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Uncanny X-Men #23 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Kris Anka (artist)

The Story:Alison and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

The Review: Last month Uncanny X-Men’s first arc came to a rather definitive end. We saw the resolution of the vast majority of the title’s plot threads including Mystique’s rule of Genosha, Dazzler’s imprisonment, Hijack’s dismissal, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s war with the New Xavier School, and the overarching Sentinel plot. Given this significantly cleared agenda, it’s not surprising to see an Original Sin banner proudly flown across the cover.

Event tie-ins are frequently frustrating issues, but for any readers considering waiting for the next “real” story arc to begin, Uncanny X-Men #23 is worth picking up. “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier” is a thematic tie-in at best with not a single mention of the events of “Original Sin”. Even if it were connected to “Original Sin”, this is barely a part of the “Last Will” story. Despite the unambiguous cover, this issue has a clear purpose and that’s hooking readers and setting up the first slew of new conflicts for the book’s second ‘season’.

In this role, as something of a ‘soft pilot’, the book is pretty great. Bendis provides the much needed fallout from last issue’s events, rededicates himself to interpersonal drama, and introduces multiple new plot threads.

One of the best things that Bendis does in this issue is step back and give the title a dose of perspective. We’re all able to accept some pretty wacky things while still holding a comic to some standard of logic and realism, but Bendis has his cake and eats it too by reminding us just how crazy it all is. The results are humorous but make enough sense in the characters’ world no to distract from the story. While one example from She-Hulk has been getting a lot of attention, the best one comes in the opening pages as Bendis reminds us of what it means to be an ant among gods.
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Uncanny X-Men #22 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer); Chris Bachalo (pencils); Tim Townsend, Marc Deering, Mark Irwin, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, & Al Vey (inks); Chris Bachalo & Jose Villarrubia (colors)

The battle with S.H.I.E.L.D. comes to an end this week as Cyclops, Beast, Maria Hill, and even Magneto put aside their differences to combat the rouge heli-carriers. Everything comes together this issue as the huge cast of Uncanny X-Men finds its way into the climactic battle.

Bendis does do an impressive job of laying out the stakes. Particularly if you respect Logan’s dream for the Jean Grey School, the threat of annihilation is exceedingly real and present throughout the issue. Likewise, each victory for the X-Men, no matter how small, feels like reason to celebrate, thanks in no small part to the sheer amount of set up that’s led to these crucial moments. The whole affair is appropriately cataclysmic, but Bendis actually gets a couple of nice jokes and fist pumping moments in amongst the gloom. Despite the building feeling that this is the end, a sensation that is all the sweeter for its rarity on this series, Bendis’ plotting has some serious problems.

There’s no denying that this is something of an abrupt ending, and one that deals more in expectations than in actual content. The best example is probably our villain. After last month ended with Beast dramatically announcing that he knew who was behind this, you’d expect that the answer would be fairly forthcoming, but I assure you, you’ve got a bit longer to wait. Despite repeating his certainty on page 5 and again on page 13, Hank isn’t ready to reveal his findings to his fellow X-Men until halfway through page 14…off panel. The scene actually ends with Scott demanding “Who?! Who is it?, leading me to actually throw up my arms on a crowded subway and cry “oh come on.” In actuality it doesn’t take too much longer to learn the identity of the mastermind, but, like much of this series, it’s absurdly and painfully drawn out.

Worst of all, when we finally do meet our villain, it comes out of nowhere, lacks any attempt at motivation, and is largely without value for the title going forward. I respect Bendis as a writer too much to believe it, but it almost feels like he planned this arc without knowing who the villain was himself! More likely, the rushed and confusing resolution is the result of the upcoming “Original Sin” tie-ins. There may be any number of reasons why things turned out this way, but it doesn’t change how flimsy the ending comes across.

Luckily that apocalyptic tone I mentioned is beautifully realized by Chris Bachalo, who provides one of his strongest issues in recent memory. Bachalo starts with an unusually stark style that works wonderfully with the bright simplicity of the Canadian sky. The next scene introduces a little bit of grit into this style before it all breaks loose on the grounds of the Jean Grey School.
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Uncanny X-Men #21 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Chris Bachalo (pencils & colors); Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, & Al Vey (inks)

The Story: One of these days S.H.I.E.L.D. is just going to give up on helicarriers…but it is not this day.

The Review: After an intriguing but uneven showing last month, things are really heating up in Uncanny X-Men. While the premise of the New Xavier School actively going to war with S.H.I.E.L.D. is an exciting idea, Bendis’ story is playing out in a somewhat different fashion than expected. With Scott’s powers gone haywire and S.H.I.E.L.D. closing in, I think it’s fair to say that things are very much going wrong for Cyclops, however the trick of this issue is that he’s not alone in that.

