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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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Cyclops #2 – Review

By: Greg Rucka (story), Russel Dauterman (art), Chris Sotomayor (colors)

The Story: A chocolate milkshake. For this Scott had to travel halfway across the galaxy?

The Review: With comics these days determined to stay as dark as possible, it’s rare that a given issue makes you feel just purely happy, no strings attached. Even the most lighthearted, comedy-driven titles feel this need to have some kind of edge, like they’re not fully confident that readers are capable of enduring cheerfulness without a little cynicism or irony. Sugar, it seems, can’t be consumed without a spoonful of medicine anymore.

If for nothing else, Rucka merits praise for allowing one of the most star-crossed characters of the Marvel U to just have a grand old time, forgetting past and future tragedies. For personal reasons, the vignettes of Scott and Chris enthusiastically exploring the galaxy and enjoying father-son time touched me deeply, but I doubt anyone else can read them unmoved. If you know anything about what Scott’s grim history, your heart may very well melt watching him laugh with pure joy as he learns how to land a spaceship, his dad tousling his hair.
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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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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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Cyclops #1 – Review

By: Greg Rucka (story), Russel Dauterman (art), Chris Sotomayor (colors)

I have a real soft spot in my heart for Cyclops. Growing up and watching the X-Men cartoons on Fox Kids—is that even a thing anymore?—for some reason, I resonated with the visored hero more than any other mutant. Maybe because we were both four-eyes, I don’t know. As I got older and learned more of his complicated, often tragic history, I couldn’t help feeling that somewhere along the way, he became the X-Men’s official punching bag and sad sack, all in one.

Not being an avid X-Men follower, I have no idea how or why a teenaged Scott Summers got himself into the present, but I’m happy to see him nonetheless—happy and worried. Happy to see he still has the capacity to be happy, considering the dark, unstable crusader of a man he is now. Worried that seeing his unbelievably grim future (“…I grow up to be a maybe not very nice guy…Jean and I get married and then get miserable…”) will depress him before his time. So good on Rucka to have Scott keep his eye on the positive: “My dad is alive.

And how great is it to have an ongoing father-son series? Parental relationships don’t get much exploration in comics, mainly because it’s all the rage to orphan protagonists these days, and also because family interactions take time away from the main business of superheroing. Christopher Summers is an ideal father figure in this regard; as the confident, adventurous Corsair and leader of the Starjammers, he’s pretty much a superhero himself, one with years of experience on his adolescent son. That gives him a rare opportunity here to mentor Scott in a way he never got to when his son was this age the first time around.

There’s something inherently, wishfully sweet about this idea, of an absent father getting a second chance to be there for his son during a critical age, and of a lonely son finding and spending time with his long-lost father. Clearly, this space road trip Chris and Scott are embarking on is going to be a wild, crazy ride: “I’m programming a random set of thrilling galactic destinations. Six wonders of the universe for us to behold. You pick.” But beneath the fun and games, there’s a certain poignancy in knowing this may all end up as nothing more than a cherished memory of a what-might-have-been.
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C2E2 Report: Marvel – The Next Big Thing


All-New Marvel NOW 2

 

 

Not to be outdone, Marvel had me scrambling out of the Batman panel to secure a spot in Marvel: The Next Big Thing. While the X-Men, Spider-Man, and Batman still rule the roost, Marvel’s made huge strides with some of their less famous characters lately and this was the place to hear about it.

Nick Lowe, our moderator and editor of Spider-Man and Moon Knight, took a moment to thank the Chicago fans before introducing the panelists. The first was Mike Marts, an Executive Editor, newly returned from DC’s Batman office. Lowe asked him what it was like to be back. Marts replied that it felt like slipping on an old shoe. Lowe was not entirely thrilled with the analogy, leading Marts to amend his statement, “A shoe that makes a lot of great movies.” Next up was Joshua Hale Fialkov, the writer of Ultimate FF. After him came Charles Soule, the writer of ThunderboltsInhuman, and She-Hulk, the last of which received particular applause. Then came James Robinson, writer of Fantastic Four and All-New Invaders. A trio of artists rounded out the panel; Mahmud Asrar, Wolverine and the X-Men; Ryan Stegman, Wolverine; and Skottie Young, both writer and artist on Rocket Racoon.

