All-New X-Men #30 Review

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www.hypergeeky.comAll-New X-Men #30 takes a break from the norm to develop and work on some character-to-character issues.

Picking up at the swell of a whirlwind romance between Laura Kinney and Warren Worthington III after a night of clubbing and, well, clubbing (literally!), the two go through an impromptu DTR that challenges their notions of each other, especially for Kinney.

It’s hard for Laura to accept what’s going on now that she’s had time to think about it. Warren’s too pretty and too rich, while she’s been through too much.

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Even if it’s a beauty and the beast type of situation, the pairing does make sense in the end — opposites do attract, especially when they turn out to be commonalities. Laura’s ugly past puts her on one side of a spectrum where Worthington’s enviable wealth places him on the other. Both are attractive, yet in some ways unwanted, and they both know what it’s like to be a mutant.

Once Laura realizes her past is past, she wonders what’s going on in the rest of the world to which Warren, living in the moment, responds with the exact words Laura needs to hear.

Elsewhere in the world and back at the Xavier School, Emma Frost has begun training Jean Grey with an interesting first assignment — she wants Jean to hit her. With some of the students covertly witnessing the strange session, Emma and Jean begin to discuss the biggest conflict in both their lives: Scott Summers.

There’s some enmity here, and they’re both willing to press the issue to get what they want. To get out of training, Jean points out Emma’s conflict — that Jean and Scott’s relationship was mutual and exclusive.

That only prompts Emma to retaliate and go for Jean’s jealousy button.  It was Emma that Summers mentally cheated with during his marriage, and Frost projects explicit images of Scott. It’s the one when Summers says he chose Emma that makes Grey lash out, forcing the students to rush to Professor Kitty Pryde.

Pryde’s been busy building a long-distance relationship with Peter Quill who’s a billion miles away. The conversation between them is realistic, and there’s surefire chemistry between the two. Brian Michael Bendis doesn’t break each of the character’s personalities to force something onto them. The scene is a textbook example of how dialogue between two adults should be written — it’s full of charm, poignancy, and humor.

When Pryde follows the students to see what all the commotion is about, a psychic battle results in the scariest thing Illyana Rasputin has ever seen.

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Emma and Jean are now friends.

Bendis comes through with an issue that gives readers a true X-Men experience. By piercing through the outer veil and giving us a behind-the-scenes perspective, we get to the nitty and gritty to learn more about their personalities — without which, the individuals are X-Men in name only.

The pairings are deliberate and speak to Bendis keen planning and plotting. In each scene, we get interactions between polar opposites. The contrasts between Laura and Warren are easy to spot, and the most compelling story this chapter is between Jean and Emma, two rivals with a rich history of turmoil between them.

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For new readers, it’s easy to accept the premise as is and believe there’s bad blood between two women in love with the same man. But there’s an incredible amount of emotion and history that’s only hinted at.

Back in the ’90s when the X-Men first split up into Blue and Gold teams, it was Emma’s Hellfire Club that caused one of Jean’s physical deaths — Grey saved herself by possessing Emma with her consciousness. When Frost later came over to the X-Men’s side after Generation X, she began therapy sessions with a broken Cyclops which resulted in mental cheating.

When Grey died at the end of the New X-Men run, she got a glimpse of a very dark future. She reached back in time to influence Scott, telling him to move on and into Emma’s arms. The love triangle was no more until Beast decided to do some time-traveling of his own to bring the original X-Men to the present.

So now we have young Jean reeling and dealing with what the future holds, and her current incarnation in Marvel Comics does what no other version has been able to do: reconcile with her rival.

As the two most powerful psychics on the planet, the fact they’re friendly now only makes the cumulative outlaw X-Men squad a formidable force.

www.hypergeeky.comAnd while Professor X, knowing the potential for devastation to come, blocked out Jean’s powers until she was ready to handle them, it’s Frost who gets to bring out Jean’s best which could lead to several outcomes. As angry as Jean is now, what will happen when the Phoenix returns in full force to inhabit a younger, less mature, and more-powerful-for-her-age version of an Omega-level mutant?

It’s an issue that Pryde recognizes, and All-New X-Men #30 ends with the Jean Grey School X-Men making a surprise visit with news of Xavier’s last will and testament. As hated as Scott is for the things he did while being possessed, I wonder what Beast feels when he sees Jean.

