Review: Uncanny X-Men #511

I’ve read the entirety of Fraction’s X-Men run. We’re what, twelve issues in, right? And time after time, I have to talk about the same problems. Too many characters. Fraction has to service too many stories. And, when it’s his turn, Greg Land’s art. These problems probably won’t go away soon. They are a hindrance, but, damn it, Fraction still writes a good comic!

Sure, he stumbles here and there. The pacing is a bit uneven. Some people are frustrated with the Sisterhood’s plot, although, with that complaint, I disagree. Fraction, being a post-Grant Morrison X-Writer, has the benefit of seeing how to best handle X-Men continuity. Acknowledge it, but don’t let it damage your story. The Sisterhood’s plot is entertaining, relatively original, and ends with yet another addition to the X-Roster. Which is kind of a good thing, right? People do love the X-Men.

As for Land’s art, it’s a bit funny. Land is finally straying away from tracing. Oh, sure, a lot of the faces, particularly the women, look startlingly similar, and there are a few awkward poses here and there, but, for the most part, Land is getting more original. The problem? His original art doesn’t look very good. Now, it could be his inker, I suppose, but it’s still troubling. I hate to kick Land because everyone does, but I have to inform you of the book’s art quality, unfortunately for Land.

Despite the book’s problems, Fraction still keeps things creative and fun. I still love his character introductions. They’re entertaining and necessary. My favorite part of the issue is two pages of fighting that provides some rapid-fire comedy that parodies the idiotic comic-fight-banter. Even if the Sisterhood arc didn’t do anything for you , next issue will feature beautiful Yanick Paquette art and the awesome X-Club! And after that? The Uncanny X-Men/ Dark Avengers crossover completely handled by Fraction! That should be good.

Grade: B+

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Uncanny X-Men #510

How do I know that Fraction is a good writer? Because even with all of Uncanny X-Men’s baggage, servicing every other X-Plot, the numerous characters, the Greg Land art, and the fact that Uncanny X-Men hasn’t been good in a decade, Fraction still manages to make Uncanny X-Men original, character-driven, and entertaining. This issue is non-stop action, which, believe me, can be very boring, but Fraction injects some wit, continuity references, and plot into the mix. Fraction’s writing is top-notch.

What about Greg Land? Well, this is one of his better issues. There weren’t any obvious swipes, except maybe this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isn’t that from a movie or something? Anyway, Land didn’t really bother me that much. Sure, with all the tracing going on, some of the action panels looked weird, but those generic faces looked pretty.

If you haven’t heard of the Sisterhood’s plot, it’s pretty fun. It’s an example of the twisted continuity references that Morrison mastered. It’s original, while paying homage to decades of X-Men comics. This was probably the most enjoyable installment of the current arc so far. I eagerly await the conclusion.

Grade: B+

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Uncanny X-Men #509

Uncanny X-Men #509

(***)

This book continues to suffer from the same problems. The most recognizable, is its inability to move the plot forward. This is a prime example of why Indie comics can be so much better then mainstream ones. When you have to service so much continuity, and more team members than the JSA, you have problems telling a story.

I hate to bring it up because so many people kick him, but Land’s art really bothered me, here. Photo references aside, the comic looks so damn mechanical. Fraction writes characters well, and really, at the heart of it all, the X-Men are about characters. So, when you have everything looking so cold and stationary, it really hinders the comic’s quality. Why can’t Daniel Acuna replace Land? He’s worked with Fraction before, on the X-Men, and he draws beautiful women. Please, Marvel?

What does occur in this issue has me excited. I’m interested in the Sisterhood. What they’ve done so far intrigues me. They’ve already switched Psylocke’s body. Who else are they going to try that on?

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Uncanny X-Men #508

Uncanny X-Men #508 (Variant Cover Edition)

(***1/2)

A Jerky Rant: The main problem with Uncanny X-Men, and this is common in mainstream titles, is its lack of freedom. Matt Fraction has ambitiously made Uncanny X-Men the flagship X-Book (That Astonishing thing never ships, anyway). Every mutant problem in the Marvel U is here. Every problem in the X-Books is here. I wouldn’t be surprised if all 198 mutants make an appearance by issue #515. Just about thirty mutants are in this issue alone. Thankfully, Fraction provides humorous introduction captions to help our brain. My favorite caption: “Karma. Psychic Possession. Wasn’t crazy for the wrap-up of Battlestar.” Anyway, with so much material to cover, the plot barely moves forward. If comics weren’t episodic in nature, I probably wouldn’t complain. But they are, so I do.

