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

X-Men #17

X-Men 17

X-Men #17 cover

The first X-Men comics that I have read, began in this 2010 series, of which this is issue #17.  For the most part, I was pleased with the first 15 issues. Many people did not like the first storyarc (Curse of the Mutants), but I like Gischler’s writing and I think it was a satisfactory and interesting story. None of issues have been standout amazing – you know, the kind you frame and re-read a dozen times in a week. However, the issues have remained solid entries into the X-Men canon.

This storyarc Betrayal in the Bermuda Triangle started in issue #16.  Basically, the Future Foundation (which is what the current Fantastic Four are called) happened upon a mysterious buoy that was encoded with a mayday message from a different dimension. The message was actually from one of Cyclops’ old ex-girlfriends. The FF headed to Utopia (X-Men island homebase) to enlist the X-Men on a mission to go to the different dimension and rescue said ex-girlfriend.

So, we have a “team-up” scenario with the FF and the X-Men. Not all of the X-Men, though just: Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost, Pixie, Dr. Nemesis, and Magneto.  Also, for some reason (I do not read the FF title), Doctor Doom is a member of the FF and is going along for this rescue mission. (In issue #16 there is a cute “aside” wherein Thing and Wolverine banter about how Doom and Magneto are “teammates.”)  The first thing that happens when the team lands in the new dimension – they open their ship canopy and discover a jungle filled with dinosaurs.

Needless to say, I was somewhat disinterested in the story in issue #16. I am not too fond of the FF and going with them to a dimension in which there are dinosaurs made me dubious and unenthused.  The only good part to issue #16 were the frames in which Emma Frost (Cyclops’ current girlfriend) was sarcastically commenting on having to rescue Cyclops’ ex-girlfriend. I’m really starting to like Frost – both in the X-Men title and in the Wolverine titles.  Therefore, I was not expecting much out of this storyarc, much less out of issue #17.  Even the cover of issue #17, while a nice piece of art, just does not engender any feelings of excitement or thrill.

I judged a bit harshly, because issue #17 surprised me and actually got me interested in the storyarc.  The first two pages consist of bantering between Cyclops, Emma Frost, and Sue Richards. This was okay stuff; like I said, I’m becoming enamored of Frost. But page three has a really great piece of artwork:  full page scene of the heroes looking over a small cliff at a really neat-looking, science-fiction futuristic, alien city that has developed, apparently, around a crashed space ship. Very cool. Anytime that happens in a movie or a comic – yeah, I’m excited. “I-want-to-go-to-there.”

The other heroes discover information about the found buoy and learn about George Stanislaus. Magneto, Dr. Nemesis, and Reed are fixing their ship and Nemesis presents the problematic of needing a gigantic power source to fix the ship.  Wolverine, Thing, and Pixie get into a number of scrapes and finally run into Cyclops’ ex-girlfriend – who is sexy, confidant, and gets a full page piece of art to introduce herself. We also meet the sentient life on the planet (so, other living things besides dinosaurs).   However, the real win for the issue is the last page – Doctor Doom!!!!

Overall, this issue fixed all of the worries and complaints that I had with the previous issue. And there were several pages of art which were quite good.  (Art in this issue was done by Jorge Molina.)  I really like the dynamics of some of the team-ups here and I am actually somewhat interested in the overarching large scenario that the different factions in the book seem to be coiling around. Definitely money well-spent.

4 stars

X-Men: Schism #1

X-Men Schism

X-Men Schism #1 cover

The first point I’d like to make here is that this miniseries/mini-event was written by Jason Aaron who is my favorite comic writer. I mention this because I admit that I am slightly biased in my review because, well, Aaron rocks and I want to see him succeed and be writing comics for a very, very long time. Yep, total fanboy loser here and not caring!

This mini-event called Schism is a five-issue limited series involving the X-Men.  There was a four-issue miniseries entitled Prelude to Schism that was released prior to this series. I did not buy it or read it, but I know that it focuses on four major leaders of the X-Men community and their role as leader.  However, I did read all of the X-Men series volume that started in 2010 as well as the Wolverine 2010 volume. So, I was up-to-date with those before reading this first issue of Schism.

Now, as is my usual method, let me discuss the cover. I did not get any variants, just got the standard first printing issue.  And I am disappointed.  The artwork for issue was was drawn (interior and cover) by Carlos Pacheco. The main reason that I am disappointed is because the cover is just an adjustment of a scene from the interior art.  In other words, this is no special exciting cover.  And that is disappointing because this Schism event was really publicized as a big deal; so not having a truly separate piece of art for the cover somewhat belies that sentiment.  That being said…. the frame in the interior of the comic that is similar to the piece shown on the cover is absolutely fantastic. It’s exciting, active, and entirely without words. No dialogue or exposition, just a two-page centerfold spread of Cyclops and Wolverine destroying Sentinels.  Pacheco’s art here is fantastic – it really should be made into a poster and plastered on all the X-Men fans’ walls. It’s fun and classic-feeling to see these two X-Men taking out the baddies without any cluttering words, just good old head-popping battle.

The issue (event) starts out with Wolverine arriving on the X-Men island, Utopia, with his uniform in tatters and with arrows and throwing stars actually sticking out of his flesh.  He looks rough.  I read some other reviews and people did not quite understand these frames – why does Wolverine look like this?  Honestly, it’s all contained in the recent issues of Wolverine.  He was fighting the Red Right Hand and it got pretty messy for him.  Sure, he wasn’t wearing the same costume, but it IS comics and that IS a different comic title. Anyway, I just assumed that this mess is due to that storyarc in the Wolverine title. (Which, by the way, Jason Aaron is also writing.)

