Classic Comic Fridays: X-Men #95

It has been about four months since I’ve last done a Classic Comic feature. For the new folks here, Classic Comic Friday’s feature a comic from my personal collection which I look back upon and review. Then, if we’re lucky, I can compare it to newer comics similar to it so we can see how things have changed.

This past August, I was fortunate enough to find a decent-quality copy of X-Men #95: The death of Thunderbird. He was arguably the first X-Men to be killed (because people debate Changeling), and set-off a idea of the “unknown” with these X-Men comics. Another notable mention is that X-Men #95 features Chris Claremont’s second story with the X-Men.

So here we go:

X-Men 95

X-Men #95 (October, 1975)
Chris Claremont (writer), Len Wein (plotter), Dave Cockrum (pencils, cover), Sam Grainger (inker), Petra Goldberg (colours), Karen Mantlo (letterer) Cockrum, Gil Kane & Dan Crespi (cover). $0.25

If you were unfamiliar with the X-Men prior to this issue, Claremont and Wein set up this story so you can fully grasp each character within the first few pages. You find out who is the strongest, which heroes can fly, who the X-Men’s field leader is, plus who has the smartest mouth and who has the biggest ego to them. All within the first few pages. Within those pages, would you believe we also get a recap to who all the villain is – Count Nefaria – AND his masterplan! They certainly do not make stories like they used to.

So now that everyone and everything is established at the beginning, the rest of the story is a playground of fun ideas to entice the reader to keep reading. Nightcrawler teleports in the enemy base to let the X-Men in, followed by a battle between the the villains evil creations: The Ani-Men and X-Men. Just when the X-Men have seemingly won, Count Nefaria escapes in a jet plane. Fortunately, X-Man Thunderbird follows suite and jumps on the plane. As Nefaria tries to escape, Thunderbird uses his brute force and beats the plane down to stop Nefaria at the price of Thunderbird’s own life.

As shocking as it comes to a comic reader that a hero had just died, it was done so artistically well, thanks to the legendary Dave Cockrum. Well-known for his clean pencils and well-plotted out panels, Cockrum owns this book. When the X-Men are on a mountain, their hair is blowing. When problems appear, the faces clearly represent what the characters are saying or feeling. The action sequences are never jumbled and without dialogue, we can tell what is happening in the story. It is very rare to see comics these days like that. But like I said, Cockrum owns it.

Thunderbird's Death

In fact, the whole artistic team really controls this story. While the exposition sets up the characters, the true feeling of this story comes from the art. With a very James Bond-like tone, it’s as if the reader can feel themselves in the trees on a mountain or smell the machinery inside the hidden base. Both Grainger and Goldberg accentuate Cockrum’s pencils with a tremendous dramatic effect. Nothing is overdone on the inks and the fluidity of colour is spot-on. Vibrant sheens across each page really gives this book a light-hearted tone – setting the reader up for the unexpected.

The most exciting part of this book is definitely the unexpected death of Thunderbird. The build up, while readers have seen it in hundreds of comics throughout the years up to this point in 1975 – the death was sudden and done tastefully. The X-Men do not take the death lightly. However, because of the character development and the “team” feel the book gives, readers are forced to read on to the next issue to see how the team deals with the death.

That’s right. There’s no twist ending to make readers want to jump back to the book like a season finale of a TV show. Claremont and Wein compel readers to come back because throughout the book readers are forced to care for the characters. And that’s a more powerful reason to continue reading a book than any cliffhanger could bring.

Grade: 8/10

Looking back on this book, it’s amazing to also consider that Thunderbird is one of the few Marvel characters whom have stayed dead. Aside from some flashbacks or the more-recent Chaos War – Thunderbird, John Proudstar – has stayed dead. It’s interesting to see why that has been the case. Three issues in, of course he would not have a lot of reader fanbase – but it still remains.

To top it all off, there was no cliffhanger of a villain suddenly appearing on the last page. Nor was there a jaw-dropping moment for readers to say, “Wow! I need to go back and read this book!” The readership is solely gained because of how the writers make us feel for these characters. Name three comics nowadays that end that way. It’s pretty hard to come up with a list.

And don’t forget to check out UncannyDerek on Facebook and Twitter!

So until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

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The X-Men’s New Rosters – Who Did You Choose?

From both Uncanny X-Men #1 and Wolverine & The X-Men #1, we get to see who took which side.

