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Magneto #2 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Gabriel Hernandez Walta (artist), Jordie Bellaire (color artist)

The Story: To fight monsters we create monsters.

The Review: In Magneto #2, Cullen Bunn and Gabriel Hernandez Walta continue their unique look at Marvel’s most fascinating villain. So far, Magneto is really not a superhero comic. Costumes are rarities, invoked for psychological effect, and powers are weaker than motives. It’s more of a detective tale than anything else, with Erik’s forceful interrogations, antagonism with the authorities, and strong inner monologue almost recalling a hero in the mold of Sam Spade. But building that tone takes time.

It’s hard to deny that this series is moving at an extremely leisurely pace. Each issue seems to take us a single step further into the mystery. It’s an effective pattern but many comics would contain a couple of Magneto endings. Still, when the narration is this entrancing and the art this beautiful, it’s not hard to overlook the pace.

Indeed, there’s plenty of reason to take time this month, as Magneto thinks back to a moment from his childhood as a resident of the Warsaw Ghetto. The balance between retreading old ground and respecting the historical importance of Magneto’s origin is a difficult one but, thankfully, Bunn seems to have a good grasp on his subject matter. Survival is a victory and loyalty is different from how we see it today. The issue also grasps the almost cartoonish cruelty that the Nazis frequently dipped into and avoids exaggerating their evil. It’s the right choice, especially when the truth is enough.
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Magneto #1 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Gabriel Hernandez Walta (artist), Jordie Bellaire (color artist)

Magneto. Erik. Max. Champion. Terrorist. Survivor. Revolutionary. But never victim…

Magneto has been many things to many people, but, for better or worse, something’s changed in him. Building a stable future didn’t work, the mutant revolution wasn’t enough, and so this series opens with an inherent mystery: who is Magneto now?

Cullen Bunn does a fine job of demonstrating Erik’s complexity. An onlooker’s report that he kills “on autopilot” contrasts, but never contradicts, the methodical focus with which Magneto goes about his task. Bunn’s first issue lacks a single brilliant anything, not a scene, not a line, but while there isn’t a crystallized moment, it’s hard to deny that there’s a power in his words.

This Magneto gives off the gravity that his character deserves. He could be raining metal from the sky or drinking his coffee and you would be holding your breath just the same. But while Bunn gets into a great rhythm before long, he does take a minute to get the hang of Erik’s voice. Unnecessary biblical references and Magneto’s judgments of himself belabor the early pages. Thankfully, Bunn does a much better job of analyzing the master of magnetism through the lens of other characters. Magnus’ comments reflect the situation only as much as they reveal the inner workings of his mind.

One particularly welcome characteristic of our protagonist is his willingness to change his mind. At least to me, a Magneto beyond reasoning is a boring one. Not that he should be sticking up for humans, but so much beautiful subtlety is lost when he paints exclusively in black and white. The revelations of this issue’s final act demonstrate Magneto’s ability to reevaluate the situation and even to exhibit empathy, that most hated and yet most necessary element of the character.

The plot for this issue is pretty simplistic. It seems more interested in setting up the status quo and the tone of the series than demonstrating the premise at its most exciting. The series has a hook by the end of this issue, and a pretty solid one at that, but it’s a slow build.

Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s style is instantly distinct. He presents something of a simplified realism in his drawings, perhaps appropriate to the character. It’s very much in Marvel’s recent trend of more art-centric comics, but it’s decidedly not David Aja or Javier Pulido. Deep blacks and beautifully washed out colors, courtesy of Jordie Bellaire, flow into Walta’s thin, graceful lines and between the gentle shading that makes up so much of the book.
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Uncanny X-Men #16 – Review

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

The Story: This old soldier refuses to fade away.

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

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

From there Bendis takes a page out of “X-Men: First Class”’ book and sends Magneto on an exotic undercover adventure. It’s really remarkable how well this formula works for the character and, as ever, it quickly proves how dangerous Magneto can be. The issue does a great job of reminding us that, though he could easily rip a ship apart, Erik has always been most dangerous for the care, inventiveness, and dedication that he’s brought to his control of magnetism.
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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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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 #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: Consequences #3 – 4

By: Kieron Gillen (writer), Jim Charalampidis (colors), Andrew Hennessy (inks), Scott Eaton (pencils-3),  Mark Brooks (pencils/inks-4)

The Story: Cyclops is still in prison, the rest of the Extinction team are still at large, the Avengers won and the X-men lost. In case you didn’t get that before. The Avengers–Captain America said in Civil War half a dozen years ago, “won everything–except the argument.”

