Alpha Flight Returns! X-Factor Wins!

A new week of comics have came along! This also includes the premiere of the new maxiseries, Alpha Flight, and some superb storytelling in Peter David’s X-Factor. Although I don’t particularly feel the need to review Avengers #14 entirely, all I will say is I’m going to be dropping the series after the Fear Itself arc. I’m tired of the same “Block Pages” in each story. I’m also tired of hearing the same voices for each character. Although Romita Jr’s art was superb in this issue – and the idea behind the story is great – I’ve grown tired of Bendis’ execution.

But we’ll see how things go.

As for another turn of events, you may remember my first review of FF #1 back in March, but I’ve decided to pick the series up again (in lieu of The Avengers). That, and Black Bolt is apparently returning for issue #6. I love the Inhumans and have always followed them on their journeys. I was especially involved in the War and Realm of Kings stories, so I’m very excited to see how Black Bolt’s return will play a role in those current plots.

For now:

X-Factor

X-Factor #221
Peter David (writer), Dennis Calero (pencils, inks), Brian Reber (colours), Cory Petit (letters), David Yardin (cover). $2.99

Feral’s back from the dead but still dead! If that isn’t enough to intrigue you into the story, then I don’t know what will.

Continuing from last months cliffhanger, both Shatterstar and Wolfsbane are on the run from Feral – who is being used by a being of immense power – to anchor demons amongst other paranormal creatures to kill Wolfsbane. If that isn’t enough, Layla has gone banana’s at the base and is putting symbols as wards on the doors and windows. I think she knows stuff.

For such a short issue, David tackles what he needs to: Rahne’s and Feral’s past, Shatterstar’s humour, Rictor’s concerns of Shatterstar’s whereabouts and Layla being Layla. It all flows naturally and never feels pushed at all. That is what makes X-Factor such a joy to read. No dialogue feels forced to move the plot along and the reader can just accept what is happening as just another day.

Dennis Calero’s art is definitely a noticeable change from Emanuela Lupacchino’s bright, splashy pages and “well-endowed” characters. But much like Lupacchino’s work, Calero does brilliant facial features. We can tell what each character is feeling even if words were not on the page. Calero’s art, tied in with Reber’s noticeably dramatic dark colours, give this book the mood it needs given the gravity of the situation within its pages. Because of the duo, the final panel of the book could not be scarier to loyal X-Factor readers.

This issue is the beginning to where all-things in X-Factor shall come crashing down. It’s going to be one exciting ride.

Grade: 7/10

Personal note: I rarely write reviews about X-Factor because it feels like I’d be writing about family. Uncanny X-Men and X-Men Legacy have great “family” moments which makes their readers feel invested with the characters. This is noticed when the X-Men mention an issue or event that readers have read in the past. With X-Factor, it’s inherent fluidity is what makes me feel invested. If you’re into that, I highly recommend you pick up all of X-Factor’s back-issues starting with #1 (in 2006). If not, go ahead and pick up #200 – which is an excellent starting point. (And so you know, X-Factors numbering goes #1-50, then #200-onwards)

I had to write a review for this issue because it was just too darn-exciting for me not to.

X-Factor

Alpha Flight #1
Fred Van Lente & Greg Pak (writers), Dale Eaglesham (pencils), Andrew Hennessy (inks), Sonia Oback (colours), Simon Bowland(letters), Phil Jimenez & Frank D’Armata (cover). $3.99

Taking place after the events after both Alpha Flight #0.1 and Fear Itself, Alpha Flight is officially back with their own maxiseries! (It’s a word, right?)

Attuma, or “Nerkkod – Breaker of the Oceans” is chosen for a hammer as seen in the Fear Itself story, and is terrorizing Vancouver, Canada. (Coincidently, Boston just did the same thing.) Fortunately, the reborn Canadian superheroes are able to put a hold on Nerkkod’s plans of complete devastation. All except Northstar, who is unsure of himself and is content with his boyfriend Kyle in Montreal. To make matters worse, in the #0.1 issue, Gary Cody and his Unity Party just won Parliament and is now running the country. He abolishes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and declares the Emergency Act to control the chaos Fear Itself is creating in the country. And there’s still more! Actually, there are still three major problems in the story which I could go on about. But where’s the fun if I told you?

The great thing is that Fear Itself definitely plays a strong hand in Alpha Flight. There are so many problems happening in the story that even I felt overwhelmed – and that’s exactly what Van Lente and Pak want you to feel. The world is turned upside-down and us readers are right in the middle of it. Alpha Flight does their best to deal with that is at hand, but it is only bound to get worse.