Most of the next chunk of the issue deals with the interactions between Cyclops and Wolverine.  There are some really nice frames of both writing and art.  Some readers did not like the interactions between Cyclops and Wolverine. Some felt that Wolverine was out of character or that the interactions were forced.  Honestly, I have to disagree because I feel Wolverine’s responses were very sensible based on his recent adventures in the Wolverine title. For 17 issues in that series, Wolverine has been punished and beaten and tortured especially by people throwing his mistakes and troubles in his face.  I mean, literally, he went to hell itself.  So, Wolverine probably is going to feel a bit of guilt and remorse and treat Cyclops with a bit of respect.  Not to say that Wolverine is some sort of happy chum.  He is quite grouchy here, too.

Kid Omega’s entrance…. yeah… really… lame and laughable. However, I feel that the reader was supposed to realize how lame and laughable it was.  I do not feel it was supposed to be an entrance of some really slick badass.  Like most things in the real world, major catastrophes start because some dumbass did something ridiculous.  Kid Omega’s telepathic compulsion enacted on all the government leaders was really cool, though. And I admit it did make me wonder how that would be in real life. Aaron, you are such a cynic!  But also, most importantly, Aaron references “The Revolution Will Not be Televised.”  That is so cool. Back when all the Occupy Wherever started, I was listening to that song thinking it was so apropos. [For the record, I do not support Occupy Anything.]  But kudos to Aaron for working that gem into a comic book!

For some reason, and contrary to all likelihood, I have taken a fondness to Emma Frost – and NOT because she runs around like a naked Hooters girl.  Something about her uppity, bitchy attitude has been amusing in recent X-titles (LOL – even that is punny!)   Anyway, I liked her and Storm in this issue. They were supporting roles, but somehow done quite well.  Cyclops (whom I never liked) has always been a whiny, annoying, jerk. So, even though he’s trying to act all leader-adult-bitter here, I still don’t like him.

However, there are some excellent awesome frames in this issue – again without words – wherein we see the Sentinels of various countries.  China, Egypt, Russia, Paris. And these frames are awesome. Really. Pacheco gets a gold star! Excellent artwork.

Overall, the villainous plot and the mastermind is a bit ridiculous and absurd. However, it is the first of five issues and I am willing to wait and see how this plays out before I am going to make a judgment on the villains. I am skeptical, but it’s too early to start a critique.  And I am quite interested to get reading the rest of the miniseries. This did not get awesome ratings from many readers/reviewers whom I usually trust.  Frankly, I don’t know what they were looking for if they didn’t find it in this issue. Sometimes, it’s too easy to just be negative right out of the gate, I think.

4 stars

Under the Boardwalk & Get Castle

Wolverine: Under the Boardwalk

Wolverine: Under the Boardwalk

These are two issues I read today. I am combining them into one entry because they are both one-shots and therefore outside of any current storylines running through their titles. Surprisingly, I liked both of them quite a bit. I usually hate one-shots because they just steal my money because they can. I read Punisher Max: Get Castle and Wolverine: Under the Boardwalk.

The cover date for Under the Boardwalk is February 2010. I have mentioned several times that I am sick of Wolverine and any one-shots they do with him. Its the over-exposure thing. Plus, I feel like there are so many stories that could be written with other characters but writers just seem to keep hammering Wolverine. Eventually, I believe, the well will run dry, and the character will be ruined. Supersaturation is not a good thing. That being said, I did not buy this issue full price. It was one of the 40% off back issues, but the cover price is $3.99.  I grudgingly bought it because, well, I am a comics nut. I was not excited to read it – assuming it would just be another issue of blood and guts.

The cover is pretty cool, though, right? It was done by Thomas Coker and Daniel Freedman

Wasn’t I pleasantly surprised?!  This one shot has quite a bit less blood and guts compared to all the other one-shots of the previous two years. And, it has a storyline that is readable. Its not just pointless “watch Wolverine slash some dudes!” I really appreciate that. Thank you writer Stuart Moore for a real story!  The ending, i.e. the last three pages, is really good as well. Overall, the story has a noir feel to it, as Wolverine traipses through some old memories peppered by women and gangsters. Nicely done.

4 stars

Get Castle

Punisher: Get Castle

This issue I got as part of my subscription to the regular PunisherMAX title. Immediately, I was put off by the Brit flag in the background. But I do like non-busy covers. This looks like the Punisher in the rain in England? Still, for $4.99 I was somewhat annoyed.

Its a MAX title, so you know there’s gonna be some “stuff” in it. Which is okay. Its the Punisher, remember. (Oh, as an aside, my eye caught somewhere that Marvel has a Punisher Noir miniseries. I would like to check this out. Does it take place in the 1920’s? That tickles me.) Anyway, no doubt there is some “adult” material inside, but its not just for show. There is a storyline! Imagine my joy – two one-shots with characters known for their blood and guts and yet I find actual storytelling! So, Punisher goes to England, and removes some of the corruption in a little town there. Corruption caused by some squad of Britain’s elite fighting force. Throughout, we are reminded that patience and careful reconnaissance are what make the Punisher successful. Also, there is a hint that Castle still understands the symbols and loyalty of a military unit.

At the end, Punisher doesn’t hesitate to do what he’s gotta do. All in all, a worthwhile story. Written by Rob Williams.

4 stars

March 2007: Cover of the Month

This was a difficult month with some rather unpleasant covers. I finally scrounged up these three contestants.

  • Batman #662
  • Wolverine #50
  • 52 #47

Of course, I have to give the cover of the month title to Wolverine #50, since its the fiftieth issue and its a wrap-around. Cover artists: Simone Bianchi and Morry Jay Hollowell.

Wolverine 50

Wolverine (2003) #50 cover

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