Avengers: The Children’s Crusade

There’s very few Marvel stories that rarely get me excited every time I pick up a new issue. This is even truer when it comes to books released on a bi-monthly schedule. I mean, who remembers what happened two months ago?

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade has been an on-going story mixed with incredible drama, high-action, and brilliant art. To top it all off, it drastically has an effect on the Marvel Universe – despite it being considered only a mini-event.

Each issue has me begging for more. With each issue that goes by, I have no idea how the series could conclude. Indeed, this series should have been marketed much stronger by Marvel.

Avengers Children's Crusade

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #7 of 9
Allan Heinberg (writer), Jim Cheung (pencils, cover), Mark Morales, John Livesay, Dexter Vines, & Jim Cheung (inks), Justin Ponsor (colours, cover), Cory Petit (letters). $3.99

Concluding last issue, Wanda restores the powers of the mutant Rictor from X-Factor – showing that she can reverse all of the effects done by her on M-Day. But of course, arriving on the scene, The Avengers, Magneto and the X-Men have their particular opinions to what should happen with Wanda. The Avengers want her back to normal, while Magneto wants her to herself. Surprisingly, Cyclops acts the most irrational of the bunch and demands justice for the damage she has caused.

Heinberg leaves the reader to quietly debate who has the most reasonable argument for what to do with Wanda. But for the first time in the series, we finally get to hear Wanda’s voice and her opinions. With so many voices in the story from various characters, you never feel confused on who’s who. Unlike particular Avengers books where voices become jumbled in the crowd (ie. Spider-Man & Hawkeye, Spider-Woman & Ms. Marvel), everyone in TCC has their unique personality – and it shows.

The story certainly takes a turn however, when Doctor Doom is thrown into the mix. A bit of background is finally given to “How Wanda ended up with Doom after M-Day” and it actually makes sense. To top it off, the tension in the last few pages between the Young Avengers and Doom will absolutely knock your socks off.

What else could I say about Jim Cheung’s art? He gets two months to work on this book and it shows. The intense detail given to each individual, the clarity to backgrounds, the pages with over ten different characters on it – all looks effortlessly immaculate. While my eye is not trained to identify inkers, it can be seen when they are changed in the artwork. All of it is tastefully done when involving a scenery change. As for Ponsor, never have I loved the colour pink or red so much as I have in these stories.

My only quibbles are with minute details: Cyclops acts nothing like how he would in an X-book and comes off rather ridiculous – even striking Captain America first. Of course, the other issue is Rogue’s bizarre costume-style which madam Kelly Thompson has already discussed on her blog.

It’s a shame that this series is ending in two more issues. The bigger shame is that it will still take four months to conclude.

Grade: 8.5/10

As a side note, you can see Rictor with his powers now in X-Factor #225 which was released today. If anything, this is a pretty big tip to help us figure out when The Children’s Crusade actually takes place in the Marvel Universe. (We’re not in X-Men Schism territory yet).

Speaking of Schism, please pick up X-Men: Schism #4 by Jason Aaron and the legendary Alan Davis.

X-Men Schism 4

After the Schism Preludes and three semi-lull issues of Schism itself, we finally have it: If there was any book to explain what splits the X-Men apart, THIS is it. Get on board and watch the X-Men split apart.

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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 1 – X-Men, X-Men, and X-Men

Interestingly enough, I fell ill again. Luckily, I am much better than I was yesterday – well enough to get reviews up this week, too!

But get this: There were so many comics this week, I have to split them up into two different posts! So this post will involve just some X-Men comics that came out. I’ll also be avoiding New Mutants #22 due to the fact that I already am doing another X-review in the next post.

So for now, here is X-Men Legacy, Uncanny X-Men, and just plain ‘ol X-Men.

The next post shall feature X-Men: To Serve and Protect, The Avengers, and the final issue to Fantastic Four, #588.

X-Men Legacy

X-Men Legacy #245
Mike Carey (writer), Clay Mann (pencils), Jay Leisten (inker), Brian Reber (colours), Cory Petit (letters), Leinil Yu & Marte Gracia (cover). $2.99

And so chapter one of the Age of X begins, and boy, do we get some action here. In fact, three quarters of the book is really introducing characters and placing them in context of the story. We see Rogue, or “Legacy” or “Reaper” – depends on who is speaking to her – as an executioner to injured mutants. Cannonball orders Cyclops around. Legion helps forge the shield around the base. Danger runs the jail. . . Well, I guess not everyone is doing something different than their Earth-616 counterpart.

But what where the story really shines is post-battle. Wolverine – powerless – runs the bar. We see Psylocke, Iceman, Colossus, Gambit, and many others chatting about the battle and giving some back story involving how they got to where they are. Some involving the Phoenix destroying Albany, and others involving the Mutant Liberation Front.

