Thursday, November 29, 2012

All Aboot the X-Men: Uncanny Avengers #2, X-Men Legacy #2, and All New X-Men #2

So first off, this is the most X-Men comics I've read in a single week in well, I can't even remember the last time I bought three X-Men related comics all at once.  And yet, here I am, absolutely loving the shit out of these books.

I know a lot of people were wary about Marvel NOW going into this relaunch, but if you're reading the same books I am, I don't know how you could not be excited about the future prospects of these titles, except perhaps if you're burnt out on superhero books altogether.  In that case, this week had a lot of alternatives for you, like: Nowhere Men #1, Prophet #33, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1 if that's your bag.  But me, I'm gonna talk about some X-Men comics.

Uncanny Avengers #2
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday

Yes, this is technically an Avengers book, but come on, this post-AvX title is mostly about the mutants.  Even though the Red Skulls super-powered S-Men are explicitly "not mutants," they act like mutants. It's an X-Men comic with Thor and Captain America in it: deal with it.  This issue was delayed somewhat because that's how John Cassaday works, and I don't know why anyone should be surprised by this.  Was it worth that wait?  Well, that I'm not so sure about.    

John Cassaday was one of those artists, along with Brian Hitch and Greg Land, who was on fire in the early 2000s.  They were some of the major artists to pioneer the widescreen format, and when you first saw their work, it really stood out as being hyper-modern.  Their comics screamed: this is the future!  However, history hasn't really been kind to any of these artists.  Of the three, Hitch has been the most consistent, Land is mostly hated now due to his inability to draw people that don't look like porn stars, and Cassaday, well, he hasn't drawn an ongoing series since Planetary ended.  Cassaday's art is not what it used to be.  It's still very good, and he has an inimitable style, but his minimalist style has grown into the tendency to look static and flat, and even worse, are some of his costume design choices.  Does Captain America need chain-mail armor?  Why is Rogue dressed like she is on her way to Yoga class?  These are the questions I find myself asking as I read Uncanny Avengers.

This is too bad, because the story is actually a lot of fun.  A clone of the original Red Skull has stolen the body of Professor X, cut out his brain, fused it to his own, and has been using Professor X's mind powers to create an army of mutant haters.  There is a real Silver Age feel to all of the scenes involving the Red Skull, and it almost seems like this would be a great book for Tom Scioli to draw instead of Cassaday.

Uncanny Avengers is a fun comic, but not extraordinary.  Remender's story hits all the right notes for a book that combines Avengers with a throwback to the classic X-Men, but I wouldn't call it a return to form for Cassaday.  If you don't mind following a book that is likely to be delayed again and again until Cassaday is replaced or the title is cancelled, I'd say give it a chance.  That's a pretty backhanded recommendation, I realize, but really, the concept is here for a fun, entertaining comic book.  I just wish it was drawn by someone who can stick to a schedule.

Story 4 Art 3.5

X-Men Legacy #2
Writer: Si Spurrier
Artist: Tan Eng Huat

X-Men Legacy is a comic that I don't even want to talk about, because I don't want to spoil what's inside for anyone.  What can I tell you to expect without going into detail.  Well for one thing: X-Men Legacy is weird.  Weird in the best way.  It's weird in a way that will open doors to other ways of thinking.  You'll think: "I never thought about my own mind like that before, thank you Si Spurrier, for making me think about my own mind again."  Superhero books don't normally go in for complexities: thematically, linguistically, or emotionally.  X-Men Legacy is all about the messy complexities.  It embeds manifestos within dialogue, cloaks raw emotions and psychology within weird fiction, and it unsettles the way you read, by forcing you to read in Scots dialect, which no comic has successfully done in ages as far as I'm concerned.

People often like to talk about how they "only read the books that matter."  I understand this sentiment while I disagree with it vehemently.  The stories that matter are the stories that should have some greater meaning, convey some deeper emotion or theme, and maybe tell us something about what it means to be human.

X-Men Legacy is a vital addition to Marvel's lineup, and an argument for it's continued relevance in spite of increased corporatization and the increasing homogenization of their product line.

Story 4.5 Art 4

All New X-Men #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen

I have had a love/hate relationship with Bendis for years.  I've loved Alias, The Pulse, Powers, Ultimate Spider-Man, and his early runs on Avengers/New Avengers, and I've hated his Moon Knight, and later runs on Avengers/New Avengers.  I was completely prepared to hate his take on the X-Men.  I had no intention of even buying this issue after the lackluster debut.  I would have been so wrong.

All New X-Men #2 is the proper debut of Bendis' all-new direction for Marvel's mutants, and it is a great start to what I'm optimistic will be a very interesting year for the X-Men.  In another writer's hands, this hackneyed plot of Back to the Future style time-travel would fall completely flat, but Bendis plays it all up for big emotional payoffs and fantastic dialogue.  Every one of the original five X-Men has a great moment, and their encounter with both the realization of their future selves as well as their increasing understanding of the future itself is beautifully realized.  I would never have thought that Bendis would make a great writer for the X-Men, but here he is, in all his Claremontian glory.

This is another book that I  really don't want to spoil for any potential new readers, which might seem like a lazy and impotent gesture when you can just go to any number of more popular blogs to spoil it for yourself, but let me just say this:  this was the best book I read this month.  If you ever loved the X-Men, and have been wanting the opportunity to start over with the mutants.  NOW is your chance.

Story 5 Art 5

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