Civil War II #2 Review

Civil War II #2 Review

www.hypergeeky.comTony Stark infiltrates New Attilan, setting off even more conflict in Civil War II #2.

Having losing best friend James Rhodes (War Machine) last issue, Stark kidnaps Ulysses from his new home to learn more about the young man’s supposed ability to see visions of the future.

While he studies and interrogates the boy, the Inhumans respond by following an enraged Karnak to Stark Tower. Captain Marvel and the Ultimates arrive with Maria Hill to defuse the situation. Together, they find Tony and Ulysses after the former has finished downloading a copy of latter’s brain for study.

Though you could chalk up Tony’s response to his best friend dying as something in between impulsive and insane, the issue never really gives the normally rational man a really good reason for infiltrating a sovereign country and kidnapping one of its citizens. While it’s clear that Tony wants to study Ulysses’ brain and precog abilities, it’s not like the Inhumans were against any sort of rational measure. It’s actually pretty clear that Medusa — having caught Tony in the kidnapping act — seems like she’s willing to help. When Tony refuses to go home, things escalate, turning a shaky situation into full-blown war.

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Civil War II #1 Review

Civil War II #1 Review

www.hypergeeky.comPrepare yourselves for war!

Again!

Hot off the heels of a Civil War movie — which, in turn, was based very loosely on the comic crossover of the same name — comes Civil War Part Dos #1. Written by Brian Michael Bendis with beautifully rendered panels from artist David Marquez and colorist Justin Ponsor, the next big event in Marvel history explodes from the pages of its first issue.

After Terrigen mist rolls through Columbus, Ohio, a new batch of Inhumans are born. One of them, Ulysses, gains the power of foresight and predicts a major invasion by a Celestial — or is it Galactus?

With the Avengers getting the heads-up and calling in all of its membership and various allies, the threat is averted, and Tony Stark throws a celebration to honor the victory.

Curiosity gets the better of Captain Marvel Carol Danvers, and the Inhumans decide it’s time to become a little more transparent. They introduce Ulysses to the Avengers, and Danvers makes a move to bring the human crystal ball onto her squad — which causes Stark to express his reservations.

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All-New X-Men #36 Review

All-New X-Men #36 Review

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Ultimate Dr. Doom’s energy blast sure has a lot of kick.

All-New X-Men #35 ended just as Miles Morales launched a sudden attack on Doom only to be countered by a devastating blast.

Issue #36 continues from that super-ultra-combo finisher with a double-page spread of the Doctor surveying his victory. Two sets of X-Men and an Ultimate Spider-Man have been beaten, and Doom’s first act as champion is unmasking Morales.

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With Miles’ secret out in the open, Doom threatens to end Spider-Man’s life. But before he can do that, Jean Grey distracts him long enough to psychically wake up her friends. Round two ends just as quickly as it starts with Kitty Pryde attempting to destroy Doom’s armor with her phasing ability. Doom self-destructs, leaving his headquarters wide open for a riot led by one really ticked-off Hank McCoy.

Now that the All-New X-Men, the Ultimate X-Men, and Ultimate Spider-Man have basically won Earth-1610, the only thing left to do is get the Earth-616 kids back home.

Conveniently, the mutant with teleporting powers that started this whole arc appears in their midst and does just that.

So ends this chapter of All-New X-Men, and while it all seems pretty cut and dry, I’m just really glad it’s over. This was probably my least favorite arc of the entire series, and now that it’s said and done — I’m not sure that the last four issues added anything to the mix. Anyone who had missed issues #32-36 could be filled in with a quick synopsis.

The All-New X-Men were teleported to the Ultimate Universe. They fought Dr. Doom. They came home.

We get a few glimpses of alternate universes that might be a precursor to Battleworld, but the arc as a whole was a listless journey through a comparable Earth with very little progression or development for the main story arc or the characters. The only real end result is an angry Hank McCoy who decides it’s time to change the world. The problem I have with that is — McCoy spends the least amount of time out and about on Earth-1610. After landing on a beach, he spends most of the arc in Doom’s house and laboratory.