There’s a rule of storytelling that says that if you can make things worse for your character you should. Certainly it’s hard to deny the potential for building narrative tension, but when you have to make things worse, it can actually get somewhat rote. Still, where many stories feel like the gods of their world hate the protagonist, Uncanny X-Men #21 is the sum of its people’s machinations, their fortunes rising and falling, building a web of fascinating intrigues. Bendis is playing with our expectations, throwing several wrenches into the works, and to great effect. The whole thing feels unexpected and organic.

The issue is also thankfully free of the padding that plagued previous installments. While one could certainly argue that we didn’t need an interlude on Madripoor, watching Mystique struggle on two fronts really sells this issue as an essential read and highlights the interplay of the characters’ differing principles and ideas about the place of mutants in society.
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United States of Murder Inc. #1 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Michael Avon Oeming (Artist), Taki Soma (colorist)

The Story: What if the mobs never waned in influence? What if they just got bigger?

The Review: This is a fascinating high concept for a crime comic. As much as I have always adored Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal book, there is something inherently awesome in seeing an alternate world in which the mobs never lost their footing in America. This issue succeeds in building up this world in a very organic manner that never steps on the toes of the story that it is trying to tell as we follow Valentine Gallo through his initiation into the ‘family’.

Bendis introduces a lot of characters here who feel new and fresh and yet instantly familiar; the mysterious female accomplice, the joker of a cousin, and the slightly haunted mother. All of these characters felt incredibly real upon reading and helped to sell the believability of this world. The dynamic between Valentine and Jagger Rose is interesting in and of itself as the latter attempts to diffuse any sexual tension from their partnership early on in a hilarious scene. It seems clear that despite being a made man that Valentine is somewhat emotionally and sexually stunted, an early scene shows him in bed with two women looking terribly confused and the relationship established with Jagger shows us that Valentine is not quite the man he tries to carry himself as.

Further muddying Valentine’s self-image is the killer reveal at the end of this issue when our protagonist discovers that his entire existence has been something of a lie, this was a very unexpected twist and puts the character between a rock and a hard place, throwing up questions of identity and loyalty. Bendis and his artists have established a firm foundation for this series moving forward with a likeable, interesting cast and a fantastic, dramatic hook that will keep people coming back for subsequent issues.
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All New X-men #27 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Stuart Immonen (Artist), Wade Von Grawbadger (Inker), Marte Gracia (Colorist).

The Story: The Children of Mystique from the future cause havoc for the X-men in the present.

The Review: There is a lot of misdirection occurring in this current arc of All-New X-men as the Brotherhood of the future return to plague the X-men, including the members who apparently died during the Battle of the Atom storyline. With telepathic trickery and a shape-shifter loose in the New Xavier school its hard to tell exactly if what is presented is what is actually happening at any given time. This creates a lot of uncertainty, keeping the reader on their back foot and achieving a sense of claustrophobic chaos and suspense which I must commend the creative team for.

With the Brotherhood returning, Bendis begins to peel back the curtain on a few of the all new creations, specifically Xavier, who we discover in this issue is not in fact the grandson of Xavier as he had been claiming. Half of his parentage is revealed explicitly while the other half is suggested strongly, however with all of the uncertainty and trickery afoot its hard to tell if what is strongly implied is indeed fact. I’m sure readers will be desperate to see the events that led up to Xavier’s conception as it is a pairing that seems both obvious but also impossible at the same time, How and when this coupling happened is of great significance not just to Xavier but to readers and the X-men as a whole.

The marriage of the casts of All-New X-men and Uncanny X-men has been working really well in this book lately, it’s nice to see the events from both books reflected and referenced in both as its reminiscent of the Claremont era when New Mutants and Uncanny would interact closely. It’s a small thing but it really does help to make this universe feel a little more real and special. Something incredibly important occurs with Triage in this issue that will no doubt come back into play down the line in Uncanny as his power set is expanded and explored.
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Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #1 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), David Marquez (Artist), Justin Ponsor (Color).

Spoiler Alert!

The Story: In the wake of Cataclysm Miles attempts to find his way as more than one familiar face returns.

The Review: Damn! after 200 issues this series continues to just run like clockwork, it’s rarely if ever less than good and the most recent volume of Ultimate Spider-man continues to deliver. In the aftermath of Galactus destroying New Jersey and attempting to consume the earth, Miles Morales is attempting to make sense of his life now that his father has abandoned him.

While his new status as an orphan is at the forefront of his mind so too is his ongoing romance with Katie Bishop, this marks an enjoyable distinction from the previous volume where the relationship was relatively underdeveloped. While it’s nice to see more of a renewed focus on the romance of this book, Katie is such an unknown factor compared to MJ, Gwen and Kitty in the Peter Parker days that it’s hard to buy that Miles is considering coming clean with her. Hopefully readers will get to learn more about Katie and who she is as a character in upcoming issues.

