This week, we launch our partnership with X-Fan, the leading source of X-Men-related info on the Internet. We'll be carrying their reviews right here at Slush, so check in each week for in-depth analysis of all the current X-books on the shelves.
This week, reviews of Soldier X #7, Ultimates #8, and Wolverine #185.
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Soldier X #7
Reviewer: Brandon Yates, [email] Quick Rating: Good Story Title: The Low Budget Action Movie
An all-powerful Nathan Summers foils a dubious military operation in Kashmir before learning the startling truth about Blaquesmith!
Written by: Darko Macan Art by: Igor Kordey Colors by: Matt Madden Letters by: Randy Gentile Editor: Andrew Lis Editor In Chief: Joe Quesada President: Bill Jemas
Compared to the six-issue long freshman arc of Soldier X that ended with last issue, this one seems tame but itís a solid, often times funny, read nonetheless. Nathan Summers, fresh off of his realization of power, takes a trip to Kashmir, presumably armed with the knowledge that children are being indiscriminately murdered there for a secret purpose. Well, either that or this entire issue relies on the raw coincidence of Nathan being at the right place at the right time, but Iíll give Macan the benefit of the doubt.
Nathanís dramatic appearance, after the reader witnesses the hurling of children from an aircraft, was certainly Jesus-like and, as such, effective. For that matter, his use as a quasi-omnipotent messiah throughout the story was a refreshing change of pace from the wavering, insecure soldier weíve been reading about since Soldier X #2. For example, after meeting General Daid-Khan, the man behind the child-massacres, we see some disturbing displays of power courtesy of the man formerly known as Cable. I doubt this kind of protagonist can last, however, as any kind of major conflict with a lesser opponent will reek of false jeopardy. But for one issue (maybe two, next issue being Macanís last) I can live with it.
There were a couple of points that bugged me, one more than the other. The trivial nit-pick is that it seemed as though Nathanís psi-talk (which he used almost exclusively through most of the issue) was universally understood by non-English speakers, since Rafi, a boy he rescued, had a conversation with him in Punjabi, even though Nathan was Ďspeakingí in English. But later, Daid-Khan needs his Punjabi-to-English translator, Mostafa, to understand what Nathan was saying. Thinking back, that scene (with the translator) was really funny, so what was once trivial is almost non-existent, so Iíll move on to the other plot point that gave me pause, which was the truth behind Blaquesmith. The truth, for anyone interested is that [spoiler]heís not the real Blaquesmith[/spoiler]. Itís so far out of left field that Iím not sure what to think of it yet, but it may not come as a surprise for long-time Cable readers who had a problem with Blaquesmithís characterization in Soldier X #2.
Igor Kordey does a decent job on the art chores, per usual, though itís not as strong as his showing in the past six issues. He does an exceptional job on the backgrounds but thereís no specific page I can point at and say Ďnow thereís a great image!í as with all the other issues. Once Blaquesmith shows up, the character-detail is taken up a notch and Kordey closes the issue on a visual high note.
Macan, on the other hand, closes the issue on a hilarious note, Nathan and his Ďmentorí breaking the Fourth Wall in remembrance of the much revered Recap Page! Next issue will be Macanís last and Iím going to miss this incredible run as it seemed, to me, that the tone of Nathan Summersí current adventures, set by David Tischman over a year ago, fit Macanís writing style like a glove... even if he cut the fingers out to give it that quirky, irreverent edge.
Reviewer: Omar A. Safi, [email] Quick Rating: Great! Story Title: The Experts
Black Widow and Hawkeye are introduced in an action-packed raid on two New York offices!
Story by: Mark Millar Pencils by: Bryan Hitch Inks by: Paul Neary Colors by: Paul Mounts Letters by: Chris Eliopoulos Associate Editors: C.B. Cebulski and Brian Smith Editor: Ralph Macchio Editor in Chief: Joe Quesada President and Inspiration: Bill Jemas Publisher: Marvel
The time has come again and another issue of The Ultimates is upon us. The Ultimates #8 introduces the teamís next threat while being surrounded by misconceptions from the public fandom.
