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Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont Omnibus, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

Chris Claremont wrote Uncanny X-Men for seventeen years, which is really quite a run in mainstream American comics, especially for a writer who didn’t create the property that he was working on. Over the course of a defining run that lasted almost two decades, the creator shaped the franchise from the forgotten stepchild of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby – cancelled and reduced to reprints – into Marvel’s biggest and most successful comic book franchise. While the book hadn’t quite made it to the top of the sales charts by the end of this omnibus collection, it was well on its way – and you can see Claremont gradually moulding the team into the iconic collection of mutants that we’d see across a myriad of mediums.

Marvel had a smash hit on their hands…

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Garth Ennis’ Run on Punisher MAX – Hardcover, Vol. IV (Review)

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this month we’re going to take a look at Northern Irish writer Garth Ennis’ run on that iconic Marvel anti-hero, The Punisher. Check back every Friday and Wednesday for a review of a particular section.

I don’t know. It seems like, at times, I run hot and cold to Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX run. It’s frequently cited as one of the great runs of modern comics, and there are moments when – if I squint – I can see hints of that masterpiece everybody is taking at. At other times, it seems I’m wandering in the desert, staring at a perfectly functional comic book, trying to figure out what everybody is making such a big fuss about. This penultimate collection of Ennis’ run contains two great examples of this. On one hand, the collection opens with the incredibly pedestrian Man of Stone, while it closes with the smarter-than-it-appears Widowmaker. Neither story is a masterpiece, but the latter has a lot more insight than I’ve come to expect from the series, while the former takes an interesting premise and does nothing with it.

The Punisherette?

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Garth Ennis’ Run on Punisher MAX – Hardcover, Vol. II (Review)

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this month we’re going to take a look at Northern Irish writer Garth Ennis’ run on that iconic Marvel anti-hero, The Punisher. Check back every Friday and Wednesday for a review of a particular section.

There’s a dream I have from time to time. And in the dream I don’t stop. I kill the soldiers and the hitmen, the extortioners and racketeers, the dark old &%^@s who send them out to fight– I hold the trigger down until they’re all gone–

But I don’t stop.

The innocents are just watching, like always. The slack jawed thousands, gazing at the beast. My family lie red and shredded in the grass. I face the crowd and bring the weapon to my shoulder. If my world ends, I tell them, so does yours.

The recoil starts and I wake up.

It’s  just a dream, I always tell myself. It’s just a dream.

It’s just a dream.

– Frank Castle, Up is Down and Black is White

You know, I’m not entirely sold on the format of Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX. It seems a strange thing to say, given how I’m slowly starting to appreciate what the writer is doing with the character, but I’m not convinced that the rigid six-issue structure that Ennis is adopting fits the character particularly well. Don’t worry, I know it’s a very strange and irrational complaint to have – partially because there’s so much else going on that merits discussion, and also because six-issue arcs have become the industry norm (because they fit the size of a trade paperback). That said, I think may have figured out why it bothers me so.

Gun play...

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Flash: Rebirth (Review/Retrospective)

This January, I’m going to take a look at some of DC’s biggest “events.” I’ll be starting with the most recent one, Flashpoint, but – in the spirit of the character – we’re going to have a marathon run through Flash stories before we get there. Check back daily this week for more Flash-ified goodness…

From the outset, Flash: Rebirth was going to be an infinitely more complex endeavour for writer Geoff Johns than Green Lantern: Rebirth had been. Both miniseries aimed to firmly establish an older legacy character (in both cases, the iteration of the character active in the late fifties/early sixties) as the core of that particular franchise, replacing their replacements, as it were. However, Hal Jordan had been absent for about ten years, and had been hovering around the DC Universe in various guises during his absence from the role of Green Lantern. Barry Allen, on the other hand, had been gone twenty years and his appearances had been far scarcer. There had been a whole generation of fans (including the author of this miniseries) who grew up with Wally West as the Flash. Bringing Barry back was always going to be tricky, but here it becomes evident just how tricky.

A darker shade of red?

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The Absolute Authority, Vol. 2 (Review)

With Wildstorm being officially folded into the relaunched DCU (the “DCnU”), I thought I might take a look at some of the more successful and popular Wildstorm titles that the company produced. In particular, The Authority, the superhero saga that spun out of Stormwatch – a series that is getting its own post-relaunch book written by Paul Cornell, easily one of my more anticipated titles.

In many ways, it was The Authority that established Mark Millar and Frank Quitely as talents to watch in their own rights, rather than through their associations with Grant Morrison. As a concept, the series was launched by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch, but the duo picked their own replacements. I have to say, I think they chose rather wisely, even if the series has lost a rather considerable amount of its bite nearly a decade after its initial publication. That said, it’s still a highly entertaining superhero book, and one which had more than its fair share of influence on the mainstream titles over the last ten or so years.

There's a new Authority in town...

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Justice League International: Volume 4 (Hardcover) (Review/Retrospective)

In light of the massive DC reboot taking place next month, launching with a Geoff Johns and Jim Lee run on a new Justice League title, I thought I’d take a look back at another attempt to relaunch the Justice League, emerging from the then-recent Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Hm. Typical. Just as DC stops collecting Justice League International in these nice little hardcovers, I find that the series is getting back into the sort of swing and rhythm that I really loved about the superb first volume, but which became hard to maintain in equilibrium through the second and third collections. The last two books have veered just a little bit too much into sit-com territory for me. Don’t get me wrong, I like the humour that Giffen and deMatteis bring to the book, but I think it works better as a counterbalance to some nice superhero spectacle or drama, rather than being allowed to run free. The wonderfully wicked, occasionally subversive and often amusing sense of humour is in full effect in this collection, but it also features some nice character-centred storytelling, the type of refreshingly not-too-serious, but never completely out of control, approach that made the first few issues so damn appealing.

The new line-up...?

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Justice League International: Volume 3 (Hardcover) (Review/Retrospective)

In light of the massive DC reboot taking place next month, launching with a Geoff Johns and Jim Lee run on a new Justice League title, I thought I’d take a look back at another attempt to relaunch the Justice League, emerging from the then-recent Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Instructions, m’lord?

Keep him sedated and set course for —

For where, m’lord?

Quiet L-Ron… Don’t you know a dramatic pause when you hear one?

Set course for — Apokolips!

L-Ron and Lord Manga

The third volume of Justice League International is certainly more consistant than the one directly previous. Giffen and deMatteis are – with the exception of a final-issue tie-in to Invasion – free to tell their own story featuring their somewhat eclectic cast. The series has swung heavily in the direction of humour, with the issues increasingly becoming a collection of gags with the occasional nice set-piece rather than conventional super-hero stories with a greater-than-usual dosage of humour. Admittedly, some of the humour (and set-ups) feel a little tired and dated, but it’s still not a bad little series.

Licence to Thrill...

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