Wolverine and the X-Men #39 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

Wolverine and the X-Men

Issue #39

Written by Jason Aaron, Art by Pepe Larraz

Published: February 2014

Wolverine and the X-Men #39

I have read so many negative things about this series; I myself have been known to utter a few, but for me the negative is that it is yet another Wolverine book. This feels like the successor to a long line of titles that I have liked since the early 2000’s; New-X-Men (Academy) and Astonishing X-Men. I know that some people would equate those more to Uncanny X-Men with the Scott and Emma being in that team, but the location, most of the pupils and that certain feel is all in this title. And so is Quentin, who I know most people hate, but I find hilarious.

To be honest there was another reason for me making that connection this week in that one of the old gang is back fighting at Logan’s side. I know it only just happened in Battle of the Atom, but I really do not tire of seeing it. To explain my perspective you have to understand that I am a big fan of team books, far more than solo character titles. For me more than half the enjoyment is seeing how the characters react to others around them and how the dynamic changes as people are brought in and out of the team. Ignoring short limited series, the best solo titles are ones where there is a team behind the character. Take for example the supposedly solo title of Scarlet Spider, by the time that series ended he had a cast of 4 main supporting characters who appeared in every issue. So in a round about way, I am excited about this book because it reintroduced a character to the team (temporarily) who makes Wolverine so much more interesting to read.

There are a couple of strands running through this series currently; you have Wolverine out playing with an old ‘friend’ hunting down SHIELDS new mutant initiative sentinels; and meanwhile back in the school there are a couple of students who are not what they seem, supposedly acting on the orders of Agent Dazzler. Obtaining information about the other students these ‘fake’ mutants are trying to build up a profile of the other students powers and long term position and eventually to take down the school from the inside. The problem is the three faced Tri-Joe is having more than just second thoughts as he begins to enjoy his time at the school and finally feel like he has found a place he wants to be.

There are so man little things in this issue which I really like, but I am sure they will annoy other readers. As a details person I love seeing all the little things that makes the world feel more real. Frankly I would not be happier if one panel of the comic showed the school timetable or the compete roster of students. There was a series a while back (I think it was New X-Men, but it might have even been earlier issues of this series) where at the back of the book it printed out a full double page of all the teachers and students currently in the academy and I love information like that. This comic gives us less story than it does exposition and while I would not want that every week, it is great seeing little overviews on the important students and what they have been up to, or what they might have been doing as it is not entirely clear if some of it might be misinformation.

Running along side the school aspect of the book is the still un-healing Wolverine and his accidental ‘accomplice’ decimating a SHIELD facility and its stockpile of sentinels. There is definitely something more sinister going on behind it as both of them received the information at the same time and someone appears to have hoped that rather than taking out the facility, they might well deal with each other.

Along with practically every other book being published at the moment this one is gone in the new year. It is going to be replaced, I am not sure what with, but probably All New Wolverine and the Always New X-Men or some such nonsense. Perhaps they should just do everything in yearly 12-24 issue arcs, that way they could always have new number 1 issues coming out and it might keep some of the titles a little less referential and a bit fresher. I think sometimes they forget that although this title is only 40 issues old that is still the best part of 3 years of real time and I for one cannot remember all the details that were brought up in the first half of this series.

Overall it has been a series that I have really enjoyed and this was a more than adequate issue which leaves us with a really interesting ending to the series in February next year.

Cable and X-Force #17 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

Cable and X-Force

Issue #17

Written by Dennis Hopeless, Art by Gerardo Sandoval

Published: February 2014

Cable and X-Force #17

I have enjoyed this series immensely and there is both great sadness and great relief that while it is being cancelled it is only being partly cancelled. For those that do not know, this is being merged with the other ‘Uncanny’ X-Force series because, justifiably, Marvel do not think that the market can support two X-Force comics at the same time. I have intentionally not looked for any of the detailed solicits for this upcoming series because I do not want that information to spoil the ending to these books, so I have no idea which characters are going to make the jump. Obviously a single book cannot support the fifteen main characters that these two books have between them (well 13 depending upon how many times you count Fantomex.)