The Fun Stuff: While some of Fractions ambitions misfire, others shoot me in the chest, but in a good way. Though the team’s newfound, San Franciscan liberal agenda is forced at times, there are moments when it’s quite charming. Seeing a panel of a nude woman in Karma’s bed or Northstar’s cracks about “being your mutant queer mascot” are brief, but appreciated details. In fact, as I mentioned above, Fraction gets a little too detailed. At least it’s all handled well.

The Plot and the Hook: This mysterious Red Queen and her Sisterhood have been plotting for over ten issues. Sadly, there’s still a lot we don’t know even after this issue. I can say though, it’s mighty intriguing. A certain character goes back to the way they used to be, and I’ll leave it at that. Overall, this is a captivating and enjoyable opening chapter, and Greg Land, even in all his porn-swiping glory, provides some pretty pictures.

Bruce Castle Presents: Matt Fraction Books Unite!

Large Cover of Uncanny X-Men #505 (Villain Variant)

Uncanny X-Men #505 (***)

Do we really want this man writing the X-Men?

I think it’s official, Brubaker has left the building. Did Fracker break up? I don’t know, but that picture is awesome. And Tony was right. Anyway, I feel sorry for this book. It’s become Marvel’s answer to JLA. One of the terrible things about the current JLA is that the book has to keep servicing other books. It spends too much time talking about events that it can’t tell its own stories. That’s exactly what Uncanny X-Men is. This issue spends so much time talking about X-Force, and M-Day, and Astonishing X-Men and now Dark Reign. Fraction only gets a few pages to tell the stories he wants to tell, but it has little impact. It barely makes sense! The Dodson’s continue to impress and the fact that this book isn’t terrible demonstrates Fraction’s ability as a writer. Please Marvel, give the man some freedom!

Large Cover of The Invincible Iron Man #8 (Villain Variant)

Invincible Iron Man #8 (****1/2)

Everything about this book is perfect. Except the art of course, Larroca can’t draw people. I know I know it’s Iron Man, but this book is about the characters. It’s not about the iron. Although the few panels involving technology do look sweet. It’s still amazing how Fraction manages to write this cast so well. Tony, Maria and Pepper are so lovable even though they’re definitely human and flawed. You know what else is in this issue? Comedy! I’ve said a thousand times but I’ll say it again, if you liked the movie you’ll enjoy this. Last thing, Osborn is the new Skrull. It’s only been two weeks and already I realize how much I’ll type the name Osborn in the coming months.

God-Sized

Thor: God-Sized #1 (****)

The writing is great. The art is great. There are four art teams working on this thing and yet they’re all pretty cool. I enjoyed the part three artist the most. It was very old-school, cartoony, and fun. So this is a quality issue, but I’m sure a lot of you will ask, “What’s the point?” It’s a tribute. Along with the 38 new pages, you’ll also receive a reprint of the classic Thor #362. Walt Simonson had one of the best runs on Thor ever. It easily rivals the Lee/Kirby era. But you know what? You can’t even get a trade that contains Thor #362. They were reprinted in trades but they’re sold out now. That’s why this issue is important. If you haven’t read Walt’s run, it’ll let you know what you’re missing. If you have read his run, you’ll quickly be reminded how great it was. The reason why I loved part three so much was because you got to see all the classic Simonson costumes, Balder in his armor, Thor with his beard, and so on. Of course this issue isn’t all about Simonson, it’s also about Skurge. He was a tragic and important part of the Thor mythos. I highly recommend this issue.

Bruce Castle Presents: Skrulls! Zombies! Giant Lizards! Marvel Is A Scary Place!

