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QuoteReplyTopic: Uncanny 00's Posted: 07-Apr-2011 at 7:34pm
An Uncanny Decade?
It hasn’t been a good one, has it? I’ve decided to peruse the old backlog of Uncanny X-Men this past decade in honor of Gillen’s entrance to the fold and to gain a better perspective on the state of this book. I will break it up into runs and storylines. Considering how ill-advised Claremont’s Revolution was and how visibly transitional Lobdell’s Eve of Destruction arc was, I’m going to start with Joe Casey’s. At the end, I will encapsulate the run as a whole, the high points and low points, and rank his inclusion in the canon.
Well, it’s not great, is it? Some books get off on the wrong foot. That’s all Joey Casey’s first arc has. He starts off incredibly poorly-matched with Ian Churchill and over the course of a much overextended first arc is plagued with fill-in art that lends it a schizophrenic feel. Strangely though, the fill-in artists are a much better fit than Churchill. While diving into pet themes of Pop Rot, he awkwardly retreads Morlock themes and introduces Wolverine rather purposelessly. It’s a bad story that brings Chamber into the fold in a manner that doesn’t really make a strong case for his inclusion. Casey doesn’t have the voices down yet and it all reads rather stridently. The biggest problem is that we barely understand why the X-Men are there! Not good.
Then we move on to the X-Ranch with an issue that isn’t really terrible. Stacy-X never really worked with the rest of the book but the Casey issues present her rather confidently and with a presence. This first issue isn’t bad but it has similar tendencies that the first arc did, like Stacy calling Chamber “No Face” just to get all up in his grill. I like Casey’s focus on corporations in a world of superpowers and it’s getting its start here. and the Church of Humanity gets a proper introduction with the next issue. Big Ol’ Alienating Issue #400! Featuring a character we just met and already don’t really like, super abstract art, and an intentionally unclear plot. Reading it now feels like a novelty. I’m astonished that they really went full tilt in this direction. I like it for the strangeness of it, but it is a bit of a mess. And it features the first instance of Stacy-X’s survival tactic: making guys cum in their pants. She will use this again and it’s weird everytime. I mean, we just met her and it seems like that’s all she does. I blame Casey for failing to explain why the X-Men want to keep her around. She fits awkwardly in the realm of pet character and obligation. This issue is also of interest for a sadly aborted subplot involving the Supreme Pontiff’s plans for Nightcrawler which had to have been a lot more interesting than what Austen did with them. Considering that Casey sidestepped the Uncanny division of the X_Men into a pan-global corporate division, a Vatican presence was doubtlessly in the works. A shame that it didn’t go anywhere.
Then we have the infamous X-Corps storyline! Ah, this amazing story that prompted Marvel to freak out over the preview designs and likely led to Casey’s early departure. Well, first we have the silent issue which has to constitute one of the more incoherent issues in the book’s history. Reading it again, I have no idea what is happening at all. Just a mess. Then for over a third of a year, the X-Men bum around X-Corps headquarters as Banshee’s organization begins to fall apart. I always liked the idea of X-Corps and even now I have some affection for it even though it doesn’t work. The main problem with the story is that the X-Men don’t really do anything until the end where they prevent Paris from blowing up in a garishly myopic fashion. Remember the time Fever Pitch blew up the Eiffel Tower? Me neither. Anyway, it all goes south when Mystique prompts a rebellion from within that results in the incapacitation of Banshee, the death of Sunpyre, and Abyss awkwardly swallowing up Mystique very coincidentally. Chamber wanders around in a mind-daze for a few issues, and the X-Men just wait around to save the day. One gets the impression that nobody involved really ironed out the details of what was happening. You can really understand why Marvel gave Joe Casey the boot. This isn’t very good stuff. There is no reason to review the next issue in detail except it involves Nightcrawler teleporting Chamber basically across an entire country to an alp with an old friend. If Casey planned on explaining such a ridiculous feat later, well God love him.
Then we head over to three of the best issues of the decade which make me truly miss Casey as he went full swing in the right direction. Telford Porter (before he became X-Force’s tatted lackey) is into corporate drug-dealing and began dealing a Kick like drug of designer genes and the X-Men swing in to stop him using some pretty forward thinking tactics. It’s not that they just buy him out, but first they use Stacy to occupy him for weeks on end so that when he returns he has nothing. That’s the brilliant part: a creative use of mutant powers for long-term gain. Now, there are some very dull feints along the way like the possibility of Stacy aligning herself with Porter to re-open X-Ranch which is fairly see through, but all in all the final three issues point to an innovation we really haven’t seen since in the book. It’s a stylish read with strong art and a confident feel to it. A real shame that his run was understandably cut short.
Uncleanuncleanunclean! Haha, just kidding. But seriously, folks. On the whole, this run is less terrible that simply depressing. Not at first though. I remember at the time being rather entertained by the fledgling story “Hope”. Very entertained even. Reading it again, you can see where it all went wrong and also why it was perhaps a better idea for the book in the short-term. We had Morrison reinventing the wheel and Claremont playing in his sandbox, so perhaps a retro book was more in order. And that’s certainly how this reads. There is certainly a cavalier approach to continuity as Monet shows up, says three lines, one of them is a predictably catty example of Austen’s Women Hating Women ongoing dialogue, and is gone. Nobody seems to know that she can fly, perhaps not even Austen, which is strange. And then it’s business as usual with the Juggernaut. Now, there are a few pretty wonderful moments in this story, chief among them the realization that Juggernaut asked for help. Iceman has a valid point that he should have probably mentioned that first off, but it’s dealt with quite nicely. There is some good action as they sleuth about, and then it becomes rather confusing in the third issue. I’m not entirely sure what’s happening with Black Tom. To the best of my knowledge, she needs to calm down Tom so that he will release the people in time for Iceman to freeze Tom, which culminates in him turning into an all-consuming plant monster (remember when he had that shillelagh that could shoot fire or something?). It’s a bit awkward. We also have the introduction of Squidboy, which is a bit generically characterized. For example, there is no way this kid bought a gun. I don’t buy it. Where’d he get it anyway? Who in this town would sell a Squidboy a gun? But I like how Professor Xavier gets him to give it up while not making him feel bad.
And then there’s the amazing introduction of Nurse Annie who from the onset is a big bag of crazy. All her surrounding nurses keep talking about her as though she’s found another one. She’s like that one character in Arrested Development who can only love Buster if he’s catatonic. I know what Austen is going for here but he hits some bad missteps early on. The first is that she sees a newspaper featuring Havok saving those people. How would that paper still be around? Also, introducing this dynamic right off the bat is a bit jarring. Perhaps we should be eased into her relationship with him? As is, it just feels a bit too crazy pants. She’s a little stronger reacting to the X-Men as kind of a reintroduction to this team when they arrive back at the Mansion from the mission. Issue 413 might be my favorite issue of Austen’s run because it’s so Three’s Company and over-the-top. Stacy vs. Paige is actually rather funny, I must say. Completely base, but pretty funny. I’ll never understand why Xavier has such a difficult time bringing Alex out of his coma, but there’s lots of other things that work very well like the kids thinking Juggernaut is very cool. Not a bad start. Then we get a small leg of less successful entries. The introduction of Northstar to the team is pretty awkward. One gets the impression that Austen is preaching to the choir in a big way for his 21st century plea for 19th century tolerance. Chuck Austen’s plea for homosexual tolerance is as lily white as Philadelphia. This is a lame issue that makes no sense from a continuity perspective (how can Northstar’s father beat him if he’s an orphan?), from a powers perspective (why can Northstar help the blowing up kid and Angel can’t?), and…well, mainly from any perspective. It’s an issue of gay tokenism, and a bland one. We also get Stacy’s ear peeling off and demanding that nobody look at her. This will never come back. Perhaps Austen’s biggest flaw is his inability to organically set up subplots. We next move into full-blown mood swings. Nightcrawling raging at the pulpit. Archangel conducting business by cell phone. Or perhaps his biggest flaw is an ability to subtly forward his subplots within scenes. We have moments that make little to no sense, like Northstar’s silence indicating that he has a crush on Iceman. Even a perfectly strong moment like Iceman revealing that he is turning to ice is abruptly cut off. He nakedly reveals what is happening and cut right back to outside to him thanking Nurse Annie. Now, this is a moment that warrants investigation, one that warrants Nurse Annie asking how he feels, maybe touching his chest or something. I don’t know. It’s not terrible [yet], but just very bland.
There is something nice in the lead in to Dominant Species. Chuck Austen will now move into a very familiar pattern of a vignette that normally would not constitute an entire issue followed by an overlong story that will go nowhere. This issue has some lovely art although I do prefer Garney for Austen’s dialogue, and even if the de-mythologizing of Cain Marko into child abuse victim is a bit heavy-handed, I do like it. It’s not an incredibly compelling read but it has a good moment at the end where Cain tells Sammy that they’re going to live in a Mansion, just like his father. Then again, we also have moments that fall into Austen’s inability to set up. He wants to set up Stacy coming onto Nightcrawler but it’s not enough of a running bit to come across as successful. It’s hard to say exactly where Dominant Species goes horribly wrong. It’s all incredibly bad in different ways. It features mismatched art that makes people look like they’re being sucked into a black hole when they scream. It features a radically weird Polaris confronting Nurse Annie for no Earthy reason at all. It features no degree of plot specifically involving Maximus Lobo at all. At all! They’re corporate werewolves somehow involved with the Worthington co and they attack for no reason I can discern. They make mincemeat of Wolverine and then corner Archangel and Husk who stand their own long enough to escape, during which time Archangel learns about the secret of his blood. If I had to cite one issue as being the worst of this, I would say that issue #420 has the worst moment: that discovery. For the worst issue, probably #416, the first of Dominant Species featuring so many awkward introductions and reintroductions and pay-offs and set-ups. None of it works. The only gift that Chuck Austen has is a somewhat charming ability to create vaguely romantically erotic moments and befuddled verbal diarrhea. He’s quite good at these things, but there is a degree of overload that is already setting in.
It should be asked: is Chuck Austen a misogynist? No. He’s just not very talented. If he were more talented a writer, I think his tendencies would be quelled. But he’s not. I see what he’s going for here. He wants the soap opera approach and he has all the right ingredients, but he’s just not good enough. I think he would do a better job of this if he wasn’t handed Polaris. Now, putting my feelings about Polaris as a character aside, this is a falling down terrible characterization that he has done. Austen clearly doesn’t like Lorna. He likes Nurse Annie. So to validate one character, he invalidates another. We’ll dive into this more on an incident by incident basis, but just look at how Lorna proposes. Has a woman outside of a soap opera ever proposed to a man as Lorna does in #421? No, it’s never happened. Now, I want to isolate one moment in particular that I love from #421 that demonstrates what could have happened on a more consistent basis from Austen had he a little more talent. This is the moment where Alex meets Nurse Annie and she says it was her pleasure to care for him while he was comatose and starts to run the mouth in an embarrassing fashion. Now, this is pretty standard for Austen, if still charming. But then she promptly shuts her mouth and says “So, I heard you get married.” Lovely save and a very human moment. His characters like to run the mouth, say vaguely inappropriate things, and embarrass themselves. So do Bendis’ characters. The rest of the issue is a mixed bag of wonderful moments (Cain talking to Xavier), bad ones (Polaris’ proposal, the shot-reverse shot of Annie & Alex’s goodbye), and really bad ones (Alpha Flight’s introduction, Kurt’s decision to step down as leader of the X-Men when he really kinda hasn’t been all year). But I would argue this issue is half of a very good one. And half of a really bad one. The next issue #422 is mostly just a really bad one. The archeological excavation reveals ancient mutants similar in body type to Kurt, and this is promptly interrupted by the Church of Humanity nuts. Then we have a fight with Alpha Flight, one of those needless fights that erupts because we need some action. Austen doesn’t do a great job of setting this up. Some of his mild action ideas are entertaining like Iceman’s “coke can in the freezer” analogy and some of the Juggernaut moments are good, but they’re coupled with some absolutely horrifying romantic conversing between Paige and Jono. Ugh! I don’t think any kind of art could salvage it. This is a two-parter that is not a two-parter.
We’re now one year into Chuck Austen and what started as a pleasant redirection has shifted into what will become business as sadly usual.
And now is where it gets REALLY good. Dominant Species was pretty bad, but now it’s starting to get downright risible! Holy War. Ah, Holy War! Good ol’ $0.25-priced Holy War! It doesn’t take long for this to get horrible. Three pages in and we have dubiously planted Bible quotations, crucifixions, and perhaps the worst leadership of Nightcrawler’s career: before screaming out to the heavens for answers, he suggests maybe they don’t take the crucified X-Men down for fear of upsetting the police. And then Austen drops the bombshell: Nightcrawler never was ordained. Nobody remembers this happening. I find this impossible to believe because he’s had millions of conversations about it over the past half decade. I remember this because I found it all so annoying. Now, even if you can stomach this retcon, the issue is a mess. Lots of random posturing and screaming, huffing and puffing, with no forward direction. Then we get to Holy War pt 2 which is page-after-page horrible. There’s nothing worse than somebody making your own prejudices look bad, and that’s what Austen does. He has the Supreme Pontiff ranting and raving about sexual urges, there are Bible verses tossed back and forth, and then of course the raped nun! Ah, the raped nun. It’s just an ugly book. More fairly common occurrences in this book: Nightcrawler’s leadership undermined (this time by Havok complaining about why they split up), Jean Grey’s inability to detect the illusionary members of the Church of Humanity ahead of time, Jean Grey killing a guy, Polaris killing several people. Angry, evil, murdering women.
Sacred Vows is a little better. Philip Tan’s introduction to the X-Fold is better now than it will be. This is mostly an example of what Chuck Austen does very well. I mean, you could do worse than having this guy write a Bachelor Party, right? Tan does have one horrible moment where he unbelievably oversells Bobby’s dismay at the end of his conversation with Annie. I don’t buy for a minute that he somehow couldn’t know that Northstar is gay because, well, that’s all Northstar is. He’s a big gay Gay. And then of course there’s horrible Lorna Dane sleeping with Stripper Gambit and everything that she says about the nature of marriage. Just a horrible characterization. And yet the issue kinda works because it does play to Austen’s strengths which for now are Philip Tan’s. Everybody looks pretty good and it ends with a cliffhanger that at the time seemed somewhat interesting. One could do much worse than turn this uninteresting character into a vengeful, wedding-spurned bitch, right? Then it all turns. There is a flat-out awesome image of Lorna standing over a defeated Bobby, but this issue is a wash because Alex’s relationship with Annie doesn’t work. Alex doesn’t have a personality yet, and Annie’s is all over the place. Also, how could Lorna have taken down EVERYBODY at the party? Don’t buy that for a second. And how can Havok fly? And how can…? And how can…? Anyway, the issue is a long conversation that’s pretty goddamn dumb and it ends with a tree landing on Polaris. Which is kinda funny. But the issue is pretty bad. The next issue is a simple little story that probably could have been used to set up a later storyline if Austen were so inclined but no matter. It’s the infamous Angelo Torres issue. Now, I don’t really blame Austen for that. That’s the editors’ fault, not his. He’s got a lot to deal with in writing an issue every month, and there was some mention in the past of Angelo using that name. So, it’s not really his fault. It’s his editors’. This is a small plea for tolerance by saying that the intolerant could all be just as easily victims of intolerance themselves as much as beneficiaries of tolerance if the other shoe falls. There’s nothing wrong with it. It carries on the now amazing “Mutants Can’t Get Aids” idea (yup, but they sure do die of the Legacy Vi – um, well not anymore, I guess). The art is all right except that Archangel’s wings look f**king horrible. Totally inoffensive but could have been used for much more than these two minor stories.
