Tuesday, October 25, 2011

X-Men: Phoenix Rising (comics)

Writers: Roger Stern, John Byrne, Bob Layton
Artists: John Buscema, John Byrne, Jackson Guice
Collects: Avengers #263, Fantastic Four #286, X-Factor #1, Classic X-Men #8 and #43

Poor Jean Grey. Poor Marvel. They've never been able to live this one down.

Jean Grey is the queen of comic resurrections; when the subject is brought up, conversation is inevitably turned to her and someone, somewhere will say "geez, how many times has Jean Grey been resurrected" in such a discussion. The funny part is that the answer is once, in this very story. This is the only time she was brought back from the dead; and hilariously, she wasn't even resurrected here either. It was a retcon that made it so she never died*. It's kind of funny how fandoms memory can be warped so far from what actually saw print.

Anyways, there's no real reason to discuss the story much. It's essentially what it says on the tin. Jean Grey comes back using a loophole Chris Claremont made. Then the original X-Men reform as X Factor, because they can't go back to the X-Men, since Magneto is part of that team and Cyclops actually had brains enough to know that was a bad idea then. The story's not bad or anything, but it's mostly a means to an end, largely to set up the X Factor series.

So, you know how you sometimes hear that comics were better back in whatever decade because they explained everything in exposition and oh won't somebody think of the new readers? Yeah, those people are full of shit. This story is filled with overly explanatory thought bubbles and at times it makes the whole exercise crushingly boring. I don't care who this Captain Marvel is or what her intensely detailed thoughts about Namor are. I'm willing to accept there was a Captain Marvel I didn't know about off the bat.

Though, if you wanted to explain why the Avengers seem to take in anybody off the street, no matter how lame**, I might be interested.

Anyways, if you make it through two issues of "holy crap Jean Grey is alive", you get the first X Factor issue, which is pretty much standard "getting the band back together" fare. Then it stops. Three goddamn issues. I would have liked the first arc of X Factor, at least, since the X Factor issue seemed to be where things started to get fairly interesting to some degree. Nope.

Oh, one other thing this story is significant for. It's the beginning of Cyclops douchebaggification. Dude cold leaves his wife - who he already married mostly because she reminded him of Jean - and his son when he learns Jean Grey is back from the bottom of the bay. He is then more concerned with what Jean will think and how he will tell her about said wife and kids than he is about the family he just walked out on. They couldn't have made him look worse if they tried.

There are also small stories from some X-Men deal way back when that are fairly inconsequential; one of them likes to wax philosophical, but instead comes off as trying too hard.

The art's fine. Nobody puts in offensive or bad work. It's pretty standard stuff for the time. Why Sue Storm has a goddamn mullet, however, I can't figure out.

The Score: 6 out of 10

Nothing special. It's basically a means to an end and significant only in the fact that it's the small arc that brought Jean Grey back to the fold. It's remembered more for the supposed "resurrection" that doesn't happen, for good reason. Not much else of note happens. If you want to have this as a bookend to Jeans death and return, go ahead and pick it up, but you can pretty safely skip it without missing a damn thing.

Cyclops Douchebaggery Alert: Dude cold leaves his wife - who he already married mostly because she reminded him of Jean - and his son when he learns Jean Grey is back from the bottom of the bay. He is then more concerned with what Jean will think and how he will tell her about said wife and kids than he is about the family he just walked out on. He doesn't even call said wife either and she finds out about his betrayal by seeing both he and Jean Grey on the goddamn television. Nobody else really brings up any of these things.

* Essentially, the Phoenix entity gave itself a body patterned off Jean Grey. So intense was this conditioning that she actually thought she was Jean Grey. That cocoon at the bottom of the bay held the real Jean Greys half dead body from her attempted sacrifice, where it slowly healed. How this was confused with a resurrection, where she straight up came back from the grave, I haven't the foggiest; to date, this is the only time she ever really came back, though eventually I suspect they'll bring her back again.

