Sunday, July 17, 2011

Odyssey X, Week 1: X-Men Schism #1, New Mutants #27

Part of the appeal of completing Odyssey X (reading all of the X-Men titles during X-Men: Schism) is to experience these books with fresh eyes. What if a new reader tried all of these titles in one go? Would it make sense? Would it be engaging enough to bring them back for more? How much would it cost  to commit to reading every X-Men title? In the truest sense, I am not even reading every single mutant-featured comic. Wolverine will not be on my reading list, nor will Deadpool. Both of these over-exposed characters frequent the Marvel U proper as much as the X-Men titles. I also know my limits, and I have a pull list full of other Independent, DC, and Marvel books to read. Any extra books I pick up will be included as "bonus" reviews. This week saw the release of a second printing of Uncanny X-Force #11, and since it boldly states that it is "Chapter 1" of the Dark Angel Saga, I thought I'd jump in now so I can more easily understand "Chapter 2".

X-Men: Schism #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Carlos Pacheco
Cover Price: $4.99

Without committing to Odyssey X, I would have needed serious convincing to pick up this book. It may be an oversized issue, but $4.99? Steep, even by Marvel standards. With all of the talk about this being the biggest X-Men story to come in years, the art certainly does not look the part. Both Wolverine and Cyclops are featured on the cover looking very constipated amongst a pile of robot rubble. Did I think sentinels would be in this story? No. Did I think male camel toe would be a plot point? Yes. Because that's all I see here. The interiors are also by Pacheco, which added to my lack of enthusiasm. If this is meant to be an iconic story, remembered and read for years to come, an equally memorable artist would have been more appropriate. Pacheco's art feels like a safe choice.

Despite my disinterest in the artwork, I read on, and found that the story was not lacking. Aaron does a good job of introducing Utopia on a micro scale to new readers. There are no sweeping views of the mutant inhabited island, just Wolverine coming in from a rough night of....being Wolverine, only to return to more obligations. Scott needs his second in command to accompany him on a trip to Switzerland for an arms control conference. Before the obligatory action sequence begins, we get to witness some wonderful back and forth between Scott and Logan. There is obvious mutual respect between them, but long forged resentments still linger. Despite the tense arrangement, Aaron humorously portrays the uneasy relationship between the  frenemies. A promo image for Schism featuring a savagely clawed visor may haven given away the fact that Schism will pit Logan and Scott against one another, but their ideological leanings are surprising. I couldn't help but compare their relationship with that of Magneto and Professor X, especially in reference to the recent X-Men: First Class film.

I won't give away too much concerning the events of the attack on the international delegation, except to say it is brilliantly executed. The villain isn't who you think it is, and the ramifications to come are epic in proportion. Breathing room is something often missed in big event titles, and Aaron uses it here to great affect. The extra space allows for plenty of telling interactions and revelations about minor characters. The first issue left me wanting more, and according to the editorial notes I won't have to wait long for the second issue which comes out on July 27th. I am also delighted to see that Frank Cho will be taking over art for that issue, and the wonderful Daniel Acuna will pencil issue three. If the talent keeps increasing by the issue, so will my recommendations to read Schism.

Verdict: Putting it in the long box! Even at $4.99, it's worth keeping.

New Mutants #27
Writer(s): Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Cover Price: $2.99

I know it is blasphemy for any fan of the X-Men to say they don't like Age of Apocalypse, but I am part of that quiet minority. I prefer my X-men in the here and now, fighting social injustice and trying to save those that hate them. Back by popular demand, the characters and conflicts surrounding AoA have returned. For someone who could care less about that alternate time line, this issue wasn't entirely unenjoyable for me.

