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.
After getting a new mentor, Kamala Khan teams up with a new sidekick.
Last issue, Wolverine brought Medusa news of Kamala’s existence, prompting the queen of the Inhumans to send Lockjaw to keep an eye on her. While New Jersey reacts to a giant alien bulldog with appropriate fear, Kamala immediately adopts Lockjaw and persuades her parents to let her keep him.
And with her personal war against The Inventor escalating, Lockjaw couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s hard enough for a non-superpowered teen to sneak out at night, and Kamala needs a way to escape the limits of space and time if she’s going to moonlight as a superhero while obeying her parents wishes — or create the semblance that she is.
Khan gets a lead after using a previously kidnapped teen’s social media to discover a frequently visited spot. After suiting up, Kamala and Lockjaw storm the abandoned power plant and take on a giant mech. Kamala headbutts the robot into submission, revealing its power source — another missing teen that’s crossed paths with Kamala before.
The familiar teen faints but not before he demands Kamala stop from unhooking him from the robot. Khan drops him off at the hospital and huffs it to school with a stowaway in her bag. Another one of the Inventor’s mechs comes crashing into the school, and Khan receives a wound that, without her powers, would have killed her.
The issue ends with a tense standoff between the powerless Kamala and a hulking mech ready to throw down.
On first glance, we see Adrian Alphona’s returned. There’s something about Alphona’s rendition of Kamala that gives her life. The expressions and reactions as Lockjaw comes bounding into New Jersey are wonderful, and Kamala looks about as happy to see Lockjaw as I am to once again review Alphona’s visuals.
One of Alphona’s strengths that I haven’t touched on in previous reviews is his ability to fill out his panels with details we might overlook. Take, for example, the screws on the various robots along with the swiveling joints. While we don’t need to know exactly how the Inventor’s robots work, the extra details, mechanics, and technological innards of his creations build up the character because we see a bit of the method to his madness. Alphona takes none of these things for granted, and it adds a meaty layer to a very deep title.
Ian Herring on colors also gets a boost because of the various textures Alphona uses. Fencing, rubble, fur, and skin — the colors pop with appropriate contrasts and subtle shades. It’s great work.
Writer G. Willow Wilson’s pacing on the issue is snappy, and we go from scene to scene without missing a beat. I really enjoyed how Bruno has become a sort of Oracle to Kamala’s Ms. Marvel, and Wilson’s inclusion of Lockjaw into the mix doesn’t result in automatic winning. During the junkyard brawl, it’s Kamala that pulls off the victory after Lockjaw gets smashed.
Issue after issue, Ms. Marvel continues to rock, and I’m glad Wilson didn’t end the first story-arc with a simple meet and beat. Ms. Marvel needs an arch-villain, and instead of giving her training wheels with a familiar B-level villain who gets dispatched and tossed away, we get a measured conflict that’s appropriate. This isn’t so much about world domination as it is a localized and immediate threat, and the title’s better for it because of the more personal approach.
That the last act mirrors some of the newsbreaking stories involving crimes on campus makes this issue a pertinent one that proves Wilson isn’t writing with kid gloves on. Again, I’m looking forward to the next issue — make mine, Ms. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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
The X-Men scramble to ward off a potential resurrection of Arkea Prime only to discover their worst fears coming true.
The new Sisterhood is already one step ahead with the meteorite that carried Arkea to Earth now in their possession.
Escalation is the issue’s theme with Sabra and Gabriel Shepherd joining the X-Men, Jubilee and Karima Shapandar using their espionage skills to lock onto Ana Cortes’ position, and Rachel Grey interrogating her former boyfriend John Sublime.
Sublime feels Arkea come back online, and the effects are devastating. After possessing Reiko, Arkea gives power to Cortes, Typhoid Mary, and the Enchantress who has been freed from Odin’s imprisonment.
About 20 years ago, Professor X decided to split the X-Men into two teams — gold and blue — as a tactical countermeasure against the various threats they would likely face.
Of course, it wasn’t Professor X’s plan as much as it was Marvel’s — Professor X is a fictional character, and Marvel knew it had a cash cow on its hands.
X-Men #1 went on to becomme the highest selling comic book of all time, and Cyclops’ blue team, stacked with popular heavy hitters like Wolverine, Gambit, and Psylocke, took on their most popular foe — Magneto, ruler of the space-bound mutant safe haven Asteroid M.
S.H.I.E.L.D.’s missiles rain down on the X-Men below in Battle of the Atom #2, the conclusion to this year’s crossover, pitting various X-Men teams from different times in a battle against each other.
