X-Men Trade Post: Schism, Uncanny & Wolverine And The X-Men

x-men schism X-Men: Schism (Marvel)
Written by Jason Aaron with Kieron Gillen, drawn by Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Daniel Acuna, Alan Davis, Adam Kubert & Billy Tan
Collects X-Men: Schism #1-5, X-Men: Regenesis #1

I’ve gone about reading recent X-Men comics a bit backwards. I actually started off with the first volume of Bendis’ All-New X-Men, but was confused about what was going on. Then I read the first Wolverine & The X-Men by Jason Aaron and Avengers Vs. X-Men but realized I needed to go back even a bit farther. I finally figured out that all roads lead back to Schism, so I got that as well as the first Kieron Gillen volume of Uncanny X-Men.

I actually read the X-Men pretty consistently during the run up to Messiah Complex, but that’s about my experience with these characters in this medium. After MC, the X-Men scored their own island, called it Utopia and seemed to be doing alright. Then Schism went down, shook things up and a bold new direction was kicked off in its wake.

In Schism, Quentin Quire, a teen anarchist mutant from Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men, kicked off some trouble for the X-Men, but the real brains behind the operation are a bunch of evil, super smart kids who take over the Hellfire Club in an effort to make money and stir things up for mutants. In the process Cyclops and Wolverine come to blows over whether the kids on Utopia should be thrust into battle or be allowed to bail. At the end of the ordeal — which involves a lot of Sentinels sold and designed by the Hellfire Club kids — Wolverine decides to restart the school while Cyclops continues to train the children to defend themselves and mutant kind.

As an event, I thought Schism was well put together and presented. Sometimes these events with a clear endpoint (split the X-teams) feel really telegraphed and weak from a storytelling perspective. In this case, though, by making this an issue with valid points on both sides, Aaron and company do what Civil War couldn’t in my mind: make me understand both sides.

I also enjoyed the Who’s Who of X-artists doing their thing on this series. I’m not always a fan of the idea of splitting up a series like this with different artists, especially ones like this that are very distinct, but in this case, I liked it BECAUSE these artists all have such distinct styles. They all came to play and the results are great superhero action.

wolverine & the x-men volume 1Wolverine & the X-Men, Vol. 1 (Marvel)
Written by Jason Aaron, drawn by Chris Bachalo with Duncan Rouleau, Matteo Scalera & Nick Bradshaw
Collects Wolverine & The X-Men #1-4

As I mentioned, I was a bit mixed up and actually read Wolverine & The X-Men after AVX which is not the best order. After his disagreement with Cyclops, Wolverine has gone off to form his own school called The Jean Grey School For Gifted Youngsters. Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Beast and a few other X-folks including a good deal of the younger mutants all came along for the ride as well.

The first volume features an attack by the new Hellfire Club (a bunch of punk kids) and the introduction of a few new members like the new Krakoa, a nerdy Brood and a boy that sure looks an awful lot like Apocalypse (he’s from Uncanny X-Force which Wolverine also starred in at that time). I also really enjoyed the art by Chris Bachalo (who drew much of the Supernovas story that I’m also a big fan of) and Nick Bradshaw who blew me away with his part in Escape From The Negative Zone (dude’s like a cartoonier Art Adams). My only complaint is that the printing on this particular book didn’t seem to do Bachalo’s artwork justice.

I’m glad that Aaron wrapped up the younger Hellfire Club story, at least partially, because I kind of hate the idea of killer kids in general. I appreciate the idea of balancing the physical superiority of heroes against the smaller-of-stature children, but I always have a hard time buying into the idea that children are these awful, murderous creatures. It’s a personal hang-up of mine that doesn’t reflect on the story at all. Anyway, I’ll definitely be back for more of this book because it had a really fun tone, set up a lot of interesting relationships and makes me want to find out what happens to them next.

Uncanny X-Men By Kieron Gillen Vol 1Uncanny X-Men By Kieron Gillen Volume 1 (Marvel)
Written by Kieron Gillen, drawn by Carlos Pacheco, Rodney Buscemi, Brandon Peterson, et al
Collects Uncanny X-Men #1-4

With mutant life hanging in the balance, Cyclops develops a simple plan: make the humans so petrified of his squad that they won’t be jerks to less flashy mutants. This so-called Extinction Team consists of Cyke, Emma Frost, Magneto, Magik, Colossus, Storm, Danger and Hope. In this first outing they go up against Mr. Sinister who has siphoned the power of the Dream Celestial and built a city of his own clones.

