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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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Uncanny Avengers #3 – Review

UNCANNY AVENGERS #3

By: Rick Remender (story), John Cassaday (art), Laura Martin (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story:  The Red Skull whips NYC into a mutant hunting frenzy with the Uncanny Avengers caught in the middle.

The Review:  I imagine that this is going to be an incredibly divisive issue.  Remender takes some big stylistic risks that leave this one firmly entrenched in “love it or hate it” grounds.  The difficulty for me reviewing this is that, while I myself fell into the positive side of the equation, I can very much understand the argument from the other side.

The reason for all of this is that Remender has chosen to write this issue in a thoroughly retro, nostalgia-driven manner, filled with expository narration and a LOT of words on the page.  While I’m often put off by that sort of thing, I actually found myself enjoying it this time around.  I had a lot of fun visiting the past, if you will, with Remender seemingly bringing a writing style from decades past, polishing it off, and putting it in a thoroughly modern setting with slick, polished art to match.  Sure, that style is verbose, melodramatic, and maybe even a little bit cheesy, but that’s all part of the fun!  That melodramatic narration lends the book an escapist, soap opera feel, making the book’s universe feel especially comic booky and its characters iconic and larger than life.  It also elevates the stakes and the story into something grander and more timeless.
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Captain America #11 – Review

by Ed Brubaker (writer), Patrick Zircher (art), Paul Mounts (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Someone’s leaking SHIELD intel to a vigilante who’s taken to killing reformed criminals in SHIELD’s witness protection program.

The Review:  As another arc of the relaunched Captain America begins, the same problem rears its head again.  Put simply, the story here is far from high concept.  In fact, it’s pretty unoriginal and unimaginative.  At surface level, it’s another story about a Punisher type villain, this time Scourge, who’s KILLING the bad guys and, as such, the heroes have to stop him.  It’s just an extremely basic, familiar premise, much as the core concept behind last arc’s plot (Steve loses his powers) was also extremely basic.  I’m not sure if this is a sign that Brubaker is running out of steam for Cap, but it’s a bit disconcerting how simple the core plot is.

It’s not all bad news however; while the plot may be familiar, there are enough elements and mysteries to it to keep you reading.  The identity of Scourge is completely up in the air and unknown and Brubaker also lets us know that HYDRA is, somehow, involved, but literally tells us no more than some yelling “HAIL HYDRA.”  At the very least, these teases will keep you going and keep you interested in what would otherwise be a fairly by the numbers plot.

Moreover, I’ll admit to being a sucker for “superheroes do detective-work” storylines.  Hell, Batman made a career of it.  There’s always something smart and extremely down to earth about these sorts of stories that I appreciate.  Cap isn’t battling cosmic entities here, nor is he protecting or avenging the deaths of any big name heroes.  Rather, Scourge is killing former criminals under SHIELD’s protection, guys who are either random AIM thugs or D-list, forgotten villains.  The result is a story that feels much smaller, more contained, and hence more focused.  There’s a sense in which the heroes have to put their brains to work here.  There’s also a great scene where Diamondback and Dum Dum visit a crime scene that had a very “Gotham Central” vibe to it.  There’s something innately satisfying about seeing superheroes, particularly in plain clothes, visiting a crime scene, exercising jurisdiction, and looking for clues.  At the very least, it makes for something a little different.
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