Miles dealing with his father’s abandonment of him is pretty interesting now that Miles has no parental figure in his life, it further separates and distinguishes Miles from Peter Parker. It can be rough for a teenager to not have the adult guidance that a parent can provide and so it’ll prove interesting to see how the character deals with this absence moving forward. As of right now Miles has a support group that consists of Ganke, Katie, MJ and Gwen but the lack of an adult presence in the book does make it feel like a critical element is missing, Spider-man is about youth but it’s hard to make that point without contrast.
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All New X-men #26 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Stuart Immonen (Penciller), Wade Von Grawbadger (Inker), Marte Gracia (Colourist) 

The Story: Things get downright creepy in Jean Grey’s room.

The Review: I feel like readers have been denied a key scene in Bendis’ X-men books since Battle of the Atom, we’ve gone from Young Scott and Jean’s utter disgust at old Scott to warming up to him relatively quickly. Now, I understand that the general consensus is that Hank McCoy is a dirtbag of the highest order for screwing with the time-stream and feeding the kids a line of bull about old Scott causing mutant genocide, I understand how the kids have got from point A to point C but it is a little disappointing that we never got to actually see point B along the way. At this point Bendis could have written 26 issues of various characters reacting to the blood on old Scott’s hands so I can understand why he wouldn’t want to belabour the point, but still it is very odd to see Jean saying the things she says to old Scott in this issue. I take my hat off to Bendis for addressing the downright weirdness of having a teenage version of your dead wife around and for doing it in a way that doesn’t tip toe around the creepy or uncomfortable nature of it, however it would be nice to have context for Jean’s change of heart towards him though.

Kitty is really maturing into her role as Professor K, continuing her protective streak of the kids from Battle of the Atom, Her new dynamic with old Scott is fascinating to watch unfold, Kitty is one of the few X-men who remains uncorrupted and it is evident in the writing how desperately Scott wants to win back her approval and respect. Warren also gets a good showing this issue as he attempts to bond with the departing X-23, It seems clear that Warren may be stepping out of young Scott’s shadow now that he is gone, with Hank in his Science cave and Bobby make snow angels, somebody needs to.

The Brotherhood from the aforementioned Battle of the Atom make their triumphant return this issue, there is a bit of a mystery involved in what they want as they can’t send the kids back which creates excitement for the next issue. The infiltration of the New Xavier school by Raze should also serve to build tension over the coming issues as the Brotherhood attack.

Stuart Immonen is an absolute craftsman, the storytelling is clear and concise, the body language and faces are all so expressive that he does a lot of the heavy lifting in making the characters emote. The more of his collaboration I see with Bendis on this book the more I feel that he may be the perfect artistic partner for Bendis’ writing, perhaps even more-so than Bagley or Maleev.

Grade: B

-Liam Kelleher

Stray Thoughts: I do wonder who it is that old Scott is worried about finding out what Beast has done bringing the kids to the present. Very Ominous.

 

 

Powers: The Bureau #9 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Michael Avon Oeming (Penciler/Inker), Nick Filardi (Colors).

The Story: The curious case of Extreme and his many, many pouches.

The Review: As a Screenwriting/Playwriting student at a university, I’ve always appreciated that the comics industry not only has room for a writer that has more of a naturalistic voice for dialogue and pacing, but also that his writing style has been embraced and led to such astonishing success. That said, I’ve started to feel that the delays with his creator owned books such as Brilliant, Scarlet and Powers are really starting to diminish my enjoyment of them.

I’m not assigning blame to Bendis, I’m not sure if blame for the book’s delays can be laid at his feet, whether its the demands of artists workloads or a confluence of events, what I do know is that when I opened this book I had no recollection of the previous issue. Despite being a tad foggy on the particulars of issue #8 I still found this issue to be a great read, other than the Retro Girl sub-plot that gets a little movement at the close of this chapter, issue #9 is business as usual for detectives Pilgrim and Walker as they interrogate 90’s throwback Extreme. The Hollywood setting of this arc really does play to the strengths of Powers VH1 Behind the scenes take on super-heroes behaving badly, as Hollywood is the epitome of celebrity excess, so to is the 90’s the epitome of super-hero excess. Bendis and Oeming tie these two elements together with their hilarious send up of 90’s extremism in the form of, well, Extreme. The former “mentor” of the teen super-group The Circle is suspected of having a hand in their deaths and this issue alternates between the detectives interrogation of him and the flashback sequence detailing their final, fateful mission.

