Uncanny X-Men #1 (2012)

Uncanny X-Men #1

Uncanny X-Men #1; Marvel Comics

Marvel’s efforts to reorganize (let’s use that euphemism) their X-titles worked for me.   I had no history in reading X-titles, and so I felt out-of-the-loop, as they say, regarding any of the characters and storylines.  While the Marvel Universe is generally run as an organic whole, everything related to the X-Men has always seemed to run parallel to and almost separately from the rest of the Marvel Universe.  This isn’t true, but the X-titles do tend to make up their own microcosm as opposed to how the Avengers correlate to the Marvel Universe.  Uncanny X-Men was a title that Marvel ran from 1963 – 2011 with over 550 issues (including annuals).  Therefore, jumping into the complex X-Men world was basically impossible from my point of view.

In 2010-2012, Marvel restarted, renumbered, and reorganized most of the X-Men titles – without destroying any of their past historical events.  My favorite Marvel writer, Jason Aaron, was given the Wolverine title and the Wolverine & The X-Men titles.  A title just called X-Men was started and in 2012, Marvel restarted Uncanny X-Men at issue #1. If ever readers were going to get involved in X-titles – this was definitely the best opportunity.

The events of Uncanny X-Men #1 are directly related to the events that take place in the mini-event X-Men Schism and are connected to both the Wolverine and X-Men titles.  Could a reader successfully read this issue without having read those I just mentioned? Of course; however, I can say that it really is the best option to have at least read the X-Men Schism mini-event. The writer for Uncanny X-Men #1 is Kieron Gillen and it’s obvious his first order of business is to explain something of what’s going on in the X-Men world without making things too messy.  His second task is to put forth an engaging storyline that should propel this particular title forward from issue #1.   I think that he succeeds in doing both, although the issue does not turn out to be anything fantastic.

Right away the reader is given the roster of those X-Men who are on the island Utopia.  The reader is also directly given the new and improved purpose and goal of these X-Men.  From the brain and mouth of Cyclops the reader learns, alongside the new organization of X-Men, what this team’s mission will be.  Welcome to the concept of Extinction Team.  This is a basic storyline. However, I cannot say that it’s entirely new in the X-Men world, little of it that I know.

“That is our primary aim, anything else is just survival.  It’s something we’ve tried before, but never on a big enough scale.  If this team saves humanity from extinction enough, people will realize how badly they need us.  In short, we’ve always been earth’s mightiest heroes.  Extinction team will prove it.” – Cyclops

That quote is from only two frames in the issue and I feel most readers who read without care might miss what was said there.  Like I said above, this is not exactly a new directive for X-Men – Cyclops readily admits that in this quote.  The difference is that it is now going to be attempted on a larger scale.  Well, I am sure that X-Men fans can argue the point of whether or not this has been done before.  But notice the last part of the quote:  Cyclops calls the X-Men “earth’s mightiest heroes” – which is actually the longtime tagline and monicker of none other than the Avengers.  Clearly, this presages the upcoming 2012 Marvel yearly event “Avengers vs. X-Men.”   Who are earth’s mightiest heroes?

A villain, Mr. Sinister, is introduced quickly – on first meeting him, he seems like a rather cool villain to me.  I mean, he’s ruthless, unhesitating, and “classy.”  But the part I did not like is this oddball goofy usage of the weird robot/alien Celestial.  And then Mr. Sinister controls and flies off in the thing’s head. Yeah, this seemed really goofy and silly.  However, I did get a kick out of what Mr. Sinister did when he lands the head at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts!  This villain and what’s he’s done there is the most interesting aspect of the issue.  (Also, Namor is his pompous-cocky self, even if it’s just a frame or two.)

3 stars

The Defenders #1 (2012)

Defenders

The Defenders #1; Marvel Comics

The Defenders is (yet another) team-up group in the Marvel Universe.  This relaunch of this group is a spin-off of some of the Fear Itself (awful 2011 event) storylines.  Anyway, this is the first issue in this new volume and it is written by Matt Fraction, penciled by Terry Dodson, inked by Rachel Dodson, and colored by Sonia Oback.  I really disliked Fear Itself (written by Fraction)  – even though I really wanted to like it.  I am enjoying the Invincible Iron Man volume which is also written by Fraction. So, here I was testing out this title.  I like the characters involved, even though I really don’t like the cover or the writer.

The cover has the Defenders posed in front of the enemy that they have assembled to battle.  Honestly, I really dislike the cover because the characters on the cover look like paper cut-outs that were just stuck on the pale-colored monster.  Namor in particular looks horrible – look at his right hand, it’s a fish hand!  Really, this is not a nice cover at all and it kind of hurts me to look at it. I really should not speak further on the matter.

Overall, the entire issue has a rather vintage feel to it. This is definitely something I think Fraction planned, because it’s too obvious not to be the case. When I say “vintage,” I mean the yellow boxes, the page guides in the bottom margin, the character title boxes, etc. There’s a lot here that really reads like a late 1980s or early 1990s comic book.  That’s not a bad thing; in fact, I rather enjoyed this aspect. It’s a bit “refreshing” to have a bit of a return to those issues.

