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Uncanny X-Men #20 – Review

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

The Story: Cyclops has declared war on S.H.I.E.L.D. and his opening gambit is a ballsy one indeed.

The Review: There are two ways to look at the war between the New Xavier School and S.H.I.E.L.D. On one hand the book has been building to this moment for twenty issues, on the other it took twenty issues to get here and we still have no assurance that things will be resolved any time soon. Both are valid and illustrate one of the key issues that Bendis has on this series, balancing the future and the present.

Many of this issue’s moments don’t make sense in themselves requiring further developments or the clarity of hindsight. Mystique’s continued plotting, for instance, can intrigue but really offers very little to a reader. This same pattern plays out again and again, whether in Hijack’s home or at the New Xavier School. At the same time, however, much of Bendis’ best writing doesn’t expand the scope of the story, but deepen it. Even in the same scene I just mentioned we find biting dialogue, like when Sabertooth asks how much longer Mystique will continue impersonating Dazzler and she responds, “Until Scott Summers is a party joke and S.H.I.E.L.D. is sold for parts. So I’m thinking until next Friday.”

Even if it doesn’t rank among his best, Bendis’ dialogue lives up to his lofty reputation. When it comes to engaging a reader in the moment, this issue really is quite spectacular. Brief scenes like Scott’s confrontation with an old teammate can feel very substantial. Admittedly that example is rather text-heavy but, while there is a bit of harried visual storytelling, there’s such tension in the dialogue that you might not be able to help getting sucked in. That’s a quality that Bendis has been shooting for for a long while, but it’s very much present in this final scene and the central confrontation of the issue.

It’s clear that Bendis saw Scott’s appearance on the helicarrier as the core of this chapter. Unfortunately a side effect is that most of the rest of the issue is a bit dull, but you can’t deny the power of this sequence. There’s perhaps a little too much time spend on Director Hill’s romantic preferences, but rarely has Scott’s cult of personality been clearer or Bendis’ grasp of his characters’ psychology more apparent.
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Uncanny X-Men #19 – Review

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

The Story: We heard you like Sentinels so we put Sentinels in your Sentinels…

The Review: Back in August Uncanny X-Men received a slight boost when it featured a story about Cyclops facing off against a new breed of Sentinel. In the seven months that have passed, Uncanny has been growing and changing, largely for the better. Now that it’s time to pick up that thread, will it have the same oomph that it once did?

The answer is an ever charming sort-of. Bendis makes no attempt to hide that the past half a year of stories were a distraction. While the events of issue seventeen are mentioned, it’s clear that this series has been off track since the last Sentinel arc. The problem is that, for the most part, the filler was far better than anything that preceded it. So while it is intriguing to return to the mystery Sentinels again, there’s a sense of a backslide that I can’t deny is worrisome. It’s also strange since the event that took us off track, “Battle of the Atom”, ended with a dramatic reveal that S.H.I.E.L.D. has Sentinels, and different Sentinels at that.

Regardless, we’re diving back into Bendis’ main story. Summoned by a surge of mutant activity, the New Xavier X-Men find themselves lured into a trap. Bendis knows his collaborators and the creative team deliver a slick futuristic take on the X-Men. These aren’t the simple androids of the Mark I, and panels like a swarm of alien-looking mutant hunters spawning from the maw of a gigantic Sentinel are powerful and eerie. Likewise, a scene inside Cerebro is the stuff of science fiction, the kind that convinced us to buy sunglasses in middle school.

These new model Sentinels present a solid challenge for the team and Bendis’ answer serves to resolve the problem while significantly deepening the mysteries surrounding it. It’s a situation that is all the more fascinating for the removal of Hijack from the team, but the answer is pretty simple. Indeed, much of the issue seems designed to highlight Chris Bachalo’s contributions.
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Uncanny X-Men #18 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Marco Rudy (artist), Val Staples (color artist)

The Story: Cyclops finally starts speaking clearly, just in time for the world around him to stop.

The Review: Brian Michael Bendis’ dialogue seems to come in two general forms, razor-sharp character work or droning back-and-forths, and generally you can tell if you’re reading a good Bendis issue or a bad Bendis issue based on which one you get. Of course, there’s always an exception that proves the rule. This issue is that exception.

