Saturday, January 25, 2014

Uncanny X-Periment # 170: Quarantine

Uncanny X-Men  # 530-534

Utopia is stricken with an epidemic – a Mutant Flu, as it were – which they discover is Mutant only.  Scott locks down Utopia, leaving Storm, Pixie, Northstar, Dazzler, and Angel to serve as the X-Men.   They pounce on the Collective Man, who is hitting up local stores for protection money.  Meanwhile, Mister Lobe (who I always thought was John Sublime) has developed a means of creating Mutant Powers and has given these to some super-rich twenty-sometimes to create a New X-Men team.  Of course, they suck, get pounced by the real X-Men and get shipped to Utopia.  They spill rather quickly, and the X-Men head off to Sublime Corporation and quickly reveal that the Mutant Flu is affecting these fake Mutants faster than regular Mutants.  Lobe quickly surrenders, but one of his New X-Men – Penny – slips out.   Meanwhile, Sebastian Shaw is dropped off in the middle of China and, after a fight, is mind-wiped, all of his memories stripped clean.

I liked this little arc.  Nice and clean, very effective.  It wraps up the budding epidemic arc in a nice clean bow.  It’s a good follow-up to the Third Species stuff from Morrison’s run.  I especially the “smaller” team of X-Men, even though Dazzler and Pixie got really annoying.  The Shaw/Frost material was not as good, but wasn’t too bad.  It wrapped up another of Fraction’s subplots.

Fraction’s run was definitely one that got better once it got going.   Some of his earlier stuff was pretty poor, while his later arcs were more interesting and innovative.  He seemed to move well past the whole “let’s throw some X-Men at the problem” pretty well.  If only they hadn’t given him Greg Land, whose art I despise.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Uncanny X-Periment # 169: Generation Hope

Uncanny X-Men: The Heroic Age one-shot, Uncanny X-Men 526-529, Generation Hope # 1 – 5

Scott goes off the Savage Land to try and relax and refocus after the events of Second Coming.  Steve Rogers shows up and  talks to him for a while and tries to convince him to bring the X-Men into the fold – as in, come closer to the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and work tighter with them.  He then arranges Scott to win the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Meanwhile, Hank has a conversation with Molly Hayes about life and extinction and whatnot.  Back in New York, Hope is checked by Reed Richards and is encouraged to find out more about her family.   At Utopia, during a celebration of liberating San Francisco, Scott tells Hope “no more expectations” about her role as Mutant messiah and that he wants her to find her family.

Hope and some of the X-Men track down Hope’s mother, who died during the Cooperstown attack.  Hope does end up bumping into her grandmother (doesn’t tell her who she is) and has tea or something with her.  She then goes and rescues Laurie Tromette, a Mutant who is currently having difficulty making the transition into full Mutant-ness.  Then it’s off to Mexico to back-up Reyes and Psylocke and help Gabriel Cohuelo with speed powers.   Hope then goes to Africa with Storm to retrieve a cold/hot manipulator named Idie Okonkwo, who feels she’s a witch or a monster or both.  The group then grabs the animalistic Teon from Miami.   Then, they go to Tokyo, where Logan and Scott are watching the fifth light and having some beers.  This fifth light turns into a big creature and there’s a huge confrontation and battle.  Hope eventually cools him down and then they go back to Utopia.  Hope and her little team learn more about themselves and eventually, Hope strikes a deal with Scott to basically, let her do what she wants with her team.

Meanwhile, Emma recruits Kitty and Fantomex into helping her dispose of Sebastian Shaw.  And there are signs of a possible pandemic on Utopia.

Overall, not bad.  Very utilitarian – let’s introduce this character, let’s have this happen, then let’s have a resolution.  It’s nothing to really write home about.   The characters themselves are not the most interesting to me, to be honest.  Kenji and Idie are the only two that really stand out.  The other three are a little generic to me.  I will admit that once they get to Utopia, things do get more interesting.

