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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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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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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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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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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 #17 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger (Artists), Marte Garcia (Colorist)

The Story: Another team of X-Men from the future comes to the past to warn the X-Men from the present. There seems to be a pattern here…

The Review: Battle of the Atom is a strange beast. Acting as both an event and line-wide crossover between some of the various X-Men titles, it tried to unite various threads together to do an immense story where some of those threads would close. It’s also a bit unevenly paced, as it suffers from what I may call the ”Bendis disease”, with close to every event comics written by Bendis suffering from it. The ”Bendis disease” has symptoms like excellent settings and ideas, interesting characters but poor pacing and a propensity toward rushing things along for the climax, however awkward it might turn out to be. While this event seems to show signs of this particularly dreadful malady , does this issue seal the deal on what many might fear for the future of this crossover event?

Surprisingly, it really doesn’t as Bendis delivers not only a neat twist on his story, but he also delves deeper into some of the more fascinating elements that were introduced previously. One of them being the actual future and the events that lead the previous team of X-Men, the very reason and concept that started this whole story to begin with. Bendis plays a bit with the current themes of Marvel Now! with the future he presents, presenting new characters along with the current X-Men readers are familiar with.
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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 #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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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: Consequences #5

By: Kieron Gillen (wrirer), Gabriel Hernandez Walta (art), Jim Charalampidis (Colors)

The Story: Sigh…there’s a Prison break.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The Review: Well, so much for “consequences.”  What were the consequences of Avengers vs X-Men exactly, as defined by this series? We got a lot of Cyclops in prison…which is now a moot point. Hope looking for Cable (he finds her, and leaves).  And…what? The only person to have any real consequences as a result of AvX is the Black Panther, and we only saw him for one panel in issue one. Hell, he didn’t even get any dialogue. Cyclops facing the consequences and changing? That would have been nice. Instead he just wants to be the new Wolverine. Logan has the school? Fine, Scott will be the one to do what is necessary. The bottom line from all of this is that Scott Summers DIDN’T LEARN A !@#$%^& THING!!! Wolverine telling him that he tries to emulate Scott when running the school? Not enough. Tony Stark revealing that he figured out how to use Wanda and Hope to restart the mutant race? Whatever. The little matter of Scott killing them man he saw as a father–NOTHING! It takes someone nearly sociopathic  to be able to go through so much and not change in the slightest. Which are basically the people he aligns himself with: Magneto, Magik, and Danger. So, on one side we have Captain America having this epiphany that he’s treated the mutant race in a hypocritical way (he’d do anything to save humans, or Americans, but ignored the struggles of mutants). And Scott, having kept his species alive long enough to become stable again, goes back to being the same person. Is he so jaded that he can’t acknowledge the miracle that happened for his people to come back from the brink? What happened to being a political prisoner?
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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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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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Uncanny X-Men #9 – Review

by Kieron Gillen (writer), Carlos Pacheco (pencils), Cam Smith (inks), Guru eFx (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: The X-Men team up with the Avengers to round up escaped prisoners from the Peak.

The Review:  I remember during Matt Fraction’s run on Uncanny that whenever Greg Land’s arc ended and the Dodsons returned, I always let out a big sigh of relief.  While Land’s last outing actually wasn’t too bad, I expected to get that similar feeling of comfort and relief with the return of Carlos Pacheco and yet….that didn’t happen.

Pacheco delivers a completely mediocre, forgettable, and unremarkable performance.  There aren’t any major errors to hang onto, it’s just so utterly and completely average with no one moment that truly impresses.  Also, while there are no major problems, there are minor quibbles:  Pacheco’s illustration of Emma’s face seemed off throughout the issue, Agent Brand’s breasts were conspicuously ginormous, and Pacheco struggled a bit to capture the specificities of some of the scenes Gillen narrates in the issue’s montages.

While Pacheco’s art may be underwhelming, this is a solid enough outing by Gillen.  He introduces a new villain, Unit, who really lets Gillen play to his strengths in writing dialogue.  Unit is arrogant, smarmy, and well-spoken, yet also cold and calculated.  Gillen gives him a voice that is full of personality and character yet also chilling and, despite that arrogant quality, slightly inhuman.  Suffice it to say, with his ear for dialogue, Gillen writes great villains and Unit gives him a stage to really show that.

