Wednesday’s Reviews: Result!

This was an incredible week for comics – even for Uncanny X-Men, which I’ve picked on a lot recently.

Given my massive pull-list, I’ve decided on doing mini-reviews for a few of the comics released this week. Enjoy!

FF #1
Jonathan Hickman (writer), Steve Epting (pencils, inks, cover), Paul Mounts (colours), Rus Wooton (letters). $3.99

FF

After the death of the Human Torch, the family still goes through their mourning periods – most noticeably with The Thing who blaming himself for Johnny’s death. Reed plays a video of Johnny’s suggesting that in the case of his death, Spider-Man would be the best choice for his replacement. Of course, Spider-Man can’t say no to such an offer.

What intrigues me most about the story is how down-to-earth it has become. The family sits and has dinner together, while Reed’s father adds much-needed flavour to the established characters. Tossing in AIM and the Wizard as villains, I can already see the Future Foundation becoming an excellent series.

Of course, Epting crafts emotions brilliantly throughout the story – making the dinner scene one of my favourite panels this week.

However, I cannot go without saying how rushed I feel with the book. Maybe I’m out of the loop, but it was as if the Future Foundation was already planned-out and assembled between Fantastic Four #588 and now. If this was Marvels “.1” issue, I’d still be lost. My only other little tidbit is the action with AIM seemed a bit out of the blue. Either way you look at it, this is a very promising start for Marvel’s first family.

P.S. You cannot honestly tell me that Sue Storm does not look like Creepy Chan on the cover.

Grade: 7.5/10

Osborn #3 of 5
Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), Emma Rios (pencils, inks), Jose Villarrubia (colours), Clayton Cowles (letters), Ben Oliver (cover). $3.99

Osborn

Nothing is more sinister than a great villain book. Kelly Sue rocks the Marvel U with another incredible tale of Norman Osborn incarcerated – but for how much longer?

Mixed between insanity and clarity, Osborn continues his push to escape from prison, now with reporter Norah Winters as a potential ally. Wanting a story on Osborn, Winters listens to Osborn’s arguably mad rantings while rebutting him with some of her own. As calm as ever, Osborn seems to somehow have a grand scheme already planned out, and uses his keen manipulation skills to find his way to an escape pod with his new companions and Winters. But of course, he cannot do so without killing hundreds. This is Norman Osborn, after all.

What I cannot seem to get over is Emma Rios. If Marvel does not give her a contract, I’ll be ridiculously angry. Gorgeous, simply vibrant panels mix moods of chaos and wit together with genuine emotions of strength and cunningness. A truly fantastic visual experience. She nails Osborn right on the head as an insane mess. I seriously cannot get enough of her panels. Jose Villarrubia too, does a great job with the environment only having so-few colours. For an underwater jail, I feel as if I’m looking at a rainbow. What a creative team.

For the love of all that is amazing in the world, read Osborn already!

Grade: 9/10

Uncanny X-Men #534
Matt Fraction & Kieron Gillen (writers), Greg Land & Paul Renaud (pencils), Jay Leisten & Paul Renaud (inks), Justin Ponsor (colours), Joe Caramagna (letters), Greg Land & Justin Ponsor (cover). $3.99

Uncanny X-Men

As I said before, Uncanny has picked itself out of a rut with this issue. But maybe I only feel this way because the storyline is finally over. . . Regardless, Emma and Kitty’s story finally concludes with Shaw, while the X-Men put an end to Lobe, and Fantomex is – well, who knows.

The X-Men on Utopia decide to break quarantine to help Storm and gang battle rich science-made mutants. To their advantage with mutants now fighting mutants, everyone gets sick from the X-Men and thanks to Lobe, dying as he tries to destroy what’s left of the X-Men. Fail. Being sick himself, he can has to give the cure to everyone, thus ending the plague – because the sickness was controlled by a remote. Makes sense. On top of it all, the X-Men realize they may file a lawsuit for copyright infringement against Lobe for using the X-Men’s faces on his products. Yeesh!

Unfortunately, I still saw Land doing some things he’s done in the past. I even showed some friends, comparing this recent book to pictures in my blog about Land at an earlier time. HOWEVER, I will say that his work between Shaw & Emma is an incredible change of pace in terms of his art style. The final pages with Shaw were excellent. As for Ponsor, all I will say is yellow backgrounds ftw. That, and the Emma/Kitty scenes were greatly polished with colour. For Uncanny, this has definitely been a step-up.

