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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Graphic Novels - Ultimate X-Men Vol. 2: Return to Weapon X

This installment of Graphic Novels is brought to you by Robocop, another remake and more of a sign that Hollywood wants to relive the 80’s. They've even dragged Nick Fury, Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and Rorschach into it as well.

Well, it’s another day and another Ultimate Universe trade. Instead of Ultimate Spider-Man, which I’ll get to eventually, it’s another issue of “Marvel’s Not-So-Merry mutants”: the X-Men. It’s the second volume of the series and it contains Ultimate X-Men #7-#12. The creative team for the issues is more or less the same. Writer Mark Miller and penciller Adam Kubert are back. This time, Kubert is assisted by Tom Raney and Tom Derenick for penciling the issues. On inks, Art Thibert is back with assists from Danny Miki, Larry Stucker, and the late Joe Kubert. With all of that said, let’s get to it!

SYNOPSIS
We start the story with an extended chase between Nightcrawler (!!!!) and a group of soldiers who look like they’re working for SHIELD. It's eventually revealed that the Weapon X program was sanctioned by SHIELD in this universe. Kurt is soon captured by the organization and the head is none other than Colonel Wraith, the man responsible for capturing Logan in the first volume. We then shift scenes to an abandoned Weapon X facility in Arizona. Logan is checking it out and searching for clues to his past. He’s also in telepathic contact with Xavier. At the Mansion, Jean is doing a checkup on Hank since his big operation.

We then go across the world and find out what Storm, Cyclops, and Colossus are up to. They’re apparently being interviewed by a Japanese pop star. The X-Men have actually become celebrities in Japan. They even sign some autographs. It’s here where some hooded figure brushes up against Peter to find the location of the Mansion. This person is none other than Rogue (!!!) and she is working (against her will of course) with Wraith in order to force the X-Men join Weapon X.

Sometime later, Wolverine and Cyclops go over to a Russian mobster’s apartment to tell the guy to leave Colossus alone. Elsewhere, everyone else is living life. Ororro and Hank are getting pretty close and Jean is playing around with her powers. After helping out with Peter, Logan sets off again into the sunset. After another “Xavier is a Jerk” moment involving mindwiping Bobby Drake, the Mansion is attacked by the Wraith and his team of mutants. Nightcrawler, Rogue, the Juggernaut, and Sabertooth (!!!!) knock out all of the X-Men and Xavier.
It's the Juggernaut, ... sucksa!!!!

We then shift to a completely different scene and artist. We join Colonel Nick Fury (as not played by Samuel L. Jackson) in Delhi, India. Fury’s hunting down some terrorists who are experimenting in some illegal genetic manipulation. “Fighty McFightenstein” (TM Andrew Leyland) ensues and Fury kicks some terrorist butt. Unfortunately, he and his backup team are taken down by some unknown entity. At Weapon X Headquarters, General Thunderbolt Ross (another d-bag) informs Wraith of the situation. It’s here where Ross and the reader find out that Wraith has been experimenting on and training the X-Men to fight for Weapon X. He also tells Ross that Xavier is dead.

Man, I think animals get better treatment than these guys get!

We catch up with the captured X-Men and find out that they aren’t doing well. We also find out that the team has homing devices embedded in them and they’ll go off if they try to escape. As they argue with the other captured mutants, Jean tries to use telepathy in order to communicate with Nightcrawler who still only speaks German. It’s here where we find out that Weapon X has done more experiments on Beast which results in him looking more blue and bestial. Sometime later, Weapon X makes the X-Men and Nightcrawler assist in a mission that’s supposed to save Nick Fury and eliminate the unknown threat. Through Wraith, we also find out that Xavier isn’t dead and that Wraith wants to use him and Cerebro to find mutants. This part ends with Logan off somewhere coming up with a plan.

