Thursday Round Up
X-Men Legacy, The Ultimates, All-Star Western
X-Men Legacy #261
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Christos Gage
Penciler: David Baldeon

Christos Gage and David Baldeon kick off their run on the title in earnest this issue that continues to display the promise and craft of the creative team that should please long time X fans and new readers alike. The issue opens with Rachel Grey asking Rogue about the current state of her relationship with Magneto. This sequence combined with the follow up to the .1 issue's cliffhanger leads me to believe that soap operatics will play heavily into this title, in that classic Claremont era X-Men kind of way. The quiet is disrupted when Exodus arrives at the school to single handedly fix the Schism, whether the X-Men like it or not. The rest of the book is very action centric with Rogue and Frenzy in particular stealing the spotlight. While it isn't particularly deep, it's a lot of fun to watch the fireworks go off. Gage is doing a great job of keeping the book's focus first on Rogue in a way that feels very natural, and secondly on the supporting cast who don't receive enough screen time in Wolverine and the X-Men. David Baldeon handles the actions scenes well, but still falls a little short on the subtleties of character expressiveness. Another great issue from this new creative team leads me to conclude that the title couldn't be in better hands.

Grade: B+

The Ultimates #6
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writher: Jonathan Hickman
Pencilers: Brandon Peterson and Esad Ribic

I have to admit, while I liked Hickman's first arc on the title, I didn't love it. That has all changed with this second, more quiet, dialogue heavy arc that reveals Hickman's strength at handling political intrigue, huge sci-fi concepts, and the use of super heroes as an arm of the military in a world where the heroes are far more morally gray then readers are accustomed too. In many ways this book reads like a more grounded version of the Authority with a few elements of Battlestar Galactica and the West Wing thrown in for good measure. This issue continues to check in with the individual players as they catch their breath and desperately try to devise a plan to save a world that is falling apart faster everyday. Nick Fury tries to persuade Captain America to return from his self imposed exile, while The Falcon explores Reed Richards' future city that has decimated Western Europe and Tony Stark confront his new allies. The exchanges between Fury and Cap, and Tony and the Kratos Club are especially interesting because Hickman writes his characters as fully realized versions of their Ultimate selves. They act in ways that their Marvel Universe counterparts never would, but entirely within character with their established histories within the Ultimate Universe. Brandon Peterson provides most of the pencils for this issue and while he is a talented artist he really isn't able to convey the range of emotions in his characters' facial expressions that is necessary to sell the quieter moments of this book. As a result everyone comes off with extremely melodramatic reactions that undercut the effectiveness of extremely well written scenes. Esad Ribic comes off better in his handling of the Sci Fi futurescape of the Children's City, and this sequence made me anxious for him to return to penciling full issues of this book.

Grade: A-

All-Star Western #5
Publisher: DC Comics
Writers: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Penciler: Moritat

This series has been rather uneven since its debut and this issue seems to indicate that the point in which the writers seem to falter is the middle issues in their three issue arcs structure. The issue opens with Dr. Arkham at the mercy of the kidnappers who have been taking children to work in their mine beneath Gotham. The question of whether or not Hex would actually let Gotham die is the most intriguing part of this issue, and everything sort of goes downhill from there. The kidnappers decide to drown rather than shoot our heroes, I can buy this sort of logic from the super hero genre (through years of enhanced suspension of disbelief training) but in a Western it just feels weird. The sequence where Hex and Arkham find themselves trapped on a precipice with only Hex's matchbook for light falls short due to a lack of artistic creativity. The reader is allowed to see what Hex and Arkham can not. A more effective rendering of the sequence would have been mostly dark panels with only small areas illuminated by the match light. As a result the sequence is not nearly as tense as it could have been. The fight against the Miagani is entertaining and at times chuckle-worthy but it displays a greater flaw within the book. By now all readers are well aware that Hex is a psychopath and Dr. Arkham is a well intentioned somewhat helpless intellectual equally appalled and fascinated by violence. If this book is going to hold readers, Gray and Palmiotti need to offer a bit more depth to the dynamic.

Grade: B-
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