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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.

 

 

C2E2 Report: Wolverine – 3 Months to Die

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Though I didn’t plan it this way, my final panel of C2E2 was Marvel’s Wolverine: 3 Months to Die. And while I regret not being able to see a couple of the later panels, I can’t say that it was a bad note to go out on. Full of interesting questions and big announcements, it was definitely one of the most exciting panels of the weekend. And so with that in mind, I’ve decided to skip ahead and write about it early.

Before beginning, Mike Marts warned us that, “in true Marvel fashion you should stay till the end of the credits. And on that ominous note he introduced our panelists, Charles Soule, writer of nearly everything including The Death of Wolverine and Thunderbolts; Jason Latour, writer of Wolverine and the X-Men; Russell Dauterman, the artist on the upcoming Cyclops ongoing; Jordan White, the fantastically mustachioed editor of Deadpool and Thunderbolts; Mahmud Asrar, the artist on Wolverine and the X-Men; and Greg Pak, who might have seemed a strange addition to those who had not yet heard the rumors.

The panel started with Dauterman, who was unequivocal in his glee and honor at being invited to work on Cyclops alongside Greg Rucka. Dauterman attributed much of his love of the X-Men, Marvel, and comics to X-Men: The Animated Series. With an impish gleam in his eye, Jordan White immediately leaned forward and invited us to take part in a ukulele sing-along of the show’s classic theme song, despite its lacking any discernible words. Unfortunately the internet has thus far failed in its basic purpose by not providing a video of the event, though a quick search can probably turn up video of other instances. Regardless, take my word that it was extremely well received.

Marts then turned to Wolverine and the X-Men. He asked Mahmud Asrar who his favorite character to draw was. Asrar had trouble with the question, saying that they’re all growing on him, but settled upon Storm. Latour mentioned that the series has been juggling quite a bit but that we’re getting to the point in the opening arc where things start to fall.

Then Marts pulled up the covers for Wolverine 8-12, the titular “3 Months to Die” storyline, one at a time. I imagine the reaction was just about exactly what Marvel was hoping for but, of course, it’s hard to deny the striking power of the images.

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While the first of “3 Months to Die”’s five issues drops in June the title is entirely literal, as Charles Soule’s The Death of Wolverine will be released weekly in September. Soule described the miniseries as hitting fast and hard and explained that it would consider how Logan explores his own mortality after over a century of life and relative safety. He also revealed that each issue will look at a different time in Logan’s life and, by extension, another Wolverine.
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C2E2 Report: Different Perspectives – An Interview with Russell Dauterman

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Some of you may not have heard of Russell Dauterman yet, but that’s likely about to change. Dauterman was the artist on the excellent Supurbia, closed out the last two issues of Kyle Higgins’ Nightwing run with a bang, and is now going to be launching the new Cyclops title for Marvel.

Russell has a unique and beautiful style and such a wonderful love for the material that I knew I had to talk to him and, thankfully, he was gracious enough to give us a bit of his time this past weekend at C2E2. Join me as we discuss character, representation, and working in the industry. Continue reading

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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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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New Warriors #2 – Review

By: Christopher Yost (writer), Marcus To (artist), Daniel Curiel (color artist)

The Story: Spurned by the X-Men, the Evolutionaries throw millennia of planning out the window and decide to back a new, more human, horse.

The Review: With the team’s final member making his appearance at the start of issue #2, New Guardians is clearly taking care with how the titular heroes come together. It’s an impressively varied group, but this is the time to prove that the execution will live up to its concept. In that respect, New Warriors #2 is a bit unsteady.