Then, I begin to think of how this story possibly ends — with another sacrifice leading to redemption.

That’s the sort of thing that compels me to keep reading Bendis’ material. The past, when forgotten, tends to repeat itself, and X-Men stories have spiraled in and out of time away and onto themselves. What I most enjoyed about this issue are the discussions that perfectly reflect the inner minds of the characters speaking. They grow, feel love and hate, and challenge themselves and the readers. The X-Men are a microcosm of our society filled with viewpoints, differences of opinion, and those struggling to choose what’s right.

And without a great artist to capture the nuances of expressions, much of what we saw this issue could have been lost. And so it makes me grateful to see that if anyone had to take over art duties from Stuart Immonen, it’s Sara Pichelli.

Pichelli’s art style this issue is reminiscent of Immonen’s pencils and Wade Von Grawbadger’s inks. The heavy outlines are there as well as the clean and distinct facial expressions that tell their own share of the story. Pichelli’s Frost is perhaps one of the best I’ve seen — from the visuals alone we get a sense of how manipulative and seductive Emma can be.

www.hypergeeky.comAnd that’s one of the greatest strengths of All-New X-Men #30 — the brilliant display of visuals without need for words. The flashback of Laura and Warren’s first date is almost four pages of panels with no dialogue, and the pressure’s on for Pichelli. To her credit, the artwork is masterful in how it not only tells us how things went down, it also shows us how the characters are feeling. There’s a panel of Laura looking sublime during the melee, and it just captures the moment perfectly.

To bring it all into another level of cohesion, Marte Gracia’s colors adapt just enough to keep things similar yet distinct. Warren and Laura’s scene in the room has a romantic feel to it, and the shading on the faces creates not only more definition for expressions — it also creates mood through lighting.

All of these things put together makes up one awesome issue that doesn’t need a particular villain to create drama. The X-Men have proven, time and again, that they are their own worst enemies, and the numerous conflicts presented here are easy to relate to. It’s the deftness in the creator’s abilities that this issue comes to life.


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Primer — Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW Review

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Marvel

The plot thickens in Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW — S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrates a former X-Man’s house for interrogation, Mystique and Sabertooth are up to something, an advanced Sentinel attacks, and Cyclops declares war!

If you feel a strong sense of deja vu, you’re not alone. Bringing back plot points that have been on the backburner for months, Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW — more like a revisiting than a retread — reminds us what we’ve been waiting for.

War.

Cyclops’ Uncanny X-Men squad is the alpha team — the team with the heaviest hitters which is one significant member down since Magneto decided to go off in search of himself. Still, there’s been plenty of growth from even the youngbloods, and Cyclops looks more formidable than ever as a man on fire.

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So while new readers jump on for Uncanny X-Men and get acclimated — after Cyclops’ team deals with the Sentinel threat, we’re reminded once again how people feel about mutants — steady readers won’t get much new this issue except for more teasing on what happened to Eva Bell in Uncanny X-Men #17 when she disappeared then returned a bit older.

Emma Frost knows enough about Bell to warrant a “You have to tell him” after Cyclops compliments Eva. There’s a suggestion of romance here, and it’s either a one-sided thing, or perhaps Bell saw something in her time displacement that’s so important, Scott Summers has to know.

As far as scripting goes, Brian Michael Bendis gets a good back and forth between S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill and Bond. Hill is written exceptionally well — she’s manipulative to a point, but she’s still well-meaning, if a bit threatening. As condescending as she gets with Bond this issue, it’s apparent she’s willing to do what it takes to save the world without crossing the line into supervillain territory.

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The curtain on what happened to Dazzler is raised, and we see something a bit startling here as Mystique reveals where she gets her Mutant Growth Hormone. The visuals are played up with Mystique storing the illegally obtained substance in a Louis Vuitton bag which shows how far she’ll go to get what she wants.

Chris Bachalo’s pencils are fantastic this issue, though not without flaw. In one panel showing Eva, Emma, and two of the Stepford Cuckoos — all the women have the same face with only their hair and uniforms to differentiate them. Not that it looks bad — Bachalo’s attention to detail and backgrounds helps create some very dynamic panels with devastating spells and destructive explosions opening it up for how epic these battles can be.

