Archive for the 'x-men' Category

24
Sep
08

X-Factor #35

Publisher: Marvel – $2.99

Written by Peter David

Art by Larry Stroman

Though it didn’t occur to me until lately, X-Factor is Peter David’s best work and although it’s lacking lately because of Marvel’s annoying need for crossovers, it’s still the best X-Men related title to be published since Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men around the turn of the century. Fallen Angel is a fantastic piece of work that’s approaching it’s 50th issue and has built a small following, but it’s probably the second strongest outing by David as a long term writer that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him complete but it’s just not as great as far as characterization and pacing as X-Factor.  Where Fallen Angel has a great story, great characters that have grown with the story and a definite vision of a future(as opposed to the unfortunately usual habit of just walking into the abyss without evidence of an ending) David consistently produces a great character book, but that’s not the miracle of X-Factor.  What he’s done that is so special is take a half dozen regular character who have existed for decades and made his own incarnations of them to the point that David, as a storyteller and monthly writer, owns the book to an extent that even the most talented writer taking over the book where he leaves it will create disappointment and disjointed movements for the characters.

This issue really isn’t proof of that greatness, but we’re coming up on three years of consecutive work on this title and if you were to sit down with all of the issues, which if you want to do so, come on over and read them, I’ll let you, you’ll see a fantastic group of characters who grow and live, who are funny and conflicted and, when Marvel isn’t fucking it up for everyone, make a fine plot move quite well.

This issue is, annoyingly and unfortunately so, a Skrull-pushing Secret Invasion tie-in, but it’s really quite readable if you’re not reading SI(and I’m certainly not) because David banks on the reader knowing the characters.  You’re given the information that Skrulls have invaded Earth, they can look like people and are impersonating important players in the Marvel universe, and we move on to the story.  Like I said, it’s not great, but it’s okay and considering this is all being done while being forced to abdicate to the big Marvel cross-over, it’s really better than okay.  This also marks a good six months or so of David not being able to do what he does because of Marvel.  First you had Messiah Complex, which was good but cost X-Factor two of it’s most dynamic characters, my favorite – Layla Miller – ended up stranded in the future in a concentration camp, and one of the most dynamic and interesting characters, Raine Sinclaire, was taken away to take part in the mediocre X-Force.  David tried as best as he could to bounce back from that and then Secret Invasion came along.  For this, I’m giving him a free pass on development until this is all over.

What I didn’t care for was the serious decrease in art quality on this issue.  Larry Stroman illustrated the majority of Peter David’s run on this very same title in the 90’s, a run that I really enjoyed and originally bought as a kid and then enjoyed once again earlier this year.  Stroman’s art wasn’t great then, but it worked to move the story along in a fashion that was slightly more interesting and creative than his contemporaries.  I don’t feel like that’s the case in this situation.  His pencils come off as sloppy and results in characters that seem almost blurry or detached from the scenes.  I hope he’s not staying on for long or, if he is, he gets his shit together.  I’d hate to see a great series get derailed by half-hearted artwork.  I want this series to last for a very long time to see what Peter David is capable of.

29
Aug
08

Wolverine #68: Old Man Logan Part 3 of 8

Written by Mark Millar

Art by Steve McNiven

Reuniting the Civil War creative team, this eight issue run on Wolverine has been so good that I’m actually willing to buy an X-Men spin-off book and not only like it, but rant about it, pass it out among friends and generally try to pimp it to all decent human beings(sorry John McCain).  Taking place 50 years in the future when, by undisclosed events, a small handful of supervillains have conquered earth, killed all of the superheroes and essentially displaced humanity into small regions across the glob, a pacifist Wolverine and a supposedly blind Hawkeye run drugs across the country to pay the Hulk’s offspring the rent they owe them for living on their land.  But it’s so much bigger than that.

“No one knows what happened on the night the heroes fell. All we know is that they disappeared and evil triumphed and the bad guys have been calling the shots ever since. What happened to Wolverine is the biggest mystery of them all. Some say they hurt him like no one ever hurt before. Others say he just grew tired of all the fighting and retired to a simpler life. Either way he hasn’t raised his voice or popped his claws in fifty years. His old friends would barely recognize him now.”

Millar, a crazy Scottish bastard, is a top form here and in only three issues has created a new, unexplored landscape and small cast of characters so fascinating that it’s impossible to put down.  Millar has done for Wolverine what the Kirkman achieves in Walking Dead; making the monthly wait for a new issue painfully suspenseful.  Something that’s interesting is that, although the current journey across America with the two main characters talking and having short form adventures, what’s truly interesting is watching the past 50 years unfold as the days slowly proceed into the future.  For anyone craving dystopia, this is exactly where you want to be.

