Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Comic Book Wednesday: X-Men, X-Men, and more Mutants

Uncanny X-Men Annual 2. By Matt Fraction & Mitch Breitweiser and Daniel Acuna. Emma Frost takes center stage, as she tries to convince fellow Dark Illuminati member Namor that they should make a private deal. The word "retcon" (rewriting past continuity) generally gets a bad wrap, but in the best case scenario, it makes a contriubtion to the story at hand without detracting from the past in any manner. This is a retcon of Frost's past, to include a romantic liason with another big Marvel character during her Hellfire Club days. The story slides back and forth between that story, and the present day. Each artist illustrates a different era, although to be honest, they're similar enough that I occasionally got confused as to which period I was looking at. Overall, Fraction and the artists deliver a compelling story and a telling character piece that adds some depth to the dynamics of Dark Reign.

Astonishing X-Men 28. Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi. I think the "previously" for this issue told me more on what's going on than actually reading the previous issues. The X-Men travel to a China base to investigate a possible war between artificial mutants and parallel world mutants. Once there, they split up and are attacked by both sides--and both sides are looking for an old friend of theirs... First the art: Bianchi's X-Men look good, but the action scenes seem disjointed--there's little flow between scenes. Storywise, Ellis seems to be going strong: the X-Men's voices are all distinctly their own, and he's quite impressively weaving the recent X-Men mythos into his own alternate world story. For example, Beast theorizes that M-Day wiped out most mutants in multiple realities, but with the birth of the mutant baby in Messiah Complex, realities full of mutants are coming back into being. (This doesn't match at all with what's been happening in the reality-hopping Exiles series, but it sounds so good, I want to believe it.)
Unfortunately, the exposition is a little clumsy. The identity of the "old friend" is choreographed fairly early, when two split parties of X-Men both start discussing him, for reasons that arise naturally, but just come off as blatant when taken together. It's not as bad as, say, the Human Torch announcing that they are safe from everything but an attack by Doctor Doom, and then the Doctor shows up on the next page, but if it's close enough that the comparison can even be made, it's too close. Ellis may have a good explanation for this in a later issue, but at the moment, it just seemed a little clumsier than I'd expect from him. But I'm overstating this--it was really a good issue, and it shows that Ellis can do good things with the X-Men and keep his own flair.
X-Men Legacy 220. By Mike Carey and Scot Eaton. Xavier convinces Gambit to follow him to Rogue, as Xavier wants to make up to her that whole "lying about being to help her in order to trick her into joining the X-Men" thing. Only thing is, someone else with a grudge against Xavier got to her first... Add a rogue Shi'ar salvage crew, and you got yourself a party---next issue. This issue is more about setting things up. And speaking of tying things in to the larger mythos, Carey continues doing his thing, this time taking elements from the recent Skrull Invasion and the events of Astonishing to tell his latest story--and for longtime fans, he even uses the old X-Men base in Australia as Rogue's hideaway.
It's extremely well-written, as per usual for this title-the only thing that really bothered me was the characters. In theory, I don't have anything wrong with Rogue, and I'd like to see her power issue get resolved, which this storyline is teasing us with. And I don't mind Gambit, in small doses. But it's been a long time since I've read either of them, and I've forgotten how annoying their respective verbal tics are. And I know her Southern drawl and his cajun meanderings are established character traits, but... mon cher dieux, they gets on the nerves.

That's it for now. Man, I can't believe I made it through reviewing three X-Men comics without mentioning Wolver--aw, shucks.

Later Days.

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