** Despite the suckitude of the Avengers lineup whenever I seem to see them pop up, Hercules and Black Knight are pretty cool. The Black Knights costume is great, at the least. But seriously, does Cap just take whatever the hell he can get at any given time? Actually, given the existence of Starfox, I'm guessing yes.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wolverine: Old Man Logan (comics)

Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Steve McNiven
Collects: Wolverine #66-72, Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant Sized

Hey, look, it's a project by that king of all hucksters, Mark Millar! Even more shocking, it's, GASP, pretty good without relying on shock and awe gross-em-out tactics. Miracles CAN happen, folks!

Anything with Millars name tends to draw a lot of attention - usually for all the wrong reasons - and several years back this was one of those projects Marvel was making a big deal about. The hype was certainly saying all the right things to reel me in; Mad Max style future starring Wolverine as a Clint Eastwood-in-Unforgiven style character with completely off the wall changes? Sold.

Still, it's a Millar project - and I may have mentioned I'm not really a fan - so I took my sweet ass time in getting around to it.

It's good, though. Millar delivered what was promised; we get a pretty crazy buddy cop adventure with Wolverine and Hawkeye rolling through the desert to the other side of the country. See, Wolverines landlords are dicks and he needs money or else they'll eat his family. Wolverine won't pop his claws - which he's sure to remind us way too often - because of an event in the past, so he needs to get out of the situation another way; so he teams up with Hawkeye, the two roll around in the Spider-Mobile, the Hulk has a whole family of inbred hillbilly Hulks and holy crap is that a Venom dinosaur?

Millar throws every crazy idea he has at the wall and no lie, it makes the book a page turner, even if the overall plot is a bit thin. There's something enticing about these kinds of stories, where you want to see more and more of this f***ed up world and you want to know how it got this way. Putting a wild twist on the familiar is always a good way to drive interest up, which is why these "warped future" stories tend to work so well. Besides, it's just freaking creepy - in a good way - to see something like the Red Skull, now President of his quarter of the US, dressed in Captain Americas costume with a trophy room of items collected from the dead heroes.

It's not all roses, however; with Millar, it never is. Spoiler warning for this paragraph. The way we get to the final fight is a little too obvious, frankly. We know that by the end, Logan will be back to his old self again in some fashion. It's just obvious. Also obvious is the way it's finally accomplished, as it's one of those plot points that you can see coming a mile away. So why Millar went with it, I couldn't tell you. I'd have been much more shocked if he'd gone another way.

Also disappointing is that Mark Millar recycled the premise of his creator owned work "Wanted" for this one. You know, the whole "all the villains joined forced, defeated the heroes and took over the world" bit. The only reason that really worked there is because - despite the fact that ninety percent of the characters were based on Marvel and DC heroes - they were his own characters in a world he owned. Outside of that, it doesn't hold water.

We're told something about there being "twenty villains for every hero" or something, which - if it were true - might make for a hell of a fight for our heroes. But think about this for more than five minutes and it breaks apart. Most heroes - especially at Marvel - don't have a rogues gallery to speak of. Sure, Spider-Man has about thirty villains - not all of them of note - but Cloak and Dagger are lucky if they have one. The Marvel Universe in particular is also very team focused - Avengers, Runaways, Fantastic Four, X-Men, etc. - and the more expansive rogues galleries tend to be attacked to these even bigger teams.

There isn't twenty villains for every hero. There isn't even ten. If we're being honest, there are probably more heroes at Marvel than villains and a good quarter of the villain total are completely lame. We're not even going to get into the experience most heroes have with fighting - and beating - all these villains.

One last sour note that relates to the villains - another spoiler alert here - the big mystery of the book is what screwed Wolverine up so badly that he gave up fighting, but the event in question is flawed. Make no mistake, being conned into slaughtering people you held dear works as a reason. I can believe that would screw with Logan enough to do this. That's not the problem.

The problem is that this all hinges on... Mysterio. The guy whose shtick involves parlor tricks and mere illusions. A human without much more than some experience in Hollywood effects somehow manages to not only make Wolverine see other beings as known villains - like, for example, Omega Red or Bullseye - but to make the body language mimic said villains, make him think they're using the weapons of those villains and to somehow make Logans super evolved senses - including smell - detect them as those villains.

An effects dude who does little more than annoy Spider-Man on occasion somehow does this. Without magic or powers. Anyone else seeing a problem here?

