Wednesday’s Reviews: Uncanny X-Fear Itself

In case you thought we were all done with Fear Itself, it only ramps up in Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force #1. Not to mention, it has one gorgeous cover.

Fear Itself Uncanny X-Force

Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force #1 of 3
Rob Williams (writer), Simone Bianchi (pencils, inks, cover), Simone Peruzzi (colours, cover), Joe Sabino (letters). $2.99

What can Fear Itself bring to one of the most ruthless teams in the Marvel U?

Up to now, Rick Remender has developed this covert-ops X-team into a tight family. Through his series, we’ve seen some pretty interesting things when it comes to our heroes and their emotions – especially with Deadpool. With Rob Williams’ take on the team in Fear Itself, those emotions carry over, building up into one fear-invoking story.

And what’s best is this Fear Itself story has not changed at all how the team operates with Remender’s run the book. There are a ton of moments where I worried about the team and how they would react to particular events. Since Remender wrote UXF as a family, I can only think of them as such – doing things father says and questioning the consequences later. Those types of moments are building in this story. It leads to some action-packed moments with the team, but also doesn’t answer many real questions to what X-Force is doing in Fear Itself. It’s just a lot of teasing at this point. Also, Kick-Ass anyone?

I do welcome Bianchi’s art to the book. It’s rough, brutal, and tied in with Peruzzi’s colours, it makes for a nice gritty comic – exactly what UXF is. I love Bianchi’s work on the teams faces with their surroundings. I love escarpments! As for faces, they’re great looking in detail – especially with Psylocke and Deadpool. But despite the faces, Bianchi does falter on a few places. Body parts are drastically larger or disproportionate than they should be. Psylocke’s breasts are literally all over the place, while a particular full-page spread shows Wolverine much wider than ever. What I found interesting with Peruzzi’s colours is the use of white-space during some action scenes. While battles are usually fast-paced, these single coloured or simply non-coloured backgrounds really add some effect to the action.

A dysfunctional family at best, I cannot fathom what else will come to X-Force in the next two issues ahead. But I’m very excited to see how it will look.

Grade: 7/10

But on to that cover: Look how badass everyone is. The expression Psylocke is making, an “as if” during a mushroom cloud? Love it. Archangel’s wings fraying? Awesome. Wolverine, Fantomex and Deadpool slowly exploding? Brilliant. This is probably one of the coolest UXF covers made (And they’ve all been great, thus far!)

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So until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: Empty Promises

With the X-Men’s Schism around the corner and the Fear Itself stories ramping up, I figured it would be best to review two very anticipated titles this week: X-Men Prelude to Schism #4 and Fear Itself: Black Widow #1.

But first, I must quickly mention Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #6. – Holy @*#$! What an ending! This is Marvel’s best series of the year. What a wild ride so far!

Now that that’s done:

X-Men Schism Prelude

X-Men Prelude to Schism #4 of 4
Paul Jenkins (writer), Clay Mann (pencils), Jay Leisten & Seth Mann (inks), Chris Sotomayor & Lee Loughridge (colours), Rob Steen (letters), Giuseppe Camuncoli & Dan Brown (cover). $2.99

I personally held off reviewing any of the Prelude to Schism stories until it became interesting. By the final issue, I’m really just reviewing it to complain.

In the prior three issues, readers get a brief history on the major players in the X-Universe: Cyclops, Professor X, and Magneto. By the fourth issue, we receive the same ideas, but with Wolverine. What the series ended up being is more a re-telling of each characters’ history, rather than pushing a story forward. Each issue, we’ve waited this much longer to find out what the threat to the X-Men is. We know that IT’S coming, but we have no idea what IT is. By the end of issue four *Not a spoiler alert* we STILL have no idea.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Wolverine Origin story, then this book is new for you. Aside from that, nothing new is teased for Schism. Well, I suppose one thing is that writer Paul Jenkins really likes is to make Wolverine look like a jerk. Alas.

Fortunately, Clay Mann’s art really shines in this issue. Flying through centuries of Wolverine’s past, Mann successfully shows us a descriptive story. From Wolverine and Rose, to Weapon X, to the 90’s X-Men roster, Mann shows a superb display of artistry. I love his rendition of 90’s Jean Grey. His colouring team of both Sotomayor and Loughridge also do an exceptional job in adjusting the colour schemes to fit the time line of each story.

Not trying to have this review as an entire tearing apart of the book, Prelude definitely served its purpose of getting people wondering what Schism is. This issue somewhat bonded Cyclops and Wolverine together, but also left a clue to what causes the split between the duo as well.

Although I’m still very eager to find out what Schism is, I just wished it hadn’t cost me $12 of already-familiar backstory that gets me nowhere.

Grade: 5/10

Fear Itself Black Widow

Fear Itself: Black Widow #1 (One-Shot)
Cullen Bunn (writer), Peter Nguyen (pencils, inks), Veronica Gandini (colours), Clayton Cowles (letters), Michael Ryan (cover). $3.99

After the Grey Gargoyle turns the city of Paris into stone, it’s up to the Black Widow to not do anything about it and take on Rapdio’s evil forces with Peregrine instead.

I was pretty excited for Fear Itself: Black Widow. After learning the fate of Bucky, I was sure she would have been interesting to follow through with. Turns out, she mentions him briefly, and argues that she must feel cold because she’s a spy. Right. While Paris is covered in stone, Rapdio decides to take advantage of the situation and gathers information of French missile codes to give to other crimelords. Knowing this, the Black Widow leaves America’s current turmoil to stop him. There, her and Peregrine fight to save the day, while Fear Itself becomes only a memory for the rest of the story. In fact, I have no idea what Black Widow actually feels during this entire story until the final page. And no, the feeling isn’t “Fear.”

What lacks in story is made up for with Nguyen’s stylistic art. Black Widow looks sharp, seductive, and surprisingly zipped-up (despite what the cover suggests) throughout most of the whole story. Gandini’s colours render well with Nguyen’s work as Black Widow slips in and out of shadows solely because of her attire. She is indeed dressed and made to look as a spy.

The point is that this Fear Itself story had nothing to add to “Fear Itself” and can, in fact, be entirely dismissed save for Nguyen and Gandini’s gorgeous renderings of Black Widow.

Grade: 6/10

There will be no Classic Comic Friday feature tomorrow because it’s Canada Day. However, it will arrive July 8th for sure.

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So until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

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’!