I started thinking about which characters from this series I would take with me and it is a really difficult process. I would happily drop Colossus, not because I dislike the character in anyway, but simply because I know he would find himself back in another X-title very quickly. But without him you lose the relationship with Domino, so would she go with him? Boomer is an easy one to cut from a story perspective because she has no real ties to anyone else in the team, but she has been so well written by Hopeless that I would be heartbroken to lose her. Dr. Nemesis and Forge, especially in this issue, have become a fantastic comedy duo with their respective talents putting them so clearly on different sides of every discussion and watching them come to a resolution is like observing two competitive brothers arguing over who gets to sit in the front seat of the car with Dad.

That leaves Cable and Hope. Ironically I would say that Cable has been the weakest cast member of this series. While his presence has been required throughout he has been less a protagonist than the plot itself. He provides the problem, the team then solve it often with little to no input from him. Hope on the other hand has basically taken over the series. Despite not even making it onto the intro page of the comic with the rest of the team (but I still think she was in the original drawing off to the left) she has consistently taken over entire issues of the title. So in conclusion, Marvel you are wrong, do not merge these titles this group is fine on its own thank you!

So, after an even longer than usual introduction, onto this comic. This is a complete wrap up issue before the teams crossover next time, every last thread of story is tied up neatly with one exception which this comic raises this time around. Domino and Colossus are riding a sentinel head down an avalanche like James Bond in a cello case; Forge and Dr. Nemesis are fighting the ‘Adversary’ in the formers brain while his body attempts to kill Boomer and escape; and finally Cable and Hope are off fighting reprobates in the desert with his powers in her body.

As usual the art is exceptional if a little stylised for some peoples liking. Some of the characters are very slightly warped or exaggerated for effect so if you are bothered by unrealistic proportions (like wasp waists on the women) then this art will offend you. For me it is a perfect for a comic book and frankly Gerardo can do the art on every comic I read. In a similar vein I have been happy with every Hopeless book I have read recently, but it continues to amuse me that he does not live up to his name.

In one way this issue feels a little rushed. Only very slightly, probably by an issue. The reason why I say this is that there is a lot wrapped up in one go because this now has to coincide with the other X-Force title which I highly doubt was the original intention of this series. Each of the sub-stories gets resolved, but two of them feel like they had more dramatic conclusions that were cut short to fit it all in. This sounds very negative and it really should not be, the comic is fantastic as it is, it is just that I have a feeling for this series now and how it has been paced before; this felt different.

There are some stand out moments in all of the sub-stories and a few hilarious moments scattered throughout. When they travel into Dr. Nemesis’ brain I could not stop laughing because it was in one way such a deus exmachina, but also clearly the writers intention all along. It almost had that feeling of a story ending with ‘and they woke up and it was all a dream’ but done in a way that felt completely new and very satisfying.

On the other side there are some moment in this comic where I was left with the feeling that I had missed something or that there was more to come from that concept. Firstly Cable has his mechanical arm broken, but is then seen using the same arm to lift at the end of the issue, has he gotten control of it back now? Secondly Hope appears to have picked up a lot of her Fathers powers on a seemingly permanent basis, but they are misfiring so I would like to find out more about that.

Cable vs Bishop appears to kick off the next issue and while I have my reservations about the impending merger, the process of getting there should be worth the price.

Superman: War of the Supermen #0 Review

by Lindsay Young, CMRO Contributing Writer

Superman: War of the Supermen

Issue #0

Written by James Robinson & Sterling Gates, Art by Eddy Barrows

Published: June 2010

Superman: War of the Superman #0

When Superman learns of Zod’s plan for New Krypton to declare war on Earth, he takes immediate action to stop him. But with the yellow sun levelling the playing field, Superman is just one of one hundred-thousand—can he even hope to stop Zod’s war on Earth? And will Earth even accept him as their savior?

This is more prologue than anything, but it works well in establishing the stakes and developing real, effective tension. It works as one big confrontation, very cinematic in scope, and on that score, it satisfies. The dialogue is especially good, especially when it comes to Zod, who speaks with alarming logic and paints himself as smart, capable, and worthy of inspiring loyalty. He’s a strong adversary here, possessing both intelligence and charisma, and it’s no mystery why the Kryptonians follow him. The blend of the personal and political makes Zod a formidable foe here, and the central conflicts are both engaging and exciting.

