Operation: CO-M.A.C.Z. #4 – Astonishing X-Men, Major Bummer, 1 Month 2 Live, & more
By Zach Patterson Monday, 20 Sep 2010

In this action packed follow up to #3, our heroes review the terrible recent Spider-Man arc, look over Astonishing X-Men to date, what’s happening with Batman since 700, turn back the clock a bit with the 90’s series Major Bummer, check out the intriguing new miniseries 1 Month 2 Live, and enjoy the one-off revival of Weird War Tales.

Amazing Spider-Man: One Moment In Time (#638-641)

Impressions: Ugh. I feel like I always jump in on lapsed series at the complete wrong time. I thought One Moment In Time might make One More Day suck less and possibly even reverse it for the amount of hype it got as a big event for Spidey. Instead, it’s a painfully slow, disjointed, and unfun continuity cleanup debacle. It may be one of the more pointless stories I’ve read all year. At first I thought it was a neat idea to look back at classic Spidey events with MJ and see where “it all went wrong” (they even use the art from classic issues and try to insert new panels to show how they never got married) but instead it’s all a jumbled mess. The art is consistently inconsistent and nothing that great happens. MJ seems out of character half the time and nearly all the new material here in current events is MJ and Peter talking in an apartment. Admittedly, Quesada does a decent job creating believable dialogue for them and you do feel pretty sad for them at times, but upon more reflection, the whole saga makes MJ look like a weak, scared woman and Peter is just kinda faceless. But I saw someone say in another review that this is the story that no one wanted, and I have to agree. Its answers and continuity cleanups aren’t satisfying, often are tedious, and there’s just little I would want here in a Spidey story. Even Pablo Rivera’s art (when it’s used) can’t save this story. – Zach Verdict: Avoid, avoid, avoid. The covers are truly beautiful, however.

Astonishing X-Men – Joss Whedon/John Cassaday run (#1-24, Giant Size special)

Impressions: This book is probably one of the most fun X-Men books I’ve read in ages. I’ve kinda avoided X-Men since I got back into comics because of both the tremendous amount of X-books out there and the burnout of trying to collect them all in the 90’s. So when Joss Whedon, famed director and writer, and a creator I admire, wanted to make an X-Men title uncomplicated by tons of continuity and events, it definitely piqued my

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interest. The result is a great 25 issue run on the title that is characterized by some fantastic dialogue and interaction between a tight bunch of X-Men all-stars and some action packed battles that span the universe. It’s kinda funny too. I didn’t even necessarily LOVE the plot throughout either. The arc with the sentient Danger Room seemed like some Star Trek TNG fan-fiction and while the big battle on Breakworld was interesting, I wasn’t really incredibly fond of it. That being said, the characters here make the entire run worth reading, and make any of the crazy or ridiculous situations much more palatable. They are genuinely funny, deadly serious, witty, and occasionally quite heartfelt. Whedon’s run made me give a damn about Kitty Pryde, Cyclops, and Emma Frost, characters I’ve never had much interest in, AND he introduced a number of great new characters that I would gladly read in other books like Armor and Agent Brand. Dude’s just a gifted writer, and it is truly a shame we couldn’t get even more from him. And I would be remiss if I did not mention Cassaday’s run, which is some of the best art I’ve seen in an X-Men book. He manages to bring a level of reality and groundedness to ridiculous characters in bright costumes and outrageous situations, which works perfectly with Whedon’s writing. – Zach Verdict: Not perfect, but definitely recommended. All 4 trades are worth reading, especially for a lapsed fan.

Astonishing X-Men – Warren Ellis run (#25-35)

Impressions: On the other end of the spectrum, there is the two big story arcs from Warren Ellis on Astonishing X-Men that follow Whedon’s run. For all the good will that the previous creative team built up, Ellis and the two artists (Simone Bianchi for the first story arc, Phil Jimenez for the second) seem to want to give back. The first arc “Ghost Box” is actually an interesting premise where the X-Squad (which now has Storm because she’s just bored apparently) is investigating artificially created mutants in the wake of M-Day, but the Bianchi’s art isn’t particularly interesting, and Ellis seems like he is trying too hard to mimic a Whedon or Bendis style of “quippy” characters. They all seem very one note, one dimensional characters all of the sudden. Wolverine likes beer, Cyclops is big tough leader man, Emma is overtly sexual, everyone has a comic

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relief moment at the expense of Wolverine, etc. And on top of that, the ending of the arc totally sucks, as they just kill off a long time X-Men character for no real apparent reason over the course of him popping in and being ultra crazy in one issue. Blech. The second arc “eXogenetic” is slightly better in both art and writing, and features all kinds of awesome bizarre characters referenced from classic 70’s and 80’s X-Men books (Brood, Krakoa, among others), but again the ending totally sucks (dude spends billions of dollars to wipe out X-Men because they are good looking? uh ok. And he is thwarted with basically no fight whatsoever? alright.) and the characters are again way too one dimensional at times, and often seem to make wise cracks at completely out of character times. Can’t say I’m a fan. – Zach Verdict: I’d definitely skip. The newest limited series shows a little promise (Xenogenesis) but issues 25-35 of the series make me think they should either end this book or get some new blood in to try something new.

