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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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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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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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Uncanny X-Men #12 – Review

The Story: Oh young Scott…If only you were older, you’d know that trusting yourself has never gotten you out of trouble.

The Review: By now I think most of us have realized that X-Men: Battle of the Atom isn’t actually a crossover so much as it’s an exorbitantly priced graphic novel. The quality is high enough that I’d be happy to sit down with this book, but these are not single issues, they’re not even chapters. Once you accept that you’ll enjoy these issues a lot more, but it means that no one can really fault you if you decide to trade-wait it…well, Marvel probably could but, you know.

It’s almost a shame that Marvel wasn’t able to just fire this story off in one shot, because this issue seriously suffers for it. In a respectable attempt to remain cogent to fans not expanding their pull lists for the event, Bendis takes ample time to recap what’s happened, including a giant two-page panel of the final shot from the first issue, and then allows the Uncanny team to react naturally to these events, even if some reactions are kind of redundant. Unfortunately that means that this is probably the least essential chapter of the story so far.

On the bright side, though, there are a couple of interesting bits and witty moments that add to the greater experience. Thus far Bendis has been awfully honest about the fact that this is really just a lengthy debate of values, and it’s kind of fun to hear all sides. You might say that there’s not much action, but I remind you that 12 Angry Men is still an engrossing movie. You may then respond that 12 Angry Men dealt in real emotional truth rather than depending on your knowledge of better stories that it can get you to summon up. Unfortunately, I won’t have much defense for that.
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X-Men Legacy #16 – Review

Simon Spurrier (Writer), Paul Davidson (Artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (Colorist)

The Story: David tries to take down Cyclops team as he has a very important message to bring to the man who killed his father.

The Review
: Super hero comics are about action. It’s a very general way to see things and one that lack a bit of depths, yet it is also very true. Why create characters that can lift mountains and punch giants if we don’t see them actually use their powers once in a while? The stories, characters, themes and the direction are important, yet sometimes the readers do like to see what the protagonists are able to do with their powers and abilities when it comes to cape comics.

Simon Spurrier understand this very well, as he gives the readers a very action-heavy issue without having the obvious problems associated with such issues. Even though the issue deals with David showing off the fact that he can beat pretty much anyone, the issue never let go of some of the key themes that makes this series good to begin with.

The first thing he does is actually play on the growing subplot that David is getting a better handle on his numerous powers, which is shown throughout him beating down on many of the characters found in Bendis Uncanny X-Men run. Using the various personalities in his mind, Spurrier shows a David that is in control, which also reflects on the way he talks to those he is beating down. This is a man that knows he’s immensely powerful and it is displayed in his mannerism, speech and his use of powers splendidly.
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Uncanny X-Men #11 – Review

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

The Story: The next stage in Sentinel technology takes on its human counterpart.

The Review: I think that it’s safe to say that Cyclops’ story is one of the most interesting threads that Bendis is playing with on this series. As he drifts dangerously close to Magneto’s viewpoint, how can the man who killed Charles Xavier honestly see himself as the man’s successor?

Bendis hasn’t been spending too much time answering that question, but this week he gives us a glimpse into Scott Summer’s mind. I expect that reactions to Scott’s inner thoughts will vary as much as they did to he and Wolverine’s schism, if not more, however I also think that the writing Bendis commits to these thoughts are a step above what this title has been getting.

For the first time we see Scott’s walls start to crumble. The responsibilities of being a leader to the mutant movement, the shame and joy of his students’ control rivaling his own, and the cruelty of a world that has finally given him the slightest glimmer of hope weigh heavily on this issue. Little things like Scott’s thoughts on having Angel on his team and his musings about what would happen if he died really bring out the best in him and anchor a character who’s found the only thing to lead with more responsibilities than a nation.

That said, it sometimes seems like Bendis is too close to this story. The opening page begins with a short monologue by Scott which begins, “Human cowards. You never learn.” That sounds like Magneto. That sounds like a particularly one-dimensional Magneto. What’s more, on that same page, Scott expresses confusion when the sentinel refers to him as a terrorist. It’s clear that Bendis at least sympathizes with this character, but sometimes it seems like he’s either blind to differing views or chooses not to bring them into Scott’s title.
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Uncanny X-Men #10 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Frazer Irving (art)

The Story: Apparently the revolution will be televised.

