Saturday, November 24, 2012

Direct Message 04: The Manhattan Projects

Alec Berry and I managed to get the latest Direct Message on The Manhattan Projects done in about four days. Is this a sign that we've finally gotten our act together? Who knows! But, there's some new comic-discussing going on and you should go read it.

The latest Direct Message can be read HERE!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

EXCLUSIVE! Chad Nevett's Comic Book Mini-Reviews and Star Ratings for the Week of November 21, 2012

Avengers #34: The first of the one-two punch that is the End of Brian Michael Bendis's Avengers Run. I wonder if the essay at the end of this issue will run in next week's New Avengers finale as well. It seems like that would be the more fitting place. While Bendis began on Avengers technically, New Avengers was his book really. I liked this end well enough. Wonder Man is put back in the box alongside the Wasp. I'm not sure Bendis ever really did enough with Wonder Man, but I always liked the idea of his turn. Not a 'bring the house down' finale or anything, but I liked this. [***1/2]

Daredevil #20: A well-crafted comic. [***1/2]

Hawkeye #4: Probably my favourite issue of this series so far from a writing perspective. Some clever bits, too. A bit more balanced... Yeah, I dug it. [****]

Indestructible Hulk #1: One of the few Marvel NOW! titles that I'm giving a single issue to make me continue and, while I think the concept is clever and reminds me a bit of Joe Casey's approach to Bruce Banner, it doesn't really interest me. It's the sort of idea that can only go so far because of the limitations of the Marvel Universe and I can see that that will always be a frustration for me with a book like this. The conflict between Marvel's internal reality demanding it approximate our world and the level of genius it possesses is one that I try my best to avoid, because it's just hell watching. Also, the Hulk never seems to interest me. He smashes. Yay...? Whatever. [No issue 2]

Ultimate X-Men #18.1: Brian Wood jumps over 'the cure' almost as quickly as he jumped over the end of the Sentinel conflict. Good for him. A transition issue that allows the book to jump into "Reservation X" in issue 19 without too many distractions. The problem with the cure is that it's partly an effort to exterminate mutants, but it's also a story-ending machine where those that don't take it don't necessarily engender sympathy. There's the idea that mutants are born that way... but they also only get their powers as teens and most mutants in the Ultimate Universe are teens... is that who they really are? And given the sort of lives they've been forced to lead as mutants, why would they want to remain that way? Mutants in the Ultimate Universe have had a much harsher time of it than the regular MU and by sidestepping the conversation as much as possible, Wood doesn't linger on that too long. That QQ mention has me wondering, though... [***3/4]

The Unwritten #43: It's shocking to see fictional characters like that... but... there isn't any effect. I know that Leviathan hurt is bad for humanity, but the shocking lack of effect of the damage of fictional characters take a bit of the urgency out. As Tom says, this doesn't change anything in the real world. So, why care? This book has become about managing destruction that seems contained in a way where we know it's bad, but that's only because we've been told. What we've been shown doesn't actually seem to matter. There is something interesting in watching a book flail about like this, unable to find its footing, though. I'm with it. So: I'm with it. [***]

Wolverine and the X-Men #21: Amusing, but something that misses my sensibilities. That happens. No one's fault. This just doesn't click with me. [***]

Wonder Woman #14: Oddly, my least favourite pages were the final ones with Highfather and Orion. The rest was good: Wonder Woman winning someone over with patience and genuine caring, and the gods being dumb and petty... Good stuff. [***1/2]


Monday, November 19, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train Archives

Every Riding the Gravy Train post on Avengers vs. X-Men in one easy to use archive...

Avengers vs. X-Men Reading Order

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 31 (All-New X-Men #1)

The new beginning is the end. The train doesn't stop here, but this is where this series of posts is getting off. I was going to do a more general summary/finale post, but I don't want to do one of those. I've 'summed up' Avengers vs. X-Men many times. I've repeated myself many times. The posts are there, go read them if you need to know what it was all about. Or, actually, I'll tell you right now...

All-New X-Men #1 is what it was all about. This was the end goal, this comic. You might think it was Uncanny Avengers #1, but you'd be wrong. That was a book that I considered part of the Avengers vs. X-Men wrap-up/epilogue portion of the event. Avengers vs. X-Men kept going after that comic. All-New X-Men, on the other hand, follows a week after AVX: Consequences #5 shipped. This is the new beginning where Brian Michael Bendis takes over the X-books and does for them what he did for the Avengers titles. Avengers vs. X-Men was, as I've said, an X-Men story about returning to a familiar status quo with a mutant school, mutant terrorists/revolutionaries, and mutants plentiful world wide. It was the anti-"Disassembled" in many ways.

