Thursday, September 15, 2011

Odyssey X, Week 7: X-Men #16, Astonishing X-men #41, New Mutants #30, Uncanny X-Force #13, X-Men Legacy #254

(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. Still a bit behind, but catching up!)

X-Men #16
Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Jorge Molina
Cover Price: $3.99

Dinosaurs, Doom, and Dimensions, oh my! This book is turning into "X-Men and the Marvel U Adventures"; without the occasional killing, this might make a decent kids title. This new story arc features the Future Foundation as the two teams, well, "team up" to rescue Cyclops' ex girlfriend who is stranded in a dinosaur infested dimension. The distress beacon leads to a big reveal that felt more like a big WTF for me (I had no clue who the character was, so he's probably a beloved Starjammer or AoA regular). Though he is far from being the only one to miss the mark in portraying Emma Frost (see X-Men: First Class), Gischler continuously writes Frost as borderline offensively shallow. I don't mean this in that the character is shallow (which she is) but that he uses tired cliches to substitute characterization. This issue spotlights a tacky "girls hate when guys talk about their exes" moment. We even get a "you go girl" moment with Sue. Molina's artwork is new to the title, and though he is no worse than the last, it is far from an improvement. Many characters appear to be anatomically challenged; Ben Grimm, Emma, and Sue are all portrayed differently between panels (poor Ben's head fluctuates in scale quite a bit). Again, perhaps with a little tweaking this book could be an appealing all ages title; as of now it is just an unjustified and redundant x-title. With the exception of Doom (because Doom is clearly very fun to write), most of these characters are being written (and drawn) better in other books.

Verdict: I don't know how this book got to 16 issues.


Astonishing X-Men #41
Writer: Daniel Way
Artist: Nick Bradshaw
Cover Price: $3.99

Holy cow was this a good issue! No joke, I actually teared up a little bit at the end. Astonishing X-Men is a series that unlike the rest of the x-books, appears to be on a monthly schedule. On top of that, the series has been switching between two different story lines and creative teams. For the love of God, I have no idea why, because this one was incomparably better than the other. While the last issue saw a team of X-Men fighting Brood aliens in space (with some unattractive artwork to boot), Daniel Way's "Monsters" story was simple, emotionally engaging, and had all of the charm of a classic Kirby and Lee silver age Fantastic Four comic. Keep in mind as well, this is an assessment made by someone that enjoyed the conclusion even as a latecomer. The prologue brought me where I needed to be to understand the story, but Way and Bradshaw ensured that I became immediately engaged. Most of the book features Wolverine and Emma in the clutches of a third rate villain that is threatening to blow up an island inhabited by monsters (with the X-Men on it). This scheme is all in an attempt to blackmail his former employers, oil company Roxxon, who want to exploit the resources of Monster Island. Again, I cannot stress the charm of this issue's set up. The villain, Mentallo, actually "monologues", revealing his weaknesses and hubris to his hostages. The rest of the X-Men eventually show up (and by the rest I mean simply Cyclops and Armor), but their timely arrival allows for some added tension, comedy, and finally a touching reunion between Armor and her recently widowed father. There is no unnecessary dialogue, no unnecessary characters, and each and every character, even the monsters, are fully realized. This is a creative team that knows how to make books like it's every reader's first comic. Perhaps that quality needs more time, hence the alternating stories in Astonishing. No matter what the reason, Marvel editor's are missing out on the perfect opportunity to put out a well-rounded X-Men book with mass appeal.

Verdict: Marvel needs to cut the dead weight and give this book to Way and Bradshaw for good!


New Mutants #30 (Fear Itself tie in)
Writer(s): Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Artist: David Lafuente
Cover Price: $2.99

Any appeal this book once held for me is now gone. Continuing with the convoluted Fear Itself tie in, we find members of the team in "Hell" where Mephisto is written like a bad stand up comedian. There are countless bad jokes from other characters as well, and only one involuntary chuckle from the whole issue. Mephisto's portrayal is at least an improvement from his recent use in Spider-Man. It's hard to imagine this character being any more ridiculous after One More Day. At least the "deal with the devil" he offers to the New Mutants stems from a clear motive (Mephisto just wants a date with one of the team members). Regardless of the quality, three issues seems quite long for a tie in; perhaps Marvel found sales for tie-ins to be better than separate minis. I guess making them indistinguishable solves that problem. For a reader that was almost convinced to start buying this book on a regular basis, they've done a fine job of discouraging me to continue reading after Schism ends.

Verdict: One more issue with Mephisto, Hel, and Hell is two too many.


Uncanny X-Force #13
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Mark Brooks and Scot Eaton
Cover Price: $3.99

Since Uncanny X-Force is one of the few true monthly titles in the X-Men line, it took me a few pages to realize that the art has changed since the last issue. The easy-to-follow flow of Brooks work was missing, and certain characters were not as recognizable. Perhaps Brooks fell behind and needed another artist to come in to help finish the work on time as Scot Eaton is added to the art credits; frankly, I would have rather waited an extra week or two. The degraded artwork is distracting and takes away from some of the more dramatic moments, but it is still enjoyable. Remender's writing is as witty as ever as the X-Men take their final stand against enemies of the Age of Apocalypse. We are treated to the inner monologue of Fantomex, which is more humorous than the dire thoughts of Wolverine form the previous issues; at one point, Fantomex accuses Gambit of being so trashy as to have an hidden 8-ball tattoo.  It isn't all fights and banter for X-Force though. The X-Men engage their enemies on two fronts, and both suffer casualties. Having been made weaker than before they came to the AoA, the end of the issue implies that X-Force's troubles have just begun.

Verdict: The shared artwork takes away from this titles' quality, but here's hoping it is just a temporary stopgap and not a transition to a different artist.


X-Men Legacy #254
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Steve Kurth
Cover Price: $3.99

With literally no pause between one confrontation to the next, the team of X-Men Legacy find themselves transported to a space station inhabited by waring alien races. Even Michael Bay writes in some downtime for his thinly portrayed characters. Alas, after battling Legion, there is little rest for the righteous as they seek to rescue Rachel Summers and the Starjammers. Little advancement is made from start to finish of this issue; the X-Men don't find themselves any closer to rescuing Rachel, but we learn about a new threat as the space station is heading towards a collision course with a nearby star. Despite the numerous threats facing Rogue and company, there is little tension and even less interest. It is hard to care about characters that face one imminent threat after another with little to no reaction. Without showing a little humanity, these mutants don't make for very engaging subjects.

Verdict: What would make me care more about these characters? If they were in a different book.


Week 7 Summary
Potential Cost: $14.96
0 Books Purchased, 5 Books Shelved

I've once again fallen behind in my reviews, and unsurprisingly it is during a week with the release of five X-Men titles. It was also a potentially costly week for dedicated fans that pick up every book with only one comic priced at $2.99. Next week's Odyssey X promises a much smaller schedule and perhaps enough time to reflect on the project as a whole thus far. There are more than a few trends amongst the x-books that will be given thought, so stick around!

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