The issue promises there will be blood as the X-Men are attacked high and low, and readers will get some answers to the questions that have been raised.
When one of the missiles lands near some of the X-Men and fails to detonate, the assumed armament turns out to be a capsule that releases a new series of Sentinel. The battle escalates with casualties on both sides, and a final battle between young Jean and her older self culminates in an explosion that ultimately ends the fighting.
The Battle of the Atom series has been plagued with pacing issues, and the big finish(es) is worth the wait now that the dust has finally settled. Though it isn’t as ground-breaking as one would expect, it does have enough meat on it to make it a memorable read with some deep developments.
Chief among the plot points is the battle between future-Jean, Wolverine, and Cyclops. Hindsight is 20/20, and according to future-Jean, the two most responsible for the ill-fated future are the two leaders who separated the X-Men. Yes, it’s official — Battle of the Atom returns readers to where it all started in the Schism mini-series when Cyclops and Wolverine had their most recent major falling out. Their disagreement now comes to a head with future-Jean disowning Marvel’s version of King Arthur and Sir Lancelot, and the pointed finger turns the Cyclops is right debate on its head.
That heated debate which has split readership along party lines has seen some of its arguments play out in the X-Titles. Writer Jason Aaron brings up the debate here and then changes the focus back to the original starting point — when Wolverine and Cyclops parted ways and forced the rest of the X-Men to choose sides. Forget whether Cyclops was right — readers now know that the schism was responsible for the new future, and it’s all Cyclops and Wolverine’s faults.
Battle of the Atom #2 ends with four separate epilogues written for each of the X-Titles. With the Brotherhood lost in the current timeline, some of the future X-Men decide to stay while others return to the future to bury their dead. Some X-Men find solace in knowing there’s hope in the future, while others decide they must do all they can to make sure it never happens.
The fourth epilogue, which is the issue’s biggest development moving forward, brings Kitty Pryde back to the forefront. Still feeling betrayed and having no reason to believe she will ever be secure with her present team, Pryde decides she’d be better off switching sides. To make things even more complicated/exciting/surprising — the original X-Men follow their teacher in joining Cyclops’ Uncanny X-Men.
It’s a momentum changer that gives Cyclops the upper hand especially in light of Wolverine’s declaration that the school matters the most. Turned down by its most prominent students, the school may lose more of its students moving forward. At the least, there’s no love gained between the two leaders of the X-Men, and the schism still stands stronger than ever.
Four sets of artists contribute to the issue, and the art is probably the best during the main storyline, at least in terms of staging and composition. Future-Beast’s death and the reveal of the Sentinels are imbued with drama by penciller Esad Ribic, who’s assisted by Giuseppe Camuncoli. Ive Svorcina, Andres Mossa, and Guru eFX’s colors give the panels showcasing the epic battle a dreamlike and lucid polish, and the Phoenix-reds do well in reminding readers of Jean Grey’s ultimate power.
Battle of the Atom #2 will likely get a trade paperback release, and judging the work as a whole — the crossover skimps on the developments and serves mainly as a vehicle for the continuation of the four major X-Titles. Readers won’t get much more information about the future, despite Jean having seen some of it in her mind. That secret gives the X-Men something to fight over, but without more foreknowledge, it’s difficult for readers to come on board.
While it’s a welcome sight to see all the writers pool their talents for a cohesive story, the crossover suffers from too much push and pull with each issue’s authors putting in their own versions and spins on the story. The crossover could have benefited from more editorial oversight to smooth out the rough edges and get everyone on the same page, and besides the Sentinel reveal, the crossover needed more than just a few mysterious glimpses into the future. Likewise, the mess made with the Brotherhood running rampant in the present time creates more of a headache because it adds more layers to the X-Universe than it really needs.
That said, what will happen to the individual X-Titles remains to be seen. All-New X-Men gets a dramatic change in scenery while X-Men loses Kitty Pryde. Uncanny X-Men now adds a whole team to its stable while following Cyclops as leader and mentor to himself. The book with perhaps the most to lose is Wolverine and the X-Men as Logan seems to be the biggest victim of the crossover as he’s lost the classic X-Men and a lot of clout as headmaster.
Battle of the Atom #2 (2013)
Words: Jason Aaron
Pencils: Esad Ribic and Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks: Andrew Currie and Tom Palmer
Colors: Ive Svorcina, Andres Mossa, and Guru eFX
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Words: Jason Aaron, Brian Wood, and Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Kristopher Anka, Chris Bachalo, and Stuart Immonen
Inks: Andrew Currie, Mark Irwin, Victor Olazaba, and Wade von Grawbadger
Colors: Matt Milla
It seems wherever Cyclops goes, someone’s asking him what happened with Charles Xavier.
