We’ve finally arrived in 2011! To kick off the new year, I’m taking out some of the backlog in the New Comic Day hangover. In this, the 21st edition of the feature, we’ll be looking at:
- Astonishing X-Men Xenogenesis #4 in which the good guys fight the bad guys.
- Justice League: Generation Lost #16 in which the good guys also fight the bad guys.
- New Mutants #20 in which I find out why last issue was called a story conclusion.
- Uncanny X-Men #531 in which the X-Men fight the sniffles.
- X-Factor #212 in which the team realizes how stupid it is to challenge Hela.
- X-Men #6 in which the vampire story finally ends.
- X-Men Legacy #243 in which Hellion and Omega Sentinel fight to see who’s crazier.
I know it’s been a while, but it should come as no surprise that the reviews following the jump will contain SPOILERS. Let’s begin.
Astonishing X-Men Xenogenesis
I am so over this book. Warren Ellis’s run on Astonishing X-Men is one issue away from ending and the team has come no further from where it started. No characters have developed, nothing interesting has gone down. Really, the only thing of consequence in his three-story run has been Forge being killed off at the close of the first one. Not that Forge has been relevant within the last decade or so. But wouldn’t this be something to mention on the last issue? Why am I covering this here?
Basically, once again, nothing really happened this issue. We get the next part of a big fight scene. The various monsters attack the various baddies and the X-Men are caught in the middle. We get some witty banter here and there, but there’s really nothing to be said here. Astonishing X-Men has most certainly run its course – there’s simply no reason to have three ongoing core X-Men titles. So it should be no surprise that the book will be continuing past Ellis’s run. Just not without me reading it, that is.
Justice League: Generation Lost
DC certainly does love its year-long gimmick, but even with the issue number cut in half, JL:GL has run into the same problem that its predecessors did. There simply isn’t enough story to throw into 26 issues. With Max Lord having tossed Checkmate, the Metal Men and Magog at the JLI thus far, now the expendable villains of the day are the Creature Commandos, which I have almost zero knowledge of. It’s basically an extended fight scene to get to the climactic moment – Max Lord kidnapping Blue Beetle for whatever reason. With Max Lord’s resurrection mission fulfilled – he caused Captain Atom to kill Magog, thus preventing the midwest disaster of Kingdom Come – one has to wonder just what he’s up to this time. Since Blue Beetle can do practically anything with his powers, I suppose he’s the jack-of-all-trades tool for any and all diabolical schemes.
The real point of plot development here is Batman and Power Girl – both former members of the JLI – popping back up to once again realize that not everything is what it seems. Checkmate has discovered clues that the evidence of Atom killing Magog in cold blood may have been faked. Batman is suspicious (since he is the goddamn Batman, after all) and seems to be closing in on unlocking the hidden existence of Maxwell Lord. Power Girl? She’s got enormous boobs. Hey, someone had to say it.
Last issue, I commented that it was odd for the cover to say “Fall of the New Mutants: Conclusion” when it so obviously ended on a cliffhanger. The reason is that of this issue, the story is now called “Rise of the New Mutants”. Fair enough. When last we left our heroes, they had all been kidnapped by the Limbo Marines (sounds like a dance team) – except for Magik and Karma, who managed to get back to Utopia. As Illyana rallies the X-Men seemingly for a rescue mission, we get the reveal as to why she had let Karma use the Soul Sword back in the title’s opening story. Magik stores the sword inside of Karma before leaving with the X-Men and sends her into Legion’s mind to free the true Legion. And that can’t end well. Though it’s been largely hinted that Magma would not be surviving this story, it seems more likely to me that Illyana won’t be making it out alive. That may bum some people out, but since the book has been adamant that this Magik is NOT the Illyana that we knew and loved, I can’t say I’m too broken up about it. She’s done very little for the team except stand around and be mysterious.
Art was a little shaky this issue, as Leonard Kirk shared the duties, but the panel that really stood out was the last one. The “true” Legion inside of David Haller’s head was drawn in a style remenescent of Bill Sienkiewicz, who was the classic New Mutants artist who designed the character back in the 80’s. The homage was a welcome gift to us longtime NM fans – in a book that is actually little more than a gift to us longtime NM fans. An awesome gift, that is.