You see, despite belonging to the prior category, this issue suffers from a myriad of serious problems. After the dramatic events of the past two issues and the accompanying pruning of the team, Cyclops’ X-Men return home to find the All-New X-Men missing, the result of the “Trial of Jean Grey” storyline in their own title. Seeing as this title has no part in that crossover, and thusly nothing to say about it, Bendis retreats back in time to when the original X-Men arrived at the New Xavier School and, effectively, engages in some house cleaning.

It’s a bizarre choice to flashback only to lead back to the present day. The flashbacks don’t particularly benefit from the context and the jumps through time quickly become dizzying. I could easily imagine a new comic reader getting lost. One of the strangest elements is how much of a retcon this feels like, despite Bendis writing the entire story. The events of this issue are interesting, if only in that way that addictive web surfing is, but they don’t feel like natural additions to the story. It also highlights how irrelevant the O5’s move to Cyclops’ school was.

Still, as I mentioned, the character work is up to par with the past few issues. Cyclops’ conversation with Kitty is especially raw. It’s a solid scene, if one that really should have played out the first time someone accused Scott of killing Charles Xavier – which reminds me how many times people refer to “Charles Xavier” in this issue. You never called him that when he was alive…
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Uncanny X-Men #17 – Review

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

The Story: The newest X-Men battle chickasaurs, carrot people, Shelob, and S.H.I.E.L.D. while simultaneously acting in the greatest Verizon commercial never made.

The Review: In the past few months Uncanny X-Men has become a home for some of the best one-in-done stories in modern comics. After a look at the women of the New Xavier School and a spotlight on Magneto, Brian Michael Bendis gives us a, debatably, more traditional team story.

Another interesting trait of this title is Scott Summers’ emerging habit of putting his students in life threatening danger for training. While the issue hints that Magik is keeping an eye on them, it’s certainly in keeping with his mutant revolutionary status and differentiates his teaching style from Wolverine’s. Indeed, rather than retread classic X-Men ground and send his squad to the Savage Land, Bendis explores a newer locale. In the end the actual difference is pretty limited, but it’s an apt metaphor for what’s going on here.

This is the first issue of Uncanny X-Men where the teaching staff is largely absent. For the first, and the long overdue, time the success or failure of this issue rests entirely on the New Xavier’s students and, fun as a book about Scott, Emma, and Ilyanna can be, these kids are entirely up to the task. Likewise, while we all love a good Savage Land story now and again, Tabula Rasa presents a feeling of mystery and possibility.
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Uncanny X-Men #15 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Kris Anka (art), Rain Beredo (colors)

The Story: Mutants are hated, feared, victimized. Those with the courage to stand up to bigotry are forced into hiding, reduced to outlaws and terrorists. It is a hard time to be an X-Man. But that is no excuse to have nothing pretty to wear.

The Review: While the post-Schism world is an interesting one for the X-Men, I doubt I’m the only one who’s getting tired of Cyclops hogging the limelight. Bendis has filled the New Xavier School with fascinating young mutants, but, after fourteen issues, many of them remain strangers to us. Last issue proved a game changer for Benjamin Deeds and Emma Frost and I’m happy to say that Bendis has followed up with another great character issue.

Bendis takes his time setting up the adventure in this issue. It’s one that we don’t often see, but admittedly, it could have gone wrong rather quickly. Thankfully, Bendis does not disappoint. This issue does an impressive job of providing eight distinct, fully realized women. Well…maybe seven and a half – the cuckoos, you know. The initial scenes in the New Xavier School are especially charming, as the girls dance around the issue and Emma takes charge.

Of course, Bendis acknowledges something that really should have been apparent long ago: living in Scott Summers’ school in the middle of the Canadian wilderness must be boring as all get out! What do they do there? How are they living? So, when the increasingly extroverted Irma mentions that she wants to go shopping like the girls on TV and in books, Jean gleefully responds “We have books?” It’s subtle, but the enthusiasm for books tells us something about Jean. How I’ve missed knowing the X-Men.
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Uncanny X-Men #14 – Review

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

The Story: Ms. Frost you’re trying to seduce me, aren’t you?

