Tag Archives: Marvel Now

Review All New X-men #8

8 Mar

allnewx8All New X-men #8
Marvel Comics
Writer – Brian Michael Bendis
Artist – David Marquez
Color – Marte Garcia
Letterer – VC’s Cory Petit

Issue #8 of All New X-Men delivers humor, action, character development, and the realization that these characters are asking many of the same questions that we readers have been mulling over these last few months.

Bendis’ storytelling remains engaging. He shows his skill at juggling a large cast of characters while simultaneously advancing this high-concept plot. This series makes each character’s motivation clear, and deserves credit for allowing these motivations to matter. Each member of the team has agency and narrative weight, but somehow does not bog down the overall momentum of the story.

In this issue we finally get the opportunity to learn more about Warren as he fights alongside Angel to protect the Avenger’s Mansion from Hydra’s forces. Warren’s anxiety about his future crystallizes as he learns more about this contemporary version of himself. Bendis incorporates character development and action expertly in this stunning sequence. Just as the battle reaches its pinnacle, the Avengers make their appearance.

The realization that Hank McCoy has tampered with the space-time continuum does not sit well with the Avengers. They travel to the Jean Grey School to confront the doctor, with Captain America serving as ambassador. A conversation about ethics and consequences of scientific principles between a genius and a moral straight-arrow should not bring about much laughter. However, Bendis finds a way to diffuse the tension; giving the story a moment of levity as Kitty and Bobby approximate the exchange out of earshot of Cap and McCoy.

Warren’s apprehension about the future, and desire not to know what it holds for him lead him to make an ill-advised attempt to go home. Thankfully, there is a voice of reason to stop him. Despite the high-flying action sequence, the confrontation with the Avengers, and the breakdown of one of the main characters; the most important moment of this issue may be its reminder that Jean Grey is a wild card. What are the implications of such a young version of Jean having access to so much history that has not yet come to pass? If you are not asking yourself that question, you might be missing the point. This foreshadowing casts a long, dark, ominous shadow that plunges the series into a new level of darkness.

warrenMarquez artwork is very well suited for this series. He consistently brings a youthful exuberance to the page, and captures character with a seeming effortless. He gets the outside of the heads so right, that it is easy for the reader to get inside them. His work truly adds to the narrative quality of the book highlighting its themes and nuances, not in an obvious way, but by nudging readers to notice what Bendis has already put into the writing. A two page spread of Warren and Angel fighting Hydra’s goons reveals a great deal of contrast between where this character started, and what he has become. Marquez’s visual representation of this idea brings new clarity to a beautiful moment.

Do not miss an issue of this series. It bubbles with action, fizzes with humor, and beats with the pulse of a phenomenal cast of characters driving the book ever forward.

This review is also published at bagandbored.net

Follow me on twitter @comicsonice

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Uncanny X-men #2 – Review

2 Mar

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Uncanny X-men #2

Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo

Published by Marvel Comics

The sister book to one of my favorite Big 2 on-goings, (All New X-men) offered up its second helping this week in the pages of Uncanny X-men #2 by Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo. As of now, I am having a hard time falling in love.

Brian Michael Bendis, master that he is, constructs a lovely, intimate narrative involving the lingering tensions between Scott Summers and Emma Frost. The pair shares a history that would make most Lifetime movies green with envy, and that is apparent in the way they interact here.

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Emma is not only struggling with the ramifications of a life-altering split with Scott, but also facing the terrifying prospect of living without her mutant abilities. Bendis does an incredible job portraying the storm of emotions raging inside of her. Facing the age-old dilemma, best defined by The Clash, “should I stay or should I go?” Emma makes the decision to stay.  She decides to serve as a mentor to the world’s newest mutants, whom she, Scott, Magneto, and Magik have been collecting. As the group attempts to explain the mutant way of life to their new recruits, they encounter trepidation from the initiates. Eva, one of the newest mutants, is concerned for the safety of her family. In a display of compassion, Cyclops and his team transport back to her home in Australia. They are unaware that a double agent, Magneto, has called in back up.

