns out that Sinister did experiments on Shaw, Ryking, Juggernaut and Professor X as children – imprinting his own DNA onto theirs and upon his death, a machine called Cronus would transform them into Sinister, ensuring his immortality. However, this machine has fallen into the hands of Amanda Mueller. Sinister took control of Professor X and battled Amanda. As Gambit and Shaw appeared on the scene (then were captured, then freed), the pair proceeded to fight Sinister/Xavier and eventually destroyed Cronus. Mueller escaped and Xavier banished Sinister from his mind. In the aftermath, the trio parted, with Professor X desiring to talk to Cyclops urgently. Sinister returned, this time in the shape of a female clone and allying herself with Shaw.

Elsewhere . . .

Cyclops orders Wolverine to get Mystique since she slipped out during all the chaos. Wolverine tracks her to the middle-east, where she has killed innocents and risked the lives of children and soldiers setting up traps to stop him. As Wolverine tracks her, we are regaled with a flashback of their first meeting. Mystique and Logan met when they were to be executed. They escape, since they’re Mutants, and head to Kansas City. Once there, Logan joins Mystique’s little group of freaks. Eventually, this group goes to rob a bank. Mystique escapes with the money, but the freaks are all killed. Logan, who was working with the cops, set them up. Presently, the two of them have a confrontation in the Syrian Desert, where Mystique calls him out on being a hypocrite for going after her for betraying the X-Men when he betrayed her band of freaks decades earlier. Logan tells her that he works everyday to make up for his mistakes. After one last brutal assault, Mystique is left naked with a gun in the middle of the desert.

In the meantime, the X-Men are scattered to the four winds. Cannonball goes home and meets up with Paige. Once in town, however, he beats up a Cabot to make himself feel better, then takes off, unable to deal with the fact that he’s constantly going to be under threat. Former student Nehzno returns to Wakanda, with his condition worsening. Despite the Black Panther and (of course) Storm accepting him, his people does not. Even after his saving his brother, his mother rejects. Nehzno realizes then how much he misses his fellow students. Northstar checks up on Anole when no one has heard from him; Anole himself has trouble adjusting to life outside of the X-Men and runs away from both his home and the X-Men. Hellion, feeling abandoned by the X-Men, goes to Magneto; Erik sees this as Hellion wanting to use him as a weapon against the X-Men. It doesn’t work and Erik advises that Hellion relish and enjoy his powers before the inevitable war consumes him. Scalphunter, on the run, becomes a cook at a diner. Nightcrawler hunts his down and confronts him, only to forgive him for his sins.

Back at the devastated X-Mansion, Beast goes through various files and retrieves Maratha Johansson before taking off. In Limbo, Illyana struggles with trying to regain her humanity. She visits the remains of the mansion, finds it destroyed, and returns to Limbo, vowing to reclaim her soul by torturing those who wronged her. In deep space, the captured Havok is told by Vulcan about the baby’s birth and that the X-Men are all dead as a result. Havok finds hope in the baby’s birth and rises from a depressed stupor into a rage against his brother. Back on Earth, Forge is recovering from his injuries and obsessing over Cable’s time machine; after reverse engineering it, he’s attacked by Bishop. Seeking protection, Forge creates a massive security system and starts work on a new project. Surge goes to visit Dani since she’s feeling pretty bad about herself; Dani basically tells her to deal with it.