The prospect of having Miles and the Ultimate X-Men on tap at the beginning of the arc seemed to suggest some major plot points, but All-New X-Men #36 doesn’t even manage to produce any real sparks. Brian Michael Bendis has left a lot on the table for this throwaway side-mission, and there’s a real lack of force that’s permeated the past few issues.

On the art side, All-New X-Men looks good if not great. Mahmud Asrar excels in his action panels with some very epic big-picture stuff, like Jean’s standoff with Doom or the moments leading up to Doom’s headquarters getting destroyed. During conversational frames, the artwork begins to suffer. Facial expressions lack life, and the dearth of detail irons out the pages, making the panels look really flat.

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Marte Gracia’s colors are high-contrast and bold, adding some dimension to the faces through shading. I like Gracia’s reds which are un-apologetically bright, and his lighting is top notch.

I’m ready to move on from this arc to the next. With all that’s been announced, I get the feeling like the X-Books are starting to enter another gear. My expectations are tempered, however, due to so many of the arcs ending on disappointing notes. The problem is not so much with the conclusion — it’s how the entire story fails to live up to its promises. With issue after issue leading us down a road that constantly reminds us of the scenery, even a couple of beautiful sunsets are not enough. Fans want to see plot points dealt with, and there’s a lot fluttering around in the wind, and we’re about to pull up into the parking lot any minute now.


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Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 Review

Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 Review

www.hypergeeky.comThe mystery of what happened to Eva Bell during her disappearance back in Uncanny X-Men #17 is finally explained.

Sort of.

To recap — Back in issue #17, Bell and her teammates were stranded in Tabula Rasa by Magik for a bit of a training session. The crap hit the fan when a giant beast attacked, sending the team in panic. Caught under the heel of a giant bird-lizard-dinosaur, Eva time-bubbled her way out of trouble, leaving Fabio behind.

When she returned, much older and a little worse for the wear, the Stepford Cuckoos discovered what happened. And for the past year, the truth has been a guarded secret to be finally let out in Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 which follows Bell’s journey as her powers take her to the past and future for a startling reveal.

Starting with an encounter with Jonathan Raven, Earth-616’s version of Killraven, Bell almost takes a laser beam to the face before her powers save her by teleporting her to the Wild West where she meets the Rawhide Kid. The Kid, one year removed from meeting the Avengers, scares Bell into porting again, and she’s taken by the X-Men of year 2099 to the Sorcerer Supreme.

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Uncanny X-Men #28 Review

Uncanny X-Men #28 Review

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First, a few things — one of which I should have pointed out before, but failed to include.

Inside the cover in the credits, you’ll see something that only recently started happening. At the bottom where the creator credits once only mentioned Stan Lee, a new name has been rightfully added. Though we don’t know the full details of the settlement between the Kirby family and Marvel, one thing we know is that Jack Kirby is finally getting creator credit.

That is awesome on so many levels.

The other thing — Chris Bachalo’s name is on the cover, but the art this issue belongs to Kris Anka.

And third — yes, Hank McCoy, Cyclops is right.

Scott Summers’ tried and not-so-true friend finally gets it, and for once, he doesn’t know what to do. It’s a bittersweet moment that’s filled to the brim with history between two characters, one named after a one-eyed mythological figure and the other whose callsign only described his physical capabilities. More on this later.

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All-New X-Men #30 Review

All-New X-Men #30 Review

www.hypergeeky.comAll-New X-Men #30 takes a break from the norm to develop and work on some character-to-character issues.

Picking up at the swell of a whirlwind romance between Laura Kinney and Warren Worthington III after a night of clubbing and, well, clubbing (literally!), the two go through an impromptu DTR that challenges their notions of each other, especially for Kinney.

It’s hard for Laura to accept what’s going on now that she’s had time to think about it. Warren’s too pretty and too rich, while she’s been through too much.

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Even if it’s a beauty and the beast type of situation, the pairing does make sense in the end — opposites do attract, especially when they turn out to be commonalities. Laura’s ugly past puts her on one side of a spectrum where Worthington’s enviable wealth places him on the other. Both are attractive, yet in some ways unwanted, and they both know what it’s like to be a mutant.

