Sunday, May 29, 2011

X-Men: The End Trilogy Review

X-Men: The End
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
448 pages
$34.99 (2009)
ISBN 9780785137375

Contributors: Chris Claremont, Sean Chen, Sandu Florea, Ian Hannin, Dave Sharpe, Greg Land, and Gene Ha

Reprints: X-Men: The End - Dreamers & Demons #1-6 (of 6), X-Men: The End - Heroes & Martyrs #1-6 (of 6), X-Men: The End - Men and X-Men #1-6 (of 6)

Synopsis: Several years in the future the X-Men are still struggling to keep the peace between humans and mutants.  The Xavier School remains the foremost place on earth for mutants to learn how to use their powers and peacefully coexist with society. Life can never be easy for the X-Men and trouble is always lurking over the horizon.

We are introduced to Aliyah Bishop, who lives aboard the Starjammer with Carol Danvers in a sentient energy form as the ship's main computer. She uncovers a deal between the Kree and a band of interdimensional slavers to exchange a priceless commodity - the Phoenix!  Aliyah spoils the exchange and makes off with the a resurrected Jean Grey.

Immediately things go from bad to worse as X-Men across the world are besieged by War-Skrulls impersonating their loved ones.  Layers of betrayal unfold and all of the X-Men's foes have a hand in the plot for their downfall - Stryfe, Mr. Sinister, Apocalypse, Cassandra Nova, and even the Brood.

The ultimate showdown is brewing across the universe on the Shi'ar homeworld and nothing will ever be the same as the X-Men and their foes fall like dominoes in a seeming race to destruction.  The death toll rises and we're left to wonder if a dream can truly die with all of its

Pros: Claremont fans will be happy to see him end the X-Men his way, Phoenix returns (again), epic battles/betrayals/deaths, some impressive plot twists which must have been planned by Claremont years ago and never made it to print, nice covers by Land and Ha, sketchbook section

Cons: Sean Chen's art is bland and uninspired, not a true ending storyline, typical convoluted Claremont plot with an unwieldy cast of characters, typical X-Men preachiness

Mike Tells It Straight: Chris Claremont gets to end the franchise he made famous, but like a true proud father he can't finish off the story with an actual finale - instead he brings us to the brink of cataclysmic destruction and dangles hope for a new future between man and mutant.  The story itself is a muddled mess of non-stop action, minor to major character attrition, and an epic showdown.  It just didn't resonate with me as a long-time X-fan although many may disagree.  I loved Claremont's X-Men and would have been happy to never see him leave the title (especially considering the mediocrity which ensued), but his writing style just doesn't resonate anymore.  He essentially incorporates the Morrison run and ties up several loose ends from his original run (revealing the third Summers brother, etc). The artwork and most of the dialogue are terribly wooden, but I will grudgingly admit it's must-have reading for true X-fans (sorry).

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wildstorm: After the Fall Review

Wildstorm: After the Fall
DC Comics - Wildstorm
Softcover Trade Paperback
160 pages
$19.99 (2010)
ISBN 9781401226695

Contributors: Christos Gage, Trevor Hairsine, Phil Noto, Shawn Moll, Brandon Badeaux, Russell Uttley, Ben Oliver, John Paul Leon, Ivan Reis, Wes Craig, and Pete Woods

Reprints: Backup stories from Wildcats (vol. 5) #1-11, The Authority (vol. 5) #1-11, Gen13 (vol. 4) #21-28, and Stormwatch PHD #13-20

Synopsis: Following the events of Armageddon and World's End the world has been devastated by a post-human event.  John Lynch is left alone amid the wreckage of society and vows to continue his vendetta against Tao (Tactically Augmented Organism).  Tao has enslaved Void and Providence to do his bidding.  The odds are impossible and Lynch plays his final card -- reuniting Team 7!

We catch up with the former members of the clandestine team as they readjust to the post-apocalyptic world:
  • Lynch wanders America in search of Tao
  • Dane and Wetworks assail the Night Tribes in Europe to save the last remnants of humanity
  • Slayton escapes from a facility filled with insane experiments gone wrong
  • Deathblow resurrects after dying in the initial wave of destruction
  • Grifter shows up pissed off
In addition we see the return of Christie Blaze, Cybernary, Lord Defile, Lady Decadence, and Team Achilles

Pros: Christos Gage writes most of the stories and gives the volume a necessary cohesion, some really great up-and-coming artists, Team 7 is back!

Cons: Many artists made the story transitions jarring, practically incomprehensible to new readers without long list of required reading

Mike Tells It Straight: This volume fills in the gaps after the World's End storyline rocked the Wildstorm Universe. These stories were originally backups in a slew of Wildstorm titles, but attempting to read them in any sort of consistent order was incredibly difficult during publication. When the collected editions for the main storylines came out they excluded these backups and I was worried they would never see reprint. Now we get all of the backups in one place. Readers need prior knowledge of the characters and Wildstorm events leading up to these stories or they will be lost. Armed with most of this prior knowledge I enjoyed seeing some old faces (like Cybernary) and the return of Team 7.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Friday, May 13, 2011

Red Sonja: She-Devil with a Sword Review

Red Sonja: She-Devil with a Sword
Dynamite Entertainment
Softcover Trade Paperback
150 pages
$19.99 (2006)
ISBN 9781933305110

Contributors: Michael Avon Oeming, Mike Carey, Mel Rubi, Richard Isanove, Richard Starkings, and alternate covers/pinups by: Alex Ross, Michael Turner, Art Adams, Marc Silvestri, John Cassaday, Joseph Michael Linsner, Greg Land, Adam Hughes, and Billy Tan

Reprints: Red Sonja: She-Devil with a Sword #0-6

Synopsis: Sonja happens upon a messenger being attacked and rescues him. She follows to his city and is taken prisoner by the mad cult leader controlling the people. She aligns with the rebels of the city and must fight her way to the seeming divine prophet. Along the way she must overcome treachery, meets new allies, and even dies! What chilling secret does the vicious holy man hide!

Pros: Decent story/art/colors, tons of extras including every alternate cover/pinup from each issue along with Mel Rubi sketchbook

Cons: Pulp character and stories - like eating a bag of potato chips, you finish quickly and want more

Mike Tells It Straight: A good update to an old character - Sonja kicks ass and looks good doing it. Inherently cheesecake at times (come on, chain-mail bikini?), this first story arc to the Sonja revival series was passable. The writers made an effort to explain the bikini (yes, it's a distraction!) and did a fairly decent job of giving Sonja a backstory with some hint of future character development. Entertaining with a few twists on old themes, but not memorable.

TO BUY and Recommendations: