X-Men #4 Review

X-Men #4 Review

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While the other X-Men books under Brian Michael Bendis’ control have followed squads of X-Men building on a firm foundation, it’s the one book written by Brian Wood that details the problems of a team beginning to form.

With relationships frayed over the events that came to pass last issue, Storm designates herself as leader, much to the chagrin of Rachel Grey.

Back in issue #3, Karima Shapandar regained consciousness and stabbed herself with Psylocke’s psychic blade. Only moments before, Storm issued the order to kill Shapandar and the bacteria controlling her body, Arkea Prime. Were it not for Grey, the X-Men could have lost a friend to a split decision.

Though the day ended with a checkmark in the win column for the team, questions over whether the team could ever work together under Storm’s leadership were discussed.

X-Men #4 explores the aftermath and the relationship between Ororo and the major dissenting party, Rachel Grey. Acting a little passive-aggressive, Rachel shows she’s not okay — especially with Storm naming herself as leader of this X-Men squad — and the two have it out in the passenger space of the Blackbird.

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Meanwhile, a Columbiair passenger flight experiences mechanical failure out in the middle of nowhere. Psylockey, Rogue, and Shadowcat hatch a plan to guide the plane with a risky maneuver that puts the microscope on the team’s chemistry, tactical abilities, and care for each other.

A month before the Battle of the Atom crossover event, Wood gives readers a solid base that explains why this team deserves to exist. This current iteration did not choose its own members — it just sort of happened because no one else was available when Arkea Prime decimated the school. With one victory under their belt, the team realizes there’s something there and that they’ve got something good going. The women of the X-Men who’ve been relegated to supporting cast roles have a new power structure that puts them under one banner.

What makes Wood’s X-Men series interesting is the personal touch. Things haven’t worked perfectly smooth for the team which has only been together for a few days, and disagreements that could derail any team have bubbled to the surface. Questions about Ororo’s decision making abilities only scratch at the surface — it’s really an issue of trust and distance. As Storm begins to dictate orders to the team, Rachel tells her, “Trust the team.”

Storm’s leadership style has clashed with Cyclops’ way of running the X-Men team. Cyclops earned even Logan’s respect with his tactical prowess and hands-on approach. Storm usually acts as a field commander, surveying the battlefield and ordering issues from on high. Both command respect, but in very different ways. Scott Summers was the embodiment of Charles Xavier’s dream. He was one of the first X-Men, and until recently, he was predictable in a way that comforted the teammates following his lead.

The way Storm leads — she’s more like a corporate manager who would rather keep her employees at arm’s length. She’s the outsider, and her first impulse is to micromanage a team that works on instinct.

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Issue #4 gets it right with great characterization and a look at how an X-Men team starts from scratch. This is the issue where the team solidifies itself, and it’s the real first official step.

Taking over for pencils to complement Wood’s scripts, David Lopez’s style fits right in where Olivier Coipel left off. The artwork isn’t as attractive as Coipel’s, but it does capture the action well, especially without much explanation of what’s going on in the narrative.

Characters follow current designs, and they’re easily distinguished. Where Lopez contrasts with Coipel are the expressions. This issue has an overabundance of smiling X-Men, and the parallel story involving Wolverine and Jubilee tracing her roots depicts Logan on what looks like one of his happiest days — he’s shown smiling in all but two panels.

Lines look clean, though there are some blotchy shadows, especially on Storm’s face and on the women’s lips. It’s possible Cam Smith and Norman Lee split duties — one inker on the Wolverine/Jubilee story, and the other on the bulk of the book — and by the looks of it, the Jubilee story has the cleaner and more defined lines.

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Cris Peter’s colors are fairly decent. There’s more of a cel-shade look in this book — see Psylocke’s TK lines and Rogue’s green outfit — and panels look a little flat at times. Lighting does change, and Peters uses contrasting colors for effect.

X-Men #4 works because it covers the rounds. There’s action, a sense of newness and exploration, and psychology. This is a team looking to take a stand, and as sum of its parts, it’s pushing and pulling all at once. There are dynamics that create a palpable tension within the team, and though the narrative could have been a wee bit stronger, it’s the action that really speaks louder than the words.


