Really BIG New Comic Day Hangover (Catch-up Edition)

It’s been a little over two months since I posted a New Comic Day hangover and I really feel bad about it.  But here we will play catch up in a really big way.  I hope you’re looking for a lot of info because we’re looking at 25 books today.  They are:

  • Astonishing X-Men #38-39 in which we get two separate stories with two separate casts.
  • Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force #1  in which Marvel suckers me into buying a “tie-in” book.
  • New Mutants #26-27 in which the 3rd gen X-Men go after X-Man.
  • Uncanny X-Force #10-11 in which the team heads to the Age of Apocalypse.
  • Uncanny X-Men #537-540 in which Kitty gets her schtick together and Hope has a happening before Fear Itself comes a-knockin’.
  • X-Factor #219-221 in which we get some fallout from J. Jonah Jameson and Wolfsbane’s baby has issues.
  • X-Men Giant Size #1 & 12-14  in which evolutionaries don’t like mutants.
  • X-Men: Legacy #249-251 in which a new group heads after some Legion problems.
  • X-Men: Prelude to Schism #2-4 in which we get some back story with no real purpose.
  • X-Men: Schism #1 in which the next chapter of the X-Men begins.

Got all that?  There will be SPOILERS past the jump, of course.  Let us begin.

Astonishing X-Men
Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but Astonishing X-Men has found itself a neat little place between the plains of ‘quaint’ and ‘irrelevant’.  The historically schedule-plagued book has never been able to come out with any kind of regularity, be it art issues or writers issues or whatever.  And thus the storyline falls behind the rest of the X-books, turning the title into a shined up variety of X-Men Unlimited rather than the main book it was so long ago.  During Warren Ellis’s run as writer, Marvel seemed to tire of waiting for the ongoing storyline to end and published the following one as a mini-series with mixed results.  This time around, they didn’t even bother with that and thus three issues into one story, the book suddenly jumps to a completely different story – with a different cast and creative team – and starts going back and forth between them.

Or presumably that’s the plan – they put out two issues in two weeks and then haven’t put one out since (nearly two months).  It’s really sad (nearly pathetic) when you have TWO creative teams running back and forth on the same title and you still can’t get it out every month.

And it’s not like the story is worth the wait.  I’m not saying either of them are bad,  but a release of Astonishing now doesn’t give the same feeling that it did back when Joss Whedon and John Cassaday could eventually get around to putting one out.  Back then we had a reason to care about them – the books were structured so that Astonishing was the only book that starred the likes of Kitty Pryde, Beast, Colossus, Cyclops and Emma Frost.  Sure, they might pop up in a small role in another book, but their own featured adventures were put into Astonishing.  That is not the case anymore, and all of the cast featured in both stories are running all over the place throughout the X-books.  And thus Astonishing becomes more of an anthology book in which unimportant stories are told with familiar faces for no real reason.

The A story going on is focused on Armor, the teenage student introduced in Whedon’s run who doesn’t really fit in with the kids leftover from New X-Men because of her role in Astonishing.  It’s basically an X-Men twist on the “monsters attack Japan” trope, which is perfectly fine if you like that sort of thing.  There’s nothing really much to say about it.  If you like Armor then you are probably enjoying this story.  And hopefully you do, since the rest of the cast has dwindled down to just Cyclops, Wolverine and Emma Frost who all also are appearing monthly in Uncanny and X-Men.

The B story scoops up the rest of the characters who have appeared in the previous two writers’ runs on Astonishing – Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Lockheed, Storm, Agent Brand and a visiting Beast – and tosses them out into space for a Brood story.  If you’ve seen one Brood story, you’ve seen them all and there’s nothing really special about this one.  It’s perfectly fine for what it is, though I’m not a fan of the art – especially with Beast, who looks positively monstrous.