Issue #3 Review: Stuff happened. Kind of.

Issue #4 Review: Well, there are great things about this miniseries and very frustrating things. One of the most frustrating things is that Gillen is such a talented writer, but the shackles on the story are so strong, it’s sad. The Cyclops here doesn’t even match the one we saw at the end of 2 and 3, or the final issues of Uncanny X-Men (Vol. 2). Gillen’s development of Scott Summers post AvX was not only going well, but swift. It’s only been a month and we’ve seen incredible lengths of pathos in Cyclops–all at Gillen’s hands. Everyone else writing about Cyclops right now just paint him as a dick (or the the Cyclops of the 90′s animated series). Gillen was showing us a different side to the argument. He does this not just through Scott himself, but how he interacts with others. He tells a newly formed student how wonderful Wolverine’s school is, and that as soon as he finishes his sentence, he should go there. He agrees to help Tony Stark (more on him later) with some tests after Tony tells him he knew that Wanda and Hope would reignite the mutant race. Cyclops has been showing humility, fear, wisdom, and yes,  more than a little narcissism, but Gillen was writing him as a character going through a profound change. Keyword: was. Sadly, there is a very abrupt halt to this development, and the heavy handedness of editorial glares on the page. This is especially apparent after a wonderful scene where Wolverine–calmed down since their last encounter–has a heart-to-heart with Scott that could have rebuilt their friendship. After what Wolverine tells him, and the progress Scott has made, it makes absolutely no sense to do what he does.
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Avengers Vs X-Men Consequences #1

Written by Kieron Gillen, Art by Tom Raney, Colors by Jim Charalampidis

The Story: Mutants are back, baby! Cyclops has fallen. Everyone needs a mission.

The Review: This certainly is one of those “set the stage” issues. We get a lot of introductions to the stories that will be told in Consequences, but nothing that is entirely concrete yet. Individually, each of these setups are pretty good, but when compiled into one comic, it gets a little tedious. So what are these setups? Well, we have what happens to Wakanda, and if Storm and Black Panther can ever patch things up (doesn’t look too hopeful). It also shows how screwed over T’Challa was in AvX. He actually wanted to remain neutral in issues 6 and 7, and then the Avengers brought an X-prisoner to his country, prompting Emma to prompt Namor to attack. Now his country is in ruins because of a war he wanted no part in, and he blames the mutants. I’m not sure if that is reasonable or not, but considering what happened to the poor guy, I think it’s better that we don’t see him rationalize everything. Who actually could? This shouldn’t be a debate about who he blames, we should just see a man who had something terrible happen to him and his country, and that’s what we get.

The next story has Cyclops in prison, which gets the most development in this issue. And it’s probably the story you will roll your eyes at the most. Basically, some organization is already trying to exploit the mutant phenomenon and want to test their technology on Scott Summers. And we’re back to the X-Men stories of old. It’s also really similar to the Osborn mini a couple years back. The only difference is that Osborn was an actual villain. Scott might need to be detained, but why SHIELD and the Avengers would send him to a privately owned prison who are clearly anti-mutant is completely unbelievable. At first it seems Cap and the others don’t know, but he sends Wolverine to to talk to Scott. Cap doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would send someone like Cyclops to a place like this. I think this is only thee to set up Wolverine and Cyclops teaming up again and taking the mutant-hating warden down. If that’s the case, this is very heavy-handed.

As for Hope’s part, it’s simply one of the best parts of this issue, since Gillen writes her so well. Duane Swierzcynsky deserves a lot of credit for everything he did to develop the character of Hope, and Gillen deserves equal credit for expanding and developing that character to the next stage. Now that she’s fulfilled her destiny, what’s next? This is what I am most interested in reading about, as we get hints of Cable, which is always nice.
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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 #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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Uncanny X-Men #13

By: Kieron Gillen (story), Billy Tan (pencils), Cam Smith & Craig Yeung (inks), Guru eFX (colors)

The Story: While Storm, Psylocke, and Magneto mope around that they were left out of the battle on the moon, the Generation Hope kids have an awkward chat with Unit.

