Longtime X-Men architect Chris Claremont makes his return to the House of Ideas this week with X-Men: Black – Magneto! Plus, The Superior Octopus is back in action this week just in time to face the Edge of Spider-Geddon, and Shatterstar (yes, Shatterstar) gets his own solo miniseries. The Marvel Rundown is back in action with two of the strangest characters occupying the fringes of The Marvel Universe!
Written by Chris Claremont, Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler
Illustrated by Dalibor Talajic and Geraldo Borges
Inked by Robert Poggi and Belardino Brabo
Colored by Dono Sanchez-Almara and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna and VC’s Cory Petit
Jones: Joe! The X-Titles aren’t colorful enough. This week Magneto brings the absence of color to the X-Men Universe in the first X-Men: Black one-shot. Did he bring the quality as well?
Joe Grunenwald: Alex, Magneto is one of Marvel’s most fascinating characters, and the story in this one-shot highlights what makes him so compelling. Chris Claremont’s return to the X-Men is a quiet character study against a setting that’s, unfortunately, very topical in light of recent real-world events. What did you think of it?
Jones: I thought it was alright. My main issue was how familiar it felt. This is territory better explored in other X-Men titles and is stepping on the toes of Magneto Testament and X-Men: First Class. I know that comparison is unfair, but I felt some similar emotions as I did when I read those books. There is definitely good here and a wide range of emotions but I was not completely invested at any point in the issue.
Grunenwald: I agree with you that, thematically, there’s not a ton of uncharted territory here. Admittedly I haven’t kept up with what Magneto has been up to in recent years–the last time I saw him was in the pages of Bendis’s Uncanny X-Men, where he struck me as much less of a radical than I was otherwise used to seeing him portrayed (though maybe that was just in comparison to Cyclops in that book). This issue raised a lot of questions for me about where Magneto currently stands, and I liked the ambiguity. Sure, he practices fighting the X-Men at one point, but he also saves a bunch of kids who are being held, separated from their parents, by the U.S. government. It’s hard not to relate to where he’s coming from there.
Jones: He definitely navigates a certain level of ambiguity but I think at the end of the day he’s pretty clearly a villain. I liked the relationship he had with the young girl, but I felt like I have also seen that somewhere else. This issue was also very long and not paced particularly well.
Grunenwald: Maybe it felt long due to the pacing? The main story is a standard 20-page story, but it did have some pacing issues. Front-loading the story with the diner conversation scene, a scene that I also liked for the relationship with the waitress but that is otherwise kind of slow, may have been a mistake.
Jones: The whole mutant supremacist thing felt really tired to me. I think that was the point where I started to check out.
Grunenwald: I mean, that’s kind of Magneto’s thing.
Jones: That particular trope gets old pretty fast for me. I like Dalibor Talajic. His art is a bit too simplistic and minimalist. However, I think he draws good expressions and figures. That being said, he sure doesn’t feel like the right choice to draw a Magneto solo story. What do you think?
Grunenwald: I thought Talajic did a decent job on the diner scene, even if his style may be a bit more cartoony than I would have chosen, but his action is all over the place. There were times where I wasn’t sure what was going on or where characters were in relation to each other during Magneto’s raid on the O.N.E. facility. It was hard to follow and kind of a mess.
Jones: That’s some pretty solid criticism. I’m not sure what else I have to say about the title. I think it would have definitely helped to have a more interesting status quo for Magneto. I feel like I have read this before. Cullen Bunn and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s excellent Magneto title occupied a more interesting morally grey area than this series.
Grunenwald: Did you have any thoughts on the backup story?
Jones: I thought it was alright.
Grunenwald: Yeah, I’d say alright is a good word for it. It’s the first part of a five-part Apocalypse story that’s going to run across all of the X-Men Black one-shots, and as setup for that story, it was fine. I’ve never really cared for Apocalypse personally, so it didn’t really grab me.
Jones: What are your final thoughts?
Grunenwald: Overall I’d say this is a decent comic for the casual X-fan, but there’s probably nothing new here for longtime readers. I’d give it a BROWSE.
Jones: Gonna give this one a SKIP. I can name at least four other Magneto stories you should read first.
