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for Friday, June 25, 2004

UNCANNY X-MEN #445 [Marvel Comics; $2.25] is the second issue of the current Chris Claremont/Alan Davis run. Yesterday's column had my review of their first issue, which I liked very much. How does the follow-up compare? I'm so glad you asked.

Uncanny X-Men #445

Be warned. There are spoilers ahead.

The good: The "Previously" page which starts the issue does a terrific job of recapping what has gone before. In fact, it's so nicely done that I'm going to quote it verbatim:
At the newly rebuilt Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, a new team of X-Men has been assembled: STORM, BISHOP, SAGE, MARVEL GIRL, NIGHTCRAWLER, CANNONBALL, and WOLVERINE. Led by Storm, this new team is code-named the X-TREME SANCTIONS EXECUTIVE (or X.S.E.) Because of their internationally-sanctioned duty to resolve mutant threats arising anywhere in the world.

Their first mission pits them against the mysterious WEAPONEERS OF AL-KHALAD who threatened the people of the Central Saharan Republic. Storm, Bishop, Marvel Girl and Cannonball dispatch this threat without incident, though the villains manage to escape. Meanwhile, in Washington state, Nightcrawler and Wolverine arrive at a high school to deal with a volatile new mutant - but the local authorities refuse to recognize their credentials. Anxious to contain the young mutant before the situation gets out of hand, the two X-Men teleport inside the school, but moments later the school explodes!
I'm somewhat confused about who Sage and Marvel Girl are - I'm newly returned to this title - but this opening page does a decent job of bringing new readers up to speed.

The perhaps not-so-good: The Weaponeers do not appear in this issue. This doesn't bother per se - they escaped and they will be back sooner or later - but I get nervous when I think of the X-Men plot threads of the past and how they were frequently left dangling for months and even years.

The good: The resolution of the high school mission is first-rate. The reactions of the heroes and the local authorities at the scene ring true, as does the soul-searching at the Institute later that evening. Kudos to Claremont and Davis.

Spoiler question: When did Nightcrawler become powerful enough to teleport 30 people at once? That seems like a quantum leap in his abilities and one with the potential to weaken the suspense of future stories.

The good: There seems to be some romantic interest developing between Nightcrawler and Storm. If so, it's an exceptionally good match. Both are mature adults in touch with the spiritual side of their natures. Not every romance has to be based on angst and this would be a nice break from the various Scott-Jean-Logan-Madeleine-Emma-and whoever else I'm forgetting soap operas.

Another question: How are the X-Men characters divvied up in these titles? Wolverine is in both this title and the Joss Whedon-written ASTONISHING X-MEN. Bishop is in this title and the not-to-be-missed DISTRICT X. I'm not sure, but I think Cannonball is also doing double duty here and in another title. Can anyone direct me to an organizational chart of Marvel's merry mutants?

The too-soon-to-tell: Bishop, Cannonball, and Marvel Girl go to Braddock Manor to pay their respects to Brian Braddock, who was and maybe still is Captain Britain, on the death of his sister and former X-Men Betsy Braddock. The Manor is empty save for the Fury, who I believe was an indestructible hero-killing machine from the U.K. Captain Britain series.

The Fury is a heavy-duty killer. He was slaughtering Captains Britain from all over the Multiverse like he was the Orkin man and they were cockroaches. If Bishop and crew aren't as dead as they appear at the end of the issue, I'm gonna need some really creative explanations as to why they aren't dead.

Question: I must parade my abject ignorance before you again. I thought Betsy died years ago. Am I mistaken? Did she come back from the dead only to get killed a second time? Did the insurance company have to pay off on her policy twice?

The bottom line: I liked the first issue better than this one in some ways, but the high school and Institute scenes scored big with me. I'm staying on board, fully expecting that the Claremont-Davis team will continue to entertain me.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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