Despite those glaring issues, this is still a good read. It moves at a brisk pace, despite being seven full issues and a giant sized special. Despite the fact that I wanted to know more about the world than was given, I have to give Millar credit for not overloading us with details. He keeps the adventure moving and provides enough thrills and banter to keep you entertained. Despite the plot holes and logic problems, I'd say this is one of Millars better written projects. It's some pretty good fun, which is the kind of Millar writing I prefer, but rarely get.

Steve McNiven provides the visuals and he handles whatever Millar throws at him. This is a tall order. There's a lot of crazy ideas floating around this world they've given us. A lesser artist would not have been able to handle the kind of shit we see here and the book would have been ruined because of it. McNiven pulls it off without a hitch. His work really puts this book over the top and helps keep you from thinking on certain events too much.

The Score: 8 out of 10

Despite the issues I've mentioned, this book is still a lot of fun as long as you don't think too hard on some of the plot twists. It's probably the most I've enjoyed a Millar book since Wanted, at least; maybe even as far back as when he worked with Grant Morrison. Well worth a purchase, if you ask me. The ending sets things up for a sequel; I hope we get it at some point.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Batman: Mad Love and Other Stories (comics)

Writer: Paul Dini
Artists: Bruce Timm, Matt Wagner
Collects: The Batman Adventure: Mad Love, The Batman Adventures Annual #1 and material from #2, The Batman Adventures Holiday Special

Batman: The Animated Series is, without question, among the ranks of definitive interpretations of the Dark Knight. Such is the quality of the show that even when it was having an off day it was still highly entertaining. It's one of those kids cartoons that really defines "all ages".

So it should come as no surprise that the comic based on the show - which was also frequently written by Paul Dini and drawn by Bruce Timm, the guys chiefly behind it - is similar fun. Though I guess it pushes it a bit with the all ages thing - some things they get away with here and even in the cartoon could be downright risque for a show targeted at kids - it manages to get away with it. Truly, these men are the masters of their craft.

Obviously, Mad Love is the star of the show here. If you've watched the cartoon I'm sure you've seen the episode that adapted it. It won all sorts of awards and took that whole risque thing as far as they could push it. It's also a shockingly realistic portrayal of abuse for a show about a dude who dresses up and fights crime. I can't really say which is better; the comic included here is the original and has a few more scenes, but the episode was a lean, mean machine. Either way it's great and makes the volume worth it on its own, but I'm sure you knew that.

The rest of the volume is filled out with various stories from elsewhere in the Batman Adventures comic series. Most of these - save the holiday piece - were not adapted to the show. All of them are great fun. The simplest way to put it is that these comics are essentially like lost episodes of the show, right down to the art, most of which is done by Bruce Timm. I couldn't give more of a ringing endorsement if I tried.

We also get some commentary on the comics from Paul Dini and Bruce Timm to round it all out, which is also an interesting read.

The Score: 8.5 out of 10

Just get your hands on it somehow. Even if you've seen the Mad Love episode, the comic is like the "Directors Cut" of the episode. All the other stories are worth the time as well. There's really no reason not to jump on this; these guys prove, as they always did with the show, that you don't always need a complex plot to have a fun Batman adventure.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Batman: Cacophony (comics)

Writer: Kevin Smith
Artist: Walt Flanagan
Collects: Batman: Cacophony #1-3

I didn't have high hopes for this one. This particular book has been slammed up and down the internet. While I tend to prefer judging things on my own, it's pretty difficult to see such negativity about the book and not have my expectations altered.

It's not, however, the vicious attack on all things sacred the comic community would lead you to believe. That it's not completely terrible doesn't mean it's good, though. Because it's not.

As you can see if you glance above the spiffy Adam Kubert drawn cover, you'll see that Kevin Smith - the film director - is behind this book. Obviously they're selling it on those grounds; his damn name is bigger than Batmans on that cover. If you've ever seen one of Kevin Smiths films, you know he employs a lot of vulgarity, dick, fart and poop jokes. He's also written some genuinely good movies, but that tends to be in spite of his writing tics.

Obviously, he can get away with all of that because the characters in his movie are his own. Not to say this is the first time he's worked with corporate characters - there are even references to his past work in here - but still, there's a clear difference. Can you really have jokes about anal sex and poop flinging in a book about Batman and actually try to play it off as a serious read? Turns out, no, it just doesn't work. The fact that Smith has Batman monologue a lot about how he wishes he could leave his foes to die rings false, as well.