Written by Christos Gage
Penciled by Mike Hawthorne
Inked by Wade von Grawbadger
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Alexander Jones: I love The Superior Spider-Man and I don’t think he ever really got his due from the shortened Dan Slott run. Joe, do you think the debut of The Superior Octopus did justice to ol’ Doc Ock?
Joe Grunenwald: I thought it was a fine start. I’m marginally familiar with Octavius’s time as Spider-Man, but Christos Gage does a nice job here of bringing readers up to speed without a ton of heavy exposition. The character himself is interesting and I think there’s a lot of future story potential to be found in this issue.
Jones: I really liked what writer Christos Gage was doing with the more aggressive but compassionate personality of Octavius and found it fascinating that he referenced so much continuity.
Grunenwald: This installment definitely feels like a continuation of what has gone before, which I’m sure delighted you as a fan of the character. It would have been easy for the story to get weighed down in establishing all that history, and I think Gage did a great job of introducing those existing elements into the story organically.
Jones: I have to be honest and say the opening scene was pretty underwhelming for me. I’m not sure why there were so many villains and don’t see what they contributed to the story. That said, after reading Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Superior Iron Man run, I started to appreciate how much more focused this comic book was in comparison. I actually found the relationship drama to have more stakes.
Grunenwald: That opening scene was weird to say the least, and the way it ended up playing out was jarring, but I liked that it showcased just how different Octopus is from other heroes. The closing action sequence was entertaining, and cleverly helped clarify a piece of Octavius’s status quo, but ultimately the relationship drama is what grabbed me as a reader as well.
Jones: I think it was weird but also interesting. Getting a different, more desperate and angry take on the character was refreshing. I think it is interesting to see Octavius in the Marvel Universe as a superhero separate from Spider-Man and hope Gage can deliver on the concept long-term.
Grunenwald: I really enjoyed the art on this book. There’s some great, detailed linework from Mike Hawthorne and Wade Von Grawbadger, and Jordie Bellaire’s often brighter colors help give the issue a classic superhero look. Bellaire certainly gets a lot of mileage out of the color green, but it never looks boring.
Jones: Hawthorne’s work I thought was genuinely interesting. I think he is underrated and his work is precise. His pencils are really grounded and beautiful. His illustrations meshed with Bellaire and Von Grawbadger give the issue a particularly impressive level of detail and polish.
Grunenwald: If I have any complaint about the main feature, it’s that it just sort of ends. It felt like the story was building towards something and then suddenly it was over. I guess it’s a good thing that I wanted more of it, but it was a very abrupt reading experience.
Jones: I agree. I think the main story was really solid but it did end rather abruptly. I’ll admit that I’m a mark for the character but I think there is definitely potential for the series to continue. That being said, the Spider-Verse second feature felt a little too familiar for me for comfort. What did you think about it?
Grunenwald: As a continuation of the Spider-Geddon #0 backup feature, I thought it was fine, if not a little predictable given what happened in the previous backup. I was hoping it would tie into the main feature of the issue and present some potential obstacles for Otto to face; instead, it just continued the set up for the next Spider-event. Oh well.
Jones: I’m definitely disappointed. I feel like the Spider-Verse comic is a little too derivative from what was going on last time. What are your final thoughts on the story?
Grunenwald: I thought the overall package here was decent. The main story sets up Otto’s new status quo effectively, though at this point I’m more interested in his personal troubles than his super-heroics. The backup story setting up Spider-Geddon was lackluster. This book gets a BROWSE from me.
Jones: I think that is fair. Let’s go for a BROWSE on this one. I’m glad Doc Ock is back!
Final Verdict: A unanimous Marvel Rundown ruling! Joe and Alexander say BROWSE.
Written by Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Carlos Villa and Gerardo Sandoval
Inked by Juan Vlasco
Colored by Carlos Lopez
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Alexander Jones: AJ, Joe, Shatterstar is back this week in the debut of a five-issue mini-series written by Tim Seeley with art from Carlos Villa and Gerardo Sandoval. What did both of you think about the X-Man spinning off into his own title?
AJ Frost: Hey there lads! Great to catch up with you this week! This was an extremely low-key opening to a character that is known for being extreme. The expectation and the execution were wildly divergent. I came in expecting a certain type of story and instead found something much more… Homey (is that the word?). It was a really domestic superhero tale. Interesting, in theory.
