Sunday, April 28, 2013

Uncanny X-Periment # 163: Utopia

Utopia one-shot, Uncanny X-Men # 513, Dark Avengers # 7, Uncanny X-Men # 514, Dark Avengers # 8, Exodus one-shot, the Confession one-shot

Simon Trask launches a march through San Francisco, promoting Proposition X.   Beast and some of the other X-Men lead a Mutant counter-protest, which soon devolves into a riot.  The media runs wild and Cyclops promises that the urban violence that is breaking out over this event will be contained by the X-Men.   Of course, it doesn’t go very well.  And Norman Osborn decides that his needs his own X-Men team to jump and be the face of Mutantkind.  He puts Emma Frost in charge of it and he, the Dark Avengers, and the newly-minted Dark X-Men hit San Francisco. The Dark X-Men consist of Dark Beast, Mimic, Namor, Mystique (disguised as Professor X), Guardian, Daken, and Cloak and Dagger.

Osborn imposes a city-wide curfew, which the X-Men decide to obey.   But some of the Mutants decide to launch a demonstration, which the Dark X-Men put down quickly.  They are taken to the Omega Machine, which is supposed to take away Mutant’s powers . . . but it does so rather harmfully.

Cyclops meets with Osborn and argue.  Cyclops leaves.  Meanwhile, the Dark Avengers aren’t very happy with the way they’ve been regulated to second banana by the Dark X-Men.  At a hospital, several people are turned into Sentinels by Trask.  The Dark X-Men move in and put them down, with Cyclops watching. He sends Dani to Hel to become Valkyrie again, has Mindee arrested, sends the X-Club on a secret mission, and has X-Force gathered up and meet up with Wolverine.

X-Force infiltrates Alcatraz and engages the Dark X-Men.  While this happening, Cyclops orders the X-Club to raise a hunk of Asteroid M from the depths of the ocean and into San Francisco Bay.  Everyone evacuates to it.   X-Force then prepares to leave Alcatraz, and Namor and Emma accompany them.  Turns out they’ve been stringing Osborn along.  Cloak and Dagger take along. 

The Dark Avengers and Dark X-Men launch an attack on Asteroid M, and there’s a fight.  Valkyrie takes down Ares.     Iceman defeats Mimic.  Emma finds Professor X and with his help, shuts down Sentry, but she gets locked in her diamond form because she’s absorbed a part of the Void from him.  Wolverine goes after Guardian.  X-23, Armor, and Pixie take on Dakken.  Archangel handles Bullseye. 

With the whole world watching, the X-Men, New Mutants, and X-Force defeat the Dark Avengers and Dark X-Men.  Cyclops then declares Asteriod M a Mutant safehaven and a separate county, hereby called Utopia.   Both sides decide it’s a victory.  But we really know who won.  It’s the readers.

We also see that Emma and Scott have laid their secrets bare, at Hank’s urgings.

I think this simply yet another example of who Cyclops has really grown into a masterful leader and strategist.   From the moment Osborn arrived in San Francisco, Scott sized him and his cohorts up, and knew exactly what to do.  He had an enemy to out think and some bad guys to hit.

But I have to wonder  - would Scott have been as successful in Osborn didn’t show up?   Because he was really failing at keeping the peace in the city.  Osborn took care of that.  Scott screwed up.

I felt that this was solid crossover, if just to show off just how high and mighty this Mutant community has become.   It says something when the Avengers (even these Dark Avengers) fall to the X-Men.  Scott’s unified front really did it.  And, even though I’m not the biggest Matt Fraction fan, I was really sold on this.

My biggest beef with this crossover is actually with the art.   Dodson is a great artist, but the incredibly lack of flow between his chapters and Dedato’s  caused this to suffer and was like artistic whiplash.

But hey, this was good besides that.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Uncanny X-Periment # 162: Legacy

X-Men: Legacy # 219 – 225

Charles and Juggernaut meet up in a bar, where they have a rather tense one-on-one.   What comes out of the discussion is that Cain, when he stops moving, becomes a weaker person.  And he hates that.  Just like how he hates Charles, and wants to kill him.  Charles understands and gives him a parting gift: a box.  Cain then kills Charles, kills the X-Men, hangs out with some sleazy ladies, robs a bank, and then opens the box.  Inside the box, he sees himself.  Looking up, he sees Charles.  He realizes that it was all in his own mind and they have now come to an understanding.