I really struggled with some of the art – in particular, Whilce Portacio.   For some reason, it just came across as rushed and sloppy.  Meh.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Uncanny X-Periment # 168: Second Coming

A year has passed since Messiah Complex.   The X-Men have left their Westchester home to re-settle with a splash in San Francisco.  They’ve faced down Maddie and the Sisterhood, some revived Predators, and both Dark Avengers and Dark X-Men.   Cyclops has sanctioned X-Force to, basically, kill.  Mutant zombies have shown up and the X-Men battled Selene.  They got Kitty back and Magneto has joined their ranks.  Despite victories, things have never seemed more dire.  The Mutant population is now below 190 and with no chance of repopulation or growth.

And then Cable and Hope returned.

They show at the remains of the mansion and are immediately attacked by the Right.   Cable and Hope take them down and go on the run.   Cyclops, now alerted to their presence, dispatches the X-Men and the New Mutants into the field: Dominio and Vanisher are put into San Francisco; Namor and Rogue remain at Utopia in case of an attack; the New Mutants are sent to the mid-west to sit in a holding pattern; and Colossus, Wolverine, X-23, Psylocke, Nightcrawler, Archangel, and Magik are sent to intercept Cable and Hope.  They track Cable and Hope down, which leads to a battle with the Sapien League.  Cable and Hope go on the run as the X-Men take down the League.  Nightcrawler finds out about X-Force during this encounter and is horrified.  Cyclops, meantime, sends the New Mutants to Cameron Hodge’s facility in St. Louis. 

The X-Men bump into Cable and Hope at  a hotel, where yet another battle with the Sapien League takes place.  Cable and Hope head back on the run again while the X-Men clean up the mess.  The Purifiers, who are also there, use some sort of sorcery to banish Magik to Limbo. Cyclops sends Ariel to them. Meanwhile, the New Mutants take the fight to Hodge and his Right soldiers.  They win and manage to defeat Hodge, but at the cost of Karma’s leg and Warlock’s vow not to kill.

Rogue, after sensing some sort of connection with Hope, is send out into the field with Nightcrawler.  They all converge a an abandoned trailer park, where yet another battle takes place.  Cable agrees to let Rogue and Nightcrawler take Hope back to Utopia, as Bastian is tracking Cable by his techno-organic virus.  Unfortunately, Ariel is targeted and killed.

Bastian himself enters the fray and  fights Rogue pretty hardcore after injuring Nightcrawler.   He goes towards Hope, but Nightcrawler interecepts – with Bastian’s arm ending up in his chest.  With just an ounce of strength left, Nightcrawler teleports Hope to Utopia, ripping Bastian in two.  They arrive, but Kurt is dead.

The X-Men regroup.   Everyone but Dominio and Vanisher are recalled to Utopia and they take some time to mourn Kurt.  Beast arrives to help out, but also to pin the blame on Scott.  Cyclops is presented with information about some mysterious towers by Cypher and he sends the X-Club out to investigate.  It’s also worth noting that Donald Pierce has managed to escape capture, but Danger believes he’s still there.

Cyclops sends Pixie, Anole, Dazzler, Northstar, Trance, and Gambit into Limbo to retrieve Magik.   They discover that the dimension has fallen into chaos and N’stashi is looking to become the new lord of Limbo.  Also, Gambit re-manifests his Death look.

Vanisher is then targeted and killed by Bastian’s forces.  Tensions rise at Utopia as a fight breaks out between Dani and Hope.  Pierce then makes his move and destroys all of the X-Men’s jets.  The X-Men take him down.  Meanwhile, at the X-Club, while investigating one of Bastian’s towers, it activates and they are sent to alternate reality and then sent back just as it manifests an energy field.  A force field cuts off San Francisco from the rest of the world, encasing it in a big red sphere.  The X-Men head out in the city to help the citizens.  Outside of the sphere, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four both show up to help the X-Club collapse the Sphere.

On the Golden Gate bridge, a time portal opens and several Nimrods arrive.  The battle that follows is intense.  Hellion loses both hands, Iceman receives serious burns, and despite a victory, the X-Men are wounded.  They discover that Bastian is bringing Nimrods in from the future and that there are over a hundred thousand of them waiting to come back.

With no other choice, Cyclops agrees to send Cable (who has one final available time-jump), Wolverine, X-23, Domino, Archangel, and Cypher into the future to stop them.  Hope gets pissed at Scott and even somehow manages to manifest his own power for a few seconds.  He places Rogue in charge of protecting her.  He then asks Charles to release Legion against the Nimrods.  Magneto also jumps into help.

