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411’s Comic Reviews: X-Men #3, Marauders #3, More

December 5, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
X-Men 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]!  

Marauders #3

Review by Jeremy Thomas

The first two issues of Marauders spent their time establishing two of the power players in the Hellfire Trading Company in Kate Pryde and Emma Frost, the Red and White Queens respectively, while also setting down the groundwork for what the book will be.  Gerry Duggan put a lot into making this feel like the mutant pirate tale that it is, to great results.

Well, an essential part of any great piracy story is intrigue: etrayal, machinations and maneuvering.  Issue #3, “The Bishop in Black,” introduces a new level of political gamesmanship to the story as it turns its attention to the third leader of the Hellfire Club in Sebastian Shaw.  Shaw is one of the essential X-Men villains and he’s largely been seen from the perspective of Emma in Marauders thus far.  Duggan and artists Michele Bandini and Elisabetta D’Amico twist the camera around to make Shaw our POV character, adding a new dynamic to this power struggle that pays off in spades.

Shaw has been on a bit of a low for quite some time, knocked off his pedestal of characters to take seriously as threats.  It’s a bit early to say that Duggan’s returned him to that perch, but there is definitely some progress made with the whole of the Shaw family here.  The story sees Sebastian dealing with his son Shinobi, who like all dead mutants has been brought back following his death in Matthew Rosenberg’s Uncanny X-Men run.

Getting inside the Black King’s head allows us to see him in a different light, which very much follows the general path of the Hickman-led run of the X-Men thus far.  The Black King isn’t willing to just stand by and let himself be walked on by his rivals; he has plans in play and we see them start to unfold in very interesting ways.

While much of the story’s focus is on the effective reconstruction of Shaw as a character, Duggan, Bandini and D’Amico also spare some time for effective worldbuilding.  We see a few new elements of how the greater Marvel Universe is dealing with the elevation of mutants that hearken back to the Grant Morrison New X-Men era.  And while our lead character in Kate is largely absent, another classic Tom Muller page gives us some interaction for her as she tries to build her own infrastructure within the Hellfire Trading Company.

“The Bishop in Black” continues Marauders’ status as the best of the Dawn of X books so far.  Shaw’s political moves are a great way to play with the complicated personal conflict aspect that has always been a key of the X-books, and his final page reveal sets up a hell of a potential conflict within Hellfire.  With Bandini and D’Amico’s clean artwork adding a lot in terms of character depth, Marauders #3 is another hit from this team.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

X-Men #3

Review by Jeremy Thomas

While most of the other Dawn of X books are focused on serial storytelling arcs, Jonathan Hickman is clearly enjoying the ability to tell episodic stories in the pages of X-Men.  And it’s nice to see him do it, too. Hickman is such a long game-style storyteller that you can see he clearly enjoys being able to tell shorter stories that explore the characters and contain fun little arcs, which will very likely play out in future months.

Anthology titles have both good and bad inherently baked into their DNA.  The variety of stories you can tell allows for a lot of flexibility; on the other hand, not all stories are equal. When you’re jumping on as many ideas as possible, you’re bound to run up against a few rougher ones.  “Hordeculture” is, in theory, an interesting tale. Cyclops, Emma and Sebastian Shaw are sent to deal with a threat to Krakoa’s bargaining power with the world; its prized flowers that the non-mutant world so desperately wants.  In doing so, they run across a surprising group who have their own designs on the world.  And those designs aren’t exactly compatible with those of the Krakoans – or the rest of the world, for that matter.

This is, without a doubt, the strangest of the three stories we’ve seen in Hickman’s X-Men book so far.  We’re introduced to Hordeculture, a quartet of villains who are, to say the least, not your standard spandex crew.  There’s a level of wackiness to them that is charming at the outset, but quickly becomes a bit grating, and their effectiveness against a team of veteran combat-ready mutants is tenuously believable at best. Sure, they’re villains, but Hickman sets them up as group that seems to be intended as charming and they don’t quite pull it off.

While their mannerisms aren’t the most endearing, Leinil Francis Yu’s artwork gives them an appropriate feel of oddness and menace.  Yu, who gets an inking assist from Gerry Alanguilan, is also fantastic at portraying the main cast members in play here, and the moments where the issue does shine – the interaction between characters like Emma and Jean, and even in the villains discussing their plans – the art shoulders its share of the burden admirably.  Sunny Gho and Rain Beredo’s coloring also pops where appropriate, showing off the beautify of the savage land as well as the desert of Australia (a waypoint for our mission team).

As it goes, “Hordeculture” isn’t a particularly bad issue of X-Men; mostly it suffers by virtue of it’s following up the generally excellent first two issues. Hordeculture as a group is entertaining and intriguing enough that they’re worth a second look, even if they don’t quite shine like they should here.  There are chinks in Hickman’s Dawn of X armor present in this issue, but they’re very small and likely easily forgotten as the series progresses.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10

Excalibur #3

Review by Jeremy Thomas

It’s taken a while, but Excalibur has finally brought all of its core team into the book.  The first two issues of Tini Howard and Marcus To’s magic-oriented Dawn of X title has had plenty of Captain Britain, Gambit, Jubilee, and •┤Ȧ├•, but there’s been a distinct lack of a character featured on the very first issue’s cover: Rictor.  While he doesn’t jump right into the action quite yet, “Three Covenants” finally brings our seismically powered mutant onto the team, while things get a bit crazy in Otherworld.

