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X-Men Blue Captures us with Nostalgia and doesn’t Let Go

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I hate to say it, but it does need to be said. Anything included within Marvels crossover titles like Civil War II and the upcoming Secret Empire has been met with a feeling of dread. No, not the suspenseful in your seat kind of dread. Yet hope does remain in some of the more independent titles: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Mighty Thor, etc. Then I heard about ResurrXion, an entire series of comics coming out of the wake of still running titles Uncanny X-Men and Extraordinary X-Men and heavily influenced by the events of Death of X and mutant war with the Inhumans. The one that caught most of my appeal is X-Men: Blue, which consists of the time displaced team of the five original mutant heroes: Jean Grey, Cyclopes, Beast, Iceman, and Angel.

I won’t lie—I’m a Jean Grey fanboy. From her great stories with the X-Men in the Silver Age of comics, to her many deaths (heh), her time as the Phoenix and many incarnations after. Though what really surprised me was that this time around, she’s leading the team. Now the critics will likely yell that we see too much of her from anything X-men related and my response would be: you know what? Good. Despite the overuse of the Phoenix arc she’s a very well written and conflicted character who can arise to many situations. I for one am excited to see her shine, especially when her solo run comes along in May. She’s basically what Barbara Gordon is for me with DC. Clearly I have a thing for gingers…

Jean’s team didn’t have too big of a role in the X-Men Prime one shot that launched ResurrXion, they were around just for Kitty Pryde to observe in the Danger Room only to find out that it was a hologram on loop. Not much was revealed as to why they left, only that it was a question in direction of the students attending Xavier’s school. Clearly the two had polarizing views of what the now deceased Charles Xavier saw in the world and what he wanted to do to fulfill his dream. Now I’ll say this just to get it out of the way. This comic was great. Compared to most of things Marvel has been turning over recently, it’s nice to see them triumph, even if they have to use nostalgia to create appeal.

New Team. Old Faces.           

 As mentioned previously, the old team is back after being caught in an anomaly several years ago but now they have their own thing going on and whether it is the original team or not, they are much different than they once were. If you read the Guardians of the Galaxy miniseries The Trial of Jean Grey, you’ll remember that it was revealed to a much younger Jean that her older self would one day commit a mass genocide. Though it was not the Phoenix at work, a power is unleashed within her that still instills a fear of just how powerful she really is. It even scares her. That makes her perfect for the leadership role in my opinion. Scott remains mostly the same only now he has to cope with everyone thinking that the elder (and now dead) Cyclopes is the same as he. Bobby on the other hand seems to be flourishing in his new identity, after it was revealed long ago by Jean that he was gay it messed with his mind that he couldn’t tell. Yet in this first issue he seems to melt back into old self, which shows he’s finally beginning to accept himself. (Though are fans after how poorly Bendis handled it?) Hank has apparently become a mystic and can open portals to hell and such now. Angel is of course as cocky as ever, a nice change in heart after his counterparts’ role in Uncanny X-Men.

Overall though, they worked well with one another. The ensuing fight against the Juggernaut was a tough one and they handled at as team should. Testing out all their signature moves to see which one worked best and when none did, they improvised, bringing the hulking giant to his knee, or rather sending him and his knees to Siberia. Seriously though Hank, portals through hell? The interaction between the team members during the fight on the yacht are hilarious but also serious; from Bobby charmingly annoying Scott to death to the caution they display, especially with Beasts new “powers” show us that Jean truly has learned to take on the leadership role.

Ulterior Motives

So we all know that our favorite mutant supremacist turned over a new leaf, sort of. The previews for this comic didn’t leave out that Magneto was to become the new mentor of the rogue X-Men. The whole yacht incident playing out at the start of the comic is suspiciously random. No context was given as to why they were there in the first place but upon arrival it’s clear something was wrong with the scene. The question still burns there though, why were they there? It’s not till the end until we actually see Magneto, but all the points lead to one thing, even before he mentions it. The Hellfire Club. I mean Jean Grey kind of just says it when she calls out Black Tom Cassidy for his arrogant attitude and overall white collar demeanor. Yet, back to the point is we’ve been burned by Magneto before, we know him and what is always his motive for doing anything; the advancement of mutants over humans.