It’s a valid question, and it’s an issue Scott Summers has been dealing with internally as he holds on tight to this second chance of his. Though the fans have chanted, Cyclops is right, past events have had a major effect on him, altering him from pure leader to tainted freedom fighter.
Alison Blair, former X-Men in charge of PR for Cyclops’ extinction team, now works for S.H.I.E.L.D., and her first assignment involves taking Fabio Medina into custody for questioning. Blair takes advantage of a fangirl, and uses her powers to subdue the family, freeing herself up so she can bring Medina onto the helicarrier.
Too bad for Maria Hill and her underlings — David Bond’s new affiliation with Cyclops’ X-Men squad has given him time with some of the most powerful mutants on the planet. Bond began to understand his ability to take control over machinery last issue, and he’s been spending time with some of the greatest teachers. It all pays off when Bond takes control of the helicarrier after the X-Men teleport to Fabio’s side.
It’s an issue filled with tactical maneuvering, trick surprises, and changes. Irma, one of the Stepford Cuckoos, has changed her hair style, prompting her sister Celeste to “freak out.” It’s an interesting dynamic because the X-Men books have long tackled issues concerning prejudices, but even the X-Men aren’t immune to tiffs and fighting over expections of “normality.”
By the looks of it, Brian Michael Bendis is having loads of fun drafting the Uncanny X-Men series — the dialogue is witty, the tempo is brisk, and the characters have momentum going forward. The heavy hitters of the team still command presence, but the cast feels fuller now even if the elder teammates have to deal with being broken. It leaves the younger recruits room to grow and show they can handle their own as they fight for the spotlight. Credit Bendis for giving readers a reason to care for the new teammates who don’t feel disposable.
Chris Bachalo’s pencils remain top notch, and each page is filled with fully loaded panels. There’s tension and great composition, and Bendis’ doesn’t make it easy for Bachalo with all of character interaction. There’s been a lot of story in the past few issues, and Bachalo’s artwork isn’t lazy — it’s actually pretty frenetic. Character expressions are Bachalo’s strength, and body language is easy to read.
If there was a major gripe, it’s Bachalo’s penchance for backsides. There are at least four prominent “butt” shots, and each issue seems to have at least one. It can be distracting, and Bachalo could be a candidate for the Hawkeye Initiative Award if there was one.
As for inks — Tim Townsend gets help from three other inkers. Lines look fluid and smooth, and the dark black shades add thick contrast without feeling sloppy or overwhelming.
Bachalo’s colors get a nice boost with some more variance in colors. There’s more blue to this issue, and the palette switching is more attractive compared to the melange of orange Bachalo used last issue.
The Uncanny X-Men series has been strong — more or less — on a month to month basis, and Mystique’s appearance here after a stint in All-New X-Men shows she’s part of a bigger picture. Mystique proves you can’t stop her — you can only hope to contain her — and she’s a threat that’s been deserving of a bigger challenge.
Kudos to the creative team for pushing the pace and creating an issue that puts some of the most powerful mutants on Earth in harm’s way. Bendis could have chosen higher-profile characters, but he’s bringing in solid and dangerous foes capable of making a huge impact on the X-Men universe.
Uncanny X-Men #9 (2013)
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin, Al Vey, and Jaime Mendoza
Colors: Chris Bachalo
Letters: Joe Caramagna
With most of the team chasing Arkea to Bangladesh, Kitty Pryde works with the students back at the X-Mansion to bring things under control.
Last issue ended with a countdown, and time’s run out. Strangely, there’s no explosion, but that doesn’t mean the X-Students are in the clear. Things eventually go from bad to worse, but students Primal, Bling, Pixie, and Hellion show Professor Pryde how well they handle duress by working together to stay alive. They eventually discover that Arkea’s hacked into various systems from the Danger Room to the main servers, and Pryde makes the difficult decision to phase through the control center if they want to prevent Arkea’s cyberattack from spreading to machines outside of the X-Mansion.
In Bangladesh, the X-Men follow Arkea’s trail to the Szent Margit Institute. It’s obviously strange that Arkea has returned to the point of her origin, but Sublime informs the team that his sister is reassembling herself using the cybernetic implants given to the patients inside the hospital.
