Wednesday’s Reviews May 18 – Take Two

Giant Size X-Men

X-Men Giant Size #1
Christopher Yost (writer), Paco Medina (pencils, present story), Dalabor Talajic (penicls, inker, past story), Juan Vlasco (inker, present story), Marte Gracia (colours, present story), Will Quintana (colours, past story), Joe Caramagna (letters), Ed McGuiness (cover). $4.99

Nothing shakes up the X-World than a new Giant Sized X-Men issue. I mean, a X-Men: Giant Size (let’s not get confused here).

Carrying from Gischler’s X-Men run, the team is battling for their lives on Utopia against the Neo’s – a group of highly evolved mutants. Their purpose: to figure out why a mutant baby has been born from humans but not with the Neo’s.

It seems to be a great story to tackle which but is suddenly dissolved when the Evolutionaries come in and decide to wipe out what is left of the Neo’s. Left in fear, the X-Men are beside themselves to see where the Evolutionaries will take them next. It turns out, Cyclops may have all of the answers locked in the back of his mind.

Of course, this can only be done via a retcon which is placed somewhere around X-Men #4 in 1964. Unlike recent retcons, this one still has a lot of room to work with, nor does it seem as if it will drastically change how the X-Men “grew up.” To top it all off, because the Evolutionaries are involved, you cannot really say, “Well Professor X would’ve found blocked memories” because they’re fricken Evolutionaries. It’s a pretty solid retcon.

What is very exciting is the massive cast of artists on board for the story. Medina and Talajic both compliment each other with two different art forms that stylistically blend well together. Talajic actually gives a “classic feel” with his art for his “past story,” leaving Quintana tons of room to colour over and make it still feel modern – a brilliant mix. It definitely is coloured like a 60’s comic but is rendered for current times. My only beef is how Jean Grey changes from a man-face to a woman-face in some panels. However, it’s forgiven with how much emphasis is placed into giving the characters great emotions.

With Medina, his battle spreads are awe-inspiring. The title page was so well-rendered with Gracia’s colours that I still cannot stop looking at it. With the Neo’s deaths too, the fear in the Neo’s eyes move me emotionally and ultimately left me feeling terrified for the enemy. Aside from some impossible clothing worn by Storm and Emma (as per usual), I really cannot complaint about the art.

By the end of the story, I’m asking myself, “What about the Neo’s?” and “Why are the Evolutionaries only doing this now?” That’s the beauty of great story-telling folks – it keeps you begging for more.

Grade: 8/10

As a side, it’s interesting that the Neo’s say, “A year ago, our numbers were decimated. . . for over a year, there have been no live Neo births.” Does that suggest that M-Day was only a year ago? Hmm.

GNamor Annual

Namor: The First Mutant Annual #1
James Asmus (writer), Max Fiumara (pencils, inks), Norman Lee (inks), Jim Charalampiois (colours), Jared K. Fletcher (letters), Black Frog (cover). $3.99

The three-part story “Escape from the Negative Zone” concludes with Namor’s first, and only annual. (Namor: The First Mutant series has been canceled with issue #11).

Fortunately, this story still packs quite a punch. Namor has gone berserk without water, and Hope is dying with Cyclops and Steve Rogers running out of time to save her. To top it off, Blastaar’s still trying to remove the intruders from his realm. Complete anarchy ensues!

But what brings the story around full-circle, is closure for the X-Men fans. In every X-book, we’ve gotten used to seeing Cyclops baby Hope followed by Hope disobeying Cyclops right after. With some intervention to Hope by Steve Rogers, it is fair to say she is a new woman. Even more so, Cyclops gives Hope full reign to use her powers which, I suppose, can close the argument on what Hope’s powers can do. By the end of the story, I can say that I see Hope in a new light (pun?) and am comforted knowing that the X-Men are not on the backs of Steve Rogers mind, thusly making the mutants relevant in the Marvel U.

But lest we forget Dr. Nemesis and his hilarious banter throughout the story, keeping me smile with every panel appearance.

Fiumara’s work is pretty impressive at times. I can really understand what the characters are feeling on their faces as their expressions are so well-drawn, I do not need letters to tell me what’s happening in the panel. Unfortunately, my problems lie with limb proportions and heads. From time to time, Namor’s head looks like he’s “Forever Alone,” while Hope’s foot in one panel suggests that her leg is five feet long. Little issues like this perk out but are ultimately saved by the good rendering of Charalampiois’ colours. I especially love how well coloured the scenes with Rogers and Hope are together.

As a conclusion to the three annuals, I can see that it was to develop both the X-Men’s roles in the Marvel U, as well as Cyclops’ and Hope’s relationship together.

Was the story at all necessary? Probably not. Was it a lot of fun to read? Absolutely.

Grade: 6/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wonderful Wednesdays!

Since the Green Lantern trailer was a big hit, of course the Cowboys & Aliens trailer becomes posted this week as well. Click HERE for the trailer.

