Comic Book of the Day: Uncanny X-Men (2016)

Uncanny X-Men (2016)
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art: Greg Land
Cover: Greg Land/Jay Leisten/Nolan Woodard
Colors: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: VC's Joe Caramagna
Inker: Jay Leisten
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The X-Men can't seem to catch a break.

It's been a little over a decade since Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch thoroughly ruined the day of every mutant by uttering the three most damning combination of words since, "You got served." Then in 2011 Cyclops and Wolverine painted a line down the middle of the Xavier's Mansion like a superhero sitcom. Oh, and let's not forget that Marvel, er, Terrigen Mist is cutting down what little mutants are left. 

It's hard out here for a Child of the Atom. 

Thankfully, all is not lost. Since the post-Secret Wars relaunch of the Marvel universe, the franchise is arguably in the best place its been in years, quality-wise. From All-New Wolverine and Old Man Logan keep the spirit of the ol' Canucklehead intact while the team books like All-New X-Men and Extraordinary X-Men are also very well-written. However, my favorite X-book at the moment is Uncanny X-Men

Books like X-Force have often toyed around with the concept of an X-Men squad that was willing to bend the rules and get their hands duty when it came to solving problems. Uncanny X-Men continues this trend with a team consisting of Magneto, Psylocke, Money St. Croix, Archangel and Sabretooth. The first arc sees "Team Magneto" taking on the Someday Corporation, an organization promising wayward mutants a safe haven from the toxic Terrigen Mist by placing them in suspended animation until such a time when the mist is no longer a safety issue. Naturally, the organization is a front for illegal experimentation on mutants. Oh, and have I mentioned that the Dark Riders have returned to wipe out every mutant with healing powers?

Like I said, it's hard out here for a Child of the Atom.

If you've never read Cullen Bunn's solo Magneto title you are missing out on what I believe to be some of the best material written for the "Master of Magnetism." He's much older and his powers have diminished along with his overall health, but he's no less dangerous in his pursuit of anybody who threatens the livelihood of mutants. Psylocke and Monet are cool, but honestly I don't know what the hell is up with Archangel these days (I skipped a few books), but Sabretooth may be my favorite part of this team. Since his debut in 1977 in Iron Fist #14, Victor Creed has spent most of his tenure in the Marvel universe being a thorn in the side of do-gooders, especially the X-Men. However, I relish any moment where he plays for the good guys--more or less. He's short-tempered and still has a propensity for violence, but I love his dynamic in the team, especially with Monet. You couldn't find a more mismatched pair of mutants to join forces and the results are often hilarious.

I admit that I'm something of a fanboy when it comes to Cullen Bunn's writing, so some may disagree when I say that he knocks this book out of the park. I particularly love his handling of the team's moral ambiguity. At the forefront it appears that the team is going all-out to save mutantkind from being exploited, but there's a level of frustration from Magneto that said mutants would even allow themselves to be exploited to begin with. Their methods are a tad extreme, but here I feel that the X-Men are genuinely trying to do the right thing, which is more than I can say for Cyclops' post-Schism team. 

Now, if only something could be done about Greg Land's art...

Comic Book of the Day: Moon Knight #1 (2016)

Welcome to Comic Book of the Day! In this space I'll highlight a comic book, past or present, that I find noteworthy. I do my best not to post spoilers, but I'll try my best to tag any that may come up in the future. NOTE: The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They do not reflect those of any third party or their affiliates. 

Moon Knight #1

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Greg Smallwood
Cover: Greg Smallwood
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Marc Spector has been many things over the years: Mercenary. Cabbie. Avenger. However, if there's one constant in his life it's that he's batshit insane. Oh, and he's possessed by an Egyptian god known as Konshu. Okay, so that's two things. Sue me. Many writers of Moon Knight's adventures have dealt with the character's erratic mental state in one way or another. Some have been very successful whereas others would have been better left to work on other projects instead. 

As somebody who's not particularly fond of his writing most times, Ellis' brief run on the title in 2014 was nothing short of amazing. Ellis found a way to hone in on Spector's Dissociative Identity Disorder, without resorting to cartoonish means of explaining it. Successor Brian Wood (Demo) seemed to flounder afterwards, unable to find a balance between the superheroics and the drama. Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun) did his absolute best as always, but not even his genius could've saved that title.

No, those aren't the Avengers. They were parts of Marc's psyche. Don't ask me. Ask Bendis.

No, those aren't the Avengers. They were parts of Marc's psyche. Don't ask me. Ask Bendis.

Prior to his recent Marvel titles, I had very little reference when it came to Jeff Lemire. With the exception of Vertigo's Sweet Tooth, he just wasn't on my radar. With that said, Lemire is flat-out crushing it on All-New Hawkeye. The visuals are very reminiscent of Matt Fraction's popular run, but Lemire has crafted a tale that holds weight and gives Clint Barton and Kate Bishop a dynamic that hasn't been seen before. 

Lemire's Moon Knight feels like a true follow-up to the Ellis run. Spector finds himself in a mental institution run by deceptive therapists and abusive orderlies, all the while questioning his past and his present. Are the conversations we're reading truly happening? Are the people in this asylum real? Just when you think you have a handle on where the story is going to go, it jerks the wheel and turns the whole thing around. You're never quite sure which aspects of Marc's interactions are genuine, and Lemire frames it in such a way where the reader may find themselves questioning their own mental state by the end of the book. That description may come off like I'm throwing shade at Lemire, but it's meant to be complimentary. This book doesn't so much hold your hand as it does yank it and drag you with it, damning the consequences.

Greg Smallwood's art works as well here as it did in the previous volume of Moon Knight, especially with the somewhat frantic nature of the storyline. The true star in the art department is Jordie Bellaire. I'm a writer in my spare time and I usually follow comics because of whomever is penning the script. Lately, however, I'm becoming more aware of the comic artists I enjoy and Bellaire's colors are among some of the best I've seen. She and Declan Shalvey were a dynamite art team on Warren Ellis' run on this title and Smallwood's pencil work really pops with Jordie in tow, especially in the opening sequences.

Time will tell whether or not I stick with this title, but for the time being I'm thoroughly enjoying this latest iteration of Moon Knight, but this was a very strong first issue. 

Final Thoughts:
Pros: Lemire's story captivates and frustrates. Amazing color work from Jordie Bellaire
Cons: The book may not translate well for newcomers to the Moon Knight mythos.