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Hot Ink Reviews– Uncanny X-Men #522, Green Lantern #52, Time Lincoln #1

ComicsAlliance reviews the biggest, best, and most interesting comics that hit the shelves this week. SPOILERS FOLLOW.

SO. SPACE. HOW WAS THAT. NICE? IT SOUNDS NICE — Uncanny X-Men 522

Sure, riding inside a giant bullet speeding through the depths of space at a pace approaching the speed of light seems like it would be fun. But the sound of your own voice yelling “Wheeeeeeeeee!!” gets boring after the second hour or so. And then if you decide to keep going because it feels like the appropriate thing to do, your lungs are going to give out in another hour or two anyway. Kitty Pryde has been at it for years now, so when you say that she’s reached a point where boredom and loneliness are a concern that’s sort of like saying that someone running through an open field in the middle of a thunderstorm with a big metal pole strapped to their back is mildly concerned about the possibility of an impending tingling sensation.

Kitty’s not holding up so well. She’s even worse for the wear than all the devoted Kitty Pryde fans who’ve been holding rant-filled candlelight vigils ever since Kitty began her extended one woman performance of Mel Brooks’ “Jews in Space”. This week she’s back and everybody wins. Although as this an X-Men book, the standard “be careful what you wish for” warning is in full effect.
What’s most impressive about this week’s “Uncanny X-Men” is how writer Matt Fraction is able to take a significant event in the series’ run and find enough space in its pages to tie together important moments for three different characters. The simple approach would have been to make this one all about Kitty and the mental hardships caused by her solitary existence, but Fraction also finds a way to naturally tie-in Magneto’s latest reach for redemption and Scott’s continuing attempt to more comfortably wear the mantle of leadership.

Fraction and Whilce Portacio’s artwork combine to portray how dangerously hard Magneto is pushing himself to pull Kitty’s bullet back to Earth. The silent montage after Kitty’s bittersweet reunion has a well-executed pay off. While we see the cost of bringing Kitty back, we’re also shown mutants celebrating and going on with their everyday lives, and it ends with Scott, in the dark, worrying, still struggling with having to carry on his shoulders the world that allows all these other people to carry on with their lives. This was an issue that needed to have a powerful impact, and it succeeds.

And that’s without even mentioning the back-up, written by Fraction with art by Phil Jimenez. It tells the story of an alien planet that detects Kitty’s bullet coming on a collision course five years away and, not knowing it’ll pass right through, sees its civilization crumble as it waits for the apocalypse. It’s an excellent companion piece to the main feature. “Uncanny X-Men 522″ resolves some plot points, continues to examine others, and creates new storylines that I’m eager to see resolved. The series has excellent momentum going into the beginning of next week’s “Second Coming” crossover event.

NO ONE TOLD HIM THE MEMORIAL DAY/LABOR DAY RULE – Green Lantern 52

DC’s warriors of the emotional spectrum are now complete. First came the Green Lanterns, powered by willpower and wearing green power rings. Then the Sinestro Corps, strengthened by fear and wielding their yellow power rings. In the build up to “Blackest Night” came the Blue Lanterns and their blue power rings of hope, the Red Lanterns and their red power rings of rage, Larfleeze the Orange Lantern and his orange power ring of avarice, the Star Sapphires and their violet power rings of love, and the Indigo Tribe with their indigo power rings of compassion.

“Blackest Night” itself introduced the Black Lanterns, empowered by the forces of death and their black power rings. And now, finally, with the power of life itself, comes the White Lantern and his white power- . . . huh. Er. Hmm. The White Lantern and his super-powered piece of jewelry that DC’s probably going to continue avoiding having its characters describe in actual text.

“Green Lantern #52″ builds on the first pleasantly surprising twist in “Blackest Night,”. Issue 7′s resolution had Hal Jordan, built up for countless issues as the most important, influential, gosh darn special character in the entire universe, beaten out for the role of bearer of the white light by arch-rival Sinestro. And now Sinestro’s fighting to save the Earth, the very planet he came leading a horde of bad guys to destroy a few scant crossover events ago. It’s a moment that, in retrospect, Geoff Johns seems to have been building towards throughout Hal and Sinestro’s confrontations of the past several years.

Sinestro, once a horrible villain responsible for untold death and destruction, may now be on a path to redemption not unlike the one Hal walked back when he went crazy possessed evil, killed a bunch of people, died, came back, and had to say “sorry” to every one he met for years afterward. If this story line holds and Sinestro remains in this role, I could foresee some intriguing character interactions between the two as “Blackest Night” changes over into “Brightest Day.” Still, if for no other reason than “Blackest Night” has repeatedly teased me with interesting ideas and then thrown them away for something predictable instead, I’m still plagued by a fear that Sinestro’s going to end up replaced by Jordan until the moment I see him safely make it to the end of “Blackest Night” next week.