The Review: Oh Uncanny X-Men, what will we do with you?

It’s been clear from the beginning that this would be a somewhat different incarnation of the X-Men’s flagship title. Brian Michael Bendis has shown a clear enthusiasm for the idea of Cyclops as a revolutionary and the idea of focusing a relaunch of the original X-Men title around, debatably, an incarnation of the Brotherhood sounds absolutely fascinating. So where are things going wrong?

Well, firstly this issue is too dialogue-driven. Some of you may be rolling your eyes at another review calling Bendis wordy, but I assure you that this is an anomaly, even for him. It’s not that Bendis engages in his trademark banter, but rather that very little actually occurs in this issue.

The lack of action doesn’t stop the characters from talking about it, though. Cyclops’ training session is actually quite interesting but it would probably be even more so if Bendis would trust the events of the story to speak for themselves. He’s not telling rather than showing, but he chooses to both show and tell a single action rather than making time for more to happen.
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Uncanny X-Men #9 – Review

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

The Story: As S.H.I.E.L.D. takes neutrality off the table, mutants begin to turn on eachother…over their haircuts!

The Review: Last time the New Xavier School lost one student only to gain another. This month we find them much as we left them. Cyclops has his hands full training his next generation of mutants, including new recruit, Hijack, and Fabio Medina finds himself faced with Dazzler: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. The two stories don’t take long to intersect and therein lies the fun.

Though it’s certainly a more active issue than the last, Bendis finds plenty of time to introduce humor into the mix. It’s not the same sort as in All-New X-Men, where there are likely to be entirely comedic pages, but this issue definitely reminds you that mutants are teenagers, with all the wonderful and terrible things that come with that. I think that’s been missing from a lot of titles lately, and it’s nice to see Bendis putting it into play. Not to mention that I can’t find character in recent memory with a better ratio of actions taken in a first issue to love I have for them than Fabio’s disco-loving sister.

But rest assured, this is hardly Wolverine and the X-Men. Bendis packs this issue with contention and heady considerations of what it means to be part of an oppressed minority. The drama of the whole mess is expertly mined, but I can’t help but feel that these aren’t the best arguments for the various cases. In this title at least, Cyclops may be right, but that often seems dependant on the Marvel universe being hopelessly bigoted. While I’ve learned to never be surprised by just how plentiful awful people may be, I feel pretty comfortable saying that the struggle of mutants in Bendis’ titles it a bit excessive. Despite being a well-loved character, Dazzler easily slips into some pretty indefensible positions as the plot demands.
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Uncanny X-Men #8 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Chis Bachalo (pencils/colors), Tim Townsend (inks)

The Story: Magneto and Cyclops have a chat while a pair of young mutants discover that no matter what path they choose to walk, it won’t be an easy one.

The Review: Brian Michael Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men has never quite had the energy that its sister title, All-New X-Men, has… But this month it presses the advantage it does have– its characters. Unlike the other X-Books, Uncanny really has the opportunity to explore the struggle of the new wave of mutants. Bendis put his considerable talent behind two very different ‘coming out’ experiences this month and they positively radiate intelligence, empathy, and respect for his characters. Well, his mutant characters, anyway.

The need for new X-Men stories guarantees that the people of 616 (Marvel’s primary universe) will never fully accept or tolerate mutants. The metaphor of mutants as a minority is a powerful one, but, since Professor X first called his X-Men to him, we’ve seen the Civil Rights Movement, significant strides in the cause of feminism, and possibly even the beginning of same-sex marriage nationwide. In short, you’d think we might have moved on from the possibility of government-funded Sentinels, or at least heard about human advocates for mutant rights a little more often. While there are likely to always be those who cannot find it in their hearts to be tolerant, without a counterpoint, it feels like what we’re encountering are strawmen, and that doesn’t do justice to the book’s human characters, Bendis’ skill as a writer, or those who actually face discrimination.

Bendis also has control over two of the biggest names in mutant history. While the scene between Scott and Magnus isn’t exactly the sort that glues one to their seat, I can’t say that it wasn’t fascinating under Bendis’ pen. Bendis clearly has put a lot of thought into these characters and their unique circumstances only exacerbate the tension between them.

