Operation: CO-M.A.C.Z. #12 – Fear of a Mutant Planet
By Andrew Raub Monday, 21 Mar 2011

Hello again, readers! It was a big week for comics, and unfortunately we didn’t have time to review everything. But here is a fresh batch of reviews. The Fear Itself event kicked off, Generation Hope and Uncanny X-Force keep their momentum, and those lovable scamps in Young Avengers continue to confuse.

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade – Young Avengers

This issue certainly came out of left field for me. Because of The Children’s Crusade I’ve become quite a fan of the Young Avengers. If you go back and read my review of The Children’s Crusade #1 you can see my ignorance shining through (although to be fair it is sort of set up like they are a new thing… weird?) but since then I have read the original run of Young Avengers and have a much better understanding.

In this weird one-off issue, the past and future Young Avengers tackle take the stage. In the past is a pretty underwhelming extended origin. It goes back to literally the very first page of Young Avengers, which is a nice touch that I’m surprised I even remembered, but ultimately it adds very little to the mythos of the team. In the future the team is grown up and has some new members. The focus is on Iron Lad and Kang the Conquerer and their intertwined fate. But again, there really isn’t much that is revealed here. It’s already been told in past issues that Iron Lad is Kang. The last few pages finally tie in with the rest of The Children’s Crusade, and that’s where it become obvious why this issue, or rather the last two pages, are important. One thing I am still confused about is why the Young Avengers forever hate the other Avengers. Even their older selves don’t seem to be able to get past their resentment for the Avengers thinking they are too young to be ready to take on big responsibilities.

I do like the concept of Iron Lad becoming Kang the Conqueror, because it creates a good drama between the two characters. I spent the last paragraph being pretty negative toward the story, but it isn’t all bad. Although unecessary in terms of The Children’s Crusade, the parts set in the future are good in terms of the Young Avengers. Iron Lad’s attempts to avoid his fate continue to be interesting, but I’d like to see a little more of the middle part of the story. Hopefully the rest of The Children’s Crusade covers at least some of that. And, spoiler alert, seeing Wiccan/Billy dressed in Dr. Strange garb at the end made me flip my lid.

The biggest sticking point with this issue for me is the art work. I know Alan Davis is a legend in the comics scene, but here it just doesn’t work for me, especially since it’s an abvious drop in quality from the main Children’s Crusade series. I don’t know if it’s specifically Alan Davis’ fault, or a combination of inks and colors contributing. Regardless, it’s not as breathtaking as other Young Avengers comics. I will give major kudos to the two-page training scene though. That sequence is really impressive and reads very oddly, but interestingly. – Andrew

Verdict: I wasn’t blown away like I expected to be, but there are some interesting bits here and there. In terms of tying into The Children’s Crusade this issue will have a big impact, but that impact comes from two pages.

Fear Itself Prologue: Book of the Skull

Impressions: The Fear Itself event finally kicks off. Unfortunately it doesn’t start with a bang, just an exposition of past events. Maybe it’s just me, but this book didn’t really hit hard and certainly didn’t make me feel like something big is going to happen.

The story follows two threads: In the past, Captain America, Bucky, and Namor chase down Red Skull in an attempt to figure out what he is up to and why he needs Atlanteans. In the present, Sin, the daughter of Red Skull, and Baran Zemo team up to inflitrate Red Skull’s secret fortress in the Egyptian desert to find what Red Skull hid there so many years ago. Together the plot threads reveal the mystery and how it affected the past and present.

The artwork is consistently good, if not exceptional at times. The colors feel slightly dulled in a good way, giving this comic a nice vintage look. I was surprised that there was no stylistic distinction between the historic events and current events. I’ve seen that in a few Captain America comics recently and thought it worked really well. The book is no better or worse by not adapting that method though.

This issue definitely is a prologue and it feels like one. It sets up the story with some simple passing of information and it isn’t very exciting. Not only does it feel unecessary, but it feels like the backstory would be better served by being hinted at throughout the event. I guess we’ll see how the rest goes. – Andrew

Verdict: There’s not much to say. It’s an entertaining story at least, but it doesn’t kick off this even very strongly. I would feel better if it had been a $2.99 issue.

