Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Review: Uncanny X-Men Vol. 2: Broken

When Frazier Irving showed up as the fill-in artist late in the first volume of the new Uncanny X-Men, the Brian Michael Bendis-written series following Cyclops and his small, rebel school of X-Men and serving as co-flagship with All-New X-Men, it seemed like a choice dictated by the material. These X-Men and their new recruits were taking a sudden detour to the infernal limbo dimension that Magick is somehow bonded to and uses to teleport through. Irving draws cool evil, demonic shit, and is pretty good with flames and painterly textures, and is a pretty good choice for drawing Magik in her goofy "Darkchilde" mode fighting Dormammu for control of a corner of hell.

It turns out Irving's presence isn't going to be quite so short-lived. In addition to finishing up the Limbo plot, which fills issues #6-7, the first two collected here, he returns for issues #10-11, for issues dealing with the ongoing storylines of the book: Someone apparently within SHIELD launching a Sentinel program against Cyclops' mutants, someone on Cyclops' team apparently betraying him...someone other than Magneto, who is openly betraying him, but making the argument to Cyclops that he's pretend-betraying him. Basically the sort of espionage/thriller stuff that has characterized the Marvel of the 21st century for so long now.

If one-time Wolverine and The X-Men artist Chris Bachalo had a style that didn't gel all that well with fellow artist Nick Bradshaw, his style gels even worse with that of Frazier, as neither artist produces work that looks much like anything the other produces and, in fact, are so individualized in their styles at this point that it's difficult to think of artists who they would fit in well enough with the split duties on a title like this (I did notice for the first time, and I'm not sure why this never occurred to me before, how much Irving's work resembles that of Richard Corben; imagine that, a Frazier Irving/Richard Corben Uncanny X-Men!).

As with the other X-Men titles I've been reading, this is a case of two good artists taking turns on a single ongoing, both of whom are very good and both of whom keep the book looking great, but neither of 'em making for a very consistent-looking book.

How important this is, in the long run, likely varies from reader to reader. As a fan of these comics, I do like that it means the trades come out at a faster clip, although if I were a retailer and/or publisher, I think I'd worry about the books coming out too quickly, and creating unnecessary competition (If you're spending $8 rather than $4 on Uncanny X-Men each month, for example, maybe that second $4 is coming from money you'd otherwise spend on, I don't know, Detective Comics...or maybe it's coming from money you'd otherwise spend on X-Men or Amazing X-Men or Wolverine and the X-Men or one of the X-Force comics or Indestructible Hulk and so on).

One obvious ill is I think it diminishes the role of the artist to a great extent, as it makes Brian Michael Bendis the only regular, month-in, month-out contributor to the series, and literally makes Bachalo and Irving interchangeable. This run of Uncanny then, isn't going to end up being known as the Bendis/Bachalo/Irving one (provided those two both stick around, and one isn't replaced by a third artist eventually), but as the Bendis run.

So where did we leave off?  Magik, like the other adult member's of Cyclops' team, has had her powers somehow scrambled or what's the world...oh, broken, as in the sub-title, by her extended exposure to the Phoenix Force in Avengers Vs. X-Men. And I guess Dr. Strange villain Dormammu is making a play for control of her Limbo, which is why he is able to teleport them all to Limbo, she turns into Darkchilde and a bunch of Mindless Ones attack the team.

This story is on the I'm-having-trouble-believing-this-shit side, and not just because someone somewhere once thought it was cool to name a character "Darkchilde" and no one has since changed it. I was pretty sure the Midless Ones were supposed to be tough customers—that's Dormammu's Mindless Ones, not these guys—so I'm not entirely sure how or why they don't slaughter Cyclops' X-Men in one splash-page flat. Most of the recruits are extremely raw, with no combat training, and powers that are effectively useless in most fights—Angel can fly, Triage can heal people, codename-less Benjamin Deeds can shape change his head to resemble that of whoever he's talking to. Bendis has the Stepford Cuckoos reach into everyone's brains and turn them into berserker warriors to keep them alive in the fight, but no matter how brave you are, shape-changing your face or having large bird wings doesn't really qualify you to beat up rock monsters, you know?

Meanwhile, SHEILD recruits Dazzler to be their official mutant liaison, and she immediately starts wearing a tight-fitting Stormtrooper costume for some reason.
After the trip to Limbo, Fabio "Goldballs" Media (Bendis is the worst at creating new Marvel characters) quits and returns home, Dazzler immediately arrests him and takes him to a SHIELD brig, and the X-Men rescue him.

In the final issues, Cyclops makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to appear at a pro-mutant, pro-Cyclops rally, and a new kind of Sentinel attacks, the volume ending with a look at the man (or woman or creature or robot), and...I don't know who it is.
Should I?

In general I prefer the Bachalo sections' art to that of the Iriving sections, although one thing I really like that Irving did was repeatedly line the Cuckoos up just so.
And while this volume has more issues in it than what seems to be the new standard—five—it still has some supplementary material, some of which consists of Bachalo's designs for the new Dazzler, Agent of SHEILD costume.

These, naturally, include one where she is wearing thigh-hight boots and/or leggings with tiny, little shorts...
...just like the Bachalo redesigns of Magik, Emma Frost and Husk.

Bachalo really likes that look, apparently.

1 comment:

Robert Jazo said...

Well, at least Bachalo's love of tiny "boy cut" shorts is better than the "well, I guess she shaves down there" cut some artists prefer.