And holy sh–! Eaglesham’s work is impeccable. Page-after-page is sheer emotion and brilliant layouts. You can look into the backgrounds and be wowed by how much detail goes into his art. Great facial features really shine in this issue. Most particularly with Shaman versus Nerkkod, Kyle having a freak out over the phone, and Aurora’s attitude throughout the book. He also reworked Marrina’s costume to really spruce up her attitude. With Hennessy’s and Oback’s great contrasts (especially on Snowbird’s transformations), we’re left with a gorgeous book. Although, yes, Eaglesham had some stiffness in certain panels, the pros entirely outweigh the cons here.

My biggest beef isn’t even really a problem. It is the first few pages where the characters get stereotypically introduced in comic book fashion where by saving civilians they have their names called out to them. It’s corny, but it still works.

There is so much crammed into this book and tons left to solve by the end, that I’m surprised we’re only getting eight issues of it. Hopefully our Canadian heroes can handle it. But from the looks of their creative team, they’re in good hands.

Grade: 8.5/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews May 18 – Take One

After a hectic work week, I hath returned to bring you reviews beyond your wildest imagination!

Or something like that.

I’m still on a Thor high, alright?

Avengers

Avengers #13
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Chris Bachalo (pencils, colours), Tim Townsend, Wayne Faucher, Jamie Mendoza & Al Vey (inkers), Clayton Cowles (letters), Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Javier Rodriguez (cover). $3.99

“Fear Itself” hits the Avengers with. . . nothing happening. In fact, this issue takes us back to Fear Itself #1 with the end of the book showing Stark announcing the Avengers promise to rebuild Asgard. Needless to say, the book really does not pick up much steam and simply holds one constant tone of nothing-happening-at-all throughout. When the action that takes place is Spider-Woman crossing her arms or Thor laughing, you know you’re in for a thrill-ride.

The story does show a bit of promise. We’re given little tidbits of information that something has gone wrong, or currently is. It’s not too clear. The readers are teased about the events of Fear Itself in this book with an unknown interviewing each Avenger separately. But like I’ve mentioned before, Bendis is yet again doing his panels in the most repetitive way, which I’d like to now trademark as the “Block Page.”

. . . It’ll take off. Just you wait.

As for plot, we’re given a sense that Hawkeye and Spider-Woman are going to form a relationship, and Volstagg has no chance with Ms. Marvel. We’re also given plenty of giggle moments with Rulk and Spider-Man from time to time which made up for some of the Block Pages.

But thank god for Chris Bachalo and his rag-tag group of inkers (which came with him after his X-Men run). If it wasn’t for his fun-filled artwork, I think my eyeballs would have melted from seeing another Romita-Block Page. Bachalo shakes things up with some fun in the colour department too. A great spread of the Avengers in the ruins of Asgard definitely shine as one of the highlights to this issue. However, minor issues like Thor suddenly having a beard for a panel and Beast looking like Dark Beast are a bit unnerving for me.

Avengers #13 becomes a story that really fails to launch yet fortunately has some saving grace from Bachalo and friends.

Grade: 5/10

Alpha Flight

Alpha Flight #0.1
Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente (writers), Ben Oliver & Dan Green (pencils, inks), Frank Martin (colours), Simon Bowland (letters), Phil Jimenez & Frank D’Armata (cover). $2.99

Alpha Flight is back as Marvel’s #0.1 series brings you a good-sized introduction to the team. If you haven’t read about Canada’s superheroes before, now is the best time to jump on!

What’s most interesting is that the team is split up for the majority of the story. Sasquatch, Marrina, Shaman, Vindicator and Aurora are off in the St. Lawrence River fighting Citadel, while the remaining team fight Persuasion (Purple Man’s daughter and ex-member of Beta Flight) in Montreal. Both stories eventually tie in together with a “Fear Itself” angle at the conclusion of both battles. By the end of the story, Alpha Flight is whole, while Northstar questions whether or not he should join.

Building a set-up for the Fear Itself series tie-in, only little bits of the team are fleshed throughout the book. Surprisingly, given Northstar is the only member who didn’t die and has been seen in X-Men; he was given a lot of development with his relationship while the rest of Alpha Flight seems neglected. Also surprising is that there is no mention that Aurora is his sister. In fact, Sasquatch and Marrina hardly gets any time in the story at all.

The art leaves me skeptical. Although the brilliant colours really bring out the life of the story, the actual characters seem stiff. A lot of scenes seem like character poses, while particular face close-ups seem like photo references or possible traces. I could be wrong, but its definitely the vibe I feel from the art.