And if I can say one thing about the costumes — Goldballs’ retro look  is at the same time hilarious and a hot mess. I’m not sure if he’s a parody of something else — maybe on DC as a whole — but he’s basically the team’s de facto comic relief now.

Everything else about this issue is pretty pitch perfect — the inkers’ squad has another member this issue bringing the count to five. Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba all contribute on bringing those penciled sketches to bear with clean lines, dramatic shadows, and darkly dark backgrounds.

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In terms of color, Bachalo handled 100% of the work before, but this time we get a few pages by Jose Villarrubia that are reminiscent of Frazer Irving’s filtered green textures. Seeing Villarrubia’s colors — if just for a page or two — on Bachalo’s work makes me wonder what kind of tone an issue would take if someone else was brought in for color. I’m still not totally keen on Bachalo’s choice of hues, but to each their own.

And while I’m not the best at judging at a letterer’s work — Joe Caramagna should be commended for his work this issue. Explosions, laser blasts, and power beams get their own personalities, and it makes the battle sequences feel very epic.

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The previous issues with their character sketches were a good detour, but it’s time for the Uncanny X-Men to get back on track. While new readers joining the rest of us will benefit the most this issue, it’s a good reminder for the pull-list subscribers of the particular threads left untied and loose. For some, it’s an “about time” moment when the story they’ve waited patiently (or not) for is finally getting its round.

And while the training is never over — at least from Cyclops’ perspective — it’s time for these kids to use what they’ve practiced. The threat is there, whether it’s S.H.I.E.L.D., the mysterious Sentinel builder, or both, and these X-Men have proven themselves to be more than apt for the task.

Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW (2013)
Marvel
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba
Colors: Chris Bachalo and Jose Villarrubia
Letters: Joe Caramagna

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All-New X-Men #23 Review

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A few days ago, I imagined what I’d ask Brian Michael Bendis if I could get one question in for an interview.

“What is it about you that Marvel would put their X-Men franchise in your hands?”

Bendis is talented, obviously, and he’s shaping up to be the Chris Claremont of this generation. But that question wasn’t meant to get more information about what we already know — it’s what quality Bendis sees in himself.

What makes him the best man for this job, specifically? More than just work ethic or the ability to meet deadlines — what’s required of the man who would lead the X-Men back to its glory days as Marvel’s most dynamic and storied team?

In the way that Scott Snyder and Batman are tied together, Bendis is now the legal guardian of the X-Men, and after reading All-New X-Men #23, I feel one step closer to understanding why he’s the right wordsmith for the job.

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Time for Change — Battle of the Atom #2 Review

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Battle of the Atom #2 CoverS.H.I.E.L.D.’s missiles rain down on the X-Men below in Battle of the Atom #2, the conclusion to this year’s crossover, pitting various X-Men teams from different times in a battle against each other.

The issue promises there will be blood as the X-Men are attacked high and low, and readers will get some answers to the questions that have been raised.

When one of the missiles lands near some of the X-Men and fails to detonate, the assumed armament turns out to be a capsule that releases a new series of Sentinel. The battle escalates with casualties on both sides, and a final battle between young Jean and her older self culminates in an explosion that ultimately ends the fighting.

For now.

The Battle of the Atom series has been plagued with pacing issues, and the big finish(es) is worth the wait now that the dust has finally settled. Though it isn’t as ground-breaking as one would expect, it does have enough meat on it to make it a memorable read with some deep developments.

Chief among the plot points is the battle between future-Jean, Wolverine, and Cyclops. Hindsight is 20/20, and according to future-Jean, the two most responsible for the ill-fated future are the two leaders who separated the X-Men. Yes, it’s official — Battle of the Atom returns readers to where it all started in the Schism mini-series when Cyclops and Wolverine had their most recent major falling out. Their disagreement now comes to a head with future-Jean disowning Marvel’s version of King Arthur and Sir Lancelot, and the pointed finger turns the Cyclops is right debate on its head.

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That heated debate which has split readership along party lines has seen some of its arguments play out in the X-Titles. Writer Jason Aaron brings up the debate here and then changes the focus back to the original starting point — when Wolverine and Cyclops parted ways and forced the rest of the X-Men to choose sides. Forget whether Cyclops was right — readers now know that the schism was responsible for the new future, and it’s all Cyclops and Wolverine’s faults.

