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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Top of the Pile: Uncanny X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, Red Hulk, Nausicaa

by Ken Newquist / February 16, 2008

My comic collecting has entered the mid-winter doldrums; the big X-Men crossover has just ended, and while DC's Countdown is approaching it's end, that means little to me since I haven't been keeping up with it.

Instead, I'm waiting for the first few issues of the rebooted X-men titles and checking out the occasional one shot or limited series. The most recent of these is Hulk #1, which looks to be a relaunch of the Incredible Hulk title, but I'm also going to be checking out Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind as part of my gaming group's Graphic Novel Book Club.

Uncanny X-Men #495

Marvel's Messiah Complex complex has reached its conclusion, proving to be less earth-shattering than I'd hoped for. I wanted the return of the mutant world; instead, w It's set-up the X-Reboot that started with Uncanny X-Men #495, "Divided We Stand", which opens to the X-Mansion once again in ruins and the X-Men disbanded. Cyclops and White Queen are on vacation in the prehistoric Savage Land, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Colossus are touring Europe and Angel's investigating time-warp strangeness in San Francisco.

I don't mind the occasional downtime issue -- hell, they've been some of my favorites -- but it's odd for a reboot. Yes, Messiah Complex was high octane, but I look at it more as a booster stage; it would have been better if #495 had acted more as a second stage that launched the entire book into orbit instead of merely coasting.

I did like Cyclop's confrontation with Tony Stark, aka Ironman, particularly when Tony asks why the X-Men didn't turn to the government for help during the Messiah Complex story arc and Cy replies "Mutant problems tend to get worse when the government gets involved". Nice line, and it sets up future tension with Stark's authoritarian Initiative.

Astonishing X-Men #24

It's taken far, far too long, but Joss Whedon Astonishing X-Men #24 finally arrived. I gotta say, I enjoyed the first twelve issues Astonishing far more than the second twelve. The series' last dozen issues have involved a "Breakworld" storyline in which an alien civilization, which believes Colossus to be the destroyer of their world, plans to launch a preemptive strike on Earth.

This issue sees the X-Men struggling to stop the launch of the first-strike weapon designed to destroy Earth. The book's got plenty of action, and the dialogue that Whedon is famous for, but the delay between issues is just too much. I can only half-remember what happened before, and honestly, I'm a little fuzzy on the logic that took our heroes from Earth to the Breakworld. At some point I'll need to go back and re-read the entire series to see if makes any more sense ... but not just yet. It turns out that Astonishing #24 is not the last issue of the current series; "Giant Sized Astonishing X-Men #1" will be.

Hulk #1

Hulk #1 relaunches Big Green as Big Red, with She-Hulk and Doc Samson investigating the death of one of the Hulk's archenemies, the Abomination, in Russia. Jeph Loeb spends most of the issue recounting the epic battle between the two gamma powered titans, ending with a reveal that tells us this isn't going to be the same old Hulk we've come to know. Unfortunately, that's all it tells us -- the issue is all setup, and very little payoff. It's not bad, but it's probably going to work better in the inevitable graphic novel compilation than it does as a stand alone book.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

My gaming group's Graphic Novel Book Club finished its first assignment earlier this month: Alan Moore's Watchmen. With that book finished, we're moving on to our next pick, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 1. I'm not a big manga fan, so I only know what Amazon tells me about the book:

Nausicaa, a gentle but strong-willed, young princess, has an empathic bond with the giant insects that evolved as a result of the ecosystem's destruction. Growing up in the Valley of the Wind, she learned to read the soul of the wind and navigates the skies in her glider. NausicaƤ and her allies struggle to create peace between kingdoms torn apart by war, battling over the last of the world's precious natural resources.

One of the goals of the club is to try new things; this certainly meets that criteria. Our plan is to let each member of the group pick a different book (rather than going the democratic route, which would likely lead to plenty of good, but familiar, books); I'm not sure what I'm going to have us read. I'm tempted to go with V for Vendetta but that's an obvious pick. So are The Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past but they're also fantastic reads, and we need to have at least one X-Men novel...