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X-Men #14 – Review

By: Christopher Yost (writer), Paco Medina, Dalibor Talajic (pencillers), Dalibor Talajic, Juan Vlasco (inkers), Marte Gracia and Wil Quintana (colorists)

The Story: “First to Last, Part 4″ opens up more of the past of the Evolutionaries (2.7M years ago) and of the original X-Men in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants era. And in the present, for good measure, the X-Men are getting their tails kicked.

What’s Good: We’re in high second act here. The action and the revelations are hitting quickly. Yost is doing one of the more difficult things in serial storytelling, which is to successfully pull off a big retcon by stitching new events and plots into the old X-Men tapestry without tearing or unbalancing anything. Some places this has been done well have been Deadly Genesis and Uncanny X-Men First Class (see WCBR’s coverage). As things are going, I would certainly put “First to Last” up there with those well-done retcons. The revelations coming from two time periods is pretty cool. I’m wondering if we’re going to see the Eternals as part of this and what made Phaestus set in motion this genocide tool. Yost makes the present more tense with things really going downhill (“We need Cyclops!” and “Cyclops, what did you do?”). What other hidden sins (on top of creating the X-Force death squad) does Cyclops have in his closet?

Artwise, I was very pleased. The juxtaposition of Medina’s and Talajic’s styles for the time periods was awesome and both the Evolutionaries and Magento in the past and present were artistic scene-stealers. Medina and Talajic imbued both with such restrained menace and danger that I kept waiting for the shoe to drop. And the poses and expressions of Magento and the Brotherhood in the past were excellent. I’m a full-on fan of the artwork.
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X-Men Legacy #250 – Review

By: Mike Carey (writer), Khoi Pham, Tom Palmer & Marte Gracia (pencils/inks/colors – Legion Story), Steve Kurth, Jay Leisten & Brian Reber (pencils/inks/colors – Rachel Summers story), Cory Petit (letters), Sebastian Girner (assistant editor) & Daniel Ketchum (editor)

The Story: A two-parter for this special anniversary issue.  In the first part, we visit some of Legion’s out of control personalities.  In the second, we learn a little more about Revenant/Rachel Summers and where she and the Starjammers are.

What’s Good: I really like the general style of story telling that Mike Carey is going for here.  Too often modern comics have these discrete 6-issue arcs that collect nicely into trade paperbacks with each 6-issue arc having very little to do with the last one.  Here, Carey is picking up some ideas that spun out of his Age of X storyline and actually playing with them.  You wouldn’t be totally lost if you were a part-time X-Men reader and picked this issue up cold without reading Age of X, but you might be a little confused.  And that’s how it should be dammit!  Nothing makes me feel like a bigger chump than realizing the money I plunked down for the BIG STORY in 2010 isn’t having any impact on the stories I’m reading today.

The Legion story is well told and features a diverse grouping of X-Men: Legion, Professor X, Magneto, Rogue, Gambit and Frenzy.  Even though I do roll my eyes a little bit every time I see Legion or Gambit on the page, I think we should give credit to Carey and the X-editors for creating a team that doesn’t include Wolverine, Cyclops or Emma.  Just having this different team setting off on a different mission to contain some break-away Legion personalities is fun because I’m not wondering how these characters can be in multiple places at one time.

But, the star of the issue is the Starjammers storyline.  If you’ve been reading X-Men for longer than a couple years, you know that Ed Brubaker took the  team off into space for the Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire story.  That story lasted one year and when it was done, some of my favorite characters (Rachel Summers, Havok and Polaris) were left in space.  Well….they’ve been gone for ~4 years now with nary a peep so it is nice to see that story line being picked back up.  Again….this type of story telling makes fans feel like we weren’t chumps for buying those issues in 2007.  And I’m ready for another good X-Men-In-Space romp.
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X-Men: First Class – Movie Review

One of the most fundamental sticking points of the X-Men is their outsider status.  It’s what defines a lot of how we view the team and mutants in the Marvel U in general, but it’s also the very thing that limits real progress for their fictional civil and social rights.  To preserve the X-Men as unappreciated outcasts, most writers have maintained the human intolerance of them for decades, offering them few truly human, non-heroic allies in their quest for peace.

Ultimately, First Class largely overlooks this human element, and that’s what prevents the film from being better than it is.  Nearly all the human characters in the film get portrayed as either easily manipulated buffoons (Emma Frost making the Russian general grope thin air) or overly rash decision-makers (the entire higher US military).  This almost forces you to sympathize with the mutants in the film, even the obviously twisted ambitions of Shaw.

Part of the problem lies in using the Cuban Missile Crisis as a premise, or at least inspiration, for the plot.  Anyone who’s put some effort in studying that volatile period knows how many complicated political/intelligence factors were involved.  The film depicts the event by making it pretty much the results of Sebastian Shaw’s manipulations, making the ugliest, most dire nuclear confrontation in history the outcome of mutant meddling.

This really undermines the climactic finale of the film, which serves to dramatically play Xavier and Magneto’s conflicting ideologies.  Humanity gets brought to the brink of global apocalypse by mutant whims, and they’re saved by mutants more personally motivated by vengeance (the deaths of Mag’s mother and one of the X-Men’s own) than by justice.  Any way you look at it, humans became pawns and near victims in this deadly game, fairly just cause (in addition to the atrocities committed against US soldiers in the second act) for the resentment, which encourages their hasty actions at the end.

What the film really should have done was give Moira MacTaggert, the sole non-mutant with a significant role in the film, more interaction with the X-Men than mere tagalong.  She is the character driven most to do what’s right (her actions are basically responsible for saving everyone, human and mutant alike), and her sensitivity and even love for the mutants gets grossly unappreciated and unacknowledged by them, even by Xavier to a certain extent.

The film’s plot also gets hampered by several major logistical gaps.  Given Shaw is obviously a psychotic megalomaniac, maybe we should be unsurprised that his plan to simultaneously destroy humans and uplift mutants is so incredibly ill-conceived (it would’ve likely doomed both races).  His logic is simply bad; if atomic energy caused mutation, then wouldn’t all mutants be largely Japanese, Pacific Islander, or American Southwesterners?
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X-Men #12 – Review

By: Christopher Yost (writer), Paco Medina, Dalibor Talajic (pencillers), Juan Vlasco, Dalibor Talajic (inkers), Marte Gracia (colors)

The Story: First to Last, Part 2: In three different times (2.7 million years ago, in the early issues of the original X-Men, and now) we learn about the evolutionaries. They are looking for the leader of mutantkind to speak for all mutants, to prevent homo superior from going extinct.