The Review: I don’t think that I’ve hidden the fact that I’ve felt that Uncanny X-Men was always the Loki to All-New’s Thor; younger, less likable, more radical, and defined by inferiority. At times the series has shown great promise, but it’s never fully come into its own.

Especially with the incorporation of the original X-Men into the New Xavier School, this is an uneasy time for this title and there’s not much time to right the ship before its caught on the waves of another event. So how does Mr. Bendis deal with all this? He says ‘screw it’ and heads to Atlantic City.

Indeed, while the confusion at the school is alluded to, Bendis decides to sidestep the issue and focus on one of the institution’s quieter students: Benjamin Deeds. Just how quiet is Benjamin? Well I’ve been reading this series essentially since it began and I had completely forgotten that he existed. I’m glad of the reminder, too.
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Uncanny X-Men #13 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba (Artists), Marte Gracia (Colorist)

The Story: The bad X-Men from the future tries to send the past X-Men to their own time as the real X-Men from the future tries to prevent their plans from working.

The Review: There are things we kind of take for granted when it comes to serial storytelling. We always think that character development, story progression and genuine moments of entertainment shall be given to us with each issue. It is something that all issue and writers should strive to give, but sometimes some issues are more miss than hit, which can bring forward frustrating books.

This issue of Uncanny X-Men is unfortunately one of those issues, where a lot of what could make it worthwhile is simply absent. It is a mindless issue that seems to want to give us as many ”awesome” moments as it can, delivering plenty of action but little else, resulting in a read that doesn’t advance the themes or the plot in any significant way whatsoever.
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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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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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Uncanny X-Men #14

By: Kieron Gillen (story), Dustin Weaver (art), Jim Charalampidis (colors)

The Story: A déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Marvel. It happens when they copy something.

The Writing: (Oh, Spoilers ahead) While the story does echo a lot of Matrix: Reloaded, it isn’t a bad story. It’s actually quite interesting. Mr. Sinister has built an entire London underground, populated by thousands of (male only) clones of himself (Ms. Sinister wasn’t invited). One of these clones, a journalist set to do an interview with Sinister Prime (?) is very different from the other clones–he has free will. But not really. He’s actually designed to think he has free will so that Sinister can be challenged by…Sinister. This actually works quite well with the Mr. Sinister we’ve been following of late. He is so egotistical that not only does he want to interview himself, but he wants to test his own system by setting himself against it.
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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 (penciler), Jay Leisten (inker), Guru eFX (colors)

The Story: Namor proves that even he has limits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great dialogue, character-work, and sci-fi high concepts aside, however, this issue falls prey to something that’s become a recurring problem in Gillen’s otherwise strong run thus far:  the story itself isn’t that compelling.  Really, there isn’t really a whole lot of narrative meat on the bones here.  It simply amounts to Tabula Rasa still being in trouble due to the Sun.  But Gillen then spends the entirety of the issue doing character work with Namor/Hope and Colossus/Magik, while giving us more cool new info on the Apex.  Then, seemingly realizing that he’d forgotten to resolve the plot, he wraps it all up in a one page, heavily narrated montage where everything is neatly wrapped up.  It’s completely random and brings the issue to a screeching halt and is, quite frankly, poor storytelling.  It literally feels as though Gillen realized he’d written an issue having entirely forgotten the central plot, and then rushed to throw it all together on a single page.  It’s pretty head-spinning.
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Uncanny X-Men #7 – Review

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

The Story: Two exceptional individuals battle over whether to live in harmony with inferior beings or to dominate and destroy them. Wait, why does this sounds familiar…

The Review: I’ve been struggling with this issue for a while now.  The heart of my problem is that the Tabula Rasa arc of Uncanny X-Men is boring me to tears, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. The premise, which explores a leftover story element from another X-Book, is clever, and exemplifies the best kind of continuity-building; the art, while not exactly Eisner-worthy, is adequate, and in some instances mildly impressive; and for goodness’ sakes, it’s Kieron Gillen writing the story. I almost never have anything bad to say about his work!