When Bendis took over Avengers, he destroyed the title and the group, leading to New Avengers where you had Captain America and Iron Man and, then, a bunch of 'non-Avenger' characters. During his time on New Avengers, he oversaw the moment where the X-Men were destroyed in a similar fashion and, only now, rebuilt back to what they were. Sure, some roles may have been shifted (Wolverine runs the school, Cyclops is the new Magneto), but it's a very familiar place.

The goal is the event was to get here. Sorry, a goal of the event was to get here. The story told in the event was a goal as well. But, ever since Bendis took over the Avengers titles, one of the major patterns in the Marvel Universe was that each event or new status quo seemed to exist to lead to the next, usually in an alternating pattern. Event A led to New Status Quo A, which led to Event B, which led to New Status Quo B, which led to Event C, which led to New Status Quo C, etc. There were stories in there and I enjoyed quite a few of them. But, there was also a general feeling of the events and new status quos not delivering all that they could, because part of their function was to produce what came next. That was something that I felt really hindered Avengers vs. X-Men where there was such a focus on hitting All-New X-Men #1 that the story being told didn't match the story they were trying to tell. Cyclops needed to be in this role, so everyone ignores that he was right and they never gave him any credit, nor recognised their roles in driving him to extreme measures by the end. There was a sense that they failed to see that, by the end of Avengers vs. X-Men, Cyclops was the hero and Captain America was the villain who just happened to win...

Even in All-New X-Men #1, there's an effort to make Cyclops out to be some sort of bad guy, while also doing everything they can to make sure that the reader can only view him as a good guy. We have two mutants who accidentally stumble on their powers: a timestopper and a healer. Cyclops and company rescue both from authorities -- the healer in particular is such a bad example if you're trying to show that Cyclops is waging war on human authority... he was arrested for healing someone! We're shown some of the 'good' X-Men fretting over all of the damage that Cyclops is doing to mutant/human relations, but they offer no alternatives nor any results. Take the healer -- what would Storm, Kitty Pryde, Beast, and Iceman have done in that mutant's case? Left him in the hands of police that arrested him for healing someone? There was an obvious overreaction at play here. Not only was no harm done, this man actively helped someone -- and was arrested. This is clearly a corrupt system being dealt with, making Cyclops and his group appear nothing but sympathetic, while his old teammates look like bumbling fools, sitting on the sidelines, ready to work with the corrupt and hateful, wringing their hands over the idea that protecting mutants actually requires action. There is no sense of Cyclops placing mutants above any morality: his actions, while illegal, are moral. That wasn't the case at the beginning of Avengers vs. X-Men where he endangered the entire planet on the belief that the Phoenix would save mutantkind. As that story continued, his actions were justified more and more until we get to the point where he's saving innocents from corrupt authority while the superheroes get all pissed off.

I keep wondering if that's what Marvel is striving for. It must be to some extent, but in such a one-sided way? Is the use of the original X-Men supposed to be the counterbalance? Their youthful innocence and naïveté causing us to see that Cyclops is, in fact, lost and immoral? Or will they simply look like dumb kids that don't a thing about the world? Will they even react poorly to what Cyclops is doing once they learn the entire history of mutants since their time at Xavier's school? I guess those answers are coming soon, because All-New X-Men #1 seemed content to end with its premise -- in fact, the only preview pages provided were of the final scene. Nicely done there, Marvel... way to underwhelm automatically.

It's hard not to be disappointed by All-New X-Men as payoff for Avengers vs. X-Men in the same way that New Avengers #1, Mighty Avengers #1, Dark Avengers #1, Avengers #1, New Avengers #1, and all of the other follow-ups to events were disappointing. It doesn't feel like enough. Avengers vs. X-Men ended with a "Stay tuned for the new status quo!" teaser, basically, and this is it and how can a single comic deliver on that, especially when its ends by stating a premise we all knew months ago?

And, already, Marvel is teasing Age of Ultron...

"And did we tell you the name of the game, boy? We call it riding the gravy train..."

