All New X-Men #32, The Wicked and the Devine #4, The Multiversity: Society of Super Heroes #1.1 – Short Comic Review

While I’m on vacation for three weeks, I’ve put together a short round up of comics published this week. I’ll return to full reviews on October 11, 2014.

All New X-Men #32

The young, time-travelling X-men are scattered across the planet after almost rescuing a new mutant with the ability to create portals between parallel worlds.

A grand tour of various locations in the Marvel Universe, the artwork in this issue captures vibrancy, colour, and danger. Latveria, The Savage Land, and New York appear. Also appearing is the gloomy domain of the Mole Man’s underground kingdom.

Jean Grey and Miles Morales share a deep conversation – dialog where two super-powered characters catch up on the defining moments in their careers so far is expertly written.

There’s more than one cliffhanger here – it may take several issues to resolve this plotline.

The Wicked and the Devine #4

Every 90 years, 12 gods from across the world’s pantheon’s reincarnate as 12 teens. Not everyone believes this story, however. One of them – claiming to be Lucifer – is arrested and imprisoned for murder. And Laura – a god-fan and amateur detective – investigates.

Introducing the home of several gods, Laura marches through wide, blue marble corridors alongside a powerful sky god called Baal – his character design favors gold chains and burnt orange suits with two buttons, which show the gods make interesting fashion choices.

Large powerful images of fire and water appear later in the comic, establishing an elemental theme. Lightening is also referenced.

Through body language and dialog, the god’s power is clearly underlined.

A final conversation between Laura and Lucifer effectively shows moments of deception and power, revealing that this is a mature, and complex comic book.

The Multiversity – Society of Super Heroes #1.1

Doc Fate, The Atom, Abin Sur, The Black Hawks, and a refined and still immortal Vandal Savage form a new team of super heroes on one of the fifty two parallel universes that exist in DC comics.

This golden age planet Earth, numbered Earth 40 – with technology, fashion, and popular culture references from the 1940’s and 1950’s – is under attack from invaders. A less refined and dangerous Vandal Savage is travelling across the multiverse, invading different Earths as he sees fit.

The comic book delves into themes about the costs of war and violence. The Atom reflects about the costs of using his Iron Monroe technique, the “Atomic Fist”, to kill the monster Blockbuster – he has crossed his principals at great cost. Artwork choices show clear and strong character design. Monsters in particular look fearsome. A skeletal Parallax torments the Atom and fights Abin Sur.

This comic book is one part in a segment of a larger story arc, which when fitted together, would show off characters and super heroes from across the previous seven decades.

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All New X-men #29 – Comic Review

The battle between the future Brotherhood and X-men reaches a conclusion, but a large part of this comic puts together a discussion about good and evil. All New X-men #29 offers:

  • Artwork with great action, and strong colour
  • Good  moments for several main characters
  • A good and evil discussion: the comic raises ideas about the difference between good and evil

Force, movement, and lines of action are clearly visible from scenes with X-23, who slashes through the air. Bright purple and red colour dominate this comic.

One pivotal strike from X-23 shows off a powerful, downward line of action. Xavier can’t stand up to her assault. She cuts through the air with claws that leave trails. It’s easy to follow the action from panel to panel with these movements.

Psychic power explodes throughout this comic book. Xavier Jr.’s power is light blue, and icy. Jean Grey, in full flight, unleashes purple light. Pages of this comic are filled with it. When the light is not purple, it’s dark shades of red. This colour represents anger. In this case, It’s X-23’s rage. She was attacked and left in the snow. She’s angry. Raze, like Xavier, catches up with her in these scenes.

Emma Frost receives some development, while Cyclops leads the team, taking charge of the X-men’s ethical decisions. Deadpool also has some good moments.

Emma Frost has a scene with excellent dialogue. She talks to Jean Grey about the events of Battle of the Atom, specifically, about Xorn, and what happens to Grey if she continues to live her life in the present, never returning to the moment in the past she and the other X-men left.

Deadpool has a few hilarious moments. Iceman is less animated than he has been in previous issues.