The art has a great sense of motion and strong action. Hits really feel like they hit, strong and hard, so much so that I had a few sympathy winces as I read. Superman is very growling and furious here—for good reason—and that intensity is reflected nicely in the expressions. Superman: War of the Supermen #0 is very cinematic, and though it’s short, it plays out in much the same way as the beginning of a third act in any given Marvel film. That said, I wouldn’t mind seeing this as part of a future Superman film. A fun read.

Transformers: Monstrosity

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

Transformers: Monstrosity

Written by Chris Metzen & Flint Dille, Art by Livio Ramondelli

Published: December 2014

Transformers: Monstrosity

I have to come clean right at the very start of this review; I am an unrepentant Transformers fan. However I have not read a single new Transformers comic since Dreamwave went bust back in 2001. I have every trade for the original 80s-90s run and I really think I am afraid that they will do the same as they did in the films. The Transformers were always people who just happened to be 80’ tall robots, whereas in the films there are lots of people who are all running away from the 80’ tall robots. It is a matter of perspective as to where the camera is placed. Put it down with the humans the whole time and it becomes impossible to empathise with the Robots as people and all you see them as are gigantic monsters.

Everything I had feared, all my worries about reading the current series out of a concern that they would screw it up, I was totally wrong. I want to jump around the room like my five year old self making ‘pew-pew’ noises just out of pure unadulterated joy.

So now I have calmed down a bit what I will try to do is explain why I love this so much, but also take a more measured approach and try and see if I can explain why other people might not appreciate it. This book takes place right back at the start of transformers history, or at least back at the start of the current characters history. They are very long lived creatures so this is set eons before the present day and it gives some alternative explanations for the forms of some of the Transformers alt modes that were so intrinsically linked with the Marvel Savage land from the original run.

Optimus has only recently become Prime, but unfortunately it is the rulership of a dying Cybertron. Having fought off the last vestiges of the old leadership he is left with a fractured and decaying council who have decided that the only chance they have for survival is to flee this broken planet. On the other side of the divide the Decepticons are in no better state. Megatron was left broken by Prime and Scorponok has decided that death is too good for him; throwing him out of Astrotrain into exile on Junkion. The comic then follows both Prime and Megatron as they fight for control over their respective sides and as an ancient evil within the heart of Cybertron seeks to break to the surface.

This comic has more than a passing resemblance to the 1980’s movie. In fact the story behind the facade is pretty much identical, but replaces certain characters with others. It is not just the story, but actually the dialogue as it steals some of the best lines from that film in their entirety. If I had seen the film more recently than perhaps 15 years ago I would probably have picked up even more but the comic starts with Megatron being thrown out of Astrotrain with the parting line of ‘Wait… I… Still Function;’ which is exactly what he says when Starscream throws him out after his defeat by Prime about half way through the film. I wonder if I had read the preceding series ‘Autocracy’ if it would have also stolen scenes in the same way from the first half of the film.

At first I thought the ‘borrowing’ of lines would annoy me, much the same as it annoyed me in Star Wars when the prequel films did exactly the same thing to the original three. However this is done over a full twelve issue series and it chooses the perfect lines to borrow. More importantly it does not take all the good lines and try and shoehorn them into the book irrelevant of if they would fit simply because they were memorable from the film. The dialogue in the comic is really strong whether it is new or borrowed and they manage to find the right voice for all the characters in the book.

I mentioned ‘all the characters’ and therein lies a problem for the uninitiated. This book has a huge cast and apart from the bolded text they get no introductions. Anyone familiar with the older comics or even the TV show will have no problems picking this up, but anyone else will be utterly lost by the end of the first two pages. I am not sure if reading the first series before this one would help and if they give greater depth of detail about each of the characters there, but I could not recommend someone picking this up who would be confused by someone saying ‘Iacon or Trypticon.’