Also problematic is that Smith overloads the book with references to Batmans past, I guess to prove his credentials as a Batman fan. In small doses, these sort of references can be a cute wink and nod to fans. A few in this book even made me smile, like the joke Alfred makes about Jean Paul Valley in regards to something Batman says. But there comes a point where you're spending way too much time winking at the reader about the past; there's a nod to Death in the Family that adds nothing to the monologue and in one of the last scenes of the book we have dialogue that brings both Going Sane and Dark Knight Returns to the forefront of our minds.

Worse still, despite Smiths best efforts, there are occasions where characters just don't sound like themselves. Batman in particular over-monologues in the first issue while Joker is turned into a conduit for Smiths usual sex jokes. When two of your three central characters doesn't sound right, there's a problem.

Despite all that, there are things I did like. Smith decides to use Maxie Zeus - a rarely used and often forgotten old Batman foe - as a major plot player for much of the book, while Smiths own created villain - Onomatopoeia - is a fairly novel antagonist, despite the fact that he only speaks in sound effects. Also, while it didn't come off as well as I'm sure he'd hope, I appreciated the fact that Smith wanted to put his own stamp or spin on the never-ending battle between Batman and Joker with his final scenes.

The idea that Jokers toxin - when watered down - can be used as a recreational drug was a good one as well.

The art's by one of Kevin Smiths buddies, Walt Flanagan. That has been slammed too, for both the art itself and the nepotism. It's not particularly great, but it's not terrible either. There are times when it looks pretty good and others where it looks off. He seems to get better as the miniseries rolls on, though; most of the iffier drawings are in the first issue, mostly of the Joker. By issue 3 he's got a much better handle on the character. Given the amount of comics I've read, I've seen much worse.

The Score: 5.5 out of 10

This book is a bit under mediocre and just into bad territory, I figure. It's not as terrible as I've seen it made out to be, but it's not worth adding to your bookshelf either. It may be worth a flip through if you really like Kevin Smith, but I wouldn't pay full price for it. For most, it's a curiosity at best.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

X-Men: Curse of the Mutants - Mutants vs Vampires (comics)

Writers: Chuck Kim, Simon Spurrier, Chris Claremont and many more
Artists: Chris Bachalo, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Tim Green and many more
Collects: X-Men: Curse of the Mutants - Storm and Gambit, X-Men: Curse of the Mutants - Smoke and Blood, X-Men: Curse of the Mutants - Blade, X-Men vs. Vampires #1-2 and Uncanny X-Men #159

So, when they relaunched the X-Men book, they decided to treat it as an event of sorts, I guess you could say. They released a few different tie-ins alongside the story arc, which isn't something you see that often for your typical six issue arc. The only other arc to do that I can think of off the top of my head is Batman RIP, which rippled into some other ongoings (though I don't recall any tie-in one shots).

Thankfully the tie-ins were kept to a tidy number, enough to fill a trade paperback, so here it is.

X-Men: Curse of the Mutants - Storm & Gambit | Look, I make no bones about it. I'm a mark for Gambit. He's always been one of my favorite mutants. So a team up with Storm, another great character in the X fold? Yeah, I'll take some of that.

This one shot is probably the most directly tied to the main arc, as it showed the mission undertaken by the two heroes to recover Draculas body, which the X-Men kind of need, from an island of vampires. The reasons as to why these two were chosen are a bit flimsy - it's supposedly because they're both current or former thieves, but there's little real thieving involved and more fighting - but it's held together a bit more by the fact that the two have long been good friends and worked together in the past. Either way, it seldom matters, because what we get is a fun little done in one aside to the main story.

Chuck Kim writes a pretty damn good Gambit and Storm, that's for sure. Gambit works nicely as a foil and it's refreshing to see him do something other than worry about Rogue. He has a few nice moments in the course of the comic, plus what was probably the full out best page in the issue. Storm recieves the emotional arc, which ties nicely into her past characterization and makes some of her fears apparent. As far as I know, Chuck Kim only did editing work prior, but apparently he can script a good comic.