Next issue ends the story as well as writer Zeb Wells’s tenure on the book. Marvel has been extraordinarily hush-hush about his replacement. Their website doesn’t have any solicitation information for issue #22, and #23 – an Age of X tie-in – doesn’t have a writer or artist listed. As long as it’s not Chris Claremont or Louise Simonson, I’ll be happy. Yeah the Forever books were fun, but I’d like this one to stay a little more in the current age.
Back to Utopia where we see the X-Men still suffering from a virus concocted by Sublime. Sublime is a rather vague villain from the days of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, but this time it’s just his old company being run by Lobe (not the Tick villain). The virus unleashed during the villains’ earlier appearance has become a mutant-hating flu, and thus far no one’s been able to do anything about it. Cyclops has locked down Utopia, putting Angel in charge of an X-Men group including Dazzler, Northstar and Pixie in San Francisco, while also warning Emma Frost to stay away (she’s busy on a mission with Shadowcat and Fantomex involving Sebastian Shaw). The virus itself shuts down mutant powers, which isn’t that big of an issue for anyone…save Wolverine, who can’t live with the adamantium in his body without his healing factor. Kavita Rao of the X-Club is determined to prevent a panic and injects herself with a large dose of the virus to try to see if humans can contract it. It’s a pretty badass moment.
Off to the subplots, Angel’s team runs into the Sublime-created mutants who have become mirrors of the original five X-Men. While the new kids are determined to be the premier mutant heroes of the area, the X-Men don’t really want anything to do with them. Look for a bigger confrontation next issue. Over in…well, somewhere else, Emma tries to explain to Kitty why they don’t simply kill Sebastian Shaw. Her story, however, involves Shaw’s brutal and meaningless murder of two Hellfire Club dancers, which doesn’t really sit well with either Kitty or Fantomex, who simply drops Shaw out of EVA and lets him plummet to Earth. It gives the classic Shaw moment of him coming up from the impact obviously charged from his mutant powers. And cue the fight scene.
There was a lot going on this issue, and artist Greg Land stayed with it pretty well. Yes, for those of you haters out there, there were a couple of poses that looked like porn shots, but nothing too bad. His art definitely improves when he has more time to work on it. I was going to bring up a couple of panels in which Cyclops removes his ruby quartz glasses, wipes them off and puts them back on, while his eyes are obviously open. Cyclops, of course, cannot control his optic blasts and must constantly have them covered. But then I realized that it was a hint (one of two) that Cyclops himself had contracted the mutant virus and could no longer use his blasts. Well played.
This issue: Thor! There was really no reason to have Thor in this issue beyond the sales boost from adding a popular character. At least since the team was in waaaaay over the heads by confronting Hela to rescue Pip the Troll, it made sense. And statements like “confronting Hela to rescue Pip the Troll” is why I love this book so much.
We get a pretty big fight scene this issue, but with two big developments for the various characters of the book. First, while fighting Hela’s minions, we are reunited with Hrimhari, the Asgardian wolf prince who sold his freedom to Hela in exchange for Elixir’s life so he in turn could save Wolfsbane’s life back in X-Force. He’s also the father of Rahne’s baby, unbeknownst to the X-Factor (except for maybe Layla Miller since, well, you know…). In typical soap opera fashion, Hrimhari sensed Rahne’s scent on Shatterstar and while fighting let it slip that he had knocked her up. Shatterstar, you may recall, is in a relationship with Rictor, whom Wolfsbane has told everyone is the father and has been jealous of Rictor’s attention towards her ever since. This isn’t going to end well. The other major development was Madrox’s decision to use Darwin to counter Hela’s death touch, counting on his mutant powers to ensure his survival through sudden evolution to save him. The result evolved Darwin into a god of death himself, allowing the team to escape. We know that next issue, Darwin will seemingly be leaving the team. This probably has something to do with it.
The plot developments here also answered my questions about the odd pacing decision to put a Rictor/Wolfsbane story in the middle of a fight scene during this story. That had to be done before the end of the Hela fight, since when the team returns home, Shatterstar is obviously going to confront Wolfsbane about her baby’s true father. And since they needed the rest of the team to be away for it, there was really no other place to put it. I’m cool with that.