Despite the peculiar set-up for our Canadian heroes, Alpha Flight does what its supposed to do with a 0.1 issue of Marvel. Let us just hope the eight-issue series gives the team some justice.

Grade: 6/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: Avengers & X-Force

It has been a while since I last did a review, let alone many reviews. I’ve been unbelievably busy, so I have had this on the back burner. Despite the lack of updates, traffic on my site has still been exceptional.

I really have to give a big thank you to my readers for making me want to update this more often. Without you, this site would have no meaning. (Did I just discover the reason for life, itself?)

I definitely have two major updates these next few days. The first is reviews, as you can probably tell from this title. The second will be a discussion about a recent movie I watched: Superman & Batman: Apocalypse. But more on that later.

P.S.: Two weeks of back-to-back Uncanny X-Force is mind-blowing.

Avengers

Avengers #12
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), John Romita Jr. (pencils, cover), Klaus Janson (inks, cover), Dean White (colours, cover), Cory Petit (letters). $3.99

Indeed, Iron Man wields the Infinity Gauntlet with the final chapter of the Avengers versus Parker Robbins story. With the last issue leaving us at a complete jaw-dropping standstill between Robbins and Thanos, who knew what would come next?

A very delicate, yet powerful conversation between the titan of death and Robbins stirs up a whirlwind of excitement for the reader. What will Thanos do to Robbins? More importantly, what will Robbins do to Thanos? All of it leads up to a climatic battle and a rekindling friendship all in this issue.

When the Avengers get tied into the mix and Red Hulk has a Power gem, you know there is hell to pay. It all leads to a vengeful slug-fest between Robbins and Hulk, with Robbins finally using the Reality gem to show how ridiculously powerful these Infinity gems are.

Brilliant pacing throughout the story makes each page another excitement to turn. I would argue this is Romita’s best work in Avengers so far, with very few issues on character feeling too stiff. The battle between Red Hulk and Robbins is truly a wonder to see, as a great panel-by-panel fight features art in the background of old Marvel events long-gone due to the Reality gems magic. Oddly enough, the events were actually ripped out from the original works and Romita simply placed the Rulk/Robbins fight over top of them. With two very contrasting styles of art, it literaly makes the panels pop-out at you. This too is because of White’s dynamics of red and brown tones over the gray-scales.

With very few problems in this issue, I am floored by how great this arc concluded. And most importantly, by the end of this issue, the reader will get yet another Marvel U shattering ordeal that only Bendis could effectively pull-off.

Sure, I could nick off marks for suddenly leaving the Watcher out of the story. I could also nick off marks for seeing yet another page like this. But they are minuscule in the grand scheme of how powerful of an issue Avengers #12 was.

Grade: 7/10

Uncanny X-Force

Uncanny X-Force #8
Rick Remender (writer), Billy Tan (pencils, inks), Dean White (colours), Cory Petit (letters), Esad Ribic (cover). $3.99

The team goes to rescue a captive Deadpool, while Psylocke battles the Shadow King in yet another explosive issue of Uncanny X-Force. Oh, and Archangel’s about to burst.

Right off the bat, the reader is dropped into a plot where Deadpool’s on a reconnaissance mission, while Psylocke is helping Warren deal with the Death persona. Fantomex also shows Deathlok around the base, making me wonder if he will be a permanent part of the team. (Eee!) Lots happen within the short timespan of this book, yet all is paced so ridiculously well, that you know this is a Remender book.

Needless to say, if you’re a Psylocke fan you’re in for a huge treat. This is her book. After Deadpool fails to check in with X-Force, the team goes to find him. Upon arrival, most of X-Force becomes mind-controlled (minus Fantomex due to his neural implants) – leaving Psylocke the only one able to fight up against their foe – the Shadow King.

If it’s not good enough that this story is primarily about Psylocke, we’re also given huge depth with Warren about his Death personality. In so-few pages, Remender intertwines all of the subplots in one grand scheme with an absolute flawless script.

By no-means is Wolverine or Deadpool the main-characters of these stories. This book is a Psylocke/Archangel/Fantomex story guest-starring everyone else.

Tan’s art is nothing less than incredible. A particular panel with Archangel screaming shows his anger and near-insanity. Don’t even get me started on how beautiful Psylocke is drawn in her old costume.

Dean White was on double-duty this month doing both Avengers #12 and this issue. While you can see similarities with both books for colours, he definitely has a knack for not over-doing things, yet still placing emphasis where needed. I definitely prefer his colouring style with Tan’s art. Actually, it would have been great with Ribic’s and Opena’s too. Of course he did a great job in The Avengers too with Romita.

A few weeks ago, Uncanny X-Force released a .1 issue and it stood out as a great one-shot. The idea of the .1 issues were to get new readers on board.

