Uncanny X-Men, Vol.1 – “Revolution” (Marvel NOW)

UncannyXMen-Vol.01A so-so ‘start’ to a new Uncanny X-Men series…

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis | Artist: Chris Bachalo (1-4), Frazier Irving (#5) | Inks: Jaime Mendoza, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Victor Olazaba & Frazier Irving | Colours: Chris Bachalo & Frazier Irving

The true flagship X-Men series returns… NOW! In the wake of the Phoenix event, the world has changed and is torn on exactly what Cyclops and his team of outlaw X-Men are – visionary revolutionaries or dangerous terrorists? Whatever the truth, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magneto, and Magik are out in the world gathering new mutants and redefining the name Uncanny X-Men. But the challenges that they must overcome are fierce: once again, robotic Sentinels hunt the team and the mutants they protect… but when you find out who’s doing the hunting, your jaw will drop! And if that’s not enough, there’s a mole on Cyclops’s team – but who is it?

Collects: Uncanny X-Men #1-5

This is not a bad start to one of the Marvel NOW re-launch titles. Nevertheless, I had some issues with it, but they are more related to the overall direction of the Marvel NOW titles than this series per se. So: some good, some middling.

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Sentinels!

Yes, Uncanny X-Men is quite fun, and this book has a cheeky and gentle wit and humour running throughout – Bachalo’s artwork is a wonderful medium to realise this on the page, too. I’ve really grown to like it from Wolverine & the X-Men, despite initially not being too sure if I did. Speaking of W&tXM, the humour in Uncanny X-Men is very reminiscent of that, so I wonder if it is a conscious effort or just something Bachalo brings to the books he’s working on? Either way, I enjoyed it.

That being said… I understand that Cyclops, Emma Frost and Magick are struggling with their powers – they’re misfiring, malfunctioning, or out of control. They all were infused by the Phoenix Force in Avengers vs. X-Men, after all – and, if I remember correctly, there was a mention of at least Scott’s difficulties coming to terms with his reduced control and powers in AvX: Consequences (or possible in volume one of All-New X-Men?). But… Why is Magneto having difficulty with his powers? He wasn’t taken over by the Phoenix Force. I don’t remember that coming up before, nor any reason being given for it.

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The new mutants Cyclops & Co. have added to their numbers – new young recruits, people manifesting new powers since the arrival and dispersal of the Phoenix Force, are fun. It does mean, though, that we’re seeing another series that is probably trying to attract younger readers, something more in common with Wolverine & the X-Men (another similarity, perhaps only brought to mind lazily by Bachalo’s involvement). This despite fertile ground to explore a number of deeper issues. For example, who is culpable for the whole AvX mess (as they point out, it was Iron Man’s mistake that split the Phoenix Force into five hosts in the first place…). There is plenty they could explore with this series, but instead it looks like they’re going to wander off into other areas (the final chapter of the book turns the focus on to Magick and her misfiring powers). Revolution felt sadly unfulfilling and thin.

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Love this bit. “Did he actually call a time-out?”

I don’t know, ultimately, what I think about this book. Some of it I really liked (the art and humour), but some of it irked me because I think the whole franchise may have made some real problems for itself with these endless mass Events, crossovers, etc. I’ll probably still check out book two, but I’m in no hurry to do so. So this is recommended, but perhaps for real Marvel fans only, and not for just-casual readers.

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Skottie Young’s Variant Cover for #1
[Because I can’t pass up an opportunity to share Young’s work…]

Artwork: Guardians of the Galaxy #5, Variant Cover (Marvel)

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Really liked this Vintage-style variant cover for Guardians of the Galaxy #5 (new ongoing series).

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis

Cover by: Paolo Rivera

Published: July 31st 2013

Synopsis: Spinning out of the dramatic conclusion of Age of Ultron, dimensions collide and Heaven’s most fearsome Angel pushes the Guardians back on their heels.