Another good issue for perhaps the best X-Book currently out there.
With issue #6, we finally bring to a close the vampire Curse of the Mutants storyline, and its really anticlimactic. After the X-Men trolloped the enemy forces during their invasion of Utopia last issue, there was little to do beyond beating Xarus and calling it a day. Dracula, whom the X-Men brought back to life, does the deed on his own by ripping his son’s head clear off his body. This is a far cry from when Xarus killed Dracula before this story started, but I suppose with his army defeated and his leadership in question, Xarus was left on his own and couldn’t come close to matching his father’s power. So that’s good.
The problem is that the X-Men have spent this entire storyline being ridiculously stupid. So to kill Xarus, they needed a powerhouse able to get in close and take him down. You might not remember this, but they actually HAD THAT when Wolverine went in to go save Jubilee. Wolvie had the power and the ability to get the job done, but unfortunately, Cyclops found it necessary to remotely turn off his healing factor so he would become a vampire for a couple of issues so the X-Men could get a hearty chuckle when the vampire’s invasion, which apparently rested completely on having Wolverine on their side, blew up in their faces. Not to say the X-Men couldn’t have defeated the vampires on their own. That was pretty obvious as well.
So instead, the X-Men gave up the quick fix and instead brought Dracula back to life and let him do the deed. Surely they wouldn’t allow him to take control of the newly unified vampire clans that Xarus had led, right? Far more power than he had before – bad? Well, actually Cyclops decided to stop Blade from killing Dracula as a thank you for doing a job they could have easily done themselves. And why, you ask? Some kind of arrangement that Cyke apparently thought the two of them had. So Dracula is left to lead his vampires and terrorize the world, as long as they don’t bother the X-Men. Greeeeat.
This story has been a mess from the get-go. X-Men was an odd place to rebuild the vampire culture of the Marvel U anyway. It seemed more like six issues spent getting Jubilee turned into a vampire. And you know something – THAT I’m fine with. It’s the most interesting thing Jubilee’s done since she pulled Wolverine off of the X-shaped crucifix in the Australian Outback back in Uncanny X-Men #251. Paco Medina’ s art is pretty, too.
I can’t decide who it sucks to be more – Omega Sentinel or Hellion. On the one hand, Omega Sentinel had her humanity ripped away by becoming a sleeper agent of Bastion’s rather horrible Operation: Zero Tolerance, slowly regained said humanity, was stripped down by an evil group, rebuilt only to become possessed by Malice and forced to become a Marauder, then freed only to have her programming corrupted by Bastion, stripping her humanity once more and ultimately getting pretty much destroyed by Hellion. On the other hand…well, I can’t actually finish that in Hellion’s case. Get it?
It’s a pretty tragic ending for Omega Sentinel, though being that no one was really using her besides Mike Carey once in a blue moon, I suppose it’s no big loss. Once again, this would be an opportunity to bring back the longtime MIA Neal Shaara, whom Sentinel was introduced for, but I doubt that’s going to happen. Instead, let’s focus on Hellion’s descent to villainy all because he got his hands blown off, even though his powers more than make up for that loss. That’s what bugs me about this Hellion problem – there are about 12 different solutions for it. Beyond just finding Elixir with the mutant-detecting Cerebra and going to him with one of the X-Men’s jets and having him heal them, the X-Men could probably just go ask one of the Marvel U’s resident geniuses to build him some awesome substitutes. That would be a walk in the park for someone like Reed Richards or Tony Stark. Hell, Hank Pym could likely pull it off, though Hellion would run the risk of his hands ultimately trying to destroy him. Even without them, Hellion is a telekinetic – and a pretty powerful one at that. He doesn’t really even need his hands for anything.
Though I usually like anything written by Mike Carey, I can’t help but feel like they’re ruining a really good character in Hellion. I suppose it’s simply par for the course where the New X-Men kids are concerned, though. What a waste.
- X-Factor #213 will likely see the proverbial shit hit the fan when the team gets home.