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…]

Marvel Graphic Novel Catch-Up: Fearless Defenders, Avengers, and Thor

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Three new Marvel NOW collections that I’ve read and enjoyed recently. I had my doubts about the new re-launch/re-boot, but I have actually rather enjoyed the stories themselves (despite, sometimes, only have movie knowledge to get me situated…).

Reviewed: Avengers, Fearless Defenders, Thor: God of Thunder

FEARLESS DEFENDERS, Vol.1 – “Doom Maidens”

FearlessDefenders-Vol.01Writer: Cullen Bunn | Artist: Will Sliney | Colors: Veronica Gandini

New team! New villains! New creators!Valkyrie and Misty Knight are the Fearless Defenders, and not since Power Man and Iron Fist has an unlikely duo kicked this much – well, you know.

Collects: Fearless Defenders #1-6

Cullen Bunn offers up  an all-female team of super-heroines, with a distinctly mythological slant. The story is fun and quirky, with Bunn’s signature, gentle humour often on display – witty asides, amusing narrative moments, and pretty great characterisation. I wasn’t wholly gripped, as I have been with some of his other work (The Sixth Gun remains one of my favourite series of all time). The artwork is good, sometimes a little exaggerated (think Marvel in the 1990s, perhaps). There’s some darkness in the story, too, which offered a nice balance to the levity, although I think I would have preferred to see that a little more developed. By the end, I thought I knew the characters rather well, but that the story had been a bit thin.

It was recently announced, I think, that this is being cancelled. That’s a pity, as I think this could have grown into something pretty cool, if given time. I’ll certainly be reading the remaining issues, though.

*

AVENGERS, Vol.1 – “Avengers World”

Avengers-Vol.01Writer: Jonathan Hickman | Artist: Jerome Opeña (#1-3), Adam Kubert (#4-6) | Colors: Dean White, Justin Ponsor, Morry Hollowell, Frank Martin, Richard Isanove (#1-3), Frank D’Armata (#4), Frank Martin (#5-6)

The greatest heroes in comics together on one unbeatable team! The Avengers “go large”, expanding their roster and their sphere of influence to a global and even interplanetary level. When Captain America puts out his call – who will answer? Big threats, big ideas, big idealism – these are the Avengers NOW!

Collects: Avengers #1-6

Captain America and Iron Man are rebuilding the Avengers. They’re using a more sophisticated organisational model, this time (it’s not as dull to read about as that sounds…). Meanwhile, Ex Nihilo, Abyss and Aleph have been terra-forming Mars and lobbing “evolution bombs” at Earth, re-writing Evolution. As you do. And, collaterally, killing whole bunches of people all over the world. Naturally, this irks the Avengers. After the core Avengers team confronted them at the start, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor and Hawkeye are held captive by these new baddies. Ex Nihilo likes to monologue. Cap is sent back to Earth to “bring everyone”. And then… We get one of the most anti-climactic conclusions in issue/chapter 3. It’s a total deus-ex-machina, couldn’t-be-bothered moment. Sadly fails to deliver, and I felt rather disappointed.

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Recruiting, Avengers-Style

The second story in the book looks at the clean-up after the evolution bombs, from different perspectives, coupled with the backgrounds of some newer Avengers recruits (new for me, at any rate). First, Hyperion (a rather emo-God-type from another dimension, who seems to miss his former station on his world). Second, Smasher (a female “guardian”, or “subguardian” – basically, a Green Lantern with cool tech, a mask instead of a ring, and attached to the Shi’ar Empire, rather than the, uh, Guardians…). And third, Captain Universe (who appears to be a god… or perhaps the origin of all things… It’s not entirely clear…).

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Three Moments of Levity: Bruce Banner explains himself (top), Thor confuses Tony (bottom, left),
and Thor is unimpressed by puny human’s idea of “Godlike”…

Overall, though, this isn’t a bad start to the new Avengers series. There’s a lot of rather cryptic information. Certainly, the Avengers are going Bigger. Hopefully it won’t become too silly in the future, but I am looking forward to reading Vol.2, “The White Event”. The artwork is pretty fantastic, too. Lots of great detail, rich colors, and it really pops throughout.

*

ThorGodOfThunder-Vol.01Thor: God of Thunder, Vol.1 – “The God Butcher”

Writer: Jason Aaron | Artist: Esad Ribic | Colors: Dean White (#1), Ive Svorcina (#2-5)

Throughout the ages, gods have been vanishing, their mortal worshippers left in chaos. Now, Thor follows a trail of blood that threatens to consume his past, present and future. The only hope for these ravaged worlds is for Thor to unravel the gruesome mystery of the God Butcher!

In the distant past, Thor follows the bloody wake of murdered gods across the depths of space. In the present, the Thunder God discovers a forgotten cave that echoes with the cries of tortured gods… and is shocked to find himself among them! And thousands of years from now, the last god-king of a ruined Asgard makes his final stand against the God Butcher’s beserker legions. As three Thors from three eras race to stop the God Butcher, the full extent of his vicious scheme takes terrifying shape!

