Saturday, March 31, 2012

Comic Review -- Uncanny X-Men #9 / Kieron Gillen, Carlos Pacheco, Cam Smith, and Guru eFX

I like the cover for this issue.  It's dynamic, not too crowded or busy, and it's always nice to see team-ups between groups of superheroes.  The composition is particularly satisfying for me, as you've got eight bodies on one page, which could be potentially taxing visually, but they're spaced very logically.  Iron Man and Magneto are back to back, knocking each of their opponents off-screen, while Cap in the front and Magik in the back do similarly with their opponents.

I know I've been on a warpath lately about banners (DC, I'm looking at you), but this one's not as much of an issue for me.  Sure, I'm not crazy about it, but I'm willing to give it a pass because it's advertising an upcoming in-comics event.  An event that's already been ridiculously promoted and which you can't go anywhere without hearing about, but hey, what are you gonna do?

Incidentally, I don't know what creatures the heroes are fighting on this cover.  Someone with more knowledge, please feel free to fill me on in whose butts they're kicking.  I would appreciate it.

The story begins with some observations from Danger, who is essentially Magik's jailer when she's not out on missions with the X-Men.  Her reservations about continuing Illyana's imprisonment are shared by Colossus, who starts to voice this to the X-Men leaders when a distress call from S.W.O.R.D. gives them an urgent mission to perform.  The Peak, S.W.O.R.D.'s prison for intergalactic fugitives, has been sabotaged in cataclysmic fashion, and several dangerous groups of criminals fall to various points in the Earth's surface.  The X-Men quickly take out a group of aliens in Nevada, and then agree to team up with the Avengers to take on multiple threats across the western hemisphere.

Meanwhile, a creature by the name of Unit, who is presumably the one who engineered the Peak's explosion, has landed in Canada, where he murders two human beings after cutting one of them open to see how they work.  After Hope Summers joins up with her team and teleports to his location, he sends the rest of them away and talks about how excited he is to meet her.  The issue ends with him advancing on her in a manner menacingly reminiscent of how he approached the man he dissected.

This was an enjoyable issue for several reasons.  First off, it was fun to see the Avengers and the X-Men teaming up and coordinating, even if the actual team-up was confined to just four panels spread out over two pages.  It's always interesting to see how such a diverse assemblage of skills and power sets can be blended to solve the more powerful problems.  And given that these two groups are scheduled to throw down on one another soon in AvX, you can bet this will be the last time they cooperate for a while.

Unit, the antagonist of this issue.
Unit is also an interesting character.  At times he seems virtually android-like in his detachment from emotional concerns, but he gets excited when meeting humans, and then mutants for the first time.  He seems to be able to make people do exactly what he says, and can spontaneously kick out a powerful mutant signature whenever he wants.  He looks, as one character put it, like an iPhone redesign, but he's clearly shown himself to be powerful and dangerous.  There's a lot of potential use for a character like this, and while I don't expect him to last very long in this story, he could be of interest down the road.

Finally, there's plenty of internal drama on the X-Men team, and while it doesn't take center stage, it's given various glimpses enough to show that some issues, like Illyana's imprisonment and Emma's recent trauma enduring the near-loss of her arm, won't likely stay on the back burner for long.  Given the amount of action that occurs in this issue, and the unspoken anxiety Scott is undoubtedly feeling at the impending return of the Phoenix Force, it's a testament to Gillen's deft plotting that these issues are able to receive their due coverage.

I do enjoy Pacheco's pencil work in this issue, though there are some places where I was distracted.  At times, the eyes on some of his characters seem a little too long for their faces, while at others, they're dead-on and perfect. His art style reminds me a little bit of John Romita, Jr.'s, though it's less distinctive, and I feel, more fitting to the narrative.  Pacheco clearly does action very well, and his linework on Unit, which could have been overwrought or underdone, was clean, efficient, and effective.  Smith's inks and line work frame everything up nicely and shade appropriately, while the colors provided by Guru eFX look vibrant and pleasing to the eye.  I'm overall very impressed by how everything turned out.

Overall, this was an enjoyable issue, with a lot of action, a subdued allusion to the standing drama on the team, and good artwork.  There's an inter-team team-up, and an interesting new creature who could be a formidable foe in the future.  All-in-all, an X-Men issue that was a worthwhile read.  Highly recommended.

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