As for the art, it's typical Chris Bachalo. Which is to say that it's great, if you like his style. Bachalo typically takes some getting used to as far as his art goes, as it's cartoony and manga-esque at times. But it feels like there's an energy there and he can put together a nice page. I used to be put off somewhat by his work, but by this point I really like his work. Before long I may even love it.

If there's a negative point here, it's small but significant. There are a couple of pages in this comic where it feels like the inker fell asleep at the wheel. They look unfinished. More unfortunate, one of the pages that seems either uninked or poorly inked - it's way too rough and scratchy, which makes it jarring compared to the rest of the issue - is Gambits best moment in the entire issue. Proof that when one cog in the art screws up, it can bring a whole page down.

X-Men: Curse of the Mutants - Blood and Smoke | More X Club goodness by Simon Spurrier. The X Club seems to have it's detractors in some paces - mainly CBR - but screw them. I like these one shot X Club spotlights. Which makes the fact that an X Club mini by the same writer is on it's way good news for me.

This is another aside to the main storyline, but it's much more tangential. The X Club has some of the other victims of the main arcs opening scene to work on and they're trying to cure vampirism, or whatever hypnotic spell the people are under, if nothing else. They also have a big, nasty vampire locked up. This is not a good plan, as he escapes and Doctor Nemesis seals the lab off until the problem is dealt with.

Like with the Second Coming one shot, Doctor Nemesis has been the highlight for me. His particular breed of smug snark is pretty damn funny and it lends some levity to the generally morbid proceedings. I like all three members of the X Club in general, which to me is a testament to Simon Spurriers writing. After all, Matt Fraction did next to nothing with the team in the stories I've read of his run, so it had to come down to him to pull this off.

If there's a downside, it's the fact that the X Club unfortunately finds themselves unable to come up with a solution again. Which is not necessarily their fault. They can't solve the vampire problem in their one shot offshoot; the resolution has to happen in the main arc. So they're doomed not to succeed right from the start. Hopefully they get the chance to solve a problem in their own miniseries, instead of being hogtied by their accompanying event.

The art is perfectly suited to this manner of story. This is a primarily "dark" story, dealing with vampires that are perfectly okay with chomping down on a dude or three, not to mention dark in the sense that most of the comic is set in a dimly lit lab that loses power halfway through the issue. Gabriel Hernandez Walta uses a unique style that I assume is painted and it definitely managed to pull off a dark, grimy feel.

Good work all around; once again the X Club are a high point in a tie-in collection.

X-Men: Curse of the Mutants - Blade | Poor Blade. He's had three highly successful movies and is thus probably much better exposed to the general public than about eighty percent of Marvels stock of characters. Despite that, Marvel almost never does anything with him anymore; he hasn't had an ongoing or a miniseries in four or five years now and he very rarely appears even in a guest capacity. He's seen more outside of comics - in video games, for example - than he is in comics nowadays.

Lucky for him, then, that the X-Men are fighting vampires. Which is kind of his thing. Hence, his own one-shot. Savor it Blade; you're probably not going to get another for several more years, knowing Marvel.

This particular one shot, written by Duane Swierczynski, is more or less a prequel to the main event that is the Curse of the Mutants arc proper. The slayers - who hunt vampires for a living, of course - are being hunted down and killed one by one. Obviously this is a problem, so Blade rounds up the survivors and tries setting a trap. As you can probably guess, it goes horribly wrong, since otherwise there wouldn't have been any vamps left to bother the mutants.

It's okay, as far as the writing goes. The issue is mostly there to show how Blade got from point A to point B for the main arc. Still, it's not boring and I didn't lose interest. So that's a plus. Still, it left me desiring a proper Blade adventure by a good creative team, which I'm not likely to get. Blade seems to be one of those characters Marvels okay with letting go into obscurity for lengths of time.

The arts serviceable. I wouldn't say it's particularly great, but it's not bad either. Just not really noteworthy. One thing I noticed is that Blade seems to have a different hairdo these days; he looks a lot less like Wesley Snipes, which frankly was a good look for the character. But it's not a big deal. I think I saw a look like this in live action, so I assume the two-short-mohawks look was from that TV pilot that fizzled out a while back.

