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’!

A Wednesday in Review

A laundry-list of stories came out this week! The Chaos War continued in Incredible Hulks #619, the X-Men cleared up the vampire threat in the Curse of the Mutants storyline in X-Men #6, while a What If? showed us what would happen had Hawkeye killed Norman Osborn during the Dark Reign. Also to note, a particular drawing of Rogue in X-Men Legacy #243 by Paul Davidson has shown Rogue at her absolute worst. Just sayin’ is all. I was unaware Rogue was an aged Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Despite all that stuff going on, I felt reviews of Uncanny X-Men #531 and Namor: The First Mutant #5 were necessary.

Uncanny

Uncanny X-Men #531

With part two of the Quarantine storyline, Matt Fraction continues his run on Uncanny X-Men, but this time adding Kieron Gillen from the most-recent Generation Hope series as a co-writer. If you haven’t heard, yesterday Marvel announced their next big event for 2011, called “Fear Itself.” Given Fraction is running the show, I can only assume Gillen will be helming Uncanny very soon on his own.

In this issue of Uncanny, you can read the first couple of panels in the story and see Gillen’s adjustments to Fraction’s run. It seems as if the conclusion to Generation Hope’s current story ties into Uncanny’s pages.

Continuing from last month, the flu-plot thickens as the X-Men’s heavy-hitters are all diagnosed with some unknown flu. Namor, Wolverine, Magneto, and so-on, have obtained some sickness running aboard Utopia – while Cyclops seems to be next on the list. Three other subplots, believe it or not, actually run within the Uncanny story and ultimately cramming quite a bit in such a small book. First, we have the X-Men outside of Utopia dealing with a “new” X-Men team created by superhuman villain Lobe. Yes, now there are three X-Men teams running around in the story. To top it all off, Emma still is off with Fantomex and Kitty Pryde inside EVA to rid of Sebastian Shaw forever, while the vigilante Collective Man is terrorizing San Francisco’s Chinatown. The story ultimately ends with the two outside-of-Utopia X-Men teams closing in on Collective Man’s position, while a silly error in Fantomex’s judgment thickens the Sebastian Shaw developments.

I believe you can imagine how rushed this book seems. It can be very problematic. However, that’s actually not my “big” beef with the book. Whereas last month, I was upset about X-Men Legacy’s continuity problems, Uncanny took that problem then made it happen ten-fold. I really do not know where in the Marvel U this story takes place, as there are too many variables with different characters. For example, Namor is no longer on Utopia. Magneto too, has jumped ship to be in both Legacy and the Children’s Crusade plots. Fantomex’s ship EVA is currently destroyed in Uncanny X-Force. Then there’s Curse of the Mutants, the Generation Hope’s story which I am assuming ends into Uncanny, etc. The list of problems goes on.

And it’s not that the X-Men are spread too thin in various titles. I mean, the vampire/X-Men storyline actually could fit in rather nicely had there been a bit more collaboration. It seems that Fraction set Uncanny up too-wrong-too-fast, post-Second Coming. He’s taking on a lot with the characters and it’s completely unhealthy for the book. Once you bring in art from Greg Land, where I’ve seen in this current book – the Dazzler as Emma Frost and Namor as Wolverine, while Dr. Kavita Rao younger by at least ten years, I’m not impressed at all.

In a nutshell, if I wasn’t so hell-bent on collecting every Uncanny X-Men comic (as being a comic collector does), I quite honestly would have dropped this story last month.

Grade: 2/10

Namor: The First Mutant #5

A gorgeous story about the history of Namor shocked me in Namor: The First Mutant #5. I was absolutely stunned by the completely different change of pace this story turned to post-Curse of the Mutants. And it was done very well.

Namor

Interestingly enough, the writer hadn’t changed at all. Stuart Moore still helms the book – proving to me his immense versatility in writing. The story stems right out of the previous issue where X-Man Loa finds out she can breath underwater because of an amulet she has. That only takes up four pages of the entire book. Immediately, we are taken back to the 1940’s where Namor’s lover at the time, Betty – being both blonde and Sue Storm-esque, and her friend Alice – first introduced back in the 40’s with Namor! Talk about digging up dirt from the past! Anyway, we are taken through how Namor both spoils and berates Betty – being the anti-hero he was back during those times. Fast forwarding to recent years, the story ends with Namor saving a father and daughter from Great White in Maui (with little interesting tidbits in there for you to find out), and finding Alice as a mother/grandmother of the two people Namor just saved. The story ends with a return to present time and concludes the interesting story on how Loa got the amulet. Ending on a positive note, this book serves as a reminder to all Namor fans of who he was before and what he is now.

With Moore writing, he proved to me that he knows Namor and that he is currently in good hands. The story in every couple of pages, gives a different title to Namor’s various attributes – being a lover, destroyer, egotist, and so-on.

Meanwhile, artists Ariel Olivietti and Brian Ching take over as artists and add a tremendous amount of depth to the pages, while Olivietti and Rachelle Rosenberg brighten up the pages with glorious colours, making each page as attractive as the last. To top it all off, a brilliant cover page of Namor, Betty, and WWII by Mike Mayhew really puts the icing on the cake. For $2.99 and keeping up with this pace, I really think we’ll actually have a regular on-going Namor series.

Grade: 9/10

Whilte you’re at it, check out Marvel’s month-to-month sales up to October 2010, courtesy Comics Beat. I also will not be posting Classic Comics for the next two weeks due to various holidays. However, they will return in the new year!

And of course, keep on Space Truckin’!