EXCLUSIVE! Chad Nevett's Comic Book Mini-Reviews and Star Ratings for the Week of November 14, 2012

The Boys #72: I don't think any ending could have totally satisfied, but this came damn close. The final few pages in particular are wonderful. And Stillwell's realisation... I'll miss this book. [****1/2]

Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE #14: This book isn't quite on autopilot, but all urgency is gone. It knows it's dead and is taking everyone is can with it. That's interesting, but also depressing. It's nothing but death and misery. [***]

The Massive #6: Another good character spotlight issue. I like the slow pace with this book. There's no need to rush. There's so much room that so long as the comic is interesting in and of itself, I don't mind a thin plot. Not many books could get away with that, but this is the sort of title where that seems almost preferred to heavy, plot-driven stories. [***3/4]

New Avengers #33: Thankfully, the cover didn't predict what happens inside of this issue. But, I guess that could be next issue... This arc hasn't wowwed me, but Bendis has one issue left. Two weeks. First, Avengers and, then, New Avengers... [***1/4]

Punk Rock Jesus #5: This comic reminds me of my teenage self so much. If time travel is ever invented, I may send him this. He'd love it. Love it. I'm liking it quite a bit. [***3/4]

Thor: God of Thunder #1: A fine Thor comic. Probably the best I've seen in many years. Not a home run -- a solid double that might have been stretched into a triple if they'd ran their asses off. I do like Aaron's take on the character here and who doesn't love the Ribic/White art team? (Idiots, that's who.) [***3/4]

The Ultimates #18: I wound up liking this finale to Sam Humphries's first arc than I expected. It somehow clicked. It's a bit rushed, a bit obvious... but, it works. And the status quo is still interesting enough that I'll stick with this for a while. I just need to remember that Hickman, Ribic, and White are gone and they are never coming back. Remember... remember... remember... [***1/2]

Where is Jake Ellis? #1: I dug Who is Jake Ellis?, though not as much as many. It was a great-looking comic with a story that grew increasingly thin. That seems to carry on in this first/sixth issue. But, it's nice enough to look at that I don't mind. And Edmondson gives Zonjic enough cool things to draw. Maybe it will turn out to read great, too. Who knows? [***1/2]

Wolverine and the X-Men #20: The other side of the coin, in a sense, to All-New X-Men #1. The final page isn't a knock-you-on-your-ass one... if only because I think that's meant to be Kade Kilgore and he looks about ten years older than he's supposed to. But, good issue still. [***1/2]

The Zaucer of Zilk #2: This is comics. This is superhero comics. This is you. This is me. This is them. If only... if... why isn't that... you and me and them and comics and superhero comics... why... Why don't we learn? [ZZZZ1/Z]


Monday, November 12, 2012

Avengers vs. X-Men Reading Order (Updated August 17, 2013)

In the vein of my Secret Invasion Reading Order comes something bigger and, somewhat, more ambitious: an Avengers vs. X-Men Reading Order. It may surprise you to learn that it wasn't too difficult. Parts of the order are strictly judgement calls and some issues could be switched around with no real impact on anything, because they're so self-contained. An example of this are the intial tie-in arcs of Avengers Academy and X-Men Legacy where they both fall within the same timeframe, but could be read in any order really. I'll try to explain myself as I go and, maybe, update when necessary (aka when someone points out a factual error that makes my order impossible... though, in some cases, those are unavoidable). My biggest criteria for order is that events show in Avengers vs. X-Men trump all tie-ins with AVX: VS trumping all other tie-ins. So, events seen in Avengers vs. X-Men and tie-ins will always have Avengers vs. X-Men as the first comic to show those events with the others following. I think that makes sense.