Rogue, or Legacy, or Reaper, eventually finds a downed soldier who fought the mutants and turns out to be a mutant herself named “Katherine Pryde.” She is held in the jail by Danger, amongst many other psychic mutants. One being a unconscious Charles Xavier.

Although skeptical with the first issue, slowing seeing things unfold really adds intrigue to the pacing of the story. Not to mention seeing mutants use their powers for other means rather than what we’ve been used too really adds a neat spin on things. The second chapter in New Mutants #22 definitely throws a lot more into the story and changes focus for Rogue to be the main character – as she has been with Carey being the main writer.

Clay Mann’s artwork certainly shone in this issue as a particular scene involving Legion’s “Force Warriors” really wowed me. He perfectly gave them an appearance of hierarchy, but down-to-earth people.

A good first chapter with a bit too much fighting and little story to want readers to hang on. However, once you pick up chapter two in New Mutants #22, you’ll not want to stop reading.

Grade: 6/10

Uncanny X-Men

Uncanny X-men #533
Matt Fraction & Kieron Gillen (writers), Greg Land (pencils), Jay Leisten (inker), Justin Ponsor (colours), Joe Caramagna (letters), Greg Land & Justin Ponsor (cover). $3.99

Two major stories continue in the fourth installment of Quarantine. Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde fight Sebastian Shaw, while the X-Men off of Utopia, managed by Angel, try to snuff out the Sublime corporation who is now trying to sell off the X-Gene like a drug to rich people. – Yes, suddenly is “cool” to be a mutant – especially if you’re rich, for some reason.

Meanwhile, Sebastian beats up Emma Frost, making her run away (for a good reason, I’m sure), leaving Fantomex and Kitty Pryde to remain with Shaw.

Regardless, Angel’s X-Men crash the party which leads Sublime to hand out doses of Wolverine and Deadpool to everyone in the audience – leaving the X-Men greatly outnumbered. Cyclops, now aware of Sublime’s intentions, decides it’s time for the X-Men to break quarantine and fight back.

Although finally finding its place for pacing, the story is still a bit jumbled up. For example, the Shaw story could easily have been concluded already and is being stretched out for god-knows-what-reason. Secondly, I cannot figure out why people would want to be mutants. I think Fraction tried to justify it with Sublime’s “X-Men” looking cool saving people – but so what? The story seems forced by this means.

And I’m done talking about Greg Land. I’ve seen all of these faces in the book before. There’s nothing new here with his static characters. One particular panel had me literally laughing out loud. If you accused him of tracing Emma Frost before, then in this panel, he did it with a rabbit.

If it wasn’t for the art, this book would have scored at least a five.

Grade: 3/10

X-Men

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

Spinning from Spider-Man’s earlier issues for the storyline “Shed,” the X-Men team up with the wallcrawler to figure out why people have gone missing into New York’s sewers. By now, they’ve discovered it involves lizards, but of what design? Spider-Man suggests Kurt Connors’ but no one really has any answers. When a few children go missing, the team figures it has something to do with being loners and losers at school. Discovering their social networking sites, they find the children have one thing in common: they’ve been talking to someone and told to meet up at a certain location. Luckily with Wolverine already out in the field, he goes in to watch one kid get kidnapped by a lizard. Unfortunately he gets beat up and the kid is taken away – for research.

If there is one thing that drives this story, it’s Chris Bachalo. He, hands-down, draws the best Wolverine. The final few pages with Wolverine fighting the lizards is probably some of the best action I’ve seen him in all-year (minus Uncanny X-Force). His exaggeration with Spider-Man’s eyes also draw great attention and sets moods. Bachalo is flawless with his storytelling through art and is great at showing expressions.

Although not much progress is given through this issue from Gischler, the new X-Men series has a lot of promise as it picks up tons of steam – especially with Bachalo at the artistic helm.

Grade: 7/10

Half n’ Half

I’m making this blog like a coffee. Half n’ half. Only half is a comic review, while the other half is about writing. So I guess it’s nothing like coffee.

But first, Scott Pilgrim came out on Blu-Ray yesterday and it is absolutely PACKED with tons of features. There’s over 15 deleted scenes, bloopers, documentaries, effects videos – it’s packed! I loved the movie. While it still was a variation from the books, it definitely reached high in my “favourite movies of all-time” category.

Speaking of adaptations, The Walking Dead came into its second episode which was unbelievably fantastic! These episodes beat-out most zombie movies. Once again, although it is not following the comics verbatim, the story has already grown a life of its own with great development and an already-signed second-season! I’m looking very forward to the rest of this season, plus the many, many more to come!

Also, is Spider-Man going to DIE? Hmm.

As for reviews this week, there wasn’t much up for grabs on the Marvel shelf for me. I picked up four great comics though. Avengers Prime #4, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #3, The Incredible Hulks #616, and The New Avengers #6. The best of the bunch was easily the Children’s Crusade, while surprisingly the weakest went to Avengers Prime.