In the beginning, writer Mark Millar knocks the reader out with an ultra-cool volatile presentation of just exactly what S.H.I.E.L.D.ís black ops division really does. Finally, Black Widow and Hawkeye take the spotlight in leading an assault on two New York buildings. In a scenario similar to that of the movie version of Resident Evil, tons of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents storm the floors of the buildings taking no prisoners and gunning everyone down. Although, the reader begins to ask, why would members of an organization like S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Ultimates kill seemingly innocent lives merely working in their daily routine? Well, letís not be so quick to judge since Millar interestingly answers these questions later in the issue. The first misconception of this issue is the first full appearance of Hawkeye a.k.a. Clint Barton. Most people had already made the Ultimate Hawkeye out to be a Bruce Willis or Kevin Costner roughneck type of character, judging by preview images and news. Instead, Mark Millar and artist Bryan Hitch give us a younger and leaner Colin Farrell badass type of character. This misunderstanding is definitely not bad though. The composed and cool attitude of Hawkeye as the various teams swarm the floors of the building was simply fun to watch. Black Widow a.k.a. Natasha Romanov is an equally entertaining character. Her expertise in combat and willingness to put herself in jeopardy was admirable. With most of the Ultimates team in discord, Hawkeye and Black Widow are two new recruits who I look forward to seeing especially because of their ability to cooperate in a team.
After completing the mission, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury briefs the Ultimates team on their new global-scale nemeses at the Triskelion, or the Ultimates headquarters in New York. He also states that Black Widow and Hawkeye will be promoted to public status after excelling as leading agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In this meeting, the second misconception involved in this issue is the long-awaited arrival of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, children of Magneto and formerly members of the Brotherhood of Mutants, to The Ultimates. It was rumored and believed that this issue would present the brother and sister as having an incestuous relationship. Their behavior towards one another did not display any sexual attraction or love other than what the common brother and sister would display together. Perhaps the editorial team has restricted Millar to include this edgy situation. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (a.k.a. Pietro and Wanda Maximoff respectively) are currently within the Shadow Team of the Ultimates because of their previous association with terrorists. The division of teams in S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Ultimates is fascinating and logical when considering everything. Also, during this meeting Fury explains the presence of numerous alien species on Earth. Now it is the Ultimatesí duty to eliminate these extraterrestrial invaders, which some creatures were operating from the buildings which were attacked by Black Widow and Hawkeye. It seems like this dilemma from outer space might be a little too over-the-top but if anyone can pull if off it is Millar. In addition, these new anarmorphic alien species created by Millar, particularly the Chitauri, perhaps have taken the place of the Skrulls, which were supposed to appear in this arc.
The winding suspense of Captain Americaís (a.k.a. Steve Rogers) hunt for Giant Man (a.k.a. Dr. Hank Pym) because of Pymís brutal abuse to his wife, the Wasp (a.k.a. Janet Pym), is delved into. Capís intentions of what actions he will take to bring Pym to justice are unclear yet Fury gives Cap some surprising orders. It will be interesting to see what ensues with the pair.
Millar and Hitch deliver again yet have some mistakes. The issue itself is paced quite slowly when considering its place in the arc. Besides the beginning action scene, the rest of the issue merely introduces a plot and more for the reader to contemplate about. Millarís first arc took twists and turns with brilliant characterization matched by few. Second, the meeting at the Triskelion had a few confusing discussions which I believe referred to events in Ultimate War. A reader like myself who has not caught up with the events of Ultimate War would probably be slightly lost. Besides these criticisms, Millar crafts another excellent story.
Bryan Hitchís pencils never cease to amaze me. Although it is his duties that is causing The Ultimates to be late for quite some time, Hitch still manages to give his fans a pleasant helping of his art in return for the wait. Hitch does an impressive job during the battle scene, showing the frustration of the situation and the destructive environment, which seemed quite difficult for any artist. The couple of splash pages in this issue were extraordinary like the explosion at the office and Captain America confronting Giant Man, leaving a shocking cliffhanger. Panels like a close-up on Furyís face or freakishly cool decaying Chitauri corpse are also incredible. A mention should be given to the colors by Paul Mounts adding lighting effects which only benefit the total art package. The only feature of The Ultimates I at times do not enjoy are the covers which feature characters who are better placed on another issue. For example, the Hawkeye cover would be more appropriate for this issue than that of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.
The realistic and exciting feel of this book makes it one of Marvelís best ongoing titles. The Ultimates #8 is a dynamic and entertaining story which can compete with even movies like The Matrix because of its slick and sensational appeal.
ART: 4/5 STORY: 4/5 OVERALL: 4/5
Reviewer: Brian E. Wilkinson, [email] Quick Rating: Great! Story Title: Sleeping With The Fishes
As artist Sean Chen takes a bow on Wolverine, Logan takes on the mob!