I’m starting to think that Bendis is some kind of Decompression Elemental. The man has absolutely no fear of eschewing traditional comic book plotting for the sake of his story, and a remarkable talent for keeping even the most academic of scenes interesting. Unfortunately, while this makes his work a pleasure to read, it does lead to a two-fold let down once you reach the end. First you realize that very little happened, and then you realize that you’ll have to wait at least another two weeks for more of that wonderful nothing. If this issue felt more connected to an ongoing journey that might feel more tolerable, but as of yet we don’t have much more than a vague mission of “make the world safe for mutants.”
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All New X-Men #11 – Review

ALL-NEW X-MEN #11

By: Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Stuart Immonen (Penciler), Wade Von Grawbadger (Inker), Marte Gracia (Color Artist), VC’s Cory Petit (Letterer)

Review: The point’s been made by my fellow WCBR brethren that reviewing All New X-Men looks like an unenviable task. And they’re right. Not that it’s a bad comic; quite the opposite, as nearly a year in and I still find it to be one of the strongest all-round titles to come out of the Marvel NOW ‘situation’. Rather it’s the case that a lot of the time each issue feels filled to the brim with lots of great little moments between the many and varied members of its cast. Keeping track of all that over a few hundred words can get difficult, especially if you don’t want to make it look like you’re just transcribing the script wholesale. Woe is me, 1st world problems etc. I can deal. Once more into the breach dear friends…once more!
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Uncanny X-Men #1 – Review

UNCANNY X-MEN #1

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Chris Bachalo (pencils & colors), Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza & Al Vey (inks), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story:  An inside man approaches Maria Hill with an offer to help take down Scott Summers.

The Review:  One of the concerns I had about this book going in was the way it would differentiate itself from All-New X-Men.  Yes, I realize it wouldn’t feature the time traveling teens, but Cyclops and his gang have appeared quite a bit in that book such that having them star in this one seemed to be some serious overlap.  Thankfully, Bendis quickly dispels this concern.  It’s not so much that Cyclops team are front and center, which they are, but rather that the tone of the book has been subtly altered.  While part of it may be due to Bachalo’s artwork, with its muddy colors and its lack of distinct, clean lines (as opposed to Immonen and Marquez on All-New), the big reason for this is the subtle change in tone.  The book feels more shadowy, more “underground,” and a touch more edgy.  The humour isn’t there and the soap opera of All-New is shifted into something that’s a little closer to twisty, spy-thriller dramatics.  All-New is the above-ground, flagship story.  Uncanny is what happens beneath and on the revolutionary fringes that Cyclops and his team currently occupy.
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All New X-Men #3 Review

ALL-NEW X-MEN #3By: Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Stuart Immonen (Artist), Wade Von Grawbadger (Inker), Marte Gracia (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer)

The Review: All New X-Men is enjoying a well-deserved reputation as one of the best Marvel NOW titles at the moment. This success is largely down to the fact that it’s not really traded on the gimmicks which first made the title a talking point – Jean Grey coming back, the original X-Men coming face-to-face with their future selves – so much as it has strong character work from Bendis (and some top flight artwork from Stuart Immonen). This issue’s focus is restricted solely to Cyclops’ new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, revealing a little of the workings of the team and more of the turmoil present within it. I haven’t found it quite as compelling as the previous instalments, but it’s still some better than average comic booking and an important step forward for the overall story.
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Avengers vs. X-Men #10 – Review

By: Ed Brubaker (writer), Adam Kubert (pencils), John Dell (inks), Laura Martin (colors), and Larry Molinar (letters)

The Story: Cyclops attacks K’un-Lun in an effort to bring Hope home.

The Review:  Well, good news.  This issue was actually…pretty good.  That’s largely owing to the fact that the Phoenix corrupted Scott and Emma turn out to be extremely effective villains this month.  They’re compelling, particularly given that they aren’t at all bland or derivative, instead managing to stay true to their characters.  It’s “evil Scott” and “evil Emma” in the truest sense in that they are still distinctly themselves, just in a much darker light.