What’s Good: I thought that the art in the now (and 2.7 mya) by Medina and Vlasco was pretty strong. Although some of the early primates seemed a bit plastic, the wolves were not, and the Eternals were visually impressive. The modern scenes were even stronger. The evolutionaries facing Cyclops in the debris of Utopia seemed to live in the kind of chaotic, gritty atmosphere that makes the best use of the styles of Medina and Vlasco. The heroes are dynamic, the villains menacing and the smoky background looks to be crumbling around the story. The quick switches from character reaction to character reaction were effective and the choice of camera angles and zoom-ins were powerful. Check out the close-up on the evolutionary leader’s eyes right before the splash page attack on Cyclops.

Writing-wise, I’m loving this arc. Yost is surfacing an ancient mystery with huge stakes (the survival of the two extant species of homo). The slow reveal, the bubbling anger and impatience on the side of the heroes, plus Cyclops’ mysterious orders drive the tension right up. And the toggling between the past and present is very effective in unfolding the coolness of this story and revealing the true menace of the evolutionaries. Also, seeing Magneto in any setting is a treat, but seeing him in his full villainous glory brings a nostalgic pang to my heart.
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X-Men Legacy #249 – Review

By: Mike Carey (writer), Rafa Sandoval (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Sebastian Girner (assistant editor), Daniel Ketchum (editor)

The Story: Aftermath, Part Two: The dust is still settling on the X-Men’s Age of X. Events in Age of X were so fast and so different, that the X-Men, back home and safe, have some breathing room to deal with who they might have been and what they might have chosen. Legacy #249 is about three people coming to terms with the mirror that Age of X held up for them: Rogue, Legion and Frenzy.

The Review: This story demands a deft hand at character work, something at which Carey normally excels. I have to say though, that I was generally disappointed in what could have been a really strong story. This one turned out to be just okay.

I thought that the Frenzy story-line was the most engaging, emotionally. I felt for her and her angst over who she might have been and still could be, although there were no real surprises to how things turned out. I think it’s very facile to show someone what they might have been and then, after that, they simply decide to be different. There’s more to it than that. There’s a reason Frenzy, in the real world, chose the path she did and there should be some resistance to this new path. There was really none here, which I though was a lost opportunity.

The Legion story-line was the most intriguing intellectually. I loved seeing the way Nemesis was trying to control the different personalities in Legion and I loved seeing the new personalities. This part was fun and was really about the science fiction adventure that will follow with Legion and his many, many personalities and awesome power.
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Uncanny X-Force #9 – Review

by Rick Remender (script), Billy Tan (art), Dean White (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: Logan does a favor for Magneto that has him going solo.

The Review:  Last month I raved about just how utterly amazing the art provided by Tan and White was and this month, I think it’s even better, though thoroughly different in tone and content.  This is quieter, more emotionally driven issue, allowing for Tan and White to deliver an issue that’s subtle and haunting.  Tan’s work on his character’s faces speaks volumes and is full of complexity.  What I appreciate most though, and granted this is largely due to White’s colors, is the way in which this issue manages to look both dark/gritty and hyper-polished, two things that don’t ordinarily go together.  The result is a gorgeous issue where single panels would make for great splashes.  Couple this with excellent storytelling all around, and the art just about carries the issue.

Which is good, because this isn’t the strongest narrative from Rick Remender.  That’s not to say that it’s bad, only fairly middling, a little too comfortable.  Remender relies on emotional tenor to drive an otherwise unremarkable story.  In some ways, it almost works.  Magneto’s emotions are very human and Logan’s relationship to death and killing is as interesting and engaging as ever.  More than that, these are items that allows for Remender to let Tan tell the story.  Certainly, on the latter plot-line regarding Logan, the issue’s ending on a “what goes around, comes around” warning that reframes the entire issue under that message is a good one.

Unfortunately, beyond these emotional high-points, the nuts and bolts of the story aren’t overly strong.   For instance, I just didn’t buy Logan doing Magneto a favor just because Magneto gives him sad puppy eyes.  This is Magneto, for God’s sake.  Remender doesn’t even really try all that hard to sell this, either.  Magneto asks, looks sad, and Logan, nice guy that he is, caves and moves out.  It’s a big stretch and one that’s oversimplified under a gloss of emotion that almost fools the reader into believing it.
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Uncanny X-Force #5.1 – Review

by Rick Remender (writer), Rafael Albuquerque (art), Dean White (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: X-Force races to stop Lady Deathstrike and the Reavers from destroying Utopia.

Review: Out of all the .1  issues thus far, Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force may very well have come the closest to accomplishing what the .1 initiative is meant to.  It provides a perfectly accurate representation of what readers can expect from the series month in and month out in both tone and narrative.

As such, this is a brutal comic book.  It pulls no punches and it’s violence and gore are uncompromising, but never remotely close to exaggerated or slapstick.  Instead, it’s an X-Men comic of gritty realism and it feels like X-Men MAX, a MAX title without swearing, essentially.  The book thus carries a harsh and dark tone that is as alluring as ever.

This month, Remender does his best character work on Wolverine.  He manages to accomplish that fine balance of making it clear that Logan is an intelligent and well-read guy, while also maintaining that gruff, beer-swilling surface demeanor.  It’s always a tough job for any writer tackling the character, but Remender definitely succeeds.  Moreover, he gives some wince-inducing narration from Wolverine as well.

As far as villains go, Lady Deathstrike gives a solid performance.  She’s as crazed and ruthless as ever but, more than that, thanks to Wolverine, Remender makes her look as legitimate as possible.  Rafael Albuquerque’s depiction of her is also solid, reminding me quite a bit of the American vampires of that title.

There are problems though.  Psylocke’s fretting and navel-gazing over whether she enjoys killing her enemies too much is, at this point, a fairly tired internal struggle for comics in general and it’s one we’ve seen way too many times, with Remender not adding anything new to it.  In fact, the whole thing makes Betsy even come across a tad melodramatic.

Worse still, this whole inner turmoil spirals out of Remender’s use of X-continuity relating to Betsy and the Reavers.  Especially for a .1 issue, it was surprising to see Remender lean so heavily on X-Men continuity, particularly that which lies outside of his own series.  Uncanny X-Force has, to me, been particularly strong due to its independence so it’s a weird choice by Remender, particularly given that this issue is meant to bring in new readers.
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Wolverine #6 – Review

by Jason Aaron (writer), Daniel Acuna (art), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: Faced with a rampaging Wolverine with Logan locked in a battle for his own mind, the X-Men are forced to choose whether or not to take their old friend down permanently.

The Review: Wolverine #6 is one of those comics that reminds you of how, in this medium, the artist is not only as important as the writer, but often moreso.  Put simply, Daniel Acuna makes this a hell of a comic, really working to right the ship on the whole Wolverine Goes to Hell story which, while not bad, wasn’t quite up to Aaron’s Weapon X standard.