  • Avengers: X-Sanction #1-4: Thematic prologue to the event.
  • Uncanny X-Men #9-10: More direct prologue to the series, sets up tension between Avengers and X-Men over Hope as well as adds more to the Hope/Phoenix connection.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men #0-1: Prologue and beginning of the story. The Phoenix is coming. Builds up to the Avengers and X-Men fighting on Utopia.
  • New Avengers #24, Wolverine and the X-Men #9, and Avengers #25: The Avengers gear up to face off with the X-Men (if necessary). While Avengers #25 shows events from Avengers vs. X-Men #2, it's mostly an issue that takes place prior to the event... plus, it literally only shows a double-page spread of the Avengers and X-Men fighting, which is heavily implied as something that will happen at the end of Avengers vs. X-Men #1.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men #2: The fighting happens and Hope escapes, while the Avengers in space confront the Phoenix.
  • AVX: VS #1 and Uncanny X-Men #11: Fights from Avengers vs. X-Men #2 are expanded upon.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men #3: The X-Men surrender and, then, escape. Everyone wants to find Hope. Captain America seemingly tries to kill Wolverine.
  • Wolverine and the X-Men #10: After the fight at Utopia, Cyclops tries to recruit as many mutants at the Jean Grey School as possible to join his group, find Hope, join her with the Phoenix, and save the mutant race.
  • Avengers Academy #29-31: After the fight at Utopia, the Avengers drop off some underage X-Men and all of the kids must get along until the adults decide that Captain America is wrong and let the mutants go.
  • X-Men Legacy #266-267: After the fight at Utopia, a trio of Avengers stake out the Jean Grey School to make sure no one there gets involved. A fight ensues. (Note: Some scenes from these issues contradict what we saw in Wolverine and the X-Men #10, but, since that issue was written by Jason Aaron, one of the five main writers of the event, I put it in a more primary position.)
  • Secret Avengers #26-28: The Space Avengers try to capture the Phoenix and fail. The Kree try to manipulate the Phoenix, including a resurrected Mar-Vell, and they fail. During the events of this story, both Noh-Varr and Ms. Marvel are under Kree mind control.
  • Avengers #26-27: Noh-Varr betrays the Space Avengers for reasons that don't entirely make sense next to the Secret Avengers story. However, this one clearly follows that one, so it goes here. In the end, the Space Avengers leave, Noh-Varr is almost killed by the Kree, and we're left wondering how a company could let these two issues and the Secret Avengers issues be published under the same event.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men #4: Everyone searches the world for Hope and the Avengers and X-Men fight some more all over the world. Wolverine and Hope go to the moon where the Avengers have also come. So do the X-Men. They almost fight until Thor crashes into the moon... AND THE PHOENIX IS HERE!
  • AVX: VS #2, Uncanny X-Men #12, and Wolverine and the X-Men #11: Expanded fights from Avengers vs. X-Men #4 and more on Wolverine and Hope before they get to the moon.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men #5: The Phoenix arrives, the Avengers and X-Men fight on the moon, Iron Man breaks the Phoenix apart, and it inhabits Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Magik.
  • AVX: VS #3: Expanded fights from Avengers vs. X-Men #5.
  • Uncanny X-Men #13: Another perspective on what's happening during the events of Avengers vs. X-Men #5.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men #6: The Phoenix Five rule the world and change things. The Avengers attack, the Scarlet Witch gets involved, and Hope goes with the Avengers. The issue ends with Cyclops proclaiming "No more Avengers."
  • AVX: VS #4: Two fights. Considering Thor gets taken down twice over the course of the series by a member of the Phoenix Five, I figured I'd just put this here for ease.
  • Avengers #28: Red Hulk tries to assassinate Cyclops. He fails.
  • Uncanny X-Men #14-17: The Phoenix Five (and non-Phoenix possessed members of the Extinction Team) take on Sinister.
  • Wolverine and the X-Men #16: The story of Kade Kilgore and the new Hellfire Club's activities in the wake of the Phoenix Five.
  • Avengers Academy #32-33: Emma Frost decides to destroy some teenager's pet Sentinel. Hank Pym and others object. Fighting ensues. The Sentinel is saved through trickery on the part of Quicksilver.
  • X-Men Legacy #268: Frenzy does some stuff for the Phoenix Five, kind of.
  • Wolverine and the X-Men #12 and Avengers #29: Two perspectives on a big confrontation between the X-Men and Avengers where Rachel Summers seemingly lets Hope go, but was really outclassed by Charles Xavier.
  • Wolverine and the X-Men #13: Gladiator and his forces fight against the Phoenix Five. They fail. They leave the planet.
  • New Avengers #29: The Illuminati gather, talk, and Captain America tries, unsuccessfully, to convince Namor that he's doing the wrong thing.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men #7: The Avengers are hunted by the X-Men and have their base in Wakanda. Hawkeye and Spider-Woman are captured. In a fight, the Scarlet Witch seriously hurts Namor. The issue ends with Namor attacking Wakanda.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men #8: Namor wages war on Wakanda. He is defeated and loses his Phoenix power. The Avengers retreat to K'un Lun.
  • New Avengers #25-27: The history of K'un Lun, the Iron Fist, and the Phoenix. It's a story told to Hope. She is given a new master to train her: Spider-Man.
  • New Avengers #28: Hawkeye, Luke Cage, and Spider-Woman in X-prison. They think they've almost escaped, but it's a mental prison where they replay the same scenario again and again.
  • X-Men Legacy #269: Ms. Marvel tries to convince Rogue that the Phoenix Five are evil. They fight. Magik shows up and imprisons Ms. Marvel in Limbo. Rogue doesn't like that and tries to help Ms. Marvel escape. She fails, but manages to escape from Magik.
  • Wolverine and the X-Men #14: Colossus takes Kitty Pryde out on a date and shows himself corrupted by the power of the Phoenix. Iceman is wary of Magik and Cyclops as well.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men #9: The Avengers try to rescue their captured teammates in Limbo. Spider-Man fights both Colossus and Magik, eventually turning them against one another, causing them both to lose their Phoenix powers. Storm and the Black Panther break up.
  • AVX: VS #5: Fallout fights from Avengers vs. X-Men #9.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men #10: The Avengers fight Cyclops in K'un Lun. Hope beats him by using the powers of the Iron Fist and Scarlet Witch. The X-Men grow wary of Emma Frost who is obviously corrupted by the power of the Phoenix.
  • Wolverine and the X-Men #15: The mutants at the Jean Grey School prepare for the fight battle with Cyclops and Emma Frost.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men #11: The X-Men join forces with the Avengers to bring down Cyclops and Emma Frost. They fight. During the course of the fight, Cyclops turns on Emma to take her powers. He then kills Charles Xavier and becomes Dark Phoenix.
  • Uncanny X-Men #18: The events of Avengers vs. X-Men #11 from the perspective of Cyclops and Emma Frost.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men #12: The grand finale. Dark Phoenix Cyclops is brought down, Hope embraces the power of the Phoenix and unleashes it to bring back mutants. Cyclops is arrested.
  • AVX: VS #6: An expansion of the Hope/Scarlet Witch confrontation in Avengers vs. X-Men #12. Plus, some gag stories/strips.
  • Uncanny X-Men #19: The events of Avengers vs. X-Men #12 from the perspective of Cyclops. The issue ends with him unapologetic about his actions.
  • Wolverine and the X-Men #18: What went down at the Jean Grey School during Avengers vs. X-Men #12.
  • New Avengers #30: Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Daredevil escort Emma Frost to prison, get into a fight with some hi-tech racists, defeat them, and Luke Cage quits the Avengers.  
  • Avengers #30: Hawkeye and Spider-Woman fight bad guys and one another. Iron Man is tired after the events of Avengers vs. X-Men, but gets off his ass anyway, because that's what superheroes do. 
  • Uncanny Avengers #1: The funeral of Charles Xavier. Havok visits Cyclops in prison to be a dick.
  • Uncanny X-Men #20: Cyclops is visited by Sinister in prison. Danger is set free by Unit after he leaves. Colossus and Magik have a confrontation.
  • AVX: Consequences #1-5: Cyclops is in prison and escapes with the help of Magneto, Magik, and Danger. Emma Frost is in prison. Colossus is a recluse. Iron Man doesn't know what to think after the whole Phoenix/Iron Fist/Scarlet Witch stuff messed up his brain. Hope searches for Cable, finds him, and is trying to be a normal teenage girl.
  • A-Babies vs. X-Babies #1: The entire event in baby form. Kind of. Based on a variant cover.
  • What If? AVX #1-4: The entire event reimagined in four issues.
  • And that's it. Like I said, you can debate a few spots (especially when events overlap and don't line up nicely). But, that's the order I would recommend.

