Monday, August 1, 2011

Odyssey X, Week 3: X-Men Schism #2, X-Men Legacy #252, Astonishing X-Men #40, Uncanny X-Force #12, New Mutants #28, Bonus Book Generation Hope #9

(For those joining late, please see the introductory post on Odyssey X, where I explain my attempt to read every X-Men title during X-Men: Schism)

X-Men Schism #2
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Frank Cho
Cover Price: $3.99

Perhaps expectations were high after such a satisfying first issue, but Schism #2 felt like a letdown. This issue is cheaper and shorter than the first and unfortunately, those extra pages are missed in the storytelling. The exciting revelations in issue one are expanded upon, but often the action is happening off the page. The character interactions that made the first issue emotionally engaging are now shorter, and at times repetitious (it's becoming pretty obvious who the young X-Men will end up following since they've had little or no time with Scott). After wreaking havoc at an international delegation, Quentin Quire returns seeking asylum from the world leaders and super-heroes attempting to apprehend him. His return appears only as another way to show the differing views of Cyclops and Wolverine. Meanwhile, X-Men around the world are working to save man and mutantkind alike from recently reactivated sentinels. Schism #1 had many humorous moments, but the jokes in this issue are overshadowed by their political angles (Kitty Pryde saving a misogynistic middle-eastern leader, as a Jewish woman, is funny but not ha-ha funny). The most interesting part of the book centers around the Hellfire Club's new leader and his equally young minions. How these kids became so darn evil will surely be an intriguing back story. For those that need convincing to pick up issue #3, the change of artwork from Frank Cho to Daniel Acuna may be enticing. Though Cho does a fine job on this issue, I'm excited to see one of my favorite artists continue the story. Acuna has proven in the past his ability to create compelling stories with uniquely recognizable artwork. Here's hoping Aaron will be back on his a-game for issue #3.

Verdict: Not as good as issue #2 but still leaps and bounds above most x-offerings this week. Keeping it!


X-Men Legacy #252
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Khoi Pham
Cover Price: $2.99

The past year or so whenever X-Men comics came up in conversation at my local comic shop, several fans were quick to say that X-Men Legacy was the "good" one. I can't say I understand this assumption. Of all the x-books I have randomly started reading, this one has been the most confusing thus far. When I feel the urge to look up a character on Wikipedia for further explanation, it is safe to assume something is lacking. Though I may be familiar with the heavy hitters here, and there are lots (Magneto, Rogue, Gambit) I have no idea who Legion is, or why he has a gigantic flattop. Unless he's heading to the Pajama Jammy Jam, ala House Party 2, this ridiculous hairdo only serves as a distraction. Seriously, I am 18 pages in and I keep looking at it wondering if it is a result of his mutation. Speaking of which, Legion's mutant ability is that he is host to many fractured, powerful personalities, ones that can escape and wreak havoc. Instead of a character with one confusing mutant power to describe, he has several. The enemy of this particular confrontation is "Styx", an entity that is also holding Legion's father Charles Xavier hostage in the catacombs of Paris (First appearance of Charles during Odyssey X and he's the mindless slave to a third rate character's alter ego. Fan-tastic.) Oh and one of Legion's contained personalities, Time-Sink, is fighting to escape as well. I'm bored just describing the plot. When I talked about being confused by this comic, it wasn't just Legion that felt fractured, but several times the characters referred to other events with no frame of reference. Editors used to annotate these comments to get readers to pick up past issues, or simply bring them up to speed. I guess here they felt it would be better to infuriate / confuse new readers rather than enlighten them. It wasn't all sighs and rolling eyes for this book; the art is pretty descent. Pham's sketching appears looser as the story moves on, perhaps the result of a fast approaching deadline, but the rougher edges created more tension as less is revealed. Seeing a looser approach from Pham made me wish the entire issue were a little less polished.

Verdict: I give Carey credit for boldly attempting to tell instead of show, but it's back to the shelf for X-Men Legacy.



Astonishing X-Men #40
Writer: Cristos Gage
Artist: Juan Bobillo
Cover Price: $3.99

My expectations for the x-titles were pretty low going into this, but Astonishing X-Men has managed to push the envelope of awful mainstream comics. What was once a well written and top-selling title just 3 years ago has become unrecognizable in its necessity. This particular issue reads like a low budget science fiction movie from the 50's, minus the kitschy charm. Everything in this book is over-explained to the point where you wonder if this ever crossed an editors desk before going to artist Juan Bobillo. Since there are already plenty of X-Men titles dealing with the threats of humanity and alternate timelines, Astonishing deals with galactic threats to the X-Men (well I guess this book does fill a unique role, just poorly). The bloodthirsty Brood race is attempting to infiltrate Earth after being hunted to near extinction by other intelligent races. Before agreeing to nuke em from space (it's the only way to be sure) Beast uses some seriously flawed scientific reasoning to justify letting the Brood live, and the X-Men hatch a scheme to re-program the violent race into more agreeable carnivorous creatures. The team also fails to see the irony in swapping one extreme measure for another, but if I tried to apply logic to this book I may end up with an aneurism (why is Kitty Pryde in a bubble suit here, but not in Schism? Did this problem solve itself off-panel? I still don't fully understand the bubble suit). Though it is nice to see an X-Men title that does not stick to a traditional super-hero style, Bobillo's street art inspired approach was not my cup of tea, nor do I understand why anyone would like an x-book where Storm looks like Lawrence Fishburne in drag.