I am also thankful for everyone who checked out my blog on Sunday about Body Image in Comics. If you haven’t read it yet, it wouldn’t hurt to click HERE to check it out.

And as for comics this week, I was pleasantly surprised by all my picks. X-Men #5, Avengers #7, Thunderbolts #150 and Osborn #1 all blew me away. Only one blew me away over how bad it was though.

Out of the four, X-Men trailed the weakest due to a lack of everything. Avengers #7 continues Bendis’ and JRJR’s run with a new storyline already seeming better than the prior six issues. I blindly picked up Thunderbolts #150 today as I haven’t followed them with Marvel’s “Heroic Age” franchise. I was awed by how wonderful the story was and where each character stood in the Thunderbolts team. It also featured a re-print of Thunderbolts #1 from 1997. Yes, this book was 96 pages and well-worth the read.

Osborn1

Osborn #1

However, my favourite story this week comes from Kelly Sue DeConnick (wife of Matt Fraction), and artist Emma Rios. Osborn #1 is the continuation of Norman Osborn’s jail-time post his Dark Reign.
The story surprisingly features little of Osborn himself, but the events going around him. I will definitely keep this story spoiler-free so you all go out and BUY this book immediately.

Ben Urich uses his fellow Front Line writer Norah Winters to make a story about how Osborn is dealing with life in the Raft.
We are also introduced to a priest who speaks with other high-risk inmates and eerily has a Green Goblin tatoo on the back of his neck.
Also introduced are a senate sub-committee on Human Rights whom discuss what to do with Osborn – since he has not been charged with anything as of yet.
Needless to say, as the story progresses, Winter’s discovers that she cannot write a story about Osborn because he has been transferred. Where? No one knows. Only the committee and priest does.

Where the hell is this story going?!

So please, please, PLEASE pick up this book. It is such a sinister story. No doubt in my mind that it will be an amazing mini-series.

Major praise goes to Ben Oliver for that wonderful and eerie cover page with Osborn staring down at the reader. It creeps me right out.

Grade: Infinity/10

X-Men #5

This story for sure was a let-down. After months of building up a huge battle between both the vampires and the mutants, we literally get maybe four pages of actual fighting. The rest continues from X-Men #4, where speaking through video screens – bickering at each other – is the main source of action.

XMen5

The reader also learns how Wolverine turned into a vampire and how it is to be cured. All aside, this has been the weakest issue of the new X-Men series, despite it arguably being the most-anticipated one in terms of getting sh!t done. Also, you would figure Wolverine leading a vampires to kill the X-Men would be a lot more exciting. Alas. . .

Although I will give credit to humour – especially when Cyclops accidentally suggests that Emma Frost is “tough skin,” followed by her gloating personality, describing herself as “glamorous” rather than a “form of mine and lump.”

I also cannot knock Paco Medina’s art. Despite the lack of action, the scenery and spreads of the ocean, as well as the short battle were all penciled with great attention to detail. One specific panel where Archangel sheds to his Death appearance – just wow. I highly recommend that you pick up his run of Deadpool Vol 2 in 2008. He definitely is a great artist.

I really hope Gischler really gets this story together – either to make this vampire run conclude with a bang, or set up a new plot for the team.

Grade: 4/10

Also, I’ve updated my “Pull-List” page until the end of January, while also updating my “Who am I?” page too.

Expect a Classic Comic for Friday. Or else!

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Hulk, X-Men, and Vampires

Sorry about the delay, folks. Yesterday’s comics were pretty good. Black Cat’s limited series finally concluded (and with a decent plot), while Incredible Hulks rampages on in issue #614 – fighting the Secret Avengers, while X-Men #4 battles on with the vampires. I also picked up Tick’s Edlund Epic #5 and #6, but they are comics from the 80’s reprinted in colour (and may eventually appear in my “classic reviews”), while I also picked up Shadowland #4. Unfortunately, I’m still lacking Shadowland #3, so I refuse to read on until I grab that. Damn lack of second-printing! New Avengers #5 also was released and is shaping up to be a decent story.

So this week we have two great books to go under the knife. Hulks and X-Men.

Incredible Hulks #614 – written by Planet Hulk/World War Hulk great, Greg Pak, featuring art from Barry Kitson. This run has been called the “Dark Son” series, and we’re on part three of six. In a nutshell, Hulk has another son – Skaar’s twin brother who has more of the Old Power than Skaar does. Pretty much, his new son, named Hiro-Kala, wants to destroy the remaining Old Power (so Skaar – and despite him having the Old Power himself – which is addressed in IH #613) so he’s sending his planet, K’ai, towards Earth to destroy it.

Hulks614

If that wasn’t bad enough, the government missiles and weapons aren’t doing any damage to the oncoming assault. The government decides to send up thousands of soldiers to fight it. Cut to Cape Canaveral, and the Hulks are on a rampage destroying tons of military equipment. The Secret Avengers jump in to fight off the Hulks until Black Widow and Beast show up with a gun which could teleport the Hulks into the Negative Zone instantly. So yes, the Hulks surrender and talk to Steve Roger’s about why they were damaging everything.