    Update Nov. 14/12: I was asked where Wolverine and the X-Men #17 would fall and that's before Avengers vs. X-Men. Since it's a one-off issue focusing on Doop and seemingly takes place before the event, I would stick it right after issue eight of that series. A little confusing on Marvel's part, but, hey, no surprises there.

    Update Aug. 17/13: In doing a read of the event, I changed the placement of tie-in issues previously situated between Avengers vs. X-Men #7 and 8. Some tie-ins were moved prior to issue 7 and some were moved after issue 8.


    Sunday, November 11, 2012

    Direct Message 3.5: Alex Ross, Kingdom Come, and Marvels

    A while back, Alec Berry and I began our next Direct Message discussion on Alex Ross, specifically Kingdom Come and Marvels. It sort of petered out and died, mostly because of Alec. But, I understand. Part of his problem is that he's still finding his voice in criticism and just wasn't happy with what he said here -- mostly how he said it. He's struggling a bit with trying to be honest and not too influenced by others and it's something that we've all gone through at different times. So, I never had any issues with him not wanting to continue this one. But, why let it go to waste? It's up over on the Chemical Box and we're going to begin another one soon on The Manhattan Projects. Now, I stand by everything I say in this discussion and how I said it.

    You can read Direct Message 3.5 HERE!

    Saturday, November 10, 2012

    Riding the Gravy Train 30 (AVX: Consequences #5)

    In Avengers vs. X-Men #1, Cyclops took a stand against Captain America based on his belief that the Phoenix coming to Earth would result in the rebirth of the mutant race. He was right. But, when he spoke of the mutant race, what Marvel was really saying through the character was that the coming of the Phoenix (aka Avengers vs. X-Men) would result in the rebith of the X-Men. Having come to the end of this entire event with this week's AVX: Consequences, that's what has happened: the X-Men have been reborn.