X-Men vs Vampires #1-2 | These issues are another one of those anthology deals the X line usually craps out whenever there's been a big status quo shift. Only this time, I guess they decided to do it for the vampires arc. Bad idea.

See, every short story included in this two issue anthology is basically an X man fighting a vampire. Then staking them or killing them some other way. That's it. Sure, a couple are fun - Gambits, where he related taking down a bunch of female vampires to relationships, is particularly great, as is the creative team for Blood and Smoke showing a vampire whale - but there's nothing else to most of them. None are offensively bad, just plain jane.

These anthologies seem to work better when they're stuck to the status quo changes that allow for a variety of shorts, so hopefully that will be where they stay; this just didn't work as well as the one shots did, which is a shame but probably unavoidable.

Uncanny X-Men #159 | This really doesn't have much of anything to do with the plot of Curse of the Mutants. Its only tie is the fact that it's where Dracula and Storm met for the first time. I assume it's here partly to pad the volume out a bit, which I don't really understand. As it is, the volume had a decent enough length and I simply do not understand why the Death of Dracula one shot - which had events that led to the attack on mutants - was left out in favor of this.

Just an odd, odd choice all around and I have to wag my finger at Marvel over leaving out Death of Dracula.

Still, it's an issue of the legendary Chris Claremont run of the X-Men - which is, of course, the run almost everything you ever see of the X-Men outside of comics is based on - so there's that. It's a bit of a dated read - Claremont always was heavy on the exposition - but it still holds up well as an entertaining story despite that. I just don't know why the hell it's here.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

This one managed to be a step above some other tie-in collections I've read. The two issue anthology was a bust, but two great one shots, a fairly decent one shot and an issue from the Claremont era outweigh it handily. If the anthology hadn't been so cookie cutter - and had Death of Dracula been included - this may have had a higher rating, as a fair amount of the contents are fun, enjoyable reading.

Monday, October 10, 2011

X-Men Legacy: Collision (comics)

Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Clay Mann
Collects: X-Men Legacy #238-241

I'm just going to preface this review by saying that it's kind of nice to actually read a recent X book that was - shock of shocks - fairly enjoyable, even if it's not really remarkable.

This is pretty much Mike Careys book at this point. As I understand it he's been on it for something like six or seven years (jumping on somewhere in the 180's, I think). It's changed focus a few times, initially having Careys pet character Rogue take over the book - at the time leading a motley crew of mutants - then focusing on Professor X and now back to the southern belle. Nobody seems to talk about it, but most everyone seems able to at least enjoy it.

I jumped into this one cold, which I thought was a bad decision at first because it quickly becomes clear we're dealing with old plotlines from way back in Careys run. Shockingly, aside from the fact that I had no clue what the powers of the kids were supposed to be, I managed to get through without much confusion.

To keep a long story short, one of the young mutants Rogue currently mentors is called back to his homeland, which is besieged by electrical storms of some sort. Magneto - currently an X-Man because Cyclops is a raging moron - finds this particularly interesting, so he tags along. Rogue - who has control of her powers now, it seems, after about twenty freaking years of the no touch thing - is sent as a chauffeur. They quickly find themselves neck deep in trouble.

Apparently, the villains, The Children of the Vault, were stopped by Rogue at some point in the past. This apparently lead to the deaths of some of their own. They're not the forgiving sort, it seems, as it seems they would prefer she stop breathing. If you know anything about Rogue at all, you know her response will probably be a few broken jaws.

Carey offers no help to anyone who may just be jumping on - one thing the other X books have actually done right recently are providing quick captions that run down power sets and who a character is when they show up - but despite that he manages to keep things moving*. His Rogue actually feels like a strong woman; able to take care of herself and get the job done herself. Maybe I just haven't been reading the right books, but it feels like it's been a while since she's been that way.

But, to be blunt, there's really nothing else of note here**. It's a fairly competant, enjoyable read in an era where that seems to be in short supply for the X-Men. It's really not something that's going to grab you so much you'll remember fine details years down the road, but in an era where dumping an entire race on a rock that everyone who hates them knows they're on is treated as a smart, logical thing to do, I'll claim victory just for not having to sigh heavily and wonder why I keep trying.