Marvel Zombies 3 #1 (of 4)

Marvel Zombies 3 #1 (***)

Is anybody excited about this? Good old Marvel, they take a fun idea and beat us to death with it. Zombie covers! Skrull covers! Ape covers! Aren’t these awesome?! Arrggh! Anyway, Marvel Zombies 3 is the fourth mini-series (When will Marvel Zombies 8 come out?) about these super flesh-eaters. Kirkman and Phillips have left the building to make way for Fred Van Lente and Kev Walker. The new creators have an unenviable task. They have to not only deal with the aforementioned complaints of boredom, but this story also takes place in Earth-616 (the regular Marvel U for those who don’t know). Are you a fan of Jennifer Kale? Siege? The Conquistador? What about the Aquarian? Though I admire the respect for Steve Gerber, I doubt many kids (or anyone) will care about these characters. Part of, if not all, the fun of Marvel Zombies was seeing your favorite characters zombified, Captain America missing the top of his head for example. But because we’re in 616, you pretty much know nothing radical will occur. However, Lente and Walker make the best of what they have to work with. This issue is still filled with comedy, gore, and interesting twists and turns. The only problem is that you can get those same elements in other better comics. The series has lost its uniqueness. So, unless you’re a big fan of Machine Man, Jocasta, Morbius, or the creative team, you can probably skip this.

Punisher War Journal #24

Punisher War Journal #24 (***1/2)

What an odd cover. “Secret Invasion” is absent yet this issue is littered with Skrulls. All we see is this dark haunting Alex Maleev cover featuring Frank Castle in a cell. That is not what this issue is about at all. Entertainment is the name of the game here. After a bit of plot dealing with something that occurred earlier in this series, everything cuts loose. I’m talking Frank riding around in a vehicle decorated with Skrull skulls blowing everything green to kingdom come. This is old school sci-fi fun. Want more proof? How about a Super-Skrull that is part Kingpin part Hammerhead? Yep, that’s in here, the jerk even takes a chunk out of G. W. Bridge. Can’t I have one comic where someone doesn’t get bitten? If you’ve followed Punisher War Journal since the beginning, you’ll know that the series is strongest when it’s a tie-in. That’s true again here, but sadly it’s weaker than its predecessors. That’s because these issues contain so much action and with stuff blowing up, you want it to look pretty. Though Chaykin does a passable job, his art is still not my style at all. Still, if you’re in the mood for some fun that involves aliens and vigilantes instead of booze and broads pick this up!

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #44

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #44 (****1/2)

Does anyone over 8 read this comic? Well, I do have an excuse. This issue features the art of the talented Jonboy Meyers. I doubt the name sounds familiar, but here is some of his work. He recently did some back-ups in JLA as well. He rarely does interiors so I jumped at the chance to get my hands on this. I don’t care if this book is meant for kids. It’s nice to have a wholesome break between my gore. This issue was refreshing and fun. The art is amazing! We get to see multiple lizards, the Serpent Society, and Curt Connors Godzilla-style! There’s some humor in here too and what kid comic is complete without some good lessons? This book has it all!

Bruce Castle Presents: The Amazing X-Men!

Amazing Spider-Man #572 (Cover B Variant Edition)

Amazing Spider-Man #572 (****1/2)

Only one more issue left in this arc. I wouldn’t have guessed it when this story began, but I’m actually sad that I can’t read the conclusion until next month. New Ways to Die is topnotch entertainment drawn beautifully by JRJR. It’s so great to see John Romita Jr. back on Spidey. He gets to invent some new characters too which is always cool. Dan Slott also deserves praise. Slott writes Spidey extremely well, but he handles every character with care. Who the heck if this Freak character? Was he always this creepy and crazy or is this more of Romita’s brilliance? We get a cool Bullseye fight, Anti-Venom is further developed, and crazy old stormin’ Norman has some fun too. There may even be some more pleasant surprises, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Go read the issue yourself. This arc gets better and better.

Uncanny X-Men #502 (**)

Uneven would be the word to describe this issue and maybe even the arc. Fraction and Brubaker have worked well together before but something is wrong. They seem to have conflicting opinions. Half of this issue is light hearted and the other half is disturbing. There’s more pointless S&M and even an unnecessary torture scene. Surely Scott knows Emma’s powers right? So, I guess this is just more sadism? Speaking of Emma Frost, apparently she has a tertiary mutation now. The power to turn into Lolo Ferrari (You kiddies at home can turn to page ten in your comic and then Google Lolo Ferrari)! While we’re on the subject of large knockers, Dazzler seems to have quite a pair in this issue as well. This leads to my critique of Land’s art. I’ve always enjoyed his work, but this is the first time I’ve felt dirty while viewing it. A big part of that is the subject matter (Who knows? Cup size may be in the script!), but he should share the blame with Fracker (The best combination of Fraction and Brubaker yet!). I really want to like this comic, but Fracker (I had to say it again) make it hard.

Bruce Castle Presents: Would You Like Your Comic Ultimate, Dark, or Uncanny?