Marvel NOW!’s Captain America series is probably the most sadistic title in Marvel’s stable. Some might say that’s a better descriptor for Deadpool, with its penchant for violence, but while Motormouth takes on dead presidents for comedy, readers have seen Steve Rogers lose years off his life far from home in Dimension Z. The drama contained in Captain America’s recent run does much for the material, and the wringer he’s been pressed through would have downed less-capable superheroes.
An existence filled with this much strife — Captain America fights off a virus, protects his young charge, and leads the native Phrox, all the while searching for a way home — has only tempered Steve Rogers into something stronger, emotionally and physically. In Captain America #7, Rogers continues his uphill battle for home and family as he singlehandedly storms Arnim Zola’s fortress, fighting gravity, fatigue, and overwhelming odds.
Writer Rick Remender continues to twist the screws into Captain America with setback after painful setback, and readers get to see Rogers freeclimb, freefall, crash through a glass roof, and land on his shield — all in the span of a few pages — and just as the book hits its midpoint. This isn’t Captain America and the Avengers — it’s a solo battle pitting one man versus many — and the lonely climb to the top becomes even more forlorn when Rogers duels with Princess Jet Black and finally finds Ian.
Readers might be relieved now knowing that the Captain spared Jet Black’s life last issue. The act proves to be instrumental as the devoted daughter defies her father and decides to follow her conscience. The journey to find Ian, escape the planet, and keep Zola’s plan from succeeding becomes that much easier with a powerful ally by the Captain’s side, and it’s a momentary respite before Rogers goes down with another injury by the person he cares for most in Dimension Z.
For seven difficult issues, readers have become reacquainted with the first Avenger. His decisions in the heat of battle and the persistence he displays show what kind of man he is. John Romita Jr. hasn’t missed a single page as penciller, and though his artwork is a little less consistent than usual with strange proportions — it still maintains that consistent look with a ragged, haggard Captain scaling Zola’s fortress like Sisyphus.
The colors by Dean White seem a little more polished this issue. For the most part, the atmospheric shades and tones feel a little more vibrant — probably due to the sun rising on Dimension Z — and it’s a welcome change as the current story reaches its climax.
That’s not to say all will be well when this story ends. The current story arc might see Captain America return home, but there’s no guarantee he will save the Phrox, Jet Black, or even Ian. Zola figures to be a greater villain in Rogers’ universe, and what he’s done won’t be quickly forgotten by the Captain.
If and when Rogers returns home, it remains to be seen how long after he leaves Dimension Z that the events will leave him in peace.
Captain America #7 (2012)
Words: Rick Remender
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Scott Hanna and Klaus Janson
Colors: Dean White
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Dormammu forces Magik into a dramatic situation as Team Cyclops gets surrounded in Limbo.
Afraid and unsure, the new members of the team begin to falter until the Stepford Cuckoos send mental support, brainwashing the team with over-confidence. Meanwhile, Agent Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. seeks out a candidate to find out what Scott Summers is really up to.
It’s a cut and dry issue with a surprise appearance by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s newest agent, Dazzler, and the issue rolls with three story arcs — the first of which chronicles the birth of a new mutant whose ability to push and pull a car either stems from psychic or mechanical-manipulation powers.
Readers get to see Cyclops go full blast. And apparently, Magneto fills one of his pouches with nails ready to be aimed and fired like bullets from a chaingun. The X-Men are clearly out of their element as they fight in another world, and the ability to manipulate teammates by removing fear from their minds makes the Stepford Cuckoos a powerful addition to the team.
Brian Michael Bendis’ scripts are solid and steady. Frazer Irving remains artist since the last issue, and his moody and atmospheric panels benefit from the one-two-three punch he delivers by taking over pencils, colors, and inks — his medium is electronic, but the entire effort remains his.
It’s not the best issue — it’s a bit mid-sentence as story arcs progress — and the Dazzler reveal doesn’t have that punch. Bendis could have chosen a mutant with hunting skills, a vendetta against Cyclops, or a trusted confidante whose turning could add tension because of past history or relations. Hopefully Bendis’ choice in Dazzler proves itself to be a good one.
Uncanny X-Men #6 is a bridge between issues. It introduces one new mutant who figures to be a game-changer and another mutant who returns to the fold under a new banner. There’s build up and reveals, and the creative team keeps it interesting with dramatic visuals and character development that sees the team building and growing in strength. Uncanny X-Men is Marvel’s flagship mutant book, and the events taking place within these pages should have the biggest effect. What we’re seeing is an X-Men team being forged in fire — literally — and Bendis is dangling war on the horizon.
Uncanny X-Men #6 (2013)
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Frazer Irving
Letters: Joe Caramagna