Scott, for instance, is the sort of guy you can’t help but hate.  Sure, he’s done a lot of good things, but man does he love reminding you of that.  As a result, he comes across as condescending and arrogant throughout.  It’s basically everything Cyclops haters loathe dialed up to 11.  Emma, on the other hand, is downright creepy.  She’s turned Utopia into her own little kingdom with its residents as her slaves; she’s fickle and cruel in a way that suits the character quite well.
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Avengers vs. X-Men #9 – Review

by Jason Aaron (writer), Adam Kubert (pencils), John Dell (inks), Laura Martin & Larry Molinar (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story:  With their backs against the wall, the Avengers attempt a daring jailbreak.

The Review:  I’ve actually found the last few issues of Avengers vs. X-Men to be relatively enjoyable.  It’s something of a disappointment then that this latest installment felt a tad underwhelming.

Part of that, I think, is that this issue is another testament to the fact that AvX could easily have run the standard 8 issues instead of twelve.  The first two-thirds of the issue felt like a lot of wheel-spinning.  Perhaps that’s a little strong, as things DO happen, but it feels like little more than the pieces being shuffled around on the board.  It’s almost as though the book is on a holding pattern – minor consolidations of characters’ alignment are made, it’s hammered home repeatedly that the Avengers are stuck in neutral, and the end result is that, for all the action scenes, the book is surprisingly dull.

Moreover, I have to say that I was a bit disappointed by the portrayal of Magik and Colossus.  The strongest element of the “Phoenix Five” has been the way that the Phoenix hasn’t just corrupted them, but done so in a manner that accentuates each of their unique and inherent character flaws.  Magik and Colossus, however, just come across as evil, straight-up villains.  Well, with Colossus trying to resist his villainous side, anyway, while Magik is completely malevolent.  But the problem is there’s nothing unique in their corrupted behaviour – they’re just violent and nasty.  I wish it was a little more nuanced in the delivery.  It’s particularly strange given that Jason Aaron was also the guy behind last week’s issue of Wolverine & the X-Men, which did such a great job in its depiction of corrupted Colossus.

Thankfully, this isn’t the case with Aaron’s takes on the empowered Emma and Scott.  These two characters thankfully maintain that interesting element of the Phoenix’s corruption – they aren’t just evil, but rather, the corruption emphasizes certain character flaws.  The vengeful Emma Frost and her inner struggles were a great example of that and a major highlight of the book.  Aaron manages to make her perfectly monstrous, the Phoenix corrupting her in a manner that fits perfectly with her nature, but also a sympathetic figure, all in the space of two pages.
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Avengers vs. X-Men #8 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Adam Kubert (penciler), John Dell (inker), Laura Martin & Larry Molinar (colorists), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer)

The Story:  The Avengers try to stop Namor from burning Wakanda to the ground.

The Review:  One word describes this issue:  fun.

I’ll admit, I’m not one easily wowed by superhero punch-ups, but somehow, seeing Namor battle heavyhitters like Red Hulk, Thing, and Thor was pure, gleeful, comics bliss.  There was just something magical about seeing these heavy-hitters throw down (with one particularly brutal panel that particularly sticks out – that’s a pun that’ll make sense when you read the issue).  The fight was wonderful fun that had me really enjoying myself and flipping the pages, with the issue never dragging or boring me one bit.
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The New Avengers #28 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato (artist), Rain Beredo (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer)

The Story: Spider-Woman, Hawkeye, and Luke Cage try to break out of the X-Brig.

The Review: This is a tough review to write, as I imagine that opinions will really vary on this comic.  The entire issue builds up to a big twist near the end and your enjoyment of it overall is thus largely contingent upon your reaction to that twist.

For me, I literally said, out loud, “oh, come on!” when I turned that page.  Bendis does a good job in tricking you, sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that the twist ending here is the oldest trick in the book.   That said, to his credit, Bendis almost, almost manages to sell it by making the scenario particularly hellish and twisted.  It’s actually surprisingly dark, and a little disturbing, for an Avengers comic.  Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the core concept of the twist is incredibly old, tired, and cheap.

The dialogue is also a mixed bag.  On the one hand, I liked the characterization Bendis does in showing the very different ways that Cage, Hawkeye, and Spider-Woman interact with their guards.  It showcased their unique personalities, and tactics, very well and was a really nice touch.