Once Laura realizes her past is past, she wonders what’s going on in the rest of the world to which Warren, living in the moment, responds with the exact words Laura needs to hear.

Elsewhere in the world and back at the Xavier School, Emma Frost has begun training Jean Grey with an interesting first assignment — she wants Jean to hit her. With some of the students covertly witnessing the strange session, Emma and Jean begin to discuss the biggest conflict in both their lives: Scott Summers.

There’s some enmity here, and they’re both willing to press the issue to get what they want. To get out of training, Jean points out Emma’s conflict — that Jean and Scott’s relationship was mutual and exclusive.

That only prompts Emma to retaliate and go for Jean’s jealousy button.  It was Emma that Summers mentally cheated with during his marriage, and Frost projects explicit images of Scott. It’s the one when Summers says he chose Emma that makes Grey lash out, forcing the students to rush to Professor Kitty Pryde.

Pryde’s been busy building a long-distance relationship with Peter Quill who’s a billion miles away. The conversation between them is realistic, and there’s surefire chemistry between the two. Brian Michael Bendis doesn’t break each of the character’s personalities to force something onto them. The scene is a textbook example of how dialogue between two adults should be written — it’s full of charm, poignancy, and humor.

When Pryde follows the students to see what all the commotion is about, a psychic battle results in the scariest thing Illyana Rasputin has ever seen.

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Emma and Jean are now friends.

Bendis comes through with an issue that gives readers a true X-Men experience. By piercing through the outer veil and giving us a behind-the-scenes perspective, we get to the nitty and gritty to learn more about their personalities — without which, the individuals are X-Men in name only.

The pairings are deliberate and speak to Bendis keen planning and plotting. In each scene, we get interactions between polar opposites. The contrasts between Laura and Warren are easy to spot, and the most compelling story this chapter is between Jean and Emma, two rivals with a rich history of turmoil between them.

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For new readers, it’s easy to accept the premise as is and believe there’s bad blood between two women in love with the same man. But there’s an incredible amount of emotion and history that’s only hinted at.

Back in the ’90s when the X-Men first split up into Blue and Gold teams, it was Emma’s Hellfire Club that caused one of Jean’s physical deaths — Grey saved herself by possessing Emma with her consciousness. When Frost later came over to the X-Men’s side after Generation X, she began therapy sessions with a broken Cyclops which resulted in mental cheating.

When Grey died at the end of the New X-Men run, she got a glimpse of a very dark future. She reached back in time to influence Scott, telling him to move on and into Emma’s arms. The love triangle was no more until Beast decided to do some time-traveling of his own to bring the original X-Men to the present.

So now we have young Jean reeling and dealing with what the future holds, and her current incarnation in Marvel Comics does what no other version has been able to do: reconcile with her rival.

As the two most powerful psychics on the planet, the fact they’re friendly now only makes the cumulative outlaw X-Men squad a formidable force.

www.hypergeeky.comAnd while Professor X, knowing the potential for devastation to come, blocked out Jean’s powers until she was ready to handle them, it’s Frost who gets to bring out Jean’s best which could lead to several outcomes. As angry as Jean is now, what will happen when the Phoenix returns in full force to inhabit a younger, less mature, and more-powerful-for-her-age version of an Omega-level mutant?

It’s an issue that Pryde recognizes, and All-New X-Men #30 ends with the Jean Grey School X-Men making a surprise visit with news of Xavier’s last will and testament. As hated as Scott is for the things he did while being possessed, I wonder what Beast feels when he sees Jean.

Then, I begin to think of how this story possibly ends — with another sacrifice leading to redemption.

That’s the sort of thing that compels me to keep reading Bendis’ material. The past, when forgotten, tends to repeat itself, and X-Men stories have spiraled in and out of time away and onto themselves. What I most enjoyed about this issue are the discussions that perfectly reflect the inner minds of the characters speaking. They grow, feel love and hate, and challenge themselves and the readers. The X-Men are a microcosm of our society filled with viewpoints, differences of opinion, and those struggling to choose what’s right.

