Uncanny X-Men #3 – Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Cullen Bunn with Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard

Published February 2016

Uncanny X-Men 003 aSynopsis – In their quest to save the mutant healers from the ravages of ‘The Riders’ Magneto has to get his hands dirty.

I am starting to really like this series and that is surprising because I was quite on the fence at first. They have an interesting team that has been pulled together by circumstance rather than by any innate connection between them and that leads to all manner of conflicts.

This is actually quite a dream team up, both in the comic and in the real world. Cullen Bunn is on the cusp of becoming one of Marvels mainstay writers and having an X-team in his hands is a really exciting prospect. On the other hand Greg Land has a terrible reputation, however it has been completely unfounded so far in this series. Gone are the long lingering looks at full frontal female nudity* and in are wide thin panels that focus on the characters faces. However his reputation for ‘copying’ seems deminished in this series as the faces are all character appropriate and very consistent.

This is for me, a perfect anti-hero X-Men series; Magneto doing anything he can to get the job done, a tormented Creed trying to go straight and Psylocke acting as the conscience and heart of the team. Given Elizabeth’s ‘chequered’ past you can understand why having her as the teams conscience makes this quite an entertaining prospect.

What I really appreciate here is the ‘reality’ of what is going on, Magneto is not pulling his punches, he quite literally rips a man in half on panel in this issue. I like it when comics do that and we are not left with the bad guys licking their wounds and running away with the heroes shaking their fists at them as they go. This is the sort of effect that you would get if you put together an arch angel, psychic assassin, master of magnetism and a caged animal into one team; carnage, death and destruction.

This is definitely my favourite X-Men book in print at the moment, although given how few of them there are currently around, that is not as big a compliment as it used to be. I want more of the same and if the epilogue to this issue is followed up on, then it looks like things can only get better.

Story – 9/10
Art – 9/10

* Obviously not actual nudity, but when they are in skin tight costumes, its merely the colouring that gives us the illusion of clothing…

Future Imperfect #5 Review

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by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Future Imperfect

Issue #5

Written by Peter David with Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard

Published: October 2015

Future Imperfect #5Future Imperfect #5 wraps up the look into the Maestro’s part of the Secret Wars world as well as his reign in Dystopia. The story is a little simplistic but does provide a lot of action and entertainment, not to mention a fun twist ending.

Confronted by the Ancient One who happens to be a century-old Rick Jones, the Maestro finds, much to his surprise, that there is no test or battle awaiting him in order to get access to the Destroyer. Instead, Rick just hands over access to the god-killing robot. There’s just one catch – Doom is on the way to deal with the intruder.

Before Doom heads into battle against the Maestro, the big green guy enters the Destroyer. The result is a pretty cool redesign as we get a mashup of the Maestro and the Destroyer, ready to stomp Doom out of existence. And, surprisingly, that’s exactly how the battle goes – combined with the Destroyer’s might, the Maestro easily outmatches Doom. However, there is a twist.

I’m not going to give away the twist ending, but suffice to say that Doom isn’t as dead as he initially seems to be. That shouldn’t really be much of a surprise – nobody was going to kill the guy in a side book.

What I will say about the twist is that it is entertaining to an extent. On the other hand, it’s the type of twist that yanks the carpet out from under the readers, since we have to go through several pages before finding out that we haven’t really been seeing what’s happening.

One thing that definitely does bother me about this issue is the fact that the gang who have followed the Maestro on his quest, the folks who just watched a friend die in battle, just sort of walk away at the end of the story. These are people who were willing to try to overthrow Doom, but then they just cut bait and leave. Admittedly, they do get some degree of what they want, since the Maestro is no longer in their home of Dystopia, but it still feels like there should be some follow-up that isn’t happening there.

So where does this unexpected ending leave the Future Imperfect miniseries? Well, first of all, it’s a far cry from the original in terms of impact. Truly classic stories usually tell us something about ourselves. The original provided us with a nightmare scenario – imagine that you are destined to become a reflection of the worst aspects inside you. What would you do to stop that?

By comparison, this new Future Imperfect miniseries doesn’t tell us all that much, except maybe a well-worn parable about the dangers of hubris. This is not a story that people will be coming back to decades down the line. However, it is a tale that is entertaining as a whole. As long as you go into the series realizing that you’re about to invest $20 in an event comic that, due to the nature of tie-ins in the industry, won’t have any major impact on the actual event, you should be fine.

In the end, Future Imperfect #5 caps off a fun but ultimately imperfect miniseries. It’s good entertainment for what it is, but it’s a far cry from the deep and impactful tale that it takes its name from.