Scott Summers also has a moment of good dialogue, and lays down a value for the X-men to follow. Cyclops leads the team, which impresses, considering his character has been running since the events of Avengers Vs X-Men. A moment towards the end of the issue references Avengers Vs X-Men. Summers recollects his actions under the power of the phoenix force.

The comic brings an interesting value discussion to light. It draws a line between good and evil – the X-men, and the Brotherhood – The X-men consistently state that there are lines they will not cross, which separate them from their enemies.

A large part of this comic puts together a discussion about good and evil. The comic’s values line up with big, broad statements about good and evil summarised by quotes from philosophers like Nietzsche:

“He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

When the psychic Stepford cuckoos confront Xavier alongside Jean Grey, they comment that Xavier is a reminder of what happens when they “let themselves slip”. Abuse of their talents leads to becoming like Xavier. Later, Molly Hayes tries to attack a defeated Raze. Beast tells her “Don’t be them”. Later, when facing the wounded Xavier, Scott Summers states “Today, your lesson is to be better than your enemies”.

When faced with a defeated Brotherhood, the X-men will not respond using their enemies methods. The comic has that value: a distinction between good and evil.

One popular culture references is a quote from the Angel. When asking Laura out on a date to a Bob Evans restaurant, Warren quotes a Superman movie saying “Well, I’ll do most of the flying”

All New X-men #29 is published by Marvel Comics. ($3.99 USD). Brian Michael Bendis (W.) Stuart Immonen (A.) Wade Von Grawbadger (I.) Marte Gracia with Jason Keith (C.) VC’s Cory Petit (L.) Cover Artwork by Immonen, Grawbadger, and Gracia.

All New X-men #28 – Comic Review

The X-men face another catastrophe from the future. Building more layers onto an already complex time travel story, however, creates confusion. All New X-men #28 offers:

  • Artwork filled with detail
  • Time Travel exploration
  • Exploration of Psychic powers and their effects
  • Collected into a graphic novel, All New X-men would tell a sweeping time travel story

Capturing fine details, the comic sets effective scenes, and employs good character body language. Both quiet scenes and loud scenes have a sense of silence and volume respectively. Colour choices are strong here.

In the distant future, Dr. Hank McCoy ruffles his blue fur. He hangs from the ceiling of his quiet laboratory, scrawling chalk notes across a blackboard. The attention to detail here is strong. Easter eggs from X-men history are dotted within the complex notes.

The artwork establishes McCoy’s impossible puzzle. He brought young X-men from the past into the present day. Now, in an alternate future he created after those events, he cannot solve the problem. The young X-men were not returned to the moment in time they left, and reality broke as a result.

In a powerful flash forward to the future, The X-men and the brotherhood featured in Battle of the Atom clash. In two pages, a large scale artwork depicts older, wiser X-men facing off against an upstart brotherhood. Pale blue and purple energies glow, while swords shine through the air.

Dialogue centres around two brothers: Xavier junior, and Raze. Xavier’s struggle to make the X-men understand how badly his father, Charles Xavier, was treated forms the key conflict of the comic book.

There are some hilarious comments in the dialogue featured across the opening scenes. Old Beast, in the far future, meets young Xavier Junior and Raze – founders of the new, upstart brotherhood. These young men are in fact brothers. Their mother is the blue, shape-shifting Mystique. Their fathers are Charles Xavier and Wolverine respectively.

Xavier meeting with young Jean Grey presents a chance to bring out his backstory. It’s a major point of conflict. His father died fostering the X-men despite all the efforts Charles Xavier delivered in growing, expanding, and safeguarding the X-men. He references the events of  Avengers Vs. X-men. His rage grows when he outlines to Jean exactly how frustrated he is that his father’s legacy, house, and fortune where not retained or cared for by the X-men.

His Brother Raze is plainly a terrible person. It comes across in the artworks depiction of his body language, and the word choice that creates his character voice.

Exploring layers upon layers of time travel, the question this raises is how far can space, time, and the history of the Marvel Universe be pushed?

The comic overflows with time travel mechanics. And layering more time travel atop the already teetering stack of time travel events in All New X-men creates confusion. There are not many deep themes here. Moreover, the comic explores the effects of psychic powers, and time travel.