It should be worth noting that upon the start of Schism this week, both stories in this title are now behind the curve.  In the A story, Cyclops and Wolverine are running hand in hand in Japan while in the B story, Kitty Pryde is still stuck in her phasing spacesuit.  The next issue won’t be out for another two weeks, but at least it’s solicited.  With yet another X-Men team book being launched after Schism, it seems likely that at least one of the existing ones will get the axe, so I’m hoping that the cast reunion means the end of days for Astonishing.  The book has lost all it’s purpose.

Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force
There’s a classic marketing trick in comics where a publisher will put out a mini-series in which a popular title ties into the big event going on.  It’s a double whammy of fan interest as the people reading the event will pick it up because of the tie-in, and the people reading the ongoing will pick it up to see their characters in action.  And thus we have Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force.

Why did I go into that entire situation for you?  Because there’s not really a whole lot to talk about here.  An enemy comes up with a situation and X-Force goes through some rather violent means to take care of it.  It’s not really a part of Fear Itself except that the big event is going on in the background.  The plot is that a previously unknown hero is going to be killed on a live broadcast and X-Force is off to save him.  That may seem a little high profile for the hush-hush team, but it’s not like this story means anything in the long run.  Simone Bianche provides the always beautiful art, thankfully a bit more subdued then his stint over on Astonishing, though the random hero kidnapee’s costume looks a little much like Havok.  Enough so that I was wondering if it was a plot point.

Ah well – acceptable for what it is.

New Mutants
Finishing up its new direction arc, New Mutants has a whole lot of Sugar Man for your viewing pleasure.  All of you Age of Apocalypse junkies can go crazy.  In case you’ve forgotten, Cyclops has tasked the New Mutants team with cleaning up the post-Mega Event dangling threads.  This might not last past the Schism break (I assume that the team will be going to Wolverine’s side because of the fallout with Magik) but for now we’re using as a means to get X-Man (Nate Grey) back into the X-Men fold.  Or not really back into the fold as he’s never really been a part of the X-Men beyond one forgettable Astonishing X-Men mini-series that set up the forgettable Apocalypse: The Twelve.

Anywhoo, X-Man was sort of killed off at the close of his own series back during the Counter X run and then brought back during the Dark X-Men mini during the Dark Reign stint.  That series ended on a cliffhanger with Norman Osborn capturing Nate and carting him away.  And thus the New Mutants have to go out looking for him.  Unfortunately, Norman also captured the Sugar Man and when his empire collapsed, the secret prisoners were lost, since none of the heroes knew about them.  Sugar Man escaped and took the still captive Nate and used him as a means to return to the Age of Apocalypse timeline.

I’m not a big Sugar Man fan, but Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have managed to use him brilliantly here.  Sugar Man, like Sinister, toys around with mutant genetics.  He’s the creator of the Genoshan Mutate process, if you didn’t know.  Unfortunately, with M-Day reducing the mutant population to around 200, the mad mutant geneticist is left without a lot of raw material, so he wants to go home.  Dark Beast has a working portal to the AoA, but Sugar Man hardly knows that, so he’s having X-Man rip open portals to realities and sending in spliced “mutates” to search.  New Mutants show up, beat the baddie, and save the day.  The End.

Nate Grey, like Cable in his most powerful days, is a tricky character because he’s so ridiculously powerful.  DnA have used the rather vaguely defined Omega Machine from Dark X-Men to severely power down Nate and use him as an actual character, defined as “residual telekinesis”.  Of course, Nate’s super powers have been the basis of his character for well over a decade now, so what do you do with him now that he’s just a low-level telekinetic?  Perhaps we’ll see over in X-Men where he was shown in the intro art.

Uncanny X-Force
Speaking of the Age of Apocalypse, that’s what X-Force has been dealing with as well.  Back in the first story of the series, X-Force killed a child who would eventually grow up to be the rebirth of Apocalypse.  Turns out you can’t just go out and kill Apocalypse, since he’s the creation of the Celestials to ensure the evolution of humanity.  In theory, had they just let Apocalypse be, he could have repaired the whole M-Day problem.  Probably not well, but I digress.  So with the kid dead, the next in line awakens – and that’s Archangel who has become quite bloodthirsty as of late.  As in killing his own employees to keep the Shadow King from exposing the existence of the X-Men kill squad.

