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’!

X-Factor and Racism

Have I told you how much I love Peter David’s X-Factor? I don’t believe I have, given I’ve never reviewed the book on here before. Shame on me.

Seems like the best time to do it is now, given all of the racist hooplah ruining the world as of late.

X-Factor

X-Factor #217
Peter David (writer), Emanuela Lupacchino (pencils), Guillermo Ortego (inks), Matt Milla (colours), Cory Petit (letters), David Yardin and Sonia Oback (cover). $2.99

Hunting for a murdered friend of J. Jonah Jameson, the hired X-Factor team splits up into two groups. Longshot, along with Rictor, Shatterstar and Madrox work to unveil the face of the killer at the scene of the crime, while Monet, Banshee and Strong Guy act as Jameson’s bodyguards.

The story quickly pieces itself together, building up to a tremendous finale. With some brilliant dialogue from David, the reader is left to wonder about relations between Longshot and Shatterstar, while worrying how quickly X-Factor can stop the killer.

What stands out for some great reading is the battle of emotions and religion between Monet and a New York audience about both racism and mutantcy. Jameson gets himself into the brawl and puts the protesters in their place with his quick wit. Crafty words are one of David’s greatest highlights with X-Factor and they can always guaranteed you’ll be glued to the page.

I’ve always been fond of Lupacchino’s work as I feel she can generate any facial expression flawlessly. This holds true in the issue with a great moment with Jameson and his bodyguard after being entranced by Banshee’s speech. She’s just a fantastic, unfortunately over-looked artist. At a monumental, if not one of the most important endings in recent X-Factor stories, Lupacchino beautifully crafts what may be a terrible blow to the X-Factor family.

My little beef, if any at all, comes from Black Cat’s almost irrelevant appearance. Admittedly, I can see her purpose for the next issue, but it was so minuscule that it almost seemed unwarranted. I would have rather preferred more dialogue with Monet and the protesters, or hey! even the mystery behind Longshot and Shatterstar! But I guess beggar’s can’t be choosers.

As probably one of the most powerful X-Factor’s yet – for both message and storyline – David and gang make it clear why X-Factor is the best X-book on the market.

Grade: 8/10

One big difference between San Francisco and New York is that there is prejudice in New York towards Muslims for particular reasons. But the reason why I really wanted to write this piece is because of my Twitter. After the earthquake in Japan, trending topics became “Pearl Harbor” and “Katrina.” By all means, both were tragedies. But the problem I saw was few people stating “The earthquake was karma for Pearl Harbor.” I could not believe it.

So I’ll say it right now: in no way do I agree with intolerance. I hate racism and wish it was abolished. But my point is yet to come.

Now I would like you to see Dean Stell’s review of X-Men Legacy #245. This is entirely relevant because there, Dean touches upon something to which I completely agreed on in the comments below:

One of the problems the franchise has suffered from over the last few decades is that as a society, the United States has become MUCH more multicultural and accepting of differences. . . Now, in 2011, a lot of those nasty old bigots are dead, it seems like half of the high school kids I know either are multi-ethnic or are involved in a multi-ethnic relationship and outside of certain religious groups, homosexuality has become a non-issue. This has made our world a better place, but it has taken that cultural relevance away from the X-Men. Nowadays, I just don’t buy the average Joe in an X-Men comic yelling, “Them muties gotta die!”

I read this and realized that in recent years, Mutants have become greatly accepted in their world. The X-Men are heroes in San Francisco, and there seems to be little, if any bigotry. Dean is right – it just doesn’t work anymore. And when it happens, it’s either too forced or seems entirely unnatural.

Then came X-Factor #217, where it does work.

The funny thing (not really) is that it has the problem has always been there, but the X-comics seemed to forget about it. But suddenly in X-Factor, the X-Men social relevance reinforced itself.

A crowd shouts, “Keep the strangers out!” “We don’t need more Muslim terrorists getting in [New York]!” “Yeah! They’re as bad as mutants!”

Monet appears. “Oh, really? I’m a Muslim and a mutant. Care to take it up with me?”

And so the crowd argues with her, saying wherever her type goes, death with happen.

She replies, “Which ‘type’ is that? Mutants or Muslims?” She continues, “Bad enough to be condemned for what you are. Imagine being hated for what you’re not.”

Monet St. Croix

From there, Jameson jumps in and gives the crowd a quick history lesson on America.

But with Monet. Powerful words.

And the thing is, I don’t remember the last time this was a problem with the X-Men. It has always been vague underlying factor – their move to San Francisco; forced to live on Utopia – for sure the X-Men have had their fair share of prejudice against them. But from recent memory, when was it this bad? When was it a mindset of a society, rather than some bad guy wanting to attack mutants?

Currently in Uncanny X-Men, regular humans are paying to become mutants. In X-Men Legacy and New Mutants, there is prejudice against mutants in a futuristic world – but beyond that, they’re all accepted in San Francisco and asked to help out. Sure, mutants have been attacked by Bastion who hated mutants. But it would be harder to compare it to a social mindset. If anything, it was a comparison to how the military is ran or like religious extremists – if any at all.

What I’m trying to say is that in recent comic books, and most importantly in the X-Men books, I have not seen a blatant call-out against racism. Unless I look for it in the Bastion example above, I cannot just name it. For the X-Men to be the “benchmark” of social commentary in terms of acceptance of other people, I find that it has swayed away from it a lot for years. And even when it seemed “bad” post M-Day (people going up to Xaviers School and trying to get rid of the remaining mutants) it was really all fantasy and seemed forced rather than natural.

Now, it feels real. And when it does feel real again, we know there’s a problem.

Kudos to Peter David.