On the other hand, I could have done without the banter between Jessica and Clint.  Bendis and Deodato have established that this is a very dark issue they’re giving us and Hawkeye and Spider-Woman are in the middle of a desperate escape off of an island guarded by pissed-off gods and….Hawkeye is telling Spider-Woman that she smells nice, while Spider-Woman makes a joke about a birthmark/scar/something on Hawkeye’s butt?  It’s bad enough that the Hawkeye/Spider-Woman relationship still feels forced and underdeveloped, but this banter is really, really inappropriate and out of place.  This is only further evidenced by the fact that it’s really the only spot of humour in what is really a very grim issue, particularly given that dire twist.
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Wolverine and the X-Men #13 – Review

by Jason Aaron (writer), Nick Bradshaw (penciler & inker), Walden Wong & Cam Smith (inkers), Guru Efx (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer)

The Story: Get to know Warbird.  And, in other news, five phoenixes is a bit much even for Gladiator.

The Review: For the most part, the AvX tie-ins have ranged between mediocre to sucky and no title has been a greater disappointment than Wolverine and the X-Men.  It’s a painful situation that is every event-haters worst nightmare: a fantastic comic derailed by a forced event tie-in.

Given this, I was prepared to give another underwhelmed review but, much to my surprise, Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw churn out a fantastic issue here.  The reason why this one is different is obvious:  Avengers vs. X-Men takes a very distant backseat.  This gives Aaron a chance to focus on what’s made this series so great: the characters he’s created.

Here, he really pulls back the curtain on Warbird, probably the new character we knew least about.  Put simply, it’s fantastic.  You will leave this issue loving Warbird.  Her story is tragic, heavy stuff and she comes through it all a conflicted, three-dimensional character with a lot of depth and a lot more long-term potential.  Aaron has created a character that you can’t help but have a great deal of empathy for.

Part of this is Jason Aaron’s reversal of the stereotypical “tough girl.”  So many comics take the route of making a female character as hard-nosed and badassed as possible as the quickest, cheapest route to create a female “fan favourite.”  Aaron takes the opposite route.  Instead, he gives us character that is, on the surface, that stereotypica, female, 90s-badittude type of character, but that’s not what makes her so awesome or likable or unique.  Rather, it’s the softer, sensitive side of her that’s been so secreted away that makes the character shine.  In the end,  you’re cheering more for her to be able to emotionally open up and be herself than you are for her  to chop up some more aliens.  Essentially, Aaron gives us a character template that succeeds more than it fails, then turns it on its head to give it an entirely new depth.

While tragedy and emotion define Warbird’s story, there’s also something decidedly heart-renching about Kid Gladiator’s scenes.  Aaron does a great job depicting Kid Gladiator’s reaction to watching his dad get the worst of things against the Phoenix Five.  Most interesting is Aaron’s basically giving the character an emotional trajectory – he goes from wanting to be the hero in fighting alongside his dad, to crying out in despair and disbelief.  Better still, the fact that Warbird is restraining him, particularly in light of certain elements of her past, make the dynamic between the two VERY interesting and a lot more nuanced.
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Avengers vs. X-Men #6 – Review

by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Olivier Coipel (penciler), Mark Morales (inks), Laura Martin (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer)

The Story:  The Phoenix Five begin to reshape Earth; the Avengers make a daring raid on Utopia to snatch Hope.

The Review:  I’ll admit that after last issue, I thought AvX had jumped the shark.  As a result, I was pretty worried when I started reading this issue.  Instead, against all odds, I had a reason to be excited.

Hickman has done some great work here with the Phoenix Five.  What we get is a story of gods among men and the resulting intersection and conflict between the two.  The result is a story that is much smarter, more meditative, and more global and nuanced in nature.  AvX has suddenly become a whole lot more than Avengers and X-Men punching each other.  Better still, Hickman muddies the waters at just how godly the Phoenix Five really are and the extent to which they are merely mortals gifted with godly powers.  The result is that the intersection/conflict isn’t just between gods and men, but also between the godly powers of the Phoenix Five and their human/mutant cores.

