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Review of Uncanny X-Men 502 (2.5 stars) October 2, 2008

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Overall rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

More near-mediocrity from Fraction and Brubaker, and more crap from Land is the best way to describe this issue. Let’s start with the true crap first, namely, Land’s art. Now, I know I’ve linked to this before, but Land’s tracing and recycling isn’t the only thing that makes him a bad artist. There’re also occurrences such as these:

Big, beefy, muscular men are part of the genre, and I’ve come to accept that. But what the crap is up with Logan’s arm? It’s already muscular-looking enough, why did Land have to include what looks like a tumor growing out of where his elbow bends? Seriously, that doesn’t make any sense anatomically at all. That big bulge spreads over where his elbow bends? How does he even bend it? Here is another “weird body incidence:”

Likewise, I’ve also come to accept that well-endowed, impossibly skinny women are part of the genre, but her torso being thicker than her hips? That’s not even the “perfect hourglass figure,” that’s an upside-down pear figure! (I’m not even going to comment on her annoying info box and dialogue in this panel.) Add to these the crazy looking smiles that almost everyone wears and the fact that the “Red Queen” is probably the most ridiculous looking villainess I’ve seen, and you’ve got some grade-A Land-crap.

Luckily the story isn’t horrible. We make some more discoveries about the Hellfire cult, we get a decent fight, and the majority of the character interactions are amusing. (I’m glad that Fraction and Brubaker have decided to include the camaraderie and humor that they have, it’s truly what is keeping this title afloat at the moment.) The only part that I dislike is pretty much any scene featuring Pixie. She’s annoyed me ever since the Free Comic Book Day issue starring her, and now, she seems to star in Uncanny as well. This book would be so much better if she just left the team. (Well, maybe.)

Mehh, I realize this may sound a bit harsh as a review. This issue really wasn’t that bad. But everyone once in a while, you’ve gotta vent, and this was the opportunity I chose. If you aren’t already reading Uncanny, I can’t honestly recommend picking it up, but for those of us who are, at least there’s worse things we could be reading, and besides, we only have to endure Land for another issue or two.

-LOTRKing

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Review of Uncanny X-Men 501 (3 stars) August 21, 2008

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Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Ed Brubaker’s Captain America is genius. Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man is the must read new series of the year. When the two collaborated together on Immortal Iron Fist, they took a character with only a small cult following and made one of the most fan-loved books on the market. So when the two of them united on Uncanny X-Men, the flagship title of the most famous super-team in the world, their success should have guaranteed, right? So far, the last two issues have surprisingly showed the contrary.

My first problem is simple: between Greg Land’s art and the condescending narration boxes, I feel this book is marketed to the young teen crowd. Don’t get me wrong, the world could always use another comic book reader, and if something is thrown in to appeal to a certain group, I’m usually fine with it. But this entire issue sounded like a young teen novel. Likewise, I can’t fully put my finger on it, but all the art seemed kind of, I dunno, pose-ish? Way too many convenient poses in too many panels. (A cool “pose-panel” or two included in an issue can provide for some memorable art, but when everyone always seems to strike a pose, things get a little silly.) Of course, all of this may have something to do with Land’s “unique” way of doing his pencils, as displayed here.

Second, I dunno, the story doesn’t really feel all too compelling. First, Pixie gets beaten up by an anti-mutant group. Then most of the rest of the issue is more of the X-Men saying how great things are now, then we see a brief meeting of the group that beat up Pixie (the Hellfire Club), before the X-Men finally (within the last three pages) go out and do something (in this case, attempt to catch the Hellfire Club). Oh and, I have no idea who the Red Queen is, but why was her one line of dialogue one of the worst I’ve ever read, and why the heck was she dressed like that? (Not to mention while striking another annoying pose.)

Don’t get me wrong, despite these complaints, there were a few redeeming parts to this issue (some fun humor in the X-Men commons room, the majority of the dialogue was well written, Land managed a few cool art panels), and most of it wasn’t pure suckage. Its main problem is that it is no where near as good as it should be coming from Brubaker and Fraction. Hopefully they’ll be able to turn the story around soon, and with any luck Land will leave the book ASAP.

-LOTRKing

Review of Captain America 41 (4.5 stars) August 20, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Wow. Brubaker excels at keeping you guessing until the last minute. With only one issue left until the end of the epic Death of Captain America storyarc, there is still a lot left unrevealed. Next issue looks to be phenomenal. Of course, that is still up in the air, but this month we got plenty of teases for what lies ahead. As Red Skull and Co. recaptures “Bad Cap,” the Red Skull pushes his plans into the final stage. Zola is finishing his work on “Doom’s device” and we learn that he also has a device to separate Skull and Lukin. Of course, for these two to be separated, they will each need a body. With blatant hints that “Doom’s device” is likely a time platform, I’m assuming they’re going to pluck Red Skull’s body from some point in the past (or, if the plan is even more sinister, they may grab someone else from the past, though I’m not too sure that Skull is keen on sharing minds again).