My one complaint about the issue, to be honest, has nothing to do with the writing or the artwork and is as subjective a critique as I could possibly make. In “Green Lantern #52″ we see Sinestro learning about the creation of life in the universe and the subsequent appearances of each of the beings that watch over their piece of the emotional spectrum. It retcons in these creatures, and in some cases even ties them into previous DC connections to biblical lore. And that’s where I couldn’t help but feel my involuntary skeptical reflex raising my right eyebrow higher and higher up my forehead as my left eyebrow remained stationary.

Yes, Geoff Johns has done a good job over the past several years bringing relevance back to the Green Lantern books. Yes, he’s made Hal Jordan, his allies, and his enemies all have a larger role to play in the DC Universe. But this is DC comics we’re talking about, this is the company that built itself up on Superman and Batman. And I don’t know that I’m comfortable with the idea of the Green Lantern mythology playing such a major role in the history of the entire DC Universe. It seems to give those characters an artificially over-inflated importance they don’t really seem to have earned, at least not in my eyes.

Having gotten all that off my chest, this is a well-done issue in an event that I’d otherwise been losing interest in. The art by Doug Mahnke and a large team of inkers and colorists is some of the best of recent issues tied in with “Blackest Night”, and includes several remarkable splash pages. Johns sets up an interesting potential conflict, one that could remain a good hook long after “Blackest Night” ends next Wednesday.


SET COORDINATES FOR FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO – Time Lincoln 1

Abraham Lincoln’s best known speech, the Gettysburg Address, is famous for several reasons, one being its brevity. Even Lincoln himself worried that his words were ins
ufficient in quality and number to the occasion, b ut history has disagreed with him, and concluded that Lincoln was able to find the few, perfect words to sum up the event. More would have ruined it.

It’s a lesson that has unfortunate applications to “Time Lincoln #1,” a comic which tells the story of Joseph Stalin traveling back in time to kill Abraham Lincoln and thus claim total victory in a war between the time-traveling forces of good, led by Lincoln, and those of evil, led by Stalin. That explanation was enough to make me mark this as a comic with potential. My concern is that, at the end of the first issue, it remains mostly a comic with potential and hasn’t yet delivered on the promises it makes.

To help you understand more about “Time Lincoln” I’m going to explain the setting and the players of the series in greater detail. Joseph Stalin, as a young man, stole the secrets magic powers of Rasputin. These powers changed Stalin into “Void Stalin,” a man capable of controlling space and time and who we know is evil because (a) he glows purple and black and (b) oh, also did I mention that he’s Joseph “I killed more citizens of the Soviet Union than Hitler” Stalin? With his evil sidekicks Napoleon, Mao Tse Tung, Fidel Castro, and, yes, Hitler too, Void Stalin seeks to control all of history. He is opposed by “Time Lincoln” and his squad of Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington Carver and Isaac Newton.

If you think those last few sentences are awesome, it’s because you have at least one functioning eye and can read English. The problem is that for most of the book all you get is the same explanation that I just gave you. It’s halfway over before you get to see Lincoln punch Stalin in the face for the first time. The battles follow the “I will spend more time talking about what I will do than doing it” approach of an episode of “Dragonball Z.” Before an action is taken, it must be explained. After an action occurs, its consequences must be discussed. Excessive dialogue ends up clogging the book’s pacing.

When fighting does happen, I will not say that it isn’t awesome. My issue is that the most interesting moments are implied to have happened in Void Stalin’s past/Time Lincoln’s future instead of in the pages of this comic. There’s one panel where Time Lincoln fights Mephitler (who is wizard Hitler, complete with cape and evil glowing ram-skull staff) on the top of Mt. Rushmore. In another panel, Lincoln saves Obama from “Mao-Tse Tung’s Time Fighter Squadron.” And in a third, he backhands Castro in the face.

The problem is that these panels all happen in one two-page spread, and then it’s back to exposition for another few pages. When Lincoln’s allies show up things get more exciting. A fight between Isaac Newton, dual-wielding steampunk laser swords, and the aforementioned wizard Hitler looks awesome, but again gets only one panel of action. I’m not sure what is says about me that I want to see Spider-Man and Norman Osborn talk more while at the same time I want to see Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Stalin just whale on each other for as many pages as can be fit in the comic. But, and this may be the first time I’ve said this in a review, I couldn’t help but come a way with the feeling that, as much as I really enjoyed moments in this, I would have preferred it with less talking and more fighting.

Fred Perry’s art, done in a manga style different from the more realistically portrayed cover by Brian Denham, does portray the action well when it happens. The designs for the magic/steampunk costumes and weaponry for the historical figures is exactly the kind of ridiculousness you’d want from a story based on this premise. Perry’s also the writer, and it’s just unfortunate that his excitement in explaining the world behind his setting gets in the way of showing the fight scenes that it would seem to be the actual reason to have the series in the first place.

The future of “Time Lincoln” is unclear at this point, with this book announced as a one-shot and future books existing depending on how this one is received. I want to see the Lincoln vs. Mephitler fight get its own issue, so I do hope that Time Lincoln finds a way to keep going. Because it would be a shame if the future scenes teased here remain only teases. Ideally, though, this one would have spent less timing describing the incredible fights to come and more time actually seeing such fights occur in the premiere issue.

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