Gambit is then recruited by Charles to go with him to Australia to find Rogue.  Rogue, meanwhile, ends up meeting with Danger when in the old abandoned town the X-Men used to live.  They are then confronted by some Shi’ar scavengers, who fire at Danger.  Danger takes Rogue’s words (about gaining control of her powers) and proceeds to project several different Rogue flashpoints all around them.  Professor X and Gambit have to wade through with the Shi’ar scavengers while Rogue has to face all of these important stages in her life – and contend with Ms. Marvel and Mystique in her mind.   Eventually, Charles reaches Danger and explains that he was afraid that she would have killed the X-Men if he released.  However, he releases her now.  The Shi’ar make a grab for her, but Rogue gets in their way.  Once she is dispatched, though, Danger steps up and sends the Shi’ar running back into space.  Professor X reveals that Rogue’s power can be fixed and that she has been building walls in her mind ever since her power first manifested.  Xavier removes those walls and then heads out.  Rogue kisses Gambit, revealing that she is in fact, in charge of her power.

Professor X returns to the Acolytes base and has it out with Exodus.  He proves to Exodus that now, with Mutantkind at its weakness, is the wrong time to be waging a Mutant civil war. The point is proven strongly enough that Exodus agrees to shut the Acolytes down.   Charles gets a nice moment with Amelia, making amends for the past.

Just as Exodus and Xavier part ways, Norman Osborn shows up with a business proposition . . .

When “X-Men: Legacy” took over and it was revealed to focus on Xavier, I was very pleased.   I assumed that with his new lease on life, this would be the opportunity to right all the wrongs he’s done.  We’d see Cassandra Nova, Legion, Onslaught, Darwin . . . all of these characters that are very ingrained and tied in with his character.  Unfortunately, that didn’t really work out.   He did manage to patch things up with Scott, somewhat.  He was able to cure Rogue.  He even confronted the Juggernaut and destroyed the Acolytes.  But for someone who was wishing that this would be “the redemption of Professor X,” I was sadly mistaken.

That being said, there some good parts of this overall title.  The use of flashbacks, the use of history and continuity, all worked in this title’s favor, including in this final batch.

The issue with Cain was a little disappointing.  I had hoped for a better outcome; one that would have had Cain back on his redemptive path.   His heroic role in Uncanny X-Men was the best thing to come out of Chuck Austen’s run.  Now seeing that reversed, well, it’s not what I was hoping for.

The Rogue/Danger issues dragged on too long.  I also felt like the Shi’ar were completely unnecessary.  I wish Danger’s story was completely separate, as opposed to being wrapped up with Rogues.  But it wasn’t that bad for what we had; the flashbacks and backstory were all very much appreciated. 

The final issue places Charles in an interesting position.  He’s definitely not the leader of the X-Men anymore, nor of even all Mutantkind.  This is Charles as an ambassador, a teacher, and a mentor.  This is him teaching a lesson and seeing the education in action.  

This is what Charles is and always has been.  A Professor.

And I think we can walk away from this with that.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Uncanny X-Periment # 161: Messiah War

Cable # 1-15, X-Force # 14-16, X-Force/Cable: Second Coming one-shot, and Cable: King-Sized Spectacular

Cable and the baby arrive in an alternate future, and proceeds to get dragged into a street level battle against the Turnpike Authority of NYC.  Bishop eventually enters the picture, having stolen time travel technology from Forge and now obsessed with chasing Cable and killing the baby.   Cable holes up with a waitress named Sophie (he had a bit of thing for waitresses) and eventually, Cannonball (the last X-Man) arrives to help him out.  Cannonball helps save Cable and allows him to escape to Westchester.   Bishop kills Cannonball and then proceeds to take charge of a bunch of Turnpike Authority goons.  Cable eventually repairs his time machine, but discovers he can travel into the future.  He and Bishop fight it out, and then Cable jumps into the future, trying to out-run Bishop.  Sophie, inspired and armed by Cable, kills the leaders of the Turnpike Authority.