Uncanny X-Force #8 arguably repeats the same process while still continuing the main storyline. I think I’ve said this at the end of every Uncanny X-Force review, but it needs to be said again.

If you haven’t started reading Uncanny X-Force, START!

And doesn’t Esad Ribic deserve a “best cover” award? Look at those colours! Wonderful!

Grade: 9/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: The Avengers and The Alternate Avengers

Firstly, read Jim Shooter’s blog. It’s absolutely astounding to see what he does and has done. This recent entry is one of the most fascinating ones I’ve read thus far:

Hank Pym was not a Wife Beater

As for reviews, I swear I’m not going to bring this up again – but Bendis & Romita Jr. in The Avengers series have been up to that “multiple panel” deal in their books for the umpteenth. I thought I was going crazy. Then I took a look at Avengers #1, #5, #9, #10, and #11. I left out some half-page ones in other issues because they arguably are the norm for comics.

Panels

This is how I felt after laying all of these comics out:

Bert

Variety is all I’m asking for.

Now on to one of the most anticipated books this month.

Age of X Universe

Age of X Universe #1 of 2
Main Story:Simon Spurrier (writer), Khoi Pham (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Sonia Oback (colours).
Spider-Man Story: Jim McCann (writer), Paul Davidson (art), Antonio Fabela (colours).
Joe Sabino (letters), Simone Bianchi & Simone Peruzzi (cover). $3.99

For $3.99, this book is a steal. In fact, it’s an unbelievable steal which will impress every fanboy of the Marvel U.

Basing itself off of the current X-Men crossover, The Age of X, AoXU is how the other heroes have been affected by the mutants who are all over the world. Team leader and book narrator, Captain America, leads his unusual strike force of Avengers such as Vengeance, the Hulk, and Sue Storm to a mutant prison riot, to Fortress X itself.

But the excitement lends itself not to the battle, but to the quick back stories of each Avenger – and why they’re there. Throughout the book, we’re invited to see how the world has twisted its ways into the AoXU. Through that, we’re given little tidbits of character leaking themselves out into the page. We see Captain America and Sue Storm have consciences, while Iron Man is a vengeful deteriorating freak of nature and Spider-Woman is the top hit-woman. To top it all off, Frank Castle is the Chief of the Avengers – the man running the show. Of course, that will lead to extremely violent results.

Making things more interesting, forgotten mutants of the Marvel U make short, if not saddening appearances. Maggott, who I haven’t seen alive since 2003, makes a cameo, while Marrow, Mr. Sinister, and Whirlwind make for some extra mutant-loving goodness. (Did I just say that?) Don’t even get me started with Sabretooth’s depressing story.

Khoi Pham does one helluva great job delivering so many jaw-dropping moments in this book. A personal favourites are Vengeance taking on Chamber for a few fiery blazes of panels, and the final page with Hulk and his bug-eyes. My only beef is first in the book with Legacy (Rogue), as she seems rather mannish than well, being Rogue.

To top it all off, a bonus story featuring Spider-Man and a pregnant Mary Jane shows how certain heroes with altered DNA are considered “Post-Muties” – meaning Spider-Man is on the run. A short but enriching tale, we don’t see Spider-Man with his usual quips aside from the introductory narration at the beginning. Concluding on a moment where I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad, Spider-Man’s tale really ties together how perverse the AoXU is.

Regardless if you’re reading the X-Men crossovers or not, you’d be foolish not to pick this up.

Grade: 9/10

Unfortunately I’ve been busy so I cannot really focus on more reviews. Until next time folks, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wedneday’s Reviews: Retcons and Amazing Fantasies

Hey folks! This week, I’m deciding on doing a review-rant. Yes, they can be one in the same.

As I read this week’s copy of The New Avengers #10, I can’t help but be ridiculously upset with how it turned out.

This is about retcons. Although it is getting ever-so-closer to Marvel’s big Fear Itself event, I can’t help but feel driven to DROP this comic due to the over-ridiculousness of this retcon.

For those who are unfamiliar with what a retcon is, in a nutshell, it stands for “Retroactive Continuity.” What that means is one may go back into time and adjust the events of the past to explain what happens in the future.

For a hypothetical example, we’ll take the X-Men. Most people know that Professor X started the X-Men, consisting of Cyclops, Angel, Jean Grey, Beast and Iceman.

Now imagine a new issue of X-Men, where they explain their history, and suddenly there was a new X-Men who was part of the team – but no one ever talked about him because he worked on another island, behind-the-scenes. Then suddenly in the future, that character appears and everyone’s best friends.

