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for Sunday, August 15, 2004

Wizard World Chicago wraps up today, but, as I'm writing these columns before the convention starts, I don't know how things are going there. I hope the fortunate folks attending the event - How I envy them! - are having a wonderful time and, at show's end, that they all have safe journeys home.

For the last of these "short form" TOTs, necessitated by the possibility of our wondrous web-wizard Justin making it to Chicago, we're taking another bite of the UNCANNY X-MEN apple. I reviewed issues #444 and #445 in previous columns...posted June 24 and June 25 and still available in our back issue archives.

This go-round, I'm looking at the concluding half of "The End of History," the first arc by the returning/reunited team of writer Chris Claremont and penciller Alan Davis.

Uncanny X-Men 446

UNCANNY X-MEN #446 and #447 [Marvel Comics, $2.25 each] commence with handy "previously" pages to bring the new reader up to date. These are pretty decent summaries for the current arc. However, neither they nor the stories themselves, give me much of a handle on either Sage or the new Marvel Girl.

It's easier to start a story than to end it. The main menace facing the X-Men is an indestructible killing machine known as the Fury...who was last seen in the Captain Britain stories published in the United Kingdom well over a decade ago. I know something of what the Fury is because I read those stories, but the thing likely remains a mystery for those who haven't. I shouldn't feel cheated, though, because, by arc's end, there are all sorts of unexplained mysteries to be had. I don't need everything tied up nice and neat at the end of an extended tale, but I do require a little bit more closure than I got from this finale.

I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I?

"Burning Sage" features simultaneous battles. At the stately Braddock Manor in the U.K., an injured Cannonball fights a valiant holding action against the Fury. I don't think I've ever seen the young X-Men used to more heroic effect.

Back at the X-Men mansion in the United States, the Fury uses Cannonball's communicator glasses to take over Sage from across the ocean. She/it then takes out most of the other mansion mutants quickly, leaving Nightcrawler, Storm, and Wolverine to deal with the attack on their own. We get some pretty good fight scenes here with the trio using unexpected moves against an enemy who knows all of their old moves. I like my heroes smart.

If I have any *major* complaint about UNCANNY X-MEN #446, it's a complaint common to super-hero tales. We have this unstoppable killing machine in the Fury, a creature that slaughtered hundreds of heroes in his U.K. appearances, and it can't score a single hit in this story arc. Lord knows I'm not the bloodthirsty type, but surely there had to be some lame Rob Liefeld character lying around who could have taken one for the team and given the proceedings a true sense of menace.

Incidental observation. Emma Frost, current paramour of Scott "Cyclops" Summers, appears in but two panels this issue and she is unconscious in one of them. Nevertheless, she is so magnificently bitchy in her one speaking panel that I may be falling in love with her. Something about those bad girls.

UNCANNY X-MEN #446 has thrills and chills, good dialogue, and even better artwork (Davis inked by Mark Farmer). It moves the arc along nicely and, on our scale of zero to five, it picks up a very respectable three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony


Uncanny X-Men 447

"Hell Hath No Fury" finds Storm and company, now joined by the recovered Sage, jetting their way across the Atlantic to save their teammates. Near the end of their minutes-long flight - having an aircraft which can achieve orbit and then reenter the atmosphere is a terrific time-saver - they pick up Marvel Girl, who was nearly, but not completely, killed by the Fury. They just don't make those killing machines the way they used to.

On the way to the fray, Claremont and Davis give us touching scenes between Marvel Girl and the "essence" of the late Jean Grey, and between Marvel Girl and Wolverine. I confess; I'm a sucker for that kind of touchy-feely stuff.

I'm just a big girl, aren't I?

Claremont and Davis don't make it easy for the heroes to beat the Fury. Having suspended my disbelief as required by most super-hero comic books, I found the pseudo-science convincing enough, but I was put off by the incredible and less-convincing levels of power and skill shown by the merry mutants in their victory. I'll accept a certain bit of "rising to the occasion" from super-heroes, but, at the same time, I fear that such quantum leaps in their abilities will make them less interesting in the future. That said, the last round of the X-Men/Fury fight is way cool.

Where the issue leaves me unsatisfied is in the questions left unanswered...

What happened to Brian Braddock, the former Captain Britain, and his wife Meggan? I like both characters, but it might've made for a shocking moment if, as the final battle drew near, the X-Men had found their bodies.

What brought the Fury to our world?

Why did Jamie, Brian's crazy brother, pop in to give a single-panel pep talk to Marvel Girl?

I don't like menaces to appear out of nowhere and leave sans any explanation for same. Given the mercurial nature of comic-book assignments, such mysteries can and have gone unsolved for years. If they are ever solved at all.

UNCANNY X-MEN #444-447 have the combined cover prices of nine bucks. For this kind of money, I think the customers deserve more of that closure I wrote of earlier.

UNCANNY X-MEN #447 still picks up three Tonys from me, but it was a much closer call than with the previous issue.

Tony Tony Tony



Time sure does fly when you're writing a week's worth of TOTs in a couple of days. I almost forgot to remind you that today is your last full day to vote on the TONY POLLS questions which were posted at the beginning of the week. All the questions concerned comic books or comics-related subjects.

Starting with...

What's more important to you...the rights of real-life comics creators or the status quo of the fictional universe in which their creations currently appear?

You're also asked to give your "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to Avengers Dissembled, the Catwoman movie, Comic-Con International, the new Comics Buyer's Guide format, and Identity Crisis.

To make things more interesting, I haven't given you any safe middle ground on these questions. It's either "yea" or "nay" and let God sort out the rest.

You can cast your ballots at:

Our next batch of TONY POLLS questions will be posted sometime after midnight on Monday.

That's a wrap for this edition of TOT.

I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 08/14/2004 | 08/15/2004 | 08/16/2004 >>

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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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