Future Imperfect #4 Review

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by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Future Imperfect

Issue #4

Written by Peter David with Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard

Published: September 2015

Future Imperfect #4Future Imperfect #4 highlights both the strong points and the few weak points that I think Peter David has as a writer. Make no mistake – he’s one of the top guys in the industry today. However, even the best have their flaws.

This issue is notable in that it’s one of the few times we’ve seen the Maestro as the protagonist rather than the antagonist. Sure, it’s all a part of his plan for universal domination, but he’s the one pushing the plot forward now instead of the obstacle the heroes must overcome.

The strengths of this issue are in the dialogue and character interaction. One specific great moment includes the Thing almost walking off the mission because the Maestro is foolish enough to believe that he can outwit Doom.

To take on Doom and conquer the universe, the Maestro needs the Destroyer. This is actually the second time he’s gone for the thing – he had previously used it to take on the Hulk in Peter David’s late 1990’s run. This time he’s got to go through Thor’s old foe Ulik, and boy does he ever.

The fight between the Maestro and Ulik is brutal and quick, with the Maestro dominating from start to finish. You could make an argument that the protagonist of the story shouldn’t be so invulnerable, but it also doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Maestro to have much trouble against a Hulk-level foe when he’s proven himself time and again to be stronger and more dangerous than previous incarnations of the Hulk.

Moreover, it’s necessary for the Maestro to trash his foes like this, because he’s being built up as the one guy who can take on Doom. That means he’s got to be formidable enough that he might be able to defeat the creator of the Secret Wars universe. So essentially, this issue is taking the necessary step of showing the Maestro as the number two baddie in all of creation.

One of the few real weaknesses of Peter David’s writing style, in my opinion, is his reliance on continuity that alienates some readers. We see this on display near the end of the issue as we meet old man Rick Jones from the Future Imperfect timeline. His appearance is handled as a cliffhanger, and it’s a big one to long-time Hulk fans. I do question, however, whether people who are less familiar with the original Future Imperfect story from the 1990’s would have any reaction other than, “Who’s the old guy?”

The ending may seem to be a bit anticlimactic for people who don’t know what old man Rick Jones looks like, but otherwise this is a solid issue. There’s not much drama to the fight, but it does go a long way toward establishing the ultimate confrontation, which will be the Maestro taking on a Doom with god-like powers.

Future Imperfect #2 Review

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by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Future Imperfect

Issue #2

Written by Peter David with Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard

Published: July 2015

Future Imperfect #2Dr. Doom may have created a brave new multiverse, but as we find out in Future Imperfect #2, the Hulk and the Thing are still a main event. The fight also ends in about as predictable a format as one can imagine, with poor Ben Grimm getting clobbered again.

Well, that’s not entirely true. See, the Thing in Dystopia isn’t Ben Grimm. Instead, it’s Thunderbolt Ross.

Personally, I’m happy that Ross isn’t the Red Hulk here, although I’m not sure turning him into the Thing was really all that necessary. Yes, there is a certain iconic nature to the Hulk fighting the Thing, but disassociating the puny rock-man from Ben Grimm is like presenting us with a Superman that isn’t Clark Kent.

Aside from my misgivings on that point, the issue focuses first of the origin of this new Thing (which is basically just the Fantastic Four’s origin but with Glenn Talbot and Thunderbolt Ross sitting in the place of the traditional foursome), then moves into a massive battle that has all the power and impact that you’d expect out of these two super-strong bitter enemies.

For the second issue in a row, the art is pretty solid. There are certain points where Greg Land’s flaws shine through, but overall his pencils work pretty well. The colors are terrific, giving us a real sense of the wasteland that Dystopia is even when the barren landscape isn’t featured on panel.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot else going on here. It seems like in an older era, this whole fight would be done after about four or five pages. Instead, we get a lot of splash pages and very little story, which can be a bit much for a book that costs $3.99.

On the bright side, the end of the issue is something that catches the audience’s attention – the Maestro is interested in more than just squashing a rebellion. He actually wants to recruit those rebels in an attempt to take down Doctor Doom and become the ruler of this Battleworld. That motivation, combined with the glimpses of the upcoming Contest of Champions series which features the Maestro in a major role, adds some intrigue to the coming issues. And with Peter David at the helm, the story is almost certainly going to have a pay-off.

In the end, Future Imperfect #2 is a decent action piece, but I don’t know that it provides enough entertainment to justify the cover price. However, the story is good enough so far to give a little benefit of the doubt, especially considering Peter David’s reputation and his ability to spin excellent and intriguing plots. It’s very likely that this series will continue to be one of the best things coming out of the Secret Wars event.