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So with such a solid storyline, why am I still hesitant to give away my heart? The answer is simple: I cannot embrace the art. Not only does the style of the art seem incongruent to the tone of the book, I question some of the choices made by the artist in a general sense. For instance, I cannot understand why in some when a full figure is shown the proportions of the characters seem altered, while in three-quarter view they retain standard dimensions. I am also leery of the cut and paste style used in some of the ensemble frames. The work looks like a collage of paper dolls pasted on a photo of the sky, because they have a white outline and none of the figures interact. This also makes the figures appear very static. Some pages have large white borders while the panels on the page seem squished. Scott Summers here looks younger (and a whole lot more like John Karsinski) than his younger counterpart featured in All New X-men.

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As you read this be aware that these critiques involve stylistic choices. Bachalo does not do anything wrong, these decisions just does not appeal to my tastes. The art is not bad, and I suppose that for readers who enjoy an Asian-inspired art style, it will seem particularly successful. Two pages in particular did impress me, the full page of Emma Frost in profile and Bachalo’s rendering of the Xavier School.

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Another frustrating feature of the book are the layouts. Bendis apparently favors confusing panel distribution in his scripts; I have encountered these snares in his other work. However, if you persevere and find the flow of the panels, you will be rewarded with a great story.

So there you have it, Bendis tells a great story; and I personally can’t get into the slightly manga-inspired art style. The world will eventually recover from the shock I am sure.

Follow me on twitter @comicsonice

This review was originally published on bagandbored.net, go check out the site!

Review of New Avengers #3

7 Feb

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Four men stand gazing at their feet, and a shield lies stripped from a warrior… you can hear a rumble coming from off in the distance that says, ‘something has happened, and its going to change everything.’

And that’s just Jock’s cover.

He tells us lightning has struck; we are left with visual thunder.

Hickman has been building to this moment, and what an architect he is. This team feels at home in the universe, all of the recent events occurring throughout other books anchor the points that actually move the plot along.

And here begin the SPOILERS

Dr. Hank McCoy joins the team in this issue, after inheriting the Mind Gem from the late Professor Charles Xavier. Hank stands in the place of the reader, learning as the story progresses what the team is planning, and the methods they will use to enact those plans. He is confronted with the realization that there is a shadowy group of heroes making the worlds decisions behind close doors. Flawed characters hold the fate of universes in their hands, Hickman continually questions the moral ramifications of this; but again and again asserts the necessity of this evil he has created.

One could question Hickman’s pacing, he moves to what might be perceived as the culmination of this three-issue arc abruptly, but it becomes clear that this series is less driven by action; and more focused on moral dilemmas, ethical questions, and character analysis. During the moment of incursion, the team makes a hasty decision that Captain America must wield the Infinity Gauntlet. Cap, or maybe Steve, hesitates for a moment.  This moment feels epic, it is the moment that the hero must step up to the challenge that faces him; the moment in which the choice to turn back has been taken away. Hickman is fittingly throwing down the gauntlet, and in the tradition of a true champion, Cap picks it up and accepts the challenge.

Cap accomplishes the task of saving two universes. However, as does all of the gems shatter (except for the Time Gem which disappears) and the celebratory tone is marred.

Back in Wakanda, the team sits down to discuss strategy. Cap tells them that he will not stand by and watch them toy with fate. He believes that the needs of the many do not outweigh the needs of the few. Cap’s character is his greatest asset, and in this instance, his greatest weakness.  He is Caesar before Brutus, Abel before Cain; despite their history, Tony executes the order to remove him from the team. Doctor Strange wipes Steve’s memory, and the group effectively silences their conscience.

I cannot separate the quality of this story from its events. It feels so important. The themes that Hickman touches on: the moral responsibility of leaders, trust and betrayal, the coercive nature of power, and moral gray area, are the stuff of parables and legends. What he accomplishes here is truly outstanding. After building a crisis situation that threatens two universes, he pauses and says; ‘no it’s bigger than that.’

The tension created by Captain America’s character has been essential to keeping the enlightened ones out of the dark. I am so curious to see where the series will go in his absence.Image

Actually if you look closely at Jock’s cover, you can see that Jiminy Cricket is squished under Iron Man’s boot. They will no longer be letting their conscience be their guide.

Epting’s artwork prevents the complicated story from reading to densely. He adds clarity to points that could have easily been obscured, and the quality of his work is artful and consistent throughout. I particularly enjoyed the way he represented the scene between Reed and the Black Swan.