He almost looks like…nah

I see this playing out in three different ways. First, Magneto isn’t changed. He’s up to his old ways and using Jean Grey and the team in order to take out undesirables, aka the Hellfire Club, in order to establish himself as their superior. They’ve always butt heads in the past and what would change that? Second, Magneto was truly so overwhelmed by Charles’ death that he truly wants to take up the mantle for himself and that’s where the final one comes. Either this is him trying to remove mutants who would set a bad example for the world (as he has so ironically done for decades) or his mind has become so twisted that he feels the need to correct all his wrongs. We’ve seen the good in him in the current running Uncanny X-Men, but as I said; this is Magneto we’re talking about.

Another Wolverine?

In this debut issue we were also given an interesting post scene in a very snowy landscape. A group of small town hunters trying to defend their hunting grounds from a beast plaguing the local game leads to a merry chase in the woods. When they are set upon by a Wendigo, a strange hooded man appears with three signature claws detracting from his fists. Before seeing his face I bet all of you were screaming Wolverine but oh no, it’s Jimmy Hudson! For those not familiar with him, in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, he’s Logan’s son. He possesses the same powers as his father with the added one of being able to coat his claws in a biological metal. While the purpose was clearly only to introduce him into the universe his purpose can’t really be deduced. We’ll have to wait next month for that one.

Is that a real Wendigo?

The Art

This was harder to judge than normal considering the way this comic is drawn changes from going from extremely cartoonish to slightly more realistic with really excellent shading. The fight scenes are incredibly well drawn whether it was too bright or dark. What did bother me a little was that some characters we’re given much more detail than others. For example, Juggernaut and Magneto looked amazing, you could see every scratch on Juggernauts costume while the well placed greys and blacks on Magneto made his character seem so dark, he was almost Batman. On the other hand, out of all the X-men the most standout one was Hank. Everyone else was very bland, even Iceman who on all accounts should be the best looking considering he’s the only one who can change his form anymore. Again it wasn’t terrible but it can definitely be improved.

I’m the Juggernaut bitches!

Final Thoughts

An excellent start to what could be the start of a great run for Marvel, which we sorely need much more of. The character development and plot devices were used to their potentials and left us with questions we are eager to see answered. The return of these classic heroes and their multilayered and various personalities creates such a choice driven story in which readers will love to choose their favorite characters and stick by them to the very end. The ending was great and should be built upon in the next issue as well as the post credit scene. The art is not perfect, yet whatever is? Saying that is constructive criticism, my way of telling you that you’re doing well, but you can do so much better.


Final Score: 8.5/10

Writer: Cullen Bunn

Artists: Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni

Colors: Matt Milla

Letters: Joe Caramagna

Images Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Hey, everyone! Just your friendly neighborhood nerd. From NYC/NJ, 26 years old. Ask me about a Fandom and I can go on for hours. Firefly, Penny Dreadful, and A Song of Ice and Fire are my favorites, let's get nerdy.

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Unrighteous Retribution Unfolds in Saga

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If there was ever any doubt about Saga‘s creators’ ambition to create a deep narrative, it was dispelled like twenty issues ago. Hell, maybe you even knew it at first read. Wherever you look, there is something to see in this comic, something to laugh or cry over. Aside from promising features and solid story and character development, another feature that can ensure a title’s relevance is longevity. And there’s no better way to guarantee longevity than by introducing a new (efficient) baddie, which this issue is all about.

Things seem relatively calm in the throes of Alana’s painful but necessary abortion. Nobody is hot on Hazel’s trail. Thus, the conflict must come from somewhere else; otherwise, it would come off as a vulgar contrivance. For this reason, somebody else suffers the debuting antagonist’s hatred: Billy, aka The Will. Last time we saw him, a villainous presence incapacitated him right after killing Sweet Boy. Today, we see the fruition of that deed. Little happens, but there is much to say, nevertheless.

Issue #47
“Does everyone you meet end up dead?”