…like setting up Nightcrawler a bit more for The Draco. Ah, The Draco! THE DRACO!!! Now, this is genuinely unclean. Outside of the fact that nobody can write a Germany that isn’t out of The White Ribbon, it’s not so bad. It features one of the less interesting characterizations of Mystique I’ve seen. I know that she’s younger, but there are no real clues to the woman she will become. We’re not brought into her struggle. It’s all very simplistic and a bit disappointing. But nowhere near as bad as what’s to come. The first issue of The Draco is not terrible. Philip Tan’s art is actually quite stunning. He gets the physicality of Nightcrawler down and some of Lorna’s facial expressions are dazzling. Austen manages to awkwardly set-up that Xavier has been looking for Nils Stieger (completely different in appearance than the last time we’ve seen him), he wedges in a little of Cain’s Out of Nowhere Frustration from losing Sammy, etc. This results in Cain and Chuck having a big ol’ screaming match that Philip Tan sells pretty well. Everything feels rushed but it’s not terrible. And it ends with a circle around the fire in the Isle de los Demonas. Then we get to issue #430 and my Landy, does it go downhill! This is one of the more incoherent issues ever produced. What happens? Sammy gets hit, Charles and Annie prepare to go into Lorna’s mind where they see her and Alex big ol’ doing it, Carter talks to Sammy and we learn that Carter is at the site, and then everything goes batsh*t. Everyone gets hit by arrows. That’s it. Nothing happens and it doesn’t make a lick of sense visually. All set-up. Or rather, prelude. The next issue is just as bad, although it has one fantastic moment where Sammy fights back saying “I don’t stop for nothin’. I’m the juggernaut!” Very strong moment about what children idolize and carry forward, but Jesus this kid’s story is depressing! It’s immediately followed by an even more depressing conversation between Juggernaut and Northstar where they toss catty barbs at each other that ends up being rather distastefully simplistic. The issue continues an incoherent melee, and we learn “the truth about Lorna” which is to say we witness what she witnessed on Genosha and how that made her shift her personality towards Magneto’s ideology. Tan conveys the operatic feel of this pretty well, but truth be told there’s no real way to make this make any literal sense. It’s just sensory overload. But even worse is issue #431. This comes very close to being “Not a Legitimate Story Bad”. We have basically an aborted battle scene followed by a dinner where Azazael sits around looking very proud indeed, calls himself Satan, the token human gets offed, and the X-Men fail to do anything. We are three issues into a story with enough material covered for maybe one. But because Austen keeps cross-cutting he can bide his time. We spend some time in Canada where Juggernaut crushes the sh*t out of Sammy’s father’s arm, and then Alpha Flight arrives and we get treated to the awesomeness of Sasquatch in Body Armor. There is less conveyed in this issue than any other issue I can think of. It continues into the next issue, which may or may not be worse. If it is worse, it’s only because Azazael reveals his mind-numblingly horrible plan. But it’s the little thing that annoy, like Austen’s inability to set up anything interesting about the Biblical Mutants that Nightcrawler was investigating. There’s no reason to care about them. They just come from nowhere. Had he set them up earlier, it might feel like it was all according to plan. But he didn’t. And this issue feels largely equivalent to one character we don’t care about raving about plans he couldn’t possibly carry out. And then Juggernaut almost kills Sammy’s mom.
I remember reading Uncanny X-Men #434 and feeling so disappointed that the artist had changed. It’s a jarring shift between artists for sure, but contrast Philip Tan’s operatic illustrations with Miyazawa’s and see what that does for Austen’s dialogue. Ye Gods, does it reek! There’s a lot to hate in this story, but the way that it ends is especially ruinous: with Nightcrawler telling Charles that he is all the father than he could ever need. Then why hasn’t Chuck Austen had them speak more than two lines to each other this entire run? Had he set up some form of bond between them earlier, this might be more affecting, but it isn’t. We’ll get to my thoughts on Austen’s run as a whole later, but is The Draco the worst story in X-Men History? Yes. Nothing else comes close. This level of ineptitude and the audacity of its length and total inability to tell one story all the way through isn’t just the worst of the decade but it set into motion a prerogative that would come into play later on with other writers: you don’t have to tell one good story well, just tell a buncha stories all right.
As far as idiot Chuck Austen stories go, Uncanny X-Men 435 isn’t that bad. Oh, sure, the redesign for The Rhino is horrid. Xavier’s photographic mutant lawyer is out of nowhere. And Juggernaut hooking up with She-Hulk is all kinds of wrong. But Ron Garney’s back and there some fun action in it, as well as a legitimately interesting twist ending. Perfectly acceptable early-ish Austen. It culminates with a somewhat dull issue, at least by Juggernaut vs. Juggernaut standards. Pretty early on he’s called a moron and he has to use his head to win this fight, which results in the enemy Juggernaut turning back into a kid, which I don’t entirely understand, especially considering all those times that Cain had his helmet removed and he didn’t turn back into a normal guy. It reads a little like homework for Juggernaut vs. Juggernaut.
Around this point, we get to She Lies with Angels, and I start to get depressed. Chuck Austen has now worked with Ron Garney, Sean Philips, Philip Tan, and now Salvatore Larroca, and Matt Fraction couldn’t get anyone besides Terry Dodson, Whilce Portacio, or Greg Land? Pathetic. Right off the bat, She Lies with Angels gets off to a bad start with the littlest Guthrie boy hitting puberty and lighting that Cabot on fire. ‘Cause that’s how puberty happens, folks! With a blast of blue fire from your eyes. Is there any consistency in Guthrie mutations at all? Did Momma Guthrie f**k the Mimic? Anyway, the first issue covers an incredibly small amount of material. Jeb can shoot lasers, the whole thing was kinda premeditated, Warren and Pagie almost come to terms with each other, although Warren has not been written with any individual personality trait since Casey left, and Josh is introduced and can sing, perhaps to one, lovely girl. To be continued. It looks great. It’s not setting up anything I care about, but it looks great. The next issue is more of the same, but to Austen’s inadvertent credit, he sets up the subplot of Josh’s wings being real AND Warren’s emotional uncertainty with Pagie such that we might wonder if there is some family relationship between W&P…which to be fair, I much would have preferred to what would have transpired. Kinda funny. Then we get an insanely forced Re-Meet Cute between Josh Gurthie and Julia Cabot. It goes on for pages on end, and then it’s revealed that they didn’t know each others’ last names. HUH?! In this small town with such a visibly violent rivalry between families? I would have an easier time with it if Austen didn’t set up a back-story between them where they saw each other naked. Austen has written worse stories but I’m not sure if he’s written a dynamic so immediately fraudulent, so immediately forced. And then it’s revealed that the whole thing was somehow set-up to make the Sheriff look good so that he could get a date from Lucinda. Now, one thing I like about this arc is that Lucinda Guthrie is drawn as a middle-aged woman and still an object of desire. Very strong choice. Nothing else to be said for this issue. It’s worse than the one before. Then comes #439, which might be Austen’s slimmest issue to date. What happens? Josh comes to Julia’s window. The X-Men prepare for battle. Paige talks to her Momma. And the Cabots find some suits of armor. Like, that’s it. This story is taking forever to go nowhere. But it is pretty. And even prettier is the infamous #440 where Warren and Paige bang it out in front of everyone. Now, this makes no sense. And the conversation beforehand discussing Warren’s rationale for pushing Paige away is incredibly forced. Let’s be honest: this is the X-Men, we don’t come here for conversations. And if we do, they should be rooted in dynamic personalities, not the wishy-washiness presented here. Neither Warren or Paige are compellingly written, so why should I care? I like the beat of Warren apologizing to Paige, the emotions presented when the Sheriff sees Lucinda and her black boyfriend together seems honest, but what really puts me off about this issue is that it’s a bunch of rednecks in suits of armor beating the sh*t out of their kids. And I don’t gather that Chuck Austen knows these people well enough to endure it. It looks beautiful though. Even when Warren and Paige are banging it out in front of everybody.
I’ll close up on Chuck Austen with Of Darkest Nights and [obviously] the last part of She Lies with Angels. Call it sacrilege, but I’m picking this last issue of She Lies with Angels as my third favorite of Austen’s run for two reasons: 1) it’s full of beautifully illustrated scenes of emotion and action, and 2) it features a hysterically phallic image of Nightcrawler pulling up one of the Cabot-bots blaster arms between his legs so as to fire out of harm’s way…but it looks like he’s shooting a giant load. It’s immediately followed by a hilarious caption where Kurt warns Paige about a blast coming her way, she acknowledges it by saying “Thanks”, and then promptly gets hit, flying into her family’s home. It’s like, what was that for? The issue is dumb. I don’t know how Julia managed to drown herself like she does. And it’s overdrawn melodrama. Not simply soap opera but full blown, endless melodrama, but the damn thing looks beautiful! I seem to be in the minority of not loving Of Darkest Nights. I’m reading it and all I can think of is that it’s an incredibly simplistic argument that goes on for two issues and it’s full of grandiose gestures like Wolverine single-handedly tearing down the statue of Magneto. I like this as a kind of deck-clearing exercise and it’s better than what was going on in the sister book, but it’s one issue of nothing really happening, and it all builds to an argument in the next issue where it appears that Lorna traps Charles in his own logic when it turns out she’s not trapping him. She really does believe it. Pietro and Wanda are proven utterly useless in the face of Lorna (which, I guess, is possible with all that was going on), but really what’s going on is a discussion of 9/11 politicking, that’s all. And it’s a very simplistic one. Lorna blames the tacit many New Yorkers for being complacent in the actions that leveled Genosha. This mindset would almost immediately reverse itself to the best of my knowledge because it would only mean turning Polaris into some form of Matriach of the Brotherhood, which nobody seemed to want to see happen. And for those who love whatever stand it was that Lorna was dubiously making, I ask you is it a good one? Was it one that stuck with her character? Did you want to see Chuck Austen develop her with that mindset? And again, what mindset was she revealing that was so deep? As with most of Chuck Austen’s thoughts on the world, it’s just mostly garbled, simplistic nonsense. Not a fan of those two.
So there it is. Chuck Austen’s thirty-three issue run on this book, just shy of three years. Add to it some eight or ten issues on the sister book and you’ve got damn near fifty issues of Chuck Austen X-Men. That’s insane. Joe Casey got a little over a year. Looking back made me feel simpler times. It’s been ages since Chuck Austen had his hands on the X-Men and I’ve gone through living in literally four different major cities during and since. Here’s how one measures the strength of a writer in a comic book, and I didn’t do this with Casey because his run was more cut short than completed. 1) Was Chuck Austen entertaining on a month by month basis? No, only the first issue of every story, mostly best-case scenario. The man could not write a story, which brings us to our second point. 2) Did Chuck Austen write memorable stories? Sadly yes, but that doesn’t comment on his inclusion in the mythos. Chuck Austen wrote the worst stories in the history of the book. “Dominant Species”, “Holy War”, “The Draco”, “She Lies with Angels”. These are horrible pieces of storywriting. 3) Did Chuck Austen make any lasting contributions to the mythos? No. Juggernaut is no longer reformed. Nobody mentions Azazael. Nurse Annie and Carter will never rear their heads again. Havok and Polaris are together. Iceman’s secondary mutation went away. Archangel’s healing blood is as over as his relationship with Paige to the best of my knowledge, or if it’s not then it’s been overshadowed by his Dark Angel transformations. And considering that Vanisher was suffering from syphilis, I think it’s maybe possible that mutants can get AIDS. Nothing. Years = nothing. And finally, 4) Did Chuck Austen leave the book is a better place than when he found it? Well, this is tricky because the Uncanny X-Men were not finishing in the top ten book sales when he took over, and I believe they were when he left. So he can dubiously claim to have rescued the book in terms of sales. Partial credit. In terms of quality, no. He wrote terrible stories and after an abortive stab at writing The Avengers would go from writing several books to none at all, his writing career a fart in the wind. Chuck Austen really is the worst writer on X-Men ever.
WORST ISSUES (THIS WILL BE THE ONLY RUN WHERE I SUSPEND THE THREE EACH RULE, BECAUSE THESE SEVEN ARE POSSIBLY THE WORST ISSUES IN THE HISTORY OF THE BOOK)
Uncanny X-Men 423
Uncanny X-Men 424
Uncanny X-Men 430
Uncanny X-Men 431
Uncanny X-Men 432
Uncanny X-Men 433
Uncanny X-Men 434
I realized that I missed Joe Casey's first issue, the one with Archangel, Cyclops, Jean, and Wolverine. It's terrible. No need for anything further.
we are now almost fifty issues into what I would deem the 00's Proper Run. No Neo Claremont and not Lobdell. Fifty issues of Chuck Austen and Joe Casey and it is absolutely impossible to cite a Top Ten List. It's impossible to cite a Five Best List. Austen's Five Best do not warrant any kind of excellent suggestion. I will do my Ten Best Uncanny Issues of the Decade at the end ranging from the beginning of Casey to the end of Fraction, but ye Gods! We're almost a third of the way through and it's impossible.
I liked the idea behind Dominant Species. However, the execution was horrible. In a world where humanity constantly faces threats from alien species, mystical dimensions, and scientifically advanced super-types, it makes sense that humans would begin to evolve superpowers. I could even see how logically Evolution/Natural Selection would play with giving humans different kinds of abilities before deciding on what sets of abiliites work best for humans. I could also see where mutants with similar mutations (Telepath/psi sensitives, element wielders, ferals, ect.) could come to the decision that their mutation is superior to other mutations. I like all of those ideas. But werewolves running Archangel's company without him knowing, really? Also, this is an idea that would have to be developed over time (obviously not Austen's strong suit).
I don't see why Paige and Warren were ever interested in each other. Given Paige's history, I really can't see her going for the Corperate type, unless said person was extremely involved in making sure their business was environmentally friendly, protected worker's rights, and/or lobbied politically for mutants. Obviously, Warren had no idea what was going on his company, so none of these things were happening. Other than Paige being blonde, I don't see what Warren saw in her. He liked Candy Southern because she was hot, bubbly, and fun, and that matched his personality at the time. Charlotte Jones was a badass, an ally, and understood the dangers of the job. I could see how they would let off steam with eachother without really delving into anything deeper. Betsy, they both had similar backgrounds and also found common ground in them both having been twisted beyond a semblance of themselves by dark forces. Paige, on the other hand, is a green idealist who hasn't had much experience with the world beyond Gen X and the X-Men. I never got this attraction at all. I also don't understand why Warren needed a go-head from an hallucination of his ex-girlfriend who died after breaking up with him and dating somebody else.
The whole Biblical mutants thing could've been interesting, had it been used as a mystery with clues over several arcs, as opposed to a retcon of Kurt's birth and history.
Kipe, aren't mutants humans evolved with super-powers? The problem with Dominant Species isn't that it doesn't explore this idea, it is that there is literally no idea there! Correct me if I'm wrong but Maximus Lobo is the next step in evolution beyond humans and mutants, correct? How did they evolve? Why did they evolve into werewolves? How is this different from batch mutations? Putting aside the nonsense of how they dominated Warren's corporation behind his back (which seemed in perfect working order during Casey's run), I ask you: how, how, how, why, why why? Actually, no. I just ask "What?" I don't understand the idea behind Dominant Species at all. Perhaps someone could clear it up for me. I just read it and I don't understand the idea that he is presenting.
The idea of Biblical mutants is very interesting. The idea of some form of mutant corporate subterfuge is interesting as well. The reason that all these ideas failed is simple: Chuck Austen doesn't know anything about the Bible, anthropology, corporate dynamics...hell! The relationship between a corporate millionaire like Warren and a Green activist like Paige could be adorable...but I doubt he knows anything about the differences between those two either. Chuck Austen knows how to write dumb people, plain and simple. The reason most comic books are bad is that they are not written by people who are much smarter than you or I. That's why characters like Forge are never used well. That's why writers like Jonathan Hickman are in short supply.
