Uncanny X-Men #1 (2012)


Uncanny X-Men #1 (2012) 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 Fearless #1

Fearless 1

Fear Itself: The Fearless #1; Marvel Comics

The Fear Itself comic event that spewed across Marvel Comics in 2011 was more or less a disaster.  The helmsman, Matt Fraction, made a mess of things for a miserable, confused event that grew even bigger than the sweeping events of World War Hulk and Civil War.  The tragedy of this event caused me to avoid Marvel Comics titles for a long time. Finally, well past the event itself, I decided to just muscle my way through everything.  I whipped through one issue after another. The Tony Stark storyline was interesting. The rest? Ugh.

That Marvel/Fraction began dragging out the Fear Itself abomination even further with this 12-issue expansion called Fear Itself: The Fearless caused many fans to just drop all Marvel titles from their pull lists. Many critics complained that Marvel was milking it, but I suppose that presumes there was anything to milk in the first place. Fear Itself was poor. Of that event, I bought the seven core issues. I bought subseries with Namor, Wolverine, and Deadpool. And I bought #7.1 and #7.3.  Frankly, the .1 and the .3 issues were probably a lot better than anything Fear Itself contained.  I am still harboring a bit of animosity toward Fraction’s writing.

Anyway, The Fearless is a twelve issue limited series that I bought just for semi-completist-sake. (paradox) I liked the concept of the story being contained in twelve issues. Also, since I suffered through Fear Itself, I wanted to see if this epilogue story could salvage anything for the event…and Fraction. This past week I picked up issue #11 of The Fearless. Today, I finally read issue #1. Yes, that is how dreadful Fear Itself was – it actually made me very much avoid Marvel titles, which, I suspect, is the antithesis of what Marvel wants their events to accomplish.

Fear Itself encompassed many, many issues. But on the opening splash page of The Fearless #1, there are three short paragraphs that introduce the background to the reader. Frankly, they actually, in three short paragraphs, sum up the entirety of Fear Itself.  Eight mystical hammers smashed into earth.  They were wielded by eight warriors called The Worthy. The Worthy were avatars of the Norse god of Terror: the Serpent. Odin, father-god of Asgard, planned to destroy the earth in order to stop The Worthy (and therefore, the Serpent). Iron Man and Captain America and some other heroes save earth. The hammers were scattered around the world. There, you now know what happened in Fear Itself – don’t bother reading it, unless you are truly comics obsessed.

Now, I admit the bar was set quite low for this series. Nevertheless, despite Fraction’s name on the cover, I opened the issue. And I kept on turning pages and enjoying the artwork and the story right until I reached the back cover. I was, obviously, pleasantly surprised. If Fraction can write so well for the Invincible Iron Man title and can assist with the writing for The Fearless, what on earth was he doing with Fear Itself? Needless to say, I was so surprised, I read the issue again. Okay, to be honest, it’s not the greatest issue ever published, but altogether a vast improvement over the event itself.

The issue opens with the introduction of Brunnhilde in the year 1945. It’s a nicely drawn and colored introduction for the warrior – and her fight scene against the snow wyrm is clear and concise. Simple warrior action story on those pages. Then, the comic jumps ahead in time to present day Washington, D.C. where the Avengers are cleaning up after the massive destruction [sic!] wrought by Fear Itself.  Brunnhilde is arguing with Captain America over the property rights of the hammers. The dialogue on these pages is well-written and the artwork complements the discussion.  The artwork is framed really well, with snippets of other heroes (superheroes and regular humans) working in the area. In the end Captain America tells Brunnhilde to forget it because he is determined to keep the hammers in mankind’s possession and hidden.

Next few pages detail the villain Crossbones using a criminal network to obtain the location of the hammers. He provides this to Sin (the daughter of the Red Skull and formerly, one of The Worthy).  Sin, is drawn and written very nicely in her appearance here:  she’s caustic, arrogant, and sinister – which is how we like our Sin!  The last few pages detail Brunnhilde standing before one of the hammers in custody.  War Machine, who I have not seen in awhile, finds her there and attempts to dialogue with her. Unfortunately, Brunnhilde does not feel the need to converse and takes matters into her own hands and steals the hammer!