The artwork is rich in colour and detail. Character’s speak in their own unique voices. Threats from an alternate future are interesting. The time travel mechanics however, are confusing.

Xavier Junior and Raze decide to travel back in time to initially confront the X-men: if they fail to reach their goal, they will send a message to themselves moments before they left, which allows them to build a new plan, and try again.

This causes a paradox: how can they travel back and try a different approach if they now no longer went into the past initially, failed to reach their goal, and sent a message to their future selves?

The paradox that emerges pushes an already strained timeline. Is this pushing too hard on space and time in the Marvel Universe?

Two popular culture references appear. When asked who his father is, Raze states it is “Batman”. When examining his timeline for gaps, Dr.McCoy mentions the Age of Apocalypse, and the Age of Ultron in.

All New X-men #21 is published by Marvel Comics. ($3.99 USD). Brian Michael Bendis (W.) Stuart Immonen (A.) Wade Von Grawbadger (I.) Marte Gracia (C.) VC’s Cory Petit (L.) Cover Artwork by Immonen, Grawbadger, and Gracia.

All New X-men #21 – Comic Review

What All New X-Men #21 Offers

With some reference to real world discrimination, All New X-men #21 shows off captivating art while telling a story about minorities and religion.
The comic would be particularly relevant for high school and college classes examining discrimination themes, and religion. New readers might find the references to other Marvel comics confusing, however. All New X-men #21 offers:

  • Powerful artwork
  • Discrimination themes
  • An English resource
  • A Religious education resources
  • Collected into a graphic novel, All New X-men would act as a useful literacy resource

Cast

Jean Grey and X-23 are the two Marvel super heroes featured on the cover. The pair play a larger role in the plot compared to the other X-men. Kitty Pride also plays a key role. It’s the strong antagonists of the comic that drive the action forward.

William Stryker’s son intimidates and evangelises with his mutant-hating “purifiers”. These characters are Christian Fundamentalists – the Bible is literal to them, and they are critical of liberal values. Purifiers revile mutants.
That’s the narrative thrust of the story, and the source of conflict and themes. A minority group battles against influential, and well armed, fundamentalists.
Who is William Stryker? An evangelical entertainer and former solider, Stryker led a public, religious campaign depicting mutants as evil. This story arc appeared in the graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills (Marvel comics, 1982).

Art

In a Flashback scene, William Stryker appears, and gives a speech to a sold out music hall. It’s a link back to the Marvel graphic novel where he first appeared. William Stryker, decades ago, influenced the opinions of millions with his fervent bible readings.
He quotes from the book of Revelation. Without including spoilers, the artwork captures a sense of sound and volume. Looking at the art, you can hear Stryker’s voice over the public address system, shaking the room. The audience rumbles, roaring with applause, introducing energy to the art.
There’s only one fault – a character’s glasses disappear from their face between panels. This character is a doctor who promises Stryker that he can cure Stryker’s son
of illness. With the glasses missing, however, the revulsion the scientist expresses when William Stryker places a hand on his shoulder and utters “Let us pray” cuts deeper.

Themes, Ethics, Values

X-23 recently arrived in All New X-men #21 from a now concluded series called Avengers Arena. One of the themes of the Arena comic was the impact of reality television, with a Popular Culture reference to the Hunger Games. All New X-men summarises this theme: Stryker’s son states: “You were on a reality show. You were popcorn for morons”. Reality television is derided here, which aligns with themes brought up by Avengers Arena, and Hunger Games themes.
The larger themes brought out are religion, fundamentalism, and discrimination. Discord between religious and scientific women and men feature to some extent.
Early in the issue, a doctor says to Stryker Senior: “Quite a show business machine you’ve build yourself” implying the Stryker is using faith and religion to sell support for his anti-minority cause, manipulating his audience. The man (a scientist) shrinks away when Styker asks him to pray.
When confronted with the possibility of killing the X-men, one of the Purifiers stops Stryker’s son acting, and asks: “Is there someone we could talk to about this? Someone smarter than us?” This depicts the purifiers are fearful, lacking in conviction and intelligence.
Later, another scientist remarks to Stryker’s son “We sell you our best weapons, and you do what you think you need to do.” The scientist, who works for the organisation called AIM (mentioned in Iron Man 3), clearly has little respect for Stryker’s beliefs (A small clash between science and religion).
All three quotes demonstrate the argument against fundamentalist religion. It’s an argument X-men comics are known for. The purifiers are unintelligent, manipulative, carry weapons, and “do what they think they need to do” rather than carrying out a legitimate belief. Fundamental and “pure” approaches to religion are a problem: that’s the key ethic of the comic.