That’s retcon. But it’s a part of comics. How can comics from the 60’s, with arguably simplistic origin plots still be relevant in 2011? Well, retcons help with that – and for the most part, they can be very interesting and neat.

In this recent issue of The New Avengers however, I’m down-right disappointed.

The New Avengers

The New Avengers #10
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato & Howard Chaykin (pencils), Rain Beredo & Edgar Delgado (colours), Joe Caramagna (letters), Mike Deodato & Rain Beredo (cover). $3.99

The issue flips back and forth through timelines between 1959 and the present. Starting off in ’59, we see Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan finding Sabretooth in a bar. After mild negotiations, Fury hires Mr. Creed as an Avenger. Yes, Sabretooth.

Fast-forwarding to 2011, and continuing from the previous issue, the New Avengers attack a H.A.M.M.E.R. installation, headed by Superia. Mockingbird is shot, and for most of the issue, we watch our heroes fight off the endless H.A.M.M.E.R. hordes while calling an ambulance for Mockingbird. Literally, that is all that happens in the present.

In 1959, after retrieving Sabretooth, Dominic Fortune, Namora, Kraven, and Bloodstone are hired – all to be “secret” Avengers. Indeed, a league of villains are now Avengers – all before the “official” Avengers team arrives on the scene in 1963.

Leaving on a strong note, we are brought back to the present where rescue vehicles have arrived for Mockingbird, only for Superia to raze the entire ground beneath them. If it wasn’t for comics, Mockingbird would for sure be dead. But we won’t know until next month! Ahhh!

The comic as a whole does not stand out as anything spectacular. As soon as the first villain was hired, I really could not have been surprised to see anyone else be taken in as the idea of this particular retcon ruined any fun I would’ve had with this comic. I digress.

Deodato is on the ball with this issue, penciling all of the present-day moments, while Howard Chaykin focuses on the 1959 plot. Although both are strong artists, I felt as if Chaykin’s style was a bit light for the seriousness of the book. At one part, Mockingbird is splattered in blood while Spider-Man holds her in his arms. The scene is gritty and dark, moody and in despair. The next scene however, we’re brought to a location where shadows disappear and faces are less-serious than prior. Although I greatly enjoy Chaykin’s art, I feel as if it was wrong for this particular issue. And yet his take on Sabretooth was a bit too childish for me, while his Kraven was spot-on.

And after this issue, I’ve concluded that Deodato draws an excellent Thing.

As for the structure of the story, flipping back and forth between fun and sunny places to a battlefield hurt what seriousness the story had. It felt like flipping channels between an intense episode of Law & Order: SVU and Teletubbies. It was sudden with no transition. It simply didn’t work.

Certain dialogue choices by Bendis also took away from the plot. Nonsensical remarks spewing from Thing early on, then to Ms. Marvel versus Superia mindless jabs, and Spider-Man having fun looking for a cellphone to save a life – all of it damaged the intensities of the moments drawn by Deodato. However, with Chaykin’s work, the dialogue seemed more natural. How is this happening?!

Definitely taking a swan-dive, The New Avengers needs to pick up some smart choices in writing and plotting for it to be saved.

Grade: 5/10

Inner-Fanboy Rant

I love comic books as much as I like turtles. In result, retcons are commonplace and something which I should expect from comics. But not since Secret War, have I felt that Bendis did a retcon so over-the-top that I disagree with it.

Now admittedly, the story is not done yet, so who knows where it will go – but I feel as if it’s not going in the right direction. But when you take serious villains – some which are notorious monsters, and put them on a team, you have a problem. And I’m not talking personality issues, either.

If anything, it seems down-right insulting that the first Avengers – regardless of being “official” ones or “secret” ones are the bad guys. That would be literally like suggesting Professor Xavier had a set of X-Men before the actual X-Men came out – it’s absurd and mind-boggling.

Retcons usually have to explain themselves later on, too. Recent retcon’s like with X-Men’s Deadly Genesis, or Spider-Man’s One Moment In Time, worked for me, because they were explained and honestly, could not be as far-fetched as the “powers that be” were involved with Spider-Man’s, while telepathy and clever storytelling was a part with the X-Men’s. With the New Avengers, we’re fortunate that most of the villains are either dead, or haven’t been used in so-long that the retcon does not have to be adjusted in the future. Sabretooth and Bloodstone are dead, while Kraven is dead-but-alive-now-doing who-knows-what. Dominic Fortune has been MIA for years now, and Namora disappeared with the Agents of Atlas since its cancellation – unless I’m wrong with that.