So here is an issue with interesting dialogue, good fight scenes, exciting characters, and good artwork. Everything a comic ought to have and everything Fear Itself did not have. I have higher hopes for issue #2, but I still have not forgiven Fraction.

4 stars

** Also, as a warning do not look at Sin on the cover too much…. or you’ll see the oddest thing.

The Incredible Hulk #6

Incredible Hulk 6

The Incredible Hulk #6; Marvel Comics

I did not subscribe to The Incredible Hulk series when it started. I was skeptical because though Jason Aaron is my favorite writer, I was unsure that he and Hulk were a good match.  I loved the World War Hulk event that Marvel Comics ran in 2007.  In 2008, the Hulk title was released under the writing skill of Jeph Loeb. I collected the first fifteen issues of that series. I also collected the Skaar series (twelve issues). But when She-Hulk ended and turned into She-Hulks and then there was the Fall of the Hulks, I kind of got really lost.  Hulk got really confusing and I just gave up on what was happening. The last I had read was Incredible Hulk #601.

But then it’s Jason Aaron. And I actually went on Twitter and asked him directly if I needed any of that background or if a reader could just pick up issue #1. He answered me saying that readers could easily just pick up the first issue. Now, sure, I suppose Marvel could make him say that (sales and such), but I think Aaron is a pretty straight shooter. So, I grabbed issues #1 and #2 and read the heck out of them. I really loved the artwork.  The storyline seemed unique and to have a lot of potential, but I was not sold on the matter. I needed to see more about where Aaron was taking the character in order to really want to read along on a monthly basis. Hulk and Banner have been separated. Of course, Aaron does not really tell you how or why any of this occurred until issue #5. Which is okay, because I trust in Aaron and I was willing to read four issues without having that question directly dealt with.

Issue #6 was a good issue that explained many of the threads in the previous issues. It also contains lots of battles and action. The dialogue is also very good – as is to be expected from this particular writer. The cover was done by Leinil Yu. Overall, it’s an okay cover, nothing in it makes me want to say it’s gonna make it to this year’s top ten covers.

The interior artwork is by Whilce Portacio.  For the first three issues, the artwork was Marc Silvestri’s and I think that that art was superior to Portacio’s.  In fact, I felt like Silvestri and Aaron had a really good product together – the frames of Hulk were striking and unique. Together, they were able to establish a Hulk that was different than ye olde Hulk, which I think is what Aaron was striving for. In issue #6, Portacio’s art is similar to what Silvestri was doing, but it seems a little less “finished” than the early issues. Nevertheless, I really like the framing on most of the pages. I like the close up shots of faces and I definitely appreciate the last page of the issue! Still, I would rather see Silvestri’s art.

Amanda Von Doom costume

Amanda Von Doom drawn by Whilce Portacio

My biggest complaint about this issue is the costume/uniform that Amanda Von Doom is wearing. Not all of it, but just her. . . . . boob shields. Okay, so we can easily see that Amanda Von Doom is wearing a one-piece outfit that is mostly blue. The sleeves roll up exposing her forearms and the collar covers her neck. But there are a couple frames that make me think that Portacio is not really drawing the costume…um… correctly. If the material of the outfit is absolutely skin-tight, this explains why in this particular frame, we are able to see Von Doom’s navel. But yet, the folds on her back show that it is not really skin-tight at all. And then there are these “boob shields” that sort of just hang out on the outfit. How are they on there? I mean, does this material really take the soldering/sewing of such “shields” onto boobs? And what purpose do these serve – obviously, just to draw attention to Von Doom’s boobs. But her shirt does not even seem natural for showing off her boobs. I don’t know how to explain it; there’s just something really bizarre looking about her costume. Now, I am not usually one to make too much of a fuss about female characters because I know all the reasons artists draw them the way they do.  One learns to accept some eye-rolling silly female outfits in comics. But this one? This one is just crappy.

One of the things that I like about this issue’s writing is how Aaron focuses on the choice-making that Hulk does. This Hulk is not just a brute who takes orders or who gets angry. It seems Aaron wants to show us that Hulk is an autonomous, initiative-taking, choice maker. This makes the story have a lot more depth than just showing us that things happen or that the Hulk battles enemies. It makes the story interesting, which is one of the reasons I buy and read comics.