The result is a strange sort of antagonist: their acts are amazing and philanthropic, and yet they feel so alien that you can’t help but find them somewhat sinister.  Scott only continues to be more disturbing; while he acts and talks like a god, he still carries that vengeful chip on his shoulder.  This leads to scenes where he’ll drop his godly guise and seem like…Scott, with powers he shouldn’t have.  There’s also an especially strong scene where Scott plays the nasty, biblical God: teasing and tempting Hope only so he can chide and reject her for her lack of blind faith in some form of sadistic “test.”  For all the good the Phoenix Five do, it’s the hints like these that Hickman uses to suggest that men cannot and should not be gods.

Olivier Coipel’s art refreshes AvX just as much as Hickman’s script does, if not moreso.  While Romita Jr. truly was doing his best, Coipel blows him out of the water.  Coipel is everything you expect out of a “big event” type book, with an incredible sense of scale and drama and a polished, “big budget” feel to his work.  His art goes a long way to rejuvenating AvX and making the book an exciting one.
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Avengers vs. X-Men #5 – Review

by Matt Fraction (writer), John Romita Jr. (penciller), Scott Hanna (inker), Laura Martin (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer)

The Story: The Phoenix arrives.

The Review:  I really, really was starting to think that AvX was going to be a good, fun story, but after last month’s shaky issue, I’m getting the sinking feeling that this month’s issue could very well be the moment that this series truly jumped the shark.

Overall, the general problem is that this entire issue is devoted to the big, gigantic twist near the end of the issue.  This leads to around 15 or so pages of treading water, as Fraction basically kills time before dropping the bombshell on us, which is the sole notable thing to happen here.  This leads to more pages of Avengers and X-Men punching each other with very little emotional significance to their particular struggles.  Everyone is paired off and Hope makes it clear that they’re trying to kill each other.  So yeah, lots of hollow panels of action with heroes punching, grappling, and blasting each other.  Perhaps if I were 8 years old again, I’d find it awesome, but at this point, it just feels shallow and a bit meaningless, particularly given that we’ve already had so much of these characters punching each other.  Fraction tries to make these action scenes different by having Hope basically emphasize, through narration, how desperate everything is, but it feels like a case of telling rather than showing; the action doesn’t LOOK any different from what we’ve gotten before, regardless of what Hope tells us.  It doesn’t help that Hope’s narration is built around an extended metaphor on her part that, while a decent idea and well-intentioned, ends up being clunky and more awkward that it’s worth.

But really, this may all be forgivable if the big bombshell Fraction was building up towards was actually a good one.  Unfortunately, it’s not.  I can’t really go into WHY it isn’t without spoiling it, but this really feels like the one, singular moment where things really went wrong with this series.  I really, truly hope I’m proven wrong.  As such, I can guarantee that it’s a twist that you will NOT see coming.  However, upon turning the page, I literally said out loud “are you @$!@ing kidding me?”  It’s a real “facepalm” moment here.  It just feels really, really stupid.  There’s no other way to describe it.  It’s just…dumb.
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Avengers vs. X-Men #4 – Review

by Jonathan Hickman (writer), John Romita Jr. (pencils), Scott Hanna (inks), Laura Martin (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: As the Phoenix streaks towards Earth, Hope tries to make a deal with Wolverine.

The Review:  In a twelve-issue maxi-series, issues like this are all but inevitable – the dreaded, treading water, transitional issue.

Much of this issue seems like it’s buying time for the huge development/cliffhanger on the final page.  As a result, much time is spent with Emma Frost checking in on each team of X-Men and each “battlezone,” often visiting what’s been going on in some of the AvX tie-in issues.  It’s honestly not very thrilling reading – if you’re reading those books already, it’s redundant, and if it you’re not, each arena is visited so briefly and so superficially that it’s basically devoid of any real significance anyway.  Even Emma’s purpose in doing this (attempting to seek out Cap in order to figure out where Hope is going to be next) is geared towards getting towards that final page.  It’s as though Hickman just needed to kill time to that big event, as the series is effectively in a holding pattern until that event occurred, having gone as far as it could go.

That said, while the middle of the issue is a bit tedious, the opening and finale are quite strong.  The finale goes without saying: it’s a huge development and a huge cliffhanger that’ll have you hankering for the next issue.  Mission accomplished.  More than that, however, it also involved a plot twist in which Logan does something that’s really heartless and quite a surprise.  It’s great how Hickman had us, along with Hope, believing one way in the opening of the issue, only for it to get all twisted up at the end.  Just an ice-cold move by Wolverine.
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