The art in this book is some of the most idiosyncratic on the stands, Oeming excels at both the moody, shadowy interrogation room scenes as well as the bright, poppy, Kirby-esque invasion sequences, other than perhaps Mike Mignola or Chris Bachalo I’m hard pressed to think of any working artist that is more singularly unique than Oeming. His partnership with Bendis at this point is a well oiled machine, there is never a duff panel, never a confusing sequence, and the over-cross hatched double page spread this issue is hilarious.
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Guardians of the Galaxy #14 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Nick Bradshaw, Todd Nauck & Jason Masters (pencils), Justin Ponsor & Justin Keith (Colorists)

The Story: Peter and J’son Quill have a long overdue talk about the birds, the bees and interstellar domination.

The Review: The Brian Michael Bendis volume of Gaurdians of the Galaxy has been something of a slow burner since it launched, which as any avid fan of Bendis’ book knows should come as nothing of a surprise. Throughout the course of this series we’ve been witness to J’son’s machinations and in this issue we finally see him strike against his son and the rest of the Guardians.

In a series of scenes the Guardians are taken out either individually or in pairings by bounty hunters, the Badoon and Shiar. The range of adversaries to the team seem to indicate that there is a deeper game afoot which hopefully will add a deeper layer of mystery to this storyline. What slightly irks about this issue is how easily the members of the team get taken out, when you have two members who’s monikers are “The Destroyer” and “The Universe’s Deadliest Woman” you’d expect them to put up more of a fight.

Where this issue really does shine is in the interplay between Peter and his father, the writing is extremely crisp with both characters having a defined point of view and attitude. Both characters believe that they are right despite being diametrically opposed which makes for a great showing for Bendis’s flair for naturalistic dialogue. Peter easily flips from childish petulance to righteous anger whereas every word that escapes J’son’s lips seems calculated and suspect, it is a treat to read and where the writing excels.
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Uncanny X-Men #20 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer); Chris Bachalo (pencils & colors); Tim Townsend, Wayne Faucher, Jon Holdredge, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, & Al Vey (inks)

The Story: Cyclops has declared war on S.H.I.E.L.D. and his opening gambit is a ballsy one indeed.

The Review: There are two ways to look at the war between the New Xavier School and S.H.I.E.L.D. On one hand the book has been building to this moment for twenty issues, on the other it took twenty issues to get here and we still have no assurance that things will be resolved any time soon. Both are valid and illustrate one of the key issues that Bendis has on this series, balancing the future and the present.

Many of this issue’s moments don’t make sense in themselves requiring further developments or the clarity of hindsight. Mystique’s continued plotting, for instance, can intrigue but really offers very little to a reader. This same pattern plays out again and again, whether in Hijack’s home or at the New Xavier School. At the same time, however, much of Bendis’ best writing doesn’t expand the scope of the story, but deepen it. Even in the same scene I just mentioned we find biting dialogue, like when Sabertooth asks how much longer Mystique will continue impersonating Dazzler and she responds, “Until Scott Summers is a party joke and S.H.I.E.L.D. is sold for parts. So I’m thinking until next Friday.”

Even if it doesn’t rank among his best, Bendis’ dialogue lives up to his lofty reputation. When it comes to engaging a reader in the moment, this issue really is quite spectacular. Brief scenes like Scott’s confrontation with an old teammate can feel very substantial. Admittedly that example is rather text-heavy but, while there is a bit of harried visual storytelling, there’s such tension in the dialogue that you might not be able to help getting sucked in. That’s a quality that Bendis has been shooting for for a long while, but it’s very much present in this final scene and the central confrontation of the issue.

It’s clear that Bendis saw Scott’s appearance on the helicarrier as the core of this chapter. Unfortunately a side effect is that most of the rest of the issue is a bit dull, but you can’t deny the power of this sequence. There’s perhaps a little too much time spend on Director Hill’s romantic preferences, but rarely has Scott’s cult of personality been clearer or Bendis’ grasp of his characters’ psychology more apparent.
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Daredevil #1.5 – Review

By: Too many to list—check out the review.

The Story: Daredevil narrowly avoids having a mid-life crisis.

The Review: It’s good thing to be fifty years old and still popular enough for people to notice. If you can get an actual commemorative issue out of it, even better! There may have been other peaks for Daredevil in earlier years, but right now he’s in one of that rare, enviable position of being both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. There’s greater joy to celebrating his longevity at a time when it looks like his greatest years are still to come.

