Friday, December 16, 2011

Regenesis: Uncanny X-Men & Magneto

It's been a while since my last review, hasn't it? Well, such is life, and no longer having school nor work means I have to spend my spare time looking for employment, which gives me far less time for any writing. Still, it's good to find the time to unwind and do a little reviewing, so I've got a few things in store. There'll be a movie review coming soon, and another newspaper comic, but I thought I'd take a look at the other side of the X-Men schism first.

So without further ado, I give you the first two issues of the new "Uncanny X-Men," along with the first issue of "Magneto: Not a Hero."

In Uncanny X-Men, we see the members of the team who didn't split off with Wolverine. For those who did, you'll want to see my earlier review of "Wolverine and the X-Men." So while Logan got Professor X and the academy, Cyclops seems to be heading in a more Magneto-like path. He's fighting for the survival of mutants, his homeland is an island made from Magneto's old meteor space base, and Magneto is one of his team's big hitters. (Of course, Magneto hasn't been a villain for quite a while, even if earlier issues still have him struggling to gain the trust of both humans and his fellow mutant, so don't think this is Cyclops' fall from grace.)

So with the lines clearly drawn, we now meet the X-Men team we'll be seeing the most of - Scott's "Extinction Team," consisting of himself, Emma, Storm, Magneto, Namor, Danger, Magik, Hope, and Colossus, who recently gained the Juggernaut's powers on top of his own (and if someone could point me to where and when that happened, it would be most appreciated). If you looked at that roster and thought, "Weren't 90% of these guys villains for at least some part of their career?" then you wouldn't be the only one, since it's lampshaded quite nicely.

Then we get to the plot, mostly consisting showing us what the mutants left on Utopia do for most of their days. That is, until one of San Francisco's landmarks, the Dreaming Celestial, begins to react.

As someone who lives in California and has been to San Francisco quite often, I can attest that while there's no such monument, it would be quite awesome. The team's location means they pass a lot of landmarks that I recognize, which is a real treat - this must be how New Yorkers feel about every other superhero team.

Given that we see Mr. Sinister in the first few pages, it's no surprise who's behind it. What may be more of a shock is how well he pulls off his plan, with an ending that reminds me of the Master from Doctor Who. (You'll know what I'm talking about when you reach it.) The first chapter ends with a good enough cliffhanger, at least enough to keep me interested through the next chapter.

In chapter two, we see the extent of Sinister's plan, which I believe finally elevates him to Magnificent Bastard status. He remains smug and calm, even admitting to his own fatal flaw of being an egomaniac, but in a very Ozymandias-esque fashion, only when it seems too late to change anything.

This chapter raises the stakes of the oncoming danger, while containing mostly exposition and some fight scenes. It continues to slowly but steadily lead Cyclops' team down the path that Magneto once took, with Hope casually making use of a sniper rifle and Colossus/Juggernaut getting some blood on his hands as well (quite literally). It kept me interested and entertained, although not quite as much as Wolverine and the X-Men.

Kieron Gillen does a fine job writing this comic, with excellent dialogue and a good grasp on the characters. The story moves along at a fine pace, neither rushing nor taking too long with the establishing moments and exposition. Yet because of the roster they're working with, I can't find myself to care quite as much as with Wolverine and the X-Men. Magneto and Storm are enough to keep me intrigued, while I'm on the fence with Colossus, but just those aren't quite enough to really get me invested in them.

The art is clear and well-drawn, I have no complaints to make there. It's much cleaner than Wolverine and the X-Men, so art-wise I have to give Uncanny X-Men the edge. In all other aspects, though, Wolverine wins out by varying degrees. While I'll keep reading this for a while, I'm going to stick with Team Wolverine for my X-Men of choice.

And on the sidelines, we have this four-part miniseries about Magneto. Now, I like Magneto as much as the next guy. Once I finish Gambit, he's next on my X-Men cosplay list. Maybe I can relate to him a bit more because he, like my grandfather, survived the Holocaust, or maybe I just like well-developed villains. Whatever the reason, I decided to check this out.

This is more or less a story about Magneto seeking to convince those around him that he's truly switched to the side of good, made more difficult by the fact that someone is going around committing crimes while disguised as him. While doing so, he gets into a bit of a pissing contest with Iron Man, who he more or less humiliates by lifting every metallic object - cars, tanks, little metal curtain hangers, you name it - without even changing his expression. So yes, that was kind of awesome.

We also hear some of the less intelligent anti-Mutant rhetoric. Allow me to sum it up for you: "Mutants want equal rights. This is America, and I love America. So spit in a mutant's face!" Kind of a leap in logic there, but hey, racists aren't known for making intelligent arguments.

After a few short scenes reaffirming that he's still feared by those around him, we take a little journey into Magneto's mind. It mostly involves not seeing people's faces and those he knows dressed like himself. There's a good deal of symbolism there, as with any trip inside someone's head, but not all of it is entirely effective.

As for the ending of this chapter, I'm a little underwhelmed, but it involves a character I'm not entirely familiar with. This is one of those things where you have to dive back into continuity quite a ways to get what's going on, so it can be a real hit-or-miss experience, depending on your familiarity with the comics. As such, I was a little underwhelmed by this issue, but it's only four chapters, so I see no harm in seeing it through to the end.

Thanks for sticking with me through these reviews, I'll try to get to my next ones soon. Until then, this has been whatever I read.