Collects: Thor – God of Thunder #1-5

Another great start to a new Marvel NOW series. This is the first Thor solo series I’ve ever read, and I think Aaron does a great job of offering a starting point – given that the story hops between three times (past, present, and very far future), there’s no need to be greatly versed in the Thor mythology (Norse or Marvel’s). We see the character develop a bit, and a millennia-long struggle against the God Butcher, who – true to his name – has been working his way through the various pantheons of the universe, culling the numbers of deities. Thor, the only one to give him much of a challenge, has been chosen as the Last, in order that he sees his fellow gods killed, one-by-one.

It’s a solid story, and I’m certainly going to try to stick with the series for a little while. The writing is great, the story and artwork complement each other brilliantly, too. Definitely recommend this one to anyone who either likes the character already, or wants somewhere to jump on.

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Graphic Novels Catch-Up: Hulk, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Superman

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Four mini-reviews of graphic novels I have read over the last couple of weeks: Captain America: Road to Reborn and Reborn, Indestructible Hulk, Superman: Secret Identity, Wonder Woman (New 52).

INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK, Vol.1 – “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (Marvel NOW)

IndestructibleHulk-Vol.01Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Leinel Yu

Hulk: Indestructible force more weapon than man. Banner: Smartest man alive. Combined, they are the strongest, smartest weapon on the planet! And NOW!, the Indestructible Hulk is an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.! Hulk’s first official missions include taking down the all-new Quintronic Man and battling Attuma on the ocean floor! But not everything is as it seems: What is Banner’s secret hold over S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill? What and where is Bannertown, USA? And which one of Banner’s lab assistants holds a deadly secret? Plus: Bruce Banner and Tony Stark are friends but Hulk and Iron Man are anything but!

Collects: Indestructible Hulk #1-5

I read the first issue of this collection when it was first released, and rather liked the approach Waid took to the character. Bruce Banner is hired on by S.H.I.E.L.D., who continue to be wary of… the Other Guy. He’s given his own research team and lab – located at “Bannertown”. The story is pretty good, to start with, as we get reacquainted with Banner and his constant struggle with the Hulk inside him. He goes on a mission with Tony Stark (Hulk doesn’t like Iron Man very much). Then things get rather weird… The story moves into Exaggerated Comic Story, which was a little annoying, after the rather good, nuanced beginning. I would have preferred a little more investigation of Banner’s state of mind, etc. It’s strange that Waid didn’t offer this, actually, given his stellar work on series such as Irredeemable (still one of my favourite stories of all time – comic or otherwise).

There’s an underwater adventure that seemed to come out of nowhere, a big battle, and then we get sent back to Bannertown, where S.H.I.E.L.D. have hired a young, varied and eccentric staff to help Bruce with his research.

Yu’s artwork is, of course, as excellent and distinctive as always. I love his style, and have done ever since I read Superman: Birthright (which was also written by Waid).

It’ll be interesting to see how this series develops. I’ll be back for at least volume 2.

*

WONDER WOMAN, Vol.4 – “War” (DC New 52)

WonderWoman-Vol.4Writer: Ed Brubaker | Artist: Cliff Chiang

Wonder Woman’s world is shocked to its core when her eldest brother, the First Born, is freed from his slumber. Now, with her family in ruins and her friends scattered, she must turn to Orion and the New Gods of New Genesis to save herself and Zola’s newborn from the First Born’s wrath!

Collects: Wonder Woman #19-23

I think I may be losing interest in this series. It seems to be spinning its wheels, while also occasionally veering into excessive (but abrupt) action. I still think Brubaker and Chiang have developed a fascinating and unique take on Greek Mythology and its leading deities, creatures, and so forth. There are moments of sheer brilliance, but then also moments that just didn’t appeal. Orion, for example. What a pointless addition to the series. (Although, his presence did give rise to one of the best couple of pages, when Diana puts him in his place, tired of his provocative lechery and chauvinism – below.)

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Chiang’s artwork is great, as I’ve mentioned in reviews of previous volumes – there’s actually nothing I would fault on the visual side of things. I just didn’t love the story as much as I have in the past. Going forward, I may not follow this series as closely or quickly as I have been up to this point.

*

CAPTAIN AMERICA: ROAD TO REBORN and REBORN (Marvel)

CaptainAmerica-RoadToRebornWriter: Ed Brubaker | Artist: Dale Eaglesham, Jackson Guice, Luke Ross, Gene Colan, Dave Gutierrez, Rick Magyar, Bryan Hitch

Road to Reborn: Sharon Carter’s dreams are forcing her to relive the death of Steve Rogers – and her time under the control of Dr. Faustus. But will these dreams also reveal hidden secrets about what she saw and did on the day Steve died.