The idea here is that you have this pacifist who loves his family and doesn’t want to fight and his best friend is dragging him into a situation where ultimately he’ll have to fight, to pop his claws and kill some people.  Through the story Millar also creates a mythology that the X-Men comics of the 1990’s did a great job of capturing, building on the reverse formula that Chris Claremont used, which was to tell a story set in a possible future where everything has gone wrong.  Millar turns the tables and sets up a future where everything is already wrong but we don’t know why, we have to hang on and watch the situations unfold, situations that are not inherently based in the past, but slowly elude to them, crafting a past we never knew.  With this method he is incredibly successful. The series is slowly building to either an early resolution followed by some kind of serious self-reflection and conflict situation or, the scenario I’d prefer – following in the footsteps of Garth Ennis’ Saint of Killers one-shot in which the violent man makes good, starts a family and loses his family.  And then he kills everything that ever breathes at him.

Also – an evil Spider-Girl beheading a blinged out 50 Cent version of the Kingpin, virtually every superhero is dead and you get the feeling nothing is going to work out.

29
Aug
08

X-Men Origins: Jean Grey One-Shot

 

Written by Sean McKeever

Art by Mike Mayhew

 

In the first of hopefully several(at least enough to spotlight the original 60’s line-up, which would make a half dozen or so issues, which would essentially quantify an average mini-series anyway, which would also collect quite nicely into a trade paperback or even perhaps a hardcover) card stock single issue stories recounting the initial discovery of a character’s manifestation of power, McKeever and Mayhew seriously deliver in a way that completely shocked me.

McKeever is a capable writer with a familiar name, though I cannot initially recall any of his previous work, I assume he’s been published by both of the majors and is likely to have assembled some mass of independent work.  I’ll certainly be looking for more from him because, when coupled with a talented artist like Mike Mayhew, he assembles one hell of a book.  Clocking around 40 pages of painted art and sequential story, the initial display of a young Jean Grey being shocked by her psionic manifestation, leading to mental problems and eventually an intervention and invitation to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters by the man himself.  Though the script doesn’t defy any medium standards, he does a good job guiding the book along.  I feel bad for him though, because no matter how good he’s writing here, the literary aspect of the book is bound to be overshadowed by Mike Mayhew’s intensely beautiful brushes.  Hence:

The first three quarters of the book are a refreshing departure from the typical superhero antics commonly found in x-men comics; spandex clad action shots rife with explosions and typically unexciting action sequences.  It is here that Mayhew owns the page in it’s entirety with people who dress like people, actual human beings in pants and shirts and sweaters and from this very first page, the realism of the story is grounded immediately.  

 

I can’t help but compare this to Alex Ross’ work, though there are stark differences, I would rank this on par with him.  I’ve always been a huge Ross fan, as my constant pimping of Project Superpowers proves, but I can honestly say that this is the pay off of Ross’ contribution to sequential storytelling; influencing others to follow in his footsteps with high quality brushwork realism, showing artists that it’s possible to sell comics and produce high quality art at the same time.  For this, I hope this book sells a shitload.

These realistic physical portrayals set the tone for the book quite well, but they also lead up to the last few pages featuring the young x-men in costumes which, due to undersaturation(a serious rarity) you actually get excited when they break out the spandex and start destroying things.

I look forward with hungry eyes and great anticipation for more from this team.

20
Aug
08

Astonishing X-Men #27

Written by Warren Ellis

Pencils by Simone Bianchi

Part two of Ellis’ first story for Astonishing, “Ghost Boxes”, started to get horrible reviews about four days before it came out.  I get the feeling that, because x-men fans are usually comic book drones who like nothing but that same old shit fed back to them so they can shit it out instantly and greedily anticipate the taste of recycled fecal matter in their mouths once again, the typical reader would really hate anything Warren Ellis does on this book.  Thus far I think I’m right.  I don’t know how Joss Whedon managed to calm the flock down, because outside of a resurrection and some really fun space travel business, he didn’t use his time on Astonishing to seemingly attempt to please the boring x-men fans.  He did a good job, Astonishing was the title that got me to pick up a comic book again and four years later I’m spending money on comic books like a junkie with a smack habit.  Thanks a lot, douche.

Psychosocial/monetary issues aside, Warren Ellis is one of my favorite writers working today.  He has a deep interest in how technology impacts our society and our perceptions of self and he’s filthy mouthed English bastard with a true understanding of what bastards people really are.  I expect his run on Astonishing X-Men to fully delve into science fiction and explore the human condition, which is what Claremont and Byrne were certainly attempting to do on their run of Uncanny.  Or X-men, Which became Uncanny, unlike New Mutants, which became X-Force, which became X-Statix, which became X-Force again, which became X-men, which became Generation X which was canceled and turned into New Mutants again, which became New X-Men, which became X-Men again, then turning into New X-Men, then becoming X-Men once more but is now X-Men Legacy.  I couldn’t make that shit up.  There’s a reason I only read Astonishing X-Men and X-Factor and I wouldn’t be reading either of those books if they weren’t being written by fantastic writers.  I don’t care about the characters, I care about the writers.

