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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Time... for more comics

Man, pretty big week for comics. There were a lot to pick up, and like many weeks I'm still not through my load. Maybe I need to lighten it. Nahhh.

This week marks the beginning of the next big X-Men event over at Marvel Comics; "Battle of the Atom". This is Marvel's 2nd big event for late summer, the other being "Infinity", the first issue I previously covered. Now, having two Marvel events at the same time may seem like much, but the X-Men corner of the Marvel Universe is so vast in its own right that the event could stand alone. The X-Men world is a huge chunk of Marvel lore, so much so that it could easily be its own little universe, with a few guest appearances from other Marvel heroes. After the Marvel NOW! relaunch, Brian Michael Bendis has been given reigns to the X-Men mythos (I go over that a bit more in my review of All New X-Men #13 in the second half of another review, the page posted above beside the cover gives a decent enough statement of his status quo). Battle of the Atom #1 is the first chapter of the event, which continues in the pages of All New X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, and the new iteration of the "adjective-less" X-Men in typical crossover fashion. So Bendis, along with other X-writers Jason Aaron and Brian Wood tackle this event.

So this first chapter feels basically like Bendis' ANXM, which is good because I think it is the better of his two X-books, the other being UXM. The story starts out with a narration by Illyana Rasputin writing a "Dear Cyclops" letter explaining her sudden disappearance; she has seen all of the change to the mutant race in recent years and needed to see their consequences by teleporting herself to the future. She sees a group of mutants battling giant, mutant-hunting Sentinels (surprise surprise). Cut back to the present and the new version of the mutant-detecting software Cerebro is going off, telling Kitty Pryde and the original X-Men of a new mutant in Phoenix, Arizona. They head on out to subdue the new mutant, a buff punk chick named Blake Schiel (aka Animax) who can conjure giant beasts through currently unknown abilities. The destruction attracts the attention of, well, just take a look (again, surprise surprise):

In the ensuing battle, Kitty tries to rally the X-Men to defensive positions, but young Cyclops is showing some defiance, trying to take on the Sentinels directly. He is knocked around a bit, along with the rest of the team, when suddenly a blast of crimson energy levels one of the robots. This era's Scott Summers has come with his team of mutants to the rescue, and they briefly put aside their ideological differences with the aim to take down the Sentinels and prevent further destruction.

However, young Cyclops gets targeted by a still functioning Sentinel head, getting blasted in the back. At this point, the teams panic because not only is young Cyclops not breathing, but members of current Scott's team point out his sudden disappearance. One of his team's new mutants, Christopher Muse, uses his abilities to heal young Cyclops, bringing him back from certain death. This also results in the sudden reappearance of the older Scott Summers. With the Sentinels and the new mutant Animax subdued, Kitty and her X-Men return to the Jean Grey School where Wolverine and the other older mutants decide to send the original X-Men back to their home time, clearly seeing now the possible consequences of their presence in modern times. But before they can, the time cube that Hank McCoy used to bring them here starts glowing. A group of people step out of it with a warning:

So ends the first chapter of this new X-Event. With Bendis on writing duty, again we get some good characters and pacing, and he manages to condense his teenager-speak he is known for to cut right to the story. The artist credit is shared between Frank Cho, Stuart Immonen, and Wade Von Grawbadger, since they will be working on the other books involved in the crossover. The art is pretty great, although I believe it is mainly Cho working on this issue, since he gets top credit on the cover. This is clearly yet another time travel arc for the X-Men, which I can usually live without. But since the timey-wimey-ness of Bendis' ANXM is actually pretty well done, I am expecting good things from this event. I hope things get shaken up a bit, and I think this will serve as the last straw (at least for a bit) for X-Men cocking up the timestream. The next chapter was released this week as well so we can dive right in, in ANXM #16. But I haven't read that one yet, wanting to get right to reviewing the first chapter. There will be ten parts to this event over the course of a few months, so I am looking forward to it.

In other news...

Villain's Month is here. Ugh. It is DC's newest stunt that ties into the "Forever Evil" event. Forever Evil #1 is a decent establishment of the new status quo in the DC Universe; that being the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 taking the world by storm, releasing all the most dangerous (and not so dangerous) criminals of the DC heroes from their various prisons. Lex Luthor seems to be the (eventual) focal character of this 7-part miniseries, witnessing the reign of destruction of the Crime Syndicate and asking "Where is Superman?" in disbelief. The event itself could still prove to be interesting despite the numerous tie-ins (kryptonite-snorting Ultraman notwithstanding). This is because I have faith in Geoff Johns at least writing a decent book. David Finch on art duty is passable. Finch usually has a grittier art style that works sometimes and other times doesn't. He's been pretty on the ball for Justice League of America, but in this book it looked like he was phoning it in from things being rather bland (except the rather fantastic splash page of the CS addressing a gathered mass of super villains).
The tie-ins on the other hand... I don't know what to make of. The main books of the New 52 have, yet again, been put on hold to make way for "Villain's Month", where an issue gets dedicated to one of the title's respective villains in a .1 issue (ie, Batman #23.1 starring the Joker). A bunch came out this week and I managed to read Batman (Joker), Batman and Robin (Two-Face), Earth 2 (Desaad), and Green Lantern (Relic). They were all over the place. Two-Face's issue was pretty good, dealing with his dichotomous personality on whether or not he should help Gotham City in this time of criminal crisis, or let it bleed. The art was spotty, however, with some strange anatomy at times. Joker was absolute garbage to me, being written by Andy Kubert instead of Scott Snyder who writes the rest of the core Bat-title. We see some glimpses into the Joker's past (that seem a little too revealing if you ask me, he should always be a myster), as well as him training a pet/henchman ape named Jackanapes. It has nothing to do with Snyder's current arc "Year Zero". Desaad was just confusing, since I can't recall his presence in the Earth 2 book at all, so I wondered why they spent an issue dedicated to him killing people and lamenting at the fact he is on Earth and not back home on Apokalips. Relic was at least a backstory on the new baddie of the next arc. I can't tell if these books are supposed to directly tie into Forever Evil, offer an origin story for the villain, tie into the book's current arc, all three, or neither. Two-Face was good because it served as a slight tie into FE as well as help set up Two-Face for the next arc of B&R (also being written by Peter Tomasi, who is actually writing the book that this .1 issue interrupts certainly helps). Relic was passable for giving a full issue of backstory (which I'm sure we would have gotten anyway), even if it was a pretty dull read, being almost all expository word blocks.

So much else this week, but I think I'll leave it at those two big points for today. So, for now, good night.

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