Carlos Pacheco

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

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Justice League of America #21 (2006)

Justice League 21

Justice League #21 (2006) cover

 Continuing on in my quest to “catch-up” on the now “defunct” DC Universe circa 2006-2009, I pulled this issue to formally start my adventure into Final Crisis.  This comic has a cover date of July 2008 and was written by Dwayne McDuffie with art by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino.  The writer, McDuffie, died in February of 2011 at the age of 49.  Random factoid:  I read somewhere that he had a masters degree in physics.

At first I did not like it very much at all.  However, after reading the story through and spending more time looking at the cover, I think its basically a good cover in concept, but there are some challenges that knock it down from being a great cover.  In the background we see large city buildings, giving us a setting for this issue.  The two characters are not ones I am familiar with at all, and I daresay that most DC readers at the time were probably not too familiar with them either.  In the foreground is Libra and standing in the center of the image is The Human Flame.  Libra is holding a staff of some sort that is topped by a small hanging scales of justice. The staff serves as a visual aid to draw one’s attention to Red Arrow, who’s limp tattered body is being held up by a smirking Human Flame. If you’ve spent this much time checking out the cover, you will probably now finally see Hawkgirl.  Those are actually her wings that are cluttering up the center of the image and appear to be on fire. Hawkgirl is the problem with the image. The wings are messy and at first glance I thought they were just burning kindling. Her left leg is bent at an impossible angle and honestly, she’s not very easy to recognize in this shot. Its not a bad cover, but the art for Hawkgirl is messy.

Anyway, the issue starts at the Hall of Justice in Washington, DC with Wonder Woman and Batman bantering a bit. Superman shows up and we learn that Batman came to the Hall so that the other two could present a secret “slideways” room.  Only these three and Green Lantern know about this room – which is basically just a table and chairs for the big three to sit and discuss/scheme/banter in.

In these panels is one of the best smirking shots of Batman I’ve seen.  In fact the writing and art for this whole section is really excellent. Not only is it amusing and interesting just as it is, but I think it does a very good job of storytelling. (1.) the new reader is eased into the storyline, so this issue could be a good “jumping on point,” as they say.  (2.) Even if the reader is not new, we are given some clues as to what is happening with Black Canary, Martian Manhunter, and Vixen. All of this is couched in the problematic that these three superheroes want to make sure the League is in good, capable hands without requiring constant supervision from one of these three.

Nearby, in Baltimore, Maryland, we are treated to the thoughts of The Human Flame. He introduces himself while he is in the process of robbing a small branch bank.  He explains how he is able to break in using his firepower and explains his motivation.  As he gets outside of the bank with his stolen goods, the police are waiting and Hawkgirl and Red Lantern are on the scene. The artwork for the ensuing fight is excellent. Frequently, I am slightly irritated by fight-scene artwork because it can be confusing and absurd.  Although this will not be remembered as the greatest fight in comics history, it was a solidly written/drawn fight.  I followed along with interest. And though it seems the heroes have the upper-hand, The Human Flame is able to give them the slip – until Hawkgirl catches up to him in an alley.  And here we are introduced to Libra. He says:  “The scales must be balanced, Hawkgirl.” And to The Human Flame: “I’m the answer to your every dream. Call me Libra.”

At a gathering in Central City, we find Libra introducing The Human Flame to an ever-growing group that includes Lex Luthor and other villains.  Libra tells The Human Flame that he can give him his heart’s desire, which in this case is revenge.  The Human Flame wants revenge on the Martian Manhunter whom The Human Flame blames for his life of disaster and failure.  Eight years ago the Martian Manhunter defeated The Human Flame, humiliating him in the process.  The last three frames of the book show Martian Manhunter on an arid distant planet. There is a “BOOM” and Martian Manhunter has disappeared.

It’s par for the course in reading comics to encounter a group of villains who decide to band together and get revenge on the heroes who have defeated them.  This sort of storyline is neither original, nor unique.  In fact, in Marvel Comics’ Dark Reign/Dark Avengers event, we find The Hood (Parker Robbins) attempted to do something similar with the Marvel villains. However, even though the plot device was familiar, I was still interested in the storyline – I wanted to know what had happened to Martian Manhunter. I also wanted to know what was going to come of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman and their secret meeting room.

It’s been said that this issue is a prelude to the Final Crisis event, and I can see that now. And it is a very good prelude, because I definitely wanted to read Final Crisis to find out what happens next.  Both the writing and the artwork were top-notch.

5 stars