Note : The following commentaries contain spoilers.

What's Happening to the X-Men in 2011 & 2012?

Uncanny X-Force No. 17

Just picked this up. It's a January 2012 issue out in 2011.

I've never read an uncanny X-Force, ever. So the blurb is really helpful. These guys are supposed to be the killers among the X-Men. Wow, try doing that during the Silver Age. Heck, try doing that during the 80s. I'm excited already. Roll call is : Wolverine (obvious), Archangel (I was read his creation in X-Factor first series, so check), Psylocke (yup), Fantomex (I absolutely know nothing about this guy) and Deadpool (obvious).

Ok, I'm reading the blurb, and we're in the middle of a story arc: Archangel seems to have become corrupted and is out to remake the world for mutantkind - in that genocidal Apocalypse kind of way.

I am absolutely delighted by the opening of this comic - a flashback to the original X-Men from the 60s. I'm fresh off reading the Claremont-Byrne run of Uncanny (issues 108 to 143), before that I've been reading some of the Silver Age books. Anything in the 21st century books that leverages the history is delightful to me. This issue can't have started out any better.

A giant fuckin' Iceman! Bobby Drake is a giant Iceman in the Apocolypese dimension I think? Who cares? Wow.

I love this spread

Sabretooth, the new Phoenix, Nightcrawler, Wildchild, the new Sunfire. I'm not sure I got that exactly right but then again, I just don't care, just enjoying the ride.

Some being (Genocide?) erupts and Angel uses his wings as a shield. Love the art.

I was wrong about Sunfire. This is Shiro, the old Sunfire with new look.

I may not know Fantomex but I love his response to Psylocke in this panel

I must say that this is the most unsexy Psylock I've ever seen. No babe, no babeshot.

There is another flashback. I love it on two levels. First, it is a flashback to the Hellfire. As I said, I really appreciate it when writers mine the rich history of the X-Men. Second, it is a vehicle to show Phoenix (Is her name Phonenix?), psychically "freeing" Psylocke. Jerome Opeña is a top notch artist.

On the one hand, this is Archangel, not Angel. But it's still Warren. He may be on the wrong side but I still love how he's taking down heavy hitters like Wolverine and Sabretooth.

Gorgeous shot. Murderous Archangel in the sky looking down on fallen X-Men.

OK. Last page shows the familiar Psylocke and - a different Fantomex? I'm confused but I don't care.

I enjoyed this.

Could this Dark Angel Saga (of which this is the penultimate issue) be a future great? If so, you will see it properly covered in the Comics Recommended list.

Posted by  Pete Albano - December 1, 2011  

X-Men 6 volume 2

X-Men v2 6

We have another conclusion issue, this one from February 2011. The storyline is called 'Curse of the Mutants'. I love the concept, which combines Marvel's vampire mythos from the Tomb of Dracula days with the X-Men. The series is the second one to be simply titled 'X-Men'; the first 'X-Men' series from the 90s has been re-titled 'New X-Men' then 'X-Men: Legacy'.

I do a quick scan of the art. Paco Medina's work is beautiful. Whoa! This panel jumps out.

Okay . . . let's give it a read.

The backgrounder blurb informs me that Dracula died but has since been resurrected to confront his rogue son, Xarus. Jubilee's been bitten; so has Wolverine but his healing factor is vampire proof (very nice). X-Men operating from Utopia, an island off San Francisco.

Okay so I'm witnessing a vampire confrontation and I'm reading along and I begin to realize that one of them is Dracula. I never expected him to be so young looking and have such updated clothing. I was half expecting the classic Count of the Tomb of Dracula days.

The X-Men are very well rendered.

I wonder who the rocklike X-Man is? He looks great, reminds me of one of my favorites - the Thing.

Some of the dialogue really sucks :

Dracula : "If you can't fight and talk, what's the point of being Lord of Vampires"

Somebody pass the cheese.

And :

Dracula : "Being Lord of Vampires is a messy business."

Cyclops : "You've gotta break eggs to make omelets."

Just terrible. Oh, and this is the legendary Blade - didn't recognize him.

There's a nice scene when Blade tries to attack Dracula against Cyclop's orders and Cyclops knocks him out with an optic blast. It's not that nice visually but its wonderful to see Cyke be this assertive. And for once Dracula has good dialogue : "Honestly, my beheading and all of the subsequent bother might actually have been worth it just to see that." (referring to Cyclops defending him).