Ultimate Fantatsic Four #57 (-)

This is the price you pay for reading every ultimate title no matter how bad it is. Is anyone still reading this? Doesn’t Mike Carey write X-Men well? So why is his 25 issue run on this book so bad? Did Joe Q tell Carey “hey, Loeb is going to kill this sucker in a few years so just write some BS”? I don’t know, but thankfully he’s finally off the book. Joe Pakaski is replacing him. Pakaski is currently writing SI Inhumans and I really liked the first issue. He also writes for the TV show Heroes. Aron Coleite is currently writing Ultimate X-Men and I like what he’s done with it. Aron also writes for Heroes. Next month, there will be two Ultimate FF/X-Men annuals written by these guys! Isn’t that cool? Will Peter Petrelli show up? Stay tuned!

Dark Ivory #3 (*****)

Ok, I’m bias when it comes to this. Let me explain. I love Joseph Michael Linsner’s art. His art style isn’t for everyone, but I adore it. Linsner rarely does interiors sadly. The last time he did was about two years ago and before that it was three years ago I believe. Oh, and Dark Ivory #2 came out in May. So, I rarely get to see his art in comics, but it’s always a special treat when I do. He’s writing this issue as well. This is a pretty good story. It’s a gothic vampire yarn with a LInsner twist. It looks gorgeous and Linsner definitely writes for his art. This book isn’t nearly as thought provoking as Dawn, but it’s still enjoyable. I would definitely recommend that everyone should take a peak and see if Linsner’s art is for you. If it is, great! If not, unless you really love tales about gothic teenage vampires, you may want to skip this one.

Uncanny X-Men #501 (**1/2)

This is a hard book to review. I’m so conflicted. I love the art. I’ve always been a fan of Greg Land’s work. Apparently his style is a love or hate kind of thing, but I really enjoy it. Ok, so I like the art, I like Fraction, and I like just about anything Hellfire. However, this issue bugged me. It seems that whenever something occurs that I enjoy, there will be something bad right around the corner. There are many character moments that I really liked. They were written well and felt realistic. But, the main villain is an S&M nightmare. This book is trying to be so serious. It includes lover’s quarrels, masochism, and brutality. I guess what bothered me the most was the villain’s attire and the literal act of S&M in an X-Men comic complete with “I’m sorry mistress, I’m sorry”. I’m usually open to this kind of stuff. I’ve read about rape, cannibalism, and even necrophilia in my comics before, but it just seems incredibly inappropriate in an X-Men comic.

Review/RANT: Uncanny X-Men #500

WHAT A ### OF ### ### YOU, BRUBAKER AND FRACTION! I HOPE YOUR ### OF A MOTHER ### GETS ### AND ### DIES… and here’s why!

First, the new X-Mansion…

Hmm, ok. Looks… is stupid the right word?

Really? Just how exactly are you keeping this shit a secret? You already told the entire world where you live, stupid!

Built by whom? The actual US Military or independent contractors!? Have they all been cleared by “X-Security”? as if the US Military would allow your asses to build to “military spec”…

Beast? STFU with the Al Gore agenda! Go die, tree-hugging scum! I find it very hard to believe that the X-Men are concerned with global warming; it just boggles the mind that a group of walking atomic bombs are talking about saving the planet by going green. What about all the property damage you guys cause every time you suit up to fight the “bad guys”? You think that shit doesn’t increase the size of your carbon footprint exponentially? And don’t even get me started on how idiotic it is when super heroes choose a political affiliation. UGH!!!

Um, can I ask yet another question? Why do the writers feel the need to rub our noses in this shit? Yes, the X-Men have money, but here they come off like spoiled rich bastards. This is not a reasonable way for the writers to endear a fundamentally difficult to identify with group of characters with their readers. This is just plain insulting. I don’t envy them, I hate them. “Nice clubhouse, and also… fuck you.”

So, throughout the first few pages of this book, we are led to believe that the “new” X-Men are all about the Liberal agenda, but then as soon as they are confronted with something that personally offend them, they literally go wild shit crazy, demanding that said offensive material be removed from public display. Hmm, I thought the X-Men were always about tolerance.