Acuna completely reshapes the tone of the comic, which becomes instantly filled with atmosphere thanks to his unique, painted style.  There’s a constant sense of dark foreboding to his work, which suits this storyline perfectly.  It’s all shadows and dreamy desperation.  Suddenly, the comic has become rife with feeling, a mix of grit and mystery with cool little old school touches (characters have little waves coming out of their heads during psychic attacks).  Acuna also does great work on the interior of Logan’s mind; it takes that dreamy feeling of Acuna’s to a whole new level, with Acuna’s depiction of the demon(s) possessing Logan being not only scary, but quite creative.

The bottom-line is that Acuna’s work was such moody brilliance, that I can only wish that he was on the previous arc.  While I liked Renato Guedes’ work, seeing Acuna’s demon only made me realize how nightmarish and surreal he could’ve made the prior arc, which I think would’ve changed a lot of people’s opinions about it.  Oh well.

For what it’s worth, Jason Aaron seems to know when to take a backseat to his artist.  There are frequent moments where his script is quieter, letting Acuna’s art resonate and take on the brunt of the story-telling.  That said, what’s here is certainly sound.  Cyclops’ unique friendship with Logan is focused on, as it should be, given that it’s one of the most interesting dynamics among the X-Men.  Aaron does it elegantly and in minimalist fashion.  Meanwhile, Melita Garner continues to add a unique voice to the series, being a common-man voice of humanity and reason amidst all the super-powered spandex.   Shockingly, for such a dark issue, Aaron actually even manages to work in a couple of quick little jokes that made me laugh without jarring against the tone of the issue.
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Age of X: Alpha #1 – Review

By: Mike Carey (writer), Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Carlo Barberi, Paco Diaz, Paul Davidson (pencillers)

Story: Without preamble or explanation, we are thrust into an America where mutants are on the run, all the time, where persecution is legislated and state-supported, and where human rights apply only to non-mutants. Through a series of loosely connected tales, we see what this America is made of.

The Writing: The X-Men have been doing alternate worlds since the classic Days of Future Past in Uncanny 141-142. The charm of these stories is that the writers and artists get to reimagine all the rich character histories and their moral centers. Villains can be inspirational heroes. Heroes can become villains. And we readers get to care because we have so much invested already in our relationships with these people. The strength of this issue and this concept are some of the fates of different heroes (the horrific fate of Cyclops, for example), those who are not quite heroes, but should be (Paige Guthrie), and those who have never been heroes and might be (Toad, for example). Carey hits all the right notes in this issue, and leaves most of the world unexplained. This is smart, because this is also a mystery story; I want to know why things are as they are, and I’ll stick with this story because I love these characters.

The Art: It’s really a grab bag of styles. Some are quite beautiful either in technical draftsmanship or in visual style. The transitions from one art team to another neatly signal the shifts in vignettes, but were a jarring experience for me as a reader. I get accustomed to a certain art team’s style as I read a book, and when they switch, I sometimes feel like I’m starting the process over. I don’t think I’m complaining for nothing, because the art styles are quite different. DC has been doing the same thing with Brightest Day, but usually there are no more than two art styles (sometimes three) to a BD book. As well, the art of the Magneto vignette by Davidson really didn’t work for me. It felt very two-dimensional and perspective or proportion wasn’t doing it. With those two art limitations said, I have no trouble saying that the art was otherwise good.

Conclusion: Mike Carey definitely hooked me in with the opening salvo of Age of X. I want to know where the heck everyone else is (Colossus, Nightcrawler, Xavier, etc). I’m going to be back for more.

Grade: B

-DS Arsenault

X-Men Legacy #242 – Review

by Mike Carey (writer), Paul Davidson (penciller)

The Story: A small team of X-Men are chosen to aid the city of San Francisco in repairing the destruction left in the aftermath of Bastion’s attack on Utopia and the mutant community.  However, things don’t go as planned when underlying problems affecting both Hellion and Omega Sentinel lead them into a conflict that might spell disaster.

Thoughts: This issue feels about four months too late, which is a shame because it’s a rather good one.  It feels so late, in fact, that I’m convinced that this story and the previous arc, “Collision”, were switched in order for some reason.  Carey delivers the beginnings of an effective “breather” arc here (complete with baseball interlude) as we survey the damage done to, not only the city of San Francisco, but to one of the younger X-Men in the wake of “Second Coming”.  Hellion’s inner turmoil and rage at losing his hands and having them replaced with bionic ones is palpable and perfectly understandable.  Not only that, but considering his already volatile and sometimes selfish and arrogant personality, his violent reactions to being made to feel weak and at the mercy of others’ aid is fully expected.  His anger at the seeming contradiction of the X-Men being able to perform plenty of miraculous feats but not being able to give him new, flesh and blood hands also made a lot of sense to me and I’d be hard pressed to say that I wouldn’t feel the exact same way.  The writer also takes advantage of the same opportunity afforded to Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men title that allows him to pull various X-related characters into the story.  While Rogue and Magneto seem to be Carey’s version of Cyclops and Emma Frost for Legacy, it’s always fun to see new faces together such as Random, Omega Sentinel and Hope.
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Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #1 – Review

by Allan Heinberg (writer), Jim Cheung (pencils & inks), Mark Morales (inks), Justin Ponsor (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: A sudden outburst of power from Wiccan and a temporary loss of control sparks questions about his relation to the Scarlet Witch.

What’s Good: It’s great to see the gang back together again and certainly, the team dynamic is just as strong as ever.  This is thanks in no small part to to Heinberg’s dialogue, which is tight, natural, and humorous, and at different turns evocative and light-hearted.  It’s by far the best part of this issue, mostly because of how human it is and how well-managed the voices of the various team members are.  Each characters is well-defined and their close relationships with each other are clear just through Heinberg’s tone.  The conversations are a joy to read.

Of course, this issue also marks the return of Jim Cheung and, as expected, that means that this issue looks absolutely gorgeous.  Cheung’s style, to me, represents the pinnacle of what Marvel’s “house style” would look like, were there such a thing.  Everything is well defined and, well, heroic with a very light anime touch.  Essentially, this looks like the greatest Saturday morning action cartoon to never exist.

As far as the book’s plot goes, it takes a while to be really pulled in, but by the book’s final pages, the team’s dynamic and their new, troubling position had me eating out of Children’s Crusade’s hand.  While this issue in itself wasn’t the fastest or most engaging overall, in itself, I feel sure that this series as a whole, and most likely every issue after this one, will be awesome and of the standard we were expecting.  By the end of the book, I really, really wanted more and it wasn’t just due to the massive cliffhanger at the end.
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X-Men Legacy #237 – Review

by Mike Carey (writer), Greg Land (artist)

The Story: Magneto joins the fight against the army of Nimrods as X-Force finally gets their shot to shut down the mutant-killer robots once and for all.

