writer: Jeff Parker
It's been a good year for the various X-Men titles, no doubt about it. Marvel put some of their best writers on the franchise, and even Wolverine is worth a look now and then. But none of it holds a candle to the project that sounded like it was a retread of failed books.
Originally intended as a mini-series, X-Men First Class went back in continuity to tell stories of Xavier's first five - you know, those characters that carried the book through the sixties and reunited to be another superteam called X-Factor. Something surprising happened. Writer Jeff Parker (who also does a bang-up job on the Marvel Adventures line) spun cool stand-alone stories reminiscent of that first comic book you picked up from the drugstore. You know the one - it made you a life-long fan.
Heck, it brought you to this website.
Without being the slightest bit insulting to anyone's intelligence, Parker writes stories that have wit, charm and thrills and you could hand them to a kid. For once, too, a book this fun got what it deserved: an ongoing series, which Marvel celebrates with this special issue.
It features everything that made the mini-series shine plus a gallery of guest artists that make it worth the $3.99.
Parker starts with artist Kevin Nowlan, spotlighting Iceman and the Beast as they do a mutant version of Scooby Doo. The whole team ventures into Soho with artists Nick Dragotta and Mike Allred, in a story that feels exactly like Stan Lee would have intended, though it has some nods to modern marvels.
Absolutely the centerpiece, though, is "A Girl and Her Dragon," reuniting Paul Smith with the X-Men. Telling the story of Marvel Girl and Dragonman (didn't know that happened, did you?), it's just …wait a minute, where's all the angst? Shouldn't the X-Men be all about angst?
That's what sets this apart. The other X-books all feature characters that spend a lot of time talking about hope and inspiration. This book just gets down to letting its characters be hopeful and inspiring. These are young heroes. They're having fun. And so will you.
I can hardly wait for the ongoing.
Also on the Stands:
Cable & Deadpool #40: Oh, damn. Cable returns to the book and it's suddenly a lot less fun. Mainly because it's tying into an arc in X-Men by Mike Carey and Chris Bachalo, which itself is a lot of doom and gloom - well-done doom and gloom, but completely opposite in tone to the great work Fabian Nicieza has been doing here. It was fun while it lasted.
Death Dealer #2: Frazetta fans have been wetting themselves over this one. It's beautifully drawn by Nat Jones, definitely an artist to watch. Writer Joshua Ortega has clearly steeped himself well in sword and sorcery, and the book is readable, if a bit confusing at this point as we still sort out which kingdoms are which.
Death, Jr. #3: Gary Whitta and Ted Naifeh know just how to appeal to the heart of twisted little children. Yet Death Jr. is also charming and just a little bit heartwarming. The drawback to this issue is price and frequency - it's been a while since the previous issue, and it takes time to get back up to speed to what's been going on. If you have the earlier issues, dig them out and reread them first.
The Mighty Avengers #3: Tony Stark shore is purty. It doesn't really make much sense out of context, but when you see what Frank Cho has done to him, well, va-va-VOOM. But that's the problem with this book. The overall plot line doesn't offer up much point of reference, and a couple of characters' presence here feels like nothing more than pandering. Granted, if I was writing a book Cho was drawing, I'd try to find an excuse for him to draw Tigra, too, but still…
Moon Knight #10: In what should have been something exciting, the Punisher and Moon Knight face off. Or rather, they stand around and talk while the Punisher picks off bad guys. While writer Charlie Huston has some interesting things to say about Frank Castle's psyche, this should still be Mark Spector's book, and that guy just hasn't been interesting. Bitter, driven and for the most part unlikeable, Moon Knight just hasn't proven himself worth our attention.
Occult Task Force #4: Oh, it's going to be one heck of a cool movie with Rosario Dawson. You can tell from the storyboards here. What's that? They're actually pages from the comic book? The heck you say.
Sidekick #5: Most of what Paul Jenkins mocks with this series was mocked better by Ric Veitch's Bratpack. Of course,that was years ago, and Jenkins can be funnier and more self-referential now than Veitch could then. But Sidekick also isn't offering that much new in the way of insight or wit. After a promising start, it sort of fizzles out.
Uncanny X-Men #486: Unlike others here on the internet, I've enjoyed Ed Brubaker's run on this book. He finally breathed some new life into the Shi'ar Empire drama, and with this issue shakes up the status quo a bit. Of course, with one hand he strikes someone down and with the other he restores something else. Why does that lessen the striking down? Because it has to make you wonder when that's going to get undone.
X-Factor #19: This book is up to something. And if I wasn't paying attention to the machinations of Pietro over in Silent War, I'd trust Peter David more. It's still Marvel's second best X-Book. (Sorry, but Jeff Parker has utterly stolen the crown.)
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