In the aftermath of recent events, Cyclops reactivates X-Force, this time with Wolfsbane wanting to join. X-23 is already investigating a Purifier break-in into a SHIELD facility, much to Wolverine’s chagrin. Wolverine tells Wolfsbane not to be involved. Then he, X-23, and Warpath search for what Matthew Risman and his new ally Eli Bard were retrieved from SHIELD. The trio fight the Purifiers, but it turns out they captured Wolfsane. Unable to fight back with Wolfsbane prisoner, X-23 blows up the base. Risman escapes and places the head of Bastian on Nimrod’s body, thus restoring Bastian. As X-Force re-groups at Worthington’s Aerie, Reverend Craig shots up Wolfsbane with drugs. And Bastian gets a hold of the remains of Magus and uses it to resurrect Boliver Trask, Stephen Lang, Graydon Creed, and Cameron Hodge – as well as gain control of the Leper Queen and Donald Pierce. This is affront to Risman and after X-Force rescue Wolfsbane (and she’s healed by Elixir), she sees Archangel and her brainwashing kicks in. She rips into Warren’s wings and takes them back to Risman. Risman in turn finds the Apocalypse strand within them and creates his on Archangel. Angry with Bastian, he sets them out to destroy the Purifiers under Bastian’s command. X-Force gets involved; Wolfsbane kills Reverend Craig when he stands in front of Warren’s amputated wings. Archangel, feeling the use of his wings on this other people, transforms into his former self and goes on a rampage. Once he’s finishes with his rampage, he returns to normal. Meanwhile, Eli Bard goes to the remains of Magus and steals part of him; Risman enters and Eli reveals himself to be some kind of servant of death and kills Risman. He then escapes. Wolverine fights Bastian, but Bastian escapes as well . . . just as Wolverine gets a look at who he has brought back. The gang once more regroups at the Aerie to lick their wounds.

Blindfold is having visions of the near future in which she, Dust, Rockslide, Wolf Cub, and two new people are involved in a battle with Donald Pierce – who then kills one of them. She goes to Rockslide and in turn, the two of them are recruited by Cyclops to join a new X-Men team. He also recruits a new Mutant whose has any tattoo on his body become a new ability. Cyclops then sends them after the leader of a new Brotherhood and the Hellfire Club, Sunspot – who he claims has been joined by fellow New Mutants Cannonball, Moonstar, and Magma. Ink and Blindfold are sent after Dani, who is taken down by Blindfold. Blindfold is then knocked out by Ink; he delivers them both to Pierce. Rockslide, Dust, and Wolf Cub grab Magma – as Sunspot and Cannonball watch on TV. Even though Magma is taken captive, Dust is stuck in a glass form due to Magma’s attack. Ink arrives and tells Cyclops that Dani beat them; not knowing that some creature is watching over them and plans to kill Cyclops. As the Young X-Men attack Cannonball and Sunspot at the Hellfire Club, Cyclops is in turn attacked by the mysterious gray-skinned guy – who discovers that Cyclops is none other than Donald Pierce. Magma is freed, Pierce escapes and everyone ends up at the Hellfire Club. They eventually track Pierce down into some of Mole Man’s old tunnels, where he engages the Young X-Men and the vision comes true. Wolf Cub dies and Pierce is defeated.

So in all this, where are the X-Men proper? Well, Wolverine (apparently after his bout with X-Force and hunting Mystique) is off with Colossus and Nightcrawler in Europe. After bopping around Germany, they head to Russia, where Peter tries to handle all of the tragedies in his life. They are of course captured by the Russia government and – surprise! – fight Omega Red. They of course defeat Omega Red.

Meanwhile, Cyclops and Emma Frost are on vacation in the Savage Land after Scott has some words with Iron Man. Of course, trouble brews as some of the other X-Men converge on San Francisco. The other city has become a hippie haven at the will of the “Goddess.” Cyclops and Emma battle some of their fellow X-Men before Emma uncovers that the Goddess is none other than Lady Mastermind (the brunette, not the blonde). She escapes, the X-Men converge and Archangel appears after having saved the Mayor of San Francisco. Wolverine, Colossus, and Nightcrawler then get a call to head on home . . .

So basically what we have here is a not-so-cohesive story centering around the theme of the X-Men being scattered to the four winds. While an interesting concept, the execution leaves something to be desired. In short: it’s a little much.

I can see how Marvel saw this as a chance to launch the X-Men into a new direction and get some new books out there. It’s mixed results.

The best of the best are most certainly X-Men: Legacy and Wolverine. X-Men: Legacy is like a candy-covered continuity treat. Revisiting old sites and characters, replaying old scenes and then placing it against a present-day story makes for a nice, grounded tale. It certainly feels like we’re seeing the slow redemption of Professor X, whose reputation has become very tarnished lately. And hey, he’s actually more action-y than ever before. The series thus far adds a lot of wrinkles to the long history of Professor X and really puts Xavier on the right road. The use of two different artists is a welcome sight, adding to the different layers of storytelling here.