Marvel Events: “House of M” & “Secret Invasion”

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Another dual-review, this time for two Marvel Events. I’m always wary of Marvel Events – they have a tendency to disappoint or prove a little pointless for those who are not devouring most/all of Marvel’s ever-expanding line of titles. The end of Avengers vs. X-Men at least had the benefit of shrinking their overall line, at least. It doesn’t appear that any of the big events that came before did. (I’d still like to read Siege, I think…)

Both of these two titles were included in a Marvel sale on ComiXology (which is pretty much the only way I buy Marvel titles, now, actually), so buying them and catching up with this Marvel backstory didn’t prove too costly. One of the titles was very good (much better than expected, certainly), and one just mediocre (and just a little bit of a struggle to keep reading)…

***

HOUSE OF M (2005)

HouseOfM-TPBWriter: Brian Michael Bendis | Artist: Olivier Coipel | Inks: Tim Townsend, Rick Magyar, Scott Hanna, John Dell | Colors: Frank D’Armata, Paul Mounts

The Avengers and the X-Men are faced with a common foe that becomes their greatest threat: Wanda Maximoff! The Scarlet Witch is out of control, and the fate of the entire world is in her hands. Will Magneto help his daughter or use her powers to his own benefit? Starring the Astonishing X-Men and the New Avengers! You know how sometimes you hear the phrase: and nothing will ever be the same again? Well, this time believe it, buster! Nothing will ever be the same again!

Collects: House of M #1-8

The book starts with Wanda Maximoff, also known as “The Scarlet Witch”, in a happy setting. Sadly, as Professor Xavier wheels in, we learn that it is not real – rather, a manifestation of Wanda’s power to bend and alter reality at will. What makes her power so deadly, though, is her mental instability. She’s clearly been spiraling into a much worse state, which forces the Avengers and X-Men to meet to discuss what is to be done about her. Some call for her termination, others call for restraint and understanding. A compromise is reached: they will go to the devastated land of Genosha to assess her state of mind, despite neither Prof X nor Dr. Strange able to help her retain (or, perhaps more accurately, attain) a grip on reality.

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At the end of the first issue, Spidey walks off and wakes up… Only, nothing he sees is the same as it was… For one thing, there are a lot more apparent-mutants, too: they’re pretty much everywhere. They seem to be as numerous as humans, if not more so (later, it becomes clearer).

There are a number of funny moments in the book, too – not laugh-out-loud funny, but at least enough to make me chuckle. Here, for example, is Kitty Pryde, teaching a history class: “Who was the first mutant?” she asks her class. “And don’t say Moses or Jesus. I’m talking officially.”

Over the course the series, we are taken through this new reality for all the key players (too many to go through individually in a review, though). It’s pretty good, actually, and Bendis has chosen very well for most of the characters.

The spanner is thrown into the works, though, after Wolverine wakes up and knows something ain’t right… As Wolverine remembers his entire life in the “real” Marvel reality/timeline, he starts to seriously freak out. In a stroke of bonkers logic, he decides to launch himself off the Avengers’ Helicarrier… He flees from his former team-mates on the “Red Guard” (an elite S.H.I.E.L.D. unit), and gets scooped up and taken in front of the Human Resistance. And so begins his recruitment drive, collecting mutants and others to his side, as he realizes what Wanda’s done: given mutants what they always wanted, acceptance and a place in the world.

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The chapters have a brief prose intro that is rather info-dumpy (I read this as individual issues, so I’m not sure if this is the case in the collected book). This is also probably because there were a lot of tie-in issues across Marvel’s titles at the time, all of which fed into and effected what happened in this book. I wasn’t prepared to buy and read them all, though (even with comiXology’s 99c sale).

In the sixth issue, we get this statement from Cyclops:

“I’ve – uh – I’ve been team leader of the X-Men since I was a teenager… And in that entire time, I’ve prided myself on my tactical restraint. Taking a moral high ground where violence is concerned.”

This from the mutant who will bring the world and community of mutants and super-heroes into a war so costly and devastating, that it will forever mess up the Marvel universe. What difference a couple of years make, huh?

At the end, we learn of what really happened, wrapping things up rather nicely. But then Wanda says those now-immortal words that forever changed the Marvel Universe…

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After the pleasantly strong start, the book maintained its quality and pace. The artwork is also excellent throughout. Although, in an unusual twist: while the women are the comic-book ideal, it is the men who look deformed, as if their all suffering some steroidal gigantism. Sometimes, in the less-sharp or more-busy panels, it looks really wrong… On the whole, though, it was quite well realised on the page. Some of the pages were a touch too busy, which could make them unclear, and a handful of panels were sadly indecipherable. This didn’t have much of a negative impact on the book, however, as Bendis’s writing was strong and quite gripping.

