Monday, April 2, 2012

Comic Review -- X-Men #24-26 / Victor Gischler, Jorge Molina, Guru eFX, et al.

X-Men #24
I like the cover for this issue, especially since this is my first direct exposure to Jubilee-as-vampire.  It clearly shows that she's still struggling with the situation, and gives a good insight to the story contained within.  It's also a Will Conrad cover, which is a bonus in my book.

Jubilee is in the care of the Forgiven, headed by vampire Raizo Kodo, as she tries to overcome her hunger for human blood, which she apparently craves without regular injections of Wolverine's blood.  She's having a tough time of it, refusing any of the animal blood they offer her, and stubbornly repeating her desire for human blood over Kodo's suggestions.  She finally breaks free from them, and is about to feed on an unsuspecting villager, when she sees her lack of reflection in a mirror, which sends her back to Kodo, begging for more help.  On the final page, we see her teammates on the X-Men have been searching for her, lair by lair, and won't give up until they find her.

I've seen Jubilee as a stubborn teenager before, so while this experience is technically nothing new, it's a little disconcerting to see her hardheadedness in action concerning the desire to drink blood--specifically human blood.  She uses a myriad of techniques to make her point: shattering glasses, throwing blood in the face of her captors, even seduction, before finally getting the drop on one of the Forgiven and trying to escape.  Her realization that her humanity is really leaving her--driven home by her inability to see her reflection as she's about to feed on a human--feels genuine, and her turnaround points up how vulnerable she feels in her new condition.  Writing-wise, this felt like a good, solid story.

Artistically, I enjoyed Barrionuevo's pencils.  The linework seemed more lush and full in the scenes set in the darkness, and took on a more smooth and fluid feel in the daylight scenes.  Lacombe and Smith use shadows and shade effectively in a story that emphasizes light versus dark in several ways, though occasionally I was a little thrown by how often they were employed.  Finally Rosenberg's colors seemed to support the rest of the creative team with the daylight scenes done in very light, almost faded hues, while there was more depth to the darker scenes.  Very interesting work.

Overall, a good story to enter this series on.  I'll be looking for more stories about Jubilee becoming and vampire and dealing with it, but this sets up a good character development for her.  Highly recommended.

X-Men #25
Wow, now this is a beautiful cover.  The positions and composition, the light and shadows, even the relative tranquility on the subjects' faces in what should normally be a tense moment of struggle.  It makes for a beautiful moment between two teammates who have a long history together despite their current conflict.

The X-Men have been searching for Jubilee for weeks, clearing out lair upon lair of vampires with no luck.  Finally, they get a break and are sent to the South China Sea to find the current location of the Forgivens' mobile base.  After an initially tense meeting in which the Forgiven are forced to defend themselves against an overzealous band of X-Men, Jubilee forcefully steps in and demands they stop fighting.  Moments later, Colossus arrives, with a couple of bounty hunters and a message from them: there's a huge bounty on Kozo, and mercenaries for hire are currently swarming the island to find him...

This is a good continuation of last issue's story, where the focus now shifts to the team Jubilee left in her quest to overcome her darker nature.  Storm, Colossus, Psylocke, Domino and Warpath have remained single-minded in their quest to rescue their young teammate, and the fact that they've spent weeks searching for her shows their dedication, particularly when you consider that Jubilee could have gone rogue vamp at any point in that time, and they wouldn't know it.

Call me a party pooper if you like, but I have to say I'm getting a little tired of the frequency with which the whole shoot-first-ask-later bit happens in these situations.  Storm, particularly, has no excuse here: she's led the X-Men for years, and she's been the queen of a country.  She should know when and how to keep a cool head during potential standoff situations.  I know she has her issues with vampires, but that's still no excuse.  She has her team and Jubilee to think of.

Artistically, I think the issue succeeds overall.  I have a little bit of reservation about some of the faces Molina does in this issue--they seem slightly off in places--but they are also extremely well detailed and very expressive.  Even in the dynamic flow of the action, he does an uncanny job of drawing my eye to the feminine charms of his heroines, of which there are plenty.  Guru eFX does a vibrant job with the colors throughout the issue, bringing a variety of hues and shades that are pleasant to behold.

Overall, a good continuation of the previous story.  I'll be interested to see where the arc goes from here, now that the X-Men are in the position of having to work with the Forgiven.  Highly recommended.

X-Men #26
This cover feels pretty cinematic to me.  It's what I'd expect from the poster for an action film.  It's very balanced and dramatic, and another awesome, beautiful effort from Jorge Molina.

The X-Men and the Forgiven have taken positions to intercept and deal with the hired mercs who've just swarmed the island--except for Deadpool, who Domino has convinced to help them by agreeing to go on a date with him afterwards.  Storm and Kodo argue about command styles and strategy until Jubilee snaps at them both to put their differences aside for their people.  They hold off most of them, but one group manages to infiltrate the base, knocking out Psylocke, Storm, and Inka, and impaling Kodo almost fatally.  Enraged, Jubilee, not knowing who the masked assailant is, picks up a sword and challenges the would-be killer to a fight.

There's not much to this issue, plot-wise.  The firefight and slugfest was set up last issue, and now it's being executed.  It is fun to watch the fireworks, though, and I always enjoy the opportunity to see Deadpool get in on the action, switch sides, and make insane, juvenile quips.  The X-Men and the Forgiven work well together, despite the intense dynamic between their leaders and particular teammates.  It'll be interesting to see how things are wrapped up in the next issue, with Kodo's life hanging in the balance.

I think I've still got some issues with Storm's characterization in this arc so far.  She's far to obstinate and headstrong.  I've always known her to be diplomatic, level-headed, and cooler under pressure.  Maybe I need to read about her encounters with Dracula to get more perspective on her experiences with vampires, but she comes off as too childish and too eager for a fight with Kodo.  She's not thinking of Jubilee's long-term welfare, which should be a central concern, nor the fact that she's survived several weeks with Kodo and still hasn't fed on human blood.

Artistically, Molina continues to delight.  His characters are well-drawn, and the action scenes are fast paced and cool.  I'm still occasionally distracted by the faces and forms of some of his characters--Storm has several such moments in this issue, particularly page 5, panel 1--but for the most part am willing to overlook them in the face of the more frequently good renderings.  I do think he's doing a good job of fleshing out Jubilee's vampiric state in a more subtle fashion, be it through slightly extended fangs, or red eyes that don't glow.

Overall, I'm eager to see how this story concludes.  I'm also eager to see if Jubilee actually knows how to use a sword, as I've never known her to be proficient with them.  Either way, I think it will be good to see how she comes through this, and how the X-Men resolve their conflicts with both the assassins and with the Forgiven.  Good story, mostly good art, and well presented.  Highly recommended.

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