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411’s Comic Reviews: X-Force #3, Fallen Angels #3, More  

December 12, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
X-Force 3

Hello and welcome to 411mania’s weekly Comic Book Review! Each week we’ll be serving up a warm dish of reviews (and previews) from Marvel, DC, and anything else that captures our interest. What did you pick up this week? Let us know in the comments.Want to write a review? If you can write at least one review a week, consistently, email me at [email protected]!  

X-Force #3

Review by Jeremy Thomas

While it started out a little rough, it hasn’t taken long for X-Force to become neck and neck with several of its Dawn of X brethren in terms of an intriguing, engaging storyline.  The first couple chapters of the comic book have been devoted to detailing threats to the newly formed island of Krakoa, punctuated by the assassination of
Charles Xavier at the end of the first issue.

That event may have seemed a bit pre-emptive at first, but it was successful in driving right to the heart of this book; the fact that for all its utopian trappings, Krakoa needs someone willing to address threats both internal and external.  The latest issue, “The Skeleton Key,” completes the first act as the various members of Krakoa’s own CIA
are assembled at last.

While Benjamin Percy has done a nice job pacing this book and it’s hard to see how the story could have gotten to this point any sooner, one of the big joys of this issue is seeing the members of the team come all together.  It does take them a while to get there; in the meantime, Quentin Quire and Wolverine again make a delightful team, as they try to rescue Domino.  The opening sequence is entertaining and horrifying all at once, thanks to artist Joshua Cassara doing a bang-up job on the gruesome state Domino is found in.  At the same time, he and Percy manage to fit a few emotional beats in that resonate well.

The set-up here kicks some plot elements up a notch, even as it moves to address the question of Xavier’s fate. There’s a lot of intrigue to be had here, as befitting a book about shadowy intelligence organizations, and Percy inserts a lot of nuance while putting plenty of interesting character dynamics into play. We learn a little about our main antagonists, with Cassara and Percy providing some great visual mirrors between the X-Force team and those who oppose them.

There are, to be fair, a couple elements that don’t work quite as well as we might want.  The resolution of Domino’s rescue is a little too deus ex machina, as fun as it is. The Xavier resolution is a little too clean as well.  But those little complaints are minor dings at best, and it’s hard to be too mad at a book that’s this much fun.  With “The Skeleton Key,” X-Force has officially found its direction and is confidently moving forward.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

New Mutants #3

Review by Jeremy Thomas
New Mutants has been, to say the least, killing it in its return so far.  Jonathan Hickman and Ed Brisson got this series off to a strong start with its tale of the original New Mutants heading out to space in order to bring one of their own home.

The fact that the first two issues have been as good as they’ve been may well work against the favor of New Mutants #3, “To the Grave.” While the spacefaring mission is not resolved, Hickman takes a break this week and leaves Brisson to head back to Earth for a very different team of the younger generation. 

The new arc focuses in on Armor and Glob, two fan favorite young mutants who have their roots in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run, as they head out to their own mission to retrieve two of their own.  The mutants in question are Beak and Angel Salvadore, who Armor, Glob and a small group of tagalongs set out to locate.  Of course, it’s not as simple as that, and while things start off well, they start to turn a little sideways shortly after they arrive at their destination.

I have no illusions about the fact that this issue will be a very frustrating issue for some.  We’ve just now gotten a real emotional investment in the Hickman storyline, only to switch gears for a narratively similar but otherwise very different story.  Brisson’s take on bringing a comrade home is more subdued in its humor.  However, while Hickman is an absolute scholar and a master of long-term, epic plotlines, Brisson is better when it comes to capturing the humanity of characters.  And that works to great lengths here.  Beak and Angel are far from the most popular young X-Men, but they are part of an essential era for the mutants and Brisson does a great job of making us feel for them.

Brisson’s storyline is also a strong fit for the artist for this issue, Flaviano.  Flaviano did fantastic work on the Soska Sisters’ Black Widow series, and he captures a softer, more cartoon-esque feel to these characters than Rod Reis did with the New Mutants (with the possible exception of Rahne). It’s well-designed to draw us in between the character designs, and a stellar coloring job by Carlos Lopez gives it a warmth that is hard not to enjoy.