Picking up where we left off last month, this issue opens with our disparate heroes facing off with teams of Evolutionaries. These adversaries are imposing, thanks in no small part to Marcus To’s artwork, but despite the sheer number of conflicts, none of them justify the issue. It’s not that the book lacks spectacle, but that none of these fights feel like the core struggle. I suspect that this will seem less of a problem in trade, but as it’s probably going to be half a year before we see one, Chris Yost should really be providing a stronger arc in each issue.

The Evolutionaries also lose some of their menace this go around. At times this seems like a conscious choice, but in some cases it just diminishes the story. They whine too much and retreat too frequently, though hints of a greater plan keep them aloft.

With thirteen pages devoted to battles with the Evolutionaries or superhero infighting, Yost has to make his remaining seven count. Justice gets some much needed time to shine in the form of a visit to Avengers Tower. This scene could probably have sped up its exposition slightly, but is decidedly helpful to new readers and conveys Justice’s concern without making him seem dull. Then again, maybe it’s just the fact that he’s standing next to ol’ Slim Summers.
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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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Wolverine and the X-Men #40 – Review

By: Jason Aaron (writer), Pepe Larraz (artist), Matt Milla (color artist)

The Story: I assure you that you’ve never toured a school like this.

The Review: When we last saw the Bricklemoore twins, they had been discovered by the students of the Jean Grey School. Perhaps the most interesting element of this story is the sense of foreboding that Jason Aaron writes it with. We’ve known and bonded with the J.G.S. students for forty issues plus now, we know what heroes they are, and yet the scene is written entirely from Tri-Joey’s perspective. As Eye Boy, Shark Girl, Broo, and Kid Gladiator step towards him in the dark, you realize why S.H.I.E.L.D. is afraid of them. It’s a very interesting idea that keeps the issue feeling fresh and highlights the dueling pressures that Tri-Joey is facing.

Unfortunately, most of Tri-Joey’s story is fairly circular. It’s interesting to compare the knowledge that Joey lacked last issue to the holes in Squidface’s reconnaissance, but ultimately their tour feels a little bit like its treading water until the page count allows the matter to be resolved.  Don’t get me wrong, it resolves wonderfully but, objectively, I see that there was some wonky plotting going on.
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Wolverine and the X-Men #39 – Review

By: Jason Aaron (writer), Pepe Larraz (artist), Matt Milla with Pete Pantazis (color artists)

The Story: You know that awkward feeling when you run into an ex unexpectedly? It’s like that, but with more killer robots.

The Review: After an excellent start last issue, Jason Aaron drops us straight into the heart of an entirely different sort of story. Gone is the breakneck momentum that defined WatXM #38 and Amazing X-Men #1, and in their place is an impressively cinematic tale that, quite appropriately, is about the Jean Grey School as much as any of the characters.

Half the story follows Wolverine as his mission to shut down S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Sentinel hanger is interrupted by Cyclops, lured there by Mystique. Though Aaron’s title has felt somewhat crowded out of the grand scheme of the X-Family by Brian Michael Bendis’ work, this issue promptly reminds you why Marvel trusted him to split the X-Men in the first place. The tension between Scott and Logan is palpable, yet Aaron wisely avoids putting the two at each other’s throats again. Instead, Aaron gives us a slightly awkward team-up, as tense as it is familiar. The script plays with what’s important to each man and provides some impressive spectacle despite its clear focus on interpersonal drama. Aaron even calls in the events of the other X-Books, cleverly contrasting the troubles Cyclops has had with his powers since Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men #1 with the loss of Logan’s healing factor in Paul Cornell’s Wolverine.
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Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special #1 – Review

by Mike Costa (Writer), Michael Dialynas (Artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (Colorist)

The Story: With Spider-Ock and the rest of the team figuring out the mystery behind the time-travelling Doctor Octopus and Abomination, it’s time to bring the fight to Dr. Jude.

The Review: With how capes comics are usually written nowadays, it’s hard not to perceive them as long-form storytelling, divided in arcs in order to reach their endgame near the end of their run. It was thus in runs like Green Lantern by Geoff Johns, Batman by Grant Morrison, Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis and countless other ongoing past and present. With such forms of storytelling, it’s rare to see simple stories being told and completed with a small number of issues, with the simple goal of bringing entertainment without caring too much about repercussions or continuity.

