3.17.2011

3.16.11 Reviews (Part 2)

Uncanny X-Force #5.1 (Marvel): I had assumed that Rafael Albuquerque was on some type of exclusive at DC/Vertigo with the success of American Vampire, but perhaps if such a contract exists with either company it allows him to fulfill pre-existing creator owned series while still pursuing other work-for-hire projects(?). In any case, he seems to be doing his best Bill Sinkiewicz impersonation here, with a suitably dark tone that’s a bit more stylized than I’ve seen his earlier efforts. The transition between Jerome Opena’s work and his is a little jarring because of the inherent stylistic differences, but I definitely like Albuquerque’s contribution to one of the better (best?) X-books in existence at the moment. It’s time for Lady Deathstrike and the Reavers to wreak some havoc on the squad, featuring a well played sneak attack on Logan, and well scripted moments like Betsy ‘porting to Utopia while cognizant of wearing the X-Force uniform and potentially outing the covert team. I liked seeing that Scott still isn’t afraid of having his little secrets, the growing trust with Magneto, and the juxtaposition of Bets and Warren’s relationship as the killer/one-in-control positions seem to flip-flop unexpectedly. The only dead spot in the writing for me was surprisingly Deadpool, who Remender has previously handled perfectly (“nom-nom” comes to mind), but here Wade just doesn’t seem funny at all, with most of his lines falling flat, feeling overly contrived and awkwardly constructed. That aside, it’s written mostly well, the art is mostly good, and the only real gripey observations I have are probably best directed at editorial. First off, the entire “5.1” nomenclature of the POINT ONE INITIATIVE seems like excruciatingly dull marketing nonsense. It’s designed to provide the easily accessible jumping on point for civilians, but all it really does is confuse shit even further with a completely un-intuitive and meaningless descriptor. The first issue of a new arc (#5) just came out, and is now immediately interrupted by this. Who knows what next issue will bring? Are we back to the false start arc, is this issue self-contained, etc.? Not to mention the melee of extraneous crossovers heaped upon this issue. You can see Remender (wether by choice or by mandate) planting the seeds for the impending schism between Logan and Scott (crossover 1), Fear Itself is about to begin (crossover 2), there’s the Deathlok arc to return to (story thread 3), and whatever Remender probably wanted to do in the first damn place as a new writer (story thread 4). It’s a nightmare that they’re all co-mingling and now the POINT ONE nonsense has been inorganically shoehorned in as well (story component 5). It’s easy to see how a good book can quickly get off track and lose focus, and I sincerely hope sometimes that editorial would just bug the eff out and let a good writer and a good artist tell good stories of their own design, ala the first 4 issues. Hire the best people you can hire and then just get out of their way. The first arc should be proof of that. I guess my rant is over, oh, wait, there’s also the cover by Simone Bianchi, which is ok in and of itself, but I can’t help recall the involvement of Bianchi and Warren Ellis which was the first sign of the impending derailment of another great book, Astonishing X-Men. Let’s hope Uncanny X-Force doesn’t suffer the same ultimate fate, now forgotten as a "once it was great" book. Grade B+.

Invincible Iron Man #502 (Marvel): I still have no idea why this book is $3.99. Anyway… the fate of Manhattan hangs in the balance as Tony continues the showdown with Dr. Octopus. I’ve been noticing lately that Fraction seems to be pulling lines from movies a lot. “Are we clear” is straight from Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, and even when I flipped through the Fear Itself Red Skull deal at the LCS this week, I noticed another line that I can’t recall without the book in front of me, but I think it might have been from The Usual Suspects. There’s even an allusion to a line from Apollo 13 later in the book. Ignoring all that, I think the mental battle while the two were seated was riveting, just as riveting as if they’d been flying around beating the crap out of each other, which really shows the strength of Fraction’s handling of the narrative. Dialogue swipes aside, he’s got the ability to dream up grand compelling ideas, but can also make individual scenes shine. He really can play both sides of the ball pretty well. I like how Tony tries to drop his smart ass shtick and appeal to “Dr. Octavius,” not Doc Ock, actually trying to reach the man in the machine, even though Otto isn’t having it and seems to change the rules of the deadly game mid-stream. Pimacher and Cababa shine, and it illustrates another strength of this series, which has been the inclusion of a large and very well-developed supporting cast. Larroca is still as good as ever handling both the big smashy bits and the talking heads portions with equal gusto. He also tries some new tricks on for size, like the translucent faceplate so that we can see Tony’s face underneath the armor. Despite all the strengths, this does feel like an “all middle” issue, simply an extension from the last, with not much progression beyond the sets. Oh well, I’ve been saying it for 3 years now; it’s still probably the best, most consistent, straight up superhero comic coming out right now. Grade B+.

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