At its core, “To the Grave” is every bit the story of family that the first two issues of New Mutants is, even as it involves a totally different lineup within the same book.  It’s a fair bet to say that there’s more affection among large swaths of the X-Men fandom for the classic New Mutants than these, also appreciated characters, and that could cause some resentment for this story.  That would be unfortunate, because there’s as much to like here as there is in the first couple of issues.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10

Fallen Angels #3

Review by Jeremy Thomas

The further we get into Bryan Edward Hill and Szymon Kudranski’s Fallen Angels, the more I find myself wondering about the purpose of this comic.  I had made no bones about the fact that I was looking forward to seeing Hill and Kudranski tackle a book with Kwannon at the head, and I was excited to see more of the relative blank slate that is her past explored.  It’s a potentially fertile ground for examining exactly who Kwannon, a character who has always been little more than a plot device in service to Betsy Braddock, actually is as her own person.

It’s becoming clearer with each issue that this is not the primary direction that Hill wants to take with the story.  And that’s fine. There are plenty of ways to discovering who you are, and there’s no doubt that Psylocke can learn as much about who she is as a mentor to Kid Cable and X-23.  But this book doesn’t seem to be interested in doing that very much either.  And when it does, it becomes increasingly pointed how much of a blank slate Laura and Teen Nathan are being written as here.

All of this is to say that after Issue #2 made a few inroads of progress from the sketchy first issue, this issue, “Seppuku,” gives it all back and then some.  The story sees Kwannon and Laura discover some very harsh truths about the tactics that the series antagonist Apoth is using for his fighting force, while Kid Cable gets a bit lost in a rather
contrived fashion mid-fight and learns a few things of his own about their enemy.

The way that “Seppuku” advances the Apoth narrative leans back into the trope we saw in issue #1 of children, a plot and thematic device that can work in the right instances. This isn’t it.  It’s easy to see what Hill is trying to do here.  Kwannon is taking on the aspect of a parental figure of sorts to Kid Cable and Laura, and as unnecessary as that is (they both have families and Nathan in particular is in the middle of a loving family right now), it ties into a lot of what Kwannon is dealing with.  The Tom Muller-style chart pages are devoted to prose that discuss a philosophy of self-isolation, in contrast to the unity of both Krakoa and Apoth.  It’s stark individuality in opposition to the loss of self.

The thing is, this book buries itself so deep in philosophical nonsense about the self that, ironically, it’s lost all sense of its own characters.  Kid Cable is basically being portrayed consistently between this and Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men; I’m not the biggest fan of that portrayal, but it works.

Laura, not so much.  One issue that ignores a lot of core aspects of who she is could be a one-off mistake.  Two issues where it happens, I consider if I’m misreading it.  By the third issue in, I’m certain that it’s not me.  Hill has stripped out all of Laura’s competence and sense of who she is as a person so that Kwannon can have a need to instruct her in awkward, mid-fight battles.  If I could believe this is leading somewhere interesting for Kwannon, I would be okay with it.  But there’s nothing filling me with confidence of that at this point.

The other part of this series that has lacked, the art, also has its issues amplified here.  Kudranski gets a couple panels of dynamic action right, but then everything else falls flat.  I like Kudranski’s work on other books; he was a fantastic fit for his Punisher run with Matthew Rosenberg.  Here, he just seems to be completely lost.  Cut and paste art abounds in here, everything is so draped in shadow that the motif has lost its impact, and his facial work is downright terrible in a couple of spots – notably, the last panel of Kwannon that makes her look like she belongs in some grandmother’s creepy doll collection.

This book is, put simply, incredibly frustrating.  Even knowing where it looks to be going isn’t a help, because any potential good is weighed down by the apparent fact that this book is ending in February to be replaced by the newly announced Hellions.  The few moments that the book works, like the elements of body horror, are done better elsewhere in Dawn of X and Apoth, who started out as an interesting idea, is turning into another generic villain with a MacGuffin evil technology.  I’m seeing this through to the end, but right now that’s only because I know there isn’t that much further left to go.