I guess I’m really just disappointed with how this came about. Admittedly, it has TONS of time to sway another way, but I really feel as if this is just going to hurt my faith in The New Avengers for the next little bit.

Amazing Fantasy

Amazing Sale

As a complete side-note, Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962), the first appearance of Spider-Man, as officially reached the million-dollar club with Action Comics #1 (1938, first Superman) and Detective Comics #27 (1939, first Batman).

Amazing Fantasy #15, CGC 9.6 sold for $1.1 million

“The sale of this legendary comic is second only to the Guinness World record 8.5 VF+ Action Comics #1, which marks Superman’s 1938 debut that was also sold by http://www.ComicConnect.com last year for a whopping $1,500,000.” – Comics Price Guide.com

Amazing, eh?

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: Part 2 – Fantastic Four, Avengers, and more X-Men!

As promised, here is part two of my reviews for this week.

Fantastic Four Final Issue

Fantastic Four #588
Jonathan Hickman (writer), Nick Dragotta (pencils, inks), Paul Mounts (colours), Rus Wooton (letters), Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Javier Rodriguez (cover). $3.99

The final issue of the Fantastic Four.

I don’t think any amount of words could capture what both Hickman and Dragotta put into this issue. The amount of raw emotion really draws the reader into the story with no words. Quite literally, there are no words spoken until the final page of the book.

The book goes over the immediate moment when Johnny dies, up to a month of mourning with the Fantastic Four and Marvel family.

Gut-wrenching moments with Dr. Doom arriving at the funeral, while Thing unleashes anger upon the Hulk and Thor – all are breathtaking moments which had my own eyes swelling up.

The secondary story involving Spider-Man and Franklin Richards places Spider-Man as the face of helping, reasoning, and understanding.

I really don’t think there is anything bad to say about this book. It’s a wonderful, sad, yet optimistic way to conclude the series.

Grade: 10/10

Avengers

Avengers #10
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), John Romita Jr. (pencils), Klaus Janson & Tom Palmer (inks), Dean White & Paul Mounts (colours) Cory Petit (letters), John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson & Dean White (cover). $3.99

Despite the this cover and the last one, there has really been zero action between The Hood and the Avengers. The majority of the story is the members of the Illuminati gathering the Infinity Gems from their hiding spots. Namor, Thor, and Red Hulk go into the furthest depths of the sea to gather a gem, while Professor X and a large band of Avengers encounter the Danger Room to retrieve another. Iron Man and friends go to Area 51 – a place which Tony Stark apparently owns, to get the third – but The Hood is already there. He snatches the gem and teleports to the next closest one – that being in the possession of Thor.

And that’s really the book in a nutshell. Pages are dedicated to unlocking, swimming, and finding the gems. I am aware that they are to show the importance of how secretive of places the gems were in – but it felt like watching the doors opening in Mystery Science Theater 3000 – only this was about 20 pages of it.

Admittedly, there was a fight in the Danger Room, but it really lacked oomph and trailed quickly into a who cares what happens because there didn’t seem to be any threat from the machine.

Another lull appeared in the story where for I believe, for the fourth time, we see faces bunched up on a page like this. It’s pretty bad when I’m able to start counting on these things in these issues.

A slow story from Bendis with half-decent art from Romita drags this current issue into the ground. Definitely a step-down from last-issue.

Grade: 4/10

X-Men Serve and Protect

X-Men: To Serve and Protect #4 of 4
Chris Yost, Kathryn Immonen, Jed Mackay & James Asmus (writers), Derec Donovan, Stuart Immonen, Sheldon Vella, Eric Koda, Sandu Florea & Miguel Munera (pencilers), Wade Von Grawbadger, (inker), Andres Mossa, Jesus Aburto & Jeremy Cox(colourers) Dave Sharpe (letters), Guiseppe Camuncoli & Marte Gracia (cover). $3.99

In the final issue of the X-Men: To Serve and Protect anthology, four very-different stories wrap up the series. The first involves Rockslide and Anole versus Mr. Negative and the Serpent Society. This story spanned all four issues and grabbed the attention to the reader in each book. Coincidently, it was written by Chris Yost, making the two unknown X-Men really stand out as both relevant and hilarious characters. Great cartoonish art and colours was also portrayed by Donovan and Mossa.

Kathryn and Stuart Immonen run the second story involving both Gambit and Hellcat – on a date! Hilarity ensues as Gambit’s frustration of Hellcat’s care-free attitude make for an interesting night. Kathryn’s storytelling, as far as I can see with her shorts as well as Osborn and Heralds, are beyond-witty and really excel at true storytelling in a limited space. Kathryn shines as one of Marvel’s best writers.