Who did you end up siding with? Wolverine or Cyclops? Click for a bigger picture on both rosters. The wonderful artwork was done by Irene Lee.

Let us not forget that these charts are still missing personnel from Uncanny X-Force and X-Factor.

Wolverine at the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning:

Wolverine Faculty

Cyclops on Utopia:

Utopia

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Advanced Preview of Uncanny X-Men’s Final Issue

We’re one issue to go until Uncanny X-Men comes to a close. On October 19th, the mutants will split off into two factions and forever change the X-Universe.

Written by Kieron Gillen, a man who really has proved his writing and knowledge skills with the flagship title, will be bringing the series to the close with – gah, I hate to say it – Greg Land. Click on the images for a bigger view.

Greg Land Uncanny X-Men

Although his splash page does come off as rather nostalgic and touching for me, I can’t stop staring at the atrocities Land’s committed. Firstly, how incredibly stiff is everyone? Kitty Pryde doesn’t even have hands. They’re pylons!

And let us not forget how ridiculously fake Jean’s breasts look. I know Emma’s are supposed to look fake, but even now, they seem more real than Jean’s.

What’s Juggernaut doing? What’s with Nimrods head?

I’m also 100% sure I’ve seen this Wolverine face before. . .

Wolverine Land

But what I AM excited for with this issue is the return of my all-time favourite Marvel villain:

Mr. Sinister Uncanny X-Men

Yes, it’s Mr. Sinister. He’s been “dead” since the Messiah Complex storyline. I can’t help but wonder what shenanigans he’ll get the X-Men into now.

Well, once again, the X-Men are about to make history!

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: Uncanny X-Fear Itself

In case you thought we were all done with Fear Itself, it only ramps up in Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force #1. Not to mention, it has one gorgeous cover.

Fear Itself Uncanny X-Force

Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force #1 of 3
Rob Williams (writer), Simone Bianchi (pencils, inks, cover), Simone Peruzzi (colours, cover), Joe Sabino (letters). $2.99

What can Fear Itself bring to one of the most ruthless teams in the Marvel U?

Up to now, Rick Remender has developed this covert-ops X-team into a tight family. Through his series, we’ve seen some pretty interesting things when it comes to our heroes and their emotions – especially with Deadpool. With Rob Williams’ take on the team in Fear Itself, those emotions carry over, building up into one fear-invoking story.

And what’s best is this Fear Itself story has not changed at all how the team operates with Remender’s run the book. There are a ton of moments where I worried about the team and how they would react to particular events. Since Remender wrote UXF as a family, I can only think of them as such – doing things father says and questioning the consequences later. Those types of moments are building in this story. It leads to some action-packed moments with the team, but also doesn’t answer many real questions to what X-Force is doing in Fear Itself. It’s just a lot of teasing at this point. Also, Kick-Ass anyone?

I do welcome Bianchi’s art to the book. It’s rough, brutal, and tied in with Peruzzi’s colours, it makes for a nice gritty comic – exactly what UXF is. I love Bianchi’s work on the teams faces with their surroundings. I love escarpments! As for faces, they’re great looking in detail – especially with Psylocke and Deadpool. But despite the faces, Bianchi does falter on a few places. Body parts are drastically larger or disproportionate than they should be. Psylocke’s breasts are literally all over the place, while a particular full-page spread shows Wolverine much wider than ever. What I found interesting with Peruzzi’s colours is the use of white-space during some action scenes. While battles are usually fast-paced, these single coloured or simply non-coloured backgrounds really add some effect to the action.

A dysfunctional family at best, I cannot fathom what else will come to X-Force in the next two issues ahead. But I’m very excited to see how it will look.

Grade: 7/10

But on to that cover: Look how badass everyone is. The expression Psylocke is making, an “as if” during a mushroom cloud? Love it. Archangel’s wings fraying? Awesome. Wolverine, Fantomex and Deadpool slowly exploding? Brilliant. This is probably one of the coolest UXF covers made (And they’ve all been great, thus far!)

And don’t forget to check out UncannyDerek on Facebook and Twitter!

So until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: Empty Promises

With the X-Men’s Schism around the corner and the Fear Itself stories ramping up, I figured it would be best to review two very anticipated titles this week: X-Men Prelude to Schism #4 and Fear Itself: Black Widow #1.