That feeling of confidence is in no small part due to Mark Waid’s fabulous work with Daredevil for the last few years, which is why it’s so fitting that he kick off this showcase issue with “The King in Red,” a look at the life of Matt Murdock literally at age fifty. These future glimpses are tricky things because you’re projecting how certain beloved characters will end up, which is always a volatile thing to do—anyone seen the series finale of How I Met Your Mother lately?* Fortunately, with comics, readers know better than to take these future stories as anything more than potential.
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Uncanny X-Men #19 – Review

By:  Brian Michael Bendis (writer); Chris Bachalo (pencils); Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olozaba (inks); Chris Bachalo and Jose Villarrubia (colors)

The Story: We heard you like Sentinels so we put Sentinels in your Sentinels…

The Review: Back in August Uncanny X-Men received a slight boost when it featured a story about Cyclops facing off against a new breed of Sentinel. In the seven months that have passed, Uncanny has been growing and changing, largely for the better. Now that it’s time to pick up that thread, will it have the same oomph that it once did?

The answer is an ever charming sort-of. Bendis makes no attempt to hide that the past half a year of stories were a distraction. While the events of issue seventeen are mentioned, it’s clear that this series has been off track since the last Sentinel arc. The problem is that, for the most part, the filler was far better than anything that preceded it. So while it is intriguing to return to the mystery Sentinels again, there’s a sense of a backslide that I can’t deny is worrisome. It’s also strange since the event that took us off track, “Battle of the Atom”, ended with a dramatic reveal that S.H.I.E.L.D. has Sentinels, and different Sentinels at that.

Regardless, we’re diving back into Bendis’ main story. Summoned by a surge of mutant activity, the New Xavier X-Men find themselves lured into a trap. Bendis knows his collaborators and the creative team deliver a slick futuristic take on the X-Men. These aren’t the simple androids of the Mark I, and panels like a swarm of alien-looking mutant hunters spawning from the maw of a gigantic Sentinel are powerful and eerie. Likewise, a scene inside Cerebro is the stuff of science fiction, the kind that convinced us to buy sunglasses in middle school.

These new model Sentinels present a solid challenge for the team and Bendis’ answer serves to resolve the problem while significantly deepening the mysteries surrounding it. It’s a situation that is all the more fascinating for the removal of Hijack from the team, but the answer is pretty simple. Indeed, much of the issue seems designed to highlight Chris Bachalo’s contributions.
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Uncanny X-Men #18 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Marco Rudy (artist), Val Staples (color artist)

The Story: Cyclops finally starts speaking clearly, just in time for the world around him to stop.

The Review: Brian Michael Bendis’ dialogue seems to come in two general forms, razor-sharp character work or droning back-and-forths, and generally you can tell if you’re reading a good Bendis issue or a bad Bendis issue based on which one you get. Of course, there’s always an exception that proves the rule. This issue is that exception.

You see, despite belonging to the prior category, this issue suffers from a myriad of serious problems. After the dramatic events of the past two issues and the accompanying pruning of the team, Cyclops’ X-Men return home to find the All-New X-Men missing, the result of the “Trial of Jean Grey” storyline in their own title. Seeing as this title has no part in that crossover, and thusly nothing to say about it, Bendis retreats back in time to when the original X-Men arrived at the New Xavier School and, effectively, engages in some house cleaning.

It’s a bizarre choice to flashback only to lead back to the present day. The flashbacks don’t particularly benefit from the context and the jumps through time quickly become dizzying. I could easily imagine a new comic reader getting lost. One of the strangest elements is how much of a retcon this feels like, despite Bendis writing the entire story. The events of this issue are interesting, if only in that way that addictive web surfing is, but they don’t feel like natural additions to the story. It also highlights how irrelevant the O5’s move to Cyclops’ school was.

Still, as I mentioned, the character work is up to par with the past few issues. Cyclops’ conversation with Kitty is especially raw. It’s a solid scene, if one that really should have played out the first time someone accused Scott of killing Charles Xavier – which reminds me how many times people refer to “Charles Xavier” in this issue. You never called him that when he was alive…
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Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #5 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy (Artists), Jason Keith (Colorist)

The Story: The plan of Reed Richards and Tony Stark gets going as the fate of the Ultimate universe lays on Kitty Pride and her ability to fight Galactus on her lonesome.

The Review: I have to confess I am a bit relieved. While this series started on the right footing with plenty of destruction and high stakes, the more it progressed, the less it could make me care. While I do have a general appreciation of the Ultimate universe and its characters, there are a great many things I like quite a bit more than this publishing line.

One of those is Galactus. Being a creation of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee along with being an amazing concept, I always do tend to like it when he is included in stories. With his presence, the stakes are always higher, more cosmic and there is always an inherent mix of goofiness and awesome that is brought alongside the character that I enjoy tremendously. However, for some reasons, it seems that this series and its conclusion, despite it featuring heavily the character in question, managed to be a rather unsatisfying affair.

