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’!

Wednesday’s Reviews May 18 – Take One

After a hectic work week, I hath returned to bring you reviews beyond your wildest imagination!

Or something like that.

I’m still on a Thor high, alright?

Avengers

Avengers #13
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Chris Bachalo (pencils, colours), Tim Townsend, Wayne Faucher, Jamie Mendoza & Al Vey (inkers), Clayton Cowles (letters), Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Javier Rodriguez (cover). $3.99

“Fear Itself” hits the Avengers with. . . nothing happening. In fact, this issue takes us back to Fear Itself #1 with the end of the book showing Stark announcing the Avengers promise to rebuild Asgard. Needless to say, the book really does not pick up much steam and simply holds one constant tone of nothing-happening-at-all throughout. When the action that takes place is Spider-Woman crossing her arms or Thor laughing, you know you’re in for a thrill-ride.

The story does show a bit of promise. We’re given little tidbits of information that something has gone wrong, or currently is. It’s not too clear. The readers are teased about the events of Fear Itself in this book with an unknown interviewing each Avenger separately. But like I’ve mentioned before, Bendis is yet again doing his panels in the most repetitive way, which I’d like to now trademark as the “Block Page.”

. . . It’ll take off. Just you wait.

As for plot, we’re given a sense that Hawkeye and Spider-Woman are going to form a relationship, and Volstagg has no chance with Ms. Marvel. We’re also given plenty of giggle moments with Rulk and Spider-Man from time to time which made up for some of the Block Pages.

But thank god for Chris Bachalo and his rag-tag group of inkers (which came with him after his X-Men run). If it wasn’t for his fun-filled artwork, I think my eyeballs would have melted from seeing another Romita-Block Page. Bachalo shakes things up with some fun in the colour department too. A great spread of the Avengers in the ruins of Asgard definitely shine as one of the highlights to this issue. However, minor issues like Thor suddenly having a beard for a panel and Beast looking like Dark Beast are a bit unnerving for me.

Avengers #13 becomes a story that really fails to launch yet fortunately has some saving grace from Bachalo and friends.

Grade: 5/10

Alpha Flight

Alpha Flight #0.1
Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente (writers), Ben Oliver & Dan Green (pencils, inks), Frank Martin (colours), Simon Bowland (letters), Phil Jimenez & Frank D’Armata (cover). $2.99

Alpha Flight is back as Marvel’s #0.1 series brings you a good-sized introduction to the team. If you haven’t read about Canada’s superheroes before, now is the best time to jump on!

What’s most interesting is that the team is split up for the majority of the story. Sasquatch, Marrina, Shaman, Vindicator and Aurora are off in the St. Lawrence River fighting Citadel, while the remaining team fight Persuasion (Purple Man’s daughter and ex-member of Beta Flight) in Montreal. Both stories eventually tie in together with a “Fear Itself” angle at the conclusion of both battles. By the end of the story, Alpha Flight is whole, while Northstar questions whether or not he should join.

Building a set-up for the Fear Itself series tie-in, only little bits of the team are fleshed throughout the book. Surprisingly, given Northstar is the only member who didn’t die and has been seen in X-Men; he was given a lot of development with his relationship while the rest of Alpha Flight seems neglected. Also surprising is that there is no mention that Aurora is his sister. In fact, Sasquatch and Marrina hardly gets any time in the story at all.

The art leaves me skeptical. Although the brilliant colours really bring out the life of the story, the actual characters seem stiff. A lot of scenes seem like character poses, while particular face close-ups seem like photo references or possible traces. I could be wrong, but its definitely the vibe I feel from the art.

Despite the peculiar set-up for our Canadian heroes, Alpha Flight does what its supposed to do with a 0.1 issue of Marvel. Let us just hope the eight-issue series gives the team some justice.

Grade: 6/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: Uncanny X-Force, Generation Hope, Wolverine, Jubilee and “I Told Ya So!”

Now that I’m feeling 90% better, I can refocus on reviews again.

But first, I want to say how excited I am for an upcoming Marvel maxi-event. As I suggested in an earlier post, Alpha Flight would be back. Turns out I was right! What’s even better is that the Chaos War duo, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, are at the helm of this eight-issue series. Given the two are some of Marvel’s best writers, I am beyond excited to see how this series turns out. I clearly have foresight. Watch out during election time.

But on to the reviews!