This book was, therefore, much better than I had expected. I’m always wary of the Marvel Events, but this was well-written and fun. I would certainly recommend this to fans of any/all Marvel titles.

*

SECRET INVASION (2008)

SecretInvasion-TPBWriter: Brian Michael Bendis | Artist: Leinil Francis Yu | Inks: Miles Morales | Colors: Laura Martin

SECRET INVASION IS HERE The shape-shifting alien race known as the Skrulls has secretly infiltrated every super-powered organization on Earth with one goal – full-scale invasion In this collected edition, page-after-page unveils reveal-after-reveal and shocking moment-after-shocking-moment Brian Bendis and Leinil Francis Yu leap off the pages of mega-hit New Avengers and deliver a story that will change the Marvel Universe forever.

Collects: Secret Invasion #1-8

This ‘Event’ collection was a bit of a disappointment. I read it after House of M, and only because I rather enjoyed that book. Something about the rapid-fire dialogue made me wonder if Bendis had been watching a lot of The West Wing in the run-up to writing this. Sadly, though, the dialogue in here has nothing on Sorkin’s style, and instead just felt choppy and rushed.

The story in general felt simplistic, overloaded with telling-rather-than showing (which has been a frequent complaint of mine lately, I know). The book then becomes a riotous mess. I had a vague inkling of who the Skrull were, but had difficulty following what was going on and, as a result, never really came to care.

I would not recommend this to people who haven’t been following the overall, web-like Marvel chronology and story. There are a lot of hints and allusions to what has come before, but without knowing much of the back-story, I imagine I missed a lot. I include myself in that group. I was lost and, despite Yu’s excellent artwork, ultimately bored.

The Ultimate Avenging Spider-Men Review (Marvel)

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I’ve been doing a fair bit of comics-reading the past couple of weeks, but I haven’t been reviewing much. Therefore, I’ve decided to clump some of them together. This time, as the title may suggest, I deal with some Spider-Man series: Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man Vol.2, Spider-Men and Avenging Spider-Man Vol.1. A mixed bag, but overall some good stuff on offer for fans both new and old.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man Vol.2, “Scorpion”

UC-SpiderMan-Vol.2Writer: Brian Michael Bendis | Artist: Chris Samnee (#6-7), Sara Pichelli (#8-9) & David Marquez (#10) | Colors: Justin Ponsor

A brand new chapter in the saga of Miles Morales, the all-new Ultimate Spider-Man! The new Ultimate Scorpion is introduced! Still discovering the limits of his skills and powers, Miles must learn how to be a hero from… Peter Parker?

Collects: Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #6-10

In this second volume of the post-Peter Parker Ultimate Universe, Miles Morales is still figuring out how to actually be the new Spider-Man. He’s had the nod from the Ultimates, who also gave him a pretty cool new outfit (something he realises needs washing a lot).

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The main thrust of this book is his continued exploration of his powers, as well as his continued struggle to juggle his normal life (at a boarding school) and his family life. Mostly, though, he seems to be having a blast, figuring out his limits.

His uncle Aaron, though, has guessed what’s going on and what has happened to Miles, and has decided to make himself a part of Miles’s life, and isn’t above blackmailing him. Miles must also face off against the Scorpion, a crazed criminal boss from Mexico, who has come to New York seeking out Aaron for retribution. It’s not pretty, but there is a ton of action.

Perhaps too much action, actually. I think more time could have been spent on Miles and his attempts to balance his life as a school kid and son, and being Spider-Man. There is some of this, of course, and that includes lots of nice touches – this is a a modernized version of the Spidey origin story, basically: he’s at a special boarding school, has a smart phone, and so on. It’s quite well done. I like his parents, too – they feel very natural, dealing with a young teenager going through his own… Issues.

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The artwork in final issue is my probably my favourite, but I also have a soft-spot for Pichelli’s.

Generally speaking, a good follow up to the first collection, and this continues to be a series I look forward to continuing with.

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*

Spider-Men

Spider-Men-TPBWriter: Brian Michael Bendis | Artist: Sarah Pichelli | Colors: Justin Ponsor

It’s the ULTIMATE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EVENT OF THE YEAR, as Spider-Man comes face-to-face with… Spider-Man! Can even Peter Parker and Miles Morales – the Spider-Men of two worlds – defeat Mysterio, the Master of Illusions? And what happens when Miles encounters an older, wiser version of his inspiration, Peter Parker? Guest starring Nick Fury and the Ultimates!