Where it fails, in a way, is in how it is expedient, but also a bit unbelievable. While suspension of disbelief if a concept that is strongly tied to anything that is super heroic, the fact that the manner in which the characters actually defeat the cosmic entity is quite absurd is a tad baffling. While the very thought of someone trading punches with the planet-eater is something that is exciting on paper, the manner in which this very action unfold is quite a stretch considering the very threat and power Galactus represents.
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Uncanny X-Men #17 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Chris Bachalo (pencils & colors), Tim Townsend w/ Al Vey & Jaime Mendoza (inks)

The Story: The newest X-Men battle chickasaurs, carrot people, Shelob, and S.H.I.E.L.D. while simultaneously acting in the greatest Verizon commercial never made.

The Review: In the past few months Uncanny X-Men has become a home for some of the best one-in-done stories in modern comics. After a look at the women of the New Xavier School and a spotlight on Magneto, Brian Michael Bendis gives us a, debatably, more traditional team story.

Another interesting trait of this title is Scott Summers’ emerging habit of putting his students in life threatening danger for training. While the issue hints that Magik is keeping an eye on them, it’s certainly in keeping with his mutant revolutionary status and differentiates his teaching style from Wolverine’s. Indeed, rather than retread classic X-Men ground and send his squad to the Savage Land, Bendis explores a newer locale. In the end the actual difference is pretty limited, but it’s an apt metaphor for what’s going on here.

This is the first issue of Uncanny X-Men where the teaching staff is largely absent. For the first, and the long overdue, time the success or failure of this issue rests entirely on the New Xavier’s students and, fun as a book about Scott, Emma, and Ilyanna can be, these kids are entirely up to the task. Likewise, while we all love a good Savage Land story now and again, Tabula Rasa presents a feeling of mystery and possibility.
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Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #4 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy (Artists), Jason Keith (Colorist)

The Story: With Galactus still doing his rather ominous-looking actions, the Ultimates recruits the X-Men to their cause.

The Review: To talk about Brian Michael Bendis is to talk about decompression. While Bendis can be an effective writer when he exploits a situation to its maximum through different angles, he can be somewhat problematic when it comes to pacing. Single issues aren’t his specialty, most of the time, with some particularly great concepts being stretched out in order to maximize his strengths. Unfortunately, it does the very same with his weaknesses as well, which can be overly apparent occasionally.

This issue is an unfortunate showcase of the writer’s weaknesses, which sadly does not make for a very satisfying issue. Being a transition issue for the most part to set things up for the conclusion, the story in itself moves characters from point A to B, explain a few things to its readers and set up many elements for things to arrive at their narrative peak later. Unfortunately, there are several problems in the execution of this approach that makes this much-less exciting than it could be.

The first thing that Bendis does right, yet not in the best of way, is to set up some kind of plan and use the characters in order to move things along. Doing so at a frantic pace, the readers are reintroduced to the X-Men as well as to the potential manner in which the Ultimates might confront Galactus. Presenting many facets of their plans and somehow explaining the gist of it in a rapid manner, there is little to no time given for the possible implications, be they moral, scientific or to show how many of the characters might react or feel about the many possibilities offered by the plot and decisions therein. In its quickness, Bendis unfortunately dazzles through the more interesting tidbits which could have made this story much more exciting, treating most of the characters as set pieces more than actual persons with problems, traits and what-not.

The other problem that the comic face is the fact that nothing really does happen here. There is an explanation and a plan at the beginning, some very few moments for characterization and then a good amount of action, all leading to the same conclusion as the previous issues: they need to do something or their world is screwed. There is a lack of accomplishment or surprising twists that makes this rather slow, but also rather safe, with close to no consequences being actually presented for the readers to enjoy. The sensation of cataclysmic events is well done, but it comes at the sacrifice of the characters and the story in general.
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Uncanny X-Men #16 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer); Chris Bachalo (pencils & colors); Tim Townsend w/ Al Vey, Mark Irwin, & Victor Olazaba (inks)

The Story: This old soldier refuses to fade away.

The Review: Despite being one of the most fascinating and important characters in comics history, I comfortably ranked Magneto as my worst character of 2013. Uncanny X-Men’s 2013 was marred by a near obsession with Scott Summers, willfully disregarding other, more interesting characters and quickly dropping plot points unrelated to his journey.

Tellingly, this series has made a remarkable recovery over the past two issues, each of which barely featured Cyclops. This issue generally continues both trends. While I stand by my criticism of Bendis for ignoring Magneto’s reaction to Charles Xavier’s death, his relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D., and the force of his personality, after reading this issue, I can say that what mistakes were made were not made in ignorance, as Bendis quickly tackles all three. I’m not sure that hastily throwing these at the reader fully compensates for past missteps; however it is nice to know that these issues have been on Bendis’ mind to some degree.

