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Comicscape - May 12, 2004

X-Men ReLoaded but with bullets or blanks?

By Tony Whitt     May 12, 2004

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER creator Joss Whedon and PLANETARY artist John Cassaday provide the goods for Marvel's ASTONISHING X-MEN #1.
© Marvel Comics


While it's too soon to say whether the X-Men "ReLoad" event will be a success, it's equally true that it's too soon to say (to paraphrase Douglas Adams) it has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. Reactions to Marvel's latest (and possibly most blatant) marketing ploy have been mixed while there's been a great deal of excitement over certain developments (Joss Whedon's writing ASTONISHING X-MEN, Chuck Austen not writing UNCANNY X-MEN), there's been equal trepidation about others (Chuck Austen writing X-MEN, formerly known as NEW X-MEN). All Austen-bashing (deserved or not) aside, the only thing we can say for certain is that the "event" has a lot of people talking, including some COMICSCAPE readers who graciously wrote in to discuss what they think about the whole thing.

Bryant Williams writes, "I'm most looking forward to the DISTRICT X title featuring Bishop. I think the return of the some characters (such as Rachel Summers

Cover to DISTRICT X #1.

and Kitty Pride) will be interesting. I dread the upcoming ROGUE series. I don't believe that the character can carry a title." I think she may end up surprising you, Bryant not long ago, I never would have believed that Mystique or Emma Frost could carry a title, either, but they've been doing so quite handsomely. The problem is whether or not a series based on Rogue will explore the complexities of the character how can anyone live with the possibility of absorbing other people's powers and personalities, or live after having done so already to Carol Danvers, and not be complex? or whether it'll be the same disappointment that the ICONS miniseries was. I agree with you about the returning characters (though I'm still bemused by the fact that Rachel Summers will now be Rachel Grey...), although I've never seen the appeal of Bishop. I'm sure my British readers would remind me that "you can't beat the Bishop," but...

"Eric" (who was kind enough to capitalize the titles of these books for me) sounds a bit more apprehensive about what's coming, and with reason: "People will say that a certain issue is a good 'jumping on' point. Perhaps we should let people know when a good 'jumping off' point is as well? The X-MEN of my youth is just gone I realize that now. I gave up on X-TREME X-MEN right after the rambling storyline with Roberto and Sam. UNCANNY and NEW X-MEN don't have the warmth and character that the issues that got me into collecting in the first place. I fondly remember issue 172 of UNCANNY as the starting point of my collecting hobby. There was characterization and plot and an effort to enthrall the reader and for me, it worked. Now it just seems like a whole bunch of summer blockbusters crashing into each other. There's a bunch of noise and fireworks but nothing that becomes fond memories of a good story. Perhaps back then the writers were interested in making interesting stories instead of political statements? Maybe the ReLoad thing is exactly what's needed to fix all of this. Maybe plot and characterization will come back. Maybe I'll give them a few issues to convince me or maybe I'll just see this as a good opportunity to save several dollars every week. Maybe it's time to jump off."

Maybe so, "Eric," though as you say, it will take a few issues to decide that for sure. I agree with you about UNCANNY - that was the title I got hooked on way back in the day, too but I'd have to say that what NEW X-MEN lacked in warmth it made up for in sheer largeness of plot and complexity. (Until that last story arc, mind you then it was just complexity, and too much of it.) I'm not sure I agree with your implied belief that interesting stories and political statements are mutually exclusive (if indeed that's what you intended), but it does appear that certain of the X-Authors have taken that aspect just a bit too far. I doubt we'll see a dearth of political undertones in Joss Whedon's scripts, of course, but at least we'll also have excellent writing to balance it out.

