Aug 182011
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My name is Jet Wolf, and I’m addicted to comic books.

Every week since 1987 I’ve had comics pulled and waiting to fall into my eager hands. It’s a practice that’s survived multiple comic shops, a cross-country move, and the entire 1990s. I’ve always loved talking about them after reading, first boring friends too polite to tell me they didn’t care, then babbling with my future husband in the proto-internet, and finally spreading my opinions all over my blog like a thick paste.

It’s been some time since I talked about my comic books, but The Pull List is eternal. Here’s what was on it this week.

Generation Hope #10    Legion of Super-Heroes #16    Ultimate Fallout #6    Uncanny X-Men #542    X-Men: Schism #3   
Generation Hope #10 | Legion of Super-Heroes #16 | Ultimate Fallout #6
Uncanny X-Men #542 | X-Men: Schism #3

Generation Hope #10 4 of 5 stars

Generation Hope #10

Generation Hope #10, cover by Rodin Esquejo

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Tim Seeley
Colourist: Val Staples & Sotocolor
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

I’ve vacillated on Generation Hope. On the one hand, I’ve always loved the “young mutants” theme; New Mutants, Generation X, Academy X, these have all ranked among my most enjoyable books at varying stages of their life cycle. I was heavily drawn to Generation Hope on concept alone.

Its execution has been top-notch. The book is at turns touching and funny, and Kieron Gillen does well to convey the impossible expectations that rest on Hope’s shoulders as the supposed mutant messiah.

Then there are the times when I just want to punch all these characters in the face.

But as it turns out, they’re kids, and the face-punch urges are all part of dealing with kids. Hell, I like Dawn from Buffy, and if I can find affection for her, these kids are a walk in the park. (Provided none of them tell another “get out Get Out GET OUT!!” that is. But I digress.)

A large part of my unrest with the book came from the Lights’ near slavish devotion to Hope. But then Gillen surprised me by not only making the characters aware of it, but expressing their own disquiet about it. Well crap, now I’m hooked!

So of course he’s leaving the book after Schism. (Why do you hate me, Marvel?) But Schism has only just started with this very issue, and so I enjoy Gillen while I have him.

This issue orbits around the key events of Schism #3 (reviewed below), and while it’s ideal to read that issue first it’s not exactly a necessity since it was pretty easy to see this coming several months ago. Generation Hope expands it however, adding resonance. It’s one thing to see it play out in the reactions of Cyclops and Wolverine, but it’s entirely another to climb into the head of the person living it, both before and after. This is the chewey emotional center that Schism has thus far been sorely lacking.

The setting only helps to punctuate the tragedy. The just-opened Mutant History Museum serves not as a subtle backdrop but an effective one. We watch Idie meander through exhibits depicting the X-Men’s varied and tragic past. If this were to happen in the main Schism title it would come across as presumptuous, but here within the tie-in it feels educational, exactly like it should. As she moves from piece to piece Idie encounters someone with a lot to say on the topic. All of this history, all of these different perspectives, and yet Idie floats in the center, untouched in her absolute certainty of uncertainty; she seems to be looking for an answer to who she is now and what it all means, but at every turn refuses to listen and remains locked in the idea that her powers are a sin and she must therefore be a sinner.

The whole thing works in a way that all of the Schism buid-up and lead-in thus far failed to do. If you’re following the story then this issue is a must-buy. But it’s a good read even if you’re just passingly curious. Hope’s new happy little family is already fractured, and they hadn’t even found how to fit together yet. If that last page doesn’t break your heart a little then you’re just not human.

Legion of Super-Heroes #16 3 of 5 stars

Legion of Super-Heroes #16

Legion of Super-Heroes #16, cover by Yildiray Cinar, Jonathan Glapion & Hi-Fi

Writer: Paul Levitz
Arists: Daniel HDR & Marc Deering
Colourist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: John J. Hill

It feels sacrilegious to even say this, but I haven’t been enjoying this Paul Levitz run on the Legion too much. I know! I know! Don’t hit!

It’s tough to pin down exactly what it is and how much is my own fault. Despite continuing to get the Legion every month without fail, I fell totally behind on reading it. So much so that I only got a few issues post-Legion Lost before I moved and then reading comics fell off my radar for a bit. And that was the first Legion Lost, the one from about ten years ago? YEAH.