Once again, the word to describe the next scene is: wow. First Brubaker brought back Bucky, but then revealed he was a brain-washed Soviet Assassin. Then he killed Captain America. However, he kept the hope alive by having Bucky take the helm and revealing that Sharon was pregnant with the child of Steve Rogers. Now, Brubaker has killed the next, and only, member of the Rogers family: the unborn baby is dead. I had hopes last issue that perhaps the blade had missed the womb, and that somehow the fetus could be miraculously saved, but this was not to be. (Then again, Brubaker always complained that Bucky was killed “off screen” and since all we have is Faustus telling Sharon of its death, it’s possible that the fetus did survive – perhaps placed in a surrogate’s womb – and the Red Skull will keep it hidden, though this is doubtful.)

And speaking of Faustus, turns out he’s got some morals. Having finally come to the realization that he does not support the Skull, he convinces Sharon to forget her pregnancy ever happened, and returns her reactivated S.H.I.E.L.D. GPS unit. As James (oh yeah, he should probably feature in this comic, shouldn’t he?) and Sam get close to Sharon’s location, Natasha intervenes and convinces James that his work is needed elsewhere while she and Sam rescue Sharon. As these two invade Red Skull’s base (with plenty of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents for back-up), James goes to the presidential candidate debate. Red Skull plans to assassinate one candidate and have Senator Wright rescue another to further improve his chances at winning the election. But just as Sin pulls the trigger, the bullet is intercepted by Cap’s shield, as Cap jumps in to “save the day.”

As you can see, there’s plenty of awesomeness to go around. With only one issue left until the story that has been building since issue one is over (who’d ever guess that someone could pull off a 42 issue storyarc?), this probably isn’t the best time to jump on. But if you haven’t been reading this, you NEED to get all three trades for “The Death of Captain America” when it’s all over, cause this is the stuff that comic book legends of are made of.

-LOTRKing

Review of Uncanny X-Men 500 (3 stars) July 25, 2008

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Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

My review can be found here (first one posted).

Quick spoilers: The X-Men have relocated to San Francisco. A collector there has purchased decommissioned Sentinels and is displaying them as “art.” The X-Men investigate and Magneto, seemingly re-powered, attacks and reactivates the Sentinels. The X-Men defeat him and realize he was only wearing a high-tech suit to give him power. Magneto escapes and discusses these events with a secret, sinister cabal. Scott and Emma send a telepathic message that San Francisco is now a safe-haven for mutants and their allies and that all are welcome at the new X-base.

-LOTRKing

Review of Captain America 40 (4.5 stars) July 22, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

My review can be found here.

Quick spoilers: New Cap (James) and Bad Cap (Grand Director) finally fight. James looks to be beaten but is able to escape. Skull, Faustus, and Zola observe this fight and are pleased with their Cap’s skill. Sharon attempts to escape with Sin hostage, but Sin frees herself and they fight. This ends with Sin stabbing Sharon in the belly…

-LOTRKing

Review of Uncanny X-Men 499 (3 stars) July 8, 2008

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Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

If nothing else, at least we are done with hippies. This issue follows suit from every other in this arc: hippie part, less than interesting, Russian part: lots of cool fighting with awesome art. This time around, the “cool fighting” sequence pits Wolverine, Colossus, and Nightcrawler against Omega Red. Dialogue is kept to a minimum. Luckily Mike Choi does all of the art for these sequences, as he maintains his usual level of greatness. Seriously, this guy needs to do a major crossover event, or become a permanent artist somewhere, because his work is just that good. Going back to the story, the fight is eventually won by Nightcrawler teleporting really high with Red and allowing him to fall to the ground, thus rendering him unconscious. A bit of a weak ending, I realize, but if nothing else the fight with Choi’s art is worth the cover price.

The hippie scene was also mostly fighting, though no where near as good because it was drawn by newcomer Ben Oliver. His art isn’t bad, but it is certainly no Choi. This one has a fairly weak ending as well, as Scott and Emma eventually find Martinique and shut her down, but not before she mysteriously vanishes. It looks as though she was saved by another female mutant, who invites her to the “Sisterhood” (presumably of evil mutants). The only thing important to come out of this issue is the revelation why the X-Men are moving to San Fran: Angel saves the mayor and she offers them residence. Yup, that’s it. Overall, this has been a weak issue ending to a weak storyline. The only thing keeping this from 2.5 stars is Choi’s art. Still, Brubaker teaming with Fraction for the monumental issue 500 next month has me excited, hopefully the stories will be stronger, and most importantly, no hippies!

-LOTRKing

Review of Captain America 39 (3.5 stars) July 4, 2008

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Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Happy Independence Day! What a coincidence (and it really is a coincidence) that I’m reviewing the newest issue of Captain America on July 4th. This issue sees things slow down a bit, as we see more build up of various plot points. First it shows “Bad Cap” as he stops a fake assassination attempt on Senator Wright and afterwards makes a speech endorsing the candidate. Of course, this sends the media into a frenzy, one because they think Cap is back, two because they think he is officially endorsing the senator. Once again, we see just how deep and well thought out Red Skull’s diabolical plan is. With only three issues left until the end of the epic “Death of Captain America” storyline, I can’t wait to see how James will stop these plans from coming to fruition, and what the aftershocks will be.

