Uncanny X-Men #16 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

Uncanny X-Men

Issue #16

Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Chris Bachalo

Published: March 2014

Uncanny X-Men #16

Welcome to Uncanny X-Men. No wait, that would be Magneto #0. Sorry, I have not had an opportunity to make that joke for a quite while now. This is a complete ‘back-door’ pilot issue for the upcoming Magneto solo series. To avoid being completely absent from the entire comic they luckily get remember on the very last page and even then the focus is solely on Magneto. I do not know if I should be upset that Marvel uses their big titles to push other series in this manner, but there is a difference between advertisiThing their presence in X-Men Legacy to boost its sales and completely hijacking this comic to set up another one.

Anyway! Enough of my whining because, despite missing the X-Men, this is actually a really good comic with one noticeable issue. This does not look like Magneto. At the beginning of the issue he looks like a very tanned Charles Xavier and the only reason why you actually know it is him, is he has a slightly psychotic episode where he dreams that he murders a whole bunch of people with a truck and in that he morphs into his costume. Later on in the issue he has grown a silly little beard and when he takes the sun glasses off he looks identical to Obadiah Stain as portrayed by Jeff Bridges, especially when he looks down and gets all dark and broody.

I rather did it again, going off on another mini-rant about ‘stunt casting’ in this comic. However I have finished now and on to explaining why this is a brilliant first issue of Magneto’s solo series. We have been seeing less and less of him in this comic and he was almost a non-entity during Battle of the Atom, which was very hard to accept because he has never been one to shrink back into the shadows and keep quiet. I do not see him as a backup character to anyone save for perhaps Xavier and when you having him behind Cyclops, Emma and Magik and being pushed around by Dazzler in a series then you know you are misusing the character. Therefore this change is definitely for the best and gives him the prominence he deserves, or at least that he thinks he deserves.

The comic starts with Magneto being given some information by his SHIELD ‘minder’ Dazzler that there are a lot of mutants gathering in Madripoor, that wretched hive of scum and villainy. So off he goes without even mentioning anything to his ‘friends’ back in their super secret base. On arriving he gets himself in a bit of a fight and it is so enjoyable watching just a small piece of the master of magnetism at work because he is still diminished from AVX, or at least his mind thinks he is. The fight is brutal, but brilliant and shows what we can expect from the rest of his series.

We do not have to wait for long because if you thought he fight in the middle was fun, the one at the end is about as impressive as they come. It is totally fitting for Magneto to get a send off from this series in this fashion, it is like there has been something building all the time he has kept quiet. He has put away the mask of the man in the background and has come roaring back like the force of nature he used to be. I do fear however that something that happens at the beginning of his own book will completely undo everything he did, but if they let it stand as it is in this book, then that is a pretty bold event.

This is hardly a ‘classic’ issue of Uncanny X-Men, partly because they are barely in it, but also because the story does not fit in the series run as a whole; it is however a really solid issue in its own right. The issues since Battle of the Atom have almost all been either place holders explaining something or tying the series to another event such as Inhumanity or the joining of the All New X-Men. It has been a while since this comic actually had a through story and hopefully with Magneto now off loaded this comic can now get back into its own storyline rather than being used to drive sales on other lines and events.

Amazing X-Men #3 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

Amazing X-Men

Issue #3

Written by Jason Aaron, Art by Ed McGuinness

Published: March 2014

Amazing X-Men #3

I really am not sure why this book is not working for me. I do have a crazy thought in my head that due to certain conversations with a fellow member of the forums here I am pre-disposed to not like this comic simply to wind him up. He has a huge case of unrequited hero worship towards Nightcrawler that I do not understand because I have never really cared for the character, the furry blue demon bit does interest me. The problem with this theory is that the only part of this series that is working for me is in fact Nightcrawler, the issues I have are with everything else.

Every other book that Jason Aaron is writing I really enjoy and I think he was my favourite writer involved in the Battle of the Atom crossover, so it is not the writing style that is off putting for me. With one massive exception, which I will mention later, I find Ed McGuinness’ art to be very easy on the eye, if a little bit heavy on the ink-shading which actually is not his fault. So it is not the writer or the artist that is bringing this down for me perhaps it is the characters? Well since my re-introduction to comics three years ago I have gone through all the stages from a fixation on the ‘pretty girl’ comics like Dejah Thoris through my obsession with anything Avengers and finally returning to what I remember best from my childhood which is Transformers and the X-Men.

