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Magneto #8 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Javier Fernandez (artist), Dan Brown (colorist)

The Story: That is no country for old men…

The Review: While Magneto’s first ongoing series has been rather impressive, it can sometimes feels more like a series of monologues than a running plot. This issue actually proves both an example of and an exception to this trend. While the issue is still focused around Magneto’s inner monologue, the story makes good on the promises of last month, beginning to build a larger story out of these individual adventures.

Cullen Bunn begins to introduce some fascinating shades of grey. It’s always fun to watch Magneto hand out some righteous fury, but this month he isn’t dealing with the same monsters as he found in Hong Kong. There’s something undeniably petty about these criminals, they’re not sharks, they’re the remoras on the belly.

There’s something inherently appealing, or perhaps enjoyably unappealing, about the dynamic that develops, the terrorist legend facing down a small fish who thinks he’s the new wave. Unfortunately, as much as the dialogue carries you along, there are moments where it feels like our antagonist is only stupid enough to bully the world’s baddest mutant because Bunn wants a clear reason for Magneto to simmer or angst.
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Magneto #7 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Gabriel Hernandez Walta & Javier Fernandez (artists), Jordie Bellaire & Dan Brown (color artists)

The Story: “Are you not entertained!?”

The Review: With the Marauders adequately dealt with, Magneto turns his attention to a series of mutant disappearances in Hong Kong.

As ever, Cullen Bunn’s narration is razor-sharp and highly engaging. While the character is too big for it to be a definitive version, Bunn owns Magneto’s voice. Magneto’s appeal exists as much in the imagined diction of Bunn’s intense monologues as in the more tangible elements of the series.

As for the plot, this is probably the best since issue #3. The scenario is simple enough in its construction to allow full attention to be paid to the underlying complexities and the action is plenty gripping on a visceral level.

One of the most refreshing and frustrating elements of an issue like this is Bunn’s comfort in showing us a sliver of man’s depravity. There’s no need for a complete treatise to be forced into twenty-two pages, but that doesn’t stop the story from showing us simple, true to life monsters. Bunn captures that quality of malice that leaves you asking why, but, of course, you already know the answer.

The art is split between the book’s two major art teams. It’s lovely to have Gabriel Hernandez Walta back again, if only for part of the book, not to mention Jordie Bellaire. Walta’s art is slightly less polished than usual, but it’s a minor quibble compared to the air of seedy power that he provides the issue. The care that Walta puts into Erik’s stubble, his musculature focuses the eye on the minute and the dirty, daring you to engage with the grime and corruption of the setting without crossing into the adolescent revelry that dooms many comics’ attempts to be ‘realistic’.

This issue also demonstrates Walta’s skill with body language, particularly in the shoulders. The fear in the promoter’s nervous precision or the ‘sick of this’ exhaustion in Magneto’s tensed stance or even just the way that Erik crouches over his coffee all add to this comic’s impressive ability to communicate information unconsciously.
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Magneto #6 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Javier Fernandez (artist), Dan Brown (color artist)

The Story: The Marauders; or, The Modern Prometheus.

The Review: If you’re like me and have, at some point, sought a summary of the complicated mess that is X-Men continuity you’ve probably heard of the Marauders. The villains of the highly successful 1986 crossover “Mutant Massacre”, the Marauders name has long carried connotations of power and sheer black-hearted villainy. The group decimated the peaceful Morlocks, nearly killed Kitty Pryde, forced Colossus to kill before paralyzing him, and cost Angel his wings. The massacre of the Morlocks was long held up as one of the few long-lasting tragedies of the Marvel universe, before finally being eclipsed by bigger and more recent events like the destruction of Genosha or M-Day.

The Marauders have escaped true retribution thanks to their fairly unique ability to be cloned back to life by Mister Sinister, but Magneto’s decided to change that. What follows is a roaring rampage of death and destruction through the ranks of the Marauders that highlights just how vicious Magneto can be when properly motivated. As Bunn introduces a weapon so natural for Magneto that it’s almost shocking that it hasn’t become a staple of the character, Erik whispers, “I discovered how it could be used to slip past your defenses[…]the third time I killed you.”

Though we’ve been conditioned to only acknowledge the elements of violence actively considered by the story, it’s hard to overlook just how frightening Magneto is here. In one of the most interesting lines of the issue, Bunn affirms that there is no continuity between the different lives of the Marauders. While I’m personally fascinated by what changes and remains consistent between clones, this moment humanizes some of the worst that Marvel’s mutants have to offer and reminds us that each time Magneto catches up with them it is murder.

The way I describe it there, the issue sounds a bit like torture porn, and maybe it is. Nevertheless, while the book has more than earned the small parental advisory notice on its front cover Cullen Bunn does have a method to his madness. Bunn uses Magneto’s monologues to distract not only from the gruesome deeds his protagonist commits but from the dramatic arc he’s crafting throughout the issue.
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Uncanny X-Men #22 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer); Chris Bachalo (pencils); Tim Townsend, Marc Deering, Mark Irwin, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, & Al Vey (inks); Chris Bachalo & Jose Villarrubia (colors)

The battle with S.H.I.E.L.D. comes to an end this week as Cyclops, Beast, Maria Hill, and even Magneto put aside their differences to combat the rouge heli-carriers. Everything comes together this issue as the huge cast of Uncanny X-Men finds its way into the climactic battle.

