Comic Review: Civil War II

Published: February 1st, 2017
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Jim Cheung, Oliver Coipel, David Marquez, Marko Djurdjevic (cover)

Marvel Comics, 317 Pages

Review:

Man, this was bewilderingly bad.

Historically, I’ve been pretty 50/50 on Brian Michael Bendis’ writing but man, it’s like when he did this, he already knew he was leaving Marvel. It also reads like he was given orders to use certain characters and he was begrudgingly forced to work them in. Granted, he’s also created some of the terrible modern characters.

While I’ve been well aware of the criticism that the Captain Marvel character gets in modern times, I always liked her when she was Ms. Marvel. But this new, short-haired, suddenly pushed into a leadership role Carol Danvers is not even the same character, remotely.

Based off of how she’s written here, as a self-righteous, fascist, tyrant bitch, I totally see why fans can’t stand her. If this story is an accurate portrayal of how she is post-2015 or so, I have no interest in following her character unless she’s actually made into a permanent villain. But even then, there are so many better villains I’d rather read about.

And I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to interpret her character. Is she supposed to be psychotic, god-powered, tyrannical piece of shit? Or am I supposed to empathize with her point-of-view?

What made the first Civil War so great was that you could emphasize and relate to both points-of-view and it made for a compelling read. Civil War II just made me hate Carol and every character that so easily sided with her. These characters aren’t heroes, as their actions in this story crossed the line into villainy.

Whatever. Fuck this comic. Fuck Bendis. Fuck post-2015 Marvel. But at least the art was really good.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: all the other Civil War II crossover tie-in trade paperbacks.

Comic Review: X-Men: The Age of Apocalypse – The Complete Epic

Published: 1995-1996
Written by: Scott Lobdell, Jeph Loeb, John Francis Moore, Mark Waid, Warren Ellis, Fabian Nicieza, Larry Hama, Howard Mackie, Terry Kavanagh
Art by: Roger Cruz, Terry Dodson, Steve Epting, Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Carlos Pacheco, Joe Madureira, Tony Daniel, Salvador Larroca, Chris Bachalo, Ken Lashley, Steve Skroce, Ian Churchill, Joe Bennett

Marvel Comics, 1462 Pages

Review:

I’ve really only heard great things about The Age of Apocalypse storyline since it started back in 1995, an era where I wasn’t really reading comics for awhile, except for Dark Horse’s Star Wars stuff.

In fact, the last major X-Men related event that I had read before this was X-Cutioner’s Song, a pretty good epic. But shortly after that, I got pretty burnt out once the top Marvel guys went off to form Image and then those comics were constantly hindered by delays and irregular schedules.

Based off of all the praise I heard, I always wanted to read this but it was such a massive story, spread over multiple collected volumes that I never really wanted to fork out the over $100 it would cost to buy the whole shebang. So, all these years later, I took advantage of a massive X-Men sale on Comixology and got the entire saga with its prelude for about $20.

Now that I’ve read it, I’m glad I only spent $20 because like Game of Thrones, all my friends and all the critics lied to me about how great this was. It’s not, it’s a clusterfuck of biblical proportions showcasing a lot of the things that were wrong with mid-’90s comic book art from the major publishers.

I’ll start with the art and just come out and say that this was mostly an eyesore to look at. The biggest reason was the colors, which relied so heavily on what I assume are digitally created gradients and overly vibrant colors that this was like staring into the asshole of a tropical fruit salad for hours. Everything is too busy, every single issue collected is made to be overly grandiose and if everything is larger than life and overly vivid, then that becomes the norm and thus, makes everything kind of boring.

Additionally, there is such a mix of different artistic styles that it becomes jarring as these collections jump from issue to issue every twenty pages or so. Some of the artists had great pencils but many of them illustrated in a style that didn’t feel like Marvel and instead felt like the artists were trying to emulate indie comics from Image and Valiant. Besides, the stuff that was illustrated well, ended up being wrecked by the primitive gradients and crazy colors that looked like a giallo film puked all over a box of Prismacolor markers.

When it comes to the narrative side of this, that’s also a mess.

This suffers from trying to be way more ambitious than it needed to be. The whole story is comprised of about seven or eight different subplots that are and aren’t intertwined. Some of them merge towards the end into the bigger story but some stuff just happens within this new timeline. But the story jumps around so much that it makes the whole thing hard to follow as a singular body of work. This is the same problem I have, right now, with all the new X-Men related titles that are tied to a bigger narrative but don’t feel connected as much as they should. But this is what happens when you have a half dozen different titles and different writers, all of whom want to explore different territory in their own way while being trapped within a common framework.