The Good: Billy Tan delivers pretty well here. Especially his handling of Unit, the odd robot who has a bit of an attitude problem. The thing with Unit is that he is able to process emotion, but in such a way that people don’t understand it. Tan gives us that stoic look for him, but with enough twitches and accents that you can see his emotion. When he says that he “really did like [Hope],” it’s hard not to believe his face. And when he, as Unit tends to do, manipulates the situation and everone in the room, Tan gives him a classic evil look that is perfect for the scene.
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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 (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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Uncanny X-Men #5 – Review

By: Kieron Gillen, (writer); Greg Land (penciler); Jay Leisten (inker); Justin Ponsor, Laura Martin and Guru eFX (colors)

The Story: The Montana State Tourism Board gets a new attraction to boast about.

The Review: Oddly, in the wake of the Schism, Uncanny X-Men has become what you might call the traditional X-Men Book, while Wolverine and the X-Men has been the one breaking new ground. I expected the reverse, because while Cyclops is trying to preserve the remains of mutantkind from an island of San Francisco, Wolverine is re-opening the very school where the X-Men began. But author Jason Aaron has made Logan’s book completely fresh by putting the emphasis on the running of an actual school; under Xavier, the school always was more of a headquarters than a learning center. Meanwhile, Kieron Gillen has used Uncanny to tell science-fiction stories about a group of super-powered individuals fighting monsters and supervillains in a world that fears and hates them, all in the hopes that their benevolence will garner goodwill. You know, the standard X-Men storyline. So when Uncanny X-Men is successful, the success is derived not from innovation, but rather from the excellence of the execution. Sadly, the execution of Uncanny X-Men #5 is uneven, and as such just doesn’t get as interesting as it should.

This series opens with our heroes preparing to investigate a town in Montana that has mysteriously turned into a completely alien landscape. Readers of Uncanny X-Force will remember this as Tabula Rasa, a small town Montana Archangel destroyed and then accelerated in time so that a hundred million years worth of evolution could pass within it in a matter of minutes. And here I have to applaud Gillen’s ability to smoothly integrate continuity. Sure, this helps tidy up some dangling plot threads from another title, but it’s a completely natural fit for his work. He manages to use another author’s ideas in a way that actually enriches them while still providing a solid, self-contained story.
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Uncanny X-Men #4 – Review

by Kieron Gillen (writing), Brandon Peterson (art), Justin Ponsor (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: The Phalanx returns and the X-Men race to stop its rapid consumption.

The Review:  What a strange issue… I really don’t mean that in a bad way at all.  In fact, I wish more ongoing series did this.  Uncanny X-Men #4 is something a one-shot, and Gillen really makes the most of the opportunity, using the done-in-one format to tell a rather different kind of story with a very different focus.  It’s told from the perspective of a member of the Phalanx, marooned on Earth, and the result is a surprisingly intimate comic.

Gillen’s goal with this comic is to make the unrelatable relatable and to make something utterly alien, and generally construed as evil, into something sympathetic.  That’s no easy feat, yet Gillen does accomplish it.  The Phalanx becomes comprehensible.  It’s logic is still completely at odds with humanity, but that there is a logic operating is clear.  More than that though, while Gillen never shies away from just how different, and thus how opposed, the Phalanx is to humanity, he does a great job of giving it legitimate emotions, feelings of loneliness and affection that are surprising.

Really, Gillen boils the Phalanx down into something that is simply incompatible with humanity.  It feels and it loves, but simply put, what it sees as good and affectionate, humanity sees as murderously destructive. The result is something of a bizarre story that ends up being somewhat chilling.  At the heart of Gillen’s script is an entity that simply doesn’t want to be alone, while also wanting to express its affection, but its means are repugnant.  What you end up with then, is an isolated freak, killing out of love and loneliness, wracked by his conscious, but flailing about lost.  It’s thoroughly unsettling, but Gillen crafts a comic where you actually understand the incomprehensible and feel legitimate sympathy for a creature that commits mass murder while garnering that sympathy.  It’s a morally challenging comic, to be sure.