Oddly, I didn't have as much of a problem with Magnetos presence, either. Carey at least keeps Magnetos terrorist past at the fore and Mags even comments on things hes done himself at times. In other words, he's still a collosal dick, which is kind of refreshing instead of "I'm totally a good guy now, really!" I still felt like he was trying a bit too hard to make him cool, however, but that may just be me. Oh, and going by an exchange midway through the book between the two, apparently Magneto suddenly wants to bone Rogue. This felt kind of random - mostly Rogues comment about it - but I'm going to just assume this is something that Carey's been working in prior to this.

Rogue at least says there's nothing between them, but even the idea is kind of an "ick" moment.

As for the art, it gets the job done. Clay Mann turns out pretty clean and detailed work here. It's not going to reinvent the business, but it doesn't need to. Fairly clear storytelling and some eye pleasing work round off the most enjoyable recent X arc that wasn't a one shot.

The Score: 7 out of 10

So hey, this is pretty decent. If you're not particularly happy with the X books these days, this is a pretty safe bet. Aside from a glimpse of Utopia and Cyclops, there's little to do with the then current status quo. I may check out some future volumes, who knows.

*There are bios of the characters, but they're way in the back. This might just be me, but that would have been great info to have before I started the story. An indicator at the front maybe?

** Well, for me anyways. It DOES work on it's own well enough. But it's another one of those books that I imagine would mean a lot more to someone who'd read the other story where Carey created them. But hey, it happens; you can't go into a television show halfway through a season and expect the revelations to have as much weight for you either.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

X-Men: Second Coming - Revelations (comics)

Writers: Christopher Yost, Peter David and others
Artists: Steve Dillon, Harvey Tolibao and others
Collects: X-Men: Hope, X-Men: Blind Science, X-Men: Hellbound #1-3, X-Factor #204-206

I kind of like companion volumes to crossovers or small scale events. They tend to have everything as far as the tie-ins go. Small scale, remember. Sadly, Marvel frequently disappears so far up it's own ass with events that you can't really read anything from the time period without a tie-in. It's not a huge secret why I don't read much Marvel.

This volume collects the tie-ins for Second Coming, which was the X lines big crossover event that was meant to wrap up a bunch of simmering plotlines. How that whole shebang went, I'll probably get to someday. Word of warning, you're not going to want to read this volume without having read Second Coming itself; it's got a major spoiler or two, though you probably know of them by now anyways.

By the way, what's with that title, huh? Revelations? Trust me, there are no revelations in this. It's just a volume collecting some side dishes to complement the main course. Yeah, yeah, I know, biblical allusion to go along with Second Coming, but it still doesn't fit. Ah well.

I'm going to format this review a bit differently, one I'll probably continue whenever I do a diverse collection like this. Each story will have its own section with my comments on it. It just seems more organized, given the fact that there's about four different stories to discuss.

X-Men: Hope | This one shot feels more like a prequel than a side story, which makes its inclusion a bit awkward. One thing I hate is flipping back and forth between books, so starting this collection with this and then reading Second Coming before the rest of it feels dumb. But then again, where the hell else could they have put it? Whatever, personal preference on my part, I guess. It's a turn-off, though.

It generally serves the purpose of giving some backstory to Cable and Hopes jaunts through time post-Messiah Complex. There was an entire volume of Cable devoted to those adventures, but I didn't read it because Cable is one of those lingering elements of 90's excess I tend to avoid. So it's nice of Marvel to have put out a one shot to give some context for those of us who don't care about Cable.

It's fairly well written and inoffensive, giving a few vignettes to show us Hope at different ages through the time travel shenanigans. It's written by Duane Swierczynski, who I believe wrote the Cable ongoing in question as well, so I imagine this is a lot what that series was like. It's not bad - fairly enjoyable for a one shot that centers around a 90s leftover - so kudos for that. Not enough to make me read a series about Cable; I felt like I got enough context from this anyways.

As for the art, if I have to sit here and tell you why Steve Dillons art is awesome, you've either never seen it, never read "Punisher: Welcome Back Frank" or your taste just sucks.

X-Men: Blind Science | I didn't expect to enjoy this one as much as I did. It centers around Utopias science division, the X-Club, whom I gather rarely do anything that, you know, solves any problems on the floating asteroid the mutant race decided it would be cool to chill on for a while. But who cares, this was a lot of fun; Dr. Nemesis is exactly the kind of prick I like reading.