The first three issues are pretty tight and do a solid job of both explaining and showing what Cyclops’ mission is. I’ve always had a hard time understanding how the people in the Marvel U can be so bigoted against mutants when they live in a world filled with other people with strange powers, abilities and afflictions, so it was interesting to see Cyke go on the offensive against those people. All in all though, I’m not sure how long I’ll be on board this book. I loved WATX because it was fun and a bit light, but this one, like Cyclops himself, might just be too serious for me at this point. Still, I’ve got the next few volumes of both requested from the library and will let you know how those reading experiences go!

Books Of Justice: The Injustice League & Sanctuary

justice league of america injustice league Justice League Of America: The Injustice League (DC)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie with Alan Burnett, drawn by Mike McKone, Joe Benitez, Ed Benes & Allan Jefferson
Collects Justice League Of America Wedding Special #1, Justice League Of America #13-16

After reading through the two Brad Meltzer Justice League Of America books, it just made sense to keep going and re-absorb Dwayne McDuffie’s run on the book which makes up four trades. While my negative memories of Meltzer’s run were somewhat vague, I had very specific memories of why McDuffie’s bummed me out. First and foremost, it went with the “a group of villains getting together” story which had been done plenty of times before and after. Then you had the fact that it seemed like there were editorial mandates that just kept coming down which truncated some arcs and interrupted others. One arc ends with a “Huh?” because it had to lead into Salvation Run while another reintroduces the Tangent characters for seemingly no reason.

At the time these books were coming out, I remember thinking that all of this just seemed wrong. The Justice League should have been the book steering the good ship DCU instead of feeling like something that was being back seat driven by someone other than the book’s writer. So, when getting back into these stories I tried to forget everything I knew — which turned out to be a bit easier than expected — and actually read this book as if it was in charge. How’d the work out?  Continue reading Books Of Justice: The Injustice League & Sanctuary

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Revenge Of The Green Lanterns

GREEN LANTERN: REVENGE OF THE GREEN LANTERNS (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Carlos Pacheco, Ethan Van Sciver & Ivan Reis
Collects Green Lantern #7-13 (2006)
It took about a year’s worth of comics for me to really get into Green Lantern after Rebirth brought Hal Jordan and, as a result, the Green Lantern Corps back from the dead. At first I just didn’t care about Hal Jordan (though I liked the first issues of his series the second time around) and then Green Lantern Corps Recharge introduced a bunch of GLs I didn’t know or care about (though, again, I changed my mind once again), but I really started to come around with the Revenge of the Green Lanterns storyline because it brought a group of characters I really dug at least on a visual level back into the forefront, introduced an awesome villain into the mix and added to Hal’s troubles with the Corps. But it didn’t start off like that.

Issues #7 and 8 have Green Lantern and Green Arrow getting back together and facing Mongul and his Black Mercy plants which were previously existed, but are celebrated now because of their inclusion in Alan Moore’s classic Superman, Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman story “For The Man Who Has Everything.” Huh, look at that, an Alan Moore connection. Of course, Mongul also happens be the guy who blew up Hal Jordan’s home town of Coast City during Reign of the Superman, so there’s mountains of bad blood there, even if this is really a battle between his son and daughter. These issues were kind of whatever to me because I’ve seen way too many “Hey look at these perfect lives for characters which they will eventually figure out aren’t real” stories and just don’t care. Once you know how the Black Mercy works, you really just need to figure out how the heroes break free, all that other stuff is just filler. Pacheco drew these issues. Again, I like him, but he doesn’t blow me away.

The next issue (#9) teams Hal up with Batman to fight a new version of the Tattooed Man. Once again, I don’t particularly care about Hal’s old enemies, so this story wasn’t interesting to me on that level. It was, however interesting to see Batman and Hal get over some of the bad blood. Better than all that, though, was seeing Hal hand the ring over to Batman to help him deal with some of his tragedies. Not only do we get to see Batman as a GL (which DC Direct made an awesome action figure of), but he also admits that he doesn’t want to deal with his parents’ death which was both obvious and a nice moment to see. Van Sciver did some rad things with art in this book, especially with the Tattooed Man and that Batman GL costume. Very cool. Dude seemed to be getting significantly better with each outing, not that he was a slouch to begin with, mind you.