No matter who you are or if you even know what a Decepticon is, you will be impressed by the art. With a couple of strange appearance changes this is exactly what I want from a Transformers book. They are bright enough coloured that it makes for easy identification, but it steers clear of the TV shows day-glow colour scheme as everything is toned down and given a patina of dirt. The one thing that I do find bizarre is the change of Optimus’ appearance. I have no clue what is going on with that massive pyramid shape on his chest and it means from certain angles you cannot see part of his face because it blocks it out. It is a tiny issue in what is otherwise a stunning book to look at and a stand out factor is how they deal with the characters eyes or visors. This is definitely a book to read digitally with a backlit display because their eyes will actually glow then but I do not know how that would transfer to the printed page.

I am hooked, I am already downloading the first trade in this run, Autocracy, from IDW which means my Marvel reading is going to take yet another hit and my wallet is yet again a bit lighter. For a fan of Transformers I cannot recommend this enough, but for everyone else, you are probably best starting at a different point in the series and working your way to this point.

Uncanny X-Men #15 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

Uncanny X-Men

Issue #15

Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Kris Anka

Published: January 2014

Uncanny X-Men #15

I keep having people force books like ‘Hawkeye’ down my throat saying that it is a wonderful deconstruction of the Super Hero genre and that I just do not understand it. It is supposed to be what happens to an Avenger when he is not being an Avenger, but for me, this utterly misses the point. This book is what happens when the X-Men take some time off and try to stop being X-Men; all the girls go shopping and because they have a teleporter, they come to London just to do a spot a retail therapy. The difference between this book and Hawkeye is that this works; it shows exactly what it is like to have a day off as an X-(Wo)man and the answer is, it is no different to any other day. Having time off as a superhero is frankly an oxymoron. We see Spider-Man trying it all the time and whenever he gets to the point where he is about to relax, someone cries for help and off he goes again.

There is a wonderful line in this comic and I can put it in here without spoilering anything because frankly, it could be said by anyone – “The best way to defeat the mutants is to leave them be. Let them do it themselves.” That basically sums up this comic; a bunch of super powered 18-30s are wandering through London buying up all the clothes they can with the White Queens money and all hell breaks loose “just ‘cos it can.” They are in the wrong place at the wrong time as always, but then again that often turns out to be the right place, given time and a lot of hindsight.

This is another one of those joining issues, I think I said the same last week as well, but for some reason they work in this comic. There is a big enough team that they can focus on different characters at different times and tell a ‘done in one’ type story without ruining the flow of the comic. Last time was a feed through from the end of Battle of the Atom and this week is a ‘Inh’ issue meaning that it is a tie in to Inhumanity. However I am certain that these sort of issues end with this one because the teaser for next time is a big one and it revolves around a character who has been visible by his absence for the last few issues.

Bendis has utterly nailed down the humour in the last few books and this one is no exception. Some of the gags are purely visual, but I suspect that the writer had a good deal to do with plotting those out as well, but I will not take all credit away from Anka. I associate images of Emma Frost in bed with ones from Astonishing X-Men and All New X-Men where she is half dressed and draped artfully over Cyclops’ chest in beautiful full page renderings of a gigantic bedroom with picture windows and rolling landscapes. Nothing could be further away from the image in this book and it is hilarious. It is worth buying this comic simply for that page, but there is far more humour than just that.

I like Anka’s art, but I have to say this comic is not the best example of it. It seems to have been done in a bit of a rush and certain pages appear to have had far more time spent on them than others. At first I thought it was a case that when there was a close up, there was lots of detail and distant pictures had very little. However this does not hold up as you read through the comic, it seems as if he just really enjoyed drawing Magik’s abs, but really was not bothered by Kitty’s face.

This comic has set up an interesting precedent, and one that I am not sure if they intended or not. Given the very specific language they used, I think I have the right idea, but I will hold my final opinion until we see something specific about it later. At one point in the comic something happens to Emma Frost and the sentence is “shut down [her] central nervous system. Rebooting [her] system, quite something.” Now we are the best part of a year out of AvX and they have pretty much forgotten about the whole ‘screwed up powers’ part for everyone except Cyclops. Colossus seems fine with this new suit; Magik appears to have become more powerful, not less; and Namor seems to have completely forgotten about the experience entirely. This leaves Emma who has been inconsistent with her power loss and Cyclops whose powers are controlled by the needs of the plot. I wonder if this is how they will sort out Emma once and for all, with her entire system reset will they simply allow her old powers to fully resurface now?