To Chuck Austen's credit: in almost every story that he presents, there is a good way to tell it. It would require a ground-one rewrite in every capacity though. I'm talking completely re-envisioned with not a single issue in tact, but with the spirit there. Actually no, the issue where Annie meets the X-Men for the first time, that one can probably stay as is. No harm there. Everything else: Ground. One. That earns no brownie points for me. I haven't investigated this board terribly much but you all have written fan fiction stronger than Chuck Austen's run. Guaranteed.
Another problem Austen had was that his run (and Casey too) didn't flow very well with the general theme of the X-Books at the time. Like it's been said he had concepts that did but they weren't executed right. Biblical mutants? Definitely adds depth to the concept of mutantkind (hell Apocalypse was a mutant during the Egyptian time period...Selene was from farther back than that). The corporate subterfuge and dynamics could have been an outstanding part of his run. It would have been something that the X-Men have never dealt with before...
Austen's relationship-writing was the worst of any X-writer EVER. Polaris-Annie-Havok: I was never sold on it and I still think that making Lorna AS crazy as he did was so weak. I would have understood her being somewhat more off kilter, I mean she had witnessed a very horrific thing that should definitely stick with her. But what he did was bastardize her character I felt like. I agree, the Annie thing was CREEPY. And Havok was bland (upon a re-read). Angel-Paige: It could have been fun, it could have been the most dynamic and out there relationship in the X-verse (Essentially Paige is fighting against the things Warren stands for) but instead it just felt so blaise...
I would have loved more in-depth talk and action with the corporate front and the religious front, but Austen just didn't do either properly.
"And someone's mom wants to eat all their souls. As a mom, I was offended. Moms should get to be role models, too."-Savant
Oh, I think the themes of Austen and Casey definitely flow very well with that of the X-Books at the time in theory. And really by "X-Books at the time" we're really talking about the tempo set by Morrison and then I suppose Whedon. Casey took chances. Unlike Austen, he knows about what he's writing about and most of it just didn't work very well. The sad thing is that his final two issues and Uncanny X-Men Annual 2001 are doubtlessly going to end up as three of the best issues of Uncanny this decade, no joke. It just took a year to get to them. But the theme absolutely fits the bill.
In a way, so does Austen's. They just needed someone a little bit retro in approach to off-set the alienating Casey. The weird thing is that Austen really tried to blend the best of all worlds if you look at it. Look at Claremont's grandiose X-Treme, Casey's contemporary Uncanny, and Morrison's trail-blazing New. There are elements of X-Mythos from all of them in Austen's run. It just didn't work. I think the Biblical Mutants angle is the lousiest because there's no reason for him to not know about that stuff! I mean, I get Austen not understanding the following: corporate politics, religious fanaticism, women. Y'know, real stuff. But Biblical Mutation...he can just make that sh*t up! And he totally failed.
@Sabin, I was refering to mutants as humans evolving super-powers. Also, I haven't read that since it came out. Were the werewolves a different group than mutants? I thought it was about groups with like mutations banding together and assuming their kind of mutation was superior to others and therefore should be dominant. If that's not the case, well, then that's is what the arc should've been about lol.
The most basic components of Austen's ideas, the meme if you will, were not bad. After that, it wasn't well-thought out, planned, or executed at all. I agree that most of the ideas could've been great if you wiped everything away and re-wrote the stories from the ground up. Something like the concept of biblical mutants could've been awesome Planetary-style mystery, but no. Not so much.
@Kipe Here's the problem with the "Next Step in Evolution"...they proclaim that they are the next step in evolution and nobody really says anything about it, so there's really no way of telling if in fact they are supposed to be like-mutants banding together or just an aborted idea. I just read the issues and if someone along the way countered their assertions by saying "Aren't you guys just similar mutants kicking it together?" and one of them says "Well, basically, yeah."
Speaking of the next step of evolution, have you guys ever noticed that when something else other than mutants comes along and proclaims it is the next sept in evolution, say: Vargas, Cassie Nova, Maximus Lobo, the X-Men just get rid of them? So much for them preaching that humanity just hates them because of fear and ignorance of the unknown...
I think the worst thing about "She Lies with Angels", you know, besides the story making no sense, the non-logic of Warren and Paige being able to copulate in mid-air, and the fact that they did it in front of her mom and younger siblings, is that you can't have a proper Romeo and Juliet homage if both characters don't die.
I don't get it! The next stage in human evolution is mutants! Those "Next Stagers" who are so superior to mutants...are by definition mutated humans, right? If they are mutated mutants, then they still started out as mutants and in theory would have been detected as such, right? So stupid...
The only one who sold me on it was Grant Morrison. Cassandra Nova was a MacGuffin, plain and simple. Charles' genetic twin in the womb was a silly idea, but he invested her with an incredibly amount of malevolent personality the likes of which the book hadn't seen, but I digress. The Neo, Vargas, Maximus Lobo as evolved humans? I don't get it. A genetic twin killed in the womb but survived...? It doesn't make sense but if one of those happened, I'd be like "Okay, you're clearly not just a mutant. You're something more." I understand why that qualifies. The rest, I don't.
(LAST MINUTE NOTE)
Just on a lark for completist sake, I read the ten issues of X-Men that Austen wrote. They are even lazier than the issues he wrote on Uncanny X-Men. They're not as bad as when he's trying, but they are far more lazy. They all look beautiful because of Larroca's art, there is something kinda fun about watching a giant Iceman fight a giant Collective Man, and the first issue is a lark with that great scene of all the X-Men begging Cyclops to be on different teams, but it's all very bad. The first arc reverses Grant Morrison's gesture of having Jean Grey make Scott stay with Emma by having him come to his conclusion on his own after Emma (like a woman!) takes something Scott says incredibly personal. Beast and Cyclops try to see what happens to Cassandra Nova and then immediately forget about it. And then they all get shot at trying to save the Stepford Cuckoos from a fire. Nonsense. Up and down nonsense. The next Xorn arc is just as bad. Again: the first issue is good, some of the fighting is fun, but basically there is no climax or hook. Havok keeps powering Xorn's head for no given reason I can discern. Lorna finds the helmet after two additional issues and locks him up. Gambit is blinded for no reason. And Juggernaut becomes the voice of scientific reason for the team. It's like Chuck Austen is doing this under protest or something.
The Brotherhood arc has better art and some fun fight scenes, but it's incredibly stupid. This Brotherhood as a team makes no sense. Why does he care? Exodus is wasted. And I'm not sure what his plan really is. It's just to kill the X-Men on their own turf. Annie abruptly decides to leave (like a woman!). Gambit is left alone and defenseless when his incredibly stupid new powers manifest themselves. It's issues like these that make you wonder how Sabretooth has been presented as an effective villain for so long. He is a throw rag here!
What I will say about Chuck Austen is that the longer his run went on, the nuttier it went. This stuff reads like comedy. Not great comedy. But logic eschewed for bickering and gags. As it ended, I actually felt a little bit of sadness. Chuck Austen wrote a great Juggernaut and there he went, sucked into the black hole of Xorn 2's head like four years of our lives. Sad to say, I actually have some affection for his run, which if extended to the X-Men books would raise his total run's grade up to a C-. Nothing heinous, just uninspired. I'd go so far as to say that if he was a scripter and not a plotter, he might have done some good work.
Alas, to paraphrase Fantastic Mr. Fox, at the end of the day, he's just a washed up X-Men writer working on dime rags for the pornographic comic book bin.
Strange, I remember hating “The End of History” a lot more than I do right now. My reasoning then was how inept it seemed by way of conveying something new, by seeming any form of relevant. And the story actually starts off by showing us a damn near utopian era of mutant relative harmony, of sanctions, of order. It’s not bad. Nothing really happens of much interest in #444, but it does establish the new boss, just like the old boss [Claremont]. After a lame explosive cliffhanger, we have two much better issues as The Fury contaminates Sage and we cross-cut from Bishop, Cannonball, and Marvel Girl fighting him on the British front with Nightcrawler, Storm, and Wolverine fighting Sage on the American front. It gets worse than this, and there is a lovely moment of Nightcrawler waltzing with Storm that makes you forget the smuttiness of Austen’s run, but really it’s worthwhile for absolutely dazzling art. The final issue concludes with a needlessly talking over-the-top conclusion resulting in the destruction of The Fury, and this is why I remembered what I don’t like about this book. Who cares? Well…now I know why Claremont cared! I just read an article that said that his initial plans for the Mutant Massacre involved The Fury merging with Nimrod and this exact plan for destruction. Claremont is ushering in a new era of rehashed ideas. This one didn’t go off entirely poorly though for a while. For the middle two issues though, it flourishes with just gorgeous action imagery. Terrible new costumes though. And in reading it again, Claremont is going to have to work very hard to make Cannonball, Marvel Girl, and Bishop more intriguing this time around.
I had forgotten that Oliver Coipel draw on this book. His work is a little rough around the edges, but it’s just gorgeous! Hilariously the former story is called “The End of History”. This story may just as well be called “Incredibly History”. It features a tease to Jamie Jaspers, Viper, and Murderworld, for God’s sake! This is the X-Men of the new millennium? Well, this time around at the very least the first issue of it reads like vintage Claremont, including the dubious claim that Viper has a short-range teleport ring. UGH! No matter. Coipel sells it all very well, the action is incredibly dynamic, and the characterizations are solid. Uncanny X-Men 448 is so far one of the high-points of the decade. The following issue isn’t as solid. The art remains beautiful but it all culminates in all the X-Men using their powers in unison after Viper’s Nannites wear off, which is almost the exact same ending as the previous story. And it didn’t work there either. If #448 feels all like set-up for something big, #449 feels like pay-off for something else entirely. It’s Murderworld Storytelling, which ain’t exactly rocket science. Basically, these two issues are pretty to look at. The first seems a little stronger though.
Then we introduce X-23 to the fold and Alan Davis is back. He really is a good match for Claremont’s histrionics. For example, there’s a scene where this little girl has died, her claws match Wolverine’s, we get a pretty cool if-derivative-of-Minority Report scene at a mutant morgue where the victim’s father blind with rage smacks Ororo across the face and then Wolverine starts to strangle him. They are both calmed by Storm, and Wolverine admits that they both flew off the handle. No! He ran into a room and smacked a woman! Storm! It almost works because of how Davis draws it. We also start to advance the Marvel Girl/Nightcrawler/Storm/Wolverine love quad-triangle. I don’t know why this was seen as a good idea. Wolverine and Storm make an incredibly dull couple in this world, though clearly Claremont was warming up to this idea the same time as Brian K. Vaughn was in Ultimate X-Men. It brings out Nightcrawler’s jealousy and after kissing Rachel hers too. Now, Nightcrawler and Marvel Girl make for an incredibly weird couple in my opinion. I’ve gone on record in defending the Madrox/Layla Miller relationship on mainly one ground: it’s funny as hell. This one comes from nowhere and it’s not set up on any level. It’s just soapy and dull. I like that the X-Men are getting back to vaguely investigative roots. Claremont knows how to write this when pressed. Unfortunately though, these Bacchae aren’t really set up or all that interesting and it all results in a fight with a ridiculous character called The Geech, who reads exactly like Guido back in the day. And it all just ends. Somewhere between needlessly and thankfully. This will prove to be a theme later on.
Then we get a story that goes deeper into the Hellfire Club and we get The White Queen back, as well as some gorgeous illustrations by Andy Park. It’s another story about Sage possibly having gone wild. It’s riddled with false cliff-hangers of the cheapest variety. Claremont does such an amateur job of setting up what this story is about that it feels almost afterthought. It’s another story about slavers, which Claremont tackled wholly unsuccessfully at the beginning of the decade and now it’s back. Admittedly, it’s a little easier to swallow when it involves the Hellfire Club. The story starts with them following Emma Frost through a global channel that arrives them at the Hellfire Club where Emma and Rachel immediately start to fight. There is some very good character stuff here between these two rivals and it works very well. Emma passes some sleek wisdom to Rachel and she remains invisible until discovered in the next issue by Red Lotus and her cover is preserved because he’s a double…never mind. It immediately becomes garbled, talky Claremont espionage. The margins are full of strong things though. We get a lovely conversation between Wolverine and Nightcrawler, who admittedly are in the middle of a mission and shouldn’t be this relaxed. And I also kinda liked Sunspot as a Black King. But then there is a ruinously bad false cliffhanger where Bishop is revealed to have shot his fellow X-Men as Nannites were flooding the tunnels and it would be easier to render them unconscious and THEN wake Nightcrawler up and have them teleport them all out. Right…
It ends with a fight with Pierce that’s fun to look at, but we’re entirely removed from all emotions from this battle. I like that Claremont is doing something with the Hellfire Club. Lord knows, nobody else really did. And Andy Park continues the astonishing run of good artists Claremont has worked with, but it ends with Sage’s dubious claim that she predicted that it was inevitable that Pierce would make a power play and that it would result in DaCosta being made Lord Imperial. It only adds to my assertion that the problem with this story is that it isn’t really a story. It merely gives the appearance of a story.
And now we get to what Claremont’s run is really about: jumping the shark! Bringing back Psylocke, which until the launch of Uncanny X-Force seemed like the worst idea in the world. Chris Claremont and Psylocke deserve a good divorce counselor. If you love something this much, you have to let it go. Alan Davis is back on art. Issue #455 deserves mention for some of the most glaring character overreactions in memory. In what is clearly a training scenario, X-23 leaps out of control to protect Wolverine. This growly, wild child incarnation of Laura will thankfully not last long in continuity. Similarly, Psylocke flies off the handle when the rescue team arrives for seemingly no reason other than to display her telekinetic powers. The team reconvenes with Logan’s plane and Laura is the only survivor it would seem and the team is under attack by dinosaurs. Reading issue #456 the first time, I was incredibly underwhelmed. This time around…well, it’s Alan Davis drawing the X-Men fighting Dinosaur People. It can only be so good and so bad. The story serves its purpose obviously: to bring Betsy back into the fold. The X-Men are done away with pretty quickly and captured leaving X-23 and Psylocke to save the day and go after them. Not a lot of good character stuff. Some foreshadowing of Jamie Jaspers on the horizon and the inner-anguish of Psylocke but pretty standard stuff. The next issue screams “Dino-Rachel Attacks!” I can’t think of anything less tantalizing than seeing a skinny telepathic red-head (from an alternate future that no longer exists) walk around pretending she’s a dinosaur. She looks as stupid as any character has ever looked in this book. The fact that Rachel could even fall for this ruse is astonishing to me. She has the power of the Phoenix and she’s walking around like a dinosaur. Jean Grey died, came back to find out that her husband had an affair with an interplanetary force of nature, married a clone of her, had a baby that got sick with a techno-virus (you f**ked a star-god and me as a clone! Of course you got something, perv!), sent it to the future, married the sod anyway, lost him to the White Queen…but you know Dinosaur Rachel is what makes her shake her head with disgust in the Crown. Anyway, the issue continues with the Saga of the Saurians, presumably from the X-Treme X-Men Savage Land story that I don’t believe I read but certainly has nothing to do with the X-Men, or rather any X-Men that I care about. The evil plan in question is Marvel Girl’s ability to boost Storm’s elemental power to create a hyperstorm that will destroy the rest of the Earth. Now, I know this isn’t going to happen so there is a lack of suspense that is unfathomable. On a straight read through and not a month-by-month basis (that took five issues!?!), it reads a little better, an enjoyable trifle with cool dinosaur drawings. But who cares? This issue climaxes with Psylocke punching Marvel Girl away with her newfound titanic strength (yay! New powers for Psylocke! She never had enough!), her rationale begin that she hasn’t had time to test her new powers out. I don’t buy that rationale because she’s been wandering in basically the Savage Land for ages now. The ninja-trained Psylocke that I know would always test her powers out. That’s basically the first thing she would do. So that keeps Marvel Girl at bay for another issue. And then they meet the Savage Land Mutates, an idea that never really worked for me. The Saurians are starting to come across as obnoxiously naïve like the Skrulls that fought alongside the X-Men in The Twelve. The next issue is largely delegated to the X-Men fighting the Saurians again as their plan comes to fruition. Largely the same issue as before except we establish that Bishop is “rising to his true potential [as leader of the X-Men]” (no) and the X-Men get to work alongside the Savage Land Mutates. The story is now criminally overlong.
