Sunday, October 23, 2011

Odyssey X, Week 10: Uncanny X-Force #15 , X-Men Legacy #255

(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)

Uncanny X-Force #15
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Jerome Opena
Cover Price: $3.99

Uncanny X-Force isn't just the best X-Men titles being released; it's probably one of the best Marvel books period. Remender continues to push the boundaries of the X-Men line by infusing more than a few genres into this super-hero title. At the end of the last issue, Psyloche chose to stay behind in an attempt to save Warren, while her teammates fled from their losing battle to regroup. The Life Seed is being used to alter time itself by creating a new evolutionary path for Earth, one where life's mutation never reached the plateau of mankind. The dreamlike sequences of Archangel and his followers witnessing time and evolution re-form makes one hell of a subject for Opena to draw, and he more than meets the challenge. X-Force feels the least like an x-book, and considering the rest of the crop, that is a very good thing. One minute the book is action, suspense, and quick quips, the next it is a fantasy tinged meander through time. All the while it is an immersion that is hard to escape. This is a read twice kind of book, just so you can take in all of the details and enjoy it once more.

Verdict: Remender and Opena are killing it on this book, and making everyone else look bad. Pick it up!

X-Men Legacy #255
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Steve Kurth
Cover Price: $3.99

X-Men Legacy isn't the worst x-book, but it may be the safest. Well established super hero titles like the X-Men always risk falling into patterns, and Carey certainly has a weakness for familiar storytelling. Rogue and company are still stuck on a doomed asteroid amidst warring alien races. If this book has a theme it must be "constant regrouping", as the conflict is always secondary to a drawn out game of "let's find so-and-so". The story culminates with a predictable battle between scorned daughter Lorna and absent father Magneto. This tedious turn of events has me asking, "Will we ever get off this rock?" Either way, whenever this story line ends, it will probably jump right into another non-stop thrillride. The problem is, it's not much of a thrill without a moment to breathe; constant motion in a story leads to an experience akin to literary motion sickness, but far less visceral. The visuals on this book don't help either as there are not one, or even two, but three inkers. That means the final product is the result of five different artists (penciler, three inkers, and one colorist) and one writer. Marvel continues to show their disregard for the "visual" half of the comic book medium, and this is one predictable misstep I am not comfortable seeing so often.

Week 10 Summary:
Potential Cost: $7.98
0 Books Purchased, 2 Books Shelved

A mercifully small week! Readers that actually pay to enjoy these books must have thanked their retailers for such a light X-Men week. The two titles that released were good examples of the best and worst of what the x-titles have to offer on the shelves. On one hand you have Uncanny X-Force pushing the boundaries of the line, incorporating different genres in the storytelling with engaging artwork as well. On the other hand, X-Men Legacy sticks to tired throw away storytelling. Remender shows you what these books and characters are capable of, then Carey pulls you right back down to the mediocre reality of the rest of the X-Men titles. It's a tough act to follow, but any current X-Men book compared to X-Force will certainly fall short.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Odyssey X, Week 9: X-23 #14, X-Men #17, X-Factor #224.1

(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-23 #14
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Phil Noto
Cover Price: $2.99

The Future Foundation are a greater focus than the usual cast of X-23, making Lara feel like a bit of a guest in her own series; still, it's a well written continuation of the "fish out of water" concept. Marjorie Liu effectively shows Lara's struggle to come to terms with her past by having her work with well adjusted super-heros and their precocious children. The recent earthquake in New York brought together X-23 and the FF and they quickly realized they had more in common than saving lives. While trying to pinpoint the source of the selective destruction, Valeria Richards solves the mystery but inadvertently causes Spidey, Sue, and Laura to be transported to another dimension. Their selection for this unexpected transportation has something to do with the three heroes being "hosts" for a galactic being. This story line doesn't particularly hold my interest; I enjoyed seeing Lara help people she doesn't understand or empathize with, and this space adventure feels like a detour from what has previously worked. It is a testament to Liu's writing and Noto's artwork that I still enjoyed this issue despite things taking a different direction than expected.