In the present, Cyclops leaves a time capsule for Cable.  Cable, still being chased through the future by Bishop, creates a series of booby-traps (with help from Irene Merryweather’s descendant).  Cable is able to evade Bishop and heads even further into the future, eventually discovering a refuge called New Liberty.  New Liberty is supposed to be absolutely protected and undetectable from the outside world.  Here, Cable and baby are safe.  Nathan eventually settles down marries a woman named Hope, who helps raise the baby.  Of course, the peace doesn’t last and evil humanoid cockroaches invade New Liberty.  He eventually repels the attack, but he, Hope, and the baby need to escape.  They travel across the county, skipped through time as they do so.  Eventually, they are faced the roach-President, who explains that the rest of the world has been destroyed, trapping Cable and his family in North America.   Cable kills the President, but Hope is killed also.  Finally, Cable and the baby find a safehaven, and Cable decides to name the baby Hope (of course, at this point, she’s like five).

Meanwhile, in the present, Bishop has returned and proceeded to steal several WMDs.  X-Force arrives and intercepts him, and then drags him in to Cyclops.  Cyclops and Emma interrogate him, but get nowhere.  Bishops escapes .  . . and then meets up with Stryfe at a bar called Betty Noirs. 

Cable and Hope hide with a military unit, which is able to eliminate the roaches.  The pair leap into the future, where it’s a wasteland.   Hope is able to find them some rations, causing Cable to wonder if her Mutant powers have manifested.  The two then finally find Cyclops’ time capsule and then leap further into the future, where Cable is horrified to discover that Stryfe has risen to power.

In the present, Beast and Cyclops have found Cable and Bishop in the future and send X-Force to help.  Apocalypse, after being taken to the brink of death by Stryfe and Bishop, summons Archangel.  Cable and Hope meet with X-Force . . . and then a long-buried Deadpool shows up and teams up with them.  They also discover that they are unable to time travel from this era for some reason.

There’s a big fight and then Stryfe manages to capture Hope and Warpath.  Bishop attacks Stryfe and goes to kill Hope once and for all . . . but Stryfe fights back and then the others come in and there’s more fighting.  Meanwhile, Vanisher, X-23, Domino, and Deadpool discover that it’s X’s old NYX pal, Kaden (?!) that’s causing the time lock.  She forced is to kill Kaden.  Stryfe is betrayed by Deadpool and then Wade dies.  Apocalypse then arrives and defeats Stryfe once and for all.  Bishop’s robotic arm is destroyed by Logan.  Bishop is able to lock his sights on Hope again – but Apocalypse steps in.  Bishop escapes, but just barely.  Apocalypse reveals his own plans for Hope, but Archangel demands that she is given back to Cable as payback for reviving him.  Apocalypse agrees and goes back into hibernation, carrying Stryfe back with him. 

Cable and Hope leap further into the future, but Hope spazzes and reaches of X-23 and Elixir.  This throws off their time jump.  Meanwhile, X-Force heads back home.  Hope drops out of the time jump a few years before Cable, causing her to be on her own for the first time in her life.  The city she lives in is one of the two; this having used Celestial Technology left behind by Stryfe to either save or escape the dying Earth.  The other one is the Unclean City and I assume they don’t have toilet paper.  So while Hope lives out the next few years on the streets, and being helped by a boy named Emil.   A few years later, Cable drops out and, in the aftermath of the battle with Stryfe, his techno-organic virus is out of control.   Bishop finds and fights him, but Cable manages to evade capture.  Bishop tracks Hope down to the Celestial city and tries to hunt her down.  Cable finally meets up with Hope and they get aboard a ship that is bound to leave the Earth once and for all.   Cable convinces them he’s Stryfe, but a little while later, Hope slips that he’s not and the two of them are thrown into the brig.

Bishop, Emil, and Stryfetroopers (those loyal to Stryfe’s message) attack the ship.   Not long afterwards, though, the ships are attacked by the Brood.  Bishop makes them a deal, but it costs him his freedom.   Emil manages to get Hope and Cable into two escape pods and launches them into sleep.  Bishop, bound with an Acanti, follow.