Josh Bales (who was not only kind enough to cap the titles for me but also to put in the HTML code, bless him!) has a more positive take on the whole thing though many of his opinions run opposite to so-called "conventional wisdom" on several of the books: "Personally, I'm really looking forward to the X-Men ReLoad. I think I'm probably maybe one of three people in the world who thought Grant Morrison's run on NEW X-MEN horrendous. The first arc aside, it was a load of crap that definitely didn't feel like the X-Men. Also, I enjoyed Chuck Austen's UNCANNY X-MEN quite a bit. It was soap opera-ish, but at it least had a sense of fun to it. I haven't read Austen's work on NEW X-MEN yet - and I've heard it's a little, umm, bad - but it can't be any worse that the retardedness that Grant Morrison churned out. Regarding Claremont's work, I liked X-TREME X-MEN for the most part, though Claremont's stylized dialogue does occasionally irritate me. So I'm looking forward to his run on UNCANNY and also to EXCALIBUR, if only because it sounds a lot different than the other X-books. Finally, I am 100% stoked about Joss Whedon's take on the X-Men (ASTONISHING X-MEN). The art looks sweet, and [with Whedon on words and story], this could become one of my favorite books." I have high hopes for that title myself, Josh, though I'm thoroughly miffed that, between this book and EXILES (reviewed this week), this whole event is making me add three further books to my heretofore X-less comics folder... I have to say, our opinions on the previous titles are almost exactly the opposite, but I admire your enthusiasm about what the next several months have in store. There's been little enough of it of late.

Warren Mianecke (another capitalizer yay!) hardly qualifies as a "case in point," though his reaction certainly fits in with what I've been reading on the message boards except for one point, which will soon become obvious: "I wish that Marvel would just call it quits with these non-events. First of all, maybe it's just me, but, anything with the word 'load' in it is just begging to be mocked (I don't think gunfire or computers, I just think ____)." (Hate to admit it, Warren, but I've got a dirty mind, too. TBW) "Why? Why? Why not just keep doing (or start doing, or get back to doing) good stories featuring recognizable-but-evolving characters fans have come to care about? If they want to make sure they sell as much as possible, put recognizable fan favorite characters on the covers (or, just continue to do that). I picked up UNCANNY X-MEN yesterday and just shook my head. I mean, it's not terrible, but- am I just becoming jaded, or is it so hard to tell a good, exciting, solid story with these characters? They're made for it. How can it be so easy to screw up? Anyway, my biggest UXM gripe is, having the characters in costumes flashing badges. Like that is supposed to make all the difference in the world. At least Claremont depicted them not being taken seriously (and local authorities being given the heads-up by the feds) but, once again, poor old mishandled Nightcrawler is conveniently made out to be a naïve numbskull who couldn't see this coming. The whole thing just doesn't seem thought through. There can be shocking upheavals in a book without it having to be given a flashy (embarrassing) arc-name and all this silly 'doesn't this sound cool?' fanfare. On the plus side, Alan Davis can infuse a book with instant pizzazz in these days of slow-starting-stories. This is how to keep readers coming back. Not by 'teasing' them with 1/4 of an issue worth of story stretched over an entire issue. I'll see how the rest of this ReLoad thing pans out, but, I'll be glad when it's just business as usual once again." You and me both, Warren, though it may be several months before that happens. In the meantime, we have these pornographic images in our heads every time someone refers to the "event" to contend with...

Peter Velez's views are slightly more positive (and may I say how gratifying it is to hear from a younger reader, as well?): "I have been a fan of the X-Men ever since I was a young child and I would watch the cartoon show on television. I have been collecting comic books ever since I was 10 (I'm 16 now) and I have always tried to follow as much of the X books as I could. I have never really had a problem with any of the events that would take place every so often in the X-books, even though I would always hear people at my local comic shop complaining about them. I have always welcomed new adventures for my favorite band of merry mutants and never once felt cheated.

"The same goes for the ReLoad event. I think that with a franchise like X-Men, sometimes you have to shake things up just so people can stay interested. I mean, we can only watch the X-Men fight Magneto so many times. We need to give the characters new directions and motivations for what they're doing. I think that by making Cyclops and Emma Frost headmasters of the Xavier Institute, not only do we get to see

Cover to NEW X-MEN: ACADEMY X #1.

those two characters grow into those roles and juggle a romance, superheroics, and maintaining a school, but we get an Xavier Institute that is much more the way you would expect it to be. Despite what Charles Xavier would say, the Institute was pretty much raising an army. If you take a bunch of kids with superpowers stick them in something called 'the Danger Room' and give them costumes, then yeah, they're an army. You can teach them as much calculus and history you want, but they're still an army. Now we get to see the training aspect put into the spotlight in NEW X-MEN: ACADEMY X, and I think that it will show readers a good time. Because come on; who doesn't want to attend the Xavier school?" I don't know that I would, Peter - I got teased during high school for being openly gay, so I can't imagine what it would have been like to deal with being an open mutant. Anyway...