4 stars

Avengers #19

Avengers 19I have not read an Avengers comic in awhile.  There are several reasons for this, but the biggest is that I have been more excited about DC Comics than Marvel lately.  The second reason, by no means insignificant, is that Fear Itself really slogged a lot of the Marvel titles. It was a not a good event and because so many Marvel titles were tie-ins or caught up in that event, it messed up the energy and momentum of a number of titles.

Anyway, #19 is the second to come from the event without the Fear Itself banner. #18 was okay, but honestly, by the time I read this one, I had long forgotten the contents of #18.  The cover for #19 was done by Daniel Acuna; the writing continues to be done by Brian Michael Bendis.  When I first glanced at the cover, I thought the art had been done by Howard Chaykin (whose art I do not like.)  However, I learned that it was done by Acuna and I have given it some deeper examination. I like the white background. I realized that the white background really stands out among other issues because it looks so clean and bright.  However, the characters are actually outlined in a light blue color. I’m not sure what this is about – maybe to make the transition from white to the other colors better? I am no artist, but somehow these outlines look odd to me. Also, well, I don’t like the layout of the cover, although Captain America is in a rather traditional pose.

The issue starts off in Rikers Island Maximum Security Penitentiary – the Raft – where Norman Osborn has recently escaped. I confess that I do not remember this from previous issues, but it’s not exactly a surprising thing.  Anyway, we are introduced to Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Daisy Johnson who has been specifically assigned (by Captain America) to root out the situation at The Raft.  Again, I know better, but I thought this was Maria Hill. Oops. Do all female S.H.I.E.L.D. agents look the same and have the same attitudes?

Meanwhile, the media has gathered outside of Avengers Mansion for an announcement by the Avengers regarding the roster of the team.  We see Captain America trying to recruit Black Panther, who turns him down but suggests that his wife (Storm) be included. Storm gets a full-page entrance, surrounded by the falling leaves of the back courtyard of the mansion. She should, I think, be given a nice entrance, but I find the odd “confetti” leaves a bit odd.  Tony Stark has a surprise, too.  He reintroduces The Vision – the robot of the old, old Avengers teams.  Everyone is surprised, but happy to see Vision.  But the best moment is when Vision sees Red Hulk; Red Hulk’s reaction to Vision is also funny.  It’s fun to see Red Hulk in these awkward moments. All of these frames, drawn out of doors in sunshine, make the comic have a lighter, brighter appeal to it. After all, Fear Itself (and plenty of other storylines) have been very dark and heavy. It’s nice to not be reading a comic taking place in a basement-bunker at night.

Victoria Hand is there to “liaison” and the team steps out in front of the media on a stage.  The frame with all of the Avengers there before the media is pretty standard – I feel like every so often we see some variant of this frame. It would actually be sort of interesting to collect and look at all the frames that have the Avengers on the stage before the media. Anyway, this one is done fine, nothing too remarkable about it.  However, guess who is in the crowd? None other than Norman Osborn!

Easter Egg:  Last frame – on the microphone the newsman holds out toward Norman Osborn are the letters CBR – presumably standing for Comic Book Resources (

Overall, the issue is standard fare – nothing at all amazing to it. The art is clean and matches the story.  Acuna does draw a good Captain America. He also uses bold primary colors, which gives the issue a solid feel to it. The writing? Well, again, we’ll just have to see where Bendis is going to take this storyline.  However, on its own, there’s nothing remarkable that makes me know it’s Bendis as opposed to someone else.

3 stars

The Defenders #1 (2012)


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

Invincible Iron Man #511

Invincible Iron Man

Invincible Iron Man #511; Marvel Comics

I have been reading Invincible Iron Man for several years now, I think since the Extremis armor storyline.  The numbering of this particular title has, of course, changed but this is actually the 46th issue in this volume (2008).  For the most part, this volume has been above average, but nothing has been really awesome amazing.  In other words, this is a solid Marvel title with one of the classic characters.