    When House of M featured the Scarlet Witch proclaiming "No more mutants" and almost wiping out the mutant population, what really happened was that an Avenger made the ascension of the Avengers to Marvel's top franchise official, going so far as to decimate the former top franchise, the X-Men. Under the guise of returning the X-Men to the concept's roots by making mutants again a minority so outnumbered that they are practically extinct, what really happened was that the X-Men franchise was shunted to the side, lost in a sea of stories that were more about how few mutants there are than about exciting action. While the concept of the X-Men fighting for a world that fear and hates them was always the root of the franchise, it was also something that could slip away in the background much of the time, allowing the characters to get lost in superheroics and soap opera. However, once the mutant population was lowered to less than 200 members, the story was just about the fact that mutants are almost extinct and the two issues that come with that: keeping every mutant alive no matter what and ensuring that more mutants are born. Now, you can get a decent amount of stories out of those two ideas. Hell, it would have made for an interesting single title among many X-books. But, it was the dominating focus of the entire line, splintered through different approaches. And, well, it killed the X-Men to a degree. Change is bad, right?

    Schism was the first step in rectifying the situation. Cyclops, the poster boy of the new status quo, was challenge by Wolverine over his leadership choices, wanting to return to the X-Men's older ways. In the end, Cyclops embraced the role of leader of a near-extinct people going so far as to rename the X-Men his 'Extinction Team,' while Wolverine returned to Westchester and opened a school for mutants. It was a return, but the issue of the low number of mutants still loomed heavily over the franchise -- and Cyclops and his group were still 'heroes' in the recent X-Men mould. The return to the old ways was partially complete.

    Avengers vs. X-Men accomplished two things: it returned the mutant population to non-endangered levels and it pushed Cyclops fully into the role of Magneto to Wolverine's Professor X. I speculated last week that that was what we would see in the final issue of AVX: Consequences and I was right. Now, make no mistake, that doesn't mean that Cyclops will be a copy of Magneto any more than it means that Wolverine is a copy of Professor X. I don't foresee Cyclops doing actively villainous things the way Magneto would. Often, Magneto fell into the role of 'typical bad guy' instead of 'mutant revolutionary,' which is where Cyclops seems more poised to fall. He's the alternate to Wolverine's school. Not necessarily divided along the old Xavier/Magneto ideological lines of 'peaceful co-existence vs. mutant domination.' It would probably make more sense for Cyclops to simply fight for mutants, no matter what. That means he'll do both 'heroic' and 'villainous' things depending on your perspective. We saw that a bit in AVX: Consequences #5 when he has Danger mark the warden of the prison with a giant X on his face. The mutant race is reborn and Cyclops is going to make sure it survives its new infancy, grows up, and thrives. It's not so much anti-human as Magneto often was, but pro-mutant.

    But, really, it's a return to the old X-Men helmed by the man that made the Avengers the dominant franchise. That was the goal of Avengers vs. X-Men and it has a good chance of working. The pieces have been returned to familiar positions. It's a new status quo that's really just the old status quo. When Marvel said that this was the culmination of the stories the company has been telling since House of M (even Avengers Disassembled really), they weren't lying.

    It's our childhoods reborn.

    [Next: I have two final posts to write. A wrap-up/overview post that will probably say everything I've said many times once again and a reading order post. Those should be coming in the next couple of weeks.]

    Thursday, November 08, 2012

    EXCLUSIVE! Chad Nevett's Comic Book Mini-Reviews and Star Ratings for the Week of November 7, 2012

    Action Comics #14: That was a perfectly fine comic book I read, yes. Was that what they were going for? [**3/4]

    Age of Apocalypse #9: Hey, Roberto de la Torre is back! And, once again, I can't tell any characters apart. I gave up on that long ago, though. Who they are doesn't really matter, does it? If they were worth knowing, I'd know them. I know Jean Grey and Prophet and Little Creed and Big Creed and Wolverine and Cyclops. Does anyone else actually matter? There's almost a plot in this issue. A sense of direction. That shouldn't last long. You know who I miss? That narrator fellow whose inclusion in this book was baffling at the beginning and never made to matter at all. Is he dead? Did I nod off and miss his death? And, yet, I do enjoy this comic. They still have a "From the pages of Uncanny X-Force..." tagline at the top of the cover. Really? Who are you fooling? [No one]

    Avengers #33: It's always encouraging when the Big Three (plus Mr. and Mrs. Ant-Man) get their asses handed to them by Brand New Generic Villain. Tha baddie's mockery of Thor was kind of funny. The 'real world' stuff was good. This feels like such a throwaway, though. This how you want to go out, Bendis? [***]