Of course, the downside to all of this is that in delving into these complexities, Gillen does end up being guilty of overwriting the book a bit.  There is a LOT of narration, so much so that it does slow the book down at some points.  At times, that’s acceptable – it gives the book an ominous tone – but that pace is constant, irrespective of when that ominous tone should be at the forefront or not.  I think Gillen’s biggest crime with all this narration is that he does fall prey on a few occasions of telling rather than showing.  I realize a great deal of characterization was necessary in an issue like this to establish the required intimacy, but Gillen should’ve allowed the art to do a little more of the talking.  I don’t think the reader needed quite so much hand-holding.
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Uncanny X-Force #19.1 – Review

By: Rick Remender (writer), Billy Tan (artist), José Villarrubia (colors)

The Story: The X-Men of the Age of Apocalypse make a last-ditch effort to relocate into a different X-Men crossover event.

The Review: The Point One initiative at Marvel has been an odd little duck. Supposedly, issues with the “.1” label were meant to be “perfect jumping on point[s] for Marvel’s flagship series, while dropping hints for each series’ next year of stories” (from Marvel’s Website). Few actually deliver that promise. Sometimes, they’ve been character studies (Iron Man #500.1), others simply self-contained stories with no connection to past or future issues (Thor #620.1), and still others magic “undo” buttons for inconvenient plot elements (Fear Itself #7.1). Uncanny X-Force has actually already had one, just fourteen issues ago; as Alex pointed out in his review of it at the time, it actually did a pretty good job of acting as a jumping on point, so it’s fair to wonder why another one would be needed now, less than a year later.

Well, as it turns out, it’s because this is one of the weirdest .1 issues yet; it’s a launching pad for a completely different book with a completely different creative team.  Marvel fans may remember a similar scheme from the Amazing Spider-Man #654.1 reveal of Flash Thompson as the new Venom, but this issue is unique in that it doesn’t even reference the main cast of this series. Instead, this issue from Rick Remender and Billy Tan, takes place entirely in the Age of Apocalypse, and sets up the ongoing series David Latham and Roberto de la Torre will be helming. I know that series will be building on some ideas Remender introduced in Uncanny X-Force, but still, this is an oddly labeled issue.

On to the issue itself. We start the series by meeting a new character called the Prophet, a human leader of the resistance against the ascended Weapon X, and an ally of the AoA X-Men. And this Prophet guy? Total badass. His opening monologue about growing up in this world, and his role in it as a prophet who puts his faith in humanity rather than God, is stirring and chilling. I was initially critical of his character design—a cross between Jason Todd and Azrael—but after watching him single-handedly take out a sentinel in a wonderfully rendered sequence from Billy Tan, I pretty much forgot my complaints.
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X-Men: First to Last HC – Review

Written by Chris Yost; Now: Penciled by Paco Media, inked by Juan Vlasco, and colored by Mrate Gracia; Then: Art by Dalabor Talajic, colored by Juan Vlasco.

The Story: One of the apes who got the crap beaten out of him with a femur bone in 2001: A Space Odyssey has his own bone to pick with Cyclops.

The Good: Chris Yost knows his X-Men. He’s stated before that his goal is to eventually write Uncanny X-Men, and after reading his work on X-Force and New X-Men, it’s kind of weird that he hasn’t been approached for the job. First to Last is an Uncanny story rudely marginalized as a filler arc for Gischler’s X-Men run. But it’s that high stakes story that was missing from much of Fraction’s run of Uncanny from the time this came out (Quarantine…why was that story so long?). But Yost’s story, all taking place in one day, has so much weight and so much potential impact, that not being told in the flagship book is simply disrespectful.