And without a great artist to capture the nuances of expressions, much of what we saw this issue could have been lost. And so it makes me grateful to see that if anyone had to take over art duties from Stuart Immonen, it’s Sara Pichelli.

Pichelli’s art style this issue is reminiscent of Immonen’s pencils and Wade Von Grawbadger’s inks. The heavy outlines are there as well as the clean and distinct facial expressions that tell their own share of the story. Pichelli’s Frost is perhaps one of the best I’ve seen — from the visuals alone we get a sense of how manipulative and seductive Emma can be.

www.hypergeeky.comAnd that’s one of the greatest strengths of All-New X-Men #30 — the brilliant display of visuals without need for words. The flashback of Laura and Warren’s first date is almost four pages of panels with no dialogue, and the pressure’s on for Pichelli. To her credit, the artwork is masterful in how it not only tells us how things went down, it also shows us how the characters are feeling. There’s a panel of Laura looking sublime during the melee, and it just captures the moment perfectly.

To bring it all into another level of cohesion, Marte Gracia’s colors adapt just enough to keep things similar yet distinct. Warren and Laura’s scene in the room has a romantic feel to it, and the shading on the faces creates not only more definition for expressions — it also creates mood through lighting.

All of these things put together makes up one awesome issue that doesn’t need a particular villain to create drama. The X-Men have proven, time and again, that they are their own worst enemies, and the numerous conflicts presented here are easy to relate to. It’s the deftness in the creator’s abilities that this issue comes to life.


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All-New X-Men #28

All-New X-Men #28

www.hypergeeky.comDuring the Battle of the Atom crossover, one of the questions that lacked a critical answer was: What made the future Brotherhood of Evil Mutants so angry?

Last issue, we got some real answers as Xavier’s origin story was revealed along with the beginnings of his partnership with his half-brother Raze. Without a father to teach him how to control his powers, the abandoned Xavier killed his foster mother and left home to look for answers.

What he found was unacceptable. After Charles Xavier’s death, the X-Men moved on, and from Xavier’s perspective, it seemed as though the very memory of Charles Xavier was wiped away through action and deed.

So what seemed like a mission to correct past mistakes may have been an actual plot for revenge against his father’s murderers. Unable to beat the X-Men of the future, Raze comes up with a plan to beat the X-men in the past without erasing their own selves in the process. In any event the Brotherhood fail, all they have to do is leave notes.

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All-New X-Men #27 Review

All-New X-Men #27 Review

www.hypergeeky.comThe future has returned with an attack on the New Xavier School by the Brotherhood of Evil X-Men.

With Raze preoccupying the All-New X-Men in the cafeteria, Xorn takes out the Stepford Cuckoos by hijacking Mindee’s mind.

That leaves Emma Frost, Scott Summers, and the young Jean Grey to stand up to the mauraders. With one gigantic blast, Cyclops empties the tunnel of the invaders for a quick regroup.

While the battle itself is entertaining enough, the main purpose of All-New X-Men #27 is to give Xavier a backstory interspersed between the issue’s proceedings.

The first flashback takes place one year ago with his birth. Born to Moira MacTaggert — she’s later revealed to be Mystique — the young Xavier is quickly abandoned when MacTaggert recollects how Professor X was killed.

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Primer — Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW Review

Primer — Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW Review
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Marvel

The plot thickens in Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW — S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrates a former X-Man’s house for interrogation, Mystique and Sabertooth are up to something, an advanced Sentinel attacks, and Cyclops declares war!

If you feel a strong sense of deja vu, you’re not alone. Bringing back plot points that have been on the backburner for months, Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW — more like a revisiting than a retread — reminds us what we’ve been waiting for.

War.

Cyclops’ Uncanny X-Men squad is the alpha team — the team with the heaviest hitters which is one significant member down since Magneto decided to go off in search of himself. Still, there’s been plenty of growth from even the youngbloods, and Cyclops looks more formidable than ever as a man on fire.

