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Uncanny X-Men #600 [Review]

uncannyxmen600Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Sara Pichelli, Mahmud Asrar, Stuart Immonen, Kris Anka, Chris Bachalo, David Marquez, Frazer Irving
Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger, Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin
Colors: Marte Gracia, Jason Keith, Chris Bachalo, Frazer Irving
Cover: Chris Bachalo
Lettering & Production: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Assistant Editors: Christina Harrington, Xander Jarowey
Editors: Mike Marts and Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel
Cover Date: January 2016
Cover Price: $5.99

Winter Carnival

Writer: Mary Jo Duffy
Penciler: George Perez
Inker: Alfredo Alcala
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Cover Art: Paul Gulacy
Associate Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor: Dennis O’Neil

The first X-Men comic I clearly, consciously remember getting is Uncanny X-Men #300. The costumes, the characters, the cover–it fit the then-current animated series on tv that I was getting familiar with, and had a nice shiny cover to draw extra attention (to say nothing of being a thicker cover physically, making for a durable, high-quality issue to hold).

Several years later I picked up #400, and then years after that 500–though I hadn’t kept up with every issue of the title.

So again now, I bought #600 despite not being entirely current on the title (and overlooking the multiple reboots between the last legitimately-numbered issue and this) because of having bought the last several 100-issue round-number issues when they came up. Some 22 years after getting #300, here I am with #600.

My understanding is that this is Bendis‘ final X-Men issue, as far as being the driving force behind the main X-books. Despite catching up a fair bit on Uncanny X-Men and All-New X-Men recently via Marvel‘s Digital Unlimited, I’m still a bit out of the loop on whatever’s transpired between where I left off there and stuff immediately prior to Secret Wars and the Last Days stuff. But I do know the characters and the bulk of recent stuff in the most general of terms.

This issue finds Beast (Hank McCoy) experiencing an “intervention” by his teammates, forcing him to confront what he’s done of late–with emphasis on having time-traveled to bring the original X-Men into the present where they’re now stuck. Amidst the intervention/confrontation, we get some flashes to a number of smaller interactions–“original” Jean wants to leave the group for awhile; “original” Bobby confronts current Bobby on repressed feelings; Kitty, Colossus, and Illyana catch up with each other, and so on. Meanwhile, we also see Scott Summers’ recent dream to fruition…and it proves to be just a bit different than we’ve been led to believe.

We also get a lengthy “backup story” by Perez, a solo Iceman thing, that while it looks good does not feel particularly relevant nor current. It seems set in the early 1970s, though it feels like a more recent piece. The art is very good–I usually do enjoy Perez‘ art–though I don’t entirely appreciate the black-and-white instead of color. Perhaps it was intended this way, maybe it was a stylistic choice, but that contributes to it not feeling like it belongs in this issue.

The main feature’s story is solid enough, and though it doesn’t feel like an ongoing issue but more like a one-shot, it works decently enough as itself, as what it is. At the same time, I’m not thrilled at what appears to be Bendis trying to cement several key points just before taking off, like he has to solidify or shoehorn in some stuff to force subsequent writers to address things or leave Bendis‘ work to be an absolute character element. I do definitely approve of the supposed conclusion of the Cyclops arc, and hope to see stuff picked up on, that it’d “redeem” the villanous element applied to the character over the last several years.

Visually…while I appreciate the CONCEPT of letting a bunch of artists work on the issue as “the” big anniversary issue…I can really do without it. The shifting visual styles is distracting and draws attention to stuff in a way that takes away from the otherwise-natural shifting nature of the story, giving us some smaller character moments while addressing the larger overall confrontation with Beast.

I definitely enjoyed Perez‘ work on the Iceman story…but it’s such an unrelated thing that I’m honestly resentful at its inclusion, at this issue being over-priced at $6 over the “standard” $4 just for the story’s inclusion. Better a $3.99 issue without it than $5.99 WITH. That said, the story would work as some bonus/extra cheap attraction, as it really has nothing to do with current continuity, and has no likely/obvious ongoing elements to contribute to stuff, other than being a ’70s-looking/’70s-sounding story.

The main story’s art was distracting…and I was reminded how recognizable and unwelcome (to me) Bachalo‘s art is amidst it all…especially for the cover. It’s also very disappointing that the cover looks like it’s half of or one of several “panels” of a larger image, without even a wraparound…only a bunch of variants.