Uncanny X-Force

Uncanny X-Force #5
Rick Remender (writer), Esad Ribic (pencils, cover), John Lucas (inker), Matt Wilson (colours), Cory Petit (letters). $3.99

Just when the triumphant ending of the last-issue could not make Uncanny X-Force any better of a comic, Remender continues his brilliant run with a brand-new arc featuring Fantomex. (And arguably, given the last issue, anyone could’ve seen this coming – and it’s awesome). In a nutshell, the X-Force team are trying to gather themselves post last issues events. The team gathers without Fantomex in Warren’s bunker to find out that Deadpool has called a meeting to discover Deadpool actually has feelings – and remorseful ones at that! Already Deadpool has been seen as an entirely different character in X-Force with hardly any humour coming from him at all. It’s also great when Wolverine recognizes that he’s being “pulled in all directions” when he complains he doesn’t have much time for meetings.

Meanwhile, early in the story, we learn Fantomex is growing a world. However, due to last issue’s events, he visits his “mother” in the French Alps when he is suddenly attacked by a cyborg Cyclops, Captain America, Elektra, and a few others! Barely escaping with EVA, they crash land only to be found by a particular cyborg who invokes “death.”

As previously stated, Remender’s run with Uncanny X-Force has been great so far. Necessary characterization push the stories boundaries to places where other writers seem to miss. However, I really want to speak about the art in this book – which really has carried the stories. Changing artists, Esad Ribic takes the helm of X-Force and really slams this comic home. One thing I usually dislike about changing artists is how the styles change so drastically between books. Ribic’s artwork, while on its own level, still echoes that of Jerome Opena’s, making the book have a great art transition. Then, of course, John Lucas and Matt Wilson take over with inks and colours which add incredible depths to the many different locations they have to work with. From winter, to underground, to a burning building with a cyborg-Thing being lit by fire – the duo accent Ribic’s art flawlessly, taking the grey-white tones from the previous arc on to a different level.

Why are you still reading this? Read or re-read Uncanny X-Force!

Grade: 8/10

Generation Hope

Generation Hope #4
Kieron Gillen (writer), Salvador Espin & Scott Koblish (pencils, inks), Frank Martin (colours), Dave Sharpe (letters), Olivier Coipel & Chris Sotomayor (cover). $2.99

One may ask why I continuously review this book after the hell I’ve put it through. Well, it’s because of issues like this – where it defies everything I’ve said in the past and pushes forward with an excellent story. That’s right: Generation Hope #4 has an excellent story and brilliant artwork. And you know what? It could’ve have happened without the past three-issues.

Generation Hope #4 really excels at storytelling as there is very little action to drown in. The Five Lights make it to Utopia unscathed, but all are shocked about the events which transpired in Tokyo. Remorse and excitement fills the new mutants as they try to figure out their own paths. After landing, Wolverine and Theo get the scuffle they wished to have in prior issues, while the rest settle in. Kenji – the villain in the first three issues – is brought before Scott and Emma to decide his fate. After revealing his sorrow and Emma finding out that the Tokyo incident was truly and accident, they accept Kenji into the island. Meanwhile, Dr. Nemesis puts the other Four Lights in tests to figure out their powers and limitations. Teon becomes like a protective dog to Hope, Hope kisses Gabriel, and Kenji becomes unsure with the future.

Definitely taking a change of pace, the storyline revolves around how the Five Lights interact with one another. No longer are they showing off their powers as so much they are trying to find themselves. In doing so, we get to see how they are as people, rather than weapons. I’d also have to give credit to both artists and colourists for making this the prettiest book I’ve seen from Generation Hope. Mixing Western art with anime in particular panels literally put a smile on my face – particularly one with Gabriel and Dr. Nemesis.

I’m already set for the next issue as this one – despite the lack of action – has me pumped for more.

Grade: 7/10

Wolverine and Jubilee

Wolverine and Jubilee #2
Kathryn Immonen (writer), Phil Noto (pencils, inks, colours), Nathan Fairbairn & John Raunch (colours), Clayton Cowles (letters), Nimit Malavia (cover). $2.99

The Curse of the Mutants Aftermath continues as Jubilee was last seen in a shipping container with tons of dead bodies. Fortunately with Wolverine being at her side, he took her to Siberia – where the shipping container originated from. (Yes, the book just starts there.) Turns out, Wolverine recognized the shipping serial code and wants to believe Jubilee is innocent for the killings. He just can’t trust her yet. Due to Siberia’s constant overcast, Jubilee can go outside unharmed. Convenient!

Wolverine decides to take Jubilee out to fight her – for some “tough love,” and the two later settle in for the night at their hotel. The two are approached by the hotel’s owner and are told about how people and animals in the town are disappearing and the undead are walking. The two go to check out the area and Jubilee ends up fighting off a horde of zombie-esque creatures. Back at the hotel, Wolverine is then awoken to Jubilee kneeling at the door with the mysterious woman from the first issue grabbing on to her.