From there Bendis takes a page out of “X-Men: First Class”’ book and sends Magneto on an exotic undercover adventure. It’s really remarkable how well this formula works for the character and, as ever, it quickly proves how dangerous Magneto can be. The issue does a great job of reminding us that, though he could easily rip a ship apart, Erik has always been most dangerous for the care, inventiveness, and dedication that he’s brought to his control of magnetism.
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Cataclysm The Ultimates’ Last Stand #3 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy (Artists), Jason Keith (Colorist)

The Story: Miles Morales and Reed Richards travel to Earth-616 for help against Galactus.

The Review: Decompression is perhaps one of the plagues of current comics that make readers cringe the most. While slowing things down to perhaps exploit every possible changes and smaller details can work to great effects in most stories, it is a technique that does not always adapt well to certain genres. Some writers can do a slow-build wonderfully, while others don’t seem to be able to actually understand the fine line between progress and stalling. Also known in some circles as ”trade-writing”, it is always a rather disappointing thing to read an issue that is so blatant in its general lack of meaningful progress.

This issue verges for the most part on the worst traits of this particular problem, balancing between being rather slow and uneventful without being absolutely meaningless. While not the most satisfactory issue, it does give readers and those following the Ultimate universe some rather memorable moments while it does its job moving from point A to B decently enough.
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Uncanny X-Men #15 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Kris Anka (art), Rain Beredo (colors)

The Story: Mutants are hated, feared, victimized. Those with the courage to stand up to bigotry are forced into hiding, reduced to outlaws and terrorists. It is a hard time to be an X-Man. But that is no excuse to have nothing pretty to wear.

The Review: While the post-Schism world is an interesting one for the X-Men, I doubt I’m the only one who’s getting tired of Cyclops hogging the limelight. Bendis has filled the New Xavier School with fascinating young mutants, but, after fourteen issues, many of them remain strangers to us. Last issue proved a game changer for Benjamin Deeds and Emma Frost and I’m happy to say that Bendis has followed up with another great character issue.

Bendis takes his time setting up the adventure in this issue. It’s one that we don’t often see, but admittedly, it could have gone wrong rather quickly. Thankfully, Bendis does not disappoint. This issue does an impressive job of providing eight distinct, fully realized women. Well…maybe seven and a half – the cuckoos, you know. The initial scenes in the New Xavier School are especially charming, as the girls dance around the issue and Emma takes charge.

Of course, Bendis acknowledges something that really should have been apparent long ago: living in Scott Summers’ school in the middle of the Canadian wilderness must be boring as all get out! What do they do there? How are they living? So, when the increasingly extroverted Irma mentions that she wants to go shopping like the girls on TV and in books, Jean gleefully responds “We have books?” It’s subtle, but the enthusiasm for books tells us something about Jean. How I’ve missed knowing the X-Men.
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Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #2 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy (Artists), Jason Keith (Colorist)

The Story: With Galactus destroying everything, the Ultimates are left wondering which options are left against cosmic powered entities.

The Review
: The latest issue of this event was rather bombastic. In a lot of ways, the arrival of Galactus proved to be rather exciting, with a certain level of destruction and scope that was rather entertaining to read. Attempts were made to stop him, people were panicking and everything that needed to be said about the cosmic entity had been clearly put on the page. However, how does a writer continues with such a big introduction to his cast and to the conflict at hand?

Unfortunately, Brian Michael Bendis follows this with an issue that slows down the action and sensation of urgency in order to bring people up to speed. While it is always a nice thing to remind readers about some of the specifics and to see the characters obtain information on the current threat, it does not always make for an exciting or enjoyable reading experience.

Simply put, there is quite a lot of exposition and dialogue here, with Bendis mixing things up with his traditional take on conversations in comic books. While some of the quips coming from the character adds some levity to the situation they are in, it quickly becomes too much as most characters ends up either explaining the obvious or their motivations to one another, which leads to pages rather heavy in dialogue.
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Uncanny X-Men #14 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer); Chris Bachalo (pencils and colors); Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, Victor Olazaba (inks)

The Story: Ms. Frost you’re trying to seduce me, aren’t you?

The Review: I don’t think that I’ve hidden the fact that I’ve felt that Uncanny X-Men was always the Loki to All-New’s Thor; younger, less likable, more radical, and defined by inferiority. At times the series has shown great promise, but it’s never fully come into its own.

Especially with the incorporation of the original X-Men into the New Xavier School, this is an uneasy time for this title and there’s not much time to right the ship before its caught on the waves of another event. So how does Mr. Bendis deal with all this? He says ‘screw it’ and heads to Atlantic City.

Indeed, while the confusion at the school is alluded to, Bendis decides to sidestep the issue and focus on one of the institution’s quieter students: Benjamin Deeds. Just how quiet is Benjamin? Well I’ve been reading this series essentially since it began and I had completely forgotten that he existed. I’m glad of the reminder, too.
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Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #1 – Review

 

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy (Artists), Jason Keith (Colorist)

The Story: Galactus hungers for alternate universes. Luckily for him, he actually is in one.