It makes sense that this new villain, Ianthe, takes up the cover for the issue, seeing as how all of it takes place in her living room. In terms of demeanour and style, she certainly conveys the magnificent asshole feel. But as we’ll soon know, her acts and character will imbue her with impunity, a key ingredient in the making of a despicable baddie. Interestingly, during his slightly physical, mostly emotional torture, we get to know a lot about The Will. More accurately, the key moments in his past that have led him to become this haunted, not-quite-heroic-not-quite-villainous figure.

With the use of a magical device plugged to Billy’s head, Ianthe brings out his memories, going as far as his childhood. Sophie and he were children in a broken home, where their father abused them. Things took a turn (for better and worse) when their uncle Steve came to pick them up. Things looked ripe for returning to their mum, who was successfully recovering from her alcohol addiction. But daddy dearest would have none of it. In fact, he was about to punish Sophie for writing a letter about the things he did. This triggered an active and definite response from Steve.

By the by, Uncle Steve is a Freelancer. He went by The Letter. And he axed the kids’ dad right in front of them. Although Billy’s expression is completely neutral, one can distinguish the sowing of a seed in the child. This was most likely the moment when Billy and Sophie chose their path – so nobody else would for them. Ianthe begins her villainous discourse after this sequence. She discusses her motivations and delight in reviving her captive’s ghosts, you know the drill. She is exacting revenge on the former Freelancer because he killed her fiance. Heartbreaking.

His name was Hektor, and he was a security consultant in Sextillion. Sounds harmless enough, and forgettable enough. Of course, this rings no bells for The Will, or for us. We get a visual cue when Ianthe removes her mask, but I literally had to go back to Saga‘s early issues to know who the hell this guy was. I don’t think that was an oversight on Brian’s part—rather a way to underline just how forgettable he was. And that’s because he was one of the goons trying to stop The Will from getting Sophie out of Sextillion. So, fuck this guy, and fuck the validity behind Ianthe’s vengeance.

Not that she believes The Will. Then again, she probably wouldn’t care.

The second memory Ianthe replays is the moment when The Will decided to get a sidekick. He still had hair back then and was in the middle of a mission with The Stalk. The usual banter and bicker goes on as they slaughter all the X-Files-style grey guys around them. The teasing chemistry between them is palpable, even at their current platonic bond. Well, I say platonic, but they’re basically agreeing to get together and fuck right after they’re done with the job. And the rest is history. The Stalk marks the second person in The Will’s life who is of utmost importance. Dead like his sister, though, she continued to haunt him via hallucinations.

So far, Ianthe hasn’t been pulling up any noteworthy vulnerabilities to exact her revenge. That is, until the third memory, featuring Gwendolyn on the green planet of wacky meats. Naturally, Ianthe pinpoints her as his weak point, an asset to inflict proportionate pain to The Will by killing her. Sinister. However, something is discussed in this memory that also captures Ianthe’s attention. Gwendolyn talks about Marko, Alana… and their offspring, Hazel. Being a diplomat (basically an untouchable criminal), Ianthe realizes she can use this information to her advantage. And if state villains have taught us anything, she’ll be willing to do horrendous things to gain this asset.

With The Will as her prisoner, Ianthe takes off and joins the pursuit, bringing heat to a path going cool. Alas, let’s not forget, she also brings a promise of carnage upon The Will’s beloved. And there’s no guarantee she’ll stop there. Lying Cat and Sophie may be in peril as well. As Ianthe’s potential for cruelty was early proven when telling Bill she made a rug out of Sweet Boy, we readers are left to shudder at this new villain’s approach. Because of all things that can make an already dangerous villain more of a menace, purpose ranks high.

Stay tuned, lovelies. A vengeful scourge is about to unite our heroes’ and The Will’s path. Expect a catastrophe for the whole family to enjoy.