Hulk tells him that the government would just be sending soldier’s to their death, so they had to destroy all the equipment so people would not go up in space. Plus, it would create jobs for the economy. Really, they mention that.

After deliberation, both Rogers and the President allow the Hulks to go into space – via the Stone Flagship used to bombard Earth during World War Hulk! The final panel, the President is shown saying, “God help us. . . the Hulks are running the show now.”

If you have been reading Hulk, this definitely was a “wow” for me. It was such a great feeling seeing the Stone Flagship rise out of the ground. Of course, the comic made the event seem much more epic than how I described it.

I love Pak’s writing. Ever since he’s been attached to the Hulk, I’ve tried to read everything he’s done. He literally is responsible for turning the Hulk into such a great character – in my eyes. As for story, we really get to see the power of the planet K’ai in this issue and see that it can wipe-out quite a bit. On top of that, we get half the story of the Hulks smashing. Full-spreads of damage, plus Kitson’s take on the Secret Avengers. It’s great to see them in such a different light – literally – than Dedato’s drawings. I find Beast looking a lot more menacing, while Valkyrie and Rogers share a lot of the spotlight. Bright blue colours of the characters against a red skyline for most of the comic contrast very well.

Needless to say, this story was not only fast-paced, we get information about how the world would have reacted against K’ai, plus the intervention of other heroes with the Hulk. Quite frankly, this was a great surprise following two issues of character build-up. The Incredible Hulk’s story, plus a bonus-story at the end between Bruce and Skaar really place the $3.99 price tag at a great value, with a fantastic story.

Grade: 9/10

X-Men #4 is a continuation with the Curse of the Mutants storyline where the X-Men are against vampires. To summarize quickly, the vampires want the X-Men to become vampires so that their race can be the most power ever with mutants on their side. They argue that vampires are like mutants – shunned from society. Since the mutants are now at an all-time low-number, the vampires feel it best to strike now.

Xmen4

And as you can see from this GORGEOUS cover by Adi Granov, yes Wolverine became a vampire and is on their side now. You’re all probably like, “but his healing factor would’ve fought that.” And you’re absolutely right. It’s how Wolverine did not become a Brood, or ever hold a virus for long in his body. Well, from a FanExpo Canada panel back in August, C.B. Cebulski mentioned that it would be explained in the comic. However not in X-Men #3 or #4 where Wolverine is a vampire, so I’m still waiting.

The story, by Victor Gischler, with art by Paco Medina, is mostly Wolverine/Cyclops-focused. There’s a small subplot of Blade and Angel/Archangel searching for vampires and finding them – only to run away immediately, while the rest of the story is done through video intercom. Yup. Never judge a book by its cover.

Wolverine brags how great it is being a vampire and he explains how he feels being one. Dr. Nemesis cannot figure out a cure to vampirism, and Cyclops calls Xarus (lord of the vampires who killed Dracula and became the leader), and tries to persuade Xarus that the X-Men will fight. Xarus brags some more (as it seems vampires do a lot), and shows off both Jubilee and Wolverine both turned into vampires. They both brag how great it is and ask Scott to join. Of course, he refuses and Xarus wants to bring the fight to them.

The only really exciting moment is seeing the final panel of an army of vampires which will be led by Wolverine in the next issue to attack the X-Men.

If my review sounded boring and drab to you, that’s how the comic was too. I apologize for it. I’m sure Gischler would not. What I cannot knock is Medina’s art. Great use of panels shows us the action split between words. For example, Cyclops describes fighting vampires on one page. Within said page, we get three different panels of action in different parts of the city, featuring Colossus, Pixie, Rogue, Storm, Psylocke and Gambit. All of that is broken up by Cyclops’ sentences. It’s done extremely well, and each page tells its own story. Angel and Blade’s stumbling upon a vampire lair also spreads a full page of them pretty much overwhelmed by vampires. Pages like those, with beautiful dark colours by Marte Gracia, give this Curse of the Mutants plot a grim feeling.

However, given a lot of action is done in dialogue buffed up between two egos, it really dwindles the story. It’s like watching school children say, “I’m better because of this,” “Oh yeah? Well I’m better!” Only somehow this involves the leaders of X-Men and vampires. What a battle!

Grade: 6/10

In other news, the Spider-Man movie villain has been discovered as the Lizard, played by Rhys Ifans. Also, congratulations goes out to Christopher Hastings, and Anthony Clark, writer, drawer, and colourist to the web comic Dr. McNinja. Their recent Volume 4 has been picked up by Darkhorse Comics! Once again, this goes to show you that persistence in the art universe is key!

We’ll see what tomorrow will bring with my classic comics! Until then!

Keep on Space Truckin’.