Verdict: If my review doesn't convince you to pass this up, perhaps the astonishingly-awful cover will.

Uncanny X-Force #12
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Mark Brooks
Cover Price: $3.99

From the worst to the best, Uncanny X-Force is a title that's really growing on me. The rather large cliffhanger from issue #11 pays off as we meet the Age of Apocalypse version of Jean Grey, and she's not the only love from Wolverine's past to make an appearance here. Both Remender and Brooks are equally skilled in their ability to present a well-paced story, even though it is a book crammed with tons of characters and alternate timeline versions of said characters. Brooks actually knows how to use panels to his advantage. If everything is busting from the confines of the panel and every other page is a splash-page, nothing ends up being dramatic. Brooks wisely uses these tools sparingly as ways to enhance the big picture. Remender's characterization of Logan continues to be fantastic and I loved the internal narration even more in this issue. This may be one of the few x-books where Wolverine feels  well-rounded. It is rather impressive that  the story remains clean and easy to follow despite the rather complex circumstances introduced to a new reader like myself. Throughout the book, the focus remains on the relationships and varied personalities of the X-Men dealing with the harsh realties that face them if they should fail. A solid book all around!

Verdict: Not buying it this week; I'm going to give my local shop a few weeks to catch up on their orders, but this one will be added to the pull list by the end of Odyssey X.



New Mutants #28
Writer: Dan Abnet & Andy Lanning
Artist: Michael Ryan
Cover Price: $2.99

A scant two weeks after the last issue, New Mutants returns with a new story arc, new artist, and same writing duo. My wishes have been granted and this issue has plenty of moments with Dani Moonstar, the spunky leader of the New Mutants team. After a difficult but ultimately successful fight with Sugar Man, Dani invites a counselor to Utopia to help her teammates work through their various issues. Abnet and Lanning successfully use Dani as the comedic relief of New Mutants. When she gives therapist Gus Grim a brief history of the Summers family, she does so while acknowledging the ridiculousness of the situation. There is not enough fun in the x-verse, and I think this title will continue to stand out because of the lighter tone. Cyclops and Emma make a brief appearance, once again proving that no x-book about younger characters is complete without the "old guard" appearing and dispensing opinions. Considering the frequency of appearances from Cyclops, Emma, and Logan, I'm beginning to think it may be an editorial mandate that they appear in every single X-Men title. Cyclops isn't the only over-exposed Summers either as Hope also shows up to offer her assistance.

Verdict: Oh man, am I about to add New Mutants to my pull list? If Michael Ryan stays on art for the next issue, I may have to do just that....



(Bonus Book)
Generation Hope #9

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Jamie McKelvie
Cover Price: $2.99

I missed this issue last week as my local shop chooses to keep this title under "G" as opposed to grouping it with the x-titles. Similar in tone to New Mutants, Generation Hope sees a team of relatively young and unknown mutants tasked with a mission that the big boys are too busy to worry about. Hope Summers and her team must locate "newborn" mutants and use her mutant abilities to stabilize their dangerous metamorphosis (I guess her powers are a reverse of Rogue's?). This concept of unstable genealogy amongst mutants is new to the X-Men mythos, and I believe it only serves as an excuse to give Hope and her team of misfits something to do. This issue even shows that they aren't doing it very well, as the newest member to the mutant ranks decides his grotesque appearance is the worst possible thing that could happen to him, so he kills himself. If their was ever I time that I have missed Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, it is now. This  overly-complicated concept of a title could benefit from the simplicity of mutants in school learning to deal with their unique situations. Instead we have another book where Wolverine has to convince someone to pity the fearful humans.

Verdict: Definitely back to the shelf. The issue isn't nearly as good as the cover design.


Week 3 Summary
Total Potential Cost: $20.94 (slighly higher due to the "bonus book" missed last week)
1 Book Purchased, 5 Books Shelved


Do the editors of these books talk to each other? Attend any of the same meetings? Perhaps they should share notes more often, or at least better plan the release dates of these series. This week had more x-titles released than I had on my pull list from all publishers (hence my lateness in posting these reviews). As a reader forcing myself to pick up all of these books I found myself dreading the task, and I'm betting I'm not the only one who felt that way once they saw the end of the Marvel alphabet. It is far to easy to see the similarities (and inconsistencies) between these books when they are all released at once. Will Schism bring a clearer vision to these titles?

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