Peter does have a few concerns, however: "I just have some minor problems with the ReLoad event. One of them is the issue of costumes. I think that the past idea of the X-Men wearing simpler black colored uniforms was a better idea than the primary colored costumes. I think that the costume for Cyclops sucks. I never really liked the design with his one piece costume, and I felt it made him look like a guy wearing a big condom." (Must...resist...making...joke... TBW) "Another thing I have is the fact that Wolverine is on all three teams of the X-Men. I know that many people feel that he's the best X-Man, but he already has his own book and I don't need to read about him 3 to 4 times a month." I have to agree here, Peter Logan was already just a tad overexposed, and the ReLoad event makes it sound like he's going to get even more exposure. We don't have a spate of Wolverine-based miniseries to deal with this summer, true, but after a while even a good character gets old. We'll have to see what a writer like Whedon does with him before writing him off for good, though he could end up being surprising again.

I'd still love to hear your thoughts on this highly controversial reshuffle, so feel free to write in anytime. Next week (scheduling permitting), I'll be doing something slightly different with the column and conducting an interview with David Yurkovich about his graphic novel LESS THAN HEROES (available this month from Top Shelf), in addition to giving my own preview/review of the work. In the coming months, I'd like to do more of that sort of thing in addition to columns on issues affecting comics, but to do so, I'd like specifically to hear what you, the readers, most want to discuss in the months ahead. We can discuss anything you'd like, from current comics events to ongoing issues, so long as it's something we haven't covered in the column before (unless you'd like me specifically to revisit a topic such as women or minorities in comics, continuity, and so on). Send your ideas via the web site contact address here or to me directly. And remember, if you should happen to make reference to a title of a comic series please use CAPS when giving the title since I do the HTML coding on this column every week, having the titles in caps already makes my life much easier. Finally, as always, don't forget our discussion boards! Now, here are the titles reloaded and non-reloaded you can expect on the shelves today:


DC's making

Cover to SCOOBY-DOO #84.

the shelves safe for kids again with a new printing of the SAMURAI JACK SPECIAL #1 for $3.95. Parents may also want to consider buying the tykes SCOOBY DOO #84 unless you fear it'll encourage them to endlessly hound you to take them to the movie, of course.

I'm also told that THOR: SON OF ASGARD makes good reading for youngsters, so if you're curious, issue #4 (Of 6) is also available today.

Speaking of reload events, few have said anything negative about the similar event the Superman books have been undergoing lately. Is it because no one wants to mess with the S? I know I've sure as hell been cured of it for a while... Anyway, the Teen Titans make a guest appearance in ACTION COMICS #815; the SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES hardcover is out for $19.95(!); and for those still watching TV with all this fun going on, SMALLVILLE #8 is also out. Summer reading, here we come!

Those still aching over the loss of Brian Michael Bendis' ALIAS series will be pleased at the new printing of the ALIAS VOL 2: COME HOME trade paperback for $13.99. Those preferring to look ahead, however, can catch the latest adventures of our girl Jessica Jones in PULSE #3.

So, do you pronounce it "ACK-wah-man" or "AHK-wah-man"? However you want to say it, the lead character in AQUAMAN #18 finds himself facing a man-made sea beast this month. How that relates to how his name is pronounced, I'll let you decide.

The best news about AVENGERS #82 is that it begins a storyline that will lead to an all-new INVADERS series! Whoo hoo! See? Chuck Austen isn't so bad after all, is he?

Man, how do Bat-Fans afford it? Not only is there BATMAN #627, the

Cover to NIGHTWING #93.

second issue in Judd Winick's run on that title, there's the conclusion of BATMAN: CITY OF LIGHT with #8 (Of 8); there's a stand-alone story in BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #179; there's GOTHAM CENTRAL #19 (the first trade of which I'll be reviewing in just a few weeks); there's a devastating end to the latest story arc in NIGHTWING #93; and if all that weren't enough, there's a reprint of BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE for $5.95 to replace the one you lent to your cousin with the giant pores five years ago who never gave it back. (You thought I forgot about that, didn't you? Hmph.)

Hard to say just who Hulkie's fighting in INCREDIBLE HULK #72 the Toon Zone site simply says he "squares off against the invincible !" The Invincible Exclamation Point? Anyway, in SHE-HULK #3, the worst Jennifer has to deal with is a murder trial in which the ghost of the deceased testifies. For which side, I wonder?

Lots of fun from Vertigo this week: we get BITE CLUB #2 (Of 6), featuring the first vampire priest(!); it all hits the proverbial fan in FABLES #25; and a space shuttle hits the non-proverbial ground in the ORBITER softcover for $17.95. Worth going out to beg on the street for!