Verdict: X-23 continues to be an interesting character study, but I look forward to the book eventually returning to a more grounded setting. Also, (never thought I'd say this) more Gambit, please.

X-Men #17
Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Jorge Molina
Cover Price: $3.99

X-Men is the other title this week featuring the Future Foundation, and as previously stated, I can't understand why the editors found the need to release this at the same time as an X-23 storyline featuring the FF. They both prominently feature the guest stars on the covers with the regular characters as well (I would definitely put X-23 above X-Men as far as quality is concerned, both in cover and content). After experiencing equipment failure, the X-Men and FF still struggle to find a way home from this (not quite Savage Land) alternate dinosaur dimension. While Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men search for the the ex-girlfriend of Cyclops (who ends up looking a lot like a Sheena knockoff), Cyclops and Emma are captured by a local warlord that is in league with Dr. Doom. I don't consider this revelation a spoiler since Doom turning evil is about as predictable as Wolverine popping his claws at the slightest sign of danger. If anything, I'm sure this is a ruse on Doom's part to gain the enemies trust and save the day by the end of the story arc. Lucky for us readers, this issue also delivers more borderline-offensively-sexist versions of Emma Frost and Sue Richards. With additional gripes about ex-girlfriends, new complaints are made about the ravages of jungle atmosphere on a delicate lady's hairstyle. Gischler's characterization of Emma isn't the only thing lacking; Molina displays some truly baffling anatomy in this issue, including some impressive wonk-eye from Emma (note: facial expressions can change, but eye location should remain the same). I suspect Marvel is rushing their artists, and it shows.

Verdict: On top of being a very "by the numbers" story, this book is $3.99. Really? Pass.

X-Factor #224.1
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Valentine De Landro
Cover Price: $2.99

Throughout Odyssey X, I've read one other "Point One" issue, a gimmick Marvel is using to entice readers to a series by releasing "new reader friendly" issues. X-Men #15.1 was a dismal attempt at introducing an already mediocre book to new readers and I had expected this issue to be equally distracting. But with Peter David and X-Factor regular artist Valentine De Landro on board, #224.1 proves that when done well, this promotional tool can effectively show off a title's goods while still holding the interest of old and future fans. I was not impressed with the last story arc of X-Factor, one that focused on the birth of Rahne's supposedly evil offspring. David has wisely chosen to move quickly beyond that arc to the next case, the next mystery. Jumping right into the story, Jamie Madrox and Layla Miller pay a visit to Jamie's childhood home where he explains the inner workings of X-Factor to the single mother and young boy now living there. This framing device is perfect for introducing the characters to new readers while still offering plenty of comedic moments to keep regular readers interested. If hearing about the beloved characters of X-Factor doesn't hook new readers, seeing them in action will as they fight a demonically possessed pensioner in the nearby town. After assuming the day is saved, X-Factor return to New York unknowingly leaving the real villain behind. Since this is a series heavy on payoffs, I'm guessing the final reveal will lead to the next story arc, or another one down the road. Either way, I will still be reading this series! Hopefully De Landro stays on for art duties; Emanuela  Lupacchino has done a fine job as of late, but De Landro is a frequent artist of the series and I'm always glad to see him back.

Verdict: I was expecting a pointless issue from Point 1, but this book does the series justice!

Week 9 Summary:
Potential Cost: $9.97
1 Book Purchased, 2 Books Shelved

I'm getting closer and closer to finishing Odyssey X, and I find myself looking forward to the end with each passing week. You could even say I'm exhausted by the x-books. Or exasperated. Surprisingly, Emma and Cyclops only appear in one book this week. Following the end of Odyssey X, I will talk about the new books on post-Schism. For better or worse, it doesn't look like there will be less books on the shelves for readers.