Batman #701-702, 703

Impressions: 701 and 702 were billed as the lost chapters of Batman RIP, which happened quite awhile ago now, so it seems a bit odd to suddenly throw a few more parts onto a series that’s been in a trade for a few years. The story feels a little like continuity cleanup and a little like a bridge to what’s going on in Return of Bruce Wayne, which is good because a lot of Morrison’s stuff is goddamn confusing and jumps around a lot. I guess I just don’t like the writing style that requires you to go back at some point and say “ok guys, here’s the REST of the story I didn’t bother to add to it the first time around”. 702 definitely is the more worthwhile issue and definitely got me excited for the upcoming big Bat events in October. But overall I didn’t find Final Crisis that interesting and simply telling me what Batman did between the end of RIP and Final Crisis didn’t really thrill me beyond understanding the whole current Bruce Wayne situation a bit better. Great art by Tony Daniel again though, and I’m pleased that they pulled together the RIP team to do this to have some visual and written continuity between the two. And then there is 703 which is a decent little self-contained story but is kinda just an “eh” filler story since Bruce isn’t done bouncing through time yet. The best parts of the issue is the interactions of Alfred and Damian and Damian slowly coming to realize his father was a lot different than the picture in his mind. There’s also a lot of interaction with reporter Vicki Vale who seems intent on exposing the Bat family identities, and she seemingly gets a critical clue to prove her theories at the end, which seems like it will be a big arc coming up soon. – Zach Verdict: 701-702 are good for completionist purposes if you also have RIP and Last Rites stuff, but otherwise not must haves. 703 was decent enough and nicely self-contained but just okay.

Major Bummer

Impressions: Major Bummer is a late-90s DC book that shows what a skinny, lazy, jobless loser can become once he gains super powers: a massively ripped, lazy jobless loser. The premise of the book is that a couple space alien college students are working out their thesis to show what happens when upstanding citizens are granted super-powers. Unfortunately these green nincompoops do not realize Earth phonebooks list residents by last name, thus they end up sending their Extreme Enhancement Modules to our inaction hero Louis Martin (instead of do-gooder Martin Lewis) as well as a handful of other inept wouldn’t-be-heroes. To spice things up, the space-scholars also enhance a group of ne’er-do-wells to become the super-villain rivals of Lou and company. If you haven’t figured it out by now, this is a humor-based comic, and is in no way meant to be taken seriously. It runs through (and pokes fun at) the gamut of cliche comic plots – parallel universes, broken timestreams, super-hero romance, reluctance to take responsibility of powers, and more. While a lot of the humor is cheesey and somewhat forced, there are some genuinely funny parts that should keep you headed to the next issue. While Major Bummer is far from the best thing I have ever read, it certainly is not the worst. Going into it with the proper mindset and reading an issue or two here and there can lead to some decent chuckles. Trying to rush through the last several issues so you can write an article for good-evil.net kind of ruins it, so take my advice and don’t read more than 3 issues in one sitting. Also, Nazi dinosaurs.– mig Verdict: Good if you’re in the mood.

One Month To Live #1

Impressions: This is a pretty shitty time to live, if you ask me. The economy sucks and every day is an insight into just how boneheaded our governments and spiteful our citizens can act. Everyone has problems and nobody seems to want to focus on anyone but themselves. Dennis Sykes is a man who let his youthful idealism slip in favor of financial stability. But he sees his company using the economic situation as an excuse to cut back on funding for projects that will help less fortunate people, all in the face of soaring profits. A man can only pretend for so long, and Mr. Sykes realizes his purpose at his job is meaningless and harmful. From the first page I knew this would be a comic that I love. Who isn’t outraged that the heads of financial institutions are making millions while the rest of us suffer the burden of these tough times? But this first page is only the beginning for Mr. Sykes. After delivering terrible news on behalf of his company, he tries to intervene when a pair of muggers try to take on an innocent hospital employee. A freak accident puts him in the care of Reed Richards, who reveals that Mr. Sykes has terminal cancer and has one month to live. Soon Dennis Sykes discovers he has new powers. How or why is not revealed, but he realizes with one month to live he has to do something meaningful. This first issue deals with the meaning and purpose behind being a hero, and how the approach can affect those around you and how you are perceived by the public. It is a simple concept born out of a relative’s bout with cancer and solidified by the current political, economical, and social climate of our country. As someone who has lost a relative to cancer and who is currently suffering the consequences of these dire economic times, my ability to relate might be amplified. I can’t help it if this comic resonated deep within me though. The corporate banker Dennis Sykes is the man I feel like most of the time, and the idealistic Robin Hood that he’s turned into is the man I wish I could be. The concept of the Heroic Age got me excited, but nothing from the Heroic Age so far has matched up with what I was hoping it would until now. Where will the next four weeks take Dennis? I can’t say for sure, but hopefully the rest of this saga matches the quality and relevance of this first issue. – Andrew Verdict: Classic