And just as the title suggests, this story has both classic X-Men goodness (protecting a world that hates and fears them!) and some new juiciness (mutantkind was being watched over for all these years?) Yost’s story, that staggers between the current era of the X-Men (or, the era right before Schism) and the “First Class” era of Cyclops, Beast, Marvel Girl, Angel, and Iceman, gives the reader the unique opportunity to see just how much team has changed since its offset. Beast is no longer a member; Angel is a homicidal hero; Jean is dead; Iceman is jaded; and Cyclops…Cyclops went from boy scout to general. But we also get to see changes in other characters too. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver we see starting to question their father’s choices in the “Then” segments. Toad we get to see as a lackey being pushed around by both his peers and his enemies in the past, and then taking drastic measures to not be pushed around in the present. Xavier…isn’t even in the “Now” segments, which is a point in and of itself. His dream doesn’t really matter anymore. But the biggest change is by far seen in Magneto. In the “Then” segments, he is totally willing to wipe out humankind when the Evolutionaries make the offer, but in the “Now,” (SPOILER ALERT) when they return to him with the same offer, he refuses, stating “I laughed at Charles Xavier and his dream. But my dream cost me my children…it cost me everything!” He might not be saying that he’s abandoned his beliefs, but he now sees them as a downfall and not a virtue.
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X-Men #16 – Review

By: Victor Gischler (writer), Jorge Molina (artist), Guru EFX (colors), Jordan D. White (assistant editor), Daniel Ketchum (associate editor)

The Story: A very old flame sends a distress signal to Cyclops and Magneto. It is delivered by FF, who are now sporting their new Dr. Doom look.

What Good: I was a fan of the art. Although I am usually allergic to the Rob Liefeld-esque posturing of heroes (see Cyclops, Wolverine and Thing at various moments), they looked good. Cyclops was an imposing leader and everyone looked heroic. The action sequences had a bit of an anime feel to them with the sort of frozen still-shot with bits of motion blurred beyond recognition. The fastball special was a good example, and it worked. On draftsmanship, I had no complaints. The figures, background and tech were clean and detailed, and the faces, while often expressionless (except for Franklin), were attractive. I really enjoyed the sequence in the submarine, and the double splash page with the staples was awesome in opening up a panoramic scope.
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X-Men: Schism #1 – Review

By: Jason Aaron (writer), Carlos Pacheco (penciller), Cam Smith (inker), Frank D’Armata (colorist)

The Story: Cyclops, as leader of the world’s mutants, goes to an arms control conference, bringing Wolverine as his security. Midway through Cyclops’ speech advocating peace and disarmament (in this case, not for nukes, but for sentinels), a telepathic mutant comes in and creates an international incident, making governments all over the world mobilize their anti-mutant weapons.

The Review: First of all, this was a thick issue. $4.99 thick. There’s a lot of story here, and Aaron starts it off close and personal, hinting at some of the struggles that are going to divide Logan and Scott by the end of this series. The conflict will be something that will bring the reader closer to Wolverine, while respecting Cyclops more, a brain versus heart sort of split. This will be a conflict of men not only making different choices, but making them based on different values. Cyclops is thinking the long game with a Messianic resolve to see his people through this, while Wolverine cares about the people having to suffer through the wandering in the desert. I love that it’s not going to be a superficial conflict. And Aaron is making it more flinch-worthy for the reader by reminding us how much water has passed under the bridge with these two standing back to back against the world, going so far as to show a glimpse of their early relationship. (And a no-prize goes to readers who remember that their relationship was really rocky until Uncanny X-Men #126, when Cyclops cleaned Wolverine’s clock without trying, to snap him out of a self-destructive mood.) By now, years later, they are close to brotherhood. This is a beautiful setup for lots of drama! And the addition of Kade Kilgore was great, but I won’t say any more for fear of spoiling.

Artwise, I was delighted with everything Pacheco drew, except Wolverine. Wolverine seemed to shape change from a short, muscular guy, to a block-like thing, to a miniature version of Guido from X-Factor (all this on pages 2 and 3!). His shifting proportions didn’t stop throughout the book, but strangely enough, everything else was awesome. Iceman on the beach was classic, with his little cushion of fog, while Cyclops and the conference were first rate and suggestive of Scott’s greatness. The cameo by the leader of Iran (sorry, I can’t spell his name without Wikipedia) was a beautifully-done artistic touch, right down to the open collar. The faces throughout were evocative and I have to take my hat off to D’Armata’s color work during the attack on the conference especially, but elsewhere, he chose some interesting dominant colors for backgrounds that signaled the grimness of the mood through encroaching shadows.
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