Back in Limbo, Gambit has now influencing Dazzler and Northstar and is looking to take over Limbo himself, kinda.  N’stashi aslso convinces Pixie to kill Magik.

The battle continues at Utopia as Mutant refugees like Random, Outlaw, Scalphunter, and Sack have to contend with the Nimrods too.  Colossus breaks his arm.   Back in the future, X-Force is confronted by two Master Molds – one producing Nimrods and clearly communicating with Bastian; the other just sitting there.  Upon infiltrating the active one, X-Force is attacked by the dormant one.  Cable and Cypher get into the active Master Mold and Cypher manages to sabotage it and destroy both Master Molds and the Nimrods.  Unfortunately the time portal won’t allow organic material through.

The only way to get through the portal is for Cable to hold it open by releasing his techn-organic virus.  As the X-Men recover from the immediate threat, Cable holds the portal open so X-Force can return.  And then – the portal closes upon the dying Cable, killing him.

Bastian then arrives in full glory, engages the X-Men, and collapses the bridge.  Hope confronts him and begins to manifest a myriad of powers, eventually leading into what appears to be the beginnings of a Phoenix raptor.  Cyclops and Wolverine leap in and help deliver the killing blow to Bastian.  Hope blows apart the force field, then collapses.

Pixie betrays the demons of Limbo and frees Magik, then restores Gambit, Northstar, and Dazzler.

In the aftermath, the X-Men try and pick up the pieces of their lives.  Wolverine kicks X-23 out into the real world.  Cyclops shuts down X-Force, though Wolverine decides to secretly reactivate it.  There’s a memorial service for Cable, even though Scott can’t through it and Hope ends up doing most of the talking.  Emma begins to suspect something is up with Hope, as she manifests a Phoenix raptor apparent to only her and says something that Jean said during the whole Sisterhood story.  She runs to Scott, who is ecstatic – five new Mutant signals have just appeared on Cerebra.

I love rambling on in these things, don’t I?  These crossovers are always so lengthy!

There’s a lot that I like about Second Coming.  As far as crossovers go, this one is very cohesive.  The chapters interlock and flow very nicely.  The art fits together and is very consistent (unlike certain other crossovers – I’m looking at you, Utopia).  The story is nicely paced and the action sequences, as a whole, work really well. 

Overall, it’s a decent story.  It does a little utilitarian, sorta like, “we need to bring Hope back, let’s do this crossover.”  But hey, I’m all for a nice big crossover, so I’m okay with rolling with it.  There’s a nice parallel to Messiah Complex, in that the Mutants were the major threat to the X-Men and Hope in that story – and here, it’s the humans that are the major threat. 

I liked that everything from Messiah Complex onward comes full circle here. I never would have thought that Pierce’s capture in Young X-Men would have led to his involvement in Second Coming.   Necrosha hammered in the fact that every death matters, even guys like Meld.  Even the reign of Osborn set the X-Men up on their little island.

I’m not sold on the constant slaughter that is the X-Men these days – including Kurt and Cable.  Their deaths are very effective and do make sense in the story, but . . . I dunno.  C’mon.  Cable’s already back.  Kurt will be right behind him, I’m sure.  And both Vanisher and Ariel hardly get a pause.
I guess what really sells this story are the small moments.  Dani’s fight with Hope in the cafeteria, the scenes between Cable and Hope, Hope’s adjustment to being in the present, Scott and Hope fighting, the Kurt angst, etc etc.  Scott’s grabbing of Logan when Hope manifests the Phoenix raptor was such a great, dramatic moment.  Having lost Jean, the two of them are all too aware of what that raptor means.  It adds a personal layer to an already threatening moment.

These are make this story credible and make it matter.

Scott’s faith in Hope is a nice driving force for him and he, of course, is all in it.  His dependence on Logan; his tension with Hank; his faith in Cable and Hope; everything about Scott in this story is great.  I liked to see his faith pay off at the end.  And in the way we follow Hope through her own emotional journey is very realistic.

Overall, I enjoyed this one.  It wasn’t anything amazing, but it was a solid piece of storytelling.