The X-men are a minority targeted and discriminated against by hateful and manipulative religious groups. They fight back, and the comic captures the push against discrimination.

All New X-men #21 is published by Marvel Comics. ($3.99 USD). Brian Michael Bendis (W.) Brandon Peterson (A.) Israel Silva (C.A.) Brent Anderson, with James Campbell (A.) Cory Petit (L.) Cover Artwork by Brandon Peterson.

Battle of the Atom – Comics Review

Battle of the Atom #1: Chapter 1

All New X-men #16: Chapter 2

X-men #5: Chapter 3

Time travel in popular culture can be like playing a dangerous Jenga game. Pull out too many bricks from the foundation – the past – and the future might collapse.

In the latest X-men crossover comic book from Marvel, Battle of the Atom, the consequences of the X-men‘s experiments with time are close to catching up with them. Maybe Beast bringing his past self, along with younger Jean, Cyclops, Iceman, and Angel, to the present was not a great idea.

(This review includes some spoilers for Battle of the Atom parts 1, 2, and 3)

Battle of the Atom #1 is Published by Marvel Comics ($3.99). Brian Michael Bendis (W.) Frank Cho, Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger (A.) Marte Gracia (C.) VC’s Joe Caramagna (L.) Arthur Adams & Peter Steigerwald (Cover Artists.)

Continue Reading

All New X-men #15 – Comics Review

All New X-Men #15: Jean Grey and the Beast?!

(Some spoilers for Issue #15 of All New X-men follow in the review below)

Iceman is flirting with a girl around his age he met at a carnival. Her ice cream starts to melt, and precipitously dips toward the ground. Using his abilities, he chills it, saving the ice cream. A teenage boy hanging out with them stops and stares: “You’re a mutant?” he says, before walking away, fists clenched. Another girl remarks it’s a shame he isn’t more progressive. Despite the efforts of Marvel superheroes, and the changes observed in the respect and equality garnered by minority groups in the real world, it seems mutants will always be feared and hated in Marvel Comics.

What this comic book provides is an insight into characters who don’t hate and fear mutants. Characters who are supportive, or neutral toward mutation and its consequences. Several of the characters in this comic are impressed by Scott Summers and Iceman’s abilities, rather than intimidated.

Art

Guest artists provide a good character artwork with some unusual background choices. At the carnival, rides, sideshows, and attractions are brought to life in a colourful style, which does result in characters looking younger than expected. The following panels have no detailed background – black, orange, and primary blue, yellow, and red colours fill the space behind characters. There’s some loss of depth, and no sense of space because of the missing backgrounds. While it was likely unplanned and unscripted, the rectangle backgrounds of colour could be compared to Mark Rothko’s abstract paintings of the 1960’s, which would be an ideal reference considering X-men comics were first published in the 1960’s. Other important features are the panel arrangements for Jean Grey’s scenes. Grids of six to eight panels capture moment to moment emotions – an effective art choice, which delivers some humor and tension.

Cast

Beast receives some particularly interesting development – with two versions of beast interacting, Jean Grey receives a unique perspective on his life. The older beast laments on missed oppurtunites from his youth. His youth, incidentally, is happening nearby him in an adjacent room, as the younger beast prepares for the future, studying his older self’s adventures. There are references to Jean Grey and the Phoenix, and Rachel Summers meets a younger Jean. Wolverine comments that other team members need to stop borrowing his cars, jeeps, and motorcycles

Themes, Ethics, Values.