Written by: Frank Tieri Cover by: Essad Ribic Penciled by: Sean Chen Inks by: Tom Palmer Colors by: Avalon Studioís Edgar Tadeo Letters by: Comicraft Assistant Editors: Warren Simons & John Miesegaes Editor: Axel Alonso Editor In Chief: Joe Quesada President: Bill Jemas
Well, this is it. Writer Frank Tieri and artist Sean Chen have wrapped their final arc on Wolverine. Though Tieri will return for a stand-alone issue next month featuring The Punisher, Chen wonít be adding his pencils to the mix.
Since he began on this title, Sean Chen has impressed me more than any other artist in the X-Men line over the past year. Not because his work is the best, but because his learning curve has been spectacular. When he began work, I thought his attention to detail, and especially his rendering of Wolverine, were the perfect look and fit on this title. Month after month, he put more effort, detail, and care into his work than I would have thought possible. Itís no wonder that Wolverine has been one of the sharpest looking X-Titles that Marvel produces and that fans have been flocking to the top-ten hit for some time.
And now heís leaving. This is always the best and worst part about changing a creative team on a title. In some ways, there is hope that a new writer and artist can bring a different angle on a character that many think has played itself out. In other ways, it is a feeling of sorrow like the passing of a friend. I look to the near future with both of these feelings as neither Tieri nor Chen will stray far from the Marvel canon.
Tieri will be continuing on with his pet project, Weapon X while Chen makes the pages of Elektra come alive as never before. If you crave the kind of action and excitement that these two men bring to comics, then be sure to pick up these books.
Oh, and by the way, if you get a chance congratulate Sean on his recent marriage!
This issue is a fitting departure of the two friends as it contains a fast paced plot, sharp dialogue, and a bit of the controlled mayhem that weíve come to expect from the pages of Wolverine. Itís not as action-oriented as some of the other recent issues, but it brings the book to a most satisfying conclusion.
Freddo is a putz. The mob-boss has sealed his own fate by breaking the deal he made with Logan in recent issues. By trying to force Logan to take one more job, Freddo has opened the possibilities for a struggle within and from without. Far sighted he is not.
Though the plot moves in a rather predictable fashion for the bulk of the issue, what makes it interesting is the creative dialogue Tieri has put into the book. Chen gets to stretch his story-telling muscles by conveying Loganís mood through his face and the inner torment within the mob community through their weapons.
The dialogue is fairly sparse throughout the issue, but one gets the feeling that when Tieri decides to have his characters speak that those words are of extreme importance. Besides, Wolverine is a man of action and lets his claws do the talking for him.
My favorite part of the book has to be the last page. Logan is driving off into the night, a satisfied grin on his face, and a full moon above him. Seemed oddly symbolic to me of the departure of the creative team, and that the new day ahead will bring change and new adventures. I donít know if it was intentional, but it works for me.
Second fav part? Had to be the revelation of Wolverineís connection to the Ďfriendí Freddo was holding hostage. Priceless stuff.
The only real complaint I had about this arc was in trying to fully understand Wolverineís motivation for aiding the mob as much as he did. I understand that he was trying to protect a man and his innocent daughter, but agreeing to murder the competition just seemed excessive. Logan is a noble man, and usually doesnít treat living beings so carelessly in his work as a hero. You could argue that these mob members are Ďscumí and had it coming, but if shows like The Sopranos are any indication, there is more than meets the eye.
Ignoring that complaint, as it mainly has to do with my own feelings of who Wolverine is at his core, this was an exciting and engaging story worthy of some of the best work that Chen and Tieri have produced on the title. They were given the job of setting Logan out on a brand new direction, with a new look, and with a new editor in Axel Alonso. They did all of it, and whatís more, they did it in style.
Wolverine will continue on. Next month sees a guest appearance by The Punisher with art from Terry Dodson (Generation X, Spider-Man/Black Cat) and the final script from Frank Tieri. The series will continue on and END with issue #189. After that, itís a whole new ballgame when Darick Robertson and Greg Rucka come onboard with a bigger, and badder, Wolverine #1.
Thereís plenty to look forward to and plenty of good stuff that has already been put out. Iíd just like to thank Sean for his fantastic work on this series and wish him all the best of luck in his life.
As for this issueÖ well, you should know that itís a must buy by now. Go get it!