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Uncanny X-Men (vol. 3) #1 [Review]

uncannyxmenvol3001The New Revolution

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler/Colorist: Chris Bachalo
Inkers: Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza and Al Vey
Lettering & Production: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Associate Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Nick Lowe
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

I’ve been looking forward to this debut issue for a number of weeks now…pretty much since I learned this third volume would focus on Cyclops, Magneto, and their group of mutants; particularly after getting a taste of things in the pages of All New X-Men.

The issue has a framing sequence, of a man in shadows speaking with SHIELD about Cyclops, explaining why the mutant leader needs to be taken down. In the “core” of the story, we see Cyclops’ group continuing to reach out to new mutants, and facing off with a group of sentinels–something that once would have been little trouble for Magneto in particular–but the veteran mutants’ powers have been altered due to the recent Phoenix incident…and they struggle to “re-learn” how to use their own powers while looking to train the newly created mutants. The revelation of the shadowed man’s identity is a bit of a twist, sure to introduce further conflict, but not entirely surprising.

Story-wise, there’s plenty of potential for this title. While I’m not a fan of the “villainization” of Cyclops, for what times I’ve “checked in” on X-stuff over the past few years, this current place the character is in seems rather logical and makes sense, given everything we’ve actually seen the character go through–losing his wife, seeing the vast majority of the mutant population wiped out, struggling to protect what mutants remained against a world that still feared/hated them, finding hope and finally seeing a return to numbers and being in a position to reach out to these new mutants now from the start, proactively acting to solidify their place in the world.

I missed out on the re-introduction of Magneto, but have thoroughly enjoyed seeing his place with the X-Men of late; and it’s his character growth and evolution that has struck me almost as much as Cyclops’. That these two men–once bitter enemies–are now working together says a lot for both of them; and I’m interested in seeing where their alliance goes.

Again…there’s plenty of potential for this title.

Visually, however, I am extremely disappointed. From the start, I’m put off entirely by Cyclops’ “new costume” (mask). Going to the red on the outfit doesn’t bother me so much as wrapping red bands around the face as an “X” where the visor has always been. Maybe the X will be explained/become apparent as we learn more about Cyclops’ modified powerset…but visually it’s an atrocious look that I don’t like one bit. If I don’t like the redesign of Cyclops’ headpiece…I don’t entirely mind Magneto’s–though his is far from ideal as well, seeming to fit a more abstract, stylistic imagery that reminds me of how the character might be depicted in a nightmare interpretation (see 1993’s Wolverine #75).

As far as the issue’s art in general…just a couple pages in–having initially ignored the credits page–I stopped in my tracks. “This is Bachalo, isn’t it?” I thought to myself. Flipping back to the credits, I confirmed that–though in this case, recognizing an artist’s work in and of itself is no positive. I’m not a fan of the visual style, and often have trouble trying to truly follow the action, what’s actually going on.

Despite the stylized take on the characters, for the most part they don’t look all that bad; and the double-page introduction of the sentinels reminds me of what I think is a similar shot from 2004’s Astonishing X-Men #1, and is fairly impressive–perhaps simply for the “space” the image has to breathe. In the introduction of the new mutant the group was after, though, I had no idea what was going on, what his powers were, or were doing–I sorta figured out a bit from just reading and the extra curiosity, but it really put me out of the story.

So while the story holds up and leaves me fairly interested yet in where things go–the art is a near-complete turn-off for me. The “AR” stuff holds zero interest–I’ve been “burned” too many times with the smartphone app having trouble actually loading whatever it’s trying to load, and it seems that more often than not, all I get is a transition from “pencils” to the “finished image”–something I have virtually NO INTEREST in…while the AR content might be intended to be “bonus” or “add value” or such to the issue, being more annoying than not with so little worthwhileness, I don’t even bother anymore…even for writing a review.

This is yet another relaunch–the 2nd Uncanny X-Men #1 in 18 months. Where the original numbering was scrapped to put Uncanny and Wolverine and the X-Men on “equal footing” numbers-wise…THAT logic has been thoroughly scrapped now as well.

Worst of all, this is a $3.99 book, and presumably will be mostly double-shipping…which is a pricing strategy I just cannot keep up with. Priced at $2.99 I would give this a few issues; but as-is, I tried this first issue, and I have every intention now of passing on subsequent issues, at least so long as I’d be paying “full price.” I’ll simply have to keep an eye out for these in bargain bins, snagging a collected volume (if still interested by that point) from Amazon, or “going digital” should these fall under a 99-cent sale from Comixology.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #18 [Review]

teenagemutantninjaturtlesidw018Story: Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Ben Bates
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Cover: Ben Bates
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99

The bulk of this issue follows the turtles on planet Neutrino in Dimension X as they assess their situation and come to an understanding with the soldiers they encountered on Earth, native to this planet. They also learn what it is the soldiers were after as they realize all has not been as it seems. Meanwhile, back on Earth Splinter, April, and Casey deal with the sudden disappearance of the turtles. By issue’s end–18 issues into this new series–the turtles are introduced to General Krang, in a must more competent iteration than the ’80s cartoon that spawned the character.

Story-wise, this continues to be a great series that–on the whole–I am thoroughly enjoying. However, I’m growing a bit weary of 4-issue arcs, despite lingering subplots (and believe me, I am extremely grateful for subplots in an age where it seems stories are “written for the trade” and to be entirely self-contained). Eastman and Waltz continue to take core elements of the numerous iterations of these characters, and weave them together into a new tapestry that is at once familiar and yet new and interesting.

I particularly recognize Neutrinos Zak and Kala, and appreciate the turtles’ interactions with them; Mikey’s characterization with the princess is familiar as well. The turtles being suddenly, unexpectedly zapped to an alien planet in the middle of a war is a familiar “broad stroke” from the original Eastman/Laird series…though new in the specific details.

Visually, I’m liking Bates‘ art–it fits the characters well, and it just “works” for me. The only real weirdness is that the Neutrinos take on a very anime-like visual effect that contrasts a bit with the more sensible look of the other characters. Pattison‘s colors lend a real sense of continuity to the multiple artists on this series so far, where the linework’s changed, the colors have been consistent and certainly ease the transition between art styles.

This series has been on a relatively slow burn, steadily introducing characters and elements to the story, playing on past stories and expectations to build a strong continuity made up of the “best of” past versions of the TMNT. I’m truly appreciating the development, that things aren’t being rushed for the sake of getting characters in (especially characters whose original versions I find rather silly and off-putting as an adult). But I am increasingly anxious to see something a bit more major happen, something to truly shake up this continuity and define the characters–I’m not sure how, exactly–but it seems that other than the all-too-frustrating $3.99 price point this continuity would be ripe for a weekly series–or multiple series effectively making for weekly glimpses into the world.

With the typical 4-issue arcs, this is the 2nd chapter of this arc; so if you can find #17 along with this,  you can jump in and probably figure out for the most part what’s what, especially if you’re fairly familiar with the turtles anyway. Alternatively if you’re waiting for the collected volumes…this is shaping up to be another good mini-arc.

On the whole…the issue is good, and definitely leaves me quite interested in getting the next issue in-hand.

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