The third story by Mackay and Vella was probably the weakest story out of the bunch, but arguably one of the oddest stories in the whole series. Dazzler, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing act as a super heroine trio, “Dazzler and Her Radical All-Girl Roller Death Squad!” Indeed. They fight M.O.D.O.R.D. (The Mental Organism Designed Only for Roller Derby), as well as Armadillo, Klaw, a Sentinel, Whirlwind, and even Doctor Bong. The three find that Chadmaster (or the Grandmaster in disguise), is letting her fight so she can have cosmic powers. Of course, she beats up Chad because she’s a mutant pop star that roller blades. What else could she want?

The final issue by Asmus, Koda, Florea, Munera and Cox features Psylocke and Hercules defeating the Griffin. After winning, Herc offers Psylocke a chance to “union” with him. We’re then taken to a flashback where the two met before in London above a beaten Crimson Dynamo. There, Herc asks her the same question. Flashing forward to the present, Herc innocently asks, “so. . . did we?” followed by a sock in the face by Psylocke. Brilliantly executed and dramatically simple, the final story was my favourite to the entire series (and not because Psylocke is a favourite of mine).

A great mash up of stories by a group of immensely talented writers – X-Men: To Serve and Protect concludes its series very strong.

Grade: 8/10

Godspeed, and keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: So Many Marvel Titles!

This week was absolutely crazy for comics. There’s so many to chose from that I decided on picking the most-anticipated issues this week – aside from the Fantastic Four #587. Sorry folks! I’m doing something different here. So let’s get started!

Age of X: Alpha

Age of X: Alpha #1 (one-shot)
Mike Carey (writer), Mirco Pierfederici, Gabriel Hernadez Walta, Carlo Barberi, Paco Diaz, Paul Davidson (pencilers), Walden Wong, Diaz and Davidson (inkers), Antonio Fabela, Matt Milla, Brian Reber (colours), Joe Caramanga (letters), Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend (cover). $3.99

Age of X: Alpha has been teased to readers for quite some time. Now that the issue is released, I’m left asking myself, “What?” Age of X jumps right into whatever world they are in and begins with stories being told by X-Men at a camp. There, we get stories of Basilisk (Cyclops), the Guthrie’s, as well as Wolverine and Magneto. All eventually tie in together to create the basis for the world of Age of X. Although a lot of the story is introductions, it serves well to establish what sort of world our mutants are living in. Basilisk’s story was easily my favourite, based on Arcade taking Cyclops and having him execute other mutants against his will. Some disturbing details about the story I’ll leave to you.

Given there were five individual stories running through the book, various artists were welcomed. Pierfederici made great drama with the groundwork of the multiple story lines, while Paco Diaz hit another home run with a great visuals with Wolverine. Barberi, on the other hand, does not know how to draw women as Husks’ breasts are grossly disproportioned, while Davidson’s art still runs flat with bland faces. What was especially welcomed was mutants who I haven’t seen since M-Day – most notably a personal favourite of mine: Chamber. Thank you, Mr. Carey!

A great cross-over premise with interesting stories and zero ideas on what is going on, will leave reader’s both frustrated, yet demanding more.

Grade: 6/10

Chaos War

Chaos War #5 of 5
Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente (writers), Khoi Pham (penciler), Thomas Palmer and Bob McLeod (inkers), Sunny Gho (colours), Simon Bowland (letters), Brandon Peterson (cover). $3.99

The Chaos War comes to an end as all of Marvel’s remaining heroes crash down upon the Chaos King! Hercules gives it his all as he battles down upon the Chaos King himself. On Earth, Amadeus Cho is busy trying to evacuate everyone and defeat the King. After Herc goes through a bloody beating, a swift hit knocks the King onto the ground, leaving all of Earth’s forces to beat upon him. Still to no avail! Fortunately, Amadeus figures out a way to stop the Chaos King from spreading without killing him at all. Needless to say, it works, and surprisingly leaves Alpha Flight alive by the end. Seriously? Not the Dead X-Men or Avengers? Just Alpha Flight? Oh, and Hercules is no longer a god it seems.

. . . What? Read the book.

Pak and Van Lente have been favourites of mine for quite some time. Their writing skills are uncanny, and to put them together was a great idea. However, by this issue the Chaos War dwindled on me. It became exhausting just to see everyone lose knowing that it will just come down to Herc vs. the King. That battle, however. Wow. Khoi Pham is a brilliant artist and should be commended for some of the best layouts I’ve seen. Great two-page spreads of Herc and the King really stood out as brilliant works. A few particular pages with Palmer during the bloody mess Herc gets himself into leaves a jaw-dropping good time.