Peter David's FALLEN ANGEL series keeps on keeping on with the conclusion to the storyline entitled "The Shard" in issue #11. If you haven't read this book yet, you're missing out on a wonder.

I bet Tony Stark would have apologized and resigned. He's decent like that, you know. But instead of combating America's failing public image in IRON MAN #81, he's battling a woman called Vitriol whose touch is acid, literally. Maybe he can subdue her with a bottle of Malox...

Demon hordes have overrun the city in GREEN ARROW #38. After all that, getting his old friend Hal back probably won't make Ollie even blink.

Loads of stuff from Image today, including DAVID & GOLIATH #3; FEATHER #5 (OF 5)for $5.95; the KANE VOL 2: RABBIT HUNT trade paperback for $12.95; and the SAVAGE DRAGON VOL 10: ENDGAME trade paperback for $15.95. Guess Bat-Fans aren't the only ones who will have signs saying "Money for Comics" out on the streets his week...

The madness continues in a funny book definitely not for children in the A GREGORY TREASURY: VOL 2 trade paperback for $9.95.


Cover to MYSTIQUE #14.

of "jumping-on" points provided by the ReLoad event, Sean McKeever is taking over scripting chores with MYSTIQUE #14. I think I'd probably read this guy's grocery lists, even if they were published in a prestige format one-shot...

Oh, heavens. Not only is there a serial killer using the H-E-R-O device in H-E-R-O #16, but Robby Reed is back. I don't know which is more frightening, really.

Emma gets mixed up with the Mob in EMMA FROST #11. Can't see her letting Tony Soprano screw up her divorce plans, can you?

Yes, folks, the horrific Byrne-Claremont-Ordway continues in JLA #98 this week. Take "horrific" however you wish.

Meanwhile, the dead are still rising in JSA #61. Oh, so that's how they're bringing Hal Jordan back...

I don't know if any Wildstorm fans are still reading STORMWATCH: TEAM ACHILLES after Micah Ian Wright's recent revelations that he made up his military career, but if you are, number #22 is out today. Enjoy it while it lasts... You might be marginally more interested in the TERRA OBSCURA trade paperback for $14.95, though. As far as I know, the only thing Alan Moore and Peter Hogan make up is comic book stories.

The fun continues in Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray in MONOLITH #4 as the frightening new hero adjusts to the modern age. That, and there are undead roaming about in the alleys of Brooklyn. Which, of course, we all knew.

Dig deep in your pockets, kiddies! Dark Horse is released not only BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL #89 but also the BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL VOL 7: HEART OF DARKNESS trade paperback for $16.95. If you're not a fan of

Greg Ruth's cover to FREAKS OF THE HEARTLAND #3.

blades or immortals, of course, you can go with the CANNON GOD EXAXXION STAGE 3 trade paperback for $15.95, or
FREAKS OF THE HEARTLAND #3, or SUPER MANGA BLAST #42, or even ULTRAMAN TIGA #8 (Of 10). By the way, has anyone rewatched the original ULTRAMAN show recently? Was I the only one who didn't realize as a kid how much it blew major chunks? And with how often that damn chest light came on exactly one minute into every battle, I have to wonder if Ultraman wouldn't have been better off using Energizer batteries...

Got money to burn? Lucky tit. In that case, go buy SPIRIT ARCHIVES VOL 13 hardcover for $49.95. Just don't tell me you're doing it. Grumble, grumble...

Spidey-fans have not only the aforementioned PULSE to look forward to, they also MARVEL KNIGHTS: SPIDER-MAN #2 and SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #14 to watch out for and both are original stories! What a breath of fresh air, huh? Of course, if fresh air isn't your cup of tea, then go check out VENOM #14 and the VENOM VOL 1: SHIVER trade paperback for $13.99. Spidey's in the former, but shouldn't he always be?

Is it a good touch, or a bad touch? Hard to say until you read TOUCH #2, the latest issue in the DC Focus series.

And finally, a thankfully un-ReLoaded ULTIMATE X-MEN #45 hits the stands this week, in addition to that unbeatable Bishop in DISTRICT X #1 and the latest issue of Marvel's own version of the Energizer Bunny, WEAPON X #23. Featuring Wolverine. Naturally. You don't get off that easy, you know.

See you in seven!

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