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.