Battle of the Atom #2 ends with four separate epilogues written for each of the X-Titles. With the Brotherhood lost in the current timeline, some of the future X-Men decide to stay while others return to the future to bury their dead. Some X-Men find solace in knowing there’s hope in the future, while others decide they must do all they can to make sure it never happens.

The fourth epilogue, which is the issue’s biggest development moving forward, brings Kitty Pryde back to the forefront. Still feeling betrayed and having no reason to believe she will ever be secure with her present team, Pryde decides she’d be better off switching sides. To make things even more complicated/exciting/surprising — the original X-Men follow their teacher in joining Cyclops’ Uncanny X-Men.

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It’s a momentum changer that gives Cyclops the upper hand especially in light of Wolverine’s declaration that the school matters the most. Turned down by its most prominent students, the school may lose more of its students moving forward. At the least, there’s no love gained between the two leaders of the X-Men, and the schism still stands stronger than ever.

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Four sets of artists contribute to the issue, and the art is probably the best during the main storyline, at least in terms of staging and composition. Future-Beast’s death and the reveal of the Sentinels are imbued with drama by penciller Esad Ribic, who’s assisted by Giuseppe Camuncoli. Ive Svorcina, Andres Mossa, and Guru eFX’s colors give the panels showcasing the epic battle a dreamlike and lucid polish, and the Phoenix-reds do well in reminding readers of Jean Grey’s ultimate power.

Battle of the Atom #2 will likely get a trade paperback release, and judging the work as a whole — the crossover skimps on the developments and serves mainly as a vehicle for the continuation of the four major X-Titles. Readers won’t get much more information about the future, despite Jean having seen some of it in her mind. That secret gives the X-Men something to fight over, but without more foreknowledge, it’s difficult for readers to come on board.

While it’s a welcome sight to see all the writers pool their talents for a cohesive story, the crossover suffers from too much push and pull with each issue’s authors putting in their own versions and spins on the story. The crossover could have benefited from more editorial oversight to smooth out the rough edges and get everyone on the same page, and besides the Sentinel reveal, the crossover needed more than just a few mysterious glimpses into the future. Likewise, the mess made with the Brotherhood running rampant in the present time creates more of a headache because it adds more layers to the X-Universe than it really needs.

That said, what will happen to the individual X-Titles remains to be seen. All-New X-Men gets a dramatic change in scenery while X-Men loses Kitty Pryde. Uncanny X-Men now adds a whole team to its stable while following Cyclops as leader and mentor to himself. The book with perhaps the most to lose is Wolverine and the X-Men as Logan seems to be the biggest victim of the crossover as he’s lost the classic X-Men and a lot of clout as headmaster.

Battle of the Atom #2 (2013)
Marvel
Words: Jason Aaron
Pencils: Esad Ribic and Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks: Andrew Currie and Tom Palmer
Colors: Ive Svorcina, Andres Mossa, and Guru eFX
Letters: Joe Caramagna

Epilogues
Words: Jason Aaron, Brian Wood, and Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Kristopher Anka, Chris Bachalo, and Stuart Immonen
Inks: Andrew Currie, Mark Irwin, Victor Olazaba, and Wade von Grawbadger
Colors: Matt Milla

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All-New X-Men #16 Review

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www.hypergeeky.comTry saying this all in one breath.

The future X-Men have come back through time to correct the current X-Men’s mistake of bringing the classic X-Men into the present in All-New X-Men #16, the second chapter of the Battle of the Atom crossover event.

Professor Charles Xavier’s grandson Xavier, Deadpool, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Beast, and a mysterious figure wearing Xorn’s mask introduce themselves as the future X-Men team of this current timeline. A healthy — and predictable — amount of doubt and suspicion add to the tension when a sudden loss of control by Wolverine sends the various teams into a ruckus.

In the aftermath, everyone left in the room realizes Jean Grey and Scott Summers have used the manufactured circumstances to escape the premises in the team’s Blackbird.

To go the opposite extreme and bring in an aged X-Men team with a membership made up of some surprise choices, Brian Michael Bendis connects the dots to create the basic and most tenable conflict: The original X-Men must go home. The X-Men of the future are well aware of the consequences, and for the sake of the world and team — hindsight is also 20/20 — the mutants of the future plead to the mutants of the past: Fix this.

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