What’s Good:
Script-wise, Carey continues delivering the chocolatey goodness that we’ve come to expect from this crossover as we prepare to jump into the penultimate chapter.  There are more great moments to throw on the pile of great moments that we’ve been getting month in and month out.  Hope joins the battle of San Francisco, Magneto uses Utopia itself to wail on the Nimrods, and Cypher defeats the Master Mold in quite the creative way.  There’s also a somewhat touching moment when X-Force realize they’ve accomplished their mission and that they’re now very likely stuck in the future for good.  Top notch work from Carey as we speed along towards the conclusion of Second Coming. Continue reading

Uncanny X-Men #522 – Review

by Matt Fraction (writer), Whilce Portacio (pencils), Ed Tadeo (inks), Justin Ponsor (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Magneto brings Kitty home as Nation X comes to a close.

What’s Good: This is easily among the best issues of Matt Fraction’s run on Uncanny X-men, as the man who writes Invincible Iron Man shows up rather than his louder, dumbed down counter-part.

Really, this book essentially gives you everything you could want from an X-Men comic.  The opening scene is done in epic form with an excellent use of “storybook” styled narration, turning Kitty into a sort of fairytale “princess in a high tower” while relating this to Magneto’s stay with the High Evolutionary.  The storytelling feels grand in this sequence, as it should.

Beyond that, there are several great character moments, the sort that Uncanny so often lacks.  Emma Frost has a kind of confessional about Scott Summers to the mentally dormant Magneto that is touching, riveting, intelligent, and painfully honest in just one of several great scenes.

Despite the gravity of the events in this book, Fraction finds time for comedy as well.  A “travel game” between Fantomex and Wolverine certainly got a laugh out of me and was a welcome relief in a book that is otherwise very weighty.

All told-this is a beautiful issue with a number of poignant moments.  While the reunion of Colossus and Kitty is cut short, this is made up for by the issues ending montage, which wordlessly sums up the status quo after Nation X, and it really is touching.  The montage is so wonderfully executed, that you’d almost forget all of the sloppier moments that have occurred over this arc.  It makes what came before look better, which is just what a concluding issue should do.

On the art, it’s hard not to look at Portacio’s work here as accomplishing what Land strives for, and fails at, with every outing.  We have the big, splashy, impressive images and we have the hyper-realistic style, but this does not come at the cost of detail or narrative flow.  Portacio’s outing here is basically what an Uncanny X-Men should like: impressive, big-budget, epic, yet human.

The back-up, also written by Fraction but illustrated by Phil Jimenez, is magnificent and well worth the extra dollar.  While completely barely related to the X-universe, it’s a poignant and very emotionally touching tale about a world facing Armageddon.  It reminds us that Fraction, at his best, is able to move us, and that’s just what this back-up does.
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Uncanny X-Men #520 – Review

by Matt Fraction (writer), Greg Land (pencils), Jay Leisten (inks), Justin Ponsor (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Psylocke, Wolverine, and Colossus go Predator-hunting in NYC while Magneto tries to get Utopia’s population to trust him.

What’s Good: Overall, I’ve been enjoying Matt Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men quite a bit more after Utopia, and this month continues the positive trend.

I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that Fraction has taken a much more character-driven approach.  This month once again shows just how much the addition of Magneto has helped in this regard.  Fraction is doing his damndest to make the former villain into a sympathetic character, and he’s definitely making headway.  Magneto’s presence alone also brings a lot out of other characters.  His battle to gain trust and his constant sense of guilt and self-loathing all worked to give him a kind of vulnerable humanity.

This was nicely juxtaposed to his having grown accustomed to being the guy in charge.  Even as he tries to redeem himself for what he was, the vestiges of his past still govern his manners.  His consequent conversation with Cyclops was far and away the high point this month, with Fraction capturing the tension perfectly.  It’s so odd to see Cyclops as the dominant personality between the two, with Magneto being the one in the subservient position seeking approval, and Fraction highlights and plays up this interesting dynamic rather well.

The exploits of the X-Men in NYC provide lighter fare, bringing a bit of humor to the book.  Of course, it helps to have Fantomex around when you want to lighten the mood and create an adventure/mystery plot.  All told, Fantomex is well-written and Fraction’s balancing of his two plots means good pacing, as we never become bogged down in Utopia’s tensions, nor does the book ever feel like insubstantial roving in New York.

Beyond that, this secondary plot also allows Fraction to play with some rather underused characters, and that’s never a bad thing.
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Uncanny X-Men #519 – Review

by Matt Fraction (writer), Terry Dodson (pencils), Rachel Dodson (inks), Justin Ponsor (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Emma enters Scott’s mind while Magneto works to keep the island from sinking.

What’s Good: Much like last issue, the Dodsons breathe so much life into Uncanny.  The characters all look significantly more individual and lovable under their capable hands and the book has a vitality, an intimacy, and an intelligence that it doesn’t have under Land.  As I said in my last review of Fraction’s book, the Dodsons have a style that is simply “fun” at its core level.  #519 is actually a much stronger effort than their already solid work last month.  There’s a lot more detail and their depiction of the Void-contaminated version of Scott’s mind is a great amount of fun.  Meanwhile, their “nice guy” Magneto looks Disney-huggable.  I also absolutely loved Emma Frost’s military-styled outfit when in Scott’s mind, as well as the Mark Buckingham-styled paneling and borders during these portions.

This is also some of the best work I’ve seen out of Fraction on Uncanny that’ll have you wondering why the series couldn’t always be like this.  This is the kind of human soap opera that Uncanny should be and this comic actually feels like it was penned by the same guy who writes Invincible Iron Man.

All the characters have individual voices, all of the dialogue is characterful and tight, and all the interpersonal dynamics are fun and nuanced.  Emma and Scott’s adventure is well done; Emma is human, loving, and empathetic while retaining hints of her trademark high-nosed arrogance.  Scott is heroic and stalwart, as we’d expect him to be, while Fraction nonetheless has the Void complicate this portrayal by giving voice to his flaws and insecurities.  Meanwhile, I’m loving “nice guy Magneto,” and his conversation with Namor is spot-on and really enjoyable; it’s clear that these two characters have a unique chemistry that Fraction is beginning to explore.  Both are brazen characters willing to do what others won’t, but neither are the most socially capable.
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Uncanny X-Men #518 – Review

by Matt Fraction (writer), Terry Dodson (pencils), Rachel Dodson (inks), Justin Ponsor (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Scott ventures into Emma’s mind in an attempt to seperate her from the void as tensions grow among Utopia’s residents.

What’s Good:  X-Men fans will no doubt be absolutely thrilled to know that this month is a Greg Land-free zone.  I’ll admit that over the past couple of months, my position on land has reached something akin to sadly ambivalent resignation.  The Dodsons’ signature style has always been fun and as a result, this entire experience of this issue is a much more pleasant affair compared to the past few Land-drawn books.  I can’t necessarily point to specific images that blew me away, nor can I talk in specifics.  All I can say is that the book as a whole feels so different and so much better under the Dodsons’ hands.  It feels so much more fun, so much more full of life, and so much more likable.  Hell, even though they aren’t writing, the book even feels smarter.  Under the Dodsons, Uncanny essentially becomes a better book, one that’ll leave you feeling a lot happier and a lot more eager to read it.