As it turns out, the only way to purge the “death seed” of Apocalypse in Warren is with a “life seed” that doesn’t exist on Earth, so the Dark Beast takes X-Force to the Age of Apocalypse world to go get one.  Cue the misunderstanding fight with that reality’s X-Men and then the real kicker – Sunfire just ups and destroys it.  What now?

Rick Remender goes into the Age of Apocalypse knowing what he’s doing.  He has some neat character interaction – most notably between Pyslocke and the AoA Sabretooth who were teammates in Exiles.  Also, Wolverine has interactions with the AoA Nightcrawler, which doesn’t sit well since Kurt’s death is still so fresh in his mind.  Then there’s the whole being aligned with the Dark Beast, which any AoA fan will tell you is grounds for an X-Men ass-kicking.  It’s really a well done work by Remender who really seems to be enjoying his romp through.  And then there’s the cliffhanger of our Wolverine coming face-to-face with the AoA Jean Grey, who you may recall, was knocking boots with the AoA Weapon X.  Hoo boy.

My only issue here is that I simply don’t get how the AoA is where it is.  In my high school days I took pride in securing, through issues and trade paperbacks, the entire Age of Apocalypse story from 1995.  I’m quite familiar with the entire run, start to finish.  In the couple times the AoA has been revisited since then, I’ve resisted buying them because I feel that the story was wrapped up quite nicely – everyone got all blowed up at the end.  Even if that wasn’t the case, there are some characters who died in the finale who have popped back up here.  Jean Grey was killed by Havok in X-Men: Omega.  It’s the reason the bombs went off.  If this was undone in subsequent stories, much like why Magneto is in a wheelchair, I am unaware.  But I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see.

Uncanny X-Men
This will be a bit of a lengthy one, as Marvel has put out four issues of Uncanny in two months, ending one arc, starting another and tossing a one-off in the middle.  First up is the follow-through to the Kitty Pryde story.  Joss Whedon wrapped up Astonishing X-Men by shooting Kitty into deep space in a giant metal bullet.  Matt Fraction, during his run on Uncanny, took the opportunity to pull Kitty back to Earth, but left her in a permanently phased state.  If he had a point for it in mind, he never got around to it, so Kieron Gillen was left with the responsibility of doing something with Kitty.  He manages it quite well in a Breakworld invasion of Utopia.  While Kruun is busy tearing apart the X-Men, his woman Haleena decides that they have to change, so she kills Kitty and does the little resurrection trick from Astonishing to bring her back.  Kruun uses most of his life energy to bring her back, and the Breakworlders set up town in a neighborhood in San Francisco.  Yay!

This was about all that could be done with the stuck-phased mode for Kitty.  Gillen has restored her to normal and put her back into the X-Men while not simply dismissing the matter of her being stuck in the giant magnetic bullet for months without food or drink.  And that’s all we really needed.  Kitty’s back, she’s whole, shut up.  Good, fun story.

The third issue was a one-off story focusing on Hope.  Now you might be thinking “Why are we having a Hope story in Uncanny when she has her own book over in Generation Hope?  And to that I say I don’t know.  It could be to remind readers who aren’t picking up Generation Hope (like me) that she’s still around and seemingly important.  Anyway, Hope gets kidnapped by the Crimson Commando, who hasn’t been a relevant character since…well, ever really.  Many moons ago, he was a World War II veteran whose powers kept him young and joined up with the government villain team Freedom Force.  Their last mission left him maimed and in true 90’s fashion, he was turned into a cyborg.  No one’s really used him in over a decade.  Here, he’s been pulled out as a victim of M-Day who without his powers is little more than a walking corpse kept alive through his cybernetics.  He’s learned of Hope’s tie to new mutants and wants her to fix him.