Although it began with a great premise, the Chaos War did nothing else to Marvel continuity but bring back second-rate heroes and show that Hercules had another story to tell.

Grade: 5/10

The Avengers

The Avengers #9
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), John Romita Jr. (penciler), Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer and Scott Hanna (inkers), Laura Martin, Morry Hollowell, and Matt Milla (colours), Cory Petit (letters), John Romita Jr. (cover). $3.99

Last issue featured the Illuminati’s return to the Marvel-verse. We hadn’t seen them since Secret Invasion, so their welcome was very exciting. By this issue though, we can safely say, it will be their last appearance. After Steve Rogers discovers with the New and Secret Avengers teams that the Illuminati exists, he wants answers. And so begins the arguing. A second story brings us to Parker Robbins in jail, showing us how he escaped, as well as how he knew where the Infinity Gems were. In a nutshell, we have very interesting conversation going on throughout the whole book – and it’s welcome.

What isn’t welcomed is what should have been solved with a bi-monthly series called Avengers: Prime. As I reviewed before, Prime was supposed to solve all the problems between Rogers and Stark. Although the Illuminati is yes, a special case, it read as if these two never had a conversation together since Roger’s return. It was more mind-boggling than anything.

As for the book on its own, The Avengers was really well-paced and a decent read. I was really more focused on how Parker Robbins escaped prison than the Iron Man/Steve Rogers story however. Another issue I had was something I feel Bendis is doing too-often now. Remember in Avengers #1 where everyone was talked to in two pages? It happened again! It feels like a cop-out. But I digress.

Romita kicked butt this issue! Various spreads of full Avengers line-up in a blizzard really shone. Pure and simple. Mixing in his ink and colour team, this is easily the best-drawn Avengers book yet.

Dialogue is the action in the book – which is fine by me when Romita pumps out a gem like this!

Grade: 6/10

Uncanny X-Force

Uncanny X-Force #4
Rick Remender (writer), Jerome Opena (penciler), Dean White (ink and colours), Cory Petit (letters), Esad Ribic (cover). $3.99

I really, really, really cannot stress how excellent of a story Uncanny X-Force has been. The conclusion to “The Apocalypse Solution” ends with a bang as our X-Force members fight to kill Apocalypse – who unfortunately is reincarnated into a little boy who does not know any better. After a huge beat-down by Apocalypse’s Horsemen in last issue, X-Force rallies what strength they have left to end Apocalypse once-and-for-all!

Remender knows his characterization. Everyone in the story has real emotions – real limits to what they can do. To top it all off, it still has humour amidst all the violence. An early scene with Deadpool and Archangel really had me laughing, but by the end of the book, I could help but empathize for each individual character. Thanks to Opena and White, I could see how they all felt, too. This book looks brilliant. Raw emotions, mixed with action, and a mood that isn’t quite dark, but definitely isn’t light, throttles this story to become something beyond a stereotypical comic.

This is what story-telling is all about. If you haven’t yet, start reading Uncanny X-Force now!

Grade: 10/10

New Avengers

New Avengers #8
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Daniel Acuna (penciler, inker and colours), Joe Caramanga (letters), Mike Deodato and Rain Beredo (cover). $3.99

Luke Cage and Jessica Jones finally get to go out on a date! Yes, since Civil War back in 2006, the married couple really haven’t had a chance to take some time off, with Squirrel Girl as their nanny. So as they go out for dinner, we witness their humorous conversation involving Luke wanting Jess’ name to be “Power Woman,” while a poor waitress watches on just to take their order. The conversation is so big, that a full-page spread is half-covered in word bubbles – all of it funny. Unfortunately, the date is cut short as Ms. Marvel fights a Doom-Bot in front of the restaurant (coincidence, eh?). After its defeat, the heroes go back to Avengers Mansion to discuss what just happened. That’s it in a nutshell, folks!

And you know what, I don’t mind it either. From both Avengers and New Avengers, Bendis gave the heroes some time off to not really battle. Arguably, this is the second New Avengers title in a row where there was very little action. There’s absolutely no problem with that when the dialogue is as quick-witted as Luke and Jessica’s was. Daniel Acuna’s art also made it very much exciting, where beautiful water colours amongst a dark skyline really brought the “action-less” characters to life.

Although not much happens here, it is nice to see heroes breath a little bit while setting up a new story arc.

Grade: 7/10

As a side note, the cover of the week totally goes to both Esad Ribic from Uncanny X-Force and Dave Wilkins on New Mutants #21 for his excellent work of Legion.

New Mutants

Although there were tons more to review, that’s all the time I have for now folks! Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!