. . . with apologies to the music of Belle & Sebastian for borrowing their title NOTE: Spoilers are scattered throughout this blog
UNCANNY X-MEN #15 (September 2012) Kieron Gillen, writer. Daniel Acuna, artist. VC’s Joe Caramagna, letterer. Daniel Acuna, cover art. “This Strange, Unpleasant Land” Part One of Three.
In my last review of UNCANNY X-MEN #14 I implied that writer Kieron Gillen may have “inserted” some Sinister parts into the AVENGERS VS. X-MEN min-series for the sole purpose of being able to tell this story, perhaps one that he couldn’t wait to get to. New information in UNCANNY X-MEN #15 would indicate otherwise and suggests that Mister Sinister has been playing a manipulative background role in these events for some time. Oh, come on! Excuse me for feeling cynical (apologies to Belle & Sebastian yet again) but I still stand firm on my first opinion. However, give credit to Gillen for his hard work in finding a way to fabricate the thinnest of threads linking Sinister to the Phoenix Force and then pulling at them for all it’s worth in order to plant some support for his position. I say let the man tell the story they way he wants to. It’s so much better than some of the obvious fill-in, going through the motions cross-over stories like UNCANNY X-MEN #13. I’m really looking forward to this Sinister war.
Let’s be fair to Gillen. I also believe that writer Brian Michael Bendis created a back-story attempting to establish a historic connection between the Phoenix Force and Earth. He made it seem as if that goes back several centuries and links to the training of Iron Fists and the mystical kingdom of K’un Lun as well as ancestral linkage to a family of red-haired, green-eyed maidens. (See recent issues of THE NEW AVENGERS for details.) So, if those manipulations forced an essential connection to the main storyline which I acknowledged, then what Gillen is doing here should also be thought of as essential. I willingly relinquish the coveted “essential star” for this rating. If I enjoy this Sinister episode as much as I’ve enjoyed the Iron Fist connection then I’m very willing to overlook these “insertions”. Artistic license, I say. Why, it’s really not that different than what is occurring all over the DC NEW 52 as they reboot the whole universe. The writers can bring in whatever they want to the mix and call it part of the new continuity - - can’t they, Mister Snyder?
UNCANNY X-MEN #15 features yet another new artist, the third one in as many issues. Welcome aboard Daniel Acuna. I like his style, including the semi-painted look to things. But I’m really missing that steam-punk atmosphere that artist Dustin Weaver brought to Sinister London. I hope he makes a return visit to the pencils before this storyline ends.
There are some short but interesting sub-plots here, such as Colossus/Juggernaut trying to regain his individuality back from the demon Cyttorak and Magneto bonding with Psylocke over their new second-fiddle status among the X-Men. But the main story is about Cyclops convincing the “extinction team” that the Avengers are not the biggest threat they face right now and “it’d be a better place world without Sinister in it.” Emma reveals that “Hope knew about the Phoenix. Someone told her. It was Sinister.” Oh, come on! There were months and months when Hope was being coached by Cyclops and the X-Men on how to handle the Phoenix Force. She was told about it a long time ago! By the X-Men! Dammit, quit trying to change the facts like a politician. So, Sinister must have some ulterior motive for telling Hope and it can’t be good so Sinister London must be located (ironically in Anchorage, Alaska) and attacked.
As the Phoenix Five descend into Sinister London they are met by a barrage of cannon and musket fire from the marauder battalions. I’ve reminded of a favorite movie scene where proper British troops are massacred in a wave of Zulu warriors in a foreign land. Mister Sinister gets the last word: “There’s a spectacle to appreciate. and damn me, if I say it myself . . . . . it’s everything I imagined it would be.”
RATING FOR UNCANNY X-MEN #15 - - - - - FOUR STARS
Good story. Good art. Makes me want to keep reading. Seems essential to the main storyline. (See my rationale above.) But not a stand-alone story. You’ll want to pick up the prelude in #14 and then stick around for the next two issues.
WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #13 (September 2012) Jason Aaron, writer. Nick Bradshaw, penciler. Walden Wong, Cam Smith & Nick Bradshaw, inkers. Guru EFX, colorist. Chris Eliopoulos, letterer.
Gladiator, current Emperor of the Shi’Ar Empire, has traveled to Earth to pick up his son Kid Gladiator and get him away from the threat of the Phoenix Force. Kid Gladiator is presently a student at the Jean Grey School For Higher Learning and has been residing there along with his bodyguard Warbird.
It’s a battle issue for sure, but there is a side story that redeems it and makes it worthwhile. Also, the art of Bradshaw is superb and the inks and color team make the panels pop with vibrancy. Gladiator and his troops mix it up with the Phoenix Five while Warbird does her duty and keeps Kid Gladiator protected and safe from the action, despite his protests to join his father. The better story is the childhood and training of Warbird, told through her reflections on times past.
Good story. Good art. It is a stand-alone story in its own way. But I’m not that engaged in this book and may not check out the next issue. This is non-essential to the main storyline as well.
RATING FOR WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #13 - - -- THREE STARS
AVX: VS #4 of 6 (September 2012) DAREDEVIL VS. PSYLOCKE by Rick Remender, writer; Brandon Peterson, artist; and VC’s Joe Caramagna, letters and production. THE MIGHTY THOR VS. EMMA FROST by Kaare Andrews, writer/artist and VC’s Joe Caramagna, letters and production.
The once-cute Q & A on the credits page is getting old by now, even though they change it up a little, and is beginning to annoy me. I’ll try not to read it next time.
I liked the Daredevil-Psylocke battle, but was glad when it ended. Peterson’s art made it special. There is some great use of shading and shadows to add to the atmosphere as they battle across rooftops. As simple as this story is, there is a lot more depth to it. The small amounts of dialogue exchanged between DD and Psylocke as well as their personal thoughts as the battle progresses (detailed in captions) conveys the sense that they respect each other and really don’t want to fight. They were both trained by The Hand and seem to mirror each other’s moves. Both get a change to make a kill-shot when the other displays caution or courtesy and both hesitate to see it through. The final verdict is as you may suspect: a draw. This is my second favorite match-up so far, after the Captain America vs. Gambit fight.
The Thor vs. Emma Frost battle is not the miss-match you might think, especially if you add the Phoenix Force to the already strong mind-bending powers and diamond resistance of Emma Frost. Thor acts like the God he is - - confident and respectful and then doing what needs to be done in quite brutal fashion. Emma Frost is the more arrogant of the two and hurls more painful insults to enrage Thor. I was sure that was a sure knock-out that Thor delivered, but you can’t discount Emma’s ability to pull it back together. Surprise. Ho hum.
RATING FOR AVX: VS #4 - - - - - TWO STARS
What story? Good art. It is a stand-alone. Doesn’t make me want to continue. I think Marvel is counting on a fan’s need to complete a set, knowing that I’m going to see it to the end. (Won’t be the first time I got tired of a limited series before the end but kept going anyway.) Absolutely non-essential.