As I end this long and winding review, I would like to highlight a few questions we might need to be asking ourselves:

  1. Why do the Swan’s eyes glow?
  2. Are they going to remember to take the communication device out of Cap’s hand?
  3. What happened to the Time Gem?
  4. When will they face the next incursion?
  5. Is there a McDonald’s in Wakanda?
  6. If Reed had time to whip up those nifty charts and graphs in the last issue, and feed a caged woman French fries; why did he not have time to bring up who would wield the gauntlet at the strategy meeting?

Follow me on Twitter @comicsonice

And pick up New Avengers #3 here: http://marvel.com/comic_books/issue/43517/new_avengers_2013_3

Jean Grey And Pants: The History of Modern American Women in a Flash

7 Feb

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In Brian Michael Bendis’ series All New X-men, Jean Grey, along with a team of  her peers travel to the modern world from “the past.” Bendis remains purposely vague about when exactly the team hails from. I suppose, judging from the costuming choices, we are to associate them with the original 1963 team. However, Bendis is smart, and realizes that readers can do math, and readers will realize that no man who was old enough to legally drive a car in 1963 could look like Scott Sommers does now.

So let’s follow Jean’s costumes over the years and see what her appearance tells us about Women’s History.

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Jean Grey’s original uniform was a utilitarian garment, not unlike swimwear popular in 1963, but with the added coverage of tights and long sleeves. She wears pants, in that she does not wear a skirt, but it is function over form. When not on duty with the X-men, Jean wears shirt waist dresses, and occasionally hats.

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For the time Jean’s appearance is not out of the ordinary, Title IX which prevented public schools from prohibiting girls to wear trousers was not enacted until 1972. It is likely that most women at that time were wearing pants only for function, not for fashion. Pants were considered “loungewear,” and deemed inappropriate for wearing in public among most circles. In fact in 1960, a judge ejected a woman from his courtroom for wearing slacks; not in the Deep South, but in New York City.

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So it is no surprise that When Jean later takes it upon herself to update Marvel Girl’s appearance, a sensible, albeit short skirt injects some femininity into her ensemble.

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Marvel Girl’s new look premiered in X-men Vol 39 in December of 1967.  That is the same year that the Supreme Court ruled that states banning unmarried women from purchasing birth control pills were unconstitutionally invading those women’s privacy. It was beginning to be acceptable for women to possess their own sexuality. Perhaps this has something to with Jean’s gams and décolletage being so prominently displayed.

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So time moves on, women stop connecting their worth to housework, and start taking ownership of their sexuality. Jean evolves, becoming Phoenix in 1976. In the nine years that passed had seen everything from the Summer of Love (1969) to the landmark decision of Roe v Wade (1973), more and more women were delaying family life in lieu of pursuing careers, the phenomenon of single motherhood was on the rise, and there was disco. Jean returns from the dead, empowered with a new force, much like her real world female contemporaries.

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But as good things will, the Phoenix Force went the way of disco, leaving people scratching their heads, wondering why they ever thought it was a good idea in the first place. Women began to demand equal pay for equal work; it became clear that two working parents in a household meant more out of home child-care, threats like AIDS loomed right around the corner (1981). All of these things meant that the novelty of the women’s liberation was wearing off and the patriarchal society was left making the walk of shame, from the one decade stand they shared. So, Jean gets dark.

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Jean came back too powerful, so naturally she was corrupted by evil. She steps in place as the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club in mid-1980. Scantily clad in black leather, she may represent a woman, left to her own devices, unchecked by social mores. She is hyper-sexualized, incapable of dealing with her own power, and hopelessly impressionable.

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Jean is ultimately corrupted in this arc as she becomes the Dark Phoenix

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Jean is planning on consuming the world, but in the end, decides to sacrifice herself so that things can continue on the way they were. If that is not a comment on the modern woman’s dilemma I don’t know what is. There is more of course, but lets stop there, and just consider for a moment, what face’s Bendis’ Jean as she learns her future.

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These women exist, the ones that watched our world change, they were Rosie the Riveter, and June Cleaver, and bra burners, and workin’ 9-5; they were our mothers and grandmothers, and us… and for some of them; I imagine they felt they watched the changes happen at this speed.

Follow me on Twitter @comicsonice

And find Brian Michael Bendis’ All New X-men here: http://marvel.com/comic_books/issue/43462/all-new_x-men_2012_1

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