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X-Men – Battle of the Atom (Review)

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.

Battle of the Atom is a gigantic mess – but it’s a very fun gigantic mess.

Battle of the Atom seems to exist to fill two separate niches. On the one hand, its publication syncs up rather nicely with the fiftieth anniversary of Marvel’s merry mutants – something that the comic acknowledges by focusing on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original creations and by setting the climax at a recognisable setting from that first issue all those years ago. There’s a palpable sense of nostalgia about the whole thing – focusing on the past, present and future of the superhero team.

Stop or my Sentinel will shoot...

Stop or my Sentinel will shoot…

At the same time, it’s the big X-Men crossover event published half-a-year before the release of a multi-million dollar Bryan Singer motion picture. As such, Battle of the Atom feels heavily influenced by X-Men: Days of Future Past. Not only does it play with a variety of the tropes and conventions cemented by that classic Chris Claremont and John Byrne story, it includes numerous shout-outs and even the same basic structure.

Writers Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Wood and Jason Aaron are all having a great deal of fun writing Battle of the Atom, even if the comic does occasionally feel a little bit too light or too familiar. Then again, what’s the point in a fiftieth birthday party if you can’t be a little indulgent?

Dazed by X-Men past...

Dazed by X-Men past…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Transfigurations (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

In way, what is so interesting about Transfigurations is how incredibly generic the story is. It’s a cookie-cutter Star Trek story, a collection of the narrative elements one associates with the franchise – mysterious aliens, energy beings, metaphors about tolerance and fear of the unknown – all loosely sorted into something resembling a linear story.

There’s none of the cheeky subversive charm from early in the third season. This isn’t a deconstruction of “energy being” stories in the way that The Bonding was a deconstruction of “red shirt” deaths. This is just a straight-up story about an alien species learning an important lesson about tolerance, dressed up in a science-fiction mystery, with a romantic subplot thrown in for Beverly because the show hasn’t really done much with Gates McFadden since she returned.

The result is as bland as you might expect, with a sense that everybody involved was just exhausted by the production difficulties that had haunted the third season, and desperately trying to make it to the hiatus. Transfigurations is nowhere near as bad as The Price or Ménage à Troi. It’s just forgettable and average.

Mellow yellow...

Mellow yellow…

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X-Men: Messiah War (Review/Retrospective)

This is the eleventh in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s shared universe (particularly their “Avengers” franchise) over the past five or so years, as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of continuity.

Messiah Complex is billed as the “second instalment” of the X-Men “Messiah Trilogy”, following on from Messiah Complex and leading into Second Coming. The arc essentially follows Hope, the first mutant baby born in the wake of the infamous House of M crossover and the quest by various factions to exploit her – will she be a salvation of Marvel’s erstwhile bunch of mutants, or their ultimate damnation? Messiah War essential combines the two on-going X-Men books launched in the wake of Messiah Complex, with Cable following Hope and the time-travelling X-Man as they flee those who wish the child harm and X-Force following Wolverine’s bunch of “black-ops” “darker and edgier” X-Men strike force. Of course, the only way it could get more nineties was if you threw in Deadpool, Apocalypse and Stryfe… oh, wait. They did.

Has the bar been raised?

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X-Men: Messiah Complex (Review/Retrospective)

This is the seventh in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s core continuity (and in particular their “Avengers” franchise) over the past five or so years, as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of continuity.

It has been commonly accepted that the “golden days” of X-Men crossovers are behind us. Of course, “golden days” is a subjective term – for every Age of Apocalypse, there was an Onslaught Saga – but there’s no way to argue that the mutants didn’t dominate Marvel’s output in the nineties. One would have thought that with Bryan Singer’s X-Men helping give birth to the superhero genre, this past decade might have been an even better one for the franchise, but it was not to be. In fact, The Avengers seem to have replaced the X-Men as the engine driving Marvel’s storytelling universe. Some might suggest that it is so blatant that it looks intentional (prompting a movie-related “conspiracy theory”), although Marvel have casually denied it – with vice president Tom Brevoort stating “these things tend to go in waves”. However, Messiah Complex is the first of a series of crossovers with the X-Men titles following House of Mwhich would chart the franchise’s gradual return to the status quo.

Cyclops has warmed to Ms. Frost…

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Astonishing X-Men Omnibus by Joss Whedon & John Cassaday

Why did I have to follow Grant Morrison?

– Joss Whedon’s email correspondence with Marvel

What with all that talk of Whedon directing The Avengers on the big screen, I decided it was worth checking out his run on one of the most enduring superhero teams of all time.

Is this a breakout hit?

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Brian K. Vaughan’s Run on Ultimate X-Men – Vol. 5-6 (Hardcover)

Brian K. Vaughan is the accidental Ultimate X-Men author. Originally drafting a single arc to transition between Brian Michael Bendis and a potential arc by David Mack, his entire tenure was overshadowed by the near-constant suggestion that X-Men director Bryan Singer would be hijacking the title for a storyline or two. Neither of these two proposals came to pass, and Vaughan ended up working on the series for nearly two years. Perhaps because of the seemingly temporary nature of his stay – liable to end with any given arc – his run seems to lack overall consistency or direction. That isn’t to criticise his individual stories, which are arguably the best in the entire run of Ultimate X-Men, but an observation about the nature of Vaughan’s tenure.

Mojo is big... in television...

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Magneto’s Magnetism…

Another day, another superhero movie. Still, the long-rumoured X-Men Origins: Magneto is a project which has aroused quite a bit of my interest, if only because it has the potential to be unlike any other film in that genre. And if – as it appears – the superhero film is here to stay, we should at least welcome those that are willing to deviate from the norm, even a little bit and even if they don’t work out. Still, I wholeheartedly accept that it could end up being as pointless and soulless as Wolverine was, so I won’t be priming my hopes too much.

"You shall not recast!"

"YOU SHALL NOT RECAST!"

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