The last in a three issue arc, #27 concludes the story line "Unfinished Business". The New Mutants consist of the younger, yet capable ranks of the X-Men and Cyclops has given them the vague mission statement of "tying up loose ends". In this case that means rescuing X-Man (yes, that one) from the clutches of Sugar Man (I feel silly just typing that) who is attempting to use the reality warping powers of Nate Summers to return to his home world. Dani, leader of the New Mutants reacts to Sugar Man much the same way as I did. "Him? Really?" I got a kick out of this meta criticism. When drawing a multi armed mohawk-ed blob, things can get a little muddled on the page. The tight shots on close hits are the most satisfying moments of Leandro Fernandez's artwork, but pull out for a wider view and the momentum (and interest) is lost. What both Fernandez and company accomplish best in this issue is showcasing Dani's ass-kicking abilities. This "Sugar Man", former ire of the X-Men proper, is no match for her tenacity. After (unsurprisingly) apprehending the perp, the New Mutants return to Utopia where Cyclops talks to Nate about their family and always having "unfinished business". A tad heavy handed, but probably satisfying for those who care about this character. I personally would have enjoyed seeing more of Dani, who was the best discovery in reading New Mutants.

Verdict: Back to the shelf! Surprisingly not bad, even slightly enjoyable, but I won't be keeping it. More of a focus on Dani next issue may change my mind.

(Bonus Book)
Uncanny X-Force #11
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Mark Brooks
Cover Price: $3.99

"After assassinating the new incarnation of the X-Men's archenemy Apocalypse, and a successful defense against an invasion of superhuman cyborgs and the mind-thief known as the Shadow King, Deadpool, Psylocke, Fantomex and Wolverine have found that they have an even bigger problem on their hands."

Intimidated much? That's just the first sentence of Uncanny X-Force's overly long recap. There is a rule amongst comic book writers to write each issue like it is your reader's first. You can't pick up one book in the X universe without having a long explanation of the previous story arc's events, and the funny part is that in most cases, these are unnecessary and work against the goal of attracting new uninformed readers. Within the first two pages of the actual story in this issue, Wolverine's inner monologue reiterates everything from the recap. Imagine that, the writer bringing a reader up to speed without relying on editorial intervention?

Back to the issue at hand; despite my immediate disinterest in a second book featuring Age of Apocalypse, I continued on, once again pleasantly surprised by the quality of the story within. Remender writes Uncanny X-Force with a surprising amount of humor, and not just from Deadpool. Our team of anti-heroes must travel to the time line of Apocalypse in order to obtain an object that can free Angel from forces that threaten to turn him into the next Apocalypse (I guess that last potential host wasn't worth the trouble since they simply killed him). Their attempt to find the "Life Seed" results in a confrontation with the AoA version of Nightcrawler, which gives everyone the willies because he recently died in regular continuity. When things go south for X-Force, their new uneasy AoA allies take them to a safe haven where they are introduced to more ghosts from the past. Once you get to the end of the book, you'll realize why this issue sold out immediately and went to a second print. The twist can aptly be described as a "bombshell" but we won't know if it's really just a big tease till next issue.

This book has a lot going for it despite sounding like a hot mess. Two different continuities to keep straight, characters that are dead remain alive in other dimensions, and a lot of implied histories between characters. Remender uses Wolverine's narration as a successful device to guide us though these confusing waters without too much exposition. Mark Brooks shows ease in creating movement on the stagnant page with careful composition. This is a rare quality amongst artists, and of the three x-books I read this week, his art was the best of the bunch. The coloring, however, is overly dark and almost flat at times, making it difficult to distinguish characters at times. I understand this series is "edgy" and "graphic" but you can create a dark atmosphere without sacrificing a varied color palette.

Verdict: Back to the shelf! This was mostly a budgetary decision; at $3.99, those two extra pages don't feel worth spending the extra dollar.


Week 1 Summary
Total Potential Cost:
$12.97 $11.97
1 Book Purchased, 2 Books Shelved


My first week of Odyssey X is complete, and I am happy to report that I remain cautiously optimistic. Reading every x-book this week did reveal a few similarities; several Grant Morrison-created characters from New X-Men appear in important roles, proving that it doesn't take an event title to have a lasting impression, just good writing. Age of Apocalypse has returned full force in other titles, but does not appear to play a role in Schism. We'll see if these worlds collide in the near future.

2 comments:

  1. i think total cost should be $11.97, i could be wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for pointing that out, it has been corrected!

    ReplyDelete