To top it off, Avengers Academy #1 is reprinted in the issue. Two major books for $3.99? Count me in!

Grade: 6/10

New Mutants #23
Mike Carey (writer), Steve Kurth (pencils), Allen Martinez (inks), Brian Reber (colours), Joe Caramagna (letters), Leinil Yu & Marte Gracia (cover). $2.99

New Mutants

The Age of X continues with another unexpected twist in story. Who knew that Magneto didn’t know that Xavier knew this wasn’t the world they know of? If you had to re-read that sentence because it was mind-boggling, now you know how I felt with New Mutants! So many twists and turns leave me begging for more!

As expected, Rouge, er, Legacy and Gambit were not killed in the last issue, but actually saved by Magneto, despite it seeming to be the other way around. However, to the rest of the mutants, it still looks Magneto’s a murderer. Distrust fills Fortress X and mutants begin to question Magneto’s leadership. Unfortunately for Magneto, after rescuing Xavier from his own prison, he is knocked out of his leadership role, changing the way mutants in the Age of X will live. Meanwhile, Legacy and Gambit uncover the secret to what really is going on.

As mentioned, this story has more twists and turns than a kid putting together a Hot Wheels racetrack. Strong writing and intense scenes put this story ahead of its parent-title by a long shot.

Kurth’s work is good, but nothing out of the ordinary. For example, I loved his panel with Legacy and Gambit with just their lips. It was an unusual panel, but very well rendered. But when I look at Magneto I can’t stop thinking “baby face.” Overall, for a lack of action-book, it feels action-packed. It was on my second read-through did I realize no “fighting” actually took place. I’m also left wondering where Wolverine and “Cyclops” are.

With Age of X nearing its conclusion, it reassures me that Mike Carey needs to be given more major crossover stories.

Grade: 7/10

X-Men #8
Victor Gischler (writer), Chris Bachalo (pencils, colours), Tim Townsend, Wayne Faucher, Jaime Mendoza & Al Vey (inks), Joe Caramagna (letters), Terry & Rachel Dodson (cover). $3.99

X-Men

Thanks to Gischler & Bachalo, another great issue of X-Men is in my hands. Unlike Spider-Man’s take on this tale in the “Shed” storyline, the villain is a surprise all-together – and one I did not see coming.

Opening up from where we left off – Wolverine is taking out lizard-folk, Bachalo-style. From there, a good portion of the story focuses on the children captured by the new villain. I really start to feel for these characters – which is amazing given their short page-time in the book. The fact that I begin to empathize with minor characters the way Gischler makes me, shows that the creative team in this book really are ahead of the game. And despite the unexpected villain, the book ends on a ridiculous cliffhanger leaving Emma in a whole lot of trouble.

I cannot stress (still) how great Bachalo is with this book. I wish he could draw Wolverine all of the time. Heck, let him colour too. He’s doing an incredible job. Of course, we also get four inkers again this month leaving me to wonder who did what. I wish I could get a feel for inkers the way I can with colourists. It’s frustrating!

X-Men went from a decent first story arc to something incredible in no-time! Not to mention that the Dodson’s rocked the cover.

Grade: 8/10

X-Force #6
Rick Remender (writer), Esad Ribic (pencils, cover), John Lucas (inks), Matt Wilson (colours), Cory Petit (letters). $3.99

X-Force

I think it’s great when I can say, “this is the worst Uncanny X-Force book to date,” yet the story is still impressive.

Deathlok’s appearance at the end of last issue actually meant he was on Fantomex’s side. Admittedly, I didn’t see that one coming. The rest of X-Force eventually meet up with Fantomex and Deathlok to discover why random cyborgs are trying to kill them. Turns out they’re from the future and superheroes are not allowed to exist! But luckily Fantomex comes up with a great plan to defeat them – to destroy the future in the next issue! Despite all of that, the issue seemed like a miss for me.

Surprisingly, the most exciting part of this book for me was when Psylocke had tea with her brother, Captain Britain. She spoke her feelings about how X-Force conducted themselves with Apocalypse. She feels like she’s a changing person and she needed to know that someone understood her. Remender delves into Psylocke’s character with great emotional detail. I can tell he has great plans for her. Not to mention the twist with Captain Britain too. What a doozy!