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So while new readers jump on for Uncanny X-Men and get acclimated — after Cyclops’ team deals with the Sentinel threat, we’re reminded once again how people feel about mutants — steady readers won’t get much new this issue except for more teasing on what happened to Eva Bell in Uncanny X-Men #17 when she disappeared then returned a bit older.

Emma Frost knows enough about Bell to warrant a “You have to tell him” after Cyclops compliments Eva. There’s a suggestion of romance here, and it’s either a one-sided thing, or perhaps Bell saw something in her time displacement that’s so important, Scott Summers has to know.

As far as scripting goes, Brian Michael Bendis gets a good back and forth between S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill and Bond. Hill is written exceptionally well — she’s manipulative to a point, but she’s still well-meaning, if a bit threatening. As condescending as she gets with Bond this issue, it’s apparent she’s willing to do what it takes to save the world without crossing the line into supervillain territory.

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Marvel

The curtain on what happened to Dazzler is raised, and we see something a bit startling here as Mystique reveals where she gets her Mutant Growth Hormone. The visuals are played up with Mystique storing the illegally obtained substance in a Louis Vuitton bag which shows how far she’ll go to get what she wants.

Chris Bachalo’s pencils are fantastic this issue, though not without flaw. In one panel showing Eva, Emma, and two of the Stepford Cuckoos — all the women have the same face with only their hair and uniforms to differentiate them. Not that it looks bad — Bachalo’s attention to detail and backgrounds helps create some very dynamic panels with devastating spells and destructive explosions opening it up for how epic these battles can be.

And if I can say one thing about the costumes — Goldballs’ retro look  is at the same time hilarious and a hot mess. I’m not sure if he’s a parody of something else — maybe on DC as a whole — but he’s basically the team’s de facto comic relief now.

Everything else about this issue is pretty pitch perfect — the inkers’ squad has another member this issue bringing the count to five. Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba all contribute on bringing those penciled sketches to bear with clean lines, dramatic shadows, and darkly dark backgrounds.

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Marvel

In terms of color, Bachalo handled 100% of the work before, but this time we get a few pages by Jose Villarrubia that are reminiscent of Frazer Irving’s filtered green textures. Seeing Villarrubia’s colors — if just for a page or two — on Bachalo’s work makes me wonder what kind of tone an issue would take if someone else was brought in for color. I’m still not totally keen on Bachalo’s choice of hues, but to each their own.

And while I’m not the best at judging at a letterer’s work — Joe Caramagna should be commended for his work this issue. Explosions, laser blasts, and power beams get their own personalities, and it makes the battle sequences feel very epic.

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Marvel

The previous issues with their character sketches were a good detour, but it’s time for the Uncanny X-Men to get back on track. While new readers joining the rest of us will benefit the most this issue, it’s a good reminder for the pull-list subscribers of the particular threads left untied and loose. For some, it’s an “about time” moment when the story they’ve waited patiently (or not) for is finally getting its round.

And while the training is never over — at least from Cyclops’ perspective — it’s time for these kids to use what they’ve practiced. The threat is there, whether it’s S.H.I.E.L.D., the mysterious Sentinel builder, or both, and these X-Men have proven themselves to be more than apt for the task.

Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW (2013)
Marvel
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba
Colors: Chris Bachalo and Jose Villarrubia
Letters: Joe Caramagna

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All-New X-Men #23 Review

All-New X-Men #23 Review

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A few days ago, I imagined what I’d ask Brian Michael Bendis if I could get one question in for an interview.

“What is it about you that Marvel would put their X-Men franchise in your hands?”

Bendis is talented, obviously, and he’s shaping up to be the Chris Claremont of this generation. But that question wasn’t meant to get more information about what we already know — it’s what quality Bendis sees in himself.

What makes him the best man for this job, specifically? More than just work ethic or the ability to meet deadlines — what’s required of the man who would lead the X-Men back to its glory days as Marvel’s most dynamic and storied team?

In the way that Scott Snyder and Batman are tied together, Bendis is now the legal guardian of the X-Men, and after reading All-New X-Men #23, I feel one step closer to understanding why he’s the right wordsmith for the job.

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