Wake Up And Smell The Coffee: The X-Books - A Work In Progress, Part II

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Hey everybody. Due to some unfortunate technical difficulties last week, #6 of “Coffee” was not up for the weekend. If anyone reading this happened to miss it, please take the time to check it out. You’ll find a link on the left side of the screen, thanks! As for this week’s edition, I thought an update on the x-books was in order considering we’ve moved past the introductory story arcs and nearly finished two Icons books. Plus, I seemed to have garnered more message board responses from the first one I did, so I’m looking forward to many of you tearing into me with your undoubtedly conflicting opinions. Here we go!

New X-Men – Well, I can say each issue has been better than the last… when they ship, that is. Though I was disappointed with the initial three issues, the last two by artist Ethan Van Sciver have been a breath of fresh air. Somewhat similar to Ian Churchill’s style, his overall storytelling ability has impressed me. His issues also served as a much-needed break from Quitely’s over-the-top adventures, which I haven’t really been too fond of. I wish Van Sciver was the regular artist, but for now I’ll just have to be content with his upcoming Morlocks mini-series with Geoff Johns (Flash, JSA).

As for Morrison, his explanation for Cassandra Nova was the final straw for me in regards to the first storyline. Any possible enjoyment I might have gotten from the concept was squashed the minute her origin was revealed. Out of respect to anyone who hasn’t read the story yet, I’ll just say it was the most contrived resolution I could have ever dreamed of. In fact, it was such a predictably silly idea that it never even entered my mind as a possibility. Whatever… New X-Men #118 was my last ordered issue and I’ll just pick them from the shelves from now on if I care enough to buy it.

Uncanny X-Men – Well, we’ve finally managed to get free of Poptopia, but we’re not out of the woods yet. For reasons completely unknown to me, Uncanny X-Men #399 by Tom Raney (the official X-Men fill-in artist) has fallen behind because he couldn’t finish it. I know I’m just another reader who is out-of-the-loop so to speak, but come on… He was scheduled to do this issue a long time ago and it was specifically written for him. Why is it that none of these scheduled artists can finish their issues on time? What? Argh!

Anyway, the fantastic Thomas Derenick (Nightside) has been brought in to finish the issue but by this stage it really doesn’t matter. For anyone who doesn’t know, the entire run so far under Joe Casey was supposed to be reprinted in the X-Men: Poptopia trade originally scheduled for release this week. At this point, there have been so many art-related difficulties that this trade will undoubtedly go down as the most useless X-Men collection in Marvel history. Over six issues, you have six artists - Ian Churchill, Sean Phillips, Mel Rubi, Ashley Wood, Raney and Derenick - most of who were stuck finishing someone else’s work. It is utterly embarrassing. Considering the orders for the Poptopia trade were already lower than expected, I can’t see a reason why they just don’t cancel the orders now and be done with it.

On a brighter note, the finishes in part 4 of the Poptopia story were surprisingly good. Wood’s interpretation of Mr. Clean was much more bizarre and intimidating than Churchill’s G. I. Joe villain. I’m unfamiliar with Wood’s work (Hellspawn), but I definitely look forward to his art in Uncanny X-Men #400 and Uncanny X-Men 2001. If anyone enjoys them, they may want to look out for Casey and Wood’s Wildstorm series in April, Automatic Kafka. Otherwise, it’s only two more issues until Garney. Be patient, it will come.

X-Treme X-Men & X-Treme X-Men: Savage Land – The ongoing X-Treme title is getting better and better with every issue (and still my favorite x-title), having cleared the bumps in the road over the plotting/character conflicts created during the book’s inception. Unfortunately, the need to shuffle the Savage Land storyline into a separate mini-series is causing needless confusion and I don’t really care too much for the artist, Kevin Sharpe. I suppose like all the other X-Men core titles at the moment, X-Treme will have to wait until the spring before it can get its head above all the mess caused during the summer relaunch. At least the both the monthly and the limited are shipping on time.

X-Men Icons – What was the point of this experiment again? What started off as a promising idea has already started repeating the same old tired stories and diving into the usual X-Men creative mistakes. Having been a fan of his now-cancelled Swamp Thing series, I had assumed Brian K. Vaughan would bring something new to Cyclops (with artist Mark Texeira), a character I never cared for to begin with. What followed was a blatant attempt to piss away the hard work veteran X-writer Fabian Nicieza did to expand upon the Juggernaut (X-Men Forever), once again turning him into the two-dimensional tool used by writers to compare the power levels of different mutants (a la Onslaught).

If that wasn’t a big enough slap in the face, Fiona Avery and Aaron Lopresti’s Rogue series tried to avoid continuity and instead fell face first into its trap. Editorial and Avery quite clearly had two different ideas about where to go with the series as it mutated into some kind of strange X-Men: The Movie/Paul Smith era hybrid, making no sense to older fans and obviously leaving new readers in the dark. Once again Marvel proves me wrong in the thinking that newer creators should handle spin-off projects. Perhaps we should have learned during the limited series boom in the middle 90’s, but we didn’t. Is it that Marvel is too afraid to take risk with these books that they must always be played by the numbers? I don’t know about you guys, but I know they can do better than this.

What we’re left with is Iceman (by Andy Lanning, Dan Abnett and artist Karl Kerschl), Nightcrawler (by Chris Kipiniak and Matt Smith) and possible Storm and Angel projects down the road. Iceman seems decent so far and Nightcrawler’s writer is a complete unknown, so we’ll see what happens with those. Otherwise, I’m hearing Storm may be becoming something else entirely and it’s up in the air whether or not Paul Jenkins will have time to do Angel between his other commitments. For now, there really hasn’t been anything special about the Icons line but it may be too early to judge it. We’ll just have to keep our eyes open for the time being.

X-Force – Recently finishing its first story arc, the book has positioned itself as the most alternative title in the X-Men line. X-Force has really surprised me and turned into another book I’m looking forward to following month after month, though there are just a few things I’m worrying about. First, I hope Doop will be given characterization rather than be used as another early-Cable archetype. You know what I mean… those mutants with a mysterious past linking to Wolverine but are too cool to have their powers explained or a codename that makes sense. I’ve just seen far too many of these guys already, but I will give Peter Milligan the benefit of the doubt and watch before I judge. Second, this book really has no business having a “PG” rating. Other than those nit-picks, I look forward to Darwyn Cooke’s fill-in issue and whatever else this title may have to offer in the coming months.

Next edition… something non-Marvel related! Shocking!

Born and raised in Tampa, FL, Drew Reiber is a part-time student with aspirations of someday writing those comics he so loves to rant about. He’s apprehensively trying out X-Force at a friend’s behest, but at least the friend has agreed to try Black Panther in exchange (yay!). You can find his other column at (http://hometown.aol.com/nolansnewsstand/), which has a similar name, but different content.

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