One Month To Live #2

Impressions: Ok so now that I got all that out of the way… on to issue #2. Man, it sucks to be Dennis in this issue. He has to deal with Mr. Negative’s cronies and his family life is thrust into turmoil. But on the plus side he gets Spidey to train him, and give him some new perspective. The beginnings of his costume and superhero identity are taking shape. And thanks to Hammerhead and his henchmen, Dennis learns to beef up his powers but the cost is becoming plain to see. Upon first reading this issue I was a little disappointed because it doesn’t quite live up to what the first issue sets up. But I don’t know what I was thinking, really. Even though it’s paced quickly, a lot goes down in this issue. – Andrew Verdict: Great

One Month To Live #3

Impressions: Dennis’ personal life is mostly put on hold for this issue so that Dennis can join up with the Fantastic Four. The choice of Ego as a villain is perfect given the nature of Dennis’ pre-cancer lifestyle, and the way Ego is used to relate to Dennis is even better. On top of this, Dennis’ superhero identity really takes shape thanks to Reed Richards. But even though he’s tied up saving the galaxy, his home life is left falling apart. It will be interesting to see Dennis deal with the issues on Earth after his first big superhero mission. I should also mention that the artwork in this issue has a vintage 70s feel to it, and it works extremely well for this issue. I am gonna take a wild guess that it’s an indication that not everything is as it seems. Now we’ve gone over the halfway point of this mini series, and I am super excited to see what is going down in the final two issues. – Andrew Verdict: Great

Weird War Tales #1 (One-Shot)

Impressions: I’m not quite sure what made DC revive this title once again, but I’m glad they did. Contained within these pages are three bizarre war stories by different creative teams. First is “Armistice Night” by Darwyn Cooke and Dave Stewart. It’s a quick tale about fallen war heroes and villains gathering to put aside politics and have fun. What is fun for dead war heroes and villains? Well, for Churchill and Rommel it’s placing their heads on a stump and taking shots at each other. For Joan of Arc it’s trying to shoot an apple off of Ghengis Khan’s skull. But it’s not all fun and games; these fallen must battle to the “death” to determine who will be the Grand Marshall for the next year’s gathering. The accompanying artwork is absurd and bold, completely fitting. Second up is “The Hell Above Us”, a gritty tale with gritty artwork about a group of men trapped in submarine on the bottom of the see. But one of its crew just won’t die. What awaits him decades later when he finally decides to leave the submarine? Thirdly is “Private Parker Sees Thunder Lizards”. When two childhood friends go to war together, their past ties them together until the bitter end. But the crazy imagination of Private Parker is led on by his friend. No, it’s not German Panzers they hear, it’s dinosaurs fighting off the approaching krauts! It’s a tale of true friendship and giving someone the opportunity to die happy instead of alone and in fear. What we have here is a nice little collection of stories. The only thing wrong with it is that it’s not going to be a series. – Andrew Verdict: Great

3 Responses to “Operation: CO-M.A.C.Z. #4 – Astonishing X-Men, Major Bummer, 1 Month 2 Live, & more”

  1. Andrew Raub Says:

    Perfect summation of Whedon’s Astonishing run. Still sitting on the Ellis stuff trying to decide if I should bother or not…

    I think Major Bummer might be an account of me as a super hero.

  2. Zach Patterson Says:

    i was a little worried about 1M2L #2 since i wasn’t wild about the direction it was going, but #3 was pretty great. looking forward to reading the last two!

  3. Andrew Raub Says:

    Ok just finished the first story arc from the Warren Ellis run of Astonishing. It was pretty ok but I did have some problems with it. Like you said, Zach, characters are kinda boring. Whedon made me actually like Cyclops and Ellis just made me go back to not liking him. I actually like Hisako especially paired with Wolverine. The biggest problem I had was how coldly it dealt with Shadowcat and Colossus not being on the team anymore (as in it didn’t really deal with it at all). But to be fair I kinda forget what happens to Colossus at the end of Whedon’s run and I don’t have my book handy to check.

    But the biggest issue is just introducing all of this parallel world stuff and not really doing anything with it. This could have been a HUGE story but instead it was just 5 issues that resolved pretty quickly. We see a handful of mutants from the parallel worlds and we don’t even see a parallel world until the very end and it’s just a few panels. The whole Tian thing was a tease too.

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