Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Yesteryear Comics for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Come introduce yourself to owner Michael Cholak and tell him that Justin from Thirteen Minutes sent you! www.yesteryear-comics.com
X-Men #37 (Marvel): I’ll just call it, Gabriel Shepherd and the whole “proto-mutant” concept is one of the coolest ideological additions to the property in quite some time. Though it probably comes as no surprise I love Brian Wood’s writing on this, of equal strength is the discovery of David Lopez on art. This lean austere style works so well, somehow warmer emotionally than John Cassaday, but with a bit of Jamie McKelvie around the sly eyes and facial features in spots. I don’t think characters like Sabra, Psylocke, and Storm have ever looked better. I also really enjoy the small instances of attention to detail, like how Storm loses her headpiece during the fight with Colossus. It’s just smart visually. I never really noticed this until last issue, but I almost feel like this arc started to become written from the POV of Pixie. I think it’s an interesting temptation that some writers have had, to use sort of new/underdog female characters as entry points for the audience. Matt Fraction did it in his original Uncanny X-Men run when he created Pixie, Joss Whedon did it when he brilliantly used Kitty Pryde in Astonishing X-Men. Nobody else gets neglected though; I mean, shit, we probably got more character development from Colossus here in that one scene with Ororo than we have in the last 10 years. At this point, I certainly hope Marvel is considering a long-term place for Wood in the whole Marvel NOW! extravaganza. We get so few thought pieces any more tied to the basic idea of mutants. I’d basically let him do whatever he wanted, even his crazy Mutantes Sans Frontieres mini-series. It might not sell like gangbusters, but I’m betting it’d be an important story to tell. Here at the end, all there is left to say is that I’ll miss this creative team on this title. It’s the kind of X-Men book, conceptually and aesthetically, that I’d like to be buying. Of course, I’ll follow Wood wherever he goes. But, you know what? I picked up a new guy too! David Lopez is on my list now and he’s a creator I’ll also be following from this point forward. I’m sure I’ll flip through X-Men #38, but judging by the cover art and the creative team, I have a strong feeling I won’t be buying it. Grade A.
Uncanny Avengers #1 (Marvel): Ok, so you take the gravitas that Remender brought us on Uncanny X-Force and marry it to the cold precision that John Cassaday brought to Astonishing X-Men or Planetary, and that is a very tough combination to beat right off the bat. There’s a couple things I really dug here. I like the feeling of cohesion to the Marvel U, not just the shared drama between the Avengers and the X-Men, but Maria Hill, SHIELD, Magneto, and now Alex Summers. Kitty Pryde and Alex Summers have been my favorite X-Men for, oh, 20 years now? So, I love seeing Havok step out of the shadow of his brother, something that’s troubled him for years. I feel like with Remender taking on this title, we’re finally getting a group of writers in my age group who are hitting all the right buttons that were ingrained in us as younger fans. From 70’s and 80’s Clairemont lessons, good and bad, to shlock 90’s X-Cutioners Song shit, to Peter David’s old X-Factor run with Joe Quesada that featured Alex so prominently. And yeah, Cap is right, Alex really *is* the best candidate left. I’ve been really annoyed with Captain America in the whole AvX debacle. He essentially was the jackbooted government thug that Tony warned him not to be, since Tony had been that figure in that last big event, and Cap went and ahead and escalated the whole thing by throwing due process out the window, essentially deeming Hope an unlawful combatant, and grabbing her from Utopia. All the while, Scott was fundamentally right all along about what Hope and The Phoenix Force could do for the mutant species. Mutants have returned, the Avengers are forced to restructure, but somehow it’s being played like the X-Men lost and the Avengers won? (Ok, I guess you can't ignore that Scott killed Xavier...) I don’t know, I’m totally digressing now, but I guess it was just nice to see Cap with a bit of humility, asking Alex for help, recognizing Alex’s pedigree, treating him as an equal, not fronting like he has all the answers, and his course of action is the only course. A couple of rough transitions aside (for example, one minute Cap, Thor, and Alex are talking, flip the page and they’re suddenly in the middle of a gigantic fight outside without any semblance of segue), Cassaday’s art delivers. The tension between Wanda and Rogue is well-played, but that’s just an odd villain choice that doesn’t do much for me. The Thor latte humor also really didn’t work; sorry, but it’ll never be funnier than Deadpool saying “nom nom.” High-five if you go that reference. Anyway, mostly gorgeous art and some really nice character moments. I don't know if I'd buy it long term, but as long as I'm getting comp'd on it, I'll eagerly check it out. Grade A-.
Ultimate Comics: X-Men #17 (Marvel): I enjoy this book, but I never feel like I have much to say about it. I really liked seeing the West Coast declared independent on the map. I enjoy the core premise here that Wood is versed at, debating civil liberties vs. national security. Kitty Pryde’s “Mutant Declaration of Independence” is rousing, feeling like a gutsy all-or-none gamble. I like the paramilitary bits with Fury. First we get Paige Guthrie, and now Hisako. Cool! On the down side, the art aesthetic is a bit too Saturday morning cartoon animated style for me personally. I’m not sure it stands up so well to the serious tone of the ideas Wood’s grappling with. Talk about false sense of security; Kitty’s strike teams take over the Stryker concentration camp in the Southwest, and then… that last page is a killer set-up. Grade B+.