#10 finally got the ball rolling on the Revenge of the Green Lanterns story, but not before tying into DC’s One Year Later jump that took place during Infinite Crisis. See, the idea was that, between issues #6 and 7 of IC, there was a jump in time. Every DCU book picked up with some kind of change that we were supposed to get explained either in the series itself or in 52. But, as 52 started to shift focus away from the secret-telling and more towards the characters and stories that had kicked off early on, some of the OYL books made less and less sense because some things weren’t explained. I had that kind of confusion when it came to GL as it opened with Hal fighting Rocket Reds and the appearance of a brand new Crimson Fox along with a whole new group of Global Guardians. These were characters and concepts that played heavily into Justice League International, so I was familiar with them, but also assumed they were dead and gone for a while. Who were these guys and where did they come from? Also, what the hell is Hal talking about having been shot down with his girlfriend Cowgirl and another pilot? None of those questions are answered in this collection, though I think they get addressed in the next one, Wanted. I have absolutely no memory of those explanations. Oh, I believe #10 has the first bestowing of a Sinestro Corps ring when Arkillo gets one. It’s a quick page, but he’ll be a kind of major member of that Corps so it was cool seeing this moment again.

Anyway, a thought-dead GL crashes on Earth which sends Hal on a search mission for any other surviving GLs, most of which happen to be the ones he went up against when he was wrecking shop on the Corps before blowing up the Central Power Battery. The Guardians told him not to, but he did anyway and Guy Gardner went along with him. See, the GLs seem to be being held captive on the old Manhunter planet, which harkens back to the upgraded Manhunters appearing in the early issue of GL. As it turns out, Cyborg, a foe of Superman’s who also had a hand in blowing up Coast City, is the new leader of the Manhunters. When I first read this I was so impressed because it just made so much damn sense. The guy had been running around after Reign of the Superman as a pretty powerful badguy, but making a half-man, half-machine leader of a robotic group of beings just makes so much sense, it’s kind of shocking it hadn’t been done before. The fact that he’s got history with Hal after a fashion makes it all the more ingenious. One of the annoying things about comic books is that certain things seem to make logical sense, but can’t or won’t be done because it might be too different than what fans and readers are used to. With Johns, he seems to look at the larger picture of the DCU and sees even the faintest of connections, bringing characters together and making them make sense, in the process making them cooler and as a result more interesting to read about.

So, Hal and Guy have to fight against a whole planet of Green Lantern power-sucking Manhunters in an effort to save their fellow corps members and also not die. It turns out that the Manhunters had been collecting near dead GLs for years (or however much time had passed in the DCU between Hal going nuts and Rebirth) and using them to create mega Manhunters that are actually powered by GLs. It’s a pretty cool element that I don’t think has been brought up again since. As you might expect there’s still some bad blood between Hal and the Lost Lanterns, but Arisia, Hal’s ex who also happens to be there, doesn’t hold anything against him.

In addition to the Arkillo appearance, the issue also holds a few potential seeds for future stories. When the Guardians are insisting that Hal not go after the Lost Lanterns in #11 one of them lets slip that Sector 3601 is the Blackest Night. I don’t know how or if this fits in with the Blackest Night story, but I’ll see as my reading continues. Later on there is a panel during a flashback explaining Hal and Arisia’s past that features Krona (#13). The character isn’t named, but as I theorized, the story being referenced here had something to do with Blackest Night’s main baddie Nekron. It’s an interesting early hint that I definitely didn’t catch the first time around. We also get references to Arisia’s apparent death at the hands of Major Force in the pages of Guy Gardner: Warrior, a moment that made me really sad back in the day. Finally, there’s a moment when Hal and Cyborg are fighting in which Cyborg tells Hal the only reason the Guardians keep him on the Corps is to be an example of what can happen to the rookies if they continually question the Guardians. It’s an interesting point that I believe is flat-out said later on in the series.

As far as Hal’s character goes, there are lots of moments that make him more than your average arrogant jerk, from him trying to help Batman get over his darkness to his undying need to help the Lanterns that he put into danger on his rampage.

 

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern No Fear

GREEN LANTERN: NO FEAR
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Darwyn Cook, Carlos Pacheco, Ethan Van Sciver and Simone Bianchi
Collects Green Lantern #1-6, Green Lantern Secret Files and Origins 2005
As I mentioned in the first Books of Oa post about Green Lantern: Rebirth, I’m looking to get a better grasp of Hal Jordan as a character and see how the overarching, multi-color Lanterns started out. While I wasn’t doing much blogging over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was stealing away time here and there to read through a lot of the earlier GL and GLC trades and also spent an inordinate amount of time trying to piece together not only a real time release chronology of post-Rebirth Green Lantern comics, but also an in continuity one as well. That’s a roundabout way of saying that the actual rebirth of the Green Lantern Corps is surprisingly non existent in the actual comics. See, Rebirth finished off with a cover date of May 2005 with the Green Lantern comic starring Jordan kicked off in July 2005. Hal’s still got his ring and kicking around Earth and fighting some familiar villains and even visits Oa at one point, but we never actually see the Guardians talking to the five GLs from Rebirth (Hal, John Stewart, Kilowog, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner) and telling them what’s up. I wasn’t expecting a full issue or miniseries focusing on these kinds of things, but I was surprised going back and discovering that not even a scene of such things exists and it doesn’t in Green Lantern Corps: Recharge or any of the other books I’ve read so far.