***Spoilers***

ACC3

Why was Children’s Crusade so good? It’s because I don’t know. (Wait, what?) The story is the Young Avengers assisting their two members Wiccan and Speed, find their (maybe) surrogate mother, the Scarlet Witch. She has been missing since M-Day, and given the two Avengers’ powers resemble both Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, they assume that the Scarlet Witch must be their mother and in-turn, must find her to figure themselves out as well as what happened to her. Because of the immensity of the task they’ve undertaken, both Magneto and Quicksilver (Scarlet Witch’s father and brother), have decided to join the Young Avengers in their crusade. (See what I did there?)

What did happen to the Scarlet Witch? I have no idea. In fact, no one knows, except for maybe Dr. Doom. Issue two re-introduced Wanda Maximoff, aka the Scarlet Witch, however, only leaving the reader to find out that she was a Doombot. Alas, issue three brings us no further to the conclusion to where she aside from assumptions. If Scarlet Witch was a Doombot, then surely Dr. Doom must have her for his own evil intentions (which if you read DoomWar, they aren’t so bad after-all). So for a long story-short, Wiccan takes off from the group to Latveria to search for his mother. Unfortunately for him, he gets captured by the Scarlet Witch, stating she is to be married tomorrow to Dr. Doom himself! The begging question is “is that the real Scarlet Witch or a Doombot?” I don’t know!

And I won’t know for another two months! One thing which has bothered me a lot about the Children’s Crusade is that the story is so well put-together, yet it’s a bi-monthly issue. That stings. Allan Heinberg really sticks it to the reader with the best pacing I’ve seen in recent comic years. I mean, we have great in-depth development with the characters, while still getting jabs between Magneto and Quicksilver about who is at fault for Wanda’s disappearance. To top it all off, we get a side-story with the Avengers trying to figure out where Wanda is too. In issue one, the Avengers tried to stop the Young Avengers from finding Wanda – afraid it may come back to haunt them. However, because the Young Avengers escaped, the Avengers took it in their own hands to find her too. Enter Wonder Man.

Here, Heinberg places two major plots under one title. Not to mention Hulkling’s and Wiccan’s love for one another at a crossroads, while the rest of the Young Avengers have their own problems to deal with.

Of course, throwing Jim Cheung in for art, we get wonderful, full drawn-out pages which causes jaw-dropping every turn. Added with Justin Ponsors great colour-spreads, the Children’s Crusade makes up one of Marvel’s best titles.

It is a shame though that it is only a nine-issue limited series, as it definitely deserves much more than that. Then again, if we just entered issue three and they have found Wanda, that will make the next six-issues nail-biting in anticipation for the next “No more Mutants” scare she pulls off. (If any!)

Grade: 10/10

Now on to writing.

I’d like to think that I started in the blogging world relatively early. As soon as I had access to the Internet (so being in 2000), I immediately put up a website and began blogging my life.

PowerRanger

Unfortunately, WordPress makes me look like a newbie here. Let me reassure you, I am a “professional.” Aka, I know squat. But what makes me feel fortunate is that, unlike my blog in the past, I have found a niche. I guess you could say, I found people who share similar interests with me. In high-school when I started my first blog (which arguably was a LiveJournal without the LJ tags on it), I had no one who understood me. I mean, I watched Star Wars, listened to heavy metal, and read comic books. All of it was nerdy and considered un-cool. All I had to do was write and be, well, an angsty teenager. I had stories and an imagination. No one cared for it because it wasn’t the new, hot thing on TV like Family Guy, or didn’t involve Tupac. I thought the Matrix movies were stupid, and knew that no one could quote The Transformers cartoons better than I could.

It was not until I graduated high-school and hopped in to university did I realize that I am not alone. Not only that, but I am actually cool. (I’ll use that term loosely).

I’m not about to go on about how I read comics “before they were cool” or how I need “revenge” on people who now like what I like. What I want to say is that without those experiences, I would not have became the writer I am today.

I mentioned this before in a previous blog article about how you must grab from your experiences to write as they are really what you go-off of for knowledge. But what I want to say is that writing also is something that is created around you (kind of like the Force). It surrounds you, binds you. Regardless of how stupid you may look or it may sound, you know what’s best for you.

I was an outcast for being the kid who sat at home and played video games rather than going out to parties. In result, it made me who I am today. Rather than dwell on it, I’d rather be happy about who I am.

Those people at parties, they’d never understand how doing my own thing affected me. I would also never expect them to – nor would I say they were in the wrong for being who they were and thinking what they thought. The fact is that I am a writer because of it and that because of their disbelief, I’ve turned it around into belief. So my first blog although was a mess, it pushed me forward into being who I am.

The future is always moving forward. I’m just going to write along with it.

P.S. I was the White Ranger, my brother was the Red Ranger. That photo was taken back in 1995. It’s still cool to do that sort of stuff, damnit!

Keep on Space Truckin’!