Cable and Hope, after two years in space, return to Earth.  She expresses to Cable that she’s ready to go back to the present.  Not long after this, Bishop (with the Acanti dead) tracks them down again.  He cuts Cable’s throat and goes to shoot Hope – but she uses telekinesis to stop the bullet.  She thoroughly defeats him and Cable steals his temporal components.  Cable and Hope leap back in time . . . only to end up in 1614.  Bishop, somehow tied to the time machine, travels back with them.   They fight again.  They leap again, this time 2493.  They fight again.  They leap to 1776 and fight some more.  2220.  Fight.  2224 and, hey, there’s Sophie and the Turnpike Authority!  She teams up with Cable and Hope, just as Bishop takes over some of the Authority again.  There’s a chase.  Sophie dies and Cable and Hope leap back into the past – 1933 – and proceed to fight Bishop again. They leap again, this time to 1953. Fight.  And then Cable and Hope get to relative safety and start leaping WITHOUT fight Bishop.  2043, 1967, 2019, 1978.  Oop!  There’s Bishop again.  They fight it out, Hope leaps in, and Cable presets the time components and slips it onto Bishop.  Bishop goes shooting into the future, 6700.  The world is dying and nearly dead due to all the destruction Bishop brought upon it.  Dying and with time components broken, he realizes that his actions helped shape Hope’s life just as much as Cable’s, making him her father as much as Nathan.

Hope and Cable finally jump forward just a bit, to 1991.  They raid Cable’s storage locker and then prep to arrive to the present.

Wow.  That took all day to write.

I think what’s interesting about this particular title and it’s crossover with X-Force is that it’s fairly self-contained.  It’s a straight-forward liner title that provides one big story, from beginning to end.  I really wish there were more books like this (and, to an extent, Wolverine Origins). I’m not exactly sure I can I’m satisfied by this particular story, but I do like it.  The journey that Cable, Hope, and Bishop make is rather harrowing and exciting.   The world that is created for them is quite twisted and grim; there were points where I just kept questioning “how bad is this going to get?”  And then it gets worse.

One of my beefs with this remain with Bishop’s characterization.  It’s difficult to watch him become such a villain.  The Bishop mini-series does help somewhat, but not enough to really sell that he’s gone as far as he has.  Making bargains with Stryfe and Brood?   Destroying the whole world, just on the prescedent that “it won’t exist?”  It’s a hard sell and I’m sorry to say, it just doesn’t deliever.  It also bothers me that Bishop gets such a dark fate at the end.  It makes sense, given the context of the story, but geez!

There is an argument to made that Bishop had been slowing separating himself from the X-Men for a while.  Since the dissolutionment of the X-Treme X-Men team, he went off and worked in District X as a cop.  After that, there was the time he worked with ONE and then, during the Civil War, joined Iron Man’s side against the X-Men.  Since then, there had been some tension between the two.  So, it is fair to say that Bishop really wasn’t completely on the side of angels by the time that Hope was born.  On the other hand, this was a man that worshipped the X-Men as a child and had even nearly given his life to defend them from the traitor that was Onslaught.  Now, to have the tables turned so massively, just . . . just doesn’t completely sit right.

As for Cable, well, this made for an interesting mission for him.  Cable has been one of those characters that has evolved so perfectly over the years that it makes sense that this is his next step.  What’s interesting about this is that it also forces Cable to step into the role of being a father.  In fact, the best moments of this series are the ones of Nathan learning to be a real father to Hope.  Given his track record with Tyler and, to a certain extent, Sam, it’s definitely more of a success this time around.

I’m not sure if this is the popular opinion, but I’m big fan of Hope.  I love that we see her grow – like really, literally, grow - from being a baby to being a kid to being a preteen to being a teen.  She’s showing as a constant work in progress and the moment that she decides to go back to the present is the defining one of this series.  

Scott’s role in the series is rather peripheral, but it works well.  I liked the crap Hank gives (and continues to give him) about X-Force. 

I liked the inclusion of X-Force and Deadpool into the series with the crossover, but it was a little jarring.  For over ten issues, we’re given a tour of this damned, dark world that just becomes increasingly unfamiliar.  Throwing in familiar faces like – even those like Apocalypse and Stryfe – takes us out of that world.  It’s weird to think that at any moment, Cable had the option of digging up Wade or even stealing some stuff from Apocalypse.  Or hell, releasing Apocalypse under the condition he destroy Bishop.  I imagine Apocalypse could have done something to the world that would reversed the crap Bishop did to it . . . 

All in all, this is decent storyline.   I placed it here simply so because it’s where X-Force goes and the events revolving around Messiah War are pretty tightly written.  So there we go!  Hope and Cable are on their way!