I’ve been exploring many of the side-stories of the AVENGERS VERSUS X-MEN mini-series. I have been very pleased and only mildly disappointed a few times. I’ll continue to use my personal five-star rating system to help guide you to those books deserving of your time and to spotlight those that are the most worthwhile. Good story earns a star, and so does good art. If the story is a “stand-alone” and doesn’t depend on any other issue to either understand or enjoy it - - it earns a third star. If the story makes me want to read further into this particular title it also gets a star. And lastly, if the issue manages to connect to the main story and relate an essential piece of the tale - - it would receive the coveted fifth star. Here are some of the issues I’ve been reading . . . . .
X-MEN LEGACY #266 – 267 (July, 2012) Christos Gage, writer. Rafa Sandoval, penciler. Jordi Tarragona, inker. Rachelle Rosenberg, colorist. VC’s Cory Petit, letterer.
These issues focus on what happens back at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning as Wolverine has left to assist the Avengers and Beast is doing the same thing on a space mission. Rogue and the remaining X-Men protect the school in their absence. Their main objective is to watch the school and not get involved in the outer struggle between Cyclops's X-Men team and the Avengers. During a briefing meeting we learn that things have changed. Iceman and Rachel decide to join Cyclops. Everyone else decides to stay and maintain the routine so the students don’t get agitated. Staying onboard are Rogue, Shadowcat, Husk, Cannonball, Gambit, Frenzy, Mimic and Chamber.
Rogue seems to be the center of attention these issues and Gage explores her inner turmoil. The last time she fully utilized her powers this way disturbed her (and those she absorbed powers and memories from) for years. It took a long time for Rogue to get her powers under control. She is afraid to use them again, even though she is capable of taking out a team at a time.
Naturally the peaceful calm at the school is only temporary and is disrupted when some Avengers (Falcon, She-Hulk and Moon Knight) come to visit and issue warnings. And someone crosses the agreed upon line that should not be crossed and melee ensues. This forces the Avengers team to call in their back-up player = Iron Man. With that much power on the opposing side, Rogue is forced into tapping her old powers. There are still consequences - - having so many conflicting personalities and thoughts running through her mind can make her see every individual in the battle as her foe. When she absorbs the thoughts of a semi-crazy Avenger with multiple personalities (guess which one), things become even more difficult for her. But Rogue prevails and in the process realizes that she is not the same person as long ago. There has been a maturing process and while her powers have unfortunate consequences she is now better prepared to handle them.
If you are a fan of Rogue you’ll want to read these two issues. Otherwise, X-MEN LEGACY #266-267 is like a two-issue extended battle from AVX: VS although a bit more serious and much less light-hearted. The story earns a star, and so does the art. The full two-page confrontation in #267 is great visualization. Since you can’t read one issue without the other, it’s hard to consider this a stand-alone tale. As much as I enjoyed it, it doesn’t really encourage me to read further into this title. (I did anyway). And it isn’t essential to the main story.
RATING FOR X-MEN LEGACY #266-267 - - - - - TWO STARS
X-MEN LEGACY #268-269 (August, 2012) Christos Gage, writer. David Baldeon, penciler. Jordi Tarragona, inker. Brian Reber, colorist. VC’s Cory Petit, letterer.
X-MEN LEGACY #268 is a spotlight issue on Frenzy, and it’s a good story. Rogue has decided to join up and assist the X-Men and she has enlisted the entire staff and student body at the school to the same cause. Frenzy is dispatched to a clean-up mission in a third-world country where the Phoenix Five have just ended a violent civil conflict.
A new art team including Baldeon and Reber takes over, and manage to maintain the overall look on this book while still showing some instances of individuality in their style. I especially like the red and black shading in the flashback scenes – it heightened the effect of those panels.
Prior to this I felt that Frenzy was sort of a one-dimensional character - - all hot-headed and full of hate for the human race. Gage does a fine job of defining her personality and showing us how she came to be that way. It makes her a more sympathetic and compassionate character than has been seen before, and the events this issue effect her enough to break down her defensive wall and show a more caring side. It’s a great stand-alone story. But it feels disconnected enough from the regular LEGACY title that I’m not really induced to get another issue. Again, everything here is non-essential to your understanding and enjoyment of the main AVENGERS VS. X-MEN storyline.
RATING FOR X-MEN LEGACY #268 - - - - - THREE STARS
X-MEN LEGACY #269 begins with Rogue using her powers to assist the X-Men and the Phoenix Five perform tasks for the greater good of mankind. Just as she is feeling good about herself and her powers in a long time she gets a reminder of a regretful past when Ms. Marvel shows up wanting to talk. But in typical Marvel fashion, Rogue punches first and asks questions later - - and so it begins.