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Threat Level Omega — X-Men #2 Review

Threat Level Omega — X-Men #2 Review
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Having taken over Karima Shapandar’s body, Arkea Prime uses the Omega Prime Sentinel form to take over the Jean Grey campus systems.

Escalation drives the action as the waking Arkea fights off Beast and Rogue, while the rest of the X-Men scramble to contain the threat and regain control over the X-Mansion and safely locate Jubilee and her infant.

Kitty Pryde eventually makes contact with Arkea and comes to grips with being the one thing that can put the mechanical body out of commission. The only problem — stopping Arkea means losing any hope for reviving Karima Shapandar.

It’s a quick-paced issue that races from start to finish. It’s clear that Arkea has the ability and modus operandi to become a formidable foe for the X-Men, and as they chase her down in the Blackbird, the remaining students and teammates back at the mansion discover one of her little surprises.

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Olivier Coipel’s pencils are amazing, and this issue’s pages are packed with detail and movement. Coipel knows how to draw dramatic action, and the panels barely contain what’s going on. From Rogue and Arkea trading blows to Pryde’s melee skirmish, the visuals are clear and easy to interpret.

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Coipel’s characters look solid, existing in dimensions rather than the flatness of the page. A team of colorists — Laura Martin, Matt Milla, and Christina Strain — worked on this issue painting it with a brilliant palette that lifts the art off the page.

The colors also influence the atmospherics, from the rooms locked down in red-alert to the moody cockpit of the Blackbird. It’s evident the artistic team spent a lot of time and energy into this issue’s artwork.

With the introduction of Arkea complete, Brian Wood’s story continues to move forward at breakneck speed. Not that there’s no time for characterization — Kitty gives Karima every chance to prove she’s somewhere in that mechanical body — and Storm leads the team with a poise that’s becoming of her. Kudos to Wood for the respect he has for the characters. They’re able, powerful, and ready to defend.

X-Men #2 shows how important this title is to Marvel’s stable of X-Books. It’s got heft and drama — even heft in its drama. In its writing and in its art — the book is sharp and streamlined for maximum entertainment.

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X-Men #2 (2013)
Marvel
Words: Brian Wood
Pencils: Olivier Coipel
Inks: Mark Morales, Scott Hanna, and Olivier Coipel
Colors: Laura Martin, Matt Milla, and Christina Strain
Letters: Joe Caramagna

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A Woman’s Job — X-Men #1 Review

A Woman’s Job — X-Men #1 Review

It only took about 50 years for the heads at Marvel to come up with the idea of creating an X-Men book with a team composed solely of women. How many of the greatest X-Men stories were driven by the X-Women? Looking back at decades worth of stories that involved Jean Grey turning into the Dark Phoenix, Kitty Pryde going back in time in Days of Future Past, the Scarlet Witch wiping out most of mutantkind, and the recent developments surrounding Hope, it’s not unfounded to expect this X-Men book to come through with solid characterizations and epic stories.

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Old Friends, New Faces — All-New X-Men #5 Review

Old Friends, New Faces — All-New X-Men #5 Review

If you’ve followed this title, you’ll realize just how much is now going on for the men and women with the X-gene. So far, the current X-Men have been divided up between Cyclops’ wayward mutants on the run from the law and the Wolverine’s band of mutants at the new Jean Grey School. Oh, that reminds me, the original X-Men are back. Yeah, those guys in the blue and yellow uniforms. Beast went into the past and brought Scott, Jean, Bobby, Warren and that era’s Hank back to the future. Anyway, they’re here and this is where things get tricky, because of the whole time travel and blowing up the universe thing. Either way, this is a pretty good comic issue. There’s a lot that stands out and makes you realize just how much in their lives changes at this point. Personally, I’m just looking forward to ‘lil Scott taking on the present’s douche bag Scott.

Continue reading “Old Friends, New Faces — All-New X-Men #5 Review”