And yet, even as I write this, I am fighting back a yawn. While the dialogue is still crisp and clever, managing to fit in tons of exposition without ever reading like a lecture, I’m struggling to care about the characters who speak it.  This is largely to do with the placement of the central dilemma. This arc hasn’t done very much in the way of exploring the main cast. The two subplots with personal stakes for the X-Men—Warren Worthington’s role in the creation of Tabula Rasa, and Colossus’s ongoing descent into becoming the Juggernaut—are both completely ignored in this issue. Instead we’re stuck with only the conflict between the two surviving Apexes to drive this issue.

The two Apexes—they say we can call them Good Apex and Bad Apex, but you might as well call them “Apex Charles” and “Apex Eric”—are interesting, but they are hard to care about. I love the idea of communicating through a musical language, and the ambiguous nature of their relationship is a nice touch. Their disdain for the low intelligence of the X-Men is entertaining, but it also makes them both pretty unlikable. I don’t feel empathy for either’s situation, tragic though it may be. The X-Men seem only to be present to bare witness to the tragedy, and to use their powers in awesome and creative ways when the plot requires it.
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Generation Hope #16 – Review

Written by James Asmus, Art by Takeshi MiyazawaColors by Jim Charalampidis

The Story: Zero has no hope in the mutant messiah, and wants to take Hope away from everyone! Wordplay!

The Writing: I was never a fan as James Asmus. His one shots never thrilled me and his work in the anthologies was never very inspiring. When they announced that he was going to take over Generation Hope, a series I enjoy, I hung my head and considered canceling the title. But I decided to give it a shot and see where he took the title. And damn–Asmus stepped up to the plate. And then damn–Generation Hope gets canceled. And the thing is, it’s getting really good. The Sebastian Shaw arc was handled much better than I thought it would be. He also carried over Gillen’s work with ease and now that we’re in the penultimate issue, we get the culmination of everything from–well, really from when Second Coming finished to now. Asmus doesn’t try to fix what isn’t broken. He develops the characters further, yes, but doesn’t make any drastic changes to the characters or their voices.  Hopefully they find a good place for him. I would love to see him return to the younger X-Men characters again.
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Journey Into Mystery #634

Written by Kieron Gillen, Art by Richard Elson, Colored by Jessica Kholinne

The Story: So where did all that fear stuff go when the serpent died? Why, into Loki’s head of course!

The Writing: Kieron Gillen might just be Marvel’s best writer. Might be a bold statement, but anyone reading Journey Into Mystery and not feeling that way needs to question why they read comics in the first place. While I don’t agree with every choice he’s made in Uncanny X-Men, he’s still one of the best. Journey is simply the best place to see his talent unfold. This particular issue is brimming with awesomeness. From the conflict between Loki and Son of Satan to the journey through Loki’s nightmare–and even Thori gets a wonderful scene. What sets Journey apart from every other comic is that it doesn’t feel like any other comic out there. I think the closed is Unwritten, With this issue, he uses the comic’s own unique voice to set it apart from even its own series. Gillen gets really creative in this issue, but it never comes off as gimmicky. In fact, when Loki is telling the captions to shut up, instead of coming off silly, you really feel like this is completely natural in Loki’s nightmare and must stop.  The series so far is–well, it’s like Crime and Punishment. Crime and Punishment is divided into 6 parts. The crime takes place in part 1. The next 5 parts are all punishment. Well, so far we’re 4 or 5 issues after his actions in Fear Itself have concluded, and he’s still having to deal with all the choices he made–and this punishment doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. There’s the coming crossover Exiled with New Mutants in May, and there’s that little matter of Sutur being freed. It’s like watching a “kid playing hero” learning that there is more work to do after saving the day. Hopefully this series has a long, healthy life, Loki and Gillen deserve it.
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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-Men #2 – Review

By: Kieron Gillen (writer), Carlos Pacheco, Jorge Molina & Rodney Buchemi (pencils), Cam Smith, Roger Bonet, Walden Wong & Molina (inks), Frank D’Armata, Rachelle Rosenberg, Jim Charalampidis & Molina (colors), Joe Caramagna (letters), Jordan D. White & Sebastian Girner (assistant editor), Daniel Ketchum (associate editor) & Nick Lowe (editor)

The Story: Mr. Sinister has created an army of clones of himself.