The Review: Readers of super hero stories are usually very open when it comes to concepts and how they are interpreted. A blind man with ninja training acting as a lawyer? Check. A man that turns green and massive when angry? Check. A man from a previous universe that has enormous power and need to feed on planets in order to survive? Double check. There are many ideas in this type of universe that are rather silly, yet the suspension of disbelief of capes enthusiast is usually rather strong.

There are times though were some ideas are perhaps a bit too far-fetched, however, like this series dealing with Galactus, the one from the regular 616 universe being in the Ultimate universe. There is potential here, to be sure, yet there are so many ways this could go wrong. Does Bendis and the rest of the creative team manage to bring out some of the better uses for this idea to the forefront in this opening issue?

For the most part, Bendis opens this up fairly well, using some of most preeminent concepts of both universes to create a good comparison between the two. The use of Galactus as an unstoppable force, one that cannot be bothered by ants is one that has been used many times before, yet it is used competently here as well. The destruction is on par with big action movies, which is commendable for a series that has a rather ominous title like Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand.
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X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 – Review

By:  Jason Aaron; Brian Wood; and Brian Michael Bendis (writers), Esad Ribic; Giuseppe Camuncoli; Kristopher Anka; Chris Bachalo (pencils), Andrew Currie; Tom Palmer; Mark Irwin; Victor Olazaba; and Wade von Grawbadger (finishes), Ive Svorcina; Andres Mossa; Guru eFX; and Matt Milla (colors)

The Story: Fifty years ago, Professor Xavier assembled a team of young mutants, the original X-Men, to protect the world from evil mutants. Today, Xavier has assembled a team of young mutants to eliminate the original X-Men and protect evil mutants from the world. Happy anniversary, guys; hope you survive the experience.

The Review: At long last “Battle for the Atom” has come to a close. Can you believe that this event only started two months ago? At times it seems like it’s always been here.

When I opened this issue, I was surprised to see Jason Aaron’s name on the credits page. Brian Michael Bendis does manage to get the last word, but it’s Aaron who handles most of the heavy lifting. Bendis hasn’t shown his best self on this event, but Aaron was behind the rather abysmal last installment in Wolverine and the X-Men #37. Many of the flaws present in that chapter reappear here, but stronger plotting and more valuable subject matter allow this issue to escape the sins of its predecessor.

Though justifying the sheer amount of time and energy this story has subverted would require a pretty astonishing ending, taken on its own merits, X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 is a strong issue that closes the book on one tale while writing the first lines of several others.
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Guardians of the Galaxy #8 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Francesco Francavilla (Artist/Colorist)

The Story: S.W.O.R.D. is under attack! Thankfully, the curiously Earth-obsessed Guardians are there to save the day…or at least try to.

The Review
: Brian Michael Bendis could be seen as a writer that really like to take his time, to let the situations and conflict build up just the right way in the stories he is telling. In his tenure on Daredevil, he had used his style to great advantage as he let one change affect the whole life of Matt Murdock in strange ways. In some of his books, his decompression and the way he treat dialogue is truly an advantage.

However, this style of his does not really work in some series or with certain genre of stories, with this issue of Guardians of the Galaxy being an example. While his take on dialogue, characterization and action can certainly work on other books, it makes this cosmic oriented series suffer a bit.

The first thing that is hurt by this is the pacing, with the issue being incredibly uneven at times. The first few pages of Gamora and Star-Lord bickering doesn’t seem to get to the point fast enough, lingering on with potentially interesting points that aren’t explored enough. When the action do start, it picks up in speed as it sometimes seem to slow down and then go faster as the dialogue and the non-descriptive action continues with Star-Lord, Rocket and Abigail Brand. It jumps around in terms of its plot progression and the importance of its elements, with character development and the action suffering as a result.
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Uncanny X-Men #13 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba (Artists), Marte Gracia (Colorist)

The Story: The bad X-Men from the future tries to send the past X-Men to their own time as the real X-Men from the future tries to prevent their plans from working.

The Review: There are things we kind of take for granted when it comes to serial storytelling. We always think that character development, story progression and genuine moments of entertainment shall be given to us with each issue. It is something that all issue and writers should strive to give, but sometimes some issues are more miss than hit, which can bring forward frustrating books.

This issue of Uncanny X-Men is unfortunately one of those issues, where a lot of what could make it worthwhile is simply absent. It is a mindless issue that seems to want to give us as many ”awesome” moments as it can, delivering plenty of action but little else, resulting in a read that doesn’t advance the themes or the plot in any significant way whatsoever.
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