Saga Issue #47 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

Images Courtesy of Image Comics

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Analysis

Batwoman Isn’t Built For One-Shots Or Fill-Ins

Griffin

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[Danny Elfman Theme DOES NOT Play]

Wow. Just…wow. Okay, I was already keenly aware that any solo outing for Kate needed a very strong writer to actually work. Someone who did the homework, and understood that you can’t just throw her at things and expect it all to make sense later. That’s all a given, considering how atypical a character Kate Kane became. She’s not idealized. She’s not an icon, or an immovable concept.

All of that I knew. After Batwoman #11, written by Kate Perkins* and illustrated by a criminally underused Scott Godlewski (Copperhead was great until he stopped doing the art) however, I learned something new. I learned that Kate is just not a character built for one-and-dones or fill-ins. Because that was the single worst Batwoman story I’ve read since that time she got raped by a vampire for like eight issues.

Pictured: someone who can write Kate. Not pictured: that time she got raped by a vampire for eight issues

Which, okay, not a super high bar, but it’s still worse than that abysmal hyper-goyish Batwoman “Hanukkah” story from last year’s DC Holiday Special…which was also written by Kate Perkins. She just wanted pie or something. It was bad.

Anyway, the problems Batwoman #11 has are emblematic of how this kind of story just doesn’t work for Kate. And, wouldn’t you know it, there’s even a meta-textual reasoning behind all of it, too! Because of course there is; it’s Kate.

Kate’s continuity has always progressed forward since 2006, having never actually been reset or rebooted. She’s in a weird position that leaves her extremely well-characterized, but also makes it nigh impossible to write her “passably”. That is, mediocre. She’s sort of all-or-nothing just due to her own context.

This is also why cameos for her are either pitch perfect or laughably bad. For example: Kate’s brief appearances in Mother Panic and Red Hood and the Outlaws were excellent (though the latter had a weird art problem where it didn’t match the tone of the script, but that’s minimal), while her extended existence in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey was…abysmal.

More to the point, the fact that Kate has never actually stopped developing (EVEN ANDREYKO KNEW THIS AND HE IS THE WORST) means that any narrative where she’s the focal point in which it’s just “filling dead air” isn’t going to work. And no matter how you look at it, that’s exactly what Batwoman #11 was.

It was a series of beats that were hit by a writer who seems to have a very odd “blueprint” of what a Batwoman story needs to have to be a Batwoman story. Despite the fact that that’s not how any kind of story works, unless it’s supposed to be formulaic by design. Perkins seems to be under the impression that a Batwoman story is the following things:

  1. Reference Family
  2. Fuck up
  3. Relate to Larger Arc, somehow
  4. Kate blames herself and mopes

In all fairness, this is technically correct from a certain point of view. If I were to explain how to write a Batwoman story, I’d probably tell you make sure her family is somehow involved. Aside from that…you kind of need to understand who Kate is if you’re going to have her mope or blame herself.

You have literally never done this.

Uh. No. That’s the opposite of what Kate does. She doesn’t get distracted like that while working, because that’s the only time things “make sense” for her. Also, that’s not how you soldier. I don’t have an issue with her getting clocked on the head by Pyg (his Grant Morrison Weird Factor justifies quite a bit) but I do have a problem with inverted characterization. Also, hey, uh, you can’t just like drop a huge revelation like Beth used to wear glasses but Kate didn’t on us???

They’re twins. Identical twins. That’s not how this works. We have NEVER seen either of them with glasses before, and also it took me several tries to realize that the one in the pirate costume wasn’t Beth because literally every other flashback we’ve ever seen with those two had Beth be the happy one trying to cheer a mopey Kate up.

That’s sort of an important tonal through-line that Perkins wanted to subvert without realizing how confusing and inconsistent it would be? Or…got them mixed up? Or just didn’t care? I have no idea. Look, this whole issue is just one big hot mess. Julia Pennyworth, an SAS operative who unlike Kate actually is a professional soldier getting captured by Pyg and…being helpless for the entire story after being absent from this book since issue #4 is just really stupid and bad.

Kate’s inner monologue is overwritten to the point where any nuance that may have been there is drilled into the dirt. Her tattoos are, once again, missing, despite those actually being super important, and everything Kate says sounds like someone trying to do a really half-effort impression of how a good writer writes Kate.