    Daredevil: End of Days #2: In the future, there will be "Hulk: The Musical." Screw President Wilson, that is the real story of this comic. That, and Nick Fury never dies. Ever. [***1/2]

    The Defenders #12: A bit of a hot mess by the end there. Matt Fraction Explains the Marvel Universe and, like all big explanations, it just makes you wonder why he bothered. No. Really. Why? Why try to explain this? Why try to offer up a reason for why this fictional universe exists as it does when we all know the real reasons? It doesn't make it better. It doesn't make it better. When the fuck did Fraction become Straczynski? There is something amusing in that the world is saved by Dr. Strange tricking himself into not being as big a douchebag. I liked that part. I liked the storytelling technique used here to rush through in a manner that actually gave the issue a bit of weight. But, still... The Marvel Universe didn't need an explanation. [***1/4]

    Iron Man #1: Did... did Marvel trick me into buying Invincible Iron Man #1 again? It sure as fuck feels like it. [Marvel THEN!]

    The Manhattan Projects #7: I am intrigued. I do love the blue and red colouring. Every issue is a joy and a surprise. [****]

    New Avengers #32: A bit better than what's going on in Avengers, but it is revisiting one of the worst New Avengers stories (the Brother Voodoo magic arc with the Hood). And this issue was pretty tedious in Dr. Strange trying to figure it out, while everyone else runs around like idiots. But, there's another issue next week! And Jessica looks shot on the cover! OH NOES! [***1/4]


    Monday, November 05, 2012

    Riding the Gravy Train 29 (AVX: Consequences #4)

    If it wasn't clear already, AVX: Consequences seems to be Uncanny X-Men #21-25 under a different title, almost. It has skewed towards Cyclops heavily the entire time, but this was the issue that made it clear that this series is a bit more expansive, focusing on the Extinction Team itself. The series picks up where Uncanny X-Men #20 left off in many ways and, so far, suggests a progression of the Extinction Team from the reigning 'Uncanny X-Men' to becoming the new 'Brotherhood' under the charge of Cyclops. He's tried playing at the Professor X of mutants and the role didn't suit him, so, now, he'll be the Magneto?

    Now, it's not quite so cut and dry, obviously. In ruling over Utopia, he was already more 'Magneto and Genosha' than Professor X. But, that Magneto was also more of a hero than villain. It's like it's always been a sliding scale for Cyclops, leading to this point. He went from Professor X to Genosha Magneto and, now, to Brotherhood Magneto. It's an interesting arc, but I wonder if there's anything more to it than that. Not just from the perspective of Kieron Gillen and Marvel -- from the character's perspective as well.

    Part of it revolves around Wolverine, I think. When circumstances dictated that Cyclops take a harder stance, Wolverine stepped up and softened, positioning himself as Xavier's successor. He took off and opened a school for gifted youngsters, while Cyclops created his 'Extinction Team,' a group of powerful mutants that would act not only a superheroes but also as a threat to the world that mutants were not to be fucked with. The beginning of his Brotherhood, as it were, under the guise of another roster of the X-Men. They engaged in traditional X-Men adventures until the Phoenix came and they became the villains of the story. Never mind that they were right and, ultimately, restored mutantkind, they were all villified as a result of their encounter with the Phoenix. The Extinction Team went on the run (save Hope, Psylocke, and Storm), while Cyclops and Emma Frost were imprisoned. The former looking to become a figurehead for mutantkind, possibly a martyr; the latter, a bitter and angry woman. This issue ends with Cyclops using metal filings to send Magneto a message: "NOW" and Magneto, flanked by Magik and Danger saying "Well, ladies... / Villains it is."

    After seeing one of the new mutants he helped bring about turn from a scared man into a proud one before being killed, Cyclops seems ready to accept his required role as the new Magneto. In prison, he's silenced, shut off, stuffed into a corner. In many ways, it's Wolverine's visit that is the catalyst for this turn. Logan visits Scott to talk him out of seeking revenge on the inmates that killed the mutant. It's the second time Logan has visited him and it's reminiscent of scenes from the movies where Xavier would visit Magneto. Two former friends and allies that suffered an ideological split, but still tied together through mutual respect and a broad, common goal. If Wolverine is the new Xavier, then Cyclops needs to be the new Magneto. Not because that's the 'interesting' story to tell in comics; because the binary positioning of Xavier and Magneto helped the mutant race thrive. The conflict pushed them all forward, made the human race both fear and respect them. The X-Men slowly gained respect and proved that mutants were not a universal threat through their willingness to protect humanity from the Brotherhood. At the same time, the Brotherhood inspired fear and awe, acted as a reminder that mutants are more advanced, more threatening and capable, than humanity. It's an odd sort of give and take where mutants wind up gaining through every encounter. For all of the talk that Magneto and the Brotherhood made mutants look bad, their presence made the X-Men look that much better.

