X-Men: Apocalypse Review

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www.hypergeeky.comAnother day, another X-Men movie.

After Days of Future Past effectively rebooted the entire series by rewriting the future, the series comes full circle by bringing back a bunch of familiar superpowers in teenage form — Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, Nightcrawler, and Storm.

X-Men: Apocalypse trailers begged answers for the questions: Who will join the mutant megalomaniac En Sabah Nur? Who will fight to stop him?

After seeing the movie, I’m prepared to answer those questions with another: Who cares?

X-Men: Apocalypse contains everything terrible about the X-Men movies, turns all of the good into a routine exercise, and spins its way to an anti-climactic finish for the second worst entry in the entire franchise.

Talk about being a shell of its former self — you would think Bryan Singer had hit his stride after releasing back to back critical darlings X-Men: First Class and the aforementioned DoFP.

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All-New X-Men #36 Review

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Ultimate Dr. Doom’s energy blast sure has a lot of kick.

All-New X-Men #35 ended just as Miles Morales launched a sudden attack on Doom only to be countered by a devastating blast.

Issue #36 continues from that super-ultra-combo finisher with a double-page spread of the Doctor surveying his victory. Two sets of X-Men and an Ultimate Spider-Man have been beaten, and Doom’s first act as champion is unmasking Morales.

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With Miles’ secret out in the open, Doom threatens to end Spider-Man’s life. But before he can do that, Jean Grey distracts him long enough to psychically wake up her friends. Round two ends just as quickly as it starts with Kitty Pryde attempting to destroy Doom’s armor with her phasing ability. Doom self-destructs, leaving his headquarters wide open for a riot led by one really ticked-off Hank McCoy.

Now that the All-New X-Men, the Ultimate X-Men, and Ultimate Spider-Man have basically won Earth-1610, the only thing left to do is get the Earth-616 kids back home.

Conveniently, the mutant with teleporting powers that started this whole arc appears in their midst and does just that.

So ends this chapter of All-New X-Men, and while it all seems pretty cut and dry, I’m just really glad it’s over. This was probably my least favorite arc of the entire series, and now that it’s said and done — I’m not sure that the last four issues added anything to the mix. Anyone who had missed issues #32-36 could be filled in with a quick synopsis.

The All-New X-Men were teleported to the Ultimate Universe. They fought Dr. Doom. They came home.

We get a few glimpses of alternate universes that might be a precursor to Battleworld, but the arc as a whole was a listless journey through a comparable Earth with very little progression or development for the main story arc or the characters. The only real end result is an angry Hank McCoy who decides it’s time to change the world. The problem I have with that is — McCoy spends the least amount of time out and about on Earth-1610. After landing on a beach, he spends most of the arc in Doom’s house and laboratory.

The prospect of having Miles and the Ultimate X-Men on tap at the beginning of the arc seemed to suggest some major plot points, but All-New X-Men #36 doesn’t even manage to produce any real sparks. Brian Michael Bendis has left a lot on the table for this throwaway side-mission, and there’s a real lack of force that’s permeated the past few issues.

On the art side, All-New X-Men looks good if not great. Mahmud Asrar excels in his action panels with some very epic big-picture stuff, like Jean’s standoff with Doom or the moments leading up to Doom’s headquarters getting destroyed. During conversational frames, the artwork begins to suffer. Facial expressions lack life, and the dearth of detail irons out the pages, making the panels look really flat.

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Marte Gracia’s colors are high-contrast and bold, adding some dimension to the faces through shading. I like Gracia’s reds which are un-apologetically bright, and his lighting is top notch.

I’m ready to move on from this arc to the next. With all that’s been announced, I get the feeling like the X-Books are starting to enter another gear. My expectations are tempered, however, due to so many of the arcs ending on disappointing notes. The problem is not so much with the conclusion — it’s how the entire story fails to live up to its promises. With issue after issue leading us down a road that constantly reminds us of the scenery, even a couple of beautiful sunsets are not enough. Fans want to see plot points dealt with, and there’s a lot fluttering around in the wind, and we’re about to pull up into the parking lot any minute now.