In India, Storm, Nightcrawler, Jean, and Cyclops prepare to attack the terrorists’ facility. They easily break down the security. In another area of the country, Iceman, Beast, and Colossus have to save Nick Fury. The three heroes are able to save Fury and look good doing it. Back at the complex, Cyclops and Nightcrawler find the unknown force and it’s a basically a big, genetically engineered mutant. It actually reminds me of Krakoa a little bit. Anyway, the guys brought some bombs and teleport out of there when the bombs destroy the big mutant.

In another part of the facility, Jean and Storm find the man responsible for the big mutant. Instead of arresting him, Wraith then wants Jean to kill the man. Jean refuses at first, but when Wraith activates a homing device in Scott that will kill him, Jean kills the scientist. Back at Weapon X HQ, Jean is upset about the whole thing. Bobby starts to crack up (figuratively), but Peter tries to console him. He even tells him that Logan will do everything in his power to help them. At that moment, Sabertooth shows up and tells them that Logan has been captured. In another part of Weapon X, Wraith and his scientists prepare to use Xavier (who’s strapped up to all sorts of wires) as a weapon.

The story shift scenes again. This time, we’re in Kuwait and it’s eleven years ago. We see the first meeting between Nick Fury and Logan (known as Weapon X at this time). Fury and some soldiers were carting Logan through the desert when they are attacked. The soldiers are killed except for Fury who loses an eye. Logan escapes from his cage and kills the terrorists who attacked them. Logan then takes Fury back to their headquarters and he’s locked back up. In the present day, Fury is back at his apartment where he gets a message from someone.

 This looks good. Very good.

Back at Weapon X HQ, Jean tells the captured Logan that she now understands what he had went through at the hands of Weapon X. She also apologizes to him for not taking him seriously. In another part of the complex, Wraith is in a meeting via Skype (lol) with Ross and SHIELD. Ross tells Wraith that Weapon X will be shut down soon. Wraith tries to reason with them but it does no good. Wraith then decides to kill them all by blowing up the place where Ross and the SHIELD guys are meeting at.

Outside, Sabertooth and some soldiers torture Logan. It’s then revealed to Sabertooth and the rest of Weapon X that Logan had a tracking device in him. Suddenly the power goes out and the captured mutants start to escape. A soldier threatens to blow their homing devices up when the devices are teleported out of the captured mutants. It’s revealed that the Brotherhood has come to kick some human butt.
So, those were supposed to be in their bodies... Ew.

Back with Sabertooth and Logan, the soldiers leave to help with the breakout. This leaves Wolverine and Sabertooth to finally go at it. As those two fight, the X-Men and the Brotherhood tear up the complex. Wraith and Dr. Cornelius are checking up on Xavier. Since the power is down, this means Xavier will soon wake up. Wraith puts a stop to that by shooting Xavier in the chest and leaves. Cornelius (who’s actually starts to act like a decent human being) decides to help Xavier. Beast soon joins Cornelius and they work to save Xavier.

After the battle is won, The Brotherhood wants Colossus to destroy the complex. Jean stops him from doing that. The Brotherhood as well as some of the X-Men argues with her, but Jean basically tells them that killing the SHIELD agents wouldn’t be the right thing to do. All of the X-Men agree except for Storm who’s still mad about what happened to Hank. Wraith escapes in a helicopter and Storm strikes it with lightning. Luckily, Nightcrawler teleports up there and saves Wraith.

Afterwards, Wraith tries to kill Kurt, but he is then shot and killed by Fury. Fury and SHIELD are here and ready to clean up. The Brotherhood and the X-Men are ready to battle, but Fury tells them that SHIELD is only here for the rogue agents. Wolverine finally shows up and tells both teams that he contacted Fury and told him about the situation. With everything cleared up, the mutants head off. At the Mansion, we see that Xavier is healing just fine. In a conversation with Jean, we find out that the other mutants went with the Brotherhood and that Nightcrawler went home to Bavaria. We end the trade with a shocking revelation that Xavier didn’t kill Magneto in the first volume.
Wow... I do think Xavier's still suffering from that crap. He may even be smoking some of that stuff out in the garden!

