Thursday, June 7, 2012

Comic Review -- Uncanny X-Men #12 / Kieron Gillen, Greg Land, Jay Leisten, and Guru eFX

There are points in the Avengers vs. X-Men event--particularly in the main series--that I've all but given up hope for a decent, well-told epic that involves so many characters and locales.  Then we get little parallel stories like the one in Uncanny X-Men #12, that may as well be part of the main narrative, that are well written segments of the arc that really pop.  It makes me more certain than ever that this kind of story can work, as long as it's handled properly by the right people throughout the creative process.

What I really like about this cover is that it is, essentially, re-hashing the Thing vs. Namor fight that occurred in AvX Vs. #1, pitting them against each other in a grudge match that both relish.  It's very dynamic and well rendered, and you can clearly see that these two are never going to hold back against one another in a fight.  Very entertaining artwork here.

The X-Men have narrowed Hope Summers's location to five points across the globe, and Cyclops sends strike teams out to those locations in the hopes of finding and retrieving her.  After assigning Namor, Hepzibah, and Sunspot to the Tabula Rasa, we are taken to that location, where a strike team of Avengers--She-Hulk, Luke Cage, and Thing--have also arrived, intent on finding Hope as well.  When it becomes apparent that Hope isn't there, the Avengers are ambushed by the X-Men, and a grudge match begins.

It soon comes down to Namor and Thing, each content to slug it out with the other due to their mutual enmity.  As they beat each other senseless, one of the natives of Tabula Rasa, who had been observing the fight from afar, comes within arms reach of the two combatants, who tell him to leave.  He agrees to watch from afar, but asks to watch the rest of the event, asking if the two of them are about to copulate.  As Namor and Thing look on in stunned discomfort, Magik appears and grabs Namor, saying that Hope's true location has been found, and that he's needed.  Namor goes with Magik, where Cyclops names Hope's location: the moon, where the X-Men have fought the Phoenix before.

While this issue focuses on a small part of the overall global effort to locate Hope, it is nevertheless perfectly focused.  We see more than just a simple fight between the two squads, and a hell of a lot less than the glut of information that is essentially glossed over in the main narrative.  The personalities of both teams are on display here, from Namor and Hepzibah's sexual banter to Cage's exasperated approach to squad leadership, to even She-Hulk's admiration and apprehension about the environmental beauty at Tabula Rasa.  It's moments like these that differentiate these ostensibly "less necessary" parts from the larger, sweeping story and actually set up the argument that they are just as necessary, if not more so in some ways, than the main title.

Ben's expression here: priceless.
I'm also quite a fan of Kieron Gillen's use of sex jokes in this issue.  Hepzibah and Namor are shameless in how they talk about it, even drawing Namor's "friend" the Queen into a discussion of his prowess.  The protector of Tabula Rasa's interest in the fight set up a hilarious punchline at the end, where he observes the violence and passion of Thing and Namor's fight and assumes that they will be getting it on when they've finished beating each other up.  Even Namor's own certainty of his reputation with the ladies is funny, when he senses he is being talked about, and muses, "This is only correct."

One issue I did have with this story involved Namor's dialog with Luke Cage during their fight.  It relies too much on actions that occurred off-panel, with Namor wanting to avenge himself upon Cage for "surprising" him in their previous fight.  I still have yet to see a significant fight between Cage and Namor in this storyline, aside from the initial one that was so glossed over that it might as well have never occurred.  Clearly, someone in the editorial department needs to do a better job so that the dialog makes more sense here.

Artistically, I really enjoyed this issue.  Greg Land's work is new to me, but he does detailed facial expressions and gestures very well, and draws attractive women in much the same style as Terry Dodson, whose work I also love.  The action and fight scenes are also fun to look at, and he draws a myriad of poses, creature types, and environments with equal skill.  I especially like the gradual close-up of Namor and Thing as they get ready to throw down for a second time.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable issue, and really makes the case for me that this AvX tie-ins are at least as important as the main story, which has had some highs and many lows in overall quality.  The action and characterization are entertaining, the artwork is great, and it leads into one of the presumably compelling points of the main story.  Highly recommended.

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