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Kieron Gillen’s Run on Uncanny X-Men – Fear Itself (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

Kieron Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men run stands as one of the most underrated gems at Marvel over the past decade or so. As with his work on Thor, Gillen’s work on the title is sandwiched between two more high-profile writers. On Thor, Gillen took over from J. Michael Straczynski and handed over to Matt Fraction, while he worked on Uncanny X-Men between the runs of Matt Fraction and Brian Michael Bendis. It’s easy to see how his work on the book might slip under the radar.

Even the run itself feels somewhat disjointed. It isn’t as simple as tracing the first issue he wrote to the last issue he wrote. Gillen was the last writer to work on the first volume of Uncanny X-Men, and the launch of the comic’s second volume bisected his run. He finished up on the second volume of Uncanny X-Men in the midst of the gigantic Avengers vs. X-Men crossover, with Avengers vs. X-Men: Consequences serving as something of a coda to his work on the merry mutants.

All fired up...

All fired up…

Looking at Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men run from outside, it looks like a line trying to connect various events and moments. It almost reads like a checklist of problems that a writer working on a mainstream superhero comic could face from the publisher. However, one of Gillen’s main strengths is his adaptability. Gillen has a unique ability to bend his story to fit whatever is required from the book in question.

He is a flexible writer, more than able to respond to the demands of the publisher – and even incorporate them into his stories. As a case in point, the Uncanny X-Men tie-in to Fear Itself really should be a disjointed mess. Fear Itself was a sprawling event that featured all sorts of tie-ins and spin-offs and crossovers, intersecting with various other stories in all sorts of strange ways. It’s to the credit of Gillen that the whole four-issue tie-in fits perfectly with his work on Uncanny X-Men.

Punching above his weight...

Punching above his weight…

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Kieron Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery – Fear Itself (Review/Retrospective)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

Whatever about the quality of big “event” comics like Secret Invasion or Fear Itself, they typically serve as the launching pad for a variety of new series. Using the sales power of a tie-in to a big event, comic book publishers are more likely to convince readers to try something a bit new or a little outside the norm. It doesn’t always work, but – if used cleverly – these tie-ins can serve to draw attention to low-key books that might otherwise be flying under the radar. Or, you know, “Loki books.”

Kieron Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery is a contemporary classic. Even if one is unsatisfied with Fear Itself – and I’m quite fond of it, to be honest – Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery is enough to justify that juggernaut of an event.

Ghosts of gods of mischief past...

Ghosts of gods of mischief past…

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J. Michael Straczynski’s Run on The Fantastic Four – Civil War (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of Thor: The Dark World towards the end of next month, we’ll be looking at some Thor and Avenger-related comics throughout September. Check back weekly for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

J. Michael Stracynski’s Fantastic Four tie-in to Civil War is a strange beast, in that it seems to exist more as a collection of talking points and plot beats than as compelling narrative in its own right. Using the safe camouflage of a tie-in to a massive line-wide event, Straczynski is not only able to sneakily set-up his pending Thor run, but also to vent quite liberally about his own feelings on post-9/11 America. The result is a story which feels disjointed and far too talky, a simplistic and familiar opinion piece dressed up as a Fantastic Four story.

Yes. Yes there is...

Yes. Yes there is…

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Avengers vs. X-Men – Consequences (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine this month, we’re taking a look at some new and classic X-Men and Wolverine comics. I’m also writing a series of reviews of the classic X-Men television show at comicbuzz every weekday, so feel free to check those out.

Avengers vs. X-Men: Consequences feels like it really should be a light event cash-in, designed to generate some quick sales off the popularity of the latest gigantic crossover story arc. However, writer Kieron Gillen takes advantage of the five-issue miniseries’ location – situated between Avengers vs. X-Men and Marvel’s high-profile Marvel NOW relaunch – to turn the comic into something of a transition. It represents a clear shift from Kieron Gillen’s run on Uncanny X-Men to the relaunch of the book (and the spin-off All-New X-Men) by writer Brian Michael Bendis.

Oddly enough, thanks to Gillen’s skill, Consequences plays out as a character-centric storyline, capping off Gillen’s work on the mutant hero Cyclops and positioning him for his role future role in the shared Marvel universe.

Cyke out!

Cyke out!

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Kieron Gillen’s Run on Uncanny X-Men – Avengers vs. X-Men (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine later in the month, we’re taking a look at some classic X-Men and Wolverine comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday here. I’m also writing a series of reviews of the classic X-Men television show at comicbuzz every weekday, so feel free to check those out.

Kieron Gillen is one of the unsung heroes of modern superhero comics. Over the past few years, Gillen has come to the attention of readers for replacing or supplementing a-list talent on a-list books. He took over Thor after J. Michael Straczynski abruptly wrapped up his run on the Norse god, only to shuffle off the book when Matt Fraction took over. While Straczynzki’s run was collected in an omnibus, Gillen’s has yet to receive hardcover status. He wrote the wonderfully underrated Journey into Mystery as a supplement to Fraction’s Thor, which might hopefully get a deluxe reprinting at some point in the future.

He took over Uncanny X-Men following Fraction’s departure. He barely had time to establish his run on Marvel’s merry mutants before writer Jason Aaron up-ended the status quo with Schism, essentially restructuring Marvel’s X-Men line. Gillen remained on Uncanny X-Men in the wake of Schism, the title resetting to #1. However, less than a year into the run, Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men was caught up in Marvel’s high profile crossover of the year, Avengers vs. X-Men.

Explosive...

Explosive…

Gillen departed the book following Avengers vs. X-Men, in yet another reshuffle of Marvel’s X-Men line. (Brian Bendis promised to push the line in a new direction, writing both All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men.) Half of Gillen’s run on the relaunched Uncanny X-Men was tied into the gigantic Avengers vs. X-Men.

But don’t let that fool you. It’s really very, very good. In fact, it ranks as among the very best X-Men work since Joss Whedon and John Cassaday left Astonishing X-Men.

All fired up...

All fired up…

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X-Men: Schism (Review)

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.

X-Men: Schism is a game-changer. It’s an attempt to realign Marvel’s X-Men line, a series of books that have faltered in recent years. After all, events like Messiah Complex and Second Coming couldn’t propel the line back to prominence, so Schism feels like a manifesto. Collecting the main series written by Jason Aaron, and the X-Men: Regenesis one-shot written by Kieron Gillen, it represents the most recent attempt to bring the some sense of life and purpose back to the X-Men books, which have been increasingly overshadowed by Marvel’s Avengers publishing line. And, to be frank, I can’t help but think that Schism works pretty well as an attempt to brush away the recent past and carve out a new and exciting future.

The hand of fate…

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