But that story fizzles out pretty quickly as the main focus is to establish the relationship between Wolverine and Hope.  It’s coooooooooold.  Beyond the issue of Wolvie losing his best friend to saving Hope, Wolverine is well aware that while Cyclops is counting on Hope as a messiah, she may well be the horror that Bishop feared her to be and thus might have to kill her.  So he doesn’t want to get too close to her.  If you think all the way back to the Dark Phoenix Saga where Wolverine couldn’t bring himself to kill Jean Grey, that’s what he’s trying to prevent here.  And she’s cool with that.  The point that weakens the issue is that if Hope is so damn important to the X-Men, why does Wolverine go alone to save her?  You’d think that Cyclops would send every available X-Man to get her back.  But oh well.

And then on to the tie-in to Fear Itself.  I’m at a disadvantage here because I have not been reading the main series and thus I don’t really know what’s going on there.  But it doesn’t play in until the last page, so I suppose I have until the next issue to catch up before I really look like I don’t know what I’m talking about.  This issue is split into three sections – none of which particularly good for the X-Men.  First, Cyclops is arguing with the mayor of San Francisco over whether he has made some kind of dealing to keep the city safe from the events of Fear Itself.  The argument here is that people think Cyke is not keeping San Francisco safe, but rather just Utopia.  Cyclops is rather argumentative on the point, which is really uncalled for.  It plays more into the direction he’s going for Schism, so I get it, but it’s still kind of off here.  It’s all moot when the Juggernaut, powered by the hammer thing of Fear Itself comes a-crashin’ in at the end.

Second storyline is Colosssus and Kitty Pryde dealing with the incarceration of Magik in the newly rebuilt X-Brig.  This is more of a New Mutants issue, since Magik is a character from that title, but since both Colossus and Kitty are in Uncanny I suppose it fits here.  Since her return in X-Infernus, no one seems to be able to give a straight answer to how much of Illyana Rasputin is in the current form of Magik, and this scene doesn’t really add anything to it.  It’s more of a scene setter, and if the solicitations are any guide, this should have been handled in New Mutants.  This is also the only point that I can complain about Greg Land’s art, as he’s drawn Magik with full make-up and hair done, despite being incarcerated in a small cell in a brig.  Other than that, the art’s fine.

And finally, we have a sequence in which Namor has prepared for battle (in a separate Fear Itself tie-in) and stops by to give Emma Frost a little pickle tickle.  She’s as surprised as I was by Namor’s gumption on the matter and she refuses him, mentioning that she’s in a relationship with Cyclops.  It doesn’t actually happen, but the whole sequence does give us a sign that perhaps the relationship between Cyclops and Emma Frost isn’t as solid as we might all believe that it is.  Maybe they will end up on opposite sides, post-Schism?

It’s almost to the point where you could say that X-Factor really isn’t an X-Book anymore.  Sure, the characters are all mutants and have at one time or another fought under Charles Xavier’s banner.  But nothing going on in the rest of the X-World is touching X-Factor.  They are going in their own direction to the beat of their own X-Drum.  First off we wrap up the J. Jonah Jameson story in which most of the team goes after the mercenaries that killed Strong Guy (he got better) and win the battle.  Noteworthy here is the passion in which M fights against the woman who hurt Guido.  Despite all her selfishness, Monet actually does appreciate and maybe even like her teammates.  Guido’s dying words to her certainly flipped a switch in her and it led to a rather horrible fate for the villain once M was done with her.

With that done, we turn our focus to Wolfsbane’s baby.  X-Factor lost Rahne to X-Force after Messiah CompleX and got her back with a whole hell of a lot of damage done to the character.  The most noteworthy result, though, was that Rahne had been impregnated by an Asgardian wolf prince introduced waaaaaaay back in New Mutants: Special Edition #1 by Chris Claremont and Art Adams.  Peter David is the perfect writer to handle the matter since he himself re-explored this relationship in his Rahne of Terra books (that I have not actually read).  What you need to know is that the baby is a big deal (an Asgardian god-mutant hybrid) and there are forces out to get it.  What we get out of that is two issues of Wolfsbane and Shatterstar running around with a spiritual representation of the deceased Feral.  Nothing really came of this, but we know the baby is a big deal.