What even is this

She still talks “weird’, but the wrong kind of weird. “Creepazoid” is very much the wrong decade, to put it lightly. And then it just sort of ends, with nothing happening or changing (since it couldn’t because it was a fill-in and that’s still the largest issue) and we’re back exactly where we were so we can slip into another flashback issue next month. Which would have been perfect right after #10, but alas that was not to be. As for why that is, why any of this exists at all, well, it’s pretty simple.

Because, uh, yeah, Perkins is gone now. Bennett is back next month, hopefully forever, but…see, here’s the thing: Bennett is about as busy as a writer in her industry can get without literally dying. Not quite Brian Michael Bendis, but y’know he was just in the hospital for like a month so…probably better that she’s not doing that.

As of this moment, she is/was concurrently writing:

  • Batwoman
  • DC Bombshells
  • Animosity
  • Animosity: The Rise
  • Animosity: Evolution
  • Sheena: Queen of the Jungle
  • InSexts
  • Josie and the Pussycats
  • At least three other things we don’t know about/I couldn’t find/I forgot about

Can you guess which one on that list can actually have a fill-in writer? It’s Batwoman and only Batwoman. Ironically, the one thing that absolutely should never have a fill-in was the only one that truly could due to how schedules work with the Big Two.

God, this is just gonna be bad in trade, huh? Ugh. I’d shoot the fail counter up by 52 or something but this isn’t Kate Kane’s fault; she doesn’t choose her writer. If she did, she sure as hell wouldn’t choose Perkins, that much I know for sure.


[*Editor’s Note: The name of the writer for this issue has been corrected from Kelly Perkins to Kate Perkins throughout.]

Images courtesy of DC Comics

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A “Beer Swilling, Lady-Wooing” Valkyrie Is Coming To Marvel Comics

Dan

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From Rocket Raccoon to Yellowjacket to the Collector, Marvel has made a habit of rescuing characters from the depths of nerd trivia night and sending them straight into the mainstream. Their most recent success in this pattern has been Valkyrie, a character best known for anchoring one of the Avengers’ C-squads and being one of the few bisexual heroes in comics. Despite a misstep or two regarding that last point, Valkyrie’s portrayal in Thor: Ragnarok by the phenomenal Tessa Thompson was considered by many the best part of an already fantastic movie. Marvel seems to have agreed, with Entertainment Weekly announcing that the company announcing that Thompson’s rendition of the Maiden of Valhalla will migrate from screen to page as a part of their comics universe.

Fans of the blonde haired, spear chucking,  pointy boob-armored heroine that’s been around since 1970 need not worry. Perhaps as a response to their controversial decisions with a Female Thor and a Black Captain America, Marvel has not “recast” Annabelle Riggs as the host of Brunnhilde. Instead, the new Valkyrie will exist alongside her more venerable counterpart as a member of the Exiles, a dimension-hopping team of misfits that has paid host to heroes like Spider-Gwen, Deadpool, and longtime member Morph.

The new version of this team, created in 2001 by Judd Winnick, will be written by poet and SFF author Saladin Ahmed (Black Bolt) with an art team that includes Javier Rodriguez (Batgirl: Year One, Daredevil) and Alvaro Lopez (Royals). Valkyrie will be joined by Kamala Khan(a dark, older version of the shapeshifting teen hero), Iron Lad (a time-shifted version of Kang the Conqueror), Wolvie (an X-Baby version of Wolverine), and Blink (a veteran of the Exiles with teleporting abilities). The team will be lead by a version of Nick Fury.

Writer Ahmed has been bullish in his enthusiasm for the new Valkyrie, describing her as a “tankard-draining, maiden-wooing, giant-slaying thunderbolt of a woman.” Thanks to a quote like this, and the backlash the film faced for downplaying Valkyrie’s bisexuality, there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that this Valkyrie will be a WLW. Now if they could just get that on screen…

The new series of The Exiles will be released on April 11 as a part of the Marvel Legacy relaunch.

Please support your local comic shop.


Image Courtesy Marvel Comics

 

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