We pick up with the X-Club in the midst of some major screw-up on their part, ending with them seemingly shot forward in time to one of the X franchises patented post-apocalyptic futures. Seriously, the future always blows with the X-Men around. One of the X-Club is the person who made that cure for mutants way back when and this particular future seems to require it to save everyone. Moral dilemma, engage!

It too is written fairly well, barring a half-assed Hitler comparison two thirds of the way in that's used to counter Dr. Nemesis. The write is Simon Spurrier, who I've never seen before in comics. He does alright, though. Dr. Nemesis is written as a hilarious, smug prick and frankly if that's not his normal characterization I'm going to be very disappointed. The one shot zips along and has the requisite twist - because of course they're not going to just wipe out the mutants - and overall it was a good time. I'd read more of this.

The art's by Paul Davidson. Another name I've never encountered. His work is simple but detailed, though, so feel free to put him on a regular book, Marvel.

X-Men: Hellbound | To me, this one is the meat of the book and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. It features Gambit, whom I may have once mentioned is one of my favorite mutants, and early on he actually comes off as fairly intelligent. He's one of the few I've seen in this period of X continuity that isn't buying the line of BS Cyclops is spewing and knows full well putting all the mutants in one place is a good way to send the race straight to extinction.

On the other hand, he's just there to be corrupted by Limbo so the Death personality can come out (that's a can of worms I don't feel like explaining right now). Not to mention it also focuses on some of the New X-Men or New Mutants or whoever they are this week, whom aside from Pixie and maybe Cannonball seem rather lame. Perhaps I'm just not giving them a fair shot. Maybe someday.

Illyana, Colossus' sister, is 'ported to Limbo in the midst of a large scale battle in Second Coming. Rather than be smashed into red paste by her brother, Cyclops makes the decision to send a bunch of third stringers he doesn't care about to fetch her from Limbo. This goes about as well as you'd expect. I mean, how useful is Dazzler going to be against a bunch of demons? Is she going to go all disco on them?

It's also not a shabby story, as far as the writing goes, but it's also fairly inconsequential. There are ties to some previous adventure I didn't read, which means the impact of the main conflict is kind of lost. I don't know where this adventure occured and the issue makes no attempt at all to tell me - can we have the damn editors notes back please? - so I'm just going to assume the whole thing would mean more to someone whose read the backstory. It's still readable, though - and we at least get a good idea of what happened in it through the dialogue, which is good - but overall it feels a bit like filler to give some D list mutants something to do.

The art's by Harvey Tolibao. It's very nice and fitting of the story. He makes a gaffe or two that's rather glaring, however. One page in the first issue is split up into four vertical panels, for instance, but when you look at it, they all form one image. So what was the point of splitting the full page splash into four panels? Couldn't tell you. Then on the next page, it's divided into a series of panels that don't seem to flow very well.

X-Factor #204-206 | This one's kind of unfortunate. This is apparently the only tie-in to an ongoing not involved in Second Coming directly. Now, the purpose of a tie-in, traditionally, is to boost a series readership by tying it into something everyones reading. The best way to do it is a mix of the tie-in elements and ongoing plots to hook the reader into the ongoing past the crossover. This, however, is a fairly contained story that begins and ends; which is great for a miniseries, but not so much for an ongoing, where the tie-in serves a different purpose.

Worse still, I was a little bored; could be my expectations working against me, as X-Factor is one of those books that is constantly praised by the small group of readers it has, so I think I expected more.

The story is pretty standard fare. The baddies from the main storyline try and assassinate the affiliated group and, of course, fail in the end. There isn't much else going on and not many running plots I could pick up on here. The lead cast struck me as fairly alright characters, but I wasn't given much of a hook to care about their fates. It's well written, as I expected, I just didn't find myself overly interested, which is a shame.

The art is by Valentine De Landro. It's pretty spiffy. Minimal lines, great color, pleasing to the eye. It's a shame I didn't find the story as interesting.

The Score: 6.5 out of 10

Everything contained is perfectly servicable fare. There isn't anything outright bad in here, but not much in the way of standouts either. If you're looking for some side dishes to the main course of Second Coming, it does the job nicely.