The opening few pages are also very strong, focusing on Colossus’ complicated relationship and emotions towards his sister Magik and her somewhat odd position.  It’s easy to write Colossus very blandly, but Gillen succeeds with having Colossus narrate these scenes with true sincerity that really pulls you to empathize with the character.  It feels meaningful and actually made me care for the predicament of a character I’m usually a bit ambivalent towards.
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Uncanny X-Men #8 – Review

By: Kieron Gillen (writer), Greg Land (penciler), Jay Leisten (inker), Guru eFX (colors)

The Story: Namor proves that even he has limits.

The Review: It’s hard to come up with a reason that this issue was necessary. Sure, there are some dangling plot threads left over from the Tabula Rasa arc, but the main conflict was resolved in issue #7, and had the pacing been just a bit tighter, everything else could have been wrapped up there too. Instead, this issue becomes just a long dénouement. That’s pretty out of fashion in comics today, but it’s not always a terrible idea; sometimes this can allow the consequences of the plot to play out, giving the main story a greater sense of depth. But there just hasn’t been enough meat on the bones of this arc to merit the extra attention paid in this issue.

At the end of the last issue, Apex Charles leaves the reader with the ominous warning: “Unless we do something swiftly, every living thing in Tabula Rasa will be dead.” This isn’t the most engaging hook in the world, since we haven’t exactly been endeared to anything in the Land that Time Over-Worked. The inhabitants of Tabula Rasa so far have either been monstrous and aggressive (i.e. bat-bees and giant leeches), passive and boring (the Night People), or snooty and prone to trying to destroy the world (the Apex).  Even the pretty butterfly things that had Colossus all misty-eyed are revealed in this issue to be subterranean xenomorphs in disguise. Together, they’re not exactly the poster children for conservation.

Fortunately, the immanent threat isn’t all that bothersome. It’s just that the sun, foreign to a world which evolved in darkness, might give everything cancer, so Storm has to keep up the cloud cover until the exposition can magic that problem away in one panel. While it’s nice to see Gillen make an effort to follow through on the sci-fi principles he set up, the fact that this problem gets dealt with so quickly undercuts the already weak cliff-hanger the last issue ended with.
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Uncanny X-Men #8 – Review

by Kieron Gillen (writer), Greg Land (pencils), Jay Leisten (inks), Guru eFX (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: The Immortal Man may be dealt with, but Tabula Rasa isn’t safe yet.

The Review:  If there’s one thing Uncanny X-Men has been hammering home since the relaunch, it’s that Kieron Gillen truly is a master of dialogue.  It’s always quick witted, intelligent, sincere, and, when it wants to be, legitimately and very naturally funny.  Gillen has the rare but valuable ability to make you laugh through dialogue whenever he wishes; much as in Journey into Mystery, his jokes seem to always work.

Case in point is the extended scene with Hope and Namor, a demonstration of Gillen’s skills when it comes to character-work.  The sequence is humorous throughout, highlighting Namor’s arrogant eccentricity and the fact that yeah, despite his humanoid appearance, he isn’t human.  Better still, it creates a bond between Hope and Namor, which given how utterly opposite the two are, is a really fun and rewarding dynamic.

Gillen also continues to explore the concept of the Apex, which remains interesting.  The unintentionally arrogant dialogue by the Apex remains enjoyable and I greatly enjoyed Gillen’s playing with gender as he adds further definition to the Apex’s “unwife” social relationship.  All told, the concept of the Apex has been a solid one that’s played a big role in carrying this arc.

Great dialogue, character-work, and sci-fi high concepts aside, however, this issue falls prey to something that’s become a recurring problem in Gillen’s otherwise strong run thus far:  the story itself isn’t that compelling.  Really, there isn’t really a whole lot of narrative meat on the bones here.  It simply amounts to Tabula Rasa still being in trouble due to the Sun.  But Gillen then spends the entirety of the issue doing character work with Namor/Hope and Colossus/Magik, while giving us more cool new info on the Apex.  Then, seemingly realizing that he’d forgotten to resolve the plot, he wraps it all up in a one page, heavily narrated montage where everything is neatly wrapped up.  It’s completely random and brings the issue to a screeching halt and is, quite frankly, poor storytelling.  It literally feels as though Gillen realized he’d written an issue having entirely forgotten the central plot, and then rushed to throw it all together on a single page.  It’s pretty head-spinning.
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