The value of courage, and the ethics of overcoming boundaries appear in All New X-men #15. Several characters are faced with a boundary, and a decision whether to challenge it, or go along with what’s been planned for them. Jean Grey, Scott Summers (Cyclops), and Bobby Drake (Iceman) all make the choice to challenge the boundary, demonstrating courage in the face of intimidation. Psychology today writer Melanie Greenberg (Ph.D) compiled six attributes of courage with references to popular culture such as A Game of Thrones, The Wizard of OZ, and the Hobbit. The character’s actions correspond to some of these six attributes. Scott and Bobby show trepidation at leaving the X-men‘s school for a day trip to a carnival in an effort to enjoy themselves while they can, but do it anyway. Jean feels fear at confronting Beast after she figures out he has fallen in love with her. Despite her fear, she kisses him.

Pushing past boundaries, and breaking with traditions does live up the turbulent, 1960’s background the X-men were created under. Artist of the 1960’s rebelled against decades of imposed restraint and constraint – to mention Mark Rothko again, Rothko’s luminous, abstract rectangles polarised gallery visitors and audiences. Separating Jean Grey from Scott Summers represents a break in popular culture. Like Mark Rothko’s convention defying abstract work, the comic book is unafraid and undaunted to defy character connections set in stone by decades of X-men comics published by Marvel. It’s a brave statement, but whether this is a short term shock, or a lasting act of change, is another matter entirely.

 A bit more on All New X-men #15

A shocking story combined with interesting character tension, only let down in places by some unusual background choices. The dramatic results of time travel continue to challenge X-men comics of the past fifty years.

All New X-men #15 is published by Marvel Comics. $3.99 USD. Brian Michael Bendis (w.) David Lafuente (a.) Jim Campbell (c.) VC’s Cory Petit (l.)

Comics Review – All New X-Men #4 and #5.

Brian Michael Bendis – using time travel – has brought the original X-men team from the past into the present day Marvel universe. Teenaged Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel, and Iceman, have now seen their own future. Issues #4 and #5 play out the affects of these revelations on the X-men, and their community. Some spoilers follow for readers who have not read Avengers VS. X-men.

All New X-men: #4 and #5. 

The fourth issue of Bendis’ new work on X-men is largely about Scott Summer’s reacting to seeing himself in the past. We are given a clear view of how far characters have moved from where they started. Young Iceman asks “I wonder what Scott [young Scott] thought of himself”. This questions forms the core of issue #4.  Beast brought the X-men from the past to the present to make him feel regret for his mistakes – and particularly, feel profound shame for his most recent, criminal act: killing Professor Charles Xavier using the Phoenix Force.

Scott also gets wound up by seeing Jean Grey, alive and as he knew her when they first went to school together. There is one small panel Stuart Immonen has penciled where young Scott and Jean look at each other after meeting Scott in the present: Jean stares at Scott in silence with contempt. In issue #5, we see contempt toward Scott grow at Wolverine’s school: rage at Scott’s crime is being unfairly redirected at his past self.

While on the subject of attacks on Scott Summers, even his younger self has taken a swing: back in issue #4, Jean attacks present day Scott, and knocking his visor off. Young Scott jumps in to counter his older self’s indiscriminate energy blasts. Issue #4’s colourist, Marte Garcia, captures the battle creating a powerful spash page that is like watching a fireworks show.

All New X-Men #4 is published by Marvel Entertainment.

What Scott thinks of himself forms the core of the story: specifically, how these attacks affect Scott Summer’s identity. Immonen constructs a key panel early in issue #4: sections of the characters faces, both the original X-men, Present day Scott, and Magneto, are arranged like a collage of photographs, positioned in neat rectangles to form a single face. the reader gets a sense of fractured identity from this image. If Scott is to continue to train new mutants and protect his community, he will need to keep his identity intact.

Whether this is possible remains to be seen. Their is a chance he has may be stuck on a path to becoming a new Magneto, instead of supporting Professor Xavier’s ideals.

Jean’s changing identity is also a key part of issue #5. Immonen provides a gift to the fans of X-men with a detailed splash page in issue #5: it’s the complete history of Jean Grey. Key moments from her career as a member of the X-men brought together. This time travel experience has forced Jean into an active leadership role. For a character who is consistently associated with the rise and fall of the phoenix force in the Marvel universe, it’s surprising and to see Jean Grey start a new direction in a new story.

All New X-men #5 is also published by Marvel Entertainment