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’!