I am not a big fan of writer Matt Fraction; in fact, I am not really a fan at all, but I am trying to be kind. Last year, Fraction’s event Fear Itself was a bloody mess and aggravated a lot of Marvel readers. Fraction’s been writing this volume since issue #1, however, and has done a decent job.  Every issue that I read is good – but the writing is not the strong part, the art is. Salvador Larroca’s artwork is phenomenal and perfect. I love it. Every issue I look at I find myself saying things like: “Hey, that’s a really good frame” or “This art is really quite good.”  So, ultimately, I am not sure where this title would be without Larroca.

The above holds true for issue #511.  The storyline is good enough, albeit a little tired. I feel after 46 issues, we are still in the same exact arc as issue #1.  Now, I know that Iron Man has his particular villains that he constantly battles and that contained storylines are something of a rarity in today’s comic industry. However, I feel like we are having some sort of groundhog day stuck-age where we are moving forward and moving forward, but just not going anywhere. The thing is, it’s interesting (fighting Ezekial Stane and the Mandarin), but we have been doing it for 40 issues. Looking at the whole volume, it’s easy to see developments and progression, but at the same time, I feel there is this lack of anything happening. It’s a very odd read – which is why I was complaining about Fraction.

However, as long as Larroca keeps drawing, I am going to keep reading. His artwork is fantastic and, honestly, not enough readers/critics are talking about it. It really ought to be praised more than it is. Maybe after all these issues, everyone has started to take it for granted. I haven’t though, because reading this issue I was still impressed with the art.

Pepper Potts by Larroca

angry Pepper Potts by S. Larroca

Here are two of my favorite frames from this issue. The first is of Pepper Potts. Potts is angry and frustrated. Maybe even a little hurt. And Larroca is able to display all of these emotions on her face in such a way that it doesn’t make Pepper look silly, constipated, or blah.  You can look at this frame and almost empathize with Pepper.  It may seem like a “simple” facial drawing, but it actually conveys Fraction’s storyline better than Fraction’s words.

Sasha Hammer by Larroca

Sasha Hammer by S. Larroca

Another frame that really, really caught my eye was of Sasha Hammer. She’s standing in front of the Detroit Steel tech and the media, with dozens of cameras, is eating the scene up. I was trying to imagine a shiny piece of armor as a backdrop for a saavy, catty chick like Sasha. I then imagined all the camera’s flashing and the media crowded around her while she basks in the attention.  When I stopped imagining, I found that Larroca had been in my brain had had drawn precisely the image that I had imagined. Really. I mean, I love how her hair looks, I love the incline of her head, I love the sunglasses. Of course, Larroca’s art here is perfectly completed by colorist Frank D’Armata. The “blurry” colorful background with the flashbulb reflections in the sunglasses is awesome. Really. I mean, you feel like you are right there in the scene at Hammer Industries’ Hanger with the arrogant Sasha Hammer.

4 stars

Captain America #1 (2011)

Captain America 1
Captain America #1 cover

In 2011, Marvel Comics released the Captain America live-action blockbuster movie.  Marvel Comics was also in the middle of one of their all-title-encompassing “events” (Fear Itself) which was occupying most of the the continuity of the titles.  So, I suppose the marketing division decided to release a new title, Captain America, which starts numbering at 1 and features the talents of Ed Brubaker and Steve McNiven – neither are rookies to the Captain America mythos.  In other words, for those inclined to read the adventures of Captain America after having seen the movie, this was the title that was made available for them.  The “regular” Captain America title was changed to Captain America and Bucky and continued with the numbering – #620+.

The release of this new title was a good move. Frankly, a lot has happened to Captain America in the last five or so years – including his death, his rebirth, and his refusal to carry the shield and wear the Captain America costume. (Bucky took over for Captain America after Steve Rogers died.)  So, for newcomers who want to follow Steve qua Captain, this new title is directed at them.  However, Marvel smartly did not just make this a title for “newbies” and put some B-level creators to work on it just to pump out another comic.  Brubaker and McNiven are well versed in the Captain America mythos and are solid respected creators.