To be fair, though, this is also a better outing by Fraction as well.  While last week’s book was little more than an extended action sequence, this month is much more character-based and human.  It’s a more intimate, relatable, and engaging read for these reasons.

Normally, I’m not a fan of books centered on one character’s adventures in another’s mind.  Such comics often end up being strange for strange’s sake, while not carrying the gravitas that a good book should.  That said, I rather enjoyed Scott’s adventures in Emma’s brain.  Largely, this is due to the dynamic between the two characters, but even more so, it’s because Fraction does not attempt to have these abstract psychic adventures fill the entire issue.  We get extended breaks from all the psychic wandering, and as a result, what wandering there is more palatable and the book feels much better paced.  Furthermore, Fraction takes a minimalist approach to Emma’s mind.  It’s big, blank, and full of doppelgangers; the Void’s presence makes it weird and creepy, but Fraction’s restraint keeps it from going off the deep-end.

Meanwhile, Beast’s reappearance in the book’s pages is a welcome, grounded relief and he remains a well-written character.  I also continue to enjoy whenever Fraction treats the logistic difficulties of living on a “floating” asteroid.  His acknowledging the real difficulties of sustained living on such an impossible location make the book feel more intelligent and eases the already massive strain on the suspension of disbelief.

What’s Not So Good: Fraction’s minimalist approach to his depiction of Emma’s mind is a bit double-edged.  While it prevents the book from becoming lost in the wilds of indecipherable abstraction and metaphor, Fraction may very well have taken it a little far in making Emma’s mind nothing but a white blank.  It’s bland and empty and one can’t help but wish Fraction pushed the very able Dodsons a little more.

Also, while the artwork was great, I’m not sure if the opening scene with a Predator X was necessary, given how much was already going on in this book.  It doesn’t help that it’s the only scene not on Utopia and as a result, it feels detached and not at all the sort of introduction or prologue that an opening two pages should be.

Conclusion: A really good issue of Uncanny accompanied by refreshingly vibrant, characterful artwork

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans

Uncanny X-Men #517 – Review

by Matt Fraction (writer), Greg Land (pencils), Jay Leisten (inks), Justin Ponsor (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: The X-Men attempt to stave off the Predator X attack.

What’s Good: This is an action comic, pure and simple and in that capacity, it delivers; it’s big, bloody, and explosive.

Better still, Matt Fraction makes the most of the fact that it’s a team based action comic.  One really gets a sense of strategy in the X-Men’s dealing with the Predator Xs.  Abilities are used in perfect concert and the X-Men feel like a well-trained, well-oiled machine.  Multi-level, cooperative strategy is employed as the mutants essentially combine and chain each other’s abilities in a sort of cooperative harmony that was clearly quite well thought out by Fraction.

Taking this perhaps a little more literally is Fraction’s use of Rogue.  He uses her power absorption ability to synchronize X-Men mutant abilities, allowing him to essentially play a cool and creative game of mix and match with mutant powers.

While action-based, the issue is nonetheless not without development.  A very interesting Phoenix-related occurrence happens with respect to the Cuckoos that is foreboding and is sure to pay dividends at a later date.  Furthermore, the last page of the book is similarly intriguing, as we get a look at Danger’s idea of a prison.  Those who have read William Gibson’s foundational cyberpunk novel “Neuromancer” will probably get a kick out of the scene.

On art, Greg Land actually acquits himself quite well, particularly for his often-weak standards.  While certain female faces do lack detail or appear a little awkwardly photo-referenced, there aren’t any real catastrophes this month.  Compliments are due, however, for Land’s drawings of the Predator X monstrosities, which look horrifyingly savage and distinctly alien.  That last page with Danger was also quite beautiful.

What’s Not So Good: While the use of teamwork in harmonizing abilities and employing strategy was impressive, that doesn’t change the fact that this is just one big, extended action scene across 21 pages.  In other words, it’s hard not read this without realizing that while you’re entertained, the book nonetheless feels strangely hollow, shallow even.  Indeed, this is mainstream comics at its most popcorn superficial, the sort of book that the indie comic fan no doubt points to in horror.  That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it also means that the book doesn’t summon any sort of emotion beyond the base-level amusement that comes with reading a good action scene.  It’s not a smart read in the slightest, nor is it a dense one, though it is enjoyable for what it is.

Also, some of Fraction’s voices are still off.   He struggles with Rogue’s colloquial accent, for starters.  At times it disappears altogether or is at least very minimal, while at other times, she sounds like a painfully exaggerated hillbilly.  Fraction can’t seem to find a middle ground, nor can he find consistency.

Magneto’s voice also feels problematic this month and reminds me of Fraction’s struggles to write Xavier’s voice in past issues.  At times, Magneto just sounds too young, hip, and catchy, particularly with his battle banter.  Worse still, in a later scene, he goes back to the more aged, formal tone we saw last month.  Like Rogue, not only is the voice problematic in itself, but it also lacks consistency.

Conclusion: Enjoyable for what it is, this issue still feels a little thin due to its not striving to be anything more.

Grade: B -

-Alex Evans


Wonder Woman #37 – Review

by Gail Simone (writer), Bernard Chang (artist), Sean Ryan (associate editor), Elizabeth Gehrlein (editor)

The Story: Warkiller, Part 2: Diana’s early morning privacy is disturbed by Ares (whom we last saw with Diana’s axe in his head), who has come to promise her that even though he is dead, he isn’t done with her. He’s going to strike at her through her people, the Amazons. After he leaves, Diana does some heavy thinking, about the visit, and about who and what she has become and how her enemies have used her loved ones to strike at her. She chooses to head home, but every part of the greeting she gets is entirely unexpected.

What’s Good: Simone continues to hit the right notes with Diana, her strengths and her vulnerabilities. Simone makes her a kick-ass character with a lot of dimensions to her. She’s not just muscle. She’s got brains and heart too, which is what makes her different (and superior) to every other heroine in comics. (In my opinion, the only one who comes close to Diana in this respect is Claremont’s Ororo.) It also means that Diana’s solutions to problems end up being different than the ones of other heroes. Simone’s deft development of multi-dimensional characters does not end at Diana. I saw something new in Ares in this issue. Layering his resolve and his violence is a pain and regret that wasn’t there before. It is a measure of Simone’s skill that this does not diminish him, but makes him more intriguing. He’s no Magneto yet, but Simone has taken the first steps in that direction. Same goes for Alkyone and Achilles. I loved seeing the Amazon foreplay going on between them. Don’t worry. It’s nothing over the top, but the flavor is definitely more Klingon than romantic comedy.