By the time we reach the final issue of the story I’m going to call “Dino-Rachel Sucks”, I understand why Claremont brought in the Savage Land Mutates. It’s necessary for them to overcomplicate reasons to validate a five issue length story and create an instance of betrayal on Brainchild’s behalf to make this story seem bigger than it is. Really it all comes down to Betsy stabbing Rachel with her telekinetic blade to break the possession and then calming Storm down yet again. One could claim that this continues an arc of Storm losing control but her desire to evolve into a malevolent, dangerous force of nature is something that will never really occur, although Claremont’s X-Men Forever story showed me that it probably should have with Storm as the ruler of Genosha or something. We have forced dialogue of Bishop remarking that X-23 is a better commando than Wolverine because while Wolverine was trained to be what he is, X-23 was born into it. Except X-23 was trained for it, so that makes no sense.
Issue #460 features a nice little hidden chestnut of a Reunion between Rachel and Kitty and Peter during a period where we sadly have little inter-team communion. It has lovely art by Tom Raney and feels positively slapdash in grouping random elements together. It’s a strange little issue but it’s full of humanism and I liked it. The next issue…sigh…it just didn’t work for me. It’s a bit of X-Babies Mojo Mayhem and nobody has been able to ever sell me on it. Raney does a great job of handling the Chuck Jones pandemonium but it’s just nonsense. Just as crazy-pants is the next issue featuring the House of M crossover. This was a terrible read the first time and it’s not much better this time. It’s not really Chris Claremont’s fault. He’s been setting this up for a little bit, but I don’t care about what happens to these characters in the midst of the House of M crossover. The art is rather lovely but it’s so off the wall that I couldn’t care in the least. The first issue features Brian recovering from the wave and Rachel and Betsy perusing the different “thems”. For those readers who are not immediately familiar with Saturnyne, my God! What a confusing read it must be! I am familiar with Saturnyne and I’m still not sure what the deal is. Issue #463 makes a little more sense but Claremont really doesn’t care if he’s confusing the sh*t out of his readers. I’m not going to go into much detail with the next two issues. Claremont uses House of M to forward the lives of Captain Britain and Meggan. He’s not contented to let a crossover go by without laying claim to a small niche that threatens the world entire that his team must solve. It reads much better in one sitting and is done no great favors by some especially lumpy Bachalo illustrations. I’ll cite #465 as the worst as it escalates to something we have no emotional attachment to whatsoever. Basically we’re dealing with a story that Claremont drops us into that we don’t care about. He does this a lot but this is a prime example of who cares.
Another end to a story, another regrouping issue. #466 kicks off “End of Greys”, which to my knowledge is considered the strongest of Claremont’s new run. It certain benefits from more lucid Bachalo art and some good dynamics. I don’t care for how abruptly Rachel’s grandfather is eliminated from the end of the issue, and how the box says NEXT ISSUE: MORE PEOPLE BLOW UP! That’s terribly gauche and the end of the issue is done for shock value and not poignancy, which I find terribly wrong-headed. Next is the acclaimed “Twenty-Four Seconds” issue, and I must say it’s a very well-written piece of work that fails on two fronts: 1) Bachalo’s art is all wrong for something this intentionally morbid, possibly the most morbid thing that Claremont has written in ages, and 2) there is no way this is twenty-four seconds long. Four minutes, I can buy. Twenty-four seconds? No way. It’s a very strong action sequence that cries out for slight betterment. I will happily give it the benefit of the doubt though, as it’s one of the more daring things I’ve read from Claremont, something that harkens back and yet pushes forward. The next issue involves the X-Men taking these Shi’ar down. Again, Bachalo’s art is all wrong here, muting all the emotions for antiseptic wide-shots. It makes perfect sense that the Shi’ar would eliminate the Grey line, but it’s a strangely emotionless affair for all involved, and for the X-Men that’s becoming par for the course and not simply here. The story reads rather depressingly. “24 Seconds” is stronger if only because it’s a better stunt.
The next story I had completely forgotten about. Just in case Chris Claremont doesn’t have enough drool-worthy artists to his credit, he also worked with Billy Tan on the story “Wandering Star”. This is essentially a sequel to “End of Greys” and in this one he does some fantastic post-M Day work that is sorely needed. Tan draws an incredibly Rachel Grey, and although some of the physicality of his X-Men will get better in time, it’s good stuff. The X-Men are essentially jailed and surrounded by Sentinels and it’s a story about caginess. Bishop gets closer to Valerie Cooper and his role of Mutant Policeman, which I always liked. He also under Claremont’s supervision gets closer to a leadership position that will obviously be cut short. The first issue is a lovely piece of set-up where O*N*E goes through Paige’s room and she and Sam plot their revenge, Betsy taunts the O*N*E with her exercises. And Paige hacks into O*N*E’s security and starts messing with things. Rachel finds a way to leave the premises. Not a lot happens but it’s a lovely little read. The next issue is even stronger as Cannonball tests the maneuverability of the Sentinel for sh*ts and giggles, Bishop and Valerie play chess, and Rachel starts to open up to a therapist before the Shi’ar interrupt. This is a good contrast to the Leonard Samson scenes in the previous issue. The only thing I don’t like about this issue is Claremont’s work with Ororo and Logan. Claremont gets a lot of credit for writing a good Storm but he always does the same variation: will Storm let loose and become a strong, tribal leader again. And that will never happen! It’s always the same and it’s starting to verge on John Byrne with blueballs: your mind-rape will never climax, bro! The next issue has some better Storm/Wolverine work, but it still doesn’t really go anywhere, merely explores another local. Rachel grabs her therapist and goes on the run from the Shi’ar agents. Billy Tan’s art is exactly what they needed! It’s quick and fun. And the X-Men pursue to help, half of them dividing to assist a wounded Sentinel before it crashes and the other to assist Rachel. The issue ends revealing that this was merely a ploy to get Rachel in one position so that the Shi’ar could fire their weapon. Rachel picks up on this, “combines her teke with Betsy’s!”, and redirects the blast into space. This doesn’t make a ton of sense but it’s reasonably entertaining. I think if “End of Greys” had similar artwork, this might seem like one long emotional saga rather than a sequel wherein the reappearance of the Shi’ar is something of a “this again?” surprise. Still, there is lots of very good stuff here, especially within issue #469.
Chris Claremont wraps out his run with “The First Foursaken” and it actually does feel like a run with a beginning, middle, and end. Looking back at the first issues, he does set up Jamie Braddock’s return quite handily. Basically Jamie shows up and does his Quantum String thing. For Jamie to work, he needs to be a little more spastic than here, like a being all sinew and one would imagine imprisoned in these strings, which is to say an insane person imprisoned by reality. This is a surprisingly lucid Jamie, which does not work quite as well. He does his usual tricks, making X-Men fight X-Men, playing with death to make his point, and reveals that when Betsy died he protected her so that he could make his play right here. The Watcher shows up, which I hate, and then Jamie is gone and the X-Men must follow after. This is all fine but because it is a plot concerning Jamie Braddock bringing Betsy back to life and the battle for all eternity, I don’t really care. I know where this is going and we’ll see how it reads again. It’s well-written, not bad, but I don’t care. The next issue starts off on the wrong foot with The Watcher just hanging around. Nightcrawler teleports the team “instinctively” drawn to one location (lazy!) and then The Watcher vanishes with Cyclops muttering that he guesses they’re not that interesting without Kurt’s team, which will be the only time in history that one muses that The X-Men aren’t interesting without Bishop, Cannonball, Marvel Girl III/Phoenix IV (?), Nightcrawler, or Psylocke. Lols, people. Lols. There is some regrouping and bickering about what they’re there to do, about Bishop’s relationship with O*N*E, about that “bad Ashton Kutcher movie” The Butterfly Effect. Then The Watcher tells them about the First Fallen, the anti-Phoenix, and how the Foursaken (a group of Jamie’s scool chums) are his servitors. Now, that’s a lotta nonsense for two pages, to introduce the friends of a nutter who drove him insane when they vanished. There is no real connection to Jamie Braddock in this story so it’s hard to care about other abstractly powerful character in approximation to another one. There is a blast of energy and salamanders start jumping out of the ethers, salamanders that can eat one’s soul it would seem. We’re square in Excalibur territory now and the book could use some of Alan Davis’ artwork. Bachalo and Cruz are a quite poor fit. They encounter Godfrey and Ned who appear as abstractly powerful beings enveloped in blue energy and Cannonball and Bishop are useless against them, as is Rachel because she doesn’t really try. Psylocke and Nightcrawler go off to deal with the Salamanders and the latter is quickly bushwhacked when they encounter the fallen X-Men and Jamie tied up in string. Psylocke remains undetectable. She disrupts their magic with iron because that’s what iron does (what?) and they’re sucked into a vortex. Now, this is borderline incoherent jabbering. Lots of characters we haven’t heard of before, one character we’ve kinda seen before, hokum and vague mysticism. Not a good penultimate issue. In the next issue, an Angel named leads a waking Psylocke to the X-Men where they learn that Jamie’s debts got the Foursaken into a world of hurt years past and now they’ve gained the powers of…calling forth thunder, robot control, and calling forth pets…which were salamanders…um, respectively. Shouldn’t the X-Men have been able to take these guys? It’s a lot of expo dumping and Jamie doesn’t want any part of it, wrt expo-dumping or joining them in perfection forever. Basically’s The Angel’s plans involve picking four from every culture and leaving the rest to die and there’s a conversation about all the billions of differing folk in this land that have been Noah’s Arc’ed up. Psylocke stabs him in the head, everyone snaps out of their stupor, powers come back, we learn the truth about the Angel which is really boring and not worth getting into. Jamie sends all the X-Men and the Foursaken back. They get a call from Storm who needs their help in Africa. Ned (I think) tells Amina that maybe it’s time they did something else with their lives, and that’s how I feel about Chris Claremont. This is strange because I recall Psylocke being swept away by the end of this bad issue.
This is also strange because I didn’t pick up on the fact that Tony Bedard did the scripting and Claremont only did the plotting. I’m still classifying this arc as likely the worst of his run because this is all Claremont even though it does feel like an issue of Exiles, Bedard’s Exiles that is. Not Claremont’s. Claremont and Bedard continue (why is Claremont not writing alone? Was it his stroke? Was New Excalibur going on the same time?) with Uncanny X-Men Annual 2006, which is basically a Storm flashback issue before her wedding. Totally disposable. Not worth liking, hating, or buying. It’s worth mentioning that the X-Men do a terrible job against these guerillas. They’re almost fought to a stalemate several times. They have Betsy Braddock and Rachel Grey. If their mind powers are useless, they should be cut forever.
And that’s it. I’m completely astonished that Psylocke remains on the team. I had no idea that would happen at the end. I guess she does cross over to an Excalibur crossover at some point and become lost in time, or something. Whatever. Anyway! Three years! Three years of Chris Claremont writing on Uncanny X-Men! Couple that with the one year or so he did on Revolution and he takes the cake for longest run on Uncanny X-Men for the Aughties making him the champ for the 70’s, 80’s and 00’s. Mazel tov! The praise most lavished on Chris Claremont is that he writes stories about adventures in which his characters are furthered and they have beginnings and middles and ends unlike stories today. And that is true. However, which of these stories is actually A) a good story, and B) with a good beginning, middle, and end? Not many. “The End of History” had some fun things in it, some dynamic art, good action, good moments, but it’s The Fury. Who care? Viper’s Murderworld and the X-23 two-parter? Same thing. The former is a time-waster and the latter is purely functionary. Chasing Hellfire? Like all of Chris Claremont’s issues these days, he is guilty of assuming that we have a strong connection to these characters and so the relevance of them is premade like spam in a can. Outside of glimmers here and there for surface reasons, I’d argue that nothing is truly risible or excellent until late in his run. The latter is not true of “The End of the World” with Dino-Rachel. The best thing about it is that it’s fun to look at. The worst is that it’s stretched out for almost half a year and needlessly complicated. There is a quick diversion involving Juggernaut, Nocturne, and the Exiles that doesn’t amount to much and then it’s head-deep into an incoherent House of M crossover that I found impossibly nonsensical. I’m truly confused at to whether or not I dislike the disorienting first issue of it more than the last. Then we’re back on Earth for End of Greys and Wandering Star, which constitute Claremont’s best work likely since his initial run. Why is this his best? Because he juggles his own pet ideas with a grounded reality. They’re as grounded as his next arc is ungrounded. If it seems as though I’m recapping again, it’s that there is so much more material here than I had remembered. A Chuck Austen read is a quick easy thing. A Chris Claremont one is not. It takes time to filter through what he’s trying to do, how he’s doing, what it’s tying back to, etc. Let’s journey back to what I asked about Austen:
1) Was Claremont entertaining on a month-to-month basis? At the time, no. Absolutely not. It felt like a step in the wrong direction. Is it an entertaining read now? More so, yes. 2) Did Claremont craft any memorable stories? No, not really. They were intermittently entertaining, but the stories themselves? No. Even End of Grey and Wandering Star doesn’t constitute an “Entertaining Story”. Just some good stuff within the context of other stuff. 3) Did Claremont make any lasting contributions to the mythos? Not really. He killed the Greys, that’s about it. More of a formality. Directly tied Rachel Grey’s hatred of the Shi’ar into something grounded. Everything else was likely an editorial mandate like bringing in X-23. Brought Psylocke back. Killed her off in the first place. But he brought her back. Later he would shuffle her off into the Exiles and she’d get brought back again when – ah, f**k it. No, he didn’t. Doing anything with Rachel Grey doesn’t count as anything lasting. 4) Did Chris Claremont leave the book in a better place than where he started? Considering that Austen’s run ended with Carter talking to Cassandra Nova in the back of Nurse Annie’s car, I’d say yes. Also, yes I do know that this was the end of Austen’s run on Adjectiveless X-Men, but the joke still stands. Look, Chris Claremont’s run is better than you remember in one sitting. Over the course of three years, absolutely not. He didn’t really do anything that one would care about. It’s all basically engaging filler. And because the good isn’t that good and the bad isn’t that bad, and even though it’s fun to look at most of the time, I have to downgrade. The fact that I’m even remotely positive on it is something astonishing.
There have been very interesting to read, really delving into these runs. Makes me want to go back and actually read these again just to be more introspective cause I read most of them when I was younger (and haven't touched them again since then) and just read it for the entertainment of a comic and never really fully thought about why i didn't like the stuff even though I knew I didn't.
Also to answer the question there, yes Bedard took over the scripting during that time cause it was right when Claremont had his stroke. Seemingly he had Uncanny planned out with plots written out for Bedard to work off of, while for New Excalibur more free reign was allowed cause he seemingly didn't have the stuff plotted or didn't want it worked on till he got back I suppose.
Now these issues I have on hand so I checked back through them.
First: its a shame how many great artist Claremont had and Fraction (love or hate him) got stuck with Land/Cho. I guess it speaks on consistency but I'd rather have random great art than consistent mediocre...
Second: I'm not sure if editorial wanted Psylocke brought back or if it was a Claremont idea (I kinda think it was)...either way it was by far they most over the top resurrection in comic history. Which says alot coming from a guy who brought back Jean in a cocoon.