I want to love this issue, but I can’t due to the lack of intrigue. While I enjoy the Wolverine/Jubilee dynamics, I don’t really have a grasp to what is happening in Siberia until the last few pages. To top it off, the final page cliffhanger really was not so much of a shock as I don’t know who this woman is, nor do I necessarily care. I know she’s responsible for the massacre in the container, but I’m just not attached to the threat as of yet.

What saves the book is Noto’s great pencils. Seeing Jubilee in her X-uniform was very nostalgic for me and Noto’s great use of her costume when battling Wolverine certainly shone. I also have to comment on his work on faces as the large diversity in expressions gave a lot of character to the two as they are really the only ones in the book. The doom-and-gloom of Siberia’s landscape with colours and inks definitely held strong throughout the story. Days felt like nights with the longing forecast disallowing any positive moods to come from the town.

With a promising first issue and decent second one, Wolverine and Jubilee still have a lot of story to tell in two more issues.

Grade: 6/10

As for favourite covers, this week’s favourite totally goes to Carlo Pagulayan for Silver Surfer #1.

Silver Surfer

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: So Many Marvel Titles!

This week was absolutely crazy for comics. There’s so many to chose from that I decided on picking the most-anticipated issues this week – aside from the Fantastic Four #587. Sorry folks! I’m doing something different here. So let’s get started!

Age of X: Alpha

Age of X: Alpha #1 (one-shot)
Mike Carey (writer), Mirco Pierfederici, Gabriel Hernadez Walta, Carlo Barberi, Paco Diaz, Paul Davidson (pencilers), Walden Wong, Diaz and Davidson (inkers), Antonio Fabela, Matt Milla, Brian Reber (colours), Joe Caramanga (letters), Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend (cover). $3.99

Age of X: Alpha has been teased to readers for quite some time. Now that the issue is released, I’m left asking myself, “What?” Age of X jumps right into whatever world they are in and begins with stories being told by X-Men at a camp. There, we get stories of Basilisk (Cyclops), the Guthrie’s, as well as Wolverine and Magneto. All eventually tie in together to create the basis for the world of Age of X. Although a lot of the story is introductions, it serves well to establish what sort of world our mutants are living in. Basilisk’s story was easily my favourite, based on Arcade taking Cyclops and having him execute other mutants against his will. Some disturbing details about the story I’ll leave to you.

Given there were five individual stories running through the book, various artists were welcomed. Pierfederici made great drama with the groundwork of the multiple story lines, while Paco Diaz hit another home run with a great visuals with Wolverine. Barberi, on the other hand, does not know how to draw women as Husks’ breasts are grossly disproportioned, while Davidson’s art still runs flat with bland faces. What was especially welcomed was mutants who I haven’t seen since M-Day – most notably a personal favourite of mine: Chamber. Thank you, Mr. Carey!

A great cross-over premise with interesting stories and zero ideas on what is going on, will leave reader’s both frustrated, yet demanding more.

Grade: 6/10

Chaos War

Chaos War #5 of 5
Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente (writers), Khoi Pham (penciler), Thomas Palmer and Bob McLeod (inkers), Sunny Gho (colours), Simon Bowland (letters), Brandon Peterson (cover). $3.99

The Chaos War comes to an end as all of Marvel’s remaining heroes crash down upon the Chaos King! Hercules gives it his all as he battles down upon the Chaos King himself. On Earth, Amadeus Cho is busy trying to evacuate everyone and defeat the King. After Herc goes through a bloody beating, a swift hit knocks the King onto the ground, leaving all of Earth’s forces to beat upon him. Still to no avail! Fortunately, Amadeus figures out a way to stop the Chaos King from spreading without killing him at all. Needless to say, it works, and surprisingly leaves Alpha Flight alive by the end. Seriously? Not the Dead X-Men or Avengers? Just Alpha Flight? Oh, and Hercules is no longer a god it seems.

. . . What? Read the book.

Pak and Van Lente have been favourites of mine for quite some time. Their writing skills are uncanny, and to put them together was a great idea. However, by this issue the Chaos War dwindled on me. It became exhausting just to see everyone lose knowing that it will just come down to Herc vs. the King. That battle, however. Wow. Khoi Pham is a brilliant artist and should be commended for some of the best layouts I’ve seen. Great two-page spreads of Herc and the King really stood out as brilliant works. A few particular pages with Palmer during the bloody mess Herc gets himself into leaves a jaw-dropping good time.

