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Uncanny X-Men #24 – Review

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

The Story: As the X-Men worry about Xavier’s final bequests, the will reveals a dark secret…and a gift to Emma Frost.

The Review: Let’s get this out of the way. Last issue Brian Bendis ended part I of “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier” by revealing that Scott Summers had to be present to read said will. I hope you’ll forgive me saying so so early in the review, but if you suspected that we wouldn’t actually see that reading in this issue, you were right. We actually end the second issue of this arc just about to hear Xavier’s final orders to his X-Men. That means that there are twenty pages between last issue’s cliffhanger and actually hearing the will. So now the question is, what does Bendis use those pages for?

The answer, for the most part, is character. It’s slightly cynical, but, as comics have grown shorter and more decompressed, the traditional recipe of a superhero story – discovery, character development, b-plot, and conflict – has become largely untenable. A quality action scene requires at least a few pages and those pages are in short supply.

If a battle sequence is a requirement for you, you’re really better off avoiding this issue. There is a fairly tame action sequence in the middle of the book, but it’s neither here nor there and probably the story’s least interesting moment. No, this issue is all about exploring the X-Men.

Bendis gives us another particularly good example of his trademark wordiness this week, but rather than drag on the issue, it energizes it. Bendis knows exactly what voice he wants to use for the characters he’s using, perhaps even better than he does for the usual cast of this series. Though they tend to run a bit on the casual-side, as Bendis’ dialogue often does, the immediacy that this brings the issue just grabs the reader. There’s an illusion of naturalism that goes a long way.
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Original Sin #2 – Review

Jason Aaron (Writer), Mike Deodato (Artist), Frank Martin (Color Artist).

The Story: Who holds the eye?

The Review: The answer to the above question has more than one answer, as this issue we learn the identities of a trio of characters who hold one of the Watcher’s eyes. The character reveals are seriously out of left field, certainly not the usual suspects  which is a wonderful change of pace from the usual annual event tradition of recognizable heroes, villains and narrowed focus. Much as I delighted at the oddball team-ups that occurred in the first issue, the villain partnership that is presented in #2 feels incredibly fresh and exciting. The mystery angle of this series is quickly displaying how effective it is at throwing curve balls at, and surprising readers. Lets hope that the remaining six issues continue this trend.

The story’s scope continues to grow with this issue as more heroes become involved, Avengers, X-men, street-level heroes and newer faces like Nova join the manhunt for Uatu’s murderer. Not all of the characters play key roles in the issue but their inclusion does give the series the star power it needs for it’s summer blockbuster status. Where the issue does really shine is when it focuses on Nick Fury, clearly the star of the series, taking on a not-so-Mindless One in his flying car above New York. Aaron writes a fantastic Nick Fury, utilizing an array of outlandish spy gadgets to interrogate and later dispatch of his quarry with Steranko-esque style.
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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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Original Sin #1 – Review

by Jason Aaron (Writer), Mike Deodato (Penciler), Frank Martin (Color Artist).

The Story: Nick Fury comes out of retirement to solve the case of the Watcher’s murder.

The Review: Opening issues to event stories always seem quite difficult to pull off, there is always a hefty amount of set up to achieve and pieces put into play whilst still telling an entertaining story on a larger than normal canvas. Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato manage to achieve all of this and more in the first issue of Original Sin which has been marketed as a cosmic murder mystery, the issue feels very different to either the politics of Civil War or the paranoia of Secret Invasion which helps make the event feel fresh.

The writing in this issue feels a lot more character focused than in a lot of event books, with Nick Fury taking something of a starring role, cast as the ‘retired and tired gumshoe being dragged back for the case of the century’. The diner sequence in this issue is a great way to introduce readers to our protagonist as Nick Fury along with other old soldiers of the Marvel Universe attend their regular ‘meat night’. It’s a great way to show how the history between these characters continues to inform their interactions in the present and feels like a very natural conversation between a very natural grouping of characters.

The opening sequence is also incredibly cinematic, ably rendered by Mike Deodato who could not be more of a perfect fit for this Noir murder mystery tale, the book is appropriately dark and shadowy which helps to really sell the tone and mystery of the story. Deodato frames certain panels with such a striking use of shadow that it can’t help but leave an impression upon the reader; the panel revealing Stephen Strange and also the panel showing the Mindless Ones writing in a warehouse immediately come to mind as some of the best examples of the artist’s use of dramatic lighting to great effect in the issue.

Aside from the mystery of the Watcher’s killer there are multiple other mysteries at play in the issue, the most obvious is Fury’s investigation of ‘the unseen’, its unknown at this point who or what exactly the unseen is but this issue succeeds in building mystery and suspense around the answer. The second mystery at play is somewhat more subtle, on first reading it appears that Fury himself is responsible for recruiting the investigation team consisting of some delightfully oddball groupings, however the way the characters refer to their boss is curiously vague. The only time we see the person directing the teams efforts on panel he is of course draped in shadow, also he is shown to be holding a glowing green object much like the growing shrapnel that is later retrieved from the Watcher’s skull. At this point it’s too early to tell if it’s Fury, someone else or a red herring but it’s a very enjoyable feeling knowing that the creators are confident in the mystery of their story enough to play with the readers, even in the first issue.
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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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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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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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