Third: Compared to the Austen and Casey (Archangel, Nightcrawler, Iceman, Stacy X, Chamber, Husk, Havok, Polaris, Juggernaut, and Northstar) lineup, Claremont's (Bishop, Storm, Marvel Girl, Nightcrawler, Cannonball, and Psylocke...plus Wolverine and X-23 assistance) lineup is very "safe" and retro. I mean outside of X-23 and Bishop, the rest are Claremont babies. Given a stronger writer this team would have been much more cool (I like Bishop and Cannonball alot, so I have less issues with them), but it was a strange combination that I didn't really enjoy. Even with all the weirdness that was Austen and Stacy X, that team was kinda out there in some ways and felt just more entertaining to read.
But I will say this: Claremont had no air sex in his book so that automatically makes it better than Austen's run LOL
"And someone's mom wants to eat all their souls. As a mom, I was offended. Moms should get to be role models, too."-Savant
Claremont is on record with the Psylocke return being his idea. Can't recall which interviews it was in, but he mentioned that he had originally planned to bring her back soon after he killed her, having her return in X-Treme close to the same way she came back there with Jamie altering her body and such, but editorial said no cause it was during that time that they were trying to act firm on "Dead means dead". It's funny how Claremont tends to re-use plots that he didn't get to use at an earlier point later in his career. The sad thing is that most of the ideas would have worked well perhaps in the earlier time but once done later they feel forced or lose the punch they could have had during the time period they were concocted.
While I also enjoy many of the characters Claremont picked, I agree it was a very 'safe' roster of mostly his favorites and creations for the most part. The man seems to have a penchant for only wanting to handle things he created or helped guide in a certain way most of the time. The cast from Casey/Austen time was pretty cool and would have been very interesting if they had a better writer, which sadly was none of those gone over so far for the most part.
It is a shame that Claremont and Austen got some really great artists, and Uncanny now is saddled with Land and Dodsen and such. Understandable perhaps in the regard to the fact that the books of this time seemed to change artists quite a lot to keep on schedule, but there has got to be artists better than Land that are consistent in out put. Clearly there are since other books have some steady art teams.
(Originally Posted by Blackcyclops @ Today at 1:35am)
Third: Compared to the Austen and Casey (Archangel, Nightcrawler, Iceman, Stacy X, Chamber, Husk, Havok, Polaris, Juggernaut, and Northstar) lineup, Claremont's (Bishop, Storm, Marvel Girl, Nightcrawler, Cannonball, and Psylocke...plus Wolverine and X-23 assistance) lineup is very "safe" and retro. I mean outside of X-23 and Bishop, the rest are Claremont babies. Given a stronger writer this team would have been much more cool (I like Bishop and Cannonball alot, so I have less issues with them), but it was a strange combination that I didn't really enjoy. Even with all the weirdness that was Austen and Stacy X, that team was kinda out there in some ways and felt just more entertaining to read.
Y'know, I don't think that Claremont minded these characters at all. He has a strong history of working with all of them, invented some of them, and chose to write some of them at the expense of others. I don't think he really got shortchanged here. I think he got his sandbox.
Claremont’s most recent run on Uncanny benefits from one steady read through, and so does Brubaker’s Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire. One wonders why this reliably noir-ish writer ever yearned to pen a space opera, but it’s certainly more engaging in one sitting. His first issue finds a perfect fit in Billy Tan. He’s prone to histrionics like a young Andy Kubert, but it’s a very polished, fitting look for a space opera. Brubaker’s first issue is a great “Gathering the Team” issue, full of narrative segues, humor, and successfully legitimizes why Professor Xavier would choose this team. Tan continues to draw a gorgeous Rachel Grey. I don’t think she’s ever had such a unique face as here. His Nightcrawler looks great too. It’s a good read. The next issue is too. It’s a good continuation of the odyssey. I like how Brubaker stealthily hides the reveal of Darwin until he has a moment to shine in battle. He has a great moment where he tackles that monster and then rebounds. Tan knows how to orchestrate some great dynamic action scenes. Claremont spent his latter run doing larger-than-life adventures, but surprisingly Brubaker has a better hand at it. I like the X-Men brooding off to battle with Brubaker dialogue more. The whole thing is full of vibrant colors. They take a star-cruiser, jump the stargate, and then find themselves stranded. I’ll give Brubaker points for picking up on the good work Claremont did with Rachel and uses it to his advantage vis-à-vis her vendetta against the Shi’ar. The second issue is a good time as well. Then we get to issue #477 and one of the great failings of Brubaker, which is to say a Vulcan issue. Now, he chose the name Vulcan which binds him to Greco-Roman history. Brubaker utterly fails to find the parallels between Vulcan and these figures of old. A stronger writer might have wrung some form of humor in the hero worship of this overpowered young man fancying himself a Caesar, but Brubaker keeps his issue lean and down to business. He’s done no great service by Clayton Henry who is a good artist but all wrong for this. A Vulcan centric issue needs to be drawn to avoid a cartoon quality, not emphasize it. We’re already dealing with a cartoon. Not a bad issue, but an unsubstantial one, and one indicative of something Brubaker will not overcome: his inability to paint an interesting antagonist. The next issue is fun and games with Billy Tan-drawn X-Men, and again it’s a marvel to look at. They stop off at a station for repairs and reconnaissance, and find that the Shi’ar on board were replaced by Warskrulls. We’re treating to fun imagery like Nightcrawler teleporting a NIghtcrawler-shaped billow of smoke, Darwin maneuvering through space, Warpath taking on a bunch of Skrulls…nothing essential happens but it’s fun. That seems to be the status quo from here on out. Shi’ar royalty discuss events menacingly and make plans to unleash Korvus on them. That’s about it. I continue to enjoy X-Men with Brubaker-penned attitudes and dialogue a lot more than Claremont. It maintains a good enough time. Then we are introduced to Cloud from Final Fantas – er, I mean, Korvus, who weird The Giant Penis Blade of the Phoenix! Within the context of this silliness, his melodramatic angst actually kind of works. What doesn’t is his collision with the plot. Korvus just rolls on up inside the ship and everyone loses to him. It makes very little sense that such a thing could happen. Additionally, their Shi’ar “guests” are an incredibly arbitrary addition to the plot, and an obvious catalyst for further shenanigans as they just skulk about looking like they’re up to something. It ends with them taking off in Korvus’ ship very coincidentally with Darwin literally hanging on for dear life, which is what Brubaker must be feeling at this point. It’s the first issue I can accuse of outright laziness. We then get a slightly better Vulcan issue where he causes immense harm to the Imperial Guard before getting offed. He has visions of himself as a child which are a little forced, something that could have been set up a little better earlier in the story. Vulcan is freed by a group who align themselves with the Secret Order of the Shi’ar, whatever that means, and he meets his future consort Deathbird. One of the problems with reading a fight scene with Vulcan is that his fights are really all the same. He just outstretches his hands and people fall. I’m starting to see why Brubaker has written Gabriel the way he has: basically, he’s a teenager in a superpowered man’s body. Now, his goal may be snot-nosed teenager that we can identify with, hate, etc., but it’s neither fish nor fowl, and ultimately doesn’t work. He’s a giant missed opportunity.
We’re now halfway through with the Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire and I’d given the first two issues rather high marks, the second two X-Men-centric issues middle marks, and both of the Vulcan issues middle marks as well. It’s all perfectly average at this point. The next issue is mainly a set-up issue as the X-Men discuss the Starjammes for the first time (really should have happened half a year earlier) and learn from Korvus that all of their powers combined should power another stargate (coincidence!). Rachel and Korvus start to hook up, Xavier is tortured, and the plot to reclaim the Shi’ar Empire by this Secret Order is underway. All set up. Nothing really happening. Lots of fun to look at. Alex brings up his father and brother for the first time in months. The next issue benefits from some enjoyably drawn action sequences as the Starjammers are introduced. One could make an argument that the X-Men were not needed for this story at all and that it should have remained a Starjammers story from the get-go. Alex and Corsair have a conversation about his missing son and it just doesn’t reek of emotion like it should. This story has failed to find an emotional fulcrum, and perhaps I’m spoiled by Peter David’s writing but this Darwin just reads generically. Earlier in the story, he is written as wanting to be taken seriously and here he is playing the hero, but we have far too few instances of him feeling disempowered. Rather he is portrayed as always up to playing the hero and not f**king up. D’Ken returns to power. That’s about it. It’s fun to look at. I expect more from a Brubaker book. This series is always hovering around the B/B- range, where I’m always glad I read it but there are either logistical problems or failings of excellence. The next issue features the romance of Deathbird and Vulcan as they bring D’Ken back to the world of the waking, as any form of exposure inside the M’Kraan Chrystal renders men insane. Except for those times in the past and that time coming up, I guess. I understand why Vulcan doesn’t kill D’Ken right off the bat, but the emotion of these scenes aren’t ringing for me. It’s all coming across too sleek, too smooth for me. The next issue is a little better. Brubaker seems to realize how confusing these alliances are, how over-the-top the emotions are, and how easy it is for our eyes to glaze over all of it and just look at the cool action, so he chooses to cross-cut between endless conversations with battles. And the issue has a nice fatalism to it that works, even when it features such nonsense as Warpath and Korvus grabbing little cruisers and Yahoo!-ing off. After a lot of build, the space opera crescendos with soap opera with the next issue #485 where we get the first leg of the slug-fest we’ve all been waiting for. Lots of good illustrations, back-stabbings, etc. There’s not a ton to be said, but it does validate Vulcan’s passivity in the face of D’Ken. A more adept writer would have found ways to bring us into Vulcan’s mind for this charade. Keeping him knowingly opaque is an easy way out, but it does make sense, and it all looks great – and feels great with overblown emotions. And then comes #486 where it all comes crashing down: the Professor gets his telepathy, lots of space fighting, lots of bad PG-ish cursing, lots of forced sending-the-X-Men-we-want-to-use-back-to-Earth-and-leaving-the-rest-out-here-to-do-whatever-ness. What’s strange is that the X-Men out in space are Alex, Lorna, and Rachel who were brought back as arbitrarily and recently as any have been brought back. Clearly, nobody wanted these heavy hitters for the events ahead. Why bring them back in the first place? I don’t get it. Anyway, the final issue is fun to look at. There’s lots of good action but it’s also evidence of a lot of the saga’s shortcomings. While it’s fun to look at, there isn’t any developed emotional fulcrum whatsoever. This was not my experience when I first read it. Dynamics aren’t really set up and furthered with nuance, they’re just established and reestablished later on. What I responded to the first time was a sense of fatalism that registered rather strongly with me, an under-battle-duress that Claremont used to write very well, and to Brubaker’s credit he writes this better than Claremont did the most recent time around because it does feel as though things are at stake here. The biggest development is Alex’s assertion of leadership as the new head of the Starjammers, which would in theory make this a story about the Evolution of Alex to rise the occasion in his father’s name to restore the name sullied by his brother. But this isn’t really discussed. By the end of the series, he tells Xavier that he, Lorna, and Rachel can’t be X-Men anymore because the X-Men don’t kill…which certainly isn’t true anymore. But while Rachel has become more aggressive, when do Alex or Lorna? It’s a giant missed opportunity that on second read feels a lot like one of those Hollywood White Elephant epics that suck up Oscars like flat soda. Great art, fun action, some good moments, a decent read, but nothing special. All things considered, I wish Abnett/Lanning did it as a Starjammers Mini-Series and left Brubaker to other devices.
The first issue of Extremists isn’t a bad one. Salvador Larroca draws the X-Men well. That’s all there is to it. We have Caliban and Leech ambushed in the tunnels by a rogue faction of the Morlocks led by Masque who claims to understand the book of an alleged prophet. I don’t quite understand how their powers can work around Leech but no matter. At the Mansion, Xavier is possibly more powerful than ever (that’s very coincidental) and pals around Nightcrawler, and the dynamic between the two of them is incessantly pleasant. I really would like to see something furthered between them, not simply reinstated. Warpath gets closer to Hepzibah who will be forgotten about very quickly and likely for the best. She always was an enjoyable figure in the X-Men Animated Series but she doesn’t belong here. They spar and trade flirtations before a depowered Caliban is found by Warpath and an miscommunication almost ends with a scuffle with O*N*E. Storm is brought in to handle this because she used to lead the Morlocks. This only reinforced in my mind what a horrible idea that was. Storm never cared about the Morlocks, never did anything, and given what Claremont would eventually do with the character perhaps Nightcrawler truly should have battled Callisto for leadership as he did in Kirkman’s ill-fated run on Ultimate X-Men. It would make sense to have him lead them after all. Imagine what that could have done to deepen Kurt’s character! Neither here nor there, I fear. First issue looks pretty, and I hope upon second read through it will go somewhere. I’ll say this for Brubaker, he knows how to start an issue off on the right now. The opening image in the next issue of Bliss milking her venom is disgusting. He captures the inner squabbling of the Morlocks quite well. The rest of the issue is a bit garbled. Just what Xavier thinks he can gauge from doing a random on location search for a possibly depowered Magneto is beyond me, although it makes a lot of sense that he would absolutely go after him in this state. But it’s still a mess. Storm, Hepzibah, Caliban, and Warpath go through the tunnels and it’s more or less the same as every Storm-goes-through-the-tunnels story. They find something that Storm keeps calling interesting. And Skids (in a very Brubaker fashion) plants a bomb on a subway train which is derailed by Erg and then Masque disfigures everyone. Not a bad read with some nice eerily detailed panels, but a bit sloppy. The next issue picks up on a defensive note: why couldn’t Caliban or Warpath track the Morlocks? I would imagine a more engaging story (one that might validate five issues!) would involve Caliban and Warpath almost arriving in time to make a difference. It’s not a good foot to start on. The rendez-vous with the FF is a completely needless tie-in in every sense of the world. I gauge that Brubaker is trying to establish a convergence of Magneto and the Morlocks who worship him in this issue but it’s not working well. This issue consists of one very good idea: the trail of dead left by M Day. The editors did an incredibly irresponsible job in failing to tell these stories. Xavier and Kurt go to a grave of a mutant who died following M-Day and Magneto had gone to pay his respects. Their efforts are hastened by Masque’s viral hate campaign inspired by Magneto. Now, there is a good story to be had here re: the vortex of hate, terror, extremism, but it’s not coming through. Caliban, Hepzibah, Storm, and Warpath arrive at the scene of a fight between O*N*E officers and the Extremists and find Skids who has been injured. It turns out she’s working with S*H*I*E*L*D after all and stops another misunderstanding between Warpath and a Sentinel, which seems to be all the Sentinels are good for: misunderstandings. The next issue is pretty bad. Xavier is impotently monitoring the action from the Blackbird with Nightcrawler and does not make his presence known for whatever reason, I can’t tell. We learn of Qwerty, who wrote these inherently contradictory prophecies that her friend Delphi preaches like scripture. Caliban, Skids, and Storm go to this cultish temple, which has not been set up at all thus far, and we learn about one person, meet her friend, and then her friend tells us more. This is completely limp storytelling. It ends with the temple coming down and Storm’s claustrophobia acts out again. While this is going on, Hepzibah and Warpath almost f**k, and then they fight the Morlocks. There’s a decent bit of good misdirection in their fights but it’s all rehash. Maybe the worst issue that Brubaker has written thus far. Then comes the next one where Masque’s plan is revealed to be blowing up a Church so as to [metaphorically] make way for the word of the prophet! We open on Storm in a coffin and the other X-Men chained to the walls and upon hearing this Storm breaks loose. Masque keeps crying out “Damn you! This ain’t how it happens!” They fight, Warpath throws a knife at Leech’s collar which releases his powers and Caliban takes on Masque. Strange that Leech can affect peoples’ powers through proximity now! It all comes to an end with Warpath and Hepzibah starting a relationship, Professor Xavier talking to Storm, and Skids giving Magneto back the book. This is Chuck Austen league writing over here. if Professor Xavier and Nightcrawler were never going to effectively interfere with this on-goings, then why not have them do something else?
