General Reviews 5/21: "There's a good story in here somewhere."

by the General

That's what I kept thinking to myself while reading last weeks comics. All of them had moments or ideas worth mentioning, but inevitably the execution seemed to be fumbled. Either the art was slightly off, or the writing was stilted or - in the case of Ultimate X-men - it just seemed like the Marvel editorial department was asleep at the wheel. Still, these are the comics I read last week, and there were a lot of them. So, let's take a look at X-Men: Divided We Stand, X-Factor, Fantastic Four, Captain America, Ultimate X-men and Hercules.

X-Men: Divided We Stand #2 (by a whole mess of creators) - Last month, when I reviewed this title, it became a mini-magnum opus as I tried to summarize the five short tales that appeared in it. This month, I'm going to sidestep that unreadable train wreck and just mentioned the two that caught my fancy. The first, by Mike Carey and his X-men Legacy buddy, Scott Eaton, involves the Beast returning to the ruins of the mansion and cleaning up a bit. That's pretty much it. He wanders the grounds, gathers some keepsakes and disposes of some dangerous technology that has been left behind. But despite this basic premise, it is a surprisingly effective because not only does it allow for some nice Beast characterization, but it also help show how important the Mansion is to the X-men's status quo and - finally - it helps successfully shut the door on this chapter of their mythology as they move forward. Presumably to their new digs in San Fransisco.

The other story that I enjoyed was the Havok tale that appeared halfway through the book. The whole Havok vs. Vulcan storyline pretty much tops my "I have no idea why I care about this story, but I do" list. This is a fine chapter. Vulcan reveals to an imprisoned and beaten Havok the events that took place during the Messiah CompleX, in an attempt to further torment him. Surprisingly, Havok finds strength in the story and redoubles his defiance of Vulcan. It's a seemingly straight-forward little number, but it works on a couple of levels. Not only does it get new readers up to speed(with both Havok and the entire X-line in general), but also help further define the dynamic that exists between the two warring brothers. The painterly art usually wouldn't be my thing, but actually sort of works here. I look forward to seeing this storyline move forward someday.

The rest of the stories are pretty forgettable... to the point that I honestly barely remember them a week after reading them. So, while I enjoyed the two tales above, I can't give the entire issue more than a bare-bones B.

X-Factor #31 (David and Raimondi) - This issue should have been dramatic. But, for a number of reasons, it just fell short. First and foremost reason, while I think Raimondi is a fine artist, he failed to convey the drama and inferno of having M-Town (or the Middle Eastside) burn to the ground. Instead of the raging inferno I'm sure Peter David had in mind, we get scene after scene of what looks like the characters dealing with isolated burning buildings. But, to be fair, I think that David's storytelling is a little uneven here too. Few of the events within really carry any dramatic punch, plus we see another example of David's weird malicious streak in a scene where firemen watch a half dozen people burn to death on the other side of the energy dome that surrounds the neighborhood. Overall, I just wasn't feeling this issue, a crabby C.

Fantastic Four #557 (Millar and Hitch) - Here's another title I'm just not feeling. In fact, I'm fairly sure this is my last issue. I can see what Millar and Hitch are going for, but the execution is sort of bungled. The resolution of the CAP menace just struck me as too easy. I mean, it literally plays out like this: "Oh my god! No one can stop this menace! It's destroying everything! ... oh, except we just happen to have this piece of technology lying around, and there happens to be a loop-hole in CAP's programming that allows us to take it down in one punch!" Wait, what? Between this, and my inability to get into the Nu Earth idea, I'm obviously struggling with this title. So, maybe it's just time to let it go.

Which is a shame because there is a great couple of moments with Reed and Sue towards the end that shows that Millar actually gets at least those two characters. I just wish he got the entire title the same way. Still a credibility-straining C.

Captain America #38 (Brubaker and Epting) - Nothing happens. But, I enjoyed it. Still, I'm not going to give it more than a standard Brubaker B.

I'm not overly familiar with the particulars of Captain America's past, but there seems to be a neat little retooling of his history in this issue. Or, at least, the retooling of a character from his past. It's the sort of reworking that I'm sure has certain Captain America fans rubbing their hands together with glee. And, to Brubaker's credit, he managed to get me up to date with the back story in such a way that I felt like I knew what was going on, but didn't feel like it was getting bogged down by history lessons. Still, my holding my ground on that B.

Ultimate X-men #94 (Coleite and Brooks) - Meanwhile, over in Ultimate X-men I honestly felt like I missed an issue. In fact, after reading the first couple of pages, I checked the cover to make sure an issue hadn't been released that I missed. I mean, someone must have really screwed the pooch on this issue. I can literally see Aron Coleite proudly turning in his first script only to have the editor go: "oh... um.. .we forget to tell you but Kirkman wrote Phoenix out of the title at the end of his final arc. That was the big dramatic event that ended that arc."

To which Coleite responded; "Hmmm, let me just get out my pen here and...." then he writes a single panel where Scott asks Jean why she's back, and she says they'll talk about it later. The whole thing comes off as really amateurish, and I think it shows that Marvel has pretty much lost interest in its Ultimate line.

In a way though, it's sort of a shame that the issue has such a rocky start and that the writing is uneven, because I do feel like there is are some interesting ideas driving this title. It's about time that someone explored Colossus' mafia ties a little more. And, the reveal on the final page proves the storyline might be fun overall. Still, this issue gets a drop-the-ball D.

The Incredible Hercules #117 (Pak and Van Lente) - I'm still not in love with this title in the same way that a lot of people are. But, at the same time, the very idea that seems to be under-pinning this next storyline has me interested, and I think it's a great twist on the events of Secret Invasion. In short, since the skrulls are invading Earth, their gods are also effectively invading the Earth gods' turf. To combat this, Athena has called the gods of the world together to assemble a team to make sure their alien gods don't get a foothold. This team is, of course, led by Hercules. Now, I'm not entirely sure why, but I like the idea of Earth's gods wanting to stave off the advances of alien gods fairly interesting. It's a unique take on the typical alien invasion storyline. And, the motley crew they've assembled under Hercules seems to have promise, as does the idea of Hercules being forced into leadership.

Still, while I liked the issue overall, there are actually a number of confusing panels toward the end which left me going "Wait, what?" So, while I was pleased with the issue, I'm just giving it a better than average B.


Jon Quixote said...

That Herc storyline sounds wicked cool. That's the sort of overabundance of imagination that I go nuts for.

The General said...

Jon, I seem like I always do reviews that make you interested in something I read... but I also always suspect that the reality would let you down.

That said, I think this storyline could be either really fun... or loose my interest after one issue. Depending on which way they take it.

Jon Quixote said...

I think Earth Gods versus Skrull Gods as a concurrent plot to Secret Invasion isn't the sort of story that might be cool. It's the sort of story that they'd have to eff up in order for it not to be cool.

The General said...

I'll keep you post!