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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Graphic Novels - Ultimate X-Men Vol. 3: World Tour

Well, it’s time to look at what the students at Xavier’s School for the Gifted are doing. When we saw them last, they had gone through a pretty crappy experience at the hands of Col. William Stryk… Wait, wrong piece of media. I meant to say that they were forced into service by Col. John Wraith. Because of some help from Brotherhood and Agent Nick Fury, they were able to head home. Today’s volume is their third one. It contains Ultimate X-Men #13-20, so you can tell this might be a long post.

The creative team for this volume is a little different. Mark Millar isn’t the only one writing this time. Writer Chuck Austen provides a little two-part story involving a fan favorite. The only things I know about Austen is that he is pretty infamous for his runs on Uncanny X-Men and Action Comics in the 2000’s. This should be fun! For the pencils, Adam Kubert does four issues, artist Chris Bachalo does two issues, and artist Esad Ribic does the two-parter written by Austen. The inkers are Danny Miki, Livesay, and Chris Bachalo.


“It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way” (Ultimate X-Men #15)
This story is essentially a day in the life for the X-Men. It's centered on an article that Xavier is writing in order to promote his own book. The article basically talks about the mutant condition. During his issue, we see the X-Men provide relief for anyone who needs it. Storm uses her powers to help grow crops, Jean uses her powers in order to help out the police, and Bobby hands food out to the homeless. We even get Beast talking to an adoring fan on the Internet…or is it? The biggest thing about this issue is the fact that Magneto is still alive. On a walk with Peter (Colossus), Xavier reveals that he has brainwashed Magneto into thinking he’s a normal human. We even see Erik helping out disabled human.  Xavier hopes to rehabilitate Erik through this.
Uh... I don't know, Charles...

This issue was pretty good. Millar dials things down a bit by centering on Xavier’s article. This issue basically prepares us for the rest of the trade since Xavier is heavily included. It’s cool to see the students relax a bit and use their abilities in order to help the world. We also get a few seeds planted for the rest of Millar’s run. As for Xavier’s actions regarding Magneto, I don't like it but I understand it. The artwork is really good here. Kubert’s art is at its best here and in the trade as a whole. The inks and colors are also really good in this issue unlike what we’ll see later. Overall, it’s awesome.

“World Tour” (Ultimate X-Men #16-19)
The X-Men are on a world tour promoting Xavier’s book and having a little fun along the way. They bust a couple of crimes while they are in London. A problem arises when Peter leaves the group unexpectedly. Xavier sends Jean and Scott to find him. Meanwhile, another problem arises on Muir Island. Moira McTaggart, Xavier’s ex-wife, calls and tells the team that their unstable son, David, has escaped. David is an extremely power mutant who can manipulate reality and jump into bodies. The X-Men as well as some government officials from European branch of SHIELD (STRIKE) find David at a Burger King in Anderaam. Let’s just say that it doesn’t turn out well especially for Wolverine.
In Russia, Jean and Scott find Peter. He reveals he left because he felt unappreciated and disagreed with Xavier’s weird ideals. The two try to talk Peter into coming back. They also try to see if he will help with a downed Russian submarine. It takes a while, but Peter eventually decides to help the downed sailors and re-join the team. In Germany, the rest of the team is still trying to find David. It’s here where we get a lot of backstory on Xavier when he and Erik were friends.  Xavier tells Agent Braddock about his life and David during dinner. Eventually, it’s revealed that David is in possession of Betsy's body.

David lets loose and starts to cause a lot of havoc in the city and on the X-Men. He tells Beast that Xavier manipulated Storm to be interested in him and he seriously injures Iceman. He even teleports Cyclops, Jean, and Colossus to his location from their plane. He then teleports himself and Xavier to the places the X-Men were going to visit and attacks them. When they teleport back to Germany, Agent Braddock is able to take back control of her body and… man, this art sucks. Anyway, she tells Xavier to kill her so David can be stopped but Xavier refuses on grounds that he’s a pacifist and it’s his son too. Colossus is ultimately the one who ends the battle by killing both David and Betsy. After Betsy’s funeral, Xavier tells Moira that he’s failed and that he’s going to disband the team when they return to the States.

This 4-issue arc is pretty decent. It’s not really good but it’s not horrible either. The main story of the X-Men going up against this Legion/Proteus combination is pretty good. The story is essentially a retelling of a storyline from Claremont’s and Byrne’s classic run on Uncanny X-Men. For those who don’t know, Legion is David Haller, Prof. Xavier’s illegitimate son. Proteus is Kevin McTaggart, the son of Moira and Joe McTaggart. I thought it was cool that Millar combined those two characters together. I also thought David Xavier was a good villain and provided a tough challenge.

It’s here where we really see that Professor Xavier is really flawed. It’s kind of tough to get behind a man who leaves his wife and son in order to hang around with the master of Magnetism. It’s also here where Xavier gets what’s coming to him (if you don’t like him, that is). The subplot of Peter leaving the team was good as well. We really hadn't seen him do much except for being the strong guy. Seeing the Ultimate version of Psylocke was cool but I wish she didn’t get killed off at the end. At least she went out fighting.