It’s hard to gauge the effectiveness of single issues in crossovers but I’ll try. Billy Tan is back with Messiah Complex, one of the more effective X-Overs ever produced. It’s just sweet! It has a lot of misdirection, betrayals, it leaves you in the dark, and while the significance of the new baby doesn’t really palpitate, there is a fatalism to the whole order that is very engaging. This first issue does exactly what it needs to do: it widens the gyre. The X-Men do recon, Jamie shows up at the Mansion with Richtor and Layla Miller, and the Professor starts to feel like he doesn’t belong. It’s all very stylish. Some of the dialogue is a bit force. There’s some good fighting. But it’s fun. The next issue is kinda fun as well, ‘cause it’s a buncha X-Men fighting the O*N*E Sentinels, but it’s also easily the weakest issue of the crossover. Reading it out of context, I’m completely baffled by why they go rogue. Does anybody remember? It’s weird. Basically Emma’s contact is interrupted by a rogue sentinel that I think Bishop had something to do with, but no matter. It’s the most average issue, but it’s likely not his fault. The next issue is better although it features the most over-the-top art of Billy Tan’s career. It’s got a pretty sweet-ass fight scene as the Mauraders just own Bishop. The rest of the issue is setting up. I’d say Brubaker’s biggest failing here is his inability to draw us into Bishop’s stress levels and ability to stay cool. Why Emma didn’t pick up his thoughts is beyond me, and whatever rationale isn’t on the page. It’s still pretty good though. By the end of Messiah Complex. It’s pretty clear that Brubaker’s were not the strongest issues by a longshot. They have the most awkward incidents and some awkward dialogue. The first issue is the best, conveying a lot of atmosphere and emotion, and a sense of changing times.
Then we move into Divided We Stand, which is the strongest arc of Brubaker’s. it advertently points out one of the failures of Civil War: their refusal to persecute mutants. We have a moment where Tony Stark shies away from the abhorrent notion of registering mutants for being born. When has that been anybody’s problem? Imagine the scope and strength of a Civil War that went after mutants as well! Well, I guess you can. Utopia. And that didn’t go over well at all. Anyway, we start with #495 with Emma and Scott in the Savage Land after Xavier’s death. And it’s great fun. There are great moments Brubaker writes for Scott and Emma, especially when Emma gives us an insight into Scott evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of Scott’s constant tactician mindset. I’ll say that he also writes likely the sweetest moment between these two yet written. And I could read Peter, Kurt, and Logan traveling through Germany pretty much forever. A very good issue. A hopeful one too. The next one is just as strong. I’ve always had a soft spot for San Francisco turning into a hippie commune. It’s such a fun way to bring the X-Men to San Francisco. The issue is full of good humor like Wolverine joking around about missing The Blob. We need more issues of X-Men drinking. It’s never not fun. Not much happens in this issue and it likely could be combined with the one prior and after, but it’s a fun read. #497 is even better. There is a cavalier attitude to the action that’s been long-since missing in these books. Kurt, Logan, and Peter find themselves airborne by Russian Robots and try to take them down, which is very cool. Scott and Emma start to blend in and take out the fuzz, with Scott dipping Emma while blasting them: very cool. And Brubaker has a lot of fun with the faded sadness of old hippies. It manages to be both pathetic and quite funny. The entirety of the story has the feel of a lark, which is exactly what is needed post-X-Over AND a strong contrast to other ways of bringing the X-Men to San Francisco we could have seen. Imagine something just as depressing or even more? It would have been a dirge! In the next issue, we learn it’s not Pixie but Martinique Jason who’s transformed this world. I would have liked it if Brubaker did a little more with the living dream quality of this world, and a lot of that is due to Choi’s overly polished art which is good but I didn’t quite feel the instant wonderment of all this. I still love the idea and it feeds into one of the more intoxicating elements of being a mutant, because one of the less commented on parallels between being a mutant is being…well…a hippie, either young and beautiful or old and outcast. I love the Hippie names. Choi’s art is on much better display with the Logan, Kurt, and Peter adventure, which takes full flight as they are hostages in the Red Room and tortured. I especially love Logan upon threat of torture saying “Hey, man. That’s not cool.” I like the utilitarian Russian view of M-Day, which will amount to one of the very few instances of a writer truly exploring the global ramifications of it all. I would argue that the most badass fight scene in Brubaker’s entire run (and he’s had a couple to be fair) is Kurt teleporting that charge with him. Just an incredible amount of fun. Very good issue. I guess Choi couldn’t keep up the artwork, because the next issue we have Ben Oliver on San Francisco filler which is a MUCH better choice because not much is lost, and that way we get an incredibly badass fight scene between Kurt, Logan, and Omega Red, and Choi gets the creepiness of his character very down. It’s a lot of fun, and in San Francisco we find an organic way in which the X-Men fight each other and save the Mayor in a development that I didn’t see coming. Again: the tone here is merry as hell, which is a great contrast to Messiah Complex and the coming storm. For a writer associated with noir and subterfuge, Brubaker has been tapped to write a lot of retro stories, in every sense of the word.
So, that’s Brubaker’s run. And it’s a weird one. Unlike Casey, Austen, or Claremont, there isn’t anything personal going on here it would seem, and were I to guess who was writing here, I would probably never guess him. It’s completely impersonal with some stuff to like and a lot to find underwhelming. So, I ask you: 1) was Ed Brubaker entertaining on a month-to-month basis? Yes and no. The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire actually thrives on month-to-month entertainment. The Extremists were not, but Messiah Complex onward absolutely was. So, that’s a yes. 2) Did Ed Brubaker craft any memorable stories? His involvement with Messiah Complex constitutes partial credit and I’ll certainly find Divided We Fall memorable if not groundbreaking, but The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire and Extremists were not, and that’s a lot of months to be not memorable. Partial credit. 3) Did Ed Brubaker contribute anything to the mythos? Well, the Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire shuffled off Alex, Lorna, and Rachel, and he introduced Korvus. None of these would warrant a rock solid year of writing, so that’s not a good case. He worked on Messiah Complex, so that’s a pretty lasting contribution. He moved the X-Men to San Francisco. Not really. They all seemed like editorial mandates to me. And 4) Did he leave the X-Men in a better place than he found them? That’s a resounding yes. So how does one rate his run on Uncanny? On a sheer grading scale, The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire would likely get a low B- on the strength of art and because A) a few issues are very good, and B) the ones that are bad are never that bad. Extremists would get a C-. That’s a pretty average start, and then we get Messiah Complex, which is one of the best X-Overs the label has produced. How much of that is due to him, I couldn’t say, and his are certainly the weakest issues of the lot, but they’re still quite good. And then he rebounds quite strongly with Divided We Fall, easily the strongest five consecutive issues since I started doing this. It’s the most average, paint-by-numbers run thus far, and yet it’s also the best.
Well…I suppose he does warrant mention. I’m not a big fan of the man’s work. He had a very laissez-faire approach to long-term planning which proved ruinous for the book. To kill five minutes, let’s look at his run, shall we? On this book, we start with the death of Colossus, which now reads as an issue-length exercise in techno-babble. I have literally NO idea where this cure is coming from. At all. Makes no sense. It’s pretty to look at because it’s Salvador Larocca, but it’s absolute nonsense. Colossus’ death is quite graceful and I like how Xavier fools Beast, Gambit, and Wolverine into thinking they’re playing a game so as to give him enough time to grab the ball. Really though, Scott Lobdell is a man of his time: the 90’s. And this issue feels like one of the later episodes of X-Men The Animated Series long past the time where anyone was watching.
Then comes something very special. Uncanny X-Men 391. Cyclops back from the dead. Camping out with his father. The list of wonderful moments goes on. My favorite is when Corsair asks Scott to use his powers to light a fire but that’s not how his powers work. Now, I hate, hate, hate, HATE!!! that Cyclops knows who his father is and that his father is a f**king space pirate. I hate it! Why? Because Cyclops is a f**king orphan and when orphans find out who their fathers are, they’re never anything as cool as f**king space pirates! Cyclops’ father was a drunk most likely. Chris Claremont did a lot of great things for a lot of characters but having Cyclops meet his father and his father turning out to be a space pirate is almost as bad as having him rebound with Madelyne Pryor, a woman who looks exactly like Jean Grey – no matter what her origins may be! Anyway, this is a beautiful issue which validates why I’m circling back to Scott Lobdell. I have a lot of frustration with him as a writer but he could knock these issues out of the park. His pre-event, post-event issues. And this is one of his best. A bit sledgehammer but the moments of quiet are just haunting.
Then comes the super-weird addition to Eve of Destruction. Now, I like the central idea here of Jean Grey picking up a bunch of second-stringers that even Northstar, Dazzler, and Cargill look like True Believers next to, but I have one huge problem…you will never convince me that it came to this. Never. There was nobody else that she could have picked? Nobody? Don’t buy it. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong. And it doesn’t start to go wrong until the next issue. But I don’t buy it. Again: good character stuff, art. It’s a bit jarring of a leap into this Magneto-ruled cacophony, but I just don’t buy that it came down to Paulie Provenzo against Magneto. Sorry. I’m off the ship. Reasonably fun though. There’s a lot to like and dislike in the next one, which is Part 3 of 4. I like how Jean Grey uses her powers to boost their knowledge set and how she is not above shifting around Cargill’s allegiances if she has to. It’s mildly out of character but it makes for fun developments. I like Scott Lobdell’s humor throughout this, like a Mojoworld Age of Apocalypse and Jean messing with Paulie and revealing her “true self” as a grandmother to shut him up. Some of it just doesn’t gel, like Magneto doing this all in Colossus’ honor? Considering the myriad times they’ve met like nothing happened, I don’t buy it. This makes for an issue that is something of a tonal disaster, bounding from fatalism to comedy, and just ends up a mess. I hear that Lobdell had an entire arc planned for Eve of Destruction, which was cut short by Morrison. I don’t entirely understand why he did that when four months later a slew of heavy-hitters came in, but under tight reigns here, this isn’t bad stuff. I won’t grade his run as a whole because his work on Uncanny is all I’m interested in, but from what I’m reading here:
It’s worth mentioning though that the other issues of Eve of Destruction are rather needlessly long and reveals a rather immoral plan on Phoenix’s behalf: she gathers a group of young X-Men to distract Magneto long enough for Scott and Logan to show up. Basically, she’s throwing lives in the way to buy some time. Now, that’s kinda hinky, don’t you think? Especially considering how little she does. Lots of filler within the span of eight issues total, it must be said and as always Scott Lobdell writes a bad Magneto. Again: fun but damn dumb. Should be said that this “run” is the strongest of the decade. Ye gods!
#390 – B
#391 – A-
#392 – B
#393 – C+
X-Men #110– B-
#111 – C+ (um, for a clipshow)
#112 – B-
#113 – B-
I remember when this came out and I was posting on here, Brubaker's run didn't get alot of love. Which interests me because in many ways Brubaker was the most "old" Claremont-ish writer since Claremont himself. For me he gave his stories a sense of realism, a sense of urgency, and a sense of scope. Three things the 90s lacked (with possibly the only exception being the X-Cutioner's Song saga and some of the issues surround it). He gave us organic feeling "down" issues instead of just forcing it on us. And even during "down" issues he progressed the larger story and the characters, something that only Claremont was good at doing (everyone else either just had nothing happen...but it was "down" LOL).
That said he was given a very strange lineup. One that I actually liked. His use of Havok, Polaris, and Rachel for his big story worked well for me. Since I don't have any memory of interviews, I tend to not blame things on editorial mandate unless otherwise stated. So his leaving of them in space might have made sense to him, and to me it did as well. And yes he didn't do Vulcan very well, BUT he gave us something for the Cosmic writers to just make AWESOME. In many ways Vulcan is the Marvel version of Superboy-Prime...
I agree that the move to San Francisco was handled perfectly and that story was the best of his run, easily. Overall I agree with your score for Brubaker. I'd even just give him a solid B or B+.
"And someone's mom wants to eat all their souls. As a mom, I was offended. Moms should get to be role models, too."-Savant
You know, it's hard for me to relate re: the stories Claremont told vs. the ones in the 90's because the very model of them was so different! The 90's didn't have stories, they had crossovers, and to be fair I think some of them are a lot better than the ones that Claremont did. I don't think there were many crossovers in the 90's that were as bad as Inferno, as much a stretch as Fall of the Mutants, as uneven as X-Tinction Agenda. I'll agree with you on Claremont's touch but I think too often he pushes the "Depressive Pause" on us, where two characters will stop for a heart to heart on the greater scope of things, and he lost sight of how to do that a while ago. Ah, the Claremont "Depressive Pause"! One wouldn't liken Brubaker to old school normally but what he did is pretty old-school. There's not a lot of operatic, soapiness to his work but he's working within Claremont's model.
Brubaker was given a strange lineup, but he was given them with the visibly explicit intent on shuffling them into space. Again: there is no way this is his idea! Havok, Polaris, and Rachel Grey do NOT work in a world where the X-Men need to be on power set par with the Marauders, the Acolytes, and Bastion's forces, and honestly they don't have much use on the Island either. This was an editorial mandate. They wanted Polaris back for House of M. I don't think they ever really cared about bringing Rachel Grey back. And Havok just seems like a decent call, so I'm 50/50 on that. But yeah, they're back and so off they go again. That can't be Brubaker's call.
Vulcan is absolutely Superboy Prime. I don't think the Cosmic Writers made Vulcan awesome. I think they made him...all right. Vulcan never worked as a character. I still think there's something good in his character that is being unexplored.
I'm almost done with my read of Fraction's run and I'm genuinely ambivalent on how to rate the differences between these two writers. I've decided to consider everything #500 and onward as Fraction rather than the ones that were co-penned. They are CLEARLY Fraction's writing. On the one hand, Brubaker played it safer and more consistently, but Fraction aims for something higher and only achieves some of it. I don't think any writer has been less ambitious this decade than Brubaker. Keep in mind: Chuck Austen was trying, trying, trying. He just wasn't very good, good, good. Brubaker was clearly occupied with Captain America and there just isn't a lot of effort here.
And now we move onto the Fraction era. It begins with #500, a co-authoring of Fraction and Brubaker, but it’s Greg Land, Terry Dodson, and discussions of pop art, so it’s all Fraction in my book. I was very underwhelmed by this on my first reading. I look at it now, and it’s aged rather well even if the book is weird, weird, weird! Like #400, I don’t think anybody asked “Hey, are the fans gonna like this?” I remember seeing the Preview Ads and thinking “What the f**k is this?” It reads awkwardly at times. The Kingo subplot never really goes anywhere, the Mayor’s introduction of the festival is a little out of the blue and riddled with overreactions, and on the same page Magneto says “Now then, where were we?” twice, but there is a lot to like in it. “Mutant kitsch”, for example. It’s a lot of fun. And Greg Land “draws” a lot better three years ago than today. But the Dodson/Land combo does not work at all. Nor does the Magneto fight. Nor does much of the dialogue. It’s not that bad of an issue, it’s just such a strange commemorative, one where a fight with Magneto serves as a distraction for the High Evolutionary to siphon the energies of a Celestial. It reads more like an issue after an anniversary. Not a great start, but not to be as reviled as it is.