This issue begins with Steve Rogers not fighting evil Nazis, but rather dressing for a funeral.  The dialogue opens with Steve contemplating that he forget he is a “man out of time.”  He forgets that he should be an old man by now – however, is reminded of this when people he knew in the 1940s die.  This time, Peggy Carter has died and Steve and Peggy’s niece, Sharon, are attending the funeral in Paris, France.  Also at the funeral are Dum Dum Dugan and Nick Fury.  As the group departs the cemetery the action begins, Steve tackles Dum Dum after noticing a red laser sight. Rogers takes off in pursuit after the shooter, whom he recognizes as someone he has not seen since 1944. The last two pages of the issue set up the storyline for the villains, which include Zemo.

The writing is clear and concise, not heavy-handed and not too sappy.  The artwork is perfect for new and old readers alike, it’s very clean and open.  The frames are not overly inked or cluttered. In some sense, the framing and artwork has a very traditional-comic book feel to it.  Large frames, lots of shots of Captain America’s shield, and plain open backgrounds make the artwork accessible to readers.  Overall, it’s clear that this title’s main purpose is to entertain new readers, however, the storyline (particularly with the villains) shows the potential to give long-time readers plenty to enjoy.  I feel the storyline is not going to be hurried and will not involve threads from every previous Captain America story.  This is good, because Captain America is one of Marvel’s major characters who does not need a lot of complications to be a successful read.

3 stars


Daredevil #1 (2011)

Daredevil 1

Daredevil #1 cover

I have said it before:  I have high expectations for issues that are #1’s.  I demand more, expect more, and want more out of them, because if the publisher is going to put forth a first issue – he’s marketing it to me – he has to convince me.  He has to prove, right out of the gate, that there is a purpose and a goal in creating a new series/title, and that the story I am going to follow along is worthwhile, entertaining, and new. This new Daredevil title has received all sorts of acclaim.  Many comic sites have called it one of the top three new series of 2011.  Everywhere I looked, this title (and this issue) was praised and lauded.

I got interested in Daredevil with the Shadowland event.  And I am not ashamed or abashed to say that I actually quite enjoyed Shadowland – and even Tweeted the writer my thanks for his story.  Then, I read the 4-issue Daredevil: Reborn miniseries which bridges the gap between Shadowland and this new Daredevil title. The story in Reborn was not awesome, but the covers were absolutely awesomely amazing. AAA – in other words. Triple A. 5 star greatness.

This cover, which was done by Paolo Rivera, I believe, is also fantastic. It is also very representative of the interior art and story which is the essence of this new title.  First of all, I love “simple” cover art – by this I mean, not cluttered and sloppy and busy, but generally just a focus on one or two characters with a glorious background.  This cover is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time because it shows that the artist truly understands the character. I do not mean this in some sappy psychological manner. I mean, the artist actually seems to be reveling in his understanding of what makes Daredevil a unique and interesting character.

One of the main reasons that I disliked Daredevil was that he was uninteresting. This cover, alone, demonstrates to me that this series has made Daredevil an interesting and exciting character. I absolutely love the word-art onomatopoeia that is the background for this cover. It’s great! Look closely and see the birds in the scene. Read some of the words: HONK SCREECH THUD VROOOMM. However, my favorite part of the cover is the perfectly depicted smile on Daredevil’s face. It’s mischievous, cocky, and fun. This isn’t the tired and miserable Daredevil of yesteryear. This Daredevil, swinging towards us right off the page, is ready for fun, action, and coolness.

The interior art is just as fantastic as the cover art.  The last page of the main story is really phenomenal – I would love a poster of it. Several frames throughout the pages are just excellent – the artwork is clean and uncluttered, but filled with that real understanding of the character. The pink “radar” lines and the clean pencils just make the artwork in this issue outstanding and really, I cannot praise it sufficiently. Sometimes, I look at a frame and think: “Wow, yeah, that’s such a unique and creative way of seeing this scene – and totally encompasses how Daredevil deals with the world!”

The writing is pretty good, too. I mean, I like how Daredevil seems arrogant, but capable. He’s not moping around, and he’s got a fun and mischievous flavor that shows through in both the dialogue and in the way other characters react to him.  It’s a really fun story that definitely makes you want to read the next issue – which is the precise goal of first issues. The backup story in the issue is also very well done, and again really makes the title a cohesive entry between Shadowland, Reborn, and this new series’ storyline.

5 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