Joe Grunenwald: Shatterstar is a character with whom I have no prior history aside from knowing he’s a Rob Liefeld creation, so I had no expectations at all going into this issue. I appreciated the subdued tone of the majority of the issue as build-up for when the craziness starts. I just wish there had maybe been more craziness.
Jones: Interesting take, AJ. I was actually taken aback at how much I enjoyed this title. I feel like it had some interesting things to say about Shatterstar. The sense of humor Seeley brought to the book was endearing and something about Shatterstar’s personality had me really intrigued all the way through the story. I also love that this is a mini-series and not an ongoing. I feel like some of the background characters were a little more interesting than some of the supporting cast members from that Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man issue everyone else likes more than I did.
Grunenwald: It takes being from an alternate universe to be an interesting background character to Alex.
Frost: To your point, Joe, for the most part, this issue was quiet. Lots of expository narration and little dialogue. And yes, this being a mini vs. an ongoing series might be best. A self-contained story might be just enough for a character like this.
Grunenwald: It reminded me of a crime story, like A History of Violence or something similar, where a character who’s gotten out of a certain life is suddenly pulled back into it by characters from their past. I generally dig that kind of story.
Frost: A nice reference point. Seeley was definitely trying to play against type.
Jones: I sense a couple dissenting opinions in the room tonight. I thought Gaveedra-Seven’s captions were extremely unique. There were just enough references and asides to other stories to keep me interested. I was fascinated to see this new status quo for Shatterstar involving him owning an apartment complex. I’m not sure if I’m partial to this issue for a borrowed sense of nostalgia or if it is actually as good as I think it is.
AJ Frost: For those with no nostalgia, the apartment complex part of the story comes out of left field. Not to say that it doesn’t work, but this isn’t a sitcom, ya know. But now that I think of it, the apartment complex conceit is a good way to create a family dynamic without much questioning about motives.
Grunenwald: I found the introductions of all of those characters to be a little slow, but also one of them is a talking dog so I couldn’t be too upset about it. Once the ‘play’ structure was called out I appreciated what Seeley was doing a lot more.
Frost: That was a nice touch. The pacing of the book was really well done.
Jones: I really enjoyed that too. I thought this was just strange enough to be intriguing. There are a lot of comics like this right now and I definitely respect anyone who says this issue came off as a little slight. I kind of liked the introduction of the framing device as well. Seeley doesn’t always click with me so I was surprised I got so invested in the title.
Frost: I think this issue was a surprise all around. No one expects much depth from Shatterstar and Seeley played on this expectation.
Grunenwald: Speaking of the framing device, what did you gents think of the different art on this issue?
Frost: Honestly, I didn’t pay too close attention to the art. I thought it was good, but not spectacular. It got the job done and conveyed the growing sense of responsibility that Shatterstar carries as the book progresses.
Grunenwald: That’s sort of where I landed on it as well. I liked the shift in styles from the Mojoworld flashbacks to the present day–it was effectively jarring going from an insane hyper-stylized look to sort of mundane everyday landlord-ing. But other than the noticeable shifting there was nothing about the art that really stood out to me.
Jones: I loved the art. There was some excellent work on the part of both creators in the issue. I also really liked the juxtaposition. Gerardo Sandoval definitely would not have worked for the core story. Carlos Villa’s more casual approach to the apartment sequences were beautiful.
Frost: Fair observations. As I said, it was good but I doubt it will stick in my mind for long.
Jones: I think that’s about all I have to say about the issue. It was pleasant and fun to read. I liked the art and the more reserved nature of the plotting. Do you guys want to offer some final thoughts?
Frost: I’m with you. A modest book that plays against type for some surprising emotional depth. I ended up enjoying it a lot.
Grunenwald: I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as you guys did, but I did enjoy it. Even with the caveat that I found the pacing a little slow to start, I believe in Seeley’s ability to kick things into high gear in future issues now that the action is underway. This will read great in collected form. Overall I’d give this one a STRONG BROWSE.
Frost: I agree with that assessment and that’s what I’m giving this issue. STRONG BROWSE
Jones: I liked this issue a lot but it definitely is not perfect. A stronger plot and direction would have made it great. I think it is worthy of a STRONG BROWSE as well.
Final Verdict: Another unanimous Marvel Rundown pic! Joe, AJ and Alexander say STRONG BROWSE.
Next week we enter the Spider-Verse–don’t miss The Marvel Rundown!