This would seem like another expanded fight issue like AVX: VS were it not for the dialogue and exchange of opinions that Rogue and Ms. Marvel engage in while still using their fists and battle skills. Rogue felt that she was helping to make a better planet and some seeds of doubt have been planted. The prison designed for Ms. Marvel would tend to support the opposing point of view. And the preview panel indicates that Ms. Marvel will be involved in the next issue - - so I have reason to believe that this is a two-part or more story.
RATING FOR X-MEN LEGACY #269 - - - - - TWO STARS
UNCANNY X-MEN #13 (August, 2012) Kieron Gillen, writer. Billy Tan, penciler. Cam Smith & Craig Yeung, inkers. Guru eFX, colorist. VC’s Joe Caramagna, letterer.
This issue occurs between AVENGERS ACADEMY #31 and coincides with AVENGERS VERSUS X-MEN #5. Billy Tan brings a little realism to the art style, particularly the human form of which there are plenty from panel to panel - - head shots, body postures, etc. The rest of the art team highlight and enhance his work. It’s a nice combination to see. However, the best art is on the cover (by Adam Kubert & Morry Hollowell). It’s a purely symbolic image which has absolutely nothing to do with the issue contents.
Using Pixie’s teleportation powers a small band of young mutants drop into Utopia, since Hope left them a note indicating that the robotic prisoner Unit may have some answers for them. While anyone reading this book already knows that Unit has selfish and perhaps not-so-noble intentions only the youngsters are surprised when he turns on them. The other events in this issue concern Magneto, Psylocke, and Storm having a campfire chat (kind of) regarding the five X-Men on the blue area of the Moon and how could they get there to help them. Yes, there are some minor insights in this issue. But, overall this is a throw-away issue that doesn’t need to be read. I’m sorry, Gillen. I enjoy your work most of the time. This reads like you are just going through the motions. A holding pattern, indeed.
RATING FOR UNCANNY X-MEN #13 - - - - - ONE STAR FOR ART
UNCANNY X-MEN #14 (August, 2012) Kieron Gillen, writer. Dustin Weaver, artist. Jim Charalampiois, colorist. VC’s Joe Caramagna, letterer.
“Who doesn’t love a castle?”
Wow. What a difference one issue makes. Gillen makes up for the mess that is Issue #13 with this new story. It’s been a very long time since I have read anything related to X-foe Mister Sinister so I have some catching up to do. Sinister had been replicating himself and populating a section of San Francisco with his engineered clones. The X-Men chased him out of town.
This issue updates his whereabouts. The pale, tall and dark Victorian figure has created an even larger and more elaborate “Sinister London” deep underground and bides his time for the right moment in the Phoenix Force’s return to Earth. Gillen devotes this issue to providing details about this society of Sinister clones and goes deep into the character of the main man, revealing more of his sick and twisted mad genius persona.
“I am a sick man . . . I am a wicked man. I am an imperfect member of a perfect species, that forms a single perfect society, which forms a knot in my damned belly of which there is no hope of a reasonable cure . . . . . My sickness is a belief that the imperfection is theirs, not mine.”
Most of the story is told through captions apparently narrated by a Mister Sinister clone. And would not that clone be a part of the greater whole that is Mister Sinister? Might as well be. However, the clone’s narrative expresses some doubt and even hints at rebellion. But he is a part of Sinister, correct? Could it be that Sinister creates specific clones for specific purposes - - perhaps to represent another point of view, to define that doubt separately and free his mind, or to help him achieve 100% assurance that he is pursuing the right course? If I answer that question now, I’ll spoil this story for you. Very big ego, to be sure. By the end of the issue we are exposed to all the major details of Sinister’s scheme and learn how prepared he is for the next step. He definitely seems to be preparing for war.
The art, including the lettering seems perfectly suited to the steam-punk atmosphere of this micro-world. It’s very impressive and worth going through the issue a second time just to get another impression.
“I am a modern Prometheus and I will steal fire from outdated heavens.” To hear Sinister tell it he “prompted little Hope Summers’ development” and “knew it (the Phoenix Force) would find hosts elsewhere.” The man sure likes to take credit for a an awful lot.
This seems to be a continued story as the preview panel of the next issue seems to indicate. However, it also serves as a stand-alone tale with an update on this baddie. I’m inclined to give it just a half-star for the stand-alone rating. I’m also giving it a half-star for whether it is an essential piece of this story. I’m not entirely buying that Sinister is so smart that he set this whole thing up and his manipulative skills would make it happen. That would certainly make it seem essential. Rather, I’m inclined to believe that Gillen really wanted to begin telling a story about Mister Sinister and needed a hook to keep the editorial staff happy that he was working an AVENGERS VERSUS X-MEN cross-over element into this title. Time will tell if I’m right. I’m happy either way - - we are treated to a great story.
Good story. Good art. Definitely makes me want to further explore this book and certainly the next issue. I’m deducting a half-point each (as mentioned above) for stand-alone and essential properties. But I do recommend you pick up this one.
RATING FOR UNCANNY X-MEN #14 - - - FOUR STARS