A little bit ago I decided to sit down and catch up, which means that in the space of a few months I read a decade’s worth of Legion, running through the sad, sad end of the Reboot era and the dismal failure that was the Threeboot, before coming back around to the return of Levitz’s Legion. That’s a lot of dramatically different Legion in a short period of time, and I think I still haven’t fully gotten over the loss of the Reboot, which was probably my favourite run of them all.

But there’s been a lot of specifics I can point to that haven’t worked for me this time around. Let’s start with the xenophobic douchenozzle known as Earth Man. He’s actually a pretty old character that got a revival relatively recently who went on to join the Legion, somewhat against his will. He spent a decent chunk of the book trying to work on the fact that he absolutely and irrationally hated like 97% of his teammates. And it’s about here that I became irritated, because for such a fundamental shift of attitude to happen, it necessitates some on-panel time. I get that. But I disliked him so much that in my view the less we saw of him the better.

Then there was all this Green Lantern crap that I feel fairly confident I can thank Geoff Johns for. There’s a reason I don’t read Green Lantern, people, and that reason is that do not give one tiny fuck about Green Lantern. Yet here it is, getting its Green Lanterniness all over my Legion.

Then when we do get to the Legion I’m actually interested in, the focus has shifted so much so often that I think I could sue DC for whiplash-related injuries. It’s not that it hasn’t been good; these are the characters as Levitz left them so very long ago, and it’s arguable that nobody knows them better. He’s great at making every panel count and his familiarity with the history (of course he’s familiar, he wrote it) adds layers to even the slightest glance or gesture. Still, I’ve felt at times like he’s a starving man at a buffet; it all looks so good that he can’t help but pile his plate high with a little bit of everything. With a cast as huge as the Legion, that’s a hell of a lot of little bits. On reflection it should be of no surprise that the Earth Man and Green Lantern arcs were given more time since, being entirely new elements, they weren’t clouded by old affections and nostalgia and had to be a bit more tightly plotted.

The Legion of Super-Villains arc has been a little bit better by virtue of so much going on, but as it’s escalated so too has the GL side of things. I mean really, giving Mon-El a Lantern ring is like giving SUPERMAN a Lantern ring. Can you say “overkill”? Sure, I knew you could.

All of this leads to this issue, which is a finale of sorts. Not only is it the end of this arc but it’s the end of this series, which means that come September or October, whenever we go back to #1, that will be Legion of Super-Heroes volume SEVEN, which amuses me in its excess. However, The Powers That Be decided to not reboot it again, which is one hell of a surprise when the usual line from DC is “Someone sneezed, better reboot the Legion.” With this issue then, Levitz gets to close things out and start again, but not AGAIN again, as everything that happened in these past 16 issues counts, as does all the phenomenal work he did back in the 70s and 80s.

So how does this issue fare? About average, I’d say. It has a suitably climactic feel in places, with the Legion all coming together to defeat terrible odds. But the story’s been all over the map and – for me at least – has lacked a hook. I’m reading about things that are happening, but aside from the habit of caring about these characters I haven’t really cared much. That’s never good.

But a few things happened at the end that perked me up considerably. It seems like all my major gripes have been sorted out (one way or the other), and you know Brainy, you’re right – how you took out Saturn Queen was satisfying. I feel – hope? – that a new #1 will help to settle things down a bit.

Ultimate Fallout #6 4 of 5 stars

Ultimate Fallout #6

Ultimate Fallout #6, cover by Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary & Paul Mounts

Writers: Brian Michael Bendis, Nick Spencer, Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Mark Bagley, Andy Lanning, Eric Nguyen, Mitch Breitweiser
Colourists: Paul Mounts, Mitch Breitweiser, Bettie Breitweiser
Letterer: Cory Petit

The fallout is over, and it’s time for the next phase of the Ultimate Marvel universe to begin.

So of course we end on a few cliffhangers.

Three stories this week: May, Gwen and MJ get one (kinda), Kitty, Bobby and Johnny have the second, and Nick Fury gets the third. You might think Cap would get a part, what with the cover and all. No, but he’s actually an integral part to a full two-thirds of the stories this week and so the cover does actually work this time.

