Uncanny X-Men #503 (Marvel): There are many interesting elements at play in this incarnation of the core X-Men book. Fraction presents a generational gap of understanding that’s worth noting. From Scott’s perspective, he might think that Xavier’s Dream is now dead; the last remaining mutants struggling for survival, homo superior’s peaceful co-existence with homo sapiens a relic of the past. But, Dani Moonstar sitting openly in a San Francisco bar along with her fellow mutants makes her think that they’ve finally arrived and their struggle has paid off. Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie has lost the innocent idealism of his youth; he no longer cares about changing the world and now solemnly confesses “I just don’t want anyone else to die.” We’re being given a thoughtful, more introspective melodrama that harkens back to the Claremont era – more on that later. What New York was to the Marvel Universe in the 60’s through the 90’s, San Francisco is now becoming for the X-Men of the 21st Century. Fraction is able to juggle a huge cast here, with heroes hanging out in a large city, casually bumping into each other, but it all happens in a way that feels organic. Those caption boxes with the character intros range from fun and succinct, “Flight. Money.” to worn out and grating with “Teleporter. Somewhat unique appearance and smell.” I wonder if all that has just been build up for the reveal of “Pixie. X-Man.” There’s been a lot of speculation on the interwebs about the identity of the Red Queen, is it Jean Grey? Firestar? Can Emma be trusted? How does her S&M streak play into all this? What’s up with Chimera? The introduction of Madelyne Pryor wasn’t expected, could ultimately prove to be groan-inducing, but for now is another nod to the Claremont era that could help sustain the focus of this title. Land’s photo-reffing tendencies still can distract, is Emma a mix of Jenny McCarthy and Pam Anderson? Does Storm look suspiciously like Halle Berry on the cover of Esquire Magazine this month? Why does Scott have ugly long hair? Is that a mix of Tom Cruise and Ashton Kutcher? But, those foibles are largely overshadowed by the determination of Pixie, the paternalistic concern of Beast, and the honesty in Nightcrawler’s voice, “Nein. But we still try, ja.” As Pixie proves she may be ready to join X-Force(!) and Empath self-destructs from the emotional fallout of M-Day, this run of Uncanny is not without its faults, but this creative team has given us the most readable and coherent core X-title in years. Grade A.
Astonishing X-Men #27 (Marvel): There are a couple of pages here in which Simone Bianchi’s panel layouts are really confusing and counterintuitive, but overall his pencils lend an exotic European feel that calls to mind the aesthetic of Ladronn or other contributors from the Humanoids line. There are some really shining moments artistically, such as the close-up of Agent Brand. This panel would otherwise be a throw-away panel, but Bianchi (along with inker and colorist) really make it shine. Beast’s erudite dialogue is a bit difficult to parse in spots, sounding more like Yoda than Hank McCoy: “Had not our victim gotten sloppy…” Another example of a minor writing mis-step is the entire exchange with Scott dropping an “F bomb” to Agent Brand. When he initially said it, sure, it’s kind of funny because it is largely out of character. But, to include Beast’s reaction, then Wolverine’s reaction, and then go on to explain it away plays much too self-aware. It’s like telling a joke and then immediately explaining why it’s so funny, the process of which basically negates all the funny. Otherwise, Ellis’ script mostly delivers with Ghost Boxes and his usual bleeding edge sci-fi exploration that touches on the roots of much of the atomic paranoia that fueled the zeitgeist of the 1960’s Marvel stable. Grade B+.
Captain Britain & MI-13 #6 (Marvel): Hrmm. The promise of this title seems to be slowly slipping away. It’s a far cry from the manic irreverence that was the Pete Wisdom mini-series from the MAX line. Last issue left off with an enticing cliffhanger about Blade suddenly staking Spitfire, that plot thread is shuffled to the side for the first half of this issue and then when finally explained, just seems a little… goofy and incoherent. The Captain Midlands plot takes center stage, and I really have no clue about that. It’s all over the place and I’m not sure what’s happening or why I’m supposed to care. Something about Plotka: Lord of Wishes…? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… Pete has one good line in the entire book, which causes Captain Midlands to acknowledge him as real, but otherwise this is really mediocre. Instead of teasing the return of Captain Britain’s lost love Meggan, this book should strive to be more like Nextwave; that’s the potential that’s being squandered here. Grade C.
I also picked up;
Scalped: Volume 3: Dead Mothers (DC/Vertigo)
Comic Foundry: Fall 2008 (Comic Foundry, LLC)