Generation Hope #5

Impressions: Gillen and McKelvie, together (again) at last. This is the moment I was waiting for. My first exposure to each of these wonderful chaps was through their creator owned work, Phonogram, and since getting back into comics pretty hard I’ve wanted to see them back together. Generation Hope is the perfect fit for both of them, and I’m glad that it is working so well.

Jamie McKelvie is a very stylish artist, and for musclebound superheroes he might not be an obvious choice. But for a comic about superhero kids, he is certainly a good fit. His smooth lines and sense of body language bring the characters to life. There’s a simplicity now in all aspects of the artwork that wasn’t present in the past few issues. Everything is less busy and more sleek.

Kieron Gillen started sowing the seeds of purpose last issue, and while he doesn’t plunge right into the next big plot point, he keeps the seeds growing in a much more heady way. I started writing a giant review/exposition on the current Uncanny X-Men “Quarantine” arc, and without ruining that mess of words, I’ll just say that my suspicions from those issues are becoming more concrete in Generation Hope. In short, it seems like Gillen is striving to return to the very basic original idea of what the X-Men are all about: an analog for predjuduce. Immediately the opposing views of Xavier and Magneto are brought up through a friendly chat between the old friends. Through Hope’s interactions with the X-Men leaders her purpose is revealed. With everyone trying to influence her, she finally tells everyone just how it’s gonna be with her. Hope, Cyclops, Magneto, and Xavier are now all at odds with their views of the mutant situation.

I mentioned that this was a heady issue, but it’s all presented through fun. The higher level impacts on the X-Men as a whole is not slapped into panels and dialog to be made obvious, but I think it’s there. What does show up in the panels is more fun dialog. Hope shakes things up all over Utopia by showing that she isn’t afraid to confront the top dogs. Her interactions with Xavier, Emma Frost, and Cyclops repeatedly made me think “I can’t believe she said that…” Kieron Gillen really has a good grip on the voices of these characters. Magneto, Xavier, and Emma Frost in particular read extremely well.

This is an action-free issue, but the impacts here will be bigger than any SNIKT or optic blast. – Andrew

Verdict: With the addition of Jamie McKelvie, this book has found a great style. It seems like next issue will really get things rolling, and I’m even more excited than after reading the last issue.

Uncanny X-Force #5.1

Impressions: Another “.1” release, and another good one at that. I will say that part of the reason I like this issue is because it is straight out of Larry Hama era Wolverine. Lady Deathstrike? Check. Reavers? Check. Gateway? Check. Despite sating my Wolverine bloodlust, #5.1 is still a good issue that works in each character.

In this special issue Lady Deathstrike and the Reavers are teaming up to take down Utopia. That’s a pretty big threat, and it’s fitting for the X-Force team. Not only is this something that should probably be kept hush-hush, it also touches on the past of both Wolverine and Psylocke. Their fears and motivations are brought into question and become the focus of this story. Deadpool and Fantomex provide little bits of humor throughout and keep the sentiment that this team isn’t always chummy. Angel doesn’t share much spotlight in this issue, which is nice given that the last arc heavily dealt with his past with Apocalypse.

Even though he is half of the focus, Wolverine’s spotlights here are largely superficial. However, they are done well. The fight between Wolerine and Lady Deathstrike is brief but exciting, something that wouldn’t be expected from a 20 year old rivalry. Watching Pyslocke get her revenge is more subtle and twisted. She wears a smile while taunting and goading the Reavers. The final interaction with Wolverine at the end shows that Psylocke learned a bit about herself and the nature of revenge.

The guest artist for this issue is Raphael Albuquerque. Probably best known for his work in American Vampire, this is a rare Marvel appearance. There are a few panels with some perspective akwardness, but his style really fits X-Force. The facial expressions are especially great. Psylocke in particular really shows her emotions throughout. Rage-filled faces seem to be pretty easy for most artists, but Raphel nails the concern and fear that Wolverine and Psylocke face in this issue. – Andrew

Verdict: I know people think these special issues are unecessary, but so far the quality has not slipped. Uncanny X-Force satisfies so many of my comic nerd cravings in a solid, self-contained story.

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