The Mutant part of the story was the least interesting of the three, which may be surprising coming from me but it definitely had a couple of flaws that have me worried for the first time about Nick Spencer. It sees Kitty, Bobby and Johnny (Storm) making good their decision to go underground. Quite literally. They trudge through the sewers for two very talky pages that frankly felt like so many more that I had to go back and erase the part I’d originally typed about how everyone got an equal share this week. The bulk of the whole thing can be summed up with “Kitty ignores the others who don’t shut up for even two seconds about where she’s leading them.” The trouble is that it’s all in a kind of relaxed dialogue that somehow doesn’t feel even remotely real and I’m genuinely shocked that it took that long for nothing to happen. It seems kind of strange (and a touch hypocritical) to be complaining about this now when I’ve been totally happy about the talkiness of the previous X-Men-related segments in this series, but perhaps the difference is in the intent. The Val Cooper and Quicksilver bits were establishing plot. This is pure character interaction. This should easily be the most engrossing of the two, yet I was irritated by it almost immediately. It’s the character work that’s going to make or break any series for me, so I’m sincerely hoping that this is just a fluke and the series itself will run much more smoothly.

The majority of the issue serves as a bookend to the events that brought us here. No spoilers, but it’s done tremendously well. The first few pages especially hit some very bittersweet notes; the team of Bendis and Bagley is just about invincible. The characters are allowed a chance to breathe, perhaps for the first time since all this started, and to consider healing a little. The decisions made seem to have cleared the table a bit, and I can’t help but think that’s a decision for the best, all things considered.

Mary Jane though … I’m intrigued. Very intrigued. I’m not sure how she’s going to play out in the new series, but it seems quite clear that she still has a role to play. Then there’s Nick Fury. Poor Nick. He’s about to have a very, very tough year.

Overall, Ultimate Fallout has been a really good series. The vignettes style worked well to not only give the universe a renewed cohesion but to do a bit of vital spring cleaning without getting too bogged down in the tedium of exposition. The floor is swept, the new boxes are unpacked, the shelves have been reorganized. We’re ready to go.

Uncanny X-Men #542 3 of 5 stars

Uncanny X-Men #542

Uncanny X-Men #542, cover by Greg Land

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciller: Greg Land
Inker: Jay Leisten
Colourist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

I haven’t done more than turn the cover to the first page but this must be said before all else: The day when Greg Land is off this book cannot come soon enough for me. I loathe absolutely everything about his style, from the generic plastic faces to the hideously unnatural poses. And I swear to god I just want to smack every single character who has that ridiculous Land Smile that is so inappropriately enthusiastic it’s like staring at a cranked up Stepford Wife.


Okay. That’s done. I feel better.

This issue is another Fear Itself tie-in, though far more directly than last week’s New Mutants. Juggernaut – currently an avatar of The Serpent – is heading to San Francisco. An ultimatum has been given, feeding into the whole fear thing that is supposedly at the center of this event: the people of San Francisco can turn on the X-Men or the X-Men can destroy the people of San Francisco. (Think the Joker’s deal with the two boats ala The Dark Knight.)

I can’t actually remember much of the details of this storyline so far, which doesn’t speak as well of it as it possibly should. I’ve already talked up Gillen this week with Generation Hope, and I’m very much enjoying his take on the X-Men, much more so than I did Matt Fraction. I pin much of the fault on the premise itself; I just haven’t felt much of a concern about Juggernaut, however pumped up on Asgardian ‘roids as he may be.

So I’m happy to say that this issue has turned that around for me, at least somewhat.

First I’ll talk about some of the more meh stuff. We have Emma and Hope in critical condition in the hospital after an event that I clearly can’t recall. But it starts to get all mind-trippy when someone convinces the comatose Emma that Scott will never love her as much as Jean and she’s got to get rid of that troublesome redhead. By which she means Hope. 16-year old Hope who considers Cable her father. Cable, whose actual father is, of course, Cyclops.

The mere idea of it makes my brain want to crawl out through my ear.

But perhaps even more disquieting is the idea that Emma Frost is so wound up around Cyclops on a deep primal level that she could be persuaded to kill a child – someone who is functionally a student no less – just over the suggestion that Hope is really Jean. Thankfully all of this was only a few brief pages and I’m hoping that Emma snaps out of it all on her own with her special brand of “oh no you DIDN’T”. If there’s one thing Emma Frost should not need – EVER – it is a man to give her self-worth.