I really cannot complain about Ribic’s work. He’s a very strong artist and takes what Opena did in the last arc and sharpens it up a bit – leaving us with a less gritty attitude. However, I have realized what feels the most different in the artwork – the colouring. Although Matt Wilson does great work, in comparison Dean White in the last arc, I feel as if the colours on the characters are too bright and plain in comparison to the pencils. I only say that with the characters because Wilson does an excellent job on everything else – particularly on landscapes.

It’s another strong issue for X-Force, but admittedly it’s their weakest too. And in accordance to the story, the cover of the book seems to be ahead of itself by about a month.

Grade: 6.5/10

As a side, see if you can spot the two Star Wars references in Wolverine & Jubilee #3 this week too. An obvious one was mentioning the “Death Star.” You get bonus points for finding the other.

Until next time, 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: The Incredible Widow Maker

This week wasn’t a big week for comics. Neither will next week. January lull, I assume. Then again, come the 26th, I’ll be overwhelmed with comics. Until then, this week we have Chaos War continuing in The Incredible Hulks #620, while the identity to Ronin is revealed in Widow Maker #3.

Incredible Hulks

The Incredible Hulks #620
Greg Pak (writer), Paul Pelletier (penciler), Danny Miki (inker), Paul Mounts (colours), Simon Bowland (letters), Paz and D’Armata Pagulayan (cover). $3.99

Chaos War crushes on in The Incredible Hulks story. In last issue, the Hulks took on Abomination, Demon Zom, and the Hulk’s father as the Chaos King rises the dead to kill A-Bomb’s ex-wife, Marlo, as she recently gained powers of Death (long story). Fortunately for the Hulk, he has people in life who come back, thanks to Marlo. Doc Samson, Glenn Talbot, as well as his ex-wife Jarella appear to aid in the fight.

Surprisingly, with all of the action happening in this comic, there is a great amount of relationships between every character. Although the primary story is focused between Hulk and his father, little snippets of feelings from A-Bomb and Marlo, to Hulk with Jarella, and Betty with Talbot, all get attention in the story. Albeit minor, the dialogue they share is significant enough to really generate some empathy from the readers. Pak’s balance of characters really shines through. A powerful scene with all of the Hulks lined up against Hulk’s father stands as a powerful statement that Hulk really does have a family now.

Pelletier makes good use of full-page spreads with many scenes of action taking over multiple pages and generating a feel of strength with the Hulks. And I do not mean physical strength. Tied in with Mounts’ excellent mixes of greens and “death” red colours, this book was a surprise hit – tackling a lot in one book.

Grade: 7/10

Widow Maker

Widow Maker #3 of 4
Jim McCann (writer), David Lopez (penciler), Alvaro Lopez (inker), Nathan Fairbairn (colours), Cory Petit (letters), Phil Noto (cover). $3.99

With the first two stories leading a tremendous build up of who Ronin is, this story does not disappoint. Our three heroes, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Mockingbird, with mercenary Dominic Fortune, finally discover the secret of Ronin. Not only that, our dynamic relationship duo – Hawkeye and Mockingbird – seem to be on good terms again. Near the ending of the book, Ronin’s identity is releaved, and as are his ultimate plans for domination. Leaving the book with our heroes entirely overran with villains, it’ll be interesting to see how the story concludes itself.

Despite the surprise twist with Ronin’s identity, the story ends up falling a bit flat on a few different levels. Firstly, the characters, while all having a history together – never touch upon it. You would figure the first part of the book featuring Hawkeye and Black Widow alone would feature much more interesting dialogue. Dominic’s only place in the book now, it seems, is to be comic relief as he only adds in funny dialogue when there seems to be nothing else to say – which is surprising, considering Hawkeye is supposed to be the funny one. By the end of the book, Ronin also gives away his “ultimate plan” in a stereotypical villain rant which we’ve seen in every cartoon series known to man.

But despite the books short-comings, the Lopez’s and Fairbairn pick up the pieces with nice colours and tons of action. Albeit, there was a few panels which were questionable: Some faces changed in quality depending on the panel, while one particular scene with Black Widow has her suit zipped right up before battle. The very next panel, her suit is zipped down, suggesting cleavage helps fighting gifted ninja girls. Yes, I did say that. But all aside, the art was solid and the story definitely only needed to be four issues long.

Grade: 5/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!