Howard spent the first two issues of Excalibur building up the conflict between Otherworld and Krakoa, caused by the encroachment of flowers into Avalon at the direction of •┤Ȧ├•.  With the majority of the team now in Otherworld, things can really ramp up.  Howard efficiently focuses the bulk of this issue’s storyline on the main group’s attempts to rescue Betsy’s brother Brian, while the bookending sequences deal with Rictor who appears to be in a bad way.  The result is a smooth pacing that doesn’t feel like the main arc is being bogged down, while still allowing us to see Rictor’s starting to be brought into the team.

Otherworld, much like most of Marvel’s magical realms, leans heavily into classic fantasy tropes.  Being in England, this of course means lots of fae, dragons, Arthurian elements, and all those elements that Western audiences consider to be classical fantasy.  Howard brings it all out to play, giving us a dynamic rescue sequence that To and colorist Erick Arciniega thrillingly bring to life.  Howard has done enough character development that sequences like this pay off nicely; there’s fun dragon hijinks and some high-stakes drama amidst all the sword swinging and mutant powers.

At the same time, Howard is happy to continue delving the fertile ground that is Excalibur’s lore.  Longtime fans will be familiar with the name of Black Air, which makes its presence known here. For newcomers, it’s pretty easy to figure out what they’re about, at least for the purposes of this story.

If I had any real issue to express with this issue, it’s that I’m not yet certain there’s a clear direction for the reader where this is headed.  It’s clear Howard knows where she’s going, and that’s the part that really counts, but there isn’t quite yet a thread of what it all means.  Part of that is because the book is so disconnected from the other titles, which is also very true to the old Excalibur’s style.

But in truth, that’s a minor issue at best.  There’s plenty of entertaining stuff here to keep readers enjoying the ride without needing to know exactly where it’s going to take them.  More importantly, the book is establishing its identity more and more, and that means newcomers to Excalibur are getting on an even playing field without having to feel lost. Even if we’re not super-clear how all these pieces are coming together, we can be confident buying into the road ahead, trusting Howard and To to lead the way.  Thus far, they’ve earned it.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Ghosts #1

Preview by Steve Gustafson

BOOM! Studios announced today JIM HENSON’S THE STORYTELLER: GHOSTS, a brand new four-issue comic book series based on the Emmy Award-winning classic television show, Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, presenting several extraordinary folk tales of life after death. The first story from cartoonist Márk László and letterer Jim Campbell (Coda) about the perils of getting entangled in a ghost’s affairs, available in March 2020.

In Scandinavian folklore, there exists a vengeful ghost known as the Myling. A man traveling at night comes across a haunting cry from within the forest. He enters it to find a spirit who demands to be carried to its proper burial site. The man agrees, but as he travels forth, the spirit’s grip tightens… it grows in size…and the man moves slower and slower. Can he unburden himself of this terrifying weight before it brings him down for good?

Undone by Blood or the Shadow of a Wanted Man #1

Preview by Steve Gustafson 

In the early 1970s, Ethel Grady Lane returns to her hometown of Sweetheart, Arizona with one thing on her mind: killing the man who murdered her family. But first, she’ll have to find him.

As Ethel navigates the eccentric town and its inhabitants, she learns that the quaint veneer hides a brewing darkness. She has no choice but to descend into a ring of depravity and violence, with her only ally an Old West novel that follows famed gunslinger Solomon Eaton. As both stories unfold simultaneously, a love of fiction informs choices in reality, for better or worse. 

From the minds of Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson (The Dregs, X-Men, HER INFERNAL DESCENT) and artist Sami Kivela (Abbot, Tommy Gun Wizards) comes a neo-western that depicts the hard truth of seeking vengeance in the real world.

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Season 2 #1

Preview by Steve Gustafson 

Eisner-nominated writer Jody Houser and Witchblade artist Roberta Ingranata return for a brand new story in the Thirteenth Doctor comic series.

An epic adventure spinning off the new season starting in the new year, starring Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor. With her pals, Ryan, Yaz and Graham, the Doctor encounters a familiar foe, and it’ll take a familiar face to stop them!

Lois Lane #6

Review by John Pumpernickel 

In a twist of the universe, I found Lois Lane #6 in my pull stack from my local comic book store and I took it to mean that I needed to read it.

Knowing the basics about Lois I didn’t think it would that difficult to jump in and see how they put a new spin on an established character. Overall it was a good read but it had its share of bumps in the road.  

I went back to read the promo for the issue and you can see right away that my timing was off. It goes:

Spinning out of the shocking last issues of Event Leviathan, Lois struggles to recover from a tragedy that shakes her to the core. Surrounded by her friends and family, the usually stoic reporter tries to rebound as she continues to chase a story that could alter the DC Universe forever.

I haven’t caught up on Event Leviathan so I was a little lost in what was going on but writer Greg Rucka did his best to keep the story moving for both new and old fans. The issue had some weighty moments but the real highlight is the art of Mike Perkins. Bad art can sink a title like Lois Lane but Perkins gives each page something to dig into. 

A good issue and makes me want to go back and see what I missed.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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