Towards the end, Dracula refers to a young vampire girl he knocks out, and it turns out that the girl was Jubilee. Been out so long the last Jubilee I read was a kid in shorts. She filled out:

Oh, this is great. We are in the aftermath and Jubilee has been turned into a vampire. Blade wants to put a stake through her and he's talking to Wolverine. I recall very clearly who Jubilee is to Logan - like a surrogate daughter. It's great to see how protective he is of her.


And that's it. Wow! Look at the next issue - Spidey

In conclusion. I love the art! Paco Medina is fantastic with figures. Ok, he does hot women. Not too impressed with the writer though. Who is it? Who cares. Once again there is great failure to build up any kind of mood through the writing - that's a huge fail since were talking vampires here. In the end this is great to take out and look at, but don't bother re-reading. And why do these new comics go by so fast?

Posted by  Pete Albano - August 12, 2011

I labelled Uncanny X-Men 538 as having a decompressed storyline. Am I being fair?

By decompressed I meant that an issue has less story than is common before issues were collected in trade paperback form. We get less story for, presumably, better art because of bigger panels. But are we really getting less story per issue?

Let's test is out. Less story means less plot points. Let's list down the plot points of issue 538:

  1. Kruun squares off with Wolverine and defeats him.
  2. Kitty comes to the aid of a wounded Peter.
  3. Kitty evades Kruun.
  4. The other X-Men confront Kruun.
  5. There is an argument between Kruun and the X-Men.
  6. Kruun manages to escape
  7. Kitty finds Kruun and leads him to the fallen Haleena.
  8. Kruun makes a sacrifice for his beloved.
  9. A short discussion in the Peak about the Breakworlders.
  10. The Breakworlders begin anew in San Francisco.
  11. Kitty and Peter relax beside the sea.

Now lets compare plot points with (Uncanny) X-Men 25 from 1966. Story by Roy Thomas and Stan Lee.

  1. The X-Men rescue some orphans from a burning building.
  2. Jean is dropped off to her new school.
  3. El Tigre discovers an ancient Mayan city and part of a mystic amulet.
  4. El Tigre discovers the amulets powers as he is attacked by his companions.
  5. The X-Men detect the presence of a superhuman.
  6. They search New York for this potential 'mutant'.
  7. Cyclops loses his glasses and is almost mobbed.
  8. The Professor  traces El Tiger to a New York museum.
  9. The X-Men follow and are overwhelmed.
  10. El Tigre completes the amulet and becomes Kukulcan.

Now this is a surprise! We are getting as much story as before. I was wrong to label 538 decompressed. The numbers don't lie, but how come 25 feels more packed with story than 538?

Posted by  Pete Albano - August 7, 2011  

Let's go check out our first X-Men book of 2011 . . .

Uncanny X-Men 538

You know how special it is right? When you have a brand new comicbook in hand. I'm talking about a new book from the racks. You want it to be a great read before you read it and while you're reading it your looking for proof that it is a great read. Even if it sucks. That's my mindset - greatly inclined to give this comic every chance at being ok. With that let's check out the cover . . .

Issue 538

It's a pinup style by Terry Dodson. Slightly cartoony quality makes me a bit nervous - not a good sign. Figures are dynamic, wonderful feeling of movement in this whole thing. Is that Namor standing there with his arms crossed? What's he doing in an X-Men comic? Well, he is Marvel's first mutant after all, but I'm still not used to seeing him in an X-book. No indication of the story inside but I do notice a shadow falling over the foreground characters.

Ok, let's turn the page and get to it. But it's too soon. I still want to preserve the warm and fuzzies I feel at having this comic, I don't want to dive in there like it was, you know, not special. I know, we can open it and not read the story - yet. Let's check out the ads first.

Back of the book ad is a 'Got Milk?' add featuring Ryan Reynolds as the Green Lantern. Hmmm.

Inside front cover ad is about the Ultimate Spider-Man series saying 'Spider-Man No More'. Hmmm.

Go through the panels . . . don't look . . . go through the panels. Next add is for Captain America and Thor sleepwear. Nice art.

sleepwear ad

Next ad is . . . a Honda ad. Love it

first honda ad

I think I'm supposed to know the characters on top of the cars but I don't. Must be some new movie. Then we have another full page Honda ad.

Now I get it, the wrestler on this add is a giveaway, the characters are different personality types matched to the different car types. Ever try marching down to your Honda dealer and telling him to accept what's in your pocket as downpayment for the Civic coupe because you're the wrestler type? Yup, it's not your  personality - it's still your money. Good ads though.

second honda ad

Next is a Fear Itself ad featuring Marvel's Big Three . . .