I really like this comic, it is everything I hope for in an X-Men issue and seeing as how it is an issue with exactly zero Wolverine in it, that is even more of a positive. There is a lot riding on where this takes the story next, but Bendis seems to have this all in hand, so fingers crossed he will not screw it up.

Nova #11 Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

Nova

Issue #11

Written by Gerry Dugan & Zeb Wells, Art by Paco Medina & Carlo Barberi

Published: February 2014

Nova #11

Eleven issues into Nova and we’ve already had three writers. I would say that’s a bad sign, but the truth is I know embarrassingly little about the business of comics. Fortunately, Zeb Wells and now Gerry Duggan (of Deadpool fame) have done a good job of maintaining a feel that’s consistent with what Jeph Loeb established in the first handful of issues. With Duggan at the helm, the comic seems to skew even more in a comedic direction, which isn’t a surprise, nor is it necessarily a bad thing.

Truth be told, I may have enjoyed this issue of Nova more than any of the previous ten, though all of that praise doesn’t go to Duggan. I think that after ten issues, I’m truly invested in the character, which is always a nice point to hit with a new series. On top of that, Duggan delivers an emotionally-packed personal debut, one that manages to convey a staggering amount of tragedy in one simple panel. Of course, Paco Medina’s usual phenomenal pencils play a big part in how effective the issue is.

I sure hope Duggan stays around for a while. I don’t think the series has suffered from having three writers in such a short amount of time, but I’d like one writer working on the issue long enough to execute some lengthy arcs, something that the comic hasn’t been able to do yet. This smaller arcs have been a lot of fun, but Duggan’s issue really does inject a lot of emotion, which goes to show that Nova is capable of much more than just fun and games. I’m really pulling for Sam Alexander at this point, and I’m looking forward to him restoring the Nova name to its rightful glory. Hopefully this issue is the first step on that path.

Hulk #54 Review

by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Hulk

Issue #54

Written by Jeff Parker, Art by Dale Eaglesham

Published: August 2012

Hulk #54

The first part of “Mayan Rule” was bogged down with too many characters and a lack of focus on the title’s main protagonist, but Hulk #54 improves on things by bringing the focus back to Thunderbolt Ross.

As of last issue, both of the green She-Hulks are out of commission, as is most of Alpha Flight. The pyramid where the fight took place in Canada disappeared quickly, although it would have been nice to actually see that happen on-panel instead of having it relegated to exposition. The Mayan gods that have arisen are now attacking the world in a bid to conquer it and return to their former glory.

Thunderbolt Ross gets to show off his tactical mind a bit here as he plans a strike back at the Mayans. His tactics are probably horrifically bad to experienced military personnel, but to folks like me (and most of the comic-reading audience) who have little tactical experience, it’s convincing enough to remind me that this guy is a decorated general and somebody who knows how to fight wars against normal troops and superhumans alike.

The one bit of Ross’ approach that does bug me is that there are no other superheroes involved other than his team of himself, Annie, Rick Jones, and the Machine Man. Considering the connection to the Avengers that Ross has, you would think he’d consider consulting them – or even that they’d be responding to this global threat themselves. It’s a shame that this hole seems to exist, because there is an explanation planted near the end of the issue – the Mayans are draining power from superheroes to resurrect their lost gods. Had this revelation been made earlier, it would have made a lot more sense for Ross to go in with limited backup, since more supers means more of a chance that somebody gets separated from the group and captured. As it is, I guess I’ll just have to assume that, despite his brilliant military mind, Ross is still way overconfident considering his current gamma-irradiated status.

Jeff Parker’s writing takes a major shift upward in this issue, although Dale Eaglesham’s art is still hit and miss for me. It wouldn’t be so bad if he had been on the book for a while, but some of his stuff looks a little too monstrous, especially Rick Jones’ A-Bomb format, which has been shown as more cartoonish and armadillo-like by every other artist. Still, it’s a minor nitpick, as Eaglesham’s art is still above average. Overall, Hulk #54 is a major boost in quality over the previous issue and a sign of good things to come for the “Mayan Rule” story arc.