So this is a comic written by a writer I like, drawn by an artist I appreciate and it is about a team I want to read about; therefore other than thinking that I am going mad I have to assume my issue is simply with the entire story concept from the ground up. The more I think about it the more I realise that this is the wrong timing for this book, the wrong X-Men and probably the most contrived method of bringing a character back from the dead that I have ever read. For the record I am including the time that Optimus Prime was downloaded onto a 9’ floppy disk and then self destructed and rebuilt, only to die again and get saved the next issue in that list. We have another X-(wo)man on a different team who is specifically set up for this sort of thing and Magik took the entire Uncanny X-Men team into a different hell only six months ago. If they wanted to bring Nightcrawler back they should have built it in there, it would have worked so much better than this.

I mentioned before about my one issue with the art. A lot of this book takes place on these astral pirate ships with Hank on one confronting Azazel and Nightcrawler on the other rescuing storm. The problem is that while on the deck of the ship these look exactly like pirate ships with the right rigging and sales and decking, in the long shots they look like something children would draw. All the proportions are completely wrong the sails are far too small, the ships far too far out of the water and both ships appear to have aft castles when on the deck, but are almost completely flat along their length when viewed from a distance. I apologise for being ‘that guy’ but in this day and age typing ‘pirate ship’ into Google would have given Ed plenty of easily found reference for this work and he is clearly a consummate enough artist to make the ships look like they should do. Now I realise that these are mystical beyond the dead ship and of course do not have to comply with the laws of physics, but so much effort has been put into making them look accurate in the close up shots on deck that it seems criminal not to have taken the same care in the 3 or 4 long shots.

Despite everything I have said this is not a bad book. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the writing and the art is fantastic for the entire book save for 4 panels. It just for me is the wrong characters in the wrong place, messing with themes of religion that I feel are best left alone. This is not a small play with a polytheistic religion like they did with Mercy in Thunderbolts, this is a direct attack on Christianity and Christian values by saying that god is not all powerful and some yahoo pirate devil can swing into heaven and wander off with righteous souls. I am not religious and frankly I have seen Jerry Springer the musical* and thought it was hilarious, but even for this agnostic cynic this is starting to feel a little uncomfortable. Only two issues to go of this arc and I am praying fervently to any god that will listen that once it is over they have Nighcrawler out of hell and they can forget all about this.

* A fat Jesus in a nappy saying that he is a bit gay, it caused a bit of a controversy, but if you are not bothered by that sort of thing it is hilarious.

Hulk #56 Review

by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Hulk

Issue #56

Written by Jeff Parker, Art by Dale Eaglesham

Published: October 2012

Hulk #56

After two issues of nonstop action Hulk #56 slows down the pace a bit as we come closer to the conclusion of the “Mayan Rule” story arc.

The issue opens with a bombshell as we see the Red Hulk drained of his power and on the verge of death, obviously defeated by the Mayan gods. We then move on from there to see exactly how that defeat came about, picking up where the previous issue left off with the introduction of the feathered serpent Kukulkan. Suffice it to say that things go badly for our hero.

This issue really highlights one of the dramatic reasons that the red Hulk has turned around as a character under Jeff Parker’s pen: he’s allowed to lose. For the first couple of years of the character’s existence, we not only didn’t know anything about him but we also rarely saw him in a vulnerable position. No matter how powerful a hero is, you have to put them in a position where that power can’t always save the day or there’s no drama.

The other big bonus that Parker’s run has had over Jeph Loeb’s introduction of the character is an established supporting cast. This issue really highlights how much Annie, the Machine Man, and even Rick Jones have come to mean to Thunderbolt Ross. With a strong supporting cast, the stakes suddenly matter. Even if Ross himself is invulnerable, those around him are not.

Not that Ross is all that invulnerable right now – he’s beaten as badly as he’s ever been in this series by the end of the issue. And that highlights another recurring theme that we’ve seen during Parker’s run – Ross, traditionally a tactical-minded military man, has relied too much on the strength of a Hulk since becoming big and red. Heading into the last chapter of this story, he’s put in a position where his power just doesn’t matter. Now it’s up to his tactical mind to save the day – if it can.

I’ve complained a lot about Dale Eaglesham’s art during this arc, but it finally starts to click here. I don’t think it has really improved, but it has remained fairly consistent over four issues and has thus become the new normal. Consistency is commendable when it comes to comic art, and Eaglesham has managed to win me over with his consistency.

I’ve been on the fence about “Mayan Rule,” but this issue is finally getting things clicking. The stakes are getting higher and the next issue will be a chance to really show what Thunderbolt Ross is made of as he tries one last desperate attempt to save his friends and the world.

Deathlok coming to Agents of SHIELD

by Joshua Starnes, CMRO Editor

One of the regular complaints regarding the slow drain of interest around Marvel’s AGENTS OF SHIELD show on ABC is the lack of Marvel spark in most episodes. A barring a handful of short guest appearances early on from Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders, and passing mention of THOR: THE DARK WORLD, the show has intentionally stayed away from the bam-pow adventure of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in favor of more ALIAS or FRINGE like adventures, a course fans have taken issue with as the show has progressed.