What’s Not So Good: I know Bernard Chang’s been doing a bit of Wonder Woman art here and there, but his cartoony style feels like a step down from Lopresti, who really made Simone’s vision come alive for me. I checked out the DC website and Lopresti is listed as the artist for issue 38, so all I’ll say is that I hope he had a good vacation. I don’t think Chang is a poor artist. I just don’t think the style is right for Wonder Woman.

Conclusion: The mismatched artist really put this book off its game, despite a really great story by Simone. Still, this is the second part of a 4-issue arc, so you might not want to miss it.

Grade: C

-DS Arsenault

Uncanny X-Men #516 – Review

by Matt Fraction (writer), Greg Land (pencils), Jay Leisten (inks), Justin Ponsors (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Magneto tries to make his position clear and Nation X faces its first attack/invasion.

What’s Good: Magneto is the obvious star of the show here.  Fraction does a solid job of writing the character.  His voice is enjoyable, at once likable and yet impossible not to find suspicious, always carrying that air of sophistication, intelligence, and power.

What’s even better is how his very presence alone only deepens the already present cracks between X-Men.  If anything, Fraction uses Magneto not just as a character, but also as a kind of social phenomenon among Nation-X’s residents.  This leads to a particularly interesting legitimization of Scott, as he puts Professor X in line.  It makes the issue feel intelligent, something that Uncanny sorely needs.

Magneto is also a good fit ideologically within Nation X in his non-combative stance.  It allows a number of interesting discussions.  His conversation with Cyclops over the possibility of continuing the mutant race is a definite highlight, with Scott’s stance of hope standing nicely in contrast to Magneto’s noble pessimism.  It’s a nice debate with both characters occupying rather touching positions.

Art-wise, Greg Land, overall, actually does a pretty good job.  Magneto looks good, with one double-page spread detailing Magneto’s recent history with the High Evolutionary being very impressive.  I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is probably my favourite Uncanny cover in a long time.  Nightcrawler is also very well done, whether static or in motion.  Thankfully, much of this issue is dialogue, meaning Land can stick to the basics.

What’s Not So Good: That said, Land, even on a good month, commits an atrocity.  This month, I was stunned to see Land seemingly re-use images from last month.  There is one particular panel featuring the mysterious new crew of baddies, with Bouncing Bettie and Verre in the background.  I’m pretty damned sure that Land just took prominent images of the two characters from last month’s issue and pasted them in, hoping that just because they’re now in the background, we won’t notice.  Then later, he uses the same image of Bouncing Bettie again in another panel.  Now, perhaps this is just a case of Land re-using a photo-reference, but it sure doesn’t look it.

Speaking of cutting corners, Fraction clearly wanted to quickly create a rift between Xavier and Summers over Magneto, but chose not to do it in any logical manner.  Magneto removes his helmet and invites the X-Men to read his mind.  Why then would Xavier assume Magneto’s guilt without using his telepathy, let alone launch a psychic attack?  It’s a shame, as the Xavier/Cyclops dynamic is a good one here, but Xavier’s actions didn’t make sense.

Beyond this, I felt that scenes with Scalphunter went on a little too long.  I also don’t feel that Fraction has yet settled on bad-guy leader Lobe’s voice, which veers wildly between formal and colloquial in a manner that’s just strange.

Conclusion: It’s actually a pretty good issue of Uncanny, and mainly because Magneto rules!

Grade: B -

-Alex Evans

Comics for 4-Year-Olds

X-Men #1

By Stan Lee (writer), Jack Kirby (artist), Paul Reinman (inker)

A few comments before the review: I started sharing my love of superheroes with my 4-year-old son a few months ago. At a recent comic con in Toronto, I bought him the X-Men Omnibus Volume 1 (collecting issues #1-31 of Uncanny). He loves it and we are reading one issue each night. We’re doing reviews for all those other dads out there that want to share the magic with their children.

The Story: The book opens on Professor X and the four first X-Men heading into another training session. Then Jean Grey arrives and the boys go gaga (except for Iceman) and the team is complete. In the meantime, Magneto is misdirecting and stealing rockets and finally attacks the missile base of Cape Citadel. Then comes the X-Men’s Baptist of fire.

What’s good for my 4-year-old: This is a great action story that leads into hours of conversation and a few laughs. I get questions like “Why does Marble Girl lift Beast in the air?” My answer: “Because he didn’t ask before he kissed her.” We talked about what magnets do, and army men, and why ice melts. He laughs when Beast blows on his hands after Bobby frosted them up. Joshua gets up out of bed and runs around the room to show me how fast Angel can fly.

What’s good for me: I obviously don’t read Lee’s text to a 4-year-old (even in 1963, he was writing to pretty advanced teenagers), so I really have to work at bringing the story and concepts to a level that Joshua will enjoy. We laugh over the slapstick moments, like Cyclops shooting through Iceman’s ice-wall in the danger room. Joshua delights in the Beast walking on his fingers or spinning on a wire. He also loves to see Angel fly really fast. That’s a real eye-opener for me. I never would have expected the Beast to be the most popular, but to a 4-year-old, Hank McCoy is the funniest one. What was also great was looking back at issue #1 with 46 years of history between now and then. The X-Men have come a long way from the seven mutants in that first issue. It was also great to read this issue and compare it with the hindsight perspective that Scott had in UXM #138, just after Phoenix died.

What’s hard to explain: The whole concept of unconsciousness (a common thing in the superhero world) is difficult, but I get through by explaining it as sleep. The larger question of ethics (“Why is Magneto not nice?”) is tougher, but I keep telling him that when Magneto was a boy, he didn’t listen to his papa. That explanation will actually hold water for another 149 issues…

Conclusion: I went back in time to get something I could share with my son. Uncanny X-Men #1 in the X-Men Omnibus turned out to be a great choice. I can get into it for nostalgic reasons. Joshua gets into it for high adventure. The conflicts are simple, no one gets hurt, and the comic code reigns supreme, all of which is perfect when reading to a 4-year-old.

Grade: B+

X-Men #2

By Stan Lee (writer), Jack Kirby (artist), Paul Reinman (inker)

The Story: “No One Can Stop The Vanisher” This issue opens with a bang as the X-Men race across their splash page to an emergency summons by Professor X. Beast hops on a train to get to Westchester. Angel carries Marvel Girl and after saving some workmen, Cyclops and Iceman ride in the back of an ice cream truck. At the mansion, the professor shows them a projection of the Vanisher. We see the very first session of the X-Men in the danger room, before they go off to stop the Vanisher from stealing top-secret defense plans from the Pentagon. The Vanisher really is unstoppable and finally makes an advance on the White House after defeating the X-Men. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s great (half deus ex machine, half classic X-Men character development).