    AVX: Consequences seems less about wrapping up loose ends from Avengers vs. X-Men than concluding the story of the Extinction Team from Uncanny X-Men. Which suits me just fine. Also, it's not surprising that Iron Man keeps showing up given that that's Gillen's next big assignment at Marvel. Most people assume the teased Bendis/Bachalo "Uncanny" book will be Uncanny X-Men, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's something like "Uncanny Brotherhood." That could prove interesting.

    Next week: AVX: Consequences #5 aka the final Riding the Gravy Train comic. There will be a wrap-up post and, of course, an Avengers vs. X-Men reading order post at some point after that. So, it's not quite the end for us just yet.

    Saturday, November 03, 2012

    EXCLUSIVE! Chad Nevett's Comic Book Mini-Reviews and Star Ratings for the Week of October 31, 2012

    What a week. Not a happy week. Work kind of sucked, Wednesday night was killed putting together our new bed, and I was in an overall bad mood. But, it's the weekend now and I've spent the day sleeping in, watching wrestling, reading Metabarons, listening to good music, drinking a Slurpee, and generally relaxing. So, let's talk comics...

    The CBLDF Presents Liberty Annual 2012: I bought this more for the charitable aspect than anything else. As usual, the stories tend to be preachy and not necessarily entertaining. But, there's also some cool things in here. I was disappointed that the solicited content from Warren Ellis was nowhere to be found. [I don't rate charity books... and, if I did so in the past, I don't anymore...?]

    Fatale #9: Have not read. Letting this pile up a bit before reading. I find it reads better in chunks, not single doses. [Who knows?]

    Happy! #2: When I first heard people dismiss this as "Grant Morrison trying to do Garth Ennis," I didn't agree. Then again, that was before reading the second issue. I assumed that Morrison would do his own thing a bit more by now, but hasn't. It does seem like a third-rate Ennis rip-off book. Except without the humour or the wit. I hope it gets turned around by the end... [**1/2]

    Haunt #27: This Lady Haunt diversion was decent. The underlying story with the Second Church stuff is quite good -- fascinating. I've enjoyed the slow burn here. Still not a fan of the colours. [***1/2]

    The Mighty Thor #22: And so does Fraction's run come to an end... Was this issue's goal to convince me that Thor is a menace for all living things? I always find stories like this amusing because, when applied to serialised corporate superheroes, all they do is point out that these supposedly good characters are, in fact, doing bad things simply by living. There's so much history built up that they're unwilling to part with that threats come for them, not some other reason. Because a writer thought putting Asgard in Oklahoma would be interesting, Thor had to make that choice and, as a result, he's been responsible for a town continually being attacked and terrorised. His defence? "Life would be boring without me!" and everyone just sort of buys it? It works with most superheroes and stories like this highlight how the external constraints of publishing these comics eventually turn heroes into villains without meaning to. Welcome to Marvel NOW! [***]

    New Avengers #31: My shop didn't receive its copies two weeks ago, so I got this now. Like Avengers, this is clearly Bendis trying to tie up some loose ends. Michael Gaydos on art is a lovely treat for a Luke/Jessica story. Looking at the upcoming releases, the next two weeks bring new issues of this, so, for me, it's suddenly become a weekly book. Thanks, Diamond? [***3/4]

    Ultimate X-Men #18: The action scenes in this issue seemed very rushed. They began and ended so quickly that there wasn't any sense of struggle. Just putting this whole Sentinel business behind us as soon as possible it seems. Which I don't actually mind too much. We've seen that before. Mutants put on a reservation while some choose to give up their powers? That has a bit more potential, I believe. For an 'end of the story' issue, this was surprisingly transitory. And Wood did a nice job with that final scene. Captain America came off as reasonable despite that not being what was required. Bring on the next issue! [***1/2]

    Winter Soldier #12: It's a shame that there probably isn't much chance of Ed Brubaker leaving this book with both James and Natasha still brainwashed and acting all evil, right? That is the book I want to read. Those two running around trying to bring down America in the name of communism. Just kill off that lame James wannabe and we could have some fun, folks. Besides, it would be fitting for Brubaker to leave the character where he was at the beginning of his reintroduction to the Marvel Universe. Who wants to read about a whiny guy who's constantly holding back? Chump. [***1/2]

    Wolverine and the X-Men #19: Kitty Pryde has pretty high standards for teachers. Like everything else in life, it's who you know... and if you're a mutant. [***1/2]