Showrunners Maurissa Tancharoenand Jed Whedon seem have sat up and listened and are planning on bringing more of the Marvel Universe (as it has appeared on screen) onto a show which has until now focused more on the Agent Coulson’s quest to find out how he was returned to life and his protégé Skye quest to find out what happened to her parents (there’s a lot of questing going on) in between monster of the week episodes.

According an interview with Comic Book Resources, that pattern will begin changing this Spring starting with the return of J. August Richards Mike Peterson (last seen being blown-up) as he completes his transformation into the classic Marvel anti-hero Deathlok.

“Deathlok had been on our radar from the beginning. He was at the top of our list of Marvel characters that we could bring in. It seems like a nice progression for Mike Peterson — when he becomes Deathlok, you’re always going to root for the Mike Peterson that’s still in there somewhere,” Tancharoen said in the interview.

“If you look at the pilot, there’s a moment where he’s standing in the window and he turns around and says, ‘This is an origin story,’ … You just didn’t know what story,”’ executive producer Jeph Loeb added.

Nor is Deathlok the only four-color character set to appear before seasons end. The show will also be introducing the character of Lorelei, a Thor villain created by Walt Simonson during his now legendary run, to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which will occasion Jaimie Alexander’s Lady Sif to come down from the heavens of the big screen to the Midgard of the small screen, at least for an episode.

“There are still people online going, ‘We don’t understand why Iron Man isn’t on the show.’ Well, you know what? He’s not. I love Robert — [but he’s] not coming by any time soon. But if we are going to have Lady Sif, if we’re going to have Lorelei, if we’re going to have Deathlok … that’s that stuff that we hope that same fanbase is going, ‘That’s what I was talking about. I wasn’t really thinking that the Hulk would be on the show, but if you give me Lorelei, I’ll come back next week,'” Loeb said.

Uncanny X-Force #16 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

Uncanny X-Force

Issue #16

Written by Sam Humphries, Art by Harvey Tolibao

Published: February 2013

Uncanny X-Force #16

For those that do not know, this series and Cable and X-force are merging into one comic from later this year. The last few issues of each comic are an ongoing story that jumps between the two. I have to say I think I guessed the way this comic was going to play out in my last review, save for some window dressing. Every time we get two hero groups going up against each other it always feel very anticlimactic because nothing serious ever happens. I count eight occasions when what happens in the comic would have killed a ‘bad guy’ but seems to have no effect on them because they are heroes. And I am not even including the things they did to Colossus because he can take a lot more than being hit by a truck.

So putting aside my annoyance at invulnerable heroes because it is at least one step up from heroes who seem to lose the ability to shoot straight, the little twists in this issue make it interesting. What I said previously was that although I could almost certainly predict the general flow of the comic, what would make or break it was the introduction of the actual enemy, the one that both teams would certainly pull together in the end to fight off. I did not reveal it last time, but as their helmet is on the cover I do not feel obliged to keep it secret this time that the enemy is Stryfe. Given the fact that during the run of Cable and X-Force Hope was shunted into the future where she saw and older version of herself wearing his armour, one can only assume that there has to be some connection here.

Stryfe has snatched Hope and Bishop, the event that left Cable holding the can in front of the entire Uncanny X-Force team who suddenly want their Bishop back and seen no one other than Cable to blame. The comic starts with one of those panels which is ‘cool’ when viewed for the first time, and absolutely ridiculous when looked at again. Psylocke drops her sword into the concrete where it digs in and stands up right. I can just about accept this as really poor concrete and a TK powered sword plant, but the next panel is cable dropping his gun, barrel first and it also sticks into the ground. I can just imagine that group meeting where the comic creators were discussing it and someone suggested it; the whole room decides that it sounds ‘awesome’ and leave it to the artist to make it happen. The problem is the artist who did the previous comic left them on a concrete floor and no one decided to rethink it for this issue.

The art is a bit ‘wobbly’ throughout the comic. By that I mean that is generally ok, but people’s faces have a habit of looking rather different from page to page. It feels a bit like the artist is over reaching, trying to do things outside their comfort zone. When you see a face square on it is absolutely fine, but this comic has a lot of shots framed either from below looking up under peoples chins, or from above, looking down onto the characters and this is when they seem to go skewed. The group shot of Cables team from above has Colossus looking extremely odd, the small picture of Cable at the top of the previous page looks like his face has been hit by a tree and a little later on Hope has the largest weirdest shaped chin ever, but the panel directly below has her looking perfect and flawless. Now there are two artist on this book and there is not a clearly obvious divide between the two, so I can only assume that one artist was slightly more consistent than the other and that has made this stand out particularly at the beginning of the book.