What’s good for my 4-year-old: Iceman stole the show as far as my audience was concerned. Joshua laughed at Iceman freezing a workman’s glove and at Bobby and Scott riding in the back of the ice cream truck. He loved the rapid-fire snowballs Bobby shot around and laughed out loud again when Bobby slid an icy horse underneath Scott and Jean when he found their conversation a little too mushy. This issue, I tried to point out a lot of faces and see if Joshua could tell me what the expressions were. He loved Hank’s look of surprise when the Vanisher swiped back a stolen briefcase and he loved the series of Vanisher expressions at the climax of the book.

What’s good for me: I got to see once again what makes my son laugh out loud and conceptualizing a modern fairy tale for a 4-year-old once again brought me closer to where he is.

What’s hard to explain: Explaining what Professor X and Marvel Girl can do is always a challenge. The source of the Vanisher’s power was slightly easier (he was born different).

Conclusion: Thanks Stan and Jack for a great read for me and my boy. I highly recommend the X-Men Omnibus Volume 1 for just this purpose and now that I’ve seen how Joshua reacts to it, I might look for the Lee/Ditko Spiderman Omnibus. Pricey, but worth it.

Grade: B+

Amazing Fantasy #15

By Stan Lee (writer), Steve Ditko (artist)

The Story: Peter Parker, the sad, friendless boy at school goes to the science center to hear a talk on radioactivity. A spider, creeping down its thread, gets irradiated in the experiment and falls onto Peter’s hand, and bites him. Peter feels strange and leaves the center, ridiculed even by the scientists, not looking where he is going. A car honks and he leaps high out of the way and sticks to the wall. Peter finds he has the abilities of a giant spider and decides to cash in on them by winning $100 in a wrestling match and appearing on TV, as Spiderman. However, when a policeman calls for help with an escaping thief, Peter does nothing. This fateful, selfish decision comes home to haunt him with tragic consequences.

What’s good for my 4-year-old: For pure slapstick adventure, it doesn’t get much better than this. Joshua loves to see Peter jump, stick to walls and crush the metal pipe on the rooftop by accident. Joshua loves seeing Uncle Ben waking up Peter and his mouth waters over the stack of wheatcakes Peter gets for breakfast. The wrestling match is a laugh-out-loud hoot, especially when I do a special voice for Crusher Hogan, the unlucky wrestler.

What’s good for me: The first appearance of Spiderman is a great modern fairy tale, but is also a great morality tale that I can use as the meat and potatoes on talking to my son on how people should be treated and valued. The way Flash Thompson and crew treat Peter is just plain wrong as are their reasons (he’s not very fast, he’s not very strong). Peter asking out Sally is an opportunity to talk about girls and boys. Finally, this was the first time I read it to him including the death of Uncle Ben and why, which is an opportunity to talk about responsibility towards everyone, not just the people who love you.

What’s hard to explain: Joshua asks repeated, probing questions about why getting bitten by a radioactive spider would give someone powers. He also asks why a boy would ask a girl out. The second is easier to answer than the first.

Conclusion: It’s hard to believe that Stan and Steve delivered this iconic story just as filler in a book that was being cancelled. It is a classically crafted story that works well for 4-year olds and for me. I can’t grade it any less than an A+.

Grade: A+

-DS Arsenault and Joshua

Uncanny X-Men #515 – Review

by Matt Fraction (writer), Greg Land (pencils), Justin Ponsor (colors) and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Cyclops struggles to deal with the day-to-day running of Nation X and tensions form between its leaders.

What’s Good: While it’s not always the most exciting thing to read, I do like it when comics focus on the logistics or common sense difficulties.  That Fraction actually has Cyclops grapple with the physical problems of establishing Utopia, explaining how the place gets its water and electricity and, hopefully, its food and medical supplies, is very much appreciated, as this is the sort of thing that could have easily been glossed over.  I honestly feel that paying heed to little issues like this ultimately make for a smarter comic.

There’s even a couple of alternately touching and interesting scenes involving what to do with the dead and the imprisoned; with the latter bringing back a Whedon-created character in a bit of a surprise, and the former working well through an odd balance between the touching and the pragmatic.

Much of this issue is spent on characterization through a series of conversations, all of which are fairly strong and do a good job of establishing roles for the characters in the story arc to come.  The dialogue felt intelligent, necessary, and logical.   Scott discussing his own weaknesses and vulnerability felt human and true to the character.  Emma revealing what the sliver of the Void is doing to her personality was also quite intriguing and very promising story-wise.

All in all, when this comic focuses on dialogue, it’s actually pretty good.  This issue makes for engaging character moments, new tensions, and interesting interpersonal dynamics.

What’s Not So Good: Greg Land.  While this isn’t the greatest catastrophe he’s ever drawn (thanks mostly to Fraction having most of the issue spent in quiet dialogue between level-headed characters), it’s still bad.  While it’s not his worst, Land’s trademarks are all here.  Static poses remain, as do Land’s poorly plotted action scenes.  There’s a frame early in the book depicting a kung-fu speedster that I still don’t understand.  The action scene, while again, not his worst, is more of a collection of single images than a flow.

Then there’s the old Land problem with faces.  As always, the man just can’t handle it whenever a character, particularly if female, has a strong emotion.  For instance, an exasperated Sinclair clutching her head ends up looking like a woman in pure sexual bliss tossing her hair back in Herbal Essences-fueled ecstasy. Whenever a character has a reason to dramatically change facial expression, Land misses the mark by a mile.

He’s also, dare I say, slacking off.   A lot of times, I noticed blank slates of color where a little more detail or shading could’ve been used.  For example, many of the female faces seem to have freakishly high cheekbones due to their faces essentially being two slabs of peach color.  A smiling Psylocke also has none of her teeth distinguished.  Land cuts corners on the little things detail-wise and hopes we won’t notice if he slaps on enough gloss.

Writing-wise, I’m still not digging Fraction’s Xavier, whose voice sounds too young and hip.  Also, though this issue does what needs to be done, this also leads to its being  pretty much all set-up, with an out-of-nowhere cliffhanger.

Conclusion: A fairly good issue with Greg Land drawing it.

Grade: B -

-Alex Evans

Exiles #3 – Review

By Jeff Parker (Writer), Salva Espin & Casey Jones (Pencils), Karl Kessler (Inks), and Anthony Washington (Colors)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: Clever, funny, and visually pleasing, Jeff Parker’s Exiles series is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.

The Story: Imprisoned in an alternate-reality Genosha for trying to overthrow Magneto’s reign, the Exiles must think of an escape plan or else the universe will suffer the consequences.

What’s Good and What’s Not So Good: The best thing about Exiles #3 is how Jeff Parker manages to spin the predictable into the unexpected. While I can’t go into specifics, I can say that (outside of the escape attempt) the Genosha conclusion is likely to disappoint a bit. At least until the characters make the “jump” into the next mission; an event which impressively passes the torch from one art team to the next. That said, the latest issue of Exiles is still quite fun.