I bought this issue personally for being the anniversary issue, being the actual high-number or “legacy-numbered” issue. That’s for the personal element of having got #300 off the shelf, and each subsequent 100-numbered issue. In and of itself, if you have followed Bendis‘ X-work, you’ll want to pick this up. Otherwise, this is quite skippable for whatever will be ‘current” moving forward. Outside of whatever closure you’d get having followed this series, and/or All-New X-Men, I’d suggest skipping this and waiting for whatever nearest #1 most directly follows and grabs your attention.

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The ’90s Revisited: Uncanny X-Men #320

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uncannyxmen320Legion Quest part 1: The Son Rises in the East

Plot: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Penciler: Roger Cruz
Inker: Tim Townsend
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: January 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Making me think I missed a chapter, this issue opens on the action, as a squad of X-Men are in the midst of a “battle” with Legion–one in which they’re throwing everything they can at the boy, and the boy’s not even acknowledging them. The issue cycles between this battle and flashbacks to what brought the X-Men to this point–Gabrielle Haller and X-Factor reached out, and so these X-Men came to Israel to see what they could do. Legion finally acknowledges his attackers, jumping back in time with Storm to show her the moments before a jet’s crash that killed her mother. Returning to the present, Storm–despite her hurt and anger–pieces things together, and with the help of Psylocke and Bishop gets the group psychically tethered to Legion just before he makes his main jump back in time. Having used her own powers to anchor herself in the present, Jean is left behind with just enough consciousness to contact Xavier to let him know the X-Men and Legion are gone. Finally, in the depths of space, Lilandra, queen of the Shi’ar, is informed of the beginning of all that is.

This issue had several editions. The X-books at the time were presented in “Deluxe” and “standard” editions–the deluxe having higher quality paper, while the standard was the cheaper paper and (I believe) carried a cheaper cover price. The non-deluxe editions have never been on my radar, and so are being soundly ignored.

With the deluxe edition, there was the regular edition one would buy in comic shops…and there was a “gold edition” that was included in an issue of Wizard magazine. Not just some “ashcan” or “preview” or such, it was the issue in its entirety.

Other than that, there’s nothing (to me) all that remarkable about the cover or anything “iconic” to it. Though I recognize it on sight due to its place in my own life, it doesn’t otherwise stand out in and of itself.

The art is solid, and doesn’t particularly stand out to me, taken by itself. It’s certainly familiar, with the X-Men particularly recognizable, and really the only oddity to me is Iceman’s costume…I don’t recall this costume/appearance, and so at one point I was left wondering who he was while out of his iced-over form. Other than realizing that and wondering who the guy in the unfamiliar costume was, nothing else took me out of the story visually.

The story itself is quite good. I’d noticed Mark Waid‘s involvement with X-Men: Alpha or X-Men: Omega several years ago…and his name again stands out here. Lobdell provides us the plot while Waid supplies the dialogue…yet other than the names in the credits telling me that, I doubt I’d’ve noticed either one of them. For me, going back 20 years, the story just WAS. These were the X-Men, and I took ’em at face value.

Once I realized I had NOT missed a chapter and that we were being presented with some action before the “gap” was bridged with flashbacks, I was ok with the flow of the issue. I doubt this issue’s structure would fly in contemporary comics, as contemporary comics seem primarily written for the trade, and this structure would not play out in a single issue (there’d be an entire issue of action, then an issue of flashback, etc). It’s also sort of odd seeing so few characters involved, despite having appreciated that in the previous issue. But that was part of the premise, I believe–with two X-Men books, each would typically focus on a smaller set of characters from the overall continuity of the whole.

That also poses a bit of a problem here with no explanation given to Bobby’s linking back up with these characters, and where Archangel and Rogue went between the end of #320 and the start of this. However, this opens well given the context of the X-Factor issue, as we go from Legion flying off talking of making things better, and being confronted here with the flashbacks showing that he’s already been setting his plans in motion.

All in all, not a bad opening chapter with plenty of action and context as well as driving the story as a whole forward by the end of the issue. I definitely enjoy that within the pages of a single issue’s pages multiple scenes unfold…that this seems written as a full single issue rather than “just” a chapter of a six-issue arc.

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