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Bi-Polar Graphic Novel Review: Astonishing X-Men Vol. 2 and Chronicles of Some Made

See, because they’re from two different poles of the comics industry!

Astonishing X-Men Vol. 2 Hardcover- I really liked the parts where they weren’t on the stupid alien planet. Between Kitty playing Wolverine’s role in the original Hellfire Club story, to Wolverine as the prissy kid from Origin (and Cassady’s hilarious facial expressions for him), to Cyclops casually shooting the villains, the opening arc had some great moments. I’ll never be able to see Sebastian Shaw in a panel without wanting to see Colossus punch him in the face again, although I think I always wanted to see that anyway, and Whedon was just really pandering to me.

Speaking of pandering; that’s a lot of what this comic’s built on. Not just Whedon’s scripts (peppered with Star Wars references where there probably shouldn’t be so many Star Wars references), but the whole idea of letting him do a love letter to the X-Men in the first place. We read the same X-Men comics growing up (X-Men Classic was a hell of a drug when you were 12 years old in the ’90s), so I’m not objecting, but I do feel like I should be honest about why I was there.

The Agent Brand/Maria Hill ovary measuring contest was also pretty awesome, if only because they are functionally the same character, although Brand’s later Beast-ialty distinguishes her a bit. To be fair, I’ve barely read any of Hill’s appearances; maybe she’s less of a total stereotype outside of that small sample size. She did have one of the few genuinely cool scenes in Secret Invasion, so there’s that in her favor, too.

Once we get to Breakworld, things become less fun, especially since I knew what was coming in the climax. To be fair, while I don’t like how he did it, I do have to give Whedon credit for not making Kitty’s death by giant space bullet seem tacked on, which is one up on the deaths at the end of Morrison’s run. The stuff with the rest of the Marvel Universe in the finale did, but it leads to some great scenes. I’ll take Whedon written Spider-Man and Cassady drawn everyone where I can get it.

That was pretty much how I feel about the run as a whole. The plot was shaky, and the pacing pretty much killed it for me in serialization, but Whedon absolutely nailed the character work, which redeems the wonkier parts of the book for me. It’s not the absolute classic I was hoping for when I first learned my favorite genre TV visionary was following my favorite comics writer on my favorite superhero team franchise, the good outweighed the bad in the final accounting. Well, for me. If nothing else, I can see why they promoted Hisako to the team; she’s one of the better new mutants in years.

So, I’m glad I caught up on this run, especially since I was able to skip that dumb ass Danger arc and still enjoy the rest of it. Sure, Danger shows up again, but it’s a background character that serves as mass transport. More characters that annoy me should suffer that fate. So, yeah, I want Maria Hill to give Tony Stark and Pepper piggy back rides in Invincible Iron Man. Get on that, Fraction!

Chronicles of Some Made- I’ve been struggling with what to say about Felix Tannenbaum’s GN since I read it last month. Site policy is to review all review copies we get, and I felt like it deserved some attention. I just haven’t been happy with the ideas I had in response to it.

It’s not that it was a hard read. Far to the contrary, actually. That’s the problem, though; I feel like I’m shortchanging the book when the only adjectives I can think to describe it are “sweet” and “pleasant”. It’s the story of two robots fighting their programming. A story with that kind of premise could go a lot of predictable ways, but it’s neither a sci-fi epic or an existential meditation. It’s a little of the latter, but not enough to make it tedious.

It actually has a fairly ambiguous ending on the existential front, which Tannenbaum laments in the afterword. That ending also features a squirrel run hot dog cart, so I think things even out.

The best compliment I can pay this book is that it reminds me a fair bit of Craig Thompson’s first graphic novel, Goodbye Chunky Rice. Tannenbaum’s not as accomplished a cartoonist as Thompson was at this stage of his career, and the subject matter in both books is fairly different, but I found that they elicited similar reactions.

Tannenbaum’s art is solid and readable black and white work. He tells his story with absolute clarity, even when using a 16 panel grid. Given that he’s using robots as main characters (and that squirrels are the supporting cast), he doesn’t have a lot of chances to show a range of expressions or use body language, although his robots aren’t emotionless. The designs of the robots is utilitarian; they don’t look like a bad ass mecha or pulp sci-fi characters, but they aren’t totally generic.

The book also features the strip “Why Doesn’t My Robot Love Me: A Cautionary Tale” a story created for an Institute of Cartoon Studies scholarship contest. The author himself makes a cameo; he resembles Henry Rollins. It’s a nice back up feature, basically.

If it sounds like something you’d be interested, Some Made is listed on Amazon. You can read a preview here. It’s not my usual fare, and I’m not sure I’d have paid for it, but it is a solid read from the indies that isn’t going to cover you in cynicism or angst, and if nothing else, you may want to grab it via your LCS now before Diamond laughs this sort of thing out of their circulation.

If nothing else, dude got some Ninja Turtle money in the form of a Xeric grant, so that’s worth some respect.

6 Comments

I’m rereading my X-Men Classics right now, and they ARE drugtastic, but something to note is just how many Star Wars references there are in Claremont’s original run. That is to say, there are a lot of Star Wars references in Claremont’s original run.

“Dumb ass Danger arc”? Tell me you did not love Xavier trying to kick its ass.

“To be fair, I’ve barely read any of Hill’s appearances; maybe she’s less of a total stereotype outside of that small sample size. She did have one of the few genuinely cool scenes in Secret Invasion, so there’s that in her favor, too.”

Maria Hill is getting a new lease on life (or at least on characterization) in Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man.

I just reread the Whedon run recently and I agree that if you try to describe the plots they sound pretty lame, but I think that he always manages to pull them off, mostly because of his excellent dialogue and character development.

I actually enjoyed the Danger arc, and even when they were on the Breakworld I though he kept things interesting except for the ending, which I thought wasn’t as good as the rest.

And he made Cyclops a badass character, which would seem impossible years ago

Agreed on Astonishing X-Men. I’m firmly entrenched as one of those massive Whedon fans, but his work there was pretty hit-and-miss. I enjoyed a lot of it, particularly the characterization and dialogue, but I couldn’t help but feel it was a huge step backward following Morrison’s take on the series. And it also ended with the 1,001st “X-Men in Space” story, a concept I’ve always hated and always will. However, the “New Hellfire Club” story before that was really solid, and probably the highlight of his and Cassaday’s run.

Well, in Invincible Iron Man #10 Maria Hill does give Tony a ride, but its not exactly piggy back…

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