In fact, the only plot I actually enjoyed was the one that dealt with the characters that aren’t tied to the X-Men.

There was a two issue miniseries called X-Universe, which focused on what other Marvel characters were up to during this event. We check in on this timeline’s version of Gwen Stacy, some of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom and a few others. I found this more interesting and it showed me that this alternate timeline could provide the right sort of environment for cool and refreshing takes on old characters.

While I should probably feel the same way about all the X-Men related characters and their stories, it is hard to focus on any of them because of how this jumps around so much. When I got to the non-X-Men characters, it felt like a nice break from the X-clusterfuck I was pushing myself through.

Ultimately, I was really disappointed in this. I kept powering through it because I was hoping that all these subplots and characters would unify into something coherent that clicked at the end but that didn’t happen. We eventually get to a resolution but it’s not all that satisfying.

On a side note (and spoiler alert): the way that Magneto kills Apocalypse is pretty f’n badass.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other big X-Men crossovers of the ’80s through ’00s.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 6 & 7: Final Execution – Books I & II

Published: April 10th, 2013, August 29th, 2013
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Mike McKone, Phil Noto, Julian Totino Tedesco, Jerome Opena, David Williams

Marvel Comics, 271 Pages

Review:

Well, I have finally reached the end of Rick Remender’s highly respected Uncanny X-Force run.

I’ve got to say that this end was fairly satisfying and that the series, as a whole, was good. However, I don’t quite feel the same about it as many of the others who hyped it up for me. I mean, I’ve only heard great things about it. But I wouldn’t call it great, I’d just call it good, sometimes solid but sometimes aimless. Or, at least, sometimes it felt aimless.

And I guess that some of what seemed aimless wasn’t but not all of those things were resolved and some of them didn’t really seem to have much of a point when looking at the whole picture.

The series, I thought, ended up putting so much emphasis on Psylocke that this didn’t feel like a team book. It felt like a Psylocke book with recurring side characters. That’s not to say that Wolverine, Archangel, Nightcrawler, Fantomex, Deadpool, etc. weren’t pretty involved in the proceedings but it’s to say that sometimes I forgot they were involved unless I was reminded by them showing up in a panel.

Ultimately, this is a neat series with an ending that tied up the important bits but I don’t feel like it adds much to the X-Men mythos and that it spent more time trying to be edgy and cool than actually trying to better the X-franchise.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the earlier volumes in Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 5: Otherworld

Published: November 21st, 2012
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Phil Noto, Billy Tan, Greg Tocchini, Dean White

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

Coming off of a pretty big epic story that took up two separate trade paperbacks, this chapter in Rick Remender’s X-Force run was still entertaining but also sort of a bridge between the The Dark Angel Saga and the finale (also spread over two TPBs) Final Execution.

This sort of wraps up some of the stuff from the previous saga while building towards a big crescendo.

The bulk of the story takes place in Otherworld where Captain Britain leads his own corps. It pits twin sister, Psylocke, against twin brother, Captain Britain, while also throwing in their older brother Jamie Braddock Jr.

This also further develops Fantomex’s character, as well as his relationship with Psylocke.

If I’m being honest, things happen here to set the stage for the finale but ultimately, this was kind of boring when compared to the previous chapters. It seems to tap into a lot of Excalibur nostalgia. Now I did like that comic series, as well as Captain Britain, but I never read enough of it and it’s been a really long time.

Still, if you’ve made it this far into Remender’s mostly solid run, this is a necessary step on the way to the big, two-part finale.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 3 & 4: The Dark Angel Saga – Books I & II

Published: May 23rd, 2012 (Vol. 3), August 15th, 2012 (Vol. 4)
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Rich Elson, Billy Tan, Mark Brooks, Scot Eaton, Andrew Currie, Andrew Hennessy, Jerome Opena, Robbi Rodriguez, Dean White

Marvel Comics, 274 Pages (total)

Review:

This is the big story arc where this highly regarded comic series really came together for me. I was patient, I liked the build of the two volumes before this and I was happy to discover that this was going somewhere solid.

The Dark Angel Saga is broken out into two volumes but I’m reviewing it as one body of work because that’s the best way to talk about it and because these Uncanny X-Force TPBs are too short.

Overall, the story reminds me of the late ’80s/early ’90s X-Men crossover events. This is actually smaller in scale and didn’t crossover with multiple books but it just had that feel, as the story itself is pretty grandiose. And frankly, I’m surprised it was contained in just one comic.