But first, I must quickly mention Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #6. – Holy @*#$! What an ending! This is Marvel’s best series of the year. What a wild ride so far!

Now that that’s done:

X-Men Schism Prelude

X-Men Prelude to Schism #4 of 4
Paul Jenkins (writer), Clay Mann (pencils), Jay Leisten & Seth Mann (inks), Chris Sotomayor & Lee Loughridge (colours), Rob Steen (letters), Giuseppe Camuncoli & Dan Brown (cover). $2.99

I personally held off reviewing any of the Prelude to Schism stories until it became interesting. By the final issue, I’m really just reviewing it to complain.

In the prior three issues, readers get a brief history on the major players in the X-Universe: Cyclops, Professor X, and Magneto. By the fourth issue, we receive the same ideas, but with Wolverine. What the series ended up being is more a re-telling of each characters’ history, rather than pushing a story forward. Each issue, we’ve waited this much longer to find out what the threat to the X-Men is. We know that IT’S coming, but we have no idea what IT is. By the end of issue four *Not a spoiler alert* we STILL have no idea.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Wolverine Origin story, then this book is new for you. Aside from that, nothing new is teased for Schism. Well, I suppose one thing is that writer Paul Jenkins really likes is to make Wolverine look like a jerk. Alas.

Fortunately, Clay Mann’s art really shines in this issue. Flying through centuries of Wolverine’s past, Mann successfully shows us a descriptive story. From Wolverine and Rose, to Weapon X, to the 90’s X-Men roster, Mann shows a superb display of artistry. I love his rendition of 90’s Jean Grey. His colouring team of both Sotomayor and Loughridge also do an exceptional job in adjusting the colour schemes to fit the time line of each story.

Not trying to have this review as an entire tearing apart of the book, Prelude definitely served its purpose of getting people wondering what Schism is. This issue somewhat bonded Cyclops and Wolverine together, but also left a clue to what causes the split between the duo as well.

Although I’m still very eager to find out what Schism is, I just wished it hadn’t cost me $12 of already-familiar backstory that gets me nowhere.

Grade: 5/10

Fear Itself Black Widow

Fear Itself: Black Widow #1 (One-Shot)
Cullen Bunn (writer), Peter Nguyen (pencils, inks), Veronica Gandini (colours), Clayton Cowles (letters), Michael Ryan (cover). $3.99

After the Grey Gargoyle turns the city of Paris into stone, it’s up to the Black Widow to not do anything about it and take on Rapdio’s evil forces with Peregrine instead.

I was pretty excited for Fear Itself: Black Widow. After learning the fate of Bucky, I was sure she would have been interesting to follow through with. Turns out, she mentions him briefly, and argues that she must feel cold because she’s a spy. Right. While Paris is covered in stone, Rapdio decides to take advantage of the situation and gathers information of French missile codes to give to other crimelords. Knowing this, the Black Widow leaves America’s current turmoil to stop him. There, her and Peregrine fight to save the day, while Fear Itself becomes only a memory for the rest of the story. In fact, I have no idea what Black Widow actually feels during this entire story until the final page. And no, the feeling isn’t “Fear.”

What lacks in story is made up for with Nguyen’s stylistic art. Black Widow looks sharp, seductive, and surprisingly zipped-up (despite what the cover suggests) throughout most of the whole story. Gandini’s colours render well with Nguyen’s work as Black Widow slips in and out of shadows solely because of her attire. She is indeed dressed and made to look as a spy.

The point is that this Fear Itself story had nothing to add to “Fear Itself” and can, in fact, be entirely dismissed save for Nguyen and Gandini’s gorgeous renderings of Black Widow.

Grade: 6/10

There will be no Classic Comic Friday feature tomorrow because it’s Canada Day. However, it will arrive July 8th for sure.

And don’t forget to check out UncannyDerek on Facebook and Twitter!

So until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: Avengers & X-Force

It has been a while since I last did a review, let alone many reviews. I’ve been unbelievably busy, so I have had this on the back burner. Despite the lack of updates, traffic on my site has still been exceptional.

I really have to give a big thank you to my readers for making me want to update this more often. Without you, this site would have no meaning. (Did I just discover the reason for life, itself?)

I definitely have two major updates these next few days. The first is reviews, as you can probably tell from this title. The second will be a discussion about a recent movie I watched: Superman & Batman: Apocalypse. But more on that later.