Anyway, the point of this review isn’t to talk about what wasn’t in the book, but was. Aside from some somewhat schmaltzy short stories taken from what I assume was the Secret Files issue in which we see Hal flying Kyle and a brief history lesson, we’re along for the ride as Hal gets back to his life. He’s living in Coast City which is being rebuilt, but having trouble getting new people to move in. He’s trying to get a job back in the Air Force flying planes. And, most importantly to the action of the series, he’s fighting villains like Manhunters old and new, Hector Hammond (as much as you can fight that giant-headed weirdo), The Shark and Black Hand. We get a hint after the Manhunter story that a group of GLs we thought were dead from Hal’s rampage seem to be held by the Manhunters and their mysterious hooded leader which is a major point of the next arc. There’s also some yellow alien Gremlins running around who, we’re told, evolved Shark and Hammond. There’s an interesting note in the issue where Hammond says that the aliens were planning on harvesting both villains for parts to sell as weapons in an upcoming intergalactic war. I don’t remember either character or the Gremlins being mentioned during Infinite Crisis or Sinestro Corps War, so it could be a detail that Johns hasn’t gotten around to getting back to.

On the other (heh) hand, Hal’s dealings with the higher powered Black Hand (the Gremlins did something to him too, but I’m not sure what) definitely refer to Blackest Night. The rejuvenated villain seems to have an even deeper connection to death and even says “You think you’re strong. But death is stronger. It is the pure power of the far end of the emotional spectrum. The emptiness of space. The blackest night.” At the time the scene just seemed like the ramblings of a madman, but reading it now, it’s easy to see that Johns was planting seeds not just for Sinestro Corps War, but also Blackest Night in the earliest moments of the series.

When these issues first came out, I wasn’t all that interested in them. I wasn’t a big Hal Jordan fan and the inclusion of weird old villains like Shark and Hector Hammond that I didn’t care about, didn’t help matters much. This time around, I’m still not super interested in those villains, but I do like seeing the foundation for the books I’m still enjoying to this day. I was also interested to see the establishment of Hal as a character. He’s confident, like I’ve said previously, but he’s also a good man with a good heart who’s trying to do the right thing, it’s just that his ego gets in his way sometimes. I’m not up on my Hal Jordan history, but there’s an event in Hal’s life that I thought was really interesting. See, after his dad died in a plane explosion, his mom didn’t want any of them to join the Air Force, but Hal did anyway. She wouldn’t talk to him after that, so when she was on her death bed and she refused to see Hal because he was in the Air Force, Hal had to find a way out of the AF without quitting so he could go see her. He couldn’t bring himself to quit so he slugged his commanding officer and got thrown out. His ego got in the way of something that could have been easily explained away. The worst part of the whole ordeal is that he went to see his dying mother, free of the Air Force and she wouldn’t see him. It’s an interesting relationship with his past that Hal has and it’s interesting to see it revealed here and there.

Last, but not least, it’s time to talk about the artwork. I’m not Cook’s biggest fan when he’s writing, but his art has an interesting Silver Age quality to it that’s still dynamic, plus it’s interesting to see that style on a newer character like Kyle Rayner as seen in the opening story from the Secret Files issue. Van Sciver jumper around here and there with a retelling of Hal’s origin early on and an issue or two where he gets to really flex his artistic muscles by covering Kilowog, a slew of rookie GLs, a hulking Shark, the gross Hammond and the creepiest Black Hand ever seen up until then. Pacheco has art chores on the story that brings the Manhunters back into the fold. His art is solid and I like it, but it doesn’t blow me away. The most interesting artist in this book, as far as I’m concerned is Bianchi. I completely forgot that he worked on the series here and there in the early days. I’m a big fan of his work with Grant Morrison in Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight, so seeing more of his work with characters I know and love is a lot of fun. He also gets to play with the same villains that Van Sciver does and it’s really interesting to see such different takes on the characters all within the same book. I can see how the jumping on and off of artists might have bothered some folks, but it doesn’t bother me at all.

Next up for Books Of Oa, I’ve got Rann-Thanagar War which featured Kyle Rayner’s first post-Rebirth action (as far as I can remember), then Green Lantern Corps: Recharge and the second volume of the regular GL series. I’m having a great time re-reading these books and hope to either get my hands on a copy of the Infinite Crisis trade or dig out my issues so I can remember how the GLs played into that story, but if not, I’ll come back to it later on.