I think I am unfairly biased against this book because I know it is going to be ending these two series. Despite the fact that there is a continuation series that springs from it these teams are going away after this concludes and that makes me disappointed because there was so much more that could have been done with these characters. I fear that many of them will disappear for years after this ends as I do not see too many places right now for the likes of Nemesis, Forge or Spiral but I hope to be proven wrong.

Cable and X-Force #18 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

Cable and X-Force

Issue #18

Written by Dennis Hopeless, Art by Angel Unzueta

Published: March 2014

Cable and X-Force #18

There are a lot of rivalries within the different X-Men factions and to be honest, it is hard to keep track of them all. Also at some points people are friends with people who are enemies with people they are friends with in other books, it is a pattern of loyalty that makes me question just how two-faced most of them are. But to be honest, it is more a lack of continuity between writers rather than any specific attempt to give them character flaws.

Without ever spoilering this comic we all know exactly how this series is going to go; two groups of X-Men meet up, there will be a misunderstanding and then they will spend two or more issues beating the crap out of each other, but really carefully so as not to permanently damage each other. If that is wrong, I will eat my proverbial hat, which I will have to purchase first, but I think my money and my mouth are both safe. The only redeeming factor in these sorts of stories is in the execution of them. Get that plotting, scripting and unique twists done well and it makes the story interesting even if we know how it is all going to shake down in the end. Get it wrong and it will ruin two of my favourite ongoing series in their final moments.

I have never heard of Angel Unzueta before, which is probably me being ignorant and unobservant, and while his art is good, it just cannot stand up to Sandoval’s art which has been so outstanding and consistent on this series. I am not surprised that he has taken this opportunity to step back from the series because effectively this is the first issue of a prequel for the new series; Cable and X-Force is cancelled save for the kicking and shouting. I generally try to stay away from the solicits because I feel they often ruin the stories. Sure it is interesting to find out that Black Widow, Night Crawler, Magneto and a whole bunch of other characters are all getting their own books, but it is not interesting to find out that the new X-Force book that replaces both these series will be made up of Cable, Blank, Blank and Blank.

Finally Hope has gotten to take her place as a member of the team on the title page, it has only taken 18 issues, two of which focused solely around her, for them to acknowledge this fact. It is a good job because yet again she is stealing this issue, tasering one of her team mates in the process. As much as I joke about knowing exactly what is going to happen in this story, I have no idea how they are actually going to put that into practice. They throw in an unknown variable in the shape of an old enemy of Cable which might be the point that the entire comic can turn on as it is a character that they can actually kill, whereas killing each other would be unlikely in any permanent fashion.

It is really hard to judge this comic; the art is not as good as previously, but it is certainly good enough. The story has barely started for this meeting of the two series and what they have done so far has seemed sensible enough. Therefore this is a completely neutral review. In a few weeks time I will have seen the series and will be able to tell how good it has been overall, but at the moment I will only be able to judge this book in retrospect. What I will say is that this is not a book to pick up if you have not been reading at least one of the two series. There are so many questions that this will raise and you will probably end up buying half the back issues just to understand what is going on. However if you have been reading them (and if not, why on earth not?) then you will need to pick this up just to see how they close out the two storylines.

The Last Of Us: American Dreams #1 Review

by Lindsay Young, CMRO Contributing Writer

The Last Of Us: American Dreams

Issue #1

Written by Faith Erin Hicks and Neil Druckmann, Art by Faith Erin Hicks

Published: August 2013

Last of Us: American Dreams #1

After all the fuss made about how great The Last Of Us was (spoilers: it was pretty great), I was compelled to check out the prequel comic, even though I knew very little about it beyond the fact that it was about Ellie’s life before Joel. To my endless joy, it’s also about Riley. More specifically, issue #1 gets into Riley and Ellie’s first meeting, and sets them on an adventure.

This is one of those tie-in comics where I feel like it actually adds something to the source material, rather than simply being a neat distraction. Like the game, the dialogue is great and very naturalistic; it never feels forced or contrived. Ellie reads very authentically as a teenage girl who has to rely on her own toughness and smarts in the world, which is why it’s a lot of fun when she interacts with Riley, who’s also tough and intriguing but in her own, unique way—she’s a little older, with a little less to prove and a whole lot more going on behind the scenes. These two are already a lot of fun together, and I can’t wait to see how that relationship progresses.

The art is bleak and evocative, making use of dark tones and washed-out colours. It’s a nice blend of grit and shadow, with expressive characters and easy, convincing body language. It’s a smart-looking book overall, one that reflects the tone and atmosphere of the game while still allowing for a more unique, cartoonish style.

Although I think the game’s method of hinting at Riley and Ellie’s relationship works fine, it’s gratifying to see it realized here, and to see that Ellie wasn’t wrong to call them friends. At least, that’s where issue #1 seems to be headed, and I can’t wait to follow it there.