Rating: 3.5 out of 10

Firefly: The Outlaw Ma Reynolds

Preview by Steve Gustafson

BOOM! Studios, in partnership with 20th Century Fox, revealed a first look at FIREFLY: THE OUTLAW MA REYNOLDS, an oversized special one-shot written by acclaimed writer Greg Pak (Ronin Island), artists Davide Gianfelice (Nightwing) and George Kambadais (The Black Ghost), colorist Joana Lafuente (Jim Henson’s Labyrinth), and letterer Jim Campbell (Abbott, Coda), about the singular person who shaped Captain Malcolm Reynolds into the fearsome Browncoat and fearless leader he is today—his mother.
Captain Malcolm Reynolds—thief, smuggler, resistance fighter, and now captain of a crew of outcasts all the way on the farthest reaches of the ‘verse—wasn’t born an outlaw but he comes by it honestly. Turns out, his mother, the infamous Maude Reynolds, is at the top of the Alliance’s Most Wanted, and if Mal doesn’t get to her first, the Alliance will! Kicking off a new year of Firefly, discover the secret history of Mal and his mother, what that will mean for the rest of the ‘verse…and a new brewing war to end all wars.


Artemis and the Assassin #1

Preview by Steve Gustafson 

What happens when a time-traveling assassin and a spy from 1944 try to kill each other?

For a price, a top-secret assassination organization will travel through time and interfere with watershed moments. Trained as the agency’s top assassin, Maya is sent to kill Virginia Hall, the deadliest spy of WWII. Charged with carrying important plans about the invasion of Normandy to the allied troops, Virginia’s death would have a cataclysmic effect on WWII as we know it.

Written by Stephanie Phillips (Butcher of Paris, DESCENDENT), with art by Meghan Hetrick and Francesca Fantini, colors by Lauren Affe, and letters by Troy Peteri, Artemis and the Assassin is a pulpy adventure story about the cost of changing history.

Origins #1

Preview by Steve Gustafson 

BOOM! Studios announced ORIGINS, a brand new original graphic novel by Arash Amel (A Private War), Joseph Oxford (Me + Her), and Lee Toland Krieger (The Age of Adaline), acclaimed writer Clay McLeod Chapman (Absolute Carnage: Separation Anxiety) and illustrator Jakub Rebelka (Judas), that presents a stunning view of a future where humanity’s last hope may be the person who created its destruction, available in October 2020.

One thousand years after humans have become extinct and replaced by artificial intelligence, a single man is brought back to life – David Adams, who created the technology that destroyed his people. Even with the help of the same android who revived him, Adams may not be enough to reignite the spark of humanity – and stop the AI overlords who plan to eliminate mankind permanently. Now Adams embarks on the greatest journey of his life, as he seeks to find redemption for his biggest mistake and discover if humanity can – or should – have any kind of future.

 Conan 2099 #1

Review by John Pumpernickel 

Before you roll your eyes at the thought of seeing Conan the Barbarian headlining a 2099 book, you might want to give this a read first. It’s not perfect but it comes off way better than you’d think. I have to admit that I had my doubts when I picked this one up but I like to experiment with my reading and strange mash-ups especially peak my interest. 

Robert E. Howard’s Conan has had a pretty eventful year and this book caps it all off in style…

In the far flung future of 2099, will barbarism finally triumph over an endangered civilization?  When CONAN THE BARBARIAN entered the Marvel Universe with the SAVAGE AVENGERS, he stayed to conquer and claim his kingship in modern times.  Now cursed by a mystic to live beyond his years, when Conan’s new kingdom is threatened, he swings his blade once more!  But as the calamity in 2099 bears down on his secluded realm, will the future shock unseat the barbarian king?  An unforgettable chapter unlike anything you’ve ever seen in the saga of Conan!

Writer Gerry Duggan and artist Roge Antonio have a firm handle on the character and layout a believable premise for the book. It’s an easy, fun read with the only real drawback is perhaps too quick a read. We have plenty to explore in this new world and I’m along for the ride to see where they take it. 

Rating: 8.0 out of 10

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