Now, it occurs to me that perhaps Brubaker and Fraction are trying to cleverly point out the hypocrisy of these X-Men, or the inherent hypocrisy of anyone proclaiming to be utterly tolerant of his fellow man. Well, I’m not buying that, and I’ll explain why when we get closer to the end…

Oh, speaking of intolerance…

Yes, that is an X-Man saying that. Which X-Man is literally anyone’s guess seeing as how every single one that appears in this issue is written horribly out of character.

So, that crack about the wheelchair is offensive, but one of your team using the word “retard” is okay? Hello, Hypocrisy, I’d like you to meet Emma Frost and her friend, Scott Summers. Once more, we have a stunning example of the X-Men as “Role Models for Tolerance”.

…and back to my suggestion that Fraction and Brubaker are somehow trying to point out the X-Men’s hypocrisy? Yeah, not so much. In order for that to be true, the X-Men’s paranoia would have to have been shown as a gross overreaction. No, instead, the writers decide to prove them right. So, class, are you paying attention? It’s okay to destroy or deface “art” if you don’t agree with it. Got it? Sure, they put on a good show, after all, Magneto is attacking again… which in and of itself screams Dues ex Machina, seeing as how Magneto is supposed to be de-powered… and of course he needs to be put down by any means necessary, and if that means destroying some decommissioned Sentinels, which happen to be private property, so be it. “But, but, but, but we need him for the big issue 500 extravaganza!” Shut. Up. Cheap tricks, guys. Very, very cheap.

…sigh. Really? More on this so soon? PUSH THE AGENDA!!!

Yeah, I know, but I just couldn’t leave it out. I mean, I gave the “letting your freak flag” line a pass. What do you want, I’m human!

Shut up, pornstar-Storm. Although, the self-righteous thing is definitely a part of her character, so fine.

Angel takes out a Sentinel all by himself… NO.

As if you weren’t thinking of doing the same thing, Scott!!!

Magneto is dead-on here, and I’m hoping the writers have a plan to use this later. Maybe they really are trying to shame the X-Men? We’ll see.

Oh, great! You mean the sanctimonious X-Fascists are building an army to impose their pseudo-tolerant worldview? SWEET! Can’t wait to read more about the X-Men’s adventures in the Fourth Reich! I can totally see them changing the title of Young X-Men to “X-Youth” any day now.

(I kid, of course.)

I’m done now, I think. I said enough inflammatory things and maybe I should quit while I’m ahead (and perhaps I’m not even that). I leave you with this bit of nonsense:

Bruce Castle Presents: Event Books?

New Avengers #43 (***): I know this event! Everybody seems to love these. If you’ve followed my reviews at all you’ll know I’m not too hip to them. This one was pretty good though. It’s still all a bit too simple and predictable for an event that should be startling and intricate, oh well. The art is fairly average with a few moments of excellence. There are some well staged action sequences in the beginning half of the book. We get some Skrully information in the second half. It isn’t anything mind blowing or even incredible, but it certainly isn’t bad. It’s entertaining.

Large Cover of Uncanny X-Men #500 (DODSON VARIANT)

Uncanny X-Men #500 (*****): What the heck is Manifest Destiny? I’m not usually big on covers but man these are pretty! I apologize for posting all of these but I love them! Terry Dodson, Michael Turner, and a wraparound by Alex Ross and another one by Greg Land? WOW! My favorite (and Matt Fraction’s) is the Terry Dodson one. The art is astounding inside the book as well. Land and Dodson are both doing the art inside. I was a bit intrigued as to how that was going to work out, and the way it does is some pages are done by Land and some are done by Dodson. Hopefully this will keep the book monthly by having two artists on it. Both of these artists, as many great artists are, usually aren’t monthly (especially Dodson). Enough gushing about the art! How is the writing? The writing on Uncanny has been a bit lackluster on Brubaker’s run, but thanks to Fraction this is a well-written book now. It’s exactly what an issue 500 and a great comic in general should be. It’s an amalgam of old and new comics that takes ideas we’ve seen before and gives them a new fresh twist. There are a few things in here that really got me excited and did I mention the art rules?

Ultimate X-Men #96 (****): This is a long March On Ultimatum! I’m still really liking Aron Coleite on this book. He’s really giving me my money’s worth. He packs so much into each issue. He doesn’t excel at it like Morrison, but then who is on Morrison’s level? Mark Brooks isn’t on this issue which is sad, but the art is still decent enough. I’m thoroughly enjoying this rollercoaster of an arc and I encourage all of you to give Ultimate X-Men another chance if you bailed on it during a few of those shaky arcs.