Bendis does do an impressive job of laying out the stakes. Particularly if you respect Logan’s dream for the Jean Grey School, the threat of annihilation is exceedingly real and present throughout the issue. Likewise, each victory for the X-Men, no matter how small, feels like reason to celebrate, thanks in no small part to the sheer amount of set up that’s led to these crucial moments. The whole affair is appropriately cataclysmic, but Bendis actually gets a couple of nice jokes and fist pumping moments in amongst the gloom. Despite the building feeling that this is the end, a sensation that is all the sweeter for its rarity on this series, Bendis’ plotting has some serious problems.

There’s no denying that this is something of an abrupt ending, and one that deals more in expectations than in actual content. The best example is probably our villain. After last month ended with Beast dramatically announcing that he knew who was behind this, you’d expect that the answer would be fairly forthcoming, but I assure you, you’ve got a bit longer to wait. Despite repeating his certainty on page 5 and again on page 13, Hank isn’t ready to reveal his findings to his fellow X-Men until halfway through page 14…off panel. The scene actually ends with Scott demanding “Who?! Who is it?, leading me to actually throw up my arms on a crowded subway and cry “oh come on.” In actuality it doesn’t take too much longer to learn the identity of the mastermind, but, like much of this series, it’s absurdly and painfully drawn out.

Worst of all, when we finally do meet our villain, it comes out of nowhere, lacks any attempt at motivation, and is largely without value for the title going forward. I respect Bendis as a writer too much to believe it, but it almost feels like he planned this arc without knowing who the villain was himself! More likely, the rushed and confusing resolution is the result of the upcoming “Original Sin” tie-ins. There may be any number of reasons why things turned out this way, but it doesn’t change how flimsy the ending comes across.

Luckily that apocalyptic tone I mentioned is beautifully realized by Chris Bachalo, who provides one of his strongest issues in recent memory. Bachalo starts with an unusually stark style that works wonderfully with the bright simplicity of the Canadian sky. The next scene introduces a little bit of grit into this style before it all breaks loose on the grounds of the Jean Grey School.
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SENYC Report: Marvel – The Next Big Thing

marvel tnbt

Marvel came out in force for Special Edition: NYC. Though they easily flattened the competition when it came to number of panels, this was the one to see if you wanted to know what was coming from the House of Ideas.

The panel was moderated by Senior VP of Publishing Tom Brevoort and featured a slew of top name talent. This included Senior X-Men Editor Mike Marts, fan favorite writer Peter David, Storm writer Greg Pak, and Deadpool editor Jordan D. White. There was even a surprise guest in the form of Katie Kubert, the former editor of Batman and Detective comics who had announced her departure from DC less than twenty-four hours before! Continue reading

Magneto #5 – Review

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

The Story: “The war’s the only thing we can be sure of.”

The Review: Last month’s issue of Magneto felt very much like filler. The pace of this issue is not quite back to what it was, but it possesses something its immediate predecessor did not: a sense of purpose. Additionally interesting is a cryptic mention of last month’s events that may see my so-called filler become rather important.

Despite it’s slow pace, Magneto #5 is clearly an issue that will have significant consequences. The introduction of Briar finally provides this series with a supporting character for Magneto to play off of. Given the rather remarkable success that Cullen Bunn has had so far, it’s almost worrisome to see such a dramatic shift in the paradigm. I certainly don’t want to see another ‘badass and his support staff’ story, but thankfully that’s not the way it looks like we’re going.

Briar Raleigh is a fascinating character because she actually seems to be a match for Magneto, without straining credibility. This is a woman who walks up to the master of magnetism with slabs of sharp metal wrapped around her leg and feels confident she’ll walk out alive. Even more interesting is the fact that, while we learn more than Magneto does, it’s still very unclear what game Briar is playing. We see actions that hint at her motives, but they all can be taken a number of different ways. That mystery instantly makes her captivating.

Unfortunately building that mystery requires, at least in Bunn’s mind, toying with Magneto and the reader. There’s some great and surprisingly natural suspense in this issue, but it can make for a somewhat frustrating reading experience when so much space is taken up by this odd game of chicken they’re playing. It’s nothing new for noir inspired comics to devote a substantial amount of page space to snappy dialogue but I’m not sure that we needed separate panels of Briar walking to a drawer, finding alcohol, commenting on the alcohol, picking up said alcohol, pouring that alcohol, toasting, and drinking.
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Uncanny X-Men #21 – Review

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

The Story: One of these days S.H.I.E.L.D. is just going to give up on helicarriers…but it is not this day.

The Review: After an intriguing but uneven showing last month, things are really heating up in Uncanny X-Men. While the premise of the New Xavier School actively going to war with S.H.I.E.L.D. is an exciting idea, Bendis’ story is playing out in a somewhat different fashion than expected. With Scott’s powers gone haywire and S.H.I.E.L.D. closing in, I think it’s fair to say that things are very much going wrong for Cyclops, however the trick of this issue is that he’s not alone in that.

There’s a rule of storytelling that says that if you can make things worse for your character you should. Certainly it’s hard to deny the potential for building narrative tension, but when you have to make things worse, it can actually get somewhat rote. Still, where many stories feel like the gods of their world hate the protagonist, Uncanny X-Men #21 is the sum of its people’s machinations, their fortunes rising and falling, building a web of fascinating intrigues. Bendis is playing with our expectations, throwing several wrenches into the works, and to great effect. The whole thing feels unexpected and organic.

The issue is also thankfully free of the padding that plagued previous installments. While one could certainly argue that we didn’t need an interlude on Madripoor, watching Mystique struggle on two fronts really sells this issue as an essential read and highlights the interplay of the characters’ differing principles and ideas about the place of mutants in society.
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