Collects: Spider-Men #1-5

Overall, this isn’t a bad comic. I do think it’s a little too gimmicky, though. Given how much Spider-Man and Peter Parker history it goes over, I think it may probably only be a must for real Spidey-fans, who are familiar with the long back-story of the various Spider-Man related series (as well as Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man pre- and post-Death of Spider-Man story arc). I knew some of it, of course, but I don’t think it had as much effect on me as it could have if I’d read a whole bunch of Spider-Man comics.

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I chuckled a few times, as there are some moments when the two Spider-Men are getting familiar with each other, and as other people get used to the idea of Peter Parker, grown-up, back in their lives (even if temporarily).

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Mainly, though, I enjoyed the artwork: Pichelli is a superb artist, in my opinion; able to keep things fresh and bright, filled with nice details and small touches throughout to keep us looking at the panels. Bendis’s story isn’t bad, either, but… Well, I’ve read much better Spidey stories.

This was, ultimately, a novelty and sadly a tad thin in the end. One for die-hard Spidery fans, but perhaps that’s it.

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*

Avenging Spider-Man Vol.1, “My Friends Can Beat Up Your Friends”

AvengingSpiderMan-Vol.1-TPBWriter: Zeb Wells | Artist: Joe Madureira (#1-3), Greg Land (#4), Leinil Francis Yu (#5) | Colors: Ferran Daniel (#1-3), Wil Quintana (#4), Sunny Gho (#5) | Inks: Jay Leisten (#4), Gerry Alanguilan (#5)

A brand new Spider-series that teams the wall-crawler with some of the greatest heroes in the Marvel Universe! Spider-Man and new Avengers teammate Red Hulk kick things off by taking on a Moloid army during the New York Marathon. Spidey and Rulk raise and lead an underground army in this action packed extravaganza – but when Red Hulk falls, only Spider-Man stands in the way of the Subterranean invasion of Manhattan!

Saving the best for last, we move on to Avenging Spider-Man. This series was always meant to be one that focused on team-up stories. The first three chapters feature Spidery’s quite hilarious team-up with Red Hulk (and, in a way, Mayor Jonah Jamieson); the fourth is with Hawkeye, offering quite an amusing intro for the marksman; and the fifth is a surprisingly heart-warming story featuring Captain America.

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The Red Hulk issues had me laughing out loud a couple of times. It’s filled with amusing quips, asides, background details and more that had me at least smiling all the way through. There story is pretty crazy, featuring a lot of bizarre underground shenanigans, as the Moleman and his little goblin-esque minions capture the Mayor during the start of the New York City Marathon. All is not as it seems, however, as something else – something bigger – has been pulling the strings, and wishes to come in and taken over the land above and below. A great introductory story-arc for this series.

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In chapter four, Hawkeye is pretty arrogant. I haven’t had much experience with this character beyond the Avengers Assemble movie, and a few other issues here-and-there, in which he is part of a larger ensemble cast or peripheral at best. The issue starts as a simple team-up, with Spider-Man having to suffer Hawkeye’s constant bragging and posturing (as well as a moment of honest vulnerability as he explains why he is constantly training) as they are sent on a mission. It morphs, however, into a very good ending, in which Spidey shows readers why many consider him the heart of the Avengers team. (I thought it was very touching, actually.)

The final issue is a heart-warming story with the Avengers, but really focuses on Spidey’s relationship with Captain America. Again, we’re shown the role Spider-Man plays as team mascot and heart. Peter helps Cap loosen up and remember (fondly) some of the more nerdy interests and passions of his youth. This was a really good issue, with some good action-scenes, but what really made it for me were the sweet and endearing final couple of pages.

The issue marries some very good, zany humor with a good amount of depth. It’s not too nuanced, but there’s an obvious love for the characters and medium on display throughout this book. I think it works really well, actually, making this not only a a great Spider-Man series, but great series overall. I’m really happy I picked it up.

(The sixth issue of the series is a tie-in to the “Omega Drive” storyline that was also in Greg Rucka’s The Punisher and Mark Waid’s Daredevil – which is how I came across Avenging Spider-Man in the first place.)

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