Page 2 is all about the big bad monster. Page 3 introduces Doctor Strange – and I really hate this introduction.  Ugh. It’s a “morning after scene” with the Doctor sprawled in a pink bed in a messy room while the chick from last night informs him “This was a mistake.” Ugh. Bleechhh. I hate that this is how Fraction introduces Strange because it’s not classy at all, and I think Strange is classier than this. I hate how Dodson draws the scene, it’s not really how I would picture this scene – if I was forced to do so. Luckily, the story moves right along and Hulk busts into Strange’s room.  It’s a funny entrance:  Wong apologizing for not halting Hulk! Enter Namor into story. Enter Silver Surfer. But, then we get She-Hulk (red She-Hulk these days, folks!) and her entrance is really priceless. In fact, the frame that brings her into the story is what is responsible for my giving this comic more than one star.

Red She-Hulk Chasing Bulls

Red She-Hulk Chasing Bulls

This is not Jen Walters, this is Betty Ross. I think I prefer Jen Walters, but this is really my first time seeing any Red She-Hulk. (She was created in 2009 by Jeph Loeb.)  I just really got a kick out of She-Hulk in Pamplona – chasing the bulls and screaming “Come back and chase me, you cowards!”  That’s funny; a little silly and stupid, but funny nonetheless.

Ultimately, the story is absent. Hulk says some stuff about where the monster came from and why its a threat, but the reader does not get much by way of Hulk’s words. And then, the entrances of all of the characters except She-Hulk are obnoxious. These are not heroes, they are obnoxious jerks and this issue is about getting them all in one place and on the same quest – whatever that may be.  On the last page, the group seems to meet yet another character – who has them cornered. Overall, the story is pretty much what one expects from Matt Fraction.  The art, too, is somewhat weak. I like the effort to make the issue seem “vintage.” I like She-Hulk’s entrance. Other than that? Not too much here to really like.

2 stars

Avengers #10 – 12

Avengers 10

Avengers #10

Continuing onward in the storyline that started in issue #7, the Avengers seek to chase after the Infinity Gems – racing Parker Robbins to acquire them.  The Avengers (and X-Men) have divided into three teams.  One team has followed Professor X to the site of the old X-Men school. Another, larger, group has gone to Area 51. Finally, three very powerful heroes (Namor, Red Hulk, and Thor) are traveling deep underwater to obtain the gem that Namor had been in charge of.

Several interesting things occur in the issue that help to make it seem not just one big pile of heroes running around.  Underwater, once Namor retrieves the gem, the three heroes hover around. Red Hulk has his hand out to take it, but Namor gives it to Thor. I found this a neat subtle way of showing that the Avengers do not trust Red Hulk yet, and that Namor seems to have more faith in Thor than he does in himself – a rare moment of humility for Namor.

Another interesting tidbit involves the Avengers learning that Tony Stark owns Area 51.  They comment that they thought that he was impoverished.  Tony replies:  “My broke is not the same as your broke,” which I think is a classic line for Tony. It demonstrates his arrogance and the fact that he really is the richest character in the Marvel universe.  I got quite a chuckle out of this line, which stuck with me awhile after reading it.

Avengers 11

Avengers #11

Issue #11 starts off with a full page frame of Uatu.  If you know anything about Marvel comics, you know that when this dude is present, things are serious.  Parker Robbins appears as the three heroes emerge from the water. Robbins possesses the purple, red, and yellow gems already (space, power, and reality respectively).  After a tussle, the Red Hulk gains the red gem (power), but Robbins transports them all back to Area 51.  Unfortunately, Robbins escapes, even after the Avengers attack. It’s at this point that Spider-Man notices Uatu. “Anyone else happen to notice The Watcher is here… you know, watching!”

Robbins has zipped off to meet the Avengers & X-Men team at Xavier’s school. A battle ensues between Xavier and Robbins – which the former loses. I was surprised. The Avengers are not doing well in these issues. Robbins collects the mind gem and heads off to the astral plane to find the gem that was given to Dr. Strange. The art on in this issue is colorful as all get out.  The Astral plane is full of yellows and pinks and lights and spheres. It’s really quite a sensory bombardment. Dean White is the colorist and I have to give him a lot of credit because these seem to be some of the most colorful issues in comics in the last year or so. I think the writing is about what one should expect to find in an Avengers comic book.  The art is hit or miss, I feel. Some frames are great, others are not so pleasant to look at. It ends up being a bit discordant. Nevertheless, the colorist does a good job making the art look as bold and bright as possible.

Avengers 12

Avengers #12

I really like the cover of issue 12 because the artist dropped the title font to the center of the page and put a bold Iron Man in the center of the image.  Frankly, since issue #7, I fell hook-line-and-sinker for the setup that Tony Stark had fallen prey to his arrogance and greed. When I saw the cover, I did not think that the Avengers had saved the day, but rather that Stark had somehow managed to get his paws on all of the gems and was wielding them similarly to how Robbins would have.