Although it began with a great premise, the Chaos War did nothing else to Marvel continuity but bring back second-rate heroes and show that Hercules had another story to tell.

Grade: 5/10

The Avengers

The Avengers #9
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), John Romita Jr. (penciler), Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer and Scott Hanna (inkers), Laura Martin, Morry Hollowell, and Matt Milla (colours), Cory Petit (letters), John Romita Jr. (cover). $3.99

Last issue featured the Illuminati’s return to the Marvel-verse. We hadn’t seen them since Secret Invasion, so their welcome was very exciting. By this issue though, we can safely say, it will be their last appearance. After Steve Rogers discovers with the New and Secret Avengers teams that the Illuminati exists, he wants answers. And so begins the arguing. A second story brings us to Parker Robbins in jail, showing us how he escaped, as well as how he knew where the Infinity Gems were. In a nutshell, we have very interesting conversation going on throughout the whole book – and it’s welcome.

What isn’t welcomed is what should have been solved with a bi-monthly series called Avengers: Prime. As I reviewed before, Prime was supposed to solve all the problems between Rogers and Stark. Although the Illuminati is yes, a special case, it read as if these two never had a conversation together since Roger’s return. It was more mind-boggling than anything.

As for the book on its own, The Avengers was really well-paced and a decent read. I was really more focused on how Parker Robbins escaped prison than the Iron Man/Steve Rogers story however. Another issue I had was something I feel Bendis is doing too-often now. Remember in Avengers #1 where everyone was talked to in two pages? It happened again! It feels like a cop-out. But I digress.

Romita kicked butt this issue! Various spreads of full Avengers line-up in a blizzard really shone. Pure and simple. Mixing in his ink and colour team, this is easily the best-drawn Avengers book yet.

Dialogue is the action in the book – which is fine by me when Romita pumps out a gem like this!

Grade: 6/10

Uncanny X-Force

Uncanny X-Force #4
Rick Remender (writer), Jerome Opena (penciler), Dean White (ink and colours), Cory Petit (letters), Esad Ribic (cover). $3.99

I really, really, really cannot stress how excellent of a story Uncanny X-Force has been. The conclusion to “The Apocalypse Solution” ends with a bang as our X-Force members fight to kill Apocalypse – who unfortunately is reincarnated into a little boy who does not know any better. After a huge beat-down by Apocalypse’s Horsemen in last issue, X-Force rallies what strength they have left to end Apocalypse once-and-for-all!

Remender knows his characterization. Everyone in the story has real emotions – real limits to what they can do. To top it all off, it still has humour amidst all the violence. An early scene with Deadpool and Archangel really had me laughing, but by the end of the book, I could help but empathize for each individual character. Thanks to Opena and White, I could see how they all felt, too. This book looks brilliant. Raw emotions, mixed with action, and a mood that isn’t quite dark, but definitely isn’t light, throttles this story to become something beyond a stereotypical comic.

This is what story-telling is all about. If you haven’t yet, start reading Uncanny X-Force now!

Grade: 10/10

New Avengers

New Avengers #8
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Daniel Acuna (penciler, inker and colours), Joe Caramanga (letters), Mike Deodato and Rain Beredo (cover). $3.99

Luke Cage and Jessica Jones finally get to go out on a date! Yes, since Civil War back in 2006, the married couple really haven’t had a chance to take some time off, with Squirrel Girl as their nanny. So as they go out for dinner, we witness their humorous conversation involving Luke wanting Jess’ name to be “Power Woman,” while a poor waitress watches on just to take their order. The conversation is so big, that a full-page spread is half-covered in word bubbles – all of it funny. Unfortunately, the date is cut short as Ms. Marvel fights a Doom-Bot in front of the restaurant (coincidence, eh?). After its defeat, the heroes go back to Avengers Mansion to discuss what just happened. That’s it in a nutshell, folks!

And you know what, I don’t mind it either. From both Avengers and New Avengers, Bendis gave the heroes some time off to not really battle. Arguably, this is the second New Avengers title in a row where there was very little action. There’s absolutely no problem with that when the dialogue is as quick-witted as Luke and Jessica’s was. Daniel Acuna’s art also made it very much exciting, where beautiful water colours amongst a dark skyline really brought the “action-less” characters to life.

Although not much happens here, it is nice to see heroes breath a little bit while setting up a new story arc.

Grade: 7/10

As a side note, the cover of the week totally goes to both Esad Ribic from Uncanny X-Force and Dave Wilkins on New Mutants #21 for his excellent work of Legion.

New Mutants

Although there were tons more to review, that’s all the time I have for now folks! Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!