The artwork is where the story falls a bit. Kubert did the first two issues and Chris Bachalo did the last two issues. While Kubert’s stuff was pretty good, Bachalo’s stuff wasn’t that great. Most of the character designs didn’t sit well with me. I especially didn’t like David’s final look. He looked like one of those things from the Hellraiser movies or something. Now, I’m not saying that his art was completely horrible. There were some moments where the art was good. I also thought some of the coloring and inking was off with the last three issues. I don’t know if it’s my copy or what. Overall, the story’s good but the artwork drags it down a bit.

"Resignation" (Ultimate X-Men #20)
While the X-Men are away doing what they do best, Xavier leaves a note stating that he is disbanding the team. He also plans on reversing the brainwashing he did on Magneto. He heads to the park where Erik is just hanging out. The two then get into a long conversation about everything that happened in the last arc and about the war between humans and mutants. Eventually, Xavier sees that his experiment on Erik is beginning to work and this gives him the will to keep with his dream of peace. The X-Men are adjusting to some new developments. Bobby is still in the hospital suffering from his injuries and his parents have taken him out of the school. Jean and Scott continue to get closer and closer. Because of David’s supposed lie, Beast breaks up with Storm.
Wow, even Xavier knows that he's a bit of a creep.

This whole issue is as about as strong as the first issue. It’s kind of a skewed reflection of that issue. Instead of fighting for peaceful coexistence, Xavier basically wants to throw all of that away. He feels that he’s failed with his family and his students. The conversation between he and Erik is the high point of the issue and maybe even the whole trade. The artwork is also well-done here. The pencils, inks, and colors all look good here. It’s probably the best looking issue in the trade as a whole.


“Thief In the Night”/”Wild Card” (Ultimate X-Men #13-14)
(***By the way, the trade put these issues at the end, so that's why 13 and 14 are here***.)
We start out by seeing the Ultimate version of Hammerhead kill two people in New York City. The female's daughter sees them get gunned down from their car and is able to get away from the hard-headed gangster. We then run into the homeless street magician known as Remy LeBeau as he does a few tricks in order to get some hot chick’s phone number. After his act, the girl comes up to him and basically asks him to heal her mom since he’s a magician and what not. Remy decides to take the girl under his care until he can find someone to take care of her. The two don’t realize that Hammerhead has an eye out for them. The two form a bond while they’re together. When Hammerhead and his thugs kidnap her, Remy sets out to find the girl.
Remy busts a gangster hideout and finds out that a man named Silvermane is involved with Hammerhead. After this battle, Professor Xavier and Storm basically show up to tell Remy about the school and then leave like they were never their in the first place… yeah, I didn’t get that cameo. Anyway, Remy blows down Silvermane’s door to find out where Hammerhead is located. Later, he heads to Hammerhead’s hideout to save the girl. Hammerhead and his men are waiting for Remy, but the Ragin’ Cajun is prepared. A fight breaks out and Remy ultimately wins the day. After all is said and done, Remy takes the girl to a shelter and heads off into the night.

This story-arc was okay. It wasn’t bad, but there are a few things I don’t like about it. I really got annoyed with Gambit’s speech here. While I like that Austen did try to make Remy’s Cajun speech stick out, it was actually hard for me to read at times. Hearing that speech is one thing, but reading it is a whole different story. I also thought Xavier’s cameo was weird. It would have made more sense for it to be at the end, but it’s put in the middle of the story and there’s no payoff to it at all. Neither Xavier nor Storm is involved in Remy’s plot. We also never learn the name of the girl which was a little annoying.

Other than those noticeable things, I did like it. It was cool that we get to see a new version of Gambit. I also liked that we got to see him do some cool things with his powers. I also liked seeing him bond with the girl. Hammerhead was an alright villain, but I’m not a big fan of the character in the first place. The artwork is okay, but not great either. Overall, this issue is just okay and that’s fine by me. Besides, it’s Chuck Austen for cryin’ out loud!

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Overall, this is a nice trade. It isn’t perfect though. It was kind of hard for me to get behind Xavier because his morals are pretty questionable. I mean, this is a guy who decides to rehabilitate a mutant terrorist by brainwashing him instead of having that guy go to prison for a horrible crime. Still, it was cool to read about an Xavier who was really flawed. I wonder if it was stories like these that led Marvel to darken the Xavier in the 616-Universe. We had stuff happen in Astonishing X-Men (I’ll be getting there) and X-Men: Deadly Genesis (don’t know about that one) that put Xavier’s actions in a different light. The issues featuring Gambit were okay, but some (if not all) of the Cajun dialect got pretty annoying to read.

The artwork was good at times and bad at times. The Kubert issues were easily the high points. Ribic’s artwork for the Austen issues was decent but nothing too special. Bachalo was the weak point for me. Some of his art was not really good. I don’t know if it was the inks, colors, or just him. It just looked bad at times. It could be that I'm not a fan of his work. It's always turned me off from certain books.

Check this trade out if you're interested. Well, I have one more to get to before I go on a break. Peace, God Bless, and remember that pacifists can be creeps too.

NEXT TIME: PHOENIX (OH YES), WEIRD ART, AND A SUBPLOT THAT PROVES THAT CHAT ROOMS AREN'T THE PLACE FOR LOVE!!!

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