Wolverine is what I wish Wolverine Origins was. A present day story tying back into a previously unknown story. The characterization of Wolverine and Mystique are well done. Ron Garney’s art adds a great energy to the arc. This segment is fun and engaging.

Divided We Stand was decent, though a lot of the stories were very much the same. Sad, angst, rejection, anger . . . it’s made very clear that all these characters don’t like being without the X-Men. Some of them are better than others, but not many.

I maintain my opinion that X-Force is just a step too dark and gory for my tastes. Granted, it’s great to see Bastian again – but not so much some of the other characters. Don’t get me wrong. I love some of the stuff being done here (Archangel, Bastian, and Magus), but I hate a lot of the rest (I’m sick of the Purifiers . . . and did Rhane eat Reverend Craig?).

Wish I could say I’m a fan of Young X-Men. Honestly, I thought it was uninteresting, predictable, and slow. The art wasn’t too bad, but there was nothing really in there to keep me hooked. Which is really shocking, as Guggenheim is a great writer.

Uncanny X-Men kinda fits in that same category. Outside of some of the smaller moments, it’s a very lackluster book. There’s a threat and the X-Men instantly overcome it. Brubaker is a brilliant writer, but his run on Uncanny has yet to excite me. The art by Choi has been gorgeous – better than Greg Land and Billy Tan. Seriously.

Overall (and I know I’m skimmed over the reviews), this is very much a sort of “holding pattern” time for the X-Men. While there are some interesting nuggets in here, a lot of comes off as boring, uninteresting, and more of the same. A lot of it seems just like “we’re putting something here to get back to later,” which is never a good choice when it comes to X-Men.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Coming in May . . .

Reviews will resume next month. Promise!

Divided We Stand
Manifest Destiny
Original Sin
Secret Invasion

and in June (tenatively):

And in eventuality:
Dark Reign: Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men
War of Kings
Messiah War

In terms of Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men, it's really a matter of how that ties into Dark Reign and if it looks like it'll all fit together. I've got a lot of factors to work with here. One is money, but I just got a new job and that should help matters quite a bit. The other is just seeing where things are. I haven't been able to pick up comics in a while, so we'll play things out this weekend when I can finally afford comics again (yay!).

I'm also toying around with the idea of doing a pre-X-Men series of reviews. Stuff like "Magneto: Testament," those X-Men origin stories from the Silver Age, a re-review of "Children of the Atom," and maybe a few others. This might mean some money on my part, but that's not a problem. Thoughts?

Also, if I get really bored and end up with more cash in the near future, I might do other X-Men series. I have a full run of Generation X and I'd like to try re-reading all those. I may (at some point in the next whatever) try and get some more issues of New Mutants, X-Force, Cable, etc. for review. I can normally find some of those in $1.00 bins. So we'll see where things end up.

Stay tuned . . . please . . .

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Uncanny 2009

Hello all!

My apologies on a lack of up-date. It has simply been a time factor that has kept me from up-dating. Obviously, I'm trying to get everything organized in terms of continunity. And, also, I just haven't had the time -- I got married in September and being married takes a surprisingly large amount of time.

You'll hopefully see an up-date in the next few weeks. I'm waiting for "X-Force: Angels and Demons" to get out in trade paperback, as I don't want to spend extra bucks on a damn hardcover. But we'll see.

I plan on doing some re-reading of recent events, because I've found that with so much time passing between X-Periments, I tend to lose perspective in the overall X-Men timeline.

Anyways, as I'm figuring out the continunity, here's what I'm seeing the run-down is. I'm not including "Ghost Box" because that story isn't done. You'll probably see it (and I'm not kidding) in 2010. Eek.

Red Data
Endangered Species

Messiah CompleX
Divided We Stand
Manifest Destiny
Original Sin
Secret Invasion
Messiah War?

So, just stop back here every now and then, if you will. Feel free to peruse the archieves, though they kinda suck grammer/spelling wise. Hopefully, as time goes on, I'll get a clearer idea as to how to organize these crazy titles.