Fear Itself ad

All very mysterious.

Next is a double page video game add for Hunted : The Demon's Forge. I  am loving the art

Next is an ad for Captain America No. 1. Great art but look at the creative team. Brubaker and McNiven! Wow.

Hunted ad

Ghost Rider Fear Itself ad (at this point I'm wondering if they left enough pages for the comic). Nice art also.

Captain America ad

Ghost Rider ad

And that's it; I see the panel ending the story with the 'Conclusion' letterwork. Then we have the letters page (we'll save that for later). One last ad on the inside back cover for a Captain America game. The only interesting thing about it is the 'chesty' Viper.

Well that's it. Nothing left but the story. Are you excited. I'm excited. . .

I sneaked a peek below X-Mail, the letters page, looked at the publication info and verfied that this is an August 2011 issue.

Viper in Cap ad

Getting back to the cover, Ororo is definitely my favorite rendering.

The whole thing starts with the backgrounder page. I'm not updated with the X-Men, so some things are news to me: They're operating in an island off the coast of San Francisco - very trendy but no Four Seasons; Emma Frost has a diamond form; Kitty Pryde is stuck in phase mode (and we're no longer calling her Shadowcat). And oh, this issue jumps into a storyline were all the X-Men except Wolverine has been defeated by an alien warlord called Kruun.

The fight starts between Kruun and Wolverine and I'm reacting badly to the art - it is too cartoony for me.

I like the Kitty Pryde art though. The word that comes to mind is 'voluptuous'.

I am enamored by Psylocke once again; this is changing my mind about Dodson's art

Ah at last, the story is trying to take over from the art. We started with a fight but now the writer takes us deeper. Who is the writer? Ah it's Kieron Gillen. Kruun, as mentioned in the backgrounder, is an alien. More to the point, he is the leader of an alien refugee contingent from a place called Breakworld. There is pathos in that fact, grief and drama in such a circumstance - or at least there should be. And Kieron starts taking us there, showing us something of the depth of Kruun's tragedy and giving depth to this issue's tale.

Then we are taken to the Peak, S.W.O.R.D. orbital headquarters. The Peak? S.W.O.R.D? I have no idea what this is, but the first panel's is something to see - check out the view from orbit.

There's a lot of dialogue that suggests that Breakworld was inspired by either Iraq or Afghanistan - it's essentially a world that's been shattered by war, slowly mending itself and bleeding diaspora, with the X-Men playing the role of invading troops (this detail is not that clear to me at this point).

I like that the Breakworld refugees have been given their own area in San Francisco - there are all sorts of story possibilities in that.

I am a fan of excellent background art

And that's it. That's it? These decompression storytelling style really blows by so fast. This is the end of a story arc called 'Breaking Point'.

Before I come to my opinions of the whole thing let's read the letter's page . . . ah, so they sent out al lot of ads about Kitty on the runup to this storyline - that explains what happens to her this issue. Oh God, should I keep it is secret. Wait a minute. I have a spoiler warning. Kitty becomes tangible again this issue. The last pages show her and Piotr hanging out cliffside.  What would you do if you were intangible for a while and managed to regain your solid form? Yeah, I thought so. There are references to characters, like Silhouette and Darwin, whom I know nothing about. Good. Nothing that a few more bouts of comicbook reading won't cure. There's a letter from a long time reader (twenty-eight years) and the promise what next issue its going to be X-Men shopping + Wolverine. Alright.

My final opinion? First of all, I feel that Marvel should give us more for what its charging - up the page count or cut the price a bit.

Dodson's art is too cartoony but I forgive him because of his excellent girl art. I would rather have his inferior general art to Pacheco's finer linework simply because Pacheco tends to flatten out women's breasts (that's one of he great mysteries of comicbook art to me) and Dodson draws them wonderfully.

We get a bit of depth from Kieron's writing but the writing is generally pedestrian - the transition from 'bad' Kruun to 'good' Kruun was a bit too abrupt. On this issue alone, not the whole arc mind you, I don't like the writing at all. The plot goes 'this happens than this then this', it's untalented. Mood is not created, tension is not called forth - it's tepid writing.

Maybe when I get to see the whole arc I'll change my mind but for this issue only I consider it a bad comic and definitely not recommended.

What's that you say? You don't give a flying 'F' whati I think? More than that, you want to buy this issue from my site? And I should . . .what? . . .shut up and give the link? Ok, here it is.

Posted by  Pete Albano - August 7, 2011  

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