Reborn: Captain America – Steve Rogers – is reborn, but is he the hero we know and love? Or is the new Captain merely a pawn of the Red Skull, or perhaps something worse? And what is Norman Osborn doing lurking on the fringes?

Collects: Captain America #49-50; #600-601
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Yup, I’m still working my way through the fifth series of Captain America (Marvel refers to it as “Vol.5”, but given that each collection is a “Volume” as well, it gets confusing – hence the use of “series”). I’m still really enjoying it, and I think Brubaker’s characterisation of Steve Rogers, Bucky, and their myriad companions is brilliant. The antagonists remain delightfully cartoon-y – perhaps the only thing that hasn’t aged quite as well as the concept as a whole. Both of these books were very heavy on the nostalgia – even featuring a story about Captain America memorabilia collectors.

CaptainAmerica-RebornReborn ends with a massive battle on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, as Steve Rogers must wrest control of his body from the Red Skull, whose consciousness has been implanted into the original Captain America’s body. Confused? Yeah, well, it turns out that the “assassination” was not, in fact, an assassination. Apparently, the Red Skull and Arnim Zola had planned to take Cap out of time (or something)… Why? Why didn’t the decades-old nemeses want to actually kill their enemy? Because the Red Skull apparently wanted to become him. Paging Doktor Freud…

Overall, though, not bad. Not the best in the series, but still enjoyable. It’ll be nice to see how the story goes forward, with Bucky still operating as Captain America. I actually rather like Bucky in the role, too – he adds some extra dimensions and insecurities, not to mention methodology. Next in the series is Captain America: Two Americas, which I’ll be reading pretty soon. [I will catch up!]

*

SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY (DC)

Superman-SecretIdentityWriter: Kurt Busiek | Artist: Stuart Immonen

What’s in a name? Everything, if you share it with the Man of Steel!

Set in the real world, SECRET IDENTITY examines the life of a young Kansas man with the unfortunate name of Clark Kent. All Clark wants is to be a writer, but his daily life is filled with the taunts and jibes of his peers, comparing him to that other Clark Kent — the one with super-powers. Until one day when Clark awakens to discover that he can fly… that he does in fact have super-strength! But where did these powers come from? And what’s he going to do about it?

This was a wonderful surprise. Also, a bargain at only $4 (during one of ComiXology’s Superman-related sales, each of the four extra-length issues was only $1). It’s a wonderfully-told story, too. It’s picaresque, following a “real-life” Clark Kent without powers, who has long been plagued by amused relatives and friends gifting him any number of Superman-related memorabilia, toys, and so forth. Then, one day during his teens, he actually develops Superman’s powers. What happens next? Well, that’s the story of this collection, which takes us from Clark’s youth through to old age. We see his life unfold, as he takes a job at a New York journal, gets a book deal, marries someone called Lois (though not “- Lane”, and of Indian descent), and has two daughters. Along the way, he must constantly protect his family and himself from the attentions of the government. He forms a working-relationship with one agent, though, and they strike a deal for moving forward and not getting in each other’s way or on each other’s nerves.

The artwork is pretty good. It’s slightly different from what I’ve seen of Immonen’s other artwork (if I recall correctly), but it does suit the nostalgic and emotional nuance of the story. It’s brilliant, really. Very highly recommended for any lover of Superman stories, looking for something a little different.

*

Some upcoming comic reviews: Sixth Gun, Vol.5; Avengers, Vol.1 (Marvel NOW), American Vampire, Vol.2; Walking Dead, Vol.1 (just in time for Halloween, hopefully); Locke & Key, Vol.2; Atomic Robo, Vol.1; Saga, Vol.2; Thief of Thieves, Vol.1… And no doubt a few others, as I’ve been reading a fair few.

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.

Disturbing New Marvel Cover Art…

There’s something wrong with this cover. Cyclops looks real bad-ass, sure, but part of me wants to make inappropriate jokes at “Daddy’s Home.” The other part of me thinks it’s a really sinister piece of art…

This is the cover of Cable & X-Force #7, which will be published April 17th 2013. The issue is written by Dennis Hopeless, with the cover and internal artwork by Salvador Larroca.

Marvel: THREE New Wolverine Titles…?

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Last year, I had a chat with the President of a comics company in the US, and we joked about Marvel’s addiction to Wolverine and how he features in an ever-increasing number of their titles. With the roll-out of the Marvel NOW not-a-reboot-honest, readers will (of course) be offered some more titles that are all about Wolverine: Wolverine, Savage Wolverine and the soon-to-be-launched Ultimate Comics – Wolverine. Can there be too much of a great character? After all, he is a member of the Avengers, too…

Wolverine is written by Paul Cornell, with art by Alan Davis – the first issue of this series will be published tomorrow.

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Savage Wolverine (first two issues already available) is written and drawn by Frank Cho.

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Ultimate Comics – Wolverine is written by Cullen Bunn (one of my favourite comic writers – see The Sixth Gun), with art by David Messina and Gary Erskine. The first issue of this series is also published tomorrow.

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