With the Arms of the Octopus, Mike Costa achieves this simple yet fun method of plot writing. With some twists, action and some clever characterization, Costa made this story rather enjoyable in the previous issues, putting Spider-Ock, the past X-Men and the Hulk in front as they collaborated to solve the mystery of the time-travelling Doctor Octopus. However, does Costa maintains the fun and give the readers a satisfactory conclusion in his very last chapter?

This issue does succeed with both terms, albeit in different ways. The more traditional approach to super hero stories work quite well as the heroes defeat the villain in a way that is on par with previous storytelling methods. They defeat the villain of the piece, Dr. Jude not with fisticuffs but with some clever thinking and cooperation on everyone’s part. It’s part throwback to tales from the 60’s and the 70’s with a modern twist that makes this quite enjoyable for those looking for something competent storytelling. It might not be the most ambitious, but it does its job fairly well.
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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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Wolverine and the X-Men #37 – Review

By: Jason Aaron (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (penciler), Andrew Currie (finisher), Matt Milla (colorist)

The Story: With the original X-Men in the custody of a sinister ‘X-Brotherhood’, the X-Men take a moment to figure out who’s who.

The Review: With this issue, Battle of the Atom enters its penultimate chapter. Last time I wrote about a Wolverine and the X-Men tie-in to the event, Jason Aaron’s enthusiasm proved to be just what the droning storyline had needed, but this month I’m afraid that I can’t quite say the same.

It’s not that Aaron has suddenly lost his skill, but merely that there’s not enough story for him to cover. I don’t even feel that I can blame him, as he works a number of cute scenes into the narrative in order to pad the issue out so that things can be where they need to be for this week’s X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 .

Where Aaron does fall down is crowd scenes. Battle of the Atom has gotten very populous, very fast, with five distinct teams of X-Men running around. This issue clearly wants to play with that, but while there are some lovely interactions between individual characters – especially between differing versions of the same character – the Aaron’s attempts to bring out the chaos of the situation often feel forced. It’s the same quality that elevates or ruins these moments, too. Aaron’s trademark wit is cute in small doses, but with five to twenty characters all vying for your attention, they reach a critical mass and end up seeming rather trite. The strangest instances of both of these phenomena is when a quality interaction is contained within an awkward group scene, such as modern Bobby’s meeting with Ice King Bobby.
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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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Indestructible Hulk Special #1 – Review

by Mike Costa (Writer), Jacob Wyatt (Artist), Jordie Bellaire (Colorist)

The Story: Bruce Banner arrives on the scene to help solve the mystery around this seemingly time-travelling Doctor Octopus. Science and smashing ensues.

The Review
: Some writers understand the very basic, yet fun approach that can work wonderfully with certain characters. Each specific title, along with their protagonist, have a certain strength that needs to be put front thanks to the flaws and unique angle that its cast possess. Mark Waid understand how Daredevil’s dashing attitude may lead itself to problem, as Matt Fraction can see the quirks of being one of the non-powered Avengers and how it might affect your perception of daily life in Hawkeye. Those may not be the most ambitious or the subtlest concepts for ongoing titles, yet both works thanks to the creative team sticking with this very vision of their heroes as well as the world that spin around them.

This is the kind of approach that Mike Costa seems to have in mind with this issue, as heroes cooperate together to not only solve a mystery, but kick a little butt as well in the process. This team-up, with special focus on Bruce Banner, seems like an issue from older times, which isn’t a disadvantage in the least.
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X-Men Legacy #18 Review

by Simon Spurrier (Writer), Khoi Pham (Artist) Rachelle Rosenberg (Colorist)

The Story: David shows Cyclops his master plan concerning many of his goals during a somewhat heated discussion. Irony then ensues…

The Review: Simon Spurrier sure knows how to anticipate the expectations of his readers. While it is hard nowadays to truly surprise anyone in most medias, he seems to be able to do so as he plays around with his status quo and with the premise of his story. Doing so in this issue, Spurrier advance the general subplots alongside his characterization David, creating some astonishing moments in this issue. However, for all those surprises, does it advance his general plot as well as create an interesting issue overall?