Jeff Parker does a great job playing with the alternate-reality concept and characters. Sure, some things never change, but the stuff that does is surprisingly entertaining. I say that because Beast and Black Panther continue to be a highlight because of how much they differ from the established versions. Also, though he only appears to narrate the standard recap, Morph gives Exiles a recap page that manages to match (or even surpass) the Incredible Hercules’ on the entertainment scale. Those of you that read Incredible Herc know that that’s saying something.

As for the visuals, Salva Espin continues to be a perfect fit for the tone of the series. Some of the smaller panels look a bit rough, but as a whole, Exiles is a very nice-looking book. I’m not entirely sold on Casey Jones’ more realistic style, but I’ll hold judgment until I see his work over the course of an entire issue.

Conclusion: While not quite a strong as the first two issues, Exiles #3 is still well worth your time and money.

Grade: B

-Kyle Posluszny

Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #3 – Review

By Jonathan Hickman (Script), Sean Chen (Pencils), Lorenzo Ruggiero (Inks), and John Rauch (Colors)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: I’ll be honest with you and admit that I had completely forgotten about the Dark Reign: Fantastic Four mini-series until this week’s shipping list reminded me about it. That probably says a lot about the first two issues even though I gave them solid grades.

The Story: The third chapter of Dark Reign: Fantastic Four begins with Sue, Johnny, and two versions of Ben on an air-ship that’s about to be boarded by Skrull pirates. That situation doesn’t last long as space-time collapses and the group is thrust into another version of reality…and then another….Meanwhile, Reed Richards continues to search alternate realities for superhuman peace by using the supercomputer known as “The Bridge.” As for Franklin and Valeria, they remain in the Baxter building while they await the arrival of Norman Osborn and members of H.A.M.M.E.R….

What’s Good: From the airship battle to the wild-west showdown and the alternate reality Illuminati sequences, Sean Chen, Lorenzo Ruggiero, and John Rauch do a great job of visually bringing Jonathan Hickman’s high-concept story to the comic page. The effort makes Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #3 the best-looking book in the mini-series so far. It’s a good thing the visuals do a lot of heavy lifting, as the character work and the concept are barely engaging.

What’s Not So Good: The overarching story feels like it’s stuck in neutral. In short, D.R.: F.F. #3 feels a hell of a lot like #2. Ben, Sue, and Johnny bounce around alternate realities as Reed sifts through alternate realities looking for nuggets of information. Meanwhile, Valeria and Franklin sit around the Baxter Building thinking about what to do in case the rest of their family doesn’t return. Those same things happened in issue two and, as a result, issue three feels disappointingly repetitive and somewhat boring.

Conclusion: Pick up Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #3 at your own risk. It looks nice and has some solid moments, but it feels far too much like the last issue to warrant a recommendation.

Grade: C-

-Kyle Posluszny

Exiles #2 – Review

By Jeff Parker (Writer), Salva Espin (Artist), and Anthony Washington (Colorist)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: Exiles #1 wasted no time in winning me over. Jeff Parker’s script was informative, surprisingly funny, and featured a solid twist ending. Salva Espin’s lively, expressive artwork proved to be a perfect compliment to the story being told. As for the colors, Anthony Washington’s work made the entire book feel like a breath of fresh air from all the darker, more serious Marvel fare. Simply put, I found Exiles #1 to be quite the creative success because of the fact that everything just came together so damn well. It will be interesting to see if the second issue can keep up all the positive momentum.

The Story: The Exiles mission is to help Wolverine overthrow Magneto’s reign in Genosha. The one catch is that in the reality the Exiles are in, Wolverine isn’t much more than a head on a stick. So what that means is that it’s up to the Exiles to figure out a way to overthrow the royal family of Genosha while blending in with the general mutant population of this alternate reality.

What’s Good:
Nearly everything about Exiles #2 works for me. The story that develops successfully threads the line between fun and serious, rarely losing balance. Jeff Parker’s script is clever, humorous (Black Panther has some great lines), and very effective in how it plays around with established character norms. The visuals from Salva Espin look fantastic, especially in regards to the highly expressive characters that show an impressive range of emotion throughout the book. Also, I must mention that Anthony Washington deserves praise for making Exiles one of the most colorful, eye-catching books on the stands.

What’s Not So Good:
While rarely losing balance, Exiles #2 does occasionally teeter into melodrama here and there. It doesn’t really hurt things from a story perspective because the drama is used to develop the characters on the team, but it does come across as a bit heavy-handed. Another small complaint is that some panels look a bit rushed. It’s something that’s carried over from issue one and it, while somewhat understandable, still proves to be distracting.

Conclusion: Exiles #2 manages to maintain nearly all of the momentum generated by the strong debut. I highly recommend that you give the series a chance while it’s still early enough (and easy enough) to get into it right from the beginning.

Grade: B+

-Kyle Posluszny

Exiles #1 – Review

By Jeff Parker (Writer), Salva Espin (Art), and Anthony Washington (Colors)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: I’ll be totally honest and admit that I’ve never read an Exiles comic before. But since it was a light week for me, I figured a new number one issue would be a pretty good place to start.

The Story: The Exiles are a team of (B, C, and D list) Marvel heroes plucked from their respective realities mere moments before death. The mission? To travel from reality to reality in order to put things right so that existence (as a whole) continues. Beast, Forge, The Witch, Polaris, Blink, and The Panther are given the rundown on the situation in the first issue and then sent to fix the first of many realities.

What’s Good: Exiles #1 really gets the series off on the right foot. From the characterization, to the artwork, to the execution of the necessary plot introduction, everything feels absolutely full of energy. And that, my friends, is a very good thing.

Jeff Parker’s script is clever and humorous while also intelligently dealing with both the dense concept and the unique challenge that comes from introducing characters from alternate realities. It is perfectly complimented by artwork that effortlessly manages to be humorous, clever (Beast’s look rocks), vibrant, and lively all at once. Throughout the book there are great examples of how the visuals can elevate the writing and vice versa. And almost all of those examples involve the brilliant use of the character Morph. I never thought I’d see the “Hitler as a baby” dilemma delivered in such a humorous manner…

What’s Not So Good: Despite the entertaining script and eye-catching visuals, there is no denying the fact that Exiles #1 is a fairly standard “team introduction” comic. The formula is a formula for a reason…because it works. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t point out it’s use.

Also worth noting is that some of the smaller panels look slightly rushed and/or lack detail. While excusable for the most part, it proves to be a distraction when the rest of the issue looks so nice.

Conclusion: What else can I say? Exiles is now the latest addition to my pull list. Take a chance with the first issue, I think you will be more than pleasantly surprised.

Grade:  B+

-Kyle Posluszny


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