The Avengers defeat Robbins. Iron Man does manage to get his hands on all of the infinity gems. And in front of the assembled heroes, he uses the gems to “wish them out of existence.”  He appears remorseful and solemn and the Avengers seem satisfied with his actions.  Steve Rogers welcomes Red Hulk to the Avengers officially because he says that Red Hulk acted both selflessly and smart.  I have to say that in this frame, Steve is pretty ugly.  This is certainly not some athletic and handsome movie star.  Steve’s face and hair is just drawn ugly. In the same frame, Red Hulk looks a bit like a Elvis. The pencils for these issues are done by John Romita, JR.  I still dislike his art and I feel that without the skills of the colorist and the inker, this art would be quite awful.  I admit the covers are bright and wild, but the interior art is sometimes downright ugly. It’s easy to see what’s happening in each frame and it matches the storyline, however, the art is not to my liking.

Yeah, I was sad to see the infinity gems/gauntlet be “wished out of existence” just like that – poof!  They have been such a driving force in the Marvel cosmic universe that I was disappointed that that was all the story we get.  I should have known better (and I bet most readers suspected more).  Apparently, Dr. Strange was surprised too, so I don’t feel so bad. The last pages of the issue show the Illuminati, once again dividing up the gems. This time, however, there is one more member among them who grasps the orange gem:  Steve Rogers. (Of course, it’s one of the ugliest Steve Rogers in comics yet…..)

Overall, I liked this arc. I like the infinity gems. I like Thor and Namor and Iron Man. However, I do feel this was an “all-ages” book, since there wasn’t the depth that I am used to reading in comics of late. But perhaps this is not a bad thing at all – the arc was fun, colorful, and let the writer play with the infinity gems. There is an awful lot for the writer/artist to juggle in this storyarc:  dozens of characters, a whole mess of gems, etc.  In some places, the story moves a little too fast, I think. In the end, the rift between Tony and Steve is somewhat better and the villain was defeated. This is well worth reading, but is probably not going to be one of the greatest Avengers arcs ever written.

4 stars

Namor #1 (2010)

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I am reading along in the “Curse of the Mutants” storyarc that started with the new 2010 X-Men series.  The storyarc continues in Namor #1 – also a new ongoing series of 2010 starring Marvel’s first mutant, Namor the Sub-Mariner.

Namor 1

Namor #1 cover

I signed up to get Namor regardless of whatever storyarc was running at the time.  I knew that the ongoing would not be the most popular and would most likely be canceled eventually, but I wanted to 1.) show Marvel I support ongoings outside of Deadpool and Wolverine2.)  for one time in my life be a subscriber to a Namor title.

The cover art for this issue was done by Jae Lee. I don’t run into art by him very often, although I have a number of his things for The Dark Tower comics.  I spent some good solid time looking at this Namor cover and am not sure if its great or if I dislike it.  First of all, the background water is done, in my opinion, very well. This looks like water. Deep below the surface of the water, clearly, and the tricks done with the lighting make it look real. In other words, Lee doesn’t just paint a blue background. Now, as far as Namor himself, he looks very youthful and almost Asian.  In fact, this is a very different looking Namor than the typical box-head, square-jaw we are used to seeing.  He almost looks petulant in this shot.  I don’t know how I feel about this.  Also, I find this pose to be very odd, as well. But I do admit:  this is very unique. Now, the “throne” Namor is sitting on isn’t really a throne.  It looks like an octopus that is surrounding him. At first glance I thought it was a throne, but Namor’s butt isn’t actually sitting on anything. He’s just hovering in the arms of the sea creature.

The story is written by Stuart Moore and interior art is done by Ariel Olivetti.  The interior art isn’t my favorite style.  It looks like it was drawn by a girl. Its got that feminine style to it – which was kind of a let down for me because I like the edgy sharpness of masculine art. Its not that the art here is bad, mind you. It just isn’t very hard and sharp. Everything seems blended and pastel, I suppose.

The story is written well. We learn a bit of background about The Aqueos (vampires sect), we met the Tridents (underwater sea people), and we learn about The Vault of Law. The Vault of Law is a box that can only be opened by a royal – so, Namor. And it contains Dracula’s head – which (Cp. X-Men issues) is what the X-Men are seeking. It has been stolen.  Namor recruits the Tridents to help him fetch it. The Aqueos Highlord meets them and fights. He declares war on all the Atlanteans.

Some problems first. The first time in this series that Namor says the famous Imperious Rex! Its as flat and deadpan as possible. I mean, its really lackluster, as if Namor himself is bored.  Also, on the small Trident force are two brothers: Husni and Husam.  I swear this sounds to me like Stuart Moore dug into Muslim history and discovered the Shia Imams:  Hussayn and Hassan.  It doesn’t matter too much, Husni is dispatched in the fight with the Aqueos in this very issue.

The good stuff:  there are some good quotes by Namor including this one:  “If you face death on this voyage, stare it in the eye and slit it down to the gills!.”  Also the storyline moves along nicely, we learn background, we fight, we end with a threat by a scary evil baddie.  So, as far as issue #1’s go, this one meets all expectations. I just don’t prefer the art and some parts of Namor’s dialogue are flat.

2 stars

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