It’s a bit of a hit and miss, really, as while Spurrier plays to his strengths in this issue, there are some weird pacing issues in this month’s instalment that make for a bit of an unsatisfying experience when it comes to the payoff of some of the longer running subplots.

The strongest point, though, is the characterization as David is being one of the more interesting mutant characters thanks to the reinvention of the character by Spurrier. The use of his powers, his methods alongside how he operates shows the inherent problem the character needs to go through, which is consistent with his evolution as well as his actions throughout this arc. On the thematic side of things, this issue has a very strong display on how David perceive the mutant world and the battle between humans and mutants.
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All-New X-Men Special #1 – Review

by Mike Costa (Writer), Kris Anka (Artist), Jordie Bellaire (Colorist)

The Story: Beast, along with the rest of the past X-Men, fight a mysterious time-displaced Dr. Octopus alongside Spider-Ock.

The Review: There are many reasons to be wary when words like ”Annual”, ”Special” and other such words follow the name of a regular ongoing title. While such accompanying words aren’t necessarily a sign of lesser quality, they aren’t always handled by the regular creative team, which may seem like something rather undesired by the fans. The fact that they mostly tell stories that don’t really connect with the main plot of the ongoing in question doesn’t guarantee a bad story, yet those that follows the plots and subplots about their favourite characters may find many reasons to be unsatisfied. Expectations aren’t always high when it comes to those issue, generally.

It’s a good thing that this very issue is actually quite nice, then, as Mike Costa try to tell an ambitious tale featuring the cast from three different books in three mere issues. With the first one being the introduction to this extravaganza of time travel and costumed heroes, the writer makes some pretty smart choices in his presentation and with how he handles several elements.

The first thing he does correctly is the fact that he gets just who he is writing as the voices of each characters feels right. While not all characters gets the same amount of panel time, Costa seems to know how to balance the different characters around, with the young Beast still being the genius readers know, without possessing the confidence he displays in his current iteration. There is also the somewhat clueless and always-learning Iceman, with his lack of experience and his generally attitude toward the feminine gender. The character he really do make shine though is Spider-Ock himself. The arrogance, the high intelligence, the demeaning attitude and the professionalism about his role as Spider-Man is spot on, with Costa managing to balance Slott’s characterization with a sense of fun that not all writers care to put on display.
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Wolverine and the X-Men #36 – Review

By: Jason Aaron (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (penciler), Andrew Currie (finisher), Matt Milla with Edgar Delgado (colorists)

The Story: Having finally tracked down the X-Men, the X-Men battle the X-Men with the help of the X-Men. But what secrets will be revealed when the X-Men join the fray?

X-Men.

The Review: As Jason Aaron finally gets his hands on the Battle of the Atom crossover, the story begins to shift to a higher gear. Part of this is certainly the natural flow of the story; however, you can’t deny that Aaron is a part of it.

The issue does an excellent job of drawing the lines in this admittedly confusing scenario. Without explicitly telling us, we get to know who the major players are and where they fall on the issue at hand. The tension between the two Kitty Prydes is a fine example, quickly establishing their positions and leveraging it into a cute scene. It also displays the difference between this issue and many of the others in the crossover. While Battle of the Atom has kind of felt like a graphic novel released in slow motion, this issue really feels like an issue of Wolverine and the X-Men.

Another thing that’s nice is that, though things stand at the brink of war, all parties are doing their best to avoid it. Some readers might wish that we got a little more of the brawl the cover promised them, however it’s honestly much more interesting to see characters like Wolverine, Cyclops, and even Deadpool try to avoid hostilities. Though it’s against each of their natures, the characters pursue a fragile peace in ways that suit their characters…even Deadpool.

We also get the first real hints of what’s going on with Magik and what the endgame of this event might look like.
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