Future Imperfect #1 Review

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by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Future Imperfect

Issue #1

Written by Peter David with Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard

Published: June 2015

Future Imperfect #1Marvel’s “Secret Wars” event is all about drawing upon the strength of the great stories of the past, and there are few Hulk stories greater than Future Imperfect. This two-issue miniseries featured a reverse-Terminator scenario where the Hulk was pulled into the future to face off against his evil alternate self, the Maestro. In a frightening and powerful story, we got to see the Hulk face his worst nightmare: a future where he becomes the monster everybody says he is.

It’s natural to want to go back to that well, and who better to do it than the guy who wrote the original series and who spent more than a decade telling classic Hulk stories? Peter David is back with Future Imperfect #1, which brings back the Maestro’s Dystopia with one important change: there’s no Hulk here to try to break the evil ruler’s grip on civilization.

There is a resistance, led by Rick Jones’ descendant Janis, who is a welcome sight who had previously fallen off the face of Marvel Earth when Peter David quit the Hulk’s main book more than a decade and a half ago. We don’t learnt too much about the rebellion, though, because most of their time is spent with the Maestro crashing the party and smashing everybody in sight.

The Maestro manages to show off his brains to infiltrate the rebel base, and it almost seems too easy. Without giving up too much about his plan, it’s important to note that this is a thinking Hulk – one with Bruce Banner’s intelligence and the ability to transform back and forth at will. Despite that, most people who see the Hulk see a powerful green monster who loves to smash – who would expect subterfuge from a guy like that? By using this perception, the Maestro is able to make the infiltration seem easy, but it never seems unbelievable to the audience.

Peter David has a certain writing style that you either love or hate. However, since he is the creator of the Maestro, he’s also very comfortable with the character’s voice. He shows us a deadly, intelligent, and murderous Hulk that can be truly frightening, and he slides into the writing style he established for this character more than 20 years ago with practised ease.

On the art end, we’ve got Greg Land doing the pencils, which is a far cry from the terrific work that George Perez did on the original miniseries in the 90s. Although I’m no big fan of Land’s work, he seems to have picked up his game for this series. There are a few panels where a character’s expression is obviously traced from somewhere else (which is the main critique of Land), but for the most part the art works well and provides a good feel not only for the setting but also for characters like Janis who have a well-defined look from previous stories.

The bulk of Future Imperfect #1 is spent setting up a fight between the Maestro and this universe’s version of the Thing, but this is a well-paced opening issue that introduces the setting very well without relying on clumsy narration or exposition.

Whenever Peter David gets writing a version of the Hulk, it’s very much worth checking out. Future Imperfect #1 sets the stage very effectively and gives hope that this is going to be one of the better miniseries to come out of “Secret Wars.”

Uncanny X-Men #2 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Uncanny X-Men

Issue #2

Written by Cullen Bunn with Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard

Published January 2016

Uncanny X-Men (2016-) 002-000 aSynopsis – Magneto is starting to regret leaving that healing mutant to die, but his death has revealed a pattern of murders in the community, with Elixir and Triage next in the the firing line.

Uncanny X-Men has always been ‘my’ X-Men. I am not sure entirely why that is (and Astonishing briefly stole the show,) but the team that turns up in this comic always seems to ‘click’ for me. In recent years it has always been the darker, more ‘adult’ team, which may have helped. This new series does not disappoint in this regard and death, destruction and mayhem are certainly close at hand.

Pretty much every character in this series ranks up there as either a long term member, or recent joinee, to my list of favourite X-Men; even Sabertooth has grown on me. In fact as much as I hated AXIS, it did two good things; Superior Iron Man and the non-one dimensional Sabertooth.*

This book is the perfect example of my theory as to why Marvel has improved so much in recent years. They are slowly but surely doing away with the concept of ‘villains’ and have moved everyone onto their own moral scale. In reality no one thinks of themselves as the ‘bad guy’ they are always the hero of their own story and the best book are written with that in mind. It has meant that Magneto and Mystique are not always going to be antagonists and for that matter Cyclops and Captain America are certainly no longer always protagonists. This series brings together one of the more ‘edgy’ teams who are on the slide in terms of their moral standpoint, but that does not mean they are ‘bad’ merely that they will resort to any measures necessary to safeguard the mutant population.

We still are in the dark as to where this series is going, but the writing is fantastic, Greg Lands art appears to be less ‘scripted’ than usual and is so much more engaging for it. There are so many unanswered questions in this story, none more so than how did they all end up together, but also what happened to Angel and just whose side is Mystique really on?

Story – 9/10
Art – 9/10

* Even still, it doesn’t mean that that series was worth any more than as use for emergency toilet paper.