I see now that #500 is part One of a Five-Parter called SFX. I didn’t know that, nor did I know that Brubaker was co-authoring most of it. It’s clearly the Fraction era though, so I’ll lump it in as such. #501 has some very good stuff in it, and yet the shortcomings of the coming era is beginning to rear its head. Greg Land’s art isn’t required to suck just yet, and for an issue of largely people looking at each other and talking, it’s not terrible. Except in the opening pages where Pixie is beaten up. It just doesn’t work. Cyclops builds a crib, which adds to the nice compulsiveness of his character, gets a car from Worthington which advances how much he belongs in his element in San Fran, and they mount a counter-attack after discovering Pixie. We see the Hellfire Cult in action for the first time, and they pose a solid threat in these pages. It’s all perfectly serviceable. Really though, I just like the mood of the book. There is an excitement in the pages and the characters seem genuinely upbeat. Flawed but pretty good. Issue #502 has some very clever foreshadowing about Nightcrawler’s feelings about killing that I wish, wish, wish would have produced some good stories for him, Cyclops tells him and Logan that there is no killing, and Kurt is genuinely baffled why he would draw that assumption. This is a fantastic arc that would have strengthened Kurt’s involvement as moral compass of the X-Men over the next couple years. Sad. Megan awakes to Beast (who Land creates a look for that is just beautiful and dignified) and he brings in Dazzler who decides to use Megan for her shows in the future, even though I think Pixie’s dust used in a concert would produce an Altamont- scale disaster. Cyclops tortures a member of the Hellfire Cult with an insanely elaborate method of acupuncture, which I like for the theatrics of it but it’s a bit silly. Pixie gets a ride from Logan through the streets of San Fran, ready to bail on the X-Men. It’s a fun scene. More Kurt. Be great if they actually used him. They mount an attack on the Cult and Empath escapes, making the X-Men look like a bunch of chumps. I have no problem with Empath’s powers being boosted. He was always a good character and likely should play with the big leagues, but it’s not like he really comes back later on. There’s a good scene with Maddie torturing him that presents her as a figure of menace that the book needs. A good issue. Issue #503 gets off to a great start with a wonderful beer summit between Xian, Dani, and Sam that only suffers from Sam’s ridiculously racist comment to the bartender. Still, a good scene. I like Empath going through the streets barking “Move! Superior being coming through!” Fraction and Brubaker still haven’t grasped how women speak, like why on Earth Pixie would brag to herself about being “Goth as hell.” Pixie isn’t goth! Maddie seduces Scott as Emma in an incredibly strange scene that – again! – I wish got developed further. Everything with the Sisterhood fell apart to the best of my memory. The chase after Empath is pretty strong. I like the dynamism of Kurt taking him down and realizing it’s all through eye contact. The X-Men don’t do high-speed chases enough. They win the day and Pixie is an X-Man. It’s a strong end to a decent set of issues with a nice haunted beat of Scott realizing that he didn’t have sex with Emma after all, and that Maddie is back. I like this issue and I like the issues before. This will conclude Brubaker’s assistance and I hope that it wasn’t his presence that held the book together.
Then we move into a strange arc, and I already know what my impression was of it the first time. I thought “this is an unnecessary diversion from what I care about” and then when the stories converge at the end, I was quite impressed. Dodson is the main penciller. I don’t mind him as much this time. Peter fails to get a tattoo. This is a wonderful idea for an arc about allowing him to feel pain. Scott and Emma boot him off the team, and then Emma suspects Scott of hiding something and wanders around his mind. I didn’t realize that this was going to set up for the subplot with The Void later on. It’s quite symmetrical actually. Peter meets a man from his past with moving tattoos, and this is actually set up rather well in my opinion. We already establish he hasn’t eaten in days and of course he would go to this restaurant where this man would be. Very good. Warren and Hank encounter Dr. Nemesis, the awesomeness that is Dr. Nemesis, maybe Fraction’s finest notion. His first scene is a small gem. Emma finds Scott’s black box. More excellent development for later on that I had forgotten about, and the truth about Cooperstown is revealed and Humanity Now begins its campaign. This is an excellent first issue that might be a little stronger with a less cartoon-ish penciller. A TON is introduced here and rather effortlessly, I must say. In the next issue, Peter follows the tattooed man. Megan and Hisako learn they will be sharing a room with Laura, who towels the blood from her hair. Megan tells Emma and Emma confronts Scott. The set-up for the big fall-out during Utopia begins, and it addresses why Emma doesn’t know yet. I really do like how Scott continues to think about what Hope will need when she come back. The Science Club find Madison Jeffries who does appear mildly bonkers in his first appearance, I had forgotten. He is mildly PTSD from his Weapon X days. After a brawl, Peter goes to work for the tattooed man, which I actually believe he would. We close with a rather demeaning sequence of Storm asking Emma how to be a queen, which quickly turns into a discussion of Storm’s conflicted role as Queen of Wakanda. I don’t buy it and I don’t like it. it ends with Emma off to a party that will doubtlessly build up to her role in Dark Reign. Not a great issue but with some good stuff. The next issue starts with Emma dreaming bad things about Scott’s black box as he sleeps soundly – without his goggles, which I don’t get. I will not understand Scott sleeping without goggles. I’m not sure if this has been shown before but it’s a bad choice. Even for how hard he’s trained, I don’t think he would ever allow an evening without. Peter’s first day on the job uncovers some Russian women to be slave-traded. He saves them. Sadly, they will not really be mentioned again. With anti-mutant legislature being pushed, Scott welcomes the persecuted into the Mansion while Colossus becomes a mild media star as he saves the lives of these Russian women whom he brings back to the Mansion for sanctuary. Meanwhile, The Science Club seeks out Dr. Takiguchi as they maneuver crab monsters and prepare to fight off Leviathan. The Science Club – just a great time. And Emma joins Peter to take down the tattooed man again. It’s a nice little issue, nothing great, mostly connective tissue, but good. Really though it just leads up to the next issue, a fantastic piece of cross-cutting between Emma and Peter fighting the tattooed man and Archangel revealing himself to Beast and taking down Leviathan. The edits are on emotional beats and I wish that someone a little better than Dodson had been on art or we’d be talking about one of the best issues of the decade. Just a very emotionally powerful piece of work. It ends with Emma talking to Sebastian Shaw about his role in the Genoshan massacre (um, need to read that one) and we finish with Hank trying to talk to Warren, Peter feeling the pain of his tattoo, Scott declaring that he’s not building a militia but an army, and Magneto’s repowered. I’m not sure that this needed to be four issues but this is for the most part a very good arc, one that displays a lot of control, voice, and style. The art is my only complaint. Dodson is just wrong for the book. Like Greg Land. Like Whilce Portacio. A very strong read and Fraction is off to a good start with two surprisingly strong arcs.
I lost what much of what I wrote about Uncanny X-Men Annual 02 – Dark Reign, The White Queen (mouthful!) but it’s a very good read about mutant politicking between Emma and Namor, it retcons a past that likely did occur and makes not just perfect sense but also viable present history as well, and if more reads of Dark Reign were like this one we might be talking about a very good crossover indeed. I won’t recap again but it involves Emma feigning a power play for Namor’s loyalty, which involves imprisoning Shaw rather than killing him. Beautiful art, great character moments and developments. Emma has slept with E*V*E*R*Y*O*N*E.
Ah, “Sisterhood”! This one doesn’t work. Before I get into it, the big problem with “Sisterhood” is that Madelyne Pryor’s return is an enigmatic notion that yields no further repercussions and for this story to hold sway that needs to happen. At the end of this story, she is gone. So what was it for? The return of Psylocke? Well, let’s see. The first issue of the run is #508 and already Greg Land’s art is beginning to feel arbitrary. A conversation between two Otaku’s is visually incoherent, whatever drama going on is rendered indifferent by Land’s photo-shopping. And we’re now getting into a phase where a woman dances in the frame with excitement. This time it’s Hepziban. We get the great Wolverine “WWWWWWWWWHAT?” as he unsheathes his claws. It’s bad. The Science Club stuff looks great though. He’s pretty hit or miss this time, but the misses are ruinous. Anyway, the Sisterhood brings back Psylocke, referred to as Kwannon or Revanche here, which causes all the psychics to lose their sh*t, including Emma who Kurt brought in to teach the refugees English in a very amusing little scene. I really do wish that Fraction wrote more with Kurt. I like the station he’s written him and Land draws one of the great Nightcrawlers. We get a nice introduction of Northstar to the fold. This isn’t a bad issue at all, but it’s hobbled by intermittently terrible art. The next issue drops a hammer I didn’t know had been dropped in previous issues, which is that mutants are now under a hammer of selective breeding, Proposition X by Simon Trask. I thought for damn sure it was revealed in Exodus. The X-Men get understandably fussy at this news, Pixie starts to fight the Hellfire Cult in the danger room, and Madison Jefferies confesses to an interesting conversation he had with a coffee maker a while back (Again: really like the Science Club.) that ends in the notion to travel back in time to witness Dr. Nemesis’ birth, and at the end of the issue the Sisterhood ambushes. There is lots of explanations and biding of time here, and it’s a better issue that what’s to come but really this is an issue of talking. Some of it caters to Land, some of it doesn’t. For example, when Scott grabs his pillow to go into the other room, did Emma roll onto the entire bed out of spite? Or is it because of Scott’s guilt? There’s no real way of knowing. Then we get – ho, boy! – Uncanny X-Men #510, and it’s a bad one. Or rather, it might not be a poorly written one. But this is the single most incoherently illustrated issue possibly of Greg Land’s career. That’s saying something. There is no sense of mood, narrative, or emotion in the entirety of it. Even as I read it, I feel like I haven’t read it before. There are moments that I had forgotten about like possible future developments for Maddie that are positively instructive vis-à-vis the Phoenix. What should be a stirring moment where Pixie shows up right before Laura is about to attack is rendered impossible due to physics. Even things that I like such as The Cuckoos studying yoga with Elixer comes across as atonal. There is one fantastic beat in this incoherent issue…they steal a lock of Jean’s hair from Logan. He would absolutely keep a lock of her hair. It is a great, great idea that is worth rescuing from the trash heap. The next issue is better but it’s still an almost impossibly readable story because of Greg Land. Some of his illustrations are solid, like the palpable quiet in the opening scenes where Scott and Logan aren’t talking to each other. Other times his picture thievery starts to become wearying. The X-Men bust in on the Sisterhood quite easily and they fight for an issue. And it’s a little awkward. Fraction is clearly on auto-pilot this issue and it shows. The Sisterhood is defeated because Maddie/Weird Psychic Ghost (we never know) thinks she’s going into Jean Grey’s body but anything less than Jean Grey wouldn’t contain her so she vanishes. So then why steal a lock of her hair? It doesn’t make a lick of sense. The reason Matt Fraction’s run will be a difficult one to gauge will be due to his highs and lows. For instance, this run of issues would range about a B-/C+/D/C- while previous arcs range largely in the B at least consistently. I have a feeling that a lot of what’s coming up will suffer similar marks as Fraction finds his groove, or lack thereof.
Then comes a little piece of magic I like to call Uncanny X-Men #512. Imagine this issue done by Greg Land. Impossible. But illustrated by Paquette. This will be the single best drawn issue of Fraction’s run. I have no idea why Paquette jumped onto this book. He was a terrible fit for Robert Kirkman on Ultimate X-Men, but here he is incredibly stylish and this stand alone issue is a tremendous read. Basically, the Science Club goes back to San Francisco in 1906 to get some genetic information on Nicola and Catherine Bradley, kind of a Nick and Norah Tesla duo. Nicola is on the verge of getting helped/screwed over by Cornelius Shaw in a lovely piece of history. Fraction’s wit is in incredible form, such as an exchange where Beast asks Dr. Nemesis if he wants to meet his parents from before he was born. “No. No, I do not.” “He never wants to do anything fun.” The X-Men help Catherine and Nicola Bradley and fight the first Sentinel and cause the great earthquake! Sadly the two future parents die in the melee, they acquire the genetic material and urge Catherine to bury the batches in Golden Gate park and whaddaya know! That’s exactly where the Sleeping Sentinel stands! And then Dr. Nemesis goes back in time and delivers himself. I’ll spare you readers any future anticipation for my top ten: this is the best issue of the post-Claremont Revolution era. There is not a panel in this book I do not love. It is rich with history, invention, character, wit, pathos, and dark foreboding of the future. This was the issue I loved Dr. Nemesis. He is an immeasurable contribution to the mythos. The moment where he reveals that he never met his parents before and he meets her as she suffers in bed from pregnancy, and then tells his friends that she dies in childbirth is impossibly haunting. I love this issue. I will always respect Matt Fraction for it. It’s almost too good to be an X-Men book.
Then comes Dark Reign and the Utopia saga. I will say that X-Men: Utopia #1 is an incredibly compelling read. Marc Silvestri’s art compensates for some of Fraction’s shortcomings like the unrealistic escalation of events leading up to a riot. Basically a riot starts and then another and it all builds. There could have been a little more nuance but it really does give the impression that what’s happening here does matter. It conveys an atmosphere that evokes the civil liberties rage in the Haight of the 70’s. A great read that manages to get you stirred up. Then it’s back to Dodson and it all kinda deflates. I can’t imagine this with Greg Land, mind you, but the feel of it is all, all wrong. There are great elements in here, like cross-cutting between Cyclops on the run from the police and a fake Professor Xavier giving pro-registration talking points with Osborn, and the reveal of Dark Beast as the man behind the Omega Machine would be otherwise fantastic…but it’s all so cartoony! Emma gets her Dark X-Men and recruits Namor into the fold as well, whiel Cyclops admires their technique from the sidelines. In simply reading this issue, I’m rather impressed by Fractions ideas and some of the subtler touches compensate for the broader ones, the lack of character moments. He does have a tendency to just let anyone cry out from the crowd to compensate for actually developing his reservoir of characters, but really at the end of the day it’s all terribly undermined by the art. I won’t review Dark Avengers #7. It suffers from the same problems (art, random characterizations, one panel-fighting), but remains somewhat entertaining as Emma’s Dark X-Men find battle and return only to start a scuffle with the Dark Avengers. There’s a very good sequence in which Xavier speaks into Emma’s mind as she is shown the rafters. I’m not sure if telepathy does work on Emma like that in her diamond form, but it’s a good scene, and there’s a horribleness to Beast’s de-beastification that is strong. I thought for sure they would turn him back into human Beast during this run. All the while, Simon Trask is running around and I forget if this is tying in with X-Force. Uncanny X-Men #514 has a nice opening scene for Cyclops where he instructs the girls on what he’s going to need them to do which reads mildly transformative for Cyclops as a flirtatious, charismatic leader. It’s some of Dodson’s best work on the book in how he conveys how subtly Cyclops moves from mutant to mutant. Emma’s X-Men intercept Trask’s sentinel-ized bigots (there we go!) in a fairly generic melee of characterizations that to be frank I don’t care for at all. Paul Cornell did such better work with all these guys, especially Omega who comes across as a drug addict with a God complex here. And then the X-Men observe from afar, and Cyclops hints at a plan. Meanwhile, the Science Club goes about raising Asteroid M. At this point, it’s worth noting that I enjoy the plotting of this crossover, just not the writing. None of these characters have any degree of subtlety to them, and several of them are just evil and nasty. It’s a non-too veiled condemnation of Guantanamo tactics. The action is rather devoid of nuance. The finer details haven’t been thought out. Not a great hour. In Dark Avengers #8, which get the reveal of the betrayal. None of this constitutes a plan really, just a random sequence of events, but it’s worth noting that it does feel like something genuinely important is about to happen. This brings us to Exodus and Confession. I’ll tackle the latter first: it’s a lot of talking. It’s not bad talking. But it’s an entire issue of talking. It doesn’t justify in my mind a wholly unrealistic sequence of events, but there it is. Then there’s Exodus and once again: watch what happens when Fraction gets a good artist. Deodata’s art is stunning and lends a degree of awe to Fraction’s prose. Anyone, the X-Men make their last stand with their first steps. This is a decent issue that fails to deliver the action we truly want because Fraction hasn’t really written it…he’s just posited forceful engagements with his SO-AND-SO VS. SO-AND-SO. It’s lazy but this is a pretty colossal brawl. My favorite moment? Cyclops saying “My God. Osborn has actually dressed Bullseye up as a hero.” It’s very meat and potatoes with some obviously dumb moments like how Mimic and Daken are taken down, but I like how Ares is taken off the table and Emma containing the Void is a great idea that wasn’t really played with enough afterwards. And where does it all go? The moment where Norman reveals to the camera crews that he’s willing to kill them all, and the great line “Mr. Osborn. We’re all X-Men now.” She’s right. And we get to see how that plays out soon enough. I seem to be in the minority of loving this development for just that…a development. There will be schisms as we will see, but in conflict they’re all united, and I like that. What can one say about this crossover? Well, you can read Utopia, read about everything that happens in the middle, and then read Exodus. And that’s no great shakes, now is it?