Five Things: 

1. Enjoyable Mr. Sinister story. - I’m not usually a fan of recycled villains in superhero comics because they become as predictable as the heroes, but this is a pretty nifty Mr. Sinister story.  The idea that he’s been chasing perfection for over a century and now finally thinks he has things in place to act is pretty cool.  It reminds me of something someone said about cottage cheese once: the first time someone made cottage cheese someone opened up the vat and said, “It’s ready.  Let’s eat it.”  How did they know that the goopy white stuff was ready to eat?  That’s kinda what Sinister has done here: He thinks he’s perfect and he’s ready to clone himself and control the planet.

2. A little talky. - Man….there is a lot of Mr. Sinister talking to hear his own voice in this issue.  Gillen manages to power through it in this issue just by being a gifted wordsmith, but there will be fans that groan any time they see such big word balloons.  The trouble with lots of words is that it sometimes slows the tempo of the comic down more than it should by making us linger too much on panels that should be fleeting.

3. Art manages to be okay in spite of a huge cast. - There’s no art in this issue that is “bad”, but anytime you have 3 pencillers, 4 inkers and 4 colorists the issue will look like a bit of a mess.  On a positive note, the storytelling remains intact and all the pages are professional.  I don’t want to bang on the art too much, but it just kinda bums me out that we’re already running into this problem on issue #2 AND that comes on the heels of a pretty average first issue.  Damn it, Uncanny is supposed to be a flagship book!  The art shouldn’t have to be workman-like and professional.  It should be awesome and with the exception of Terry Dodson, this title hasn’t had “awesome” in a long time.
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Uncanny X-Men #1 – Review

By: Kieron Gillen (writer), Carlos Pacheco (pencils), Cam Smith (inks), Frank D’Armata (colors), Sebastian Girner (assistant editor) & Nick Lowe (editor)

The Story: We’ve seen Team Wolverine’s light-hearted high school.  Surely Team Cyclops will be up to more adult things.

Five Things: 

1. Really like the more adult tone of this title.  It’s too soon to really tell, but it seems like Uncanny X-Men will be a lot more serious than Wolverine and the X-Men.  That’s great because the world isn’t served well by having 4-5 roughly similar X-Men titles as we’ve endured the last few years.  So, while Wolverine is putting up with the hi-jinks of Iceman, Rockslide, Gambit, Rogue, Kitty, etc., Cyclops is going to deal with real mutant issues by setting up an uber-team of mutants who can tackle any problem and scare the pants off anyone who’d think twice about crossing the mutants.

2. Speaking of super-teams.  He calls them the “Extinction Team” and it consists of Cyclops, Magneto, Storm, Namor, Hope, Juggernaut-Colossus, Danger and Illyana.  Oy vey!  That really is a pretty horrifying concentration of power.  Just dealing with Magneto, Namor and Super-Colossus is pretty scary.  Oh, and Danger now has some kinds of super battle modifications which is pretty interesting given how formidable she was already.  And, then you’ve got Storm whipping up a hurricane and Cyclops shooting energy bolts and Hope copying whatever mutant’s powers would be most convenient.  Holy Hell!  I also really liked how Cyclops compared this team to a weapon of mass destruction and pointed out that Iraq (who didn’t have WMDs) got invaded whereas North Korea (which does have nukes) just got economic sanctions.   Then later when the Dreaming Celestial goes nuts, he says not to bother calling the Avengers because if his Extinction Team can’t manage the problem, what are Cap and Hawkeye going to do?  Totally badass and he’s right!

3.  Also deals with other mutants on Utopia.  This was great too.  While we thankfully didn’t dwell on these other mutants, it was nice to see that everyone has a role on Cyclops’ team.  There’s the science team, the security team, the street team, the clean-up crew and Hope’s crew.  Each has distinct jobs and the young mutants like Loa and Surge get folded in wherever they make sense as part of their training.
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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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