Secondly we have Cyclops allowing Illyana to pop into a nearby hell dimension to try and talk to Cyttorak about Juggernaut. Which hey, pretty solid plan. But he sends Colossus and Kitty to be “step out of line and we’ll blow you up” chaperones. Are you freaking kidding me? Cyclops, this supposed great tactician, sends the two people who love Illyana most in the entire world as genuine threats to take her down if necessary. The idea is so preposterous that I can’t even begin to take this entire segment as more than a weak plot contrivance. You’re better than that, Kieron Gillen. I am very disappoint.

But all is not lost as the main part of this issue – Juggernaut’s inexorable march on San Francisco – finally, finally feels like something that everyone should be concerned about. Bolstered by god magicks, Juggy has very literally become unstoppable. Throughout the course of the issue we see plan after plan after plan thrown in the Juggernaut’s path, each one numbered and given little more than a panel to explain its intent and its subsequent failure. We only get a glimpse at a few of them – eleven in total ranging from Plan 4 to Plan 42. It’s almost poetry how simple yet effective this idea is. In only a few pages of space we see just how creative, inventive and ultimately prepared the X-Men (and particularly Cyclops) are, creating contingency plan on contingency plan. It also shows their desperation. No matter what they do, no matter what they try, still the Juggernaut comes. It’s a relentless plodding that simply cannot be stopped. Okay, now I’m feeling it.

The problems with the issue are major and somewhat distressingly come with the “quieter” moments, but the big important beats to the action are clear and present, and I’m keen to see how it plays out.

X-Men: Schism #3 3 of 5 stars

X-Men: Schism #3

X-Men: Schism #3, cover by Daniel Acuña

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Daniel Acuña
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

As mentioned above, this issue and Generation Hope are closely linked this week with Schism kinda technically being what you should read first, though the events of Gen Hope flow around it well enough that it’s not going to ruin too much if you went there first.

With this issue we’ve now hit the halfway point of Schism, and it finally feels like we’re getting somewhere. I’ve thus far been pretty underwhelmed by the storyline, which seemed to promise some epic X-Men vs. X-Men fisticuffs that even by issue #3 we haven’t seen. Instead it seems that it’s really, really important that we all take in and fully absorb the rad bromance that is Cyclops and Wolverine. It’s unfortunate then how it really hasn’t worked.

I get that they’re trying to build up an emotional core here. For a new reader to care that the X-Men are going to fracture right down the Scott/Logan middle they need to feel what that means. What Cyclops will lose when Wolverine takes a walk and vice versa. Structurally, I get it. Personally, it’s felt caked on. Couldn’t we have taken some of this bro-ness and put it into Prelude to Schism rather than wasting four issues trying to ham-fistedly draw Xavier/Magneto parallels and retelling origin stories that anybody can find in a ten second Google search? We’re halfway through this thing now and the cracks are only really just beginning to show, with the cliffhanger appearing to do little more than wrap them back in the warm Snuggie of cooperation.

How much longer do I have to wait for Wolverine to start trying to make Cykebabs I guess is what I’m saying.

Still there’s a lot this issue gets right. It was inevitable that comparisons to Civil War would come, but Jason Aaron has done a great job not vilifying one side over another. Both Wolverine and Cyclops make genuinely good points and he’s done well to not let the narrative lean in either direction. It’s a tough line to walk (see again, Civil War), but thus far Aaron’s done well by both characters.

Then there’s the true delight of this issue: the new Hellfire Club, made up of very intelligent, very ambitious, very young children. These are just the most delightfully evil eight-year olds I have ever seen, and I think I might read an entire comic book just around their tiny evil plans. You’d think it wouldn’t work, right? Sounds ridiculous? I’d be inclined to agree. AND YET.

Innocence – and the loss thereof – is at the heart of Schism. It’s no coincidence that the X-Men now face and must defeat children. It makes for an almost meta-level of tension; we already know that the story will end with the X-Men fractured, so we’re able to read between the lines as we watch the journey. It’s taken a while, but the scenery’s just gotten interesting.

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