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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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X-Men #9 Review

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www.hypergeeky.comThe X-Men scramble to ward off a potential resurrection of Arkea Prime only to discover their worst fears coming true.

The new Sisterhood is already one step ahead with the meteorite that carried Arkea to Earth now in their possession.

Escalation is the issue’s theme with Sabra and Gabriel Shepherd joining the X-Men, Jubilee and Karima Shapandar using their espionage skills to lock onto Ana Cortes’ position, and Rachel Grey interrogating her former boyfriend John Sublime.

Sublime feels Arkea come back online, and the effects are devastating. After possessing Reiko, Arkea gives power to Cortes, Typhoid Mary, and the Enchantress who has been freed from Odin’s imprisonment.

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Prime Time — X-Men #8 Review

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Marvel

A burglary at the Mansion leads the X-Men on a chase ’round the world to keep Lady Deathstrike and her new allies from reviving a dangerous foe.

Last issue, Deathstrike entered the body of Ana Cortes, hoping to gain access to the Omega Sentinel technology that has since come back online with Karima Shapandar’s return to form. A failed raid put Yuriko onto newer intel which gave Deathstrike and her hired gun, Typhoid Mary, information on the existence of a more dangerous enhancement — Arkea Prime.

A successful snatch and grab at the beginning of X-Men #8 opens the door for a meeting between John Sublime and Yuriko/Ana Cortes with a discussion about the potential of Arkea’s power. A brief tussle over the chip reveals the chip containing Arkea has become inert.

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This issue would have been the end of Arkea and the story arc, but Sublime can’t keep his mouth shut about the original meteor that brought Arkea to Earth. Deathstrike and Typhoid Mary team up with Enchantress for a three-team partnership that presumably begins the Sisterhood of Evil Mutants.

X-Men #8 spends less time building up the components of the team, moving ahead at a brisk pace with Psylocke tailing Typhoid Mary to Colombia. If the issue were a movie, there’d be plenty of expensive set changes as the story goes to South America then Norway with a brief cutscene at the Jean Grey School.

The developments in the plot are interesting enough, though the details are a little sketchy. Brian Wood has it all mapped out, but some of the elements seem a bit forced. Sublime gives away too much by talking about Arkea’s meteor — in the X-Universe one should never make assumptions on the safety of information — and it’s a little bit convenient that all of the information about Arkea Prime is stored in one box. That a C-lister like Typhoid Mary could sneak into the Mansion for a snatch and grab — if anything, it shows a lack of awareness on the X-Men’s part especially in the wake of Deathstrike’s raid.

Perhaps the biggest plot hole — Arkea’s existence on a meteor would make sense if she weren’t bacterium (singular). Maybe there’s some comic book science to be done or a re-examination of Arkea Prime’s biology on a microscopic level. Either way, it just seems like the story’s a little bit on rails at this point with manufactured plot points coming out of the woodwork to move things forward.

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Marvel

The artwork by Terry Dodson and Barry Kitson has a few inconsistencies — Kitson’s artwork has a similar tone to Dodson’s, but facial recognition takes a hit in some panels. It’s still largely well done, and the inks by Rachel Dodson, Kitson, Scott Hanna, Karl Kesel, and Terry Pallot keep things defined with bold and distinct lines.

Jason Keith’s colors are soft with a touch of gloss. There’s a clay-like texture to skin tones that looks a little plastic, but the quality shows in Keith’s shading and atmospheric lighting which changes with the environments.

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The birth of the Sisterhood gives the X-Men a formed threat, but will Wood give readers the action scenes to boot? With Battle of the Atom taking precedence, things for the X-Men title have been a little shaky, but there’s potential here to produce something.

X-Men #8 (2013)
Marvel
Words: Brian Wood
Pencils: Terry Dodson and Barry Kitson
Inks: Rachel Dodson, Kitson, Scott Hanna, Karl Kesel, and Terry Pallot
Colors: Jason Keith
Letters: Joe Caramagna

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