P.S.: Two weeks of back-to-back Uncanny X-Force is mind-blowing.

Avengers

Avengers #12
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), John Romita Jr. (pencils, cover), Klaus Janson (inks, cover), Dean White (colours, cover), Cory Petit (letters). $3.99

Indeed, Iron Man wields the Infinity Gauntlet with the final chapter of the Avengers versus Parker Robbins story. With the last issue leaving us at a complete jaw-dropping standstill between Robbins and Thanos, who knew what would come next?

A very delicate, yet powerful conversation between the titan of death and Robbins stirs up a whirlwind of excitement for the reader. What will Thanos do to Robbins? More importantly, what will Robbins do to Thanos? All of it leads up to a climatic battle and a rekindling friendship all in this issue.

When the Avengers get tied into the mix and Red Hulk has a Power gem, you know there is hell to pay. It all leads to a vengeful slug-fest between Robbins and Hulk, with Robbins finally using the Reality gem to show how ridiculously powerful these Infinity gems are.

Brilliant pacing throughout the story makes each page another excitement to turn. I would argue this is Romita’s best work in Avengers so far, with very few issues on character feeling too stiff. The battle between Red Hulk and Robbins is truly a wonder to see, as a great panel-by-panel fight features art in the background of old Marvel events long-gone due to the Reality gems magic. Oddly enough, the events were actually ripped out from the original works and Romita simply placed the Rulk/Robbins fight over top of them. With two very contrasting styles of art, it literaly makes the panels pop-out at you. This too is because of White’s dynamics of red and brown tones over the gray-scales.

With very few problems in this issue, I am floored by how great this arc concluded. And most importantly, by the end of this issue, the reader will get yet another Marvel U shattering ordeal that only Bendis could effectively pull-off.

Sure, I could nick off marks for suddenly leaving the Watcher out of the story. I could also nick off marks for seeing yet another page like this. But they are minuscule in the grand scheme of how powerful of an issue Avengers #12 was.

Grade: 7/10

Uncanny X-Force

Uncanny X-Force #8
Rick Remender (writer), Billy Tan (pencils, inks), Dean White (colours), Cory Petit (letters), Esad Ribic (cover). $3.99

The team goes to rescue a captive Deadpool, while Psylocke battles the Shadow King in yet another explosive issue of Uncanny X-Force. Oh, and Archangel’s about to burst.

Right off the bat, the reader is dropped into a plot where Deadpool’s on a reconnaissance mission, while Psylocke is helping Warren deal with the Death persona. Fantomex also shows Deathlok around the base, making me wonder if he will be a permanent part of the team. (Eee!) Lots happen within the short timespan of this book, yet all is paced so ridiculously well, that you know this is a Remender book.

Needless to say, if you’re a Psylocke fan you’re in for a huge treat. This is her book. After Deadpool fails to check in with X-Force, the team goes to find him. Upon arrival, most of X-Force becomes mind-controlled (minus Fantomex due to his neural implants) – leaving Psylocke the only one able to fight up against their foe – the Shadow King.

If it’s not good enough that this story is primarily about Psylocke, we’re also given huge depth with Warren about his Death personality. In so-few pages, Remender intertwines all of the subplots in one grand scheme with an absolute flawless script.

By no-means is Wolverine or Deadpool the main-characters of these stories. This book is a Psylocke/Archangel/Fantomex story guest-starring everyone else.

Tan’s art is nothing less than incredible. A particular panel with Archangel screaming shows his anger and near-insanity. Don’t even get me started on how beautiful Psylocke is drawn in her old costume.

Dean White was on double-duty this month doing both Avengers #12 and this issue. While you can see similarities with both books for colours, he definitely has a knack for not over-doing things, yet still placing emphasis where needed. I definitely prefer his colouring style with Tan’s art. Actually, it would have been great with Ribic’s and Opena’s too. Of course he did a great job in The Avengers too with Romita.

A few weeks ago, Uncanny X-Force released a .1 issue and it stood out as a great one-shot. The idea of the .1 issues were to get new readers on board.

Uncanny X-Force #8 arguably repeats the same process while still continuing the main storyline. I think I’ve said this at the end of every Uncanny X-Force review, but it needs to be said again.

If you haven’t started reading Uncanny X-Force, START!

And doesn’t Esad Ribic deserve a “best cover” award? Look at those colours! Wonderful!

Grade: 9/10

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