James kind of takes second stage this time around, as he mostly just observes these actions and discusses them with the Falcon. His main contribution to the story doesn’t come until the very end where he decides to sneak into Senator Wright’s hotel room in order to get more info, only to realize that he has been set up, and that the only person in the room is “Bad Cap.” This is where that storyline leaves off, and it looks like we will finally get the inevitable Cap vs. Cap fight next time around.

On Sharon’s side of things, we see the she has been bound to a hospital bed and is in the same room as a recovering Sin. Sin threatens her the whole time that she is recovering, and as Sin is finally released and looks as though she might carry out her threats, we see that Sharon has broken free. She quickly subdues Sin and, holding a scalpel to her jugular, commands Sin to take her to her clothes and then out of the complex. So while all of this was mostly set up for the next time, it is still an essential read if you have been following Captain America up ‘til now. That said, an entire issue of set up makes the resolution that much more satisfying, and it looks as if next issue will be worth the wait.

In conclusion, a quick comment on the art: I realize that Steve Epting can’t do every issue, but where are his normal replacements, Mike Perkins or Butch Guice? Rob de la Torre doesn’t suck, but his art certainly does not come from the same mold as the other three and when people read this as a trade, I think they will find the lack of consistency in art a bit jarring. Well, hopefully Epting (or at least Perkins or Guice) will be back next time.

-LOTRKing

Review of Uncanny X-Men 498 (3 stars) May 28, 2008

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Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This issue was really just more of the same. It opens with a flashback a few days after M-Day, where some aging hippies stumble upon a woman unconscious on the sidewalk. They offer to help her and she mentions something about “not seeing them” before she de-ages the hippies and they realize they she is special. Slowly, her influence spreads to the “hippification” of San Francisco. We eventually learn that her name is Martinique. I’m not sure if that is supposed to be an important person from the X-past, but at least it tells me that she is not Scarlet Witch.

The story then jumps back to the Red Room where Logan is being tortured in attempts to get Piotr to talk. Piotr remains silent so the director threatens to kill Kurt. Kurt is able to teleport away just in time (but not before getting severely shocked) and free Logan. Of course, this leads to another all-out-brawl as these three attempt to escape (the last few issues may have featured these three in a fight, but with Choi’s beautiful artwork, this hasn’t gotten old yet). Just as it looks that they might make it out, they run into Omega Red.

We then are taken back to San Francisco where Scott and Emma run into Warpath, Iceman, Hepzibah, and Angel who are all under the control of the Goddess to stop them at any cost. Perhaps to further serve as a hippie annoyance, we learn the new “Hippie Names” of these characters: Running Sun, Frosty, Lady Kitten, and Angel (yup, it stays the same). Anyone else find the fact that we had to be told their new hippie names incredibly cheesy? Anyway, I realize this is a somewhat short review, but it was a quick read and can be summed up exactly like last month: hippies are annoying, fights are fun, art is spectacular. Hopefully with the conclusion next month, we’ll get a much more satisfying issue.

-LOTRKing

Review of Captain America 38 (4 stars) May 22, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Well, it appears that the newly awakened mystery man is indeed Captain America. Just not the one you think, he is the Captain America from the 50s, the Grand Director, altered to look like Steve Rogers and kept in stasis for the last several years. I have to say, this is a brilliant move of Brubaker’s part, one that is unexpected, but at the same time makes sense and doesn’t seem to be pulled out of nowhere. It was even slightly hinted at early in his run when we saw the return of the 50s Bucky, Jack Monroe. After we learn the secrets of “Cap’s” return, we see that Sharon is recaptured.

We then see that Senator Woodman, who secretly works for the Red Skull, is doing fairly well for a third party candidate with twenty percent of voters considering voting for him. Faustus complains to the Skull that these numbers are not high enough, but the Skull assures him it will be taken care of. I know that the Red Skull always has a master devious plan, but I wonder, how does he plan to ensure that Woodman wins the election? Fixing the numbers? That would be a tough task, even for him. Personally, I think he plans to take the other candidates out of the race, perhaps assassinating one and shaming the other? No matter what his plan, as always in will be entertaining to see it unfold and see how Captain America stops it.

Next, we get the first team up of James as Cap and the Falcon as they attempt to take down one of Zola’s complexes. This is where all the action of the issue is, and it is great to see that James has indeed gotten the hang of using the shield. Zola, wanting to ensure that he is not captured, transfers himself to another computer, and self destructs the entire complex, with James and Sam just barely getting away in time.

The last thing we see is that Faustus is manipulating the Grand Director to kill James, because he is “an impostor” Captain America (G.D. believes he is the true Cap) and even worse, because he killed his partner Jack Monroe aka Bucky (which is true, though it was done while James was the Winter Soldier, so it’s not really his fault.) All in all, this was a satisfying issue, and I can’t wait until the two Caps come face to face (as is likely to happen next time.)

-LOTRKing