Rick Remender had a vision for this title and this is where that truly becomes clear.

This is a team made up of several characters I love, as well as Fantomex, who I didn’t know before this but have grown to like over the course of this comic.

The focus of the story is on the continued inner turmoil of Angel/Archangel. Now that Apocalypse is dead, his body and mind are slipping into darkness, as he is supposed to evolve into the next Apocalypse.

The story also takes us into the dimension from the Age of Apocalypse epic. Our X-Force team finds allies in the X-Men team of that dimension, which adds some really cool subplots to the story, as characters are reunited and some are very different than their regular versions.

The Dark Angel Saga is well choreographed and written, balancing a ton of characters, introducing new ones but still giving us something pretty focused that tells its story well and isn’t bogged down by a large ensemble and the problems that come with that.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 2: Deathlok Nation

Published: February 15th, 2012
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Rafael Albuquerque, Esad Ribic

Marvel Comics, 103 Pages

Review:

I have a problem with this series, at least how it is collected. The trade paperbacks are just too short and they don’t give you enough story. But I’m sticking with this because I’ve heard great things about Rick Remender’s run on X-Force from several sources.

And I do like this book, as it advances the plot a bit, brings in Deathlok and a new threat associated with him. But I just wanted there to be more and this ends pretty abruptly.

What I’ve read within this run has intrigued me so far. This feels like something fresh and new for both the X-Force and X-Men titles. Plus, I really like the art.

I think that if you are going to give this series a shot, you’d be better off reading the thicker omnibus collections, as opposed to the seven thinner volumes.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Solution

Published: September 28th, 2011
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Leonardo Manco, Jerome Opena

Marvel Comics, 108 Pages

Review:

I’ve wanted to pick up Rick Remender’s run on X-Force for a long time. But there are so many comics I want to read that the mountain is always growing. I finally got around to this one though, the first of seven volumes and a good setup for the series.

If you’ve read the X-Force series where the team becomes a black ops squad for Cyclops, handling the really dark shit that the X-Men can’t, then you should know what you’re getting into here. This picks up after that run but Remender shuffles the group’s members and makes things more interesting.

Where I’ve been critical of Deadpool in the past, these are the types of stories that he tends to flourish in. He is still comedic and has his quips but it works better having him lighten the dark mood than just starring in his own comic and giving us straight comedy or superhero parody.

I really like the duality that is explored here with Warren Worthington, as he phases between his Angel and Archangel personas and because of that, has real trust issues in his relationship with Psylocke.

This team also features Wolverine in a leadership role, as well as Fantomex, who I honestly don’t know. But he seems like an interesting enough character and I’m looking forward to learning more about him.

The threat in this story sees the emergence of a new Four Horsemen of the Apoclypse, as X-Men baddie Apocalypse has returned in an interesting form.

Where this is going is hard to tell and this volume doesn’t work as its own story. It reads like the first chapter to a much larger book. And while that may irritate some people that want a resolution within the covers of their trade paperbacks, I’m committed to seeing this whole series through.

That being said, this lays the groundwork without giving you too much of an idea as to what’s on the horizon. I hope the surprise is a pleasant one.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.

Comic Review: X-Men ’92

Published: 2016-2017
Written by: Chad Bowers, Chris Sims
Art by: Mirati Firmansyah, Coby Hamscher, David Nakayama (cover)
Based on: the X-Men animated series by Fox Kids

Marvel Comics, 240 Pages

Review:

If you were a kid in the ’90s, you probably watched the X-Men cartoon that used to be on Fox on Saturday mornings. It was solid, did a pretty good job of adapting some of the comic book’s big storylines and introduced a lot of non-comic reading kids to the X-Men franchise.

It ended after a few seasons and never really had a proper follow up. Well, that is until recently, as the show moved into the medium it was born out of: comic books.

Maybe this took its cues from DC Comics and how they came out with Batman ’66, a comic book series that revisited the 1960s Adam West Batman TV series. But one can’t deny that Batman ’66 was a cool comic, a great idea and with that, should have inspired other comic books that continued the stories of comic book characters as they were presented in other mediums. Hell, I’m still waiting for that Batman ’89 comic that was once teased and then had those teases retracted.

But this is about X-Men ’92, which was a decent follow up to the animated series.

Overall, this was a fun read but it didn’t wow me in the same way that Batman ’66 did. Where that Batman comic felt tonally right and as if it was a true continuation of the series, X-Men ’92 throws some weird curveballs and also tries to force in way too many characters just for the sake of the creators trying to give you the animated series’ versions of these characters.