Then we move into Nation X and firmer ground. #515 is a very good little issue devoted to the minutiae of life on Utopia. Cyclops admits that he doesn’t have a concrete plan and so he delegates responsibilities abound. It’s not without flaws. Lobe’s men are a pretty dull group indeed. But it has some wonderful scenes, like the one where Dr. Tagiguchi passes. But really it represents the start of something, and I liked the issue. It also has a fantastic cliffhanger. The next issue is also strong. Although I don’t love the dynamic between Charles and Magnus, I like the gesture of it. Magneto does come across a little too dubiously sincere for Scott to take him this seriously, but it makes perfect sense that he would approve of this. To see Magneto bowing before Scott is an incredibly piece of bold imagery that I do approve of it. It’s a little awkward around the edges of it but the main focus of it is interesting enough. And again, we have another great cliffhanger this issue with Cyclops preparing for battle against Predator Xs. Ah, #517. The fight issue. Every once in a while, you just need something to punch. This issue must feature Greg Land’s best art to date. Now, there are some incredibly discrepancies in how feasibly these Predator Xs can be taken down and the scene where the Phoenix leaves the Stepford Cuckoos is woefully out of nowhere, like inexplicably random! But it’s fun, especially when Rogue takes all those powers and just decimates. There’s a lot to like and it’s possible to quibble but it does what it does. Then we come to a two-parter that I find absolutely fascinating for how lopsided in enjoyment it is. For whatever reason, the X-Men decide they absolutely need Emma Frost back because her telepathic skills are invaluable. I guess the Cuckoos are out of commission after the Phoenix leaves them but what about Psylocke? Yes, I know. Her power set has just returned and she doesn’t know how…yada yada yada. And then there’s Professor Xavier, but he’s not battle ready, whatever. Really though, the way in which to do this is to emphasize how obsessed Cyclops is with getting Emma back. All things considered though, I don’t think they need her back. I think there’s a lot more to play out with her in this state and lots of areas to explore with Emma in diamond permanently. Additionally, we have Nemesis giving Magneto a talking to that mildly looks like a gay pickup. And Iceman bitches out Beast for being a crybaby about being tortured. This brings up one of the biggest flaws in Fraction’s arc…and he will give us a whammy of an overload on it next issue. He changes his characters after the fact when he realizes that he’s over simplified their reactions. Dodson’s art is quite good and it begins a nice narrative ellipses to how Fraction began his run a while ago. But ultimately, I kinda object to this choice on the grounds of “Why can’t we run with this a little more?” I know the reason why, it’s a deck-clearing exercise before Second Coming. And to be fair, Uncanny X-Men #519 is much better. Dodson’s art is fantastic and Fraction’s script is hilarious. When accosted with accusations that he couldn’t save all these women, Cyclops just responds “Um. I’ve been busy?” And how does Cyclops contain the Void within him. Repression. With Scott Summers’ uncanny repressive mutant power. I buy it. I have no problem with it whatsoever. It’s his defining trait. Jeffries discovers nanobots that will infect the X-Men with H1X1 in…like, half a year. Damn mandatory event planning! But then again, it’s not like Fraction is doing a good job of juggling some of these subplots. Elsewhere, Magneto negotiates with Namor a way to keep Utopia afloat behind Cyclops’ back. How a giant pillar is placed underneath the island, I couldn’t tell you. I see what Fraction is doing here. He’s trying to give us a Magneto that is overcompensating loyalty. Anyway, a couple of shortcomings but when taken as a stand alone (which is impossible because it’s the second part of a cliffhanger) a very good issue. All the while, Fraction is building up for Fantomex to join the team with the mystery of the rogue Predator X, especially considering that it requires a young mutant to fall prey to it which I don’t buy in this day and age. This is done fairly awkwardly. In Uncanny X-Men #520 where the X-Men go after the rogue Predator X. I don’t buy Wolverine sniffing out the Predator X from aloft a skyscraper basically, but the imagery is badass enough that I don’t terribly mind. Meanwhile the Higher Ups on the island meet to discuss the direness of this situation. I do enjoy their meetings, but what I don’t enjoy is being told how the mutants on the outside are behaving. Couldn’t we show some of them interacting with Magneto rather than hear about it second hand. I keep bringing up Nightcrawler but as A) Fraction has chosen him to “tend the flock” and B) he will die in faith of the mutant race, why can’t he be used? Especially considering how much of Greg Land’s art is being used for silent frames. That being said, Greg Land’s art is in fine form this month. The next issue constitute a fight between Lobe’s men with this small group of X-Men as Fantomex changes his mind and joins them, while Magneto tries to pull something from the heavens (Kitty). It’s a relatively brief issue without a ton going on, but unfortunately Lobe citing John Sublime at the end of all this build-up doesn’t quite validate everything that’s been going on. He’s punctuation at this point, validating punctuation, and that’s not quite enough. Basically I like the ideas here but there’s some more development that needs to occur. I won’t spend a lot of time on Uncanny X-Men #522, which I have a love/hate relationship with. Fraction hasn’t been doing a great job of showing life on Utopia, a storyline in and of itself that needs a lot more exploration, but one thing is clear: they’re against the wall at this point, and they need a win. Magneto latches onto the space bullet and pulls it and Kitty in. He destroys the bullet and lets her gracefully land. And none of this is possible in any way shape or form. Not at all. It’s a real shame because the idea here is rather beautiful and it prepares the X-Men for a capital-W Win, which they have not had in a while. And then she can’t un-phase. There are nice moments that I like (such as Wolverine thinking beer is somehow a vegetable) and a few that I don’t (I think Magneto is saying something in German about the Jewish act of tzedakah, but when has he ever spoken Deutsch?), and there’s some foreshadowing about the X-Men leaving the corners and coming to the spotlight. You do have to swallow a lot for this to work. I’m willing to, but there’s one thing I have an issue with too…this is the PERFECT issue for Greg Land to illustrate. My God! Whilce Portacio’s art was only rough here, not incoherent. But it’s an issue of people standing around making grinning faces at each other! That’s Greg Land! That’s all he does! And that panorama at the end of people rejoicing…he could have had a field day! Especially because I don’t entirely know some of what was going on there, like why is Emma holding Cyclops? Again: it’s an idea of a very good issue, not a good issue in and of itself.
And that’s half a year of Nation X, which is a very good idea and a lot of it is executed very well, but unfortunately the minutiae of life on the island isn’t coming across. It’s a slightly mixed bag of effective writing vs. conception. This set of issues is already replete with some of the biggest inconsistencies of Fraction’s run: how hard is it to take down a Predator X, how powerful is Magneto, why can Wolverine smell across New York? But read in one sitting, it’s a lot better than you might remember. I wish that he had a little more time to devote to life on Nation X, just one page an issue would be enough, but he doesn’t and that’s something of a minor fail amongst messy ambition and erstwhile success.
Then we come to Second Coming which caps three years of build into a somewhat satisfying conclusion. It plays like the opposite of Messiah Complex in that unlike that story we already know most of the stakes when we start. With Second Coming, the suspense doesn’t really start to ratchet until a month until the story. I’m not entirely sure it’s been properly set up to be honest, but it does get going rather well. I didn’t include X-Men: Messiah Complex #1 in my reviews earlier with Brubaker and I’ve decided when I do a Top Ten List, I won’t be including one-shots and annuals in my list., and just in-serialization issues. Second Coming #1 is by Kyle/Yost and it seems like they are at the forefront of spear-heading the direction of the X-Books over the course of these years with Messiah War to boot. They seem like the book’s ultimate fanboys, and I’m looking forward to them taking over for Gischler. Anyway, it has the now infamous David Finch panels of Nightcrawler present while murdering is visibly going on around him and yet freaking out when he sees Laura kill that Sapien League fanatic. I think that fight could have gone on a little longer and with a little more detail, like a cool set-piece, but whatever. It’s an effective start and then we’re onward to #523 and Part Two of Second Coming. It’s better than I remember. It’s heavy on plot points and Fraction muddles some of Bastian’s grandiose dialogue pretty badly, but it is pretty engrossing. Dodson’s art is pretty jarring after Finch’s but it’s not bad. There are some great moments with the discovery of X-Force and between Cable and Hope shacked up. My major complaint was that nothing of terrible consequence happened and that’s not the case. It’s pretty entertaining. We’ve all read this story, so I’ll just skip ahead to Kurt’s funeral. Now, I wish that Terry Dodson hadn’t been on art here too because even within the limitations of what Fraction is writing, some of the emotions are just muted. Kurt’s death is sadly arbitrary because of how much Fraction has ignored him, and it’s rendered even more arbitrary because Bobby Drake is giving the eulogy. Why the f**k is Professor Xavier not doing it? Because he’s not Catholic? Neither is Bobby! It’s such an abhorrent oversight I don’t know what to make of it. Xavier is a father figure to him and at least it would anchor him in the moment. The rest of the issue is fine, but ye Gods! That’s all I have to say about Uncanny X-Men #524. And then we get to Uncanny X-Men #525 and Bastion’s methodical plot has now gone into full swing and the X-Men are bubbled in and X-Force has gone to the future. I’ve mused before that Messiah Complex, Messiah War, and Second Coming would make a fantastic epic video game, more so than a compelling story. But at this point, the story is incredibly fatalist and enjoyable. I mean, this literally might be the highest stakes for the X-Men in their history when you think about it. 170,000 Nimrods, no teleporters, and their only hope is a team of killer X-Men sent into the future? Uncanny X-Men #525 is largely a recap issue with some modest advances in the story. Basically X-Force arrives, the Avengers start to fight the Bubble in futility, Cyclops barks out orders, and we’re reminded that Fantomex is still here. The action isn’t incredibly enjoyable and is largely ill-suited for the melee. Fraction writes the worst issues of Second Coming, a crossover that is only somewhat awesome. Let’s be honest: there are some obscenely crowd-pleasing moments in Second Coming, like Legion selecting a series of combatants, Magneto fighting the Nimrods, and Cable’s sacrified, and whether or not they are of Fraction’s designs, he didn’t get to tell any of them.
And then we begin to wind down…and by wind down, I mean there is almost a year left of Fraction’s run. It will feel like an eternity but it reads like a breeze. I don’t mean that in any kind of good way. In a way, they all serve their purpose well. This is a jumping off point for new readers. Each of the Five Lights is an underdeveloped stand-in for each reader to dive into. So it’s effective, but it’s plagued by bad art and low writing. All the while, Emma begins to remove Sebastian Shaw, which requires Kitty and Fantomex. That’s really about it. Not a ton else happens, and I don’t feel like going into it for that reason – and I’m a little burnt out on this project. I like how Fantomex uses his powers of persuasion to convince Madison Jeffries to ask Danger out on a date, which is one of my favorite rolling subplots. And then we get to Quarantine, the incredibly overlong arc that never quite coheres. It has some of the worst writing that Fraction has ever done for Emma Frost, and the initial allure of Lobe’s New X-Men wears off pretty quickly. I love the idea of the X-Men having a secret brig of prisoners and lord knows Sebastian Shaw belongs there, but the urgency for Emma Frost to remove him is one of those subplots that Fraction did not do a good job of developing over the months and years. There isn’t a lot that works in this story and there’s not a lot that worked in the one before. It’s a weak year for Fraction to end on, which is to say just that. A year!
I know I’m being brief here. But I’d like to get this over with! 1) Was Fraction entertaining on a month-to-month basis? Yes. He was frustrating and at times overlong, and occasionally pretty bad, but only in his final year could I categorize the work he did as somewhat dull. And even then he was introducing new characters. He was definitely entertaining. 2) Did Fraction write memorable stories? You could disagree with me, but I’d say yes he did for the most part. Fraction began to fall into a visible trap near the end of five issue stories essentially paced like Austen’s stories, just a lot of rolling subplots moving forward. He wrote some that were not memorable, but he wrote a few that were. I’m giving him partial credit, but even the stories that were not memorable were definitely entertaining, as covered previously. 3) Did Fraction contribute to the mythos? Yes. Absolutely. Like no other writer in the book this past decade save for Carey and Morrison. The finer details, perhaps not, but absolutely the bigger picture. 4) Did Fraction leave the X-Men in a better place that when he started? For some on this board, that’s debatable. For me, it’s absolutely not. Brubaker never got the chance to. Claremont and Austen did not have the inclination to. Matt Fraction took the X-Men on a journey, a long-ranging journey. I don’t think any writer on this book has left the X-Men with a different, brighter, more progressive outlook at the end of a run since…well…Claremont. The first time.
Imagine you’re a teacher and you’ve got a group of kids in your class. One of them is there just for the final month or so. He doesn’t do a great job, some of his work isn’t entirely fleshed out, but he’s got a good attitude and you like him. Well, you pass him, and move onward (Lobdell). Then you’ve got a kid who takes himself very seriously. He proclaims his ideas the greatest but he’s just not fitting the mold of the curriculum. You can see how he’s got great things ahead of him but it’s just not this, and before he’s out of the class he demonstrates his talent very visibly and you’re almost sad that he has to go before he could live up to his promise (Casey). Then you’ve got a very likable kid who does exactly the assignment you asked him to do and he starts to act like he runs the class. It’s charming for a while, and even though he’s a total knucklehead, you like him! And then you’ve got a problem: this knucklehead is not doing great work and it’s starting to show. You give him pointers but he refuses, admittedly in a charming way. Every time you read his work, you recognize that he’s great at injecting personality into the beginning of the assignment, and further down it’s just a disaster. Not only that, but once you call him out on not really trying, it creates an incredibly unpleasant dynamic in the classroom. You fail him (Austen). Then you have the opposite problem: the perfect student. He writes every homework assignment his way. It’s not great but you can’t really convince him otherwise, and even though it’s not very good, he can roll with pretty much every punch and it’s always competent. But really it’s just his style that irks you. He’s the kind of student where you’ll be giving a lecture and then he’ll just pick something incredibly arbitrary to latch onto and give you something devoted entirely to that. Disappointing competence (Claremont). And then you’ve got the kid in the middle of the class, who does the homework as competently as you can imagine, who gives you none of his voice, and you just suspect he’s got too much going on to be entirely invested in this class. School’s out and you never got a chance to know him (Brubaker).
…and then you get the student you’re going to remember. He’ll miss the mark once in a while, but his ideas are so clearly imaginative that you know one day he’s going to hone them and make something great. Well, Matt Fraction already has. The Invincible Iron Man is one of the great books in a while, a triumph on every level. And his work on Iron Fist is great too. He’s an incredibly talented, dependable writer who writes like a giddy neophyte. But he’s not. I don’t know why he couldn’t create a more dependable flow on Uncanny X-Men, but I know that for all his frustrations, there hasn’t been a writer this decade on the book that has contributed more to the mythos by way of new ideas. He needed a scripter, we know this. So why am I calling him the Best Writer on Uncanny X-Men this past decade? Because we’ve seen glimpses of how good he is with the right art. With Deodata, Silvestri, and Paquette, his work is a beaut. It’s the art. Mostly. I give him a C- for consistency, an A- for ideas, and B- for the whole package.
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