OPINION
This was actually a pretty good read. It was actually better the second time I read it. It does have a couple flaws, but it's good overall. It also only cost me 5 bucks which is awesome. I guess I can start by saying that the artwork is pretty good. Adam Kubert’s work in this volume is a lot better that what he did in the first arc where I basically said his brother’s (Andy) work was better than his. His art really popped out to me when I saw his father (Joe) ink the Kuwait scene. It’s a good scene in general, but the artwork is what sold it.

The other pencillers do a good job. Tom Raney was pretty good. Tom Derenick was okay though. His artwork didn’t feel as consistent with the other two. He basically drew the Wolverine and Beast from the regular Marvel Universe. Still, I don’t have too many complaints with the art. I did think the many inkers and some of the coloring helped the overall art seem a little inconsistent, but it wasn’t horrible or anything.

The story is a good one. We get to see relationships develop and the team get a little closer. Their voices also get to sound more distinct from one another. We get another “Xavier is a jerk” moment, but it is actually one that was needed because Bobby’s a blabbermouth. Wolverine was cool and less douchy than he was in the first arc. Actually, that might be why I liked this story a little better. The relationships are forming and characters are growing.

I did think it was weird to have the X-Men get captured this early in their series. I guess it would happen eventually especially since this the "modern" world. It was interesting to see the X-Men locked up for most of the story. Seeing them react to this type of thing was out of the ordinary. Stryker… I mean, Col. Wraith was a good villain. While the first arc had the worst of mutants in Magneto, we get to see the worst of humans in Wraith.

I’ll go on and say that Wraith really reminded me a lot of Col. Stryker from X2: X-Men United. This whole story actually feels like a darker version of that movie. I mean, you have Logan looking for Weapon X, Weapon X is forcing mutants to work for them, the Mansion is attacked, and there is an X-Men/Brotherhood team-up. I wonder if Bryan Singer read this as well in preparation for the second X-Men film. I also enjoyed seeing the other mutants like Nightcrawler, Rogue, and even Sabertooth. I really enjoyed seeing a pre-SLJ Nick Fury here as well.

HIGHLIGHTS
Finally, here are my highlights of the book. There aren’t too many, but the ones I’m listing are noteworthy ones.

-Nightcrawler
Kurt Wagner makes his debut in the Ultimate Universe here. This isn’t the “Funny Elf” guy though. It’s the “I kill you, #$$*%*$*#!!!!” version because it’s hardcore and what not. We do eventually find out that he is a good soul that has just been through a lot of crap in his life.

-Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD
Or should I say … NICK FURY, AGENT OF SHIELD!?!?! THAT’S RIGHT! THIS DUDE IS ONE BAD BROTHER FROM ANOTHER MOTHER! HE… wait, he’s not looking like SLJ yet, so my SLJ impersonation must wait for a while. In all seriousness, it was just cool to see Nick Fury in an X-Men book. It doesn’t matter which universe it is. It’s just cool.

-Logan’s and Fury’s first meeting
The flashback scene to Kuwait was a pretty good scene. We and Fury get to see that Logan is not an animal but a man. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see Logan be treated so well at the end of that flashback. Another thing that makes the scene so awesome is the inks by Joe Kubert. Kubert was known for his work on the war comic, Sgt. Rock. His inks worked well with his son’s pencils. The colorists also did a good job with that scene as well.

-Wolverine vs. Sabertooth
A fight between these two is always awesome even when it’s regulated for the kids. This fight was pretty brutal. They get cut, thrown into things, cut, bruised, and cut. The finishing blow to Sabertooth is a favorite of mine.

-X-Men/Brotherhood team-up
Yeah, I’m throwing their little team-up at the end on here. It’s cool to see the two opposing teams work together for once. These humans deserved to get their butts kicked. It may be the first inkling of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch playing with the good guys.

……………………………………

Well, that’s all I got for today. Do I recommend it? Of course I do. It’s a good story with some decent art. If you like the X-Men and want to see what the Ultimate Universe had to offer in its early years, check it out. Well, I’m outta here. Peace, God Bless, and don’t work for any evil, hidden organizations. It's not really nice.

NEXT TIME: STAR TREKKING!!!

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