Maybe they knew this series would be short lived and therefore, they wanted to wedge in every character they could but it really becomes too much to process in the second half of this series. Also, I wasn’t a fan of devoting so much time to a Dracula/vampire story. None of that was central to the core of the cartoon and it shouldn’t have been central to the core of this comic.

Also, this feels like it is just borrowing the visual style of the TV show but it doesn’t seem to understand the tone or the spirit of it.

It’s still entertaining for fans of the source material but I wouldn’t call it a must read or all that necessary. Die hards should check it out but I can see why this didn’t make it a year where Batman ’66 has still been hanging on for quite awhile with a long running series and several crossovers.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the animated series it’s based on, as well as ’90s X-Men comics and various spinoffs.

Comic Review: X-Force/Cable: Messiah War

Published: 2009
Written by: various
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 243 Pages

Review:

This takes place between the major X-Men events Messiah Complex and Second Coming. And like those two events, I liked this story quite a bit. However, this is also a mixed bag as far as art and some of the writing.

Most of the story was well written but this story also crossed over multiple titles with different creative teams. Sometimes that works, sometimes it makes things disjointed and uneven. Now while I thought the overall narrative was good, some of the dialogue was cringy in parts. But this only happens in a low percentage of the issues collected here.

Like that cringe dialogue, some of the art in a few of the issues is also distracting. I think that this book has mostly good art but there is a strong variance in styles and going from one chapter to the next can be kind of jarring in this book. Additionally, the first few chapters looked the worst and things actually improved as the book went on.

The story follows Cable and young child Hope Summers as they keep jumping further and further into the future. In pursuit is former X-Men member Bishop, who is trying to kill Hope in order to save the future. Or is it the past, at this point?

The story also adds in X-Force, the version of the team that Cyclops used to do black ops. Here, it consists of Domino, Wolverine, Archangel, X-23, Warpath and a few characters that are pretty unknown and don’t matter much to this plot. Then Deadpool shows up and we also get very important appearances by Stryfe and Apocalypse.

Like the stories that sandwich this one, Hope Summers is pretty much the MacGuffin of this tale. Half the people want to protect her and the other half want to use her or kill her.

This is a good, dark, balls to the wall X-story. I love that it adds more context to the bigger X-Men stories about Hope Summers, as well as strengthening the rivalries between Cable and Stryfe, as well as Archangel and Apocalypse.

Despite issues with some of the dialogue and art, this was a really good read. It was certainly my cup of X-tea.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the stories that sandwich it: Messiah Complex and Second Coming.

Comic Review: X-Men: Second Coming

Published: June 22nd, 2011
Written by: Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Matt Fraction, Zeb Wells, Mike Carey
Art by: David Finch, Terry Dodson, Ibraim Roberson, Greg Land, Mike Choi, Rachel Dodson, Sonia Oback

Marvel Comics, 360 Pages

Review:

I went into this thinking that I would like it for the most part. The events that precede it were pretty good reads. What I didn’t expect was to be blown away. But in the end, I have to say, this was one of the absolute best X-Men crossover events that I have ever experienced. Seriously, this was nothing short of superb.

More than anything, this story made me love Cable more than ever and it got me to love Hope Summers, who I would say is one of the best characters to come out of the last decade, even though she previously appeared as a baby before this in Messiah Complex.

This had a lot going on in the story but there was room for it all. Plus, all the key players were well balanced throughout and it gave most of the top characters a real purpose and mission.

There are real consequences in this story, as some key X-Men figures die. Granted, one could argue that those consequences are never real because no one truly dies in comics and the two biggest victims of this story are already alive and well, once again. But despite that, it felt like a real blow within this narrative. It didn’t lose its impact knowing that they’d eventually be back.

Second Coming carries all the doom and gloom of Messiah Complex over and it brings more doom and gloom but it ends in a way that finally sees a glimmer of “hope” appear in the darkest time of the X-Men franchise. I don’t want to spoil too much because I’d rather people give this a read.

Being that this is a crossover event, there is a mix of art styles. All of it works for me though, even if there are noticeable style shifts from chapter to chapter. Ultimately, the tone stays about the same from beginning to end.

This is a fairly long read but none of it is boring or filler. It moves at a brisk pace, keeps you engaged and makes you cheer for these heroes in a way that you haven’t since the early ’90s.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the stories that precede it: Avengers Disassembled, House of M and X-Men: The Messiah Complex, as well as the one this leads up to: Avengers Vs. X-Men.