And it can’t turn out worse than Madrox and Siryn’s baby, right?

I can’t say that I’ve been very kind to this title since its inception.  Beyond making Jubilee interesting for the first time in a long time, the book has served absolutely no purpose other than to sap 4 bucks a month from my wallet.  But the regular writer has taken a storyline off to give the helm to X-Veteran Chris Yost with a Then-And-Now story about an evolutionary force dealing with mutants.  Back during the days of the original X-Men and the Brotherhood of EEEEEVIL Mutants, an entity confronted the X-Men and sought their aide in protecting the evolution of homo superior.  In the present day, the entities have returned seeking Cyclops as the fallout from M-Day hasn’t exactly been good for the future of mutantkind.  We’re set to believe that Cyclops did something severe back in the day and had the memories of all those involved repressed.

The story thus far has been the X-Men in the present stalling for time while the story of the past is told.  That means a lot of characters running in place trying to look busy before getting to their proper spots for the Big Finale.  The bright point is that it gives some of the Silver Age characters on Utopia – Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Magneto, Toad – a moment to shine.  Yost also takes the opportunity to pull some of the old New X-Men cast back into prominence, most notably Prodigy, who hasn’t had a noteworthy role since the X-Men moved to San Francisco.  It’s about time someone realized the kid was hanging around still.  Jeez.

We know that Cyclops did something major and we know that Magneto had something to do with it.  This would be a big deal if the X-Men line wasn’t stretched so ridiculously wide right now.  We know everything will turn out just fine because the big story is set for Schism and everyone is good there.  So this is a perfectly adequate story, but it’s watered down by the sheer size of the X-Men line.

X-Men Legacy
Age of X was a very good story, and it did a lot for the line.  So thumbs up for that.  The fallout of it falls specifically to X-Men: Legacy and Mike Carey, who wrote the story.  A Rogue-centric book for quite some time now, in the post Age of X story, the book has been retooled to a team book featuring Rogue, Magneto, Gambit, Professor X, Joanna Cargill (Frenzy) and Legion.  Now that right there is an issue with me.  There are no characters in that lineup that particularly interest me.  I suppose that’s a matter of personal preference.  Frenzy in particular is an example of a character who Mike Carey seems determined to make a semi-major player, but it just isn’t working for me.

So the team goes off to capture Legion’s escaped personas.  There’s not a whole lot to this.  Go get the persona, absorb it, done.  This is most likely going somewhere, but it just isn’t there yet.  I’m losing interest in this title, but I trust Mike Carey.  He is the best thing that’s happened to the X-Men in a long time.  I’ll stick with him.

X-Men: Prelude to Schism
Someone should really try to tell me what the hell was the point of this title.  This four issue mini series was broken into the leaders of the mutant race, past and present.  Charles Xavier, Magneto, Cyclops, and Wolverine.  We know that after Schism ends, the X-Men will be divided between Cyclops and Wolverine.  But if this series was supposed to lead into that at all, it certainly missed the mark.

Xavier’s issue dealt with his relationship with Cyclops in the early days of the X-Men.  Magneto’s dealt with his time in Auschwitz and the first battle with the X-Men.  Cyclops’s focused on his memories of his mother and the parachute drop with Havok that cost him the control of his optic blasts.  Wolverine’s dealt with Origin and his time with Weapon X.  Between all these flashbacks, a single scene dealing with the coming of an undefined threat and the top X-Men waiting for Cyclops to make a decision about it.  It didn’t work before the release of the first issue of Schism and now that it is out, it still doesn’t work.

This really was a waste of $12.

X-Men: Schism
I have a lot to say about this book.  I’m going to post it in a separate post.  Go check it out.

And that’s it!  Whew!  Let’s not wait so long next time, okay?  Next week, we’ll be looking at:

  • Uncanny X-Men #541 continues the Fear Itself tie-in.
  • X-Factor #222 deals with Rahne’s baby.
  • X-Men #15 closes Chris Yost’s evolution story.

See you then!

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