Speaking of which, the writing is good.  Ellis is good at tackling language and the dialog in Astonishing is very representative of a group of people who obviously have known each other for a very long time and don’t feel it incredibly necessary to blab on about incessant shit in a transparent attempt to build rapport among the characters to give the illusion of characterization to the reader.  A strength of the books is Ellis knowing that, when writing a 40 year old character, you don’t have to grind the key concepts of this character into the pages until blood pours from the eye sockets of innocent(if mildly socially challenged) readers across the globe.  Overall, it’s what I expected.  A science fiction story is being set up, loosely revolving around some kind of new forced mutation and there are broken space shuttles too.  I’m rather happy to see that Armor, a more interesting version of Jubilee, hasn’t be thrown away sans issue #25, I think the relationship between her and all of these people three times her age could build a great story and engage the characters in some interesting trans-generational situations.

When I showed this issue to a co-worker, who obviously had no interest in it and didn’t want to read it, he replied, “it’s not very colorful”, and after about five minutes of me bitching about how great the art really is, he conceded that yes, it was good art and yes, the idea of bright yellows and reds and oranges is an annoying, childish art style that deserves to stay dead.  Bianchi’s art on this book is fantastic.  Following John Cassaday’s pencils is tough and would be compared to him, but Bianchi’s pencils are actually better with greater detail and an elevated sense of realism.  This is probably the closest to seeming to be real people I’ve ever seen comic book characters drawn.  And yes, it isn’t very colorful, but neither are your father’s genitals.

02
Sep
07

World War Hulk X-Men #3 of 3

Written by Christos Gage

Art by Andrea Di Vito

Cover by Ed McGuinness

Marvel Comics $2.99

I had thought that someone was going to be taken prisoner or something would actually happen other than non-stop action, but no, not really.  Cessily gives a speech to the Hulk about how he doesn’t get to decide who’s been hurt more and he retreats back to his ship.  And that’s it.  A lot of action sequences of X-Men, including all of the various teams, ineffectively fighting the Hulk.  After a while, it just gets really boring watching Hulk throwing the various characters off of him.  One could read this issue without actually being literate until the last three pages, because there’s virtually zero dialog with meaning to it.

02
Sep
07

Astonishing X-Men #22

Written by Joss Whedon

Art by John Cassaday

Marvel Comics $2.99

For about the fifth issue in a row, I’ve read the last page and wondered if a member of the team is dead.  Whedon has become really good with the cliffhangers that revolve around death and surprises, which is an excellent way to keep readers excited about the story, but it sucks to have to wait between two and three months to find out of such classic characters have been killed all the way or just a little bit.

I’m really curious to see how this story is going to end, which has to be wrapped up in two issues when Whedon’s run end and Warren Ellis takes over.  I think there’s a major theme of manifest destiny as far as Colossus is considered.  At this point they’ve been on the Break World long enough that I would feel overjoyed if he went on the rampage he’s expected to and destroyed their planet.  I guess we’ll have to see.

This was the book that relaunched my interest in comic books two years ago and it’s paid off big time.  I had taken about a decade away from reading comic books all together and the sensationalism surrounding this book lured me back to the comic scene and I slowly started picking up other books.  I think one of the best things I’ve discovered via this book is Brian K. Vaughan’s writing and John Cassaday’s other work(Planetary), which are really better than this actual book, but not by much.

Astonishing X-Men, the gift that keeps on giving.

06
Aug
07

X-Men #201

Written by Mike Carey

Art by Humberto Ramos, Carlos Cuevas and Edgar Delgado

Marvel Comics $2.99
xmen201.jpg

Dealing with Rogue being shot by Mystique, the return of the Marauders, losing the Omega Sentinel and Lady Mastermind to the mental possession of Malice and then having to not be killed by the Marauders as Mystique has ordered, the X-Men divide and..well, they pretty much lose and hide. Meanwhile, back at the mansion, the New X-Men are given another grim prediction by Blindfold and, as Colossus and Kitty Pryde try to figure things out, some hostile visitors show up at the door with threats to kill. Shitty time to have an x-gene.

This issue features the Apocalypse-powered Sunfire, who looks exactly as he did in Age of Apocalypse, which is great. He’s also incredibly powerful, but lately my focus while reading this book is the usually wonderful work of Humberto Ramos. Occasionally his art just looks like silly exaggerated manga, like on the first double spread of this issue, but usually it’s flawless, beautiful expressive cartoon-style art. I can’t get enough of it. I especially like the way he draws faces, they’re colored and shaded perfect, which certainly help, but Ramos has an eye for clean lines and detail without looking too busy or crowded. The backgrounds are always incredibly simple, which make the complex action look even more in your face. I hope he stays on this title for quite awhile.

I was glad to see the New X-Men show up in a more popular title, even if it was in complete defiance to continuity(they are in limbo with demo Illiyana Rasputin right now), just because they are such great characters. It looks like next issue we might get to see Colossus, Pryde and the New X-Men throw down together, which is a rather exciting prospect.