Now I Remember Why I Like Remender...
I'll admit, I wasn't the biggest fan of Remender's last big series, the Uncanny X-Force. It was a little too dark to my taste, I thought having Deadpool and Wolverine of the same team was kind of cheating and lowered some of the stakes somewhat, Angel and Psylocke didn't really interest me as characters, and I hated all the alternate dimension bullshit. It wasn't a bad series by any means, just not my taste. This book, however, feels like it brings a lot more to the table. I've heard fantastic things, I've heard terrible things, but I think it's pretty damn stellar as a whole. Sure, it's not at the top of my list, but it's certainly up there in terms of great stuff to read.
This whole book, and presumably the series, is a response to the death of Professor X and how this changes everything about the universe that currently exists. At the very basis, we see this in the team make-up, which I found was hugely improved from Uncanny X-Force. Yes, Wolverine is still here, but he takes a bit more of a back-seat role, along with Thor. Scarlet Witch and Rouge take a lot of the limelight, which I greatly appreciated; they're both strong women who I know little about and have an interesting and dynamic conflict with one another. Meanwhile, Havok and Captain America, both being great leaders, often don't see eye to eye, despite Cap putting Havok in charge. This also creates a great relationship to explore between them, as they begin to figure out how to work their way collaboratively or around one another. We see a lot of work and development on Cap's part in terms of accepting not being in charge, which is somewhat symbolic, I think; that the mutant, the different outsider, is allowed to take some form of power or charge over the America mascot as the latter learns to work with them as equals. Honestly, the team at this point feels very much like Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run; the two strong females are fighting, there's the strong man, a Summers leading the team, and Wolverine; Cap isn't quite as good as Beast, in my opinion, but it's pretty on the nose. And I like that a lot; Astonishing X-Men is a great series to be compared to (at least, those first four volumes of it), and the relationships within the group make ths tory more accessible and appreciated.
And the first conflict is utterly fantastic, all in all. The Red Skull does something truly diabolical here (I won't spoil it), and everything feeds off of that first instance, building upon it to show that this guy was clearly trained by Hitler himself. They say that heroes are only as good as their villains; this book makes it clear just what a fantastic foe Red Skull can be at his prime. The build-up is at a perfect speed, fight scenes are well dispersed, and it all feels a little old-timey, a little reminiscent of older superhero conflicts but with the concious story-telling of today; it's really great.
There is this narration that occurs throughout the series that introduces the start of issue 3 and continues throughout the rest of the series. At times, I really appreciated it, as it felt like it fleshed out the story better (I'm a fan of text heavy books). At other times, I found it kind of annoying. It was a little back and forth, but, in the way the story was told, I felt it was well used and, to a degree, necessary.
The art overall is pretty good here. Cassaday draws us some really breath-taking scenes, showcasing some of the characters very well. There are the occasional panel that looks odd, but, as a whole, it all looks really cool. Coipel has his own distinct style for issue 5, and I liked that one too, not as structured as Cassaday's work, and it felt a little more sharp as a whole, which I also appreciated. But what I found really standing out was Martin's coloring. Even the darkest scenes will have some beautiful coloring to accompany it and really bring the world to life. Not the best art I've seen, but fantastic all the same.
There are a couple of problems that I had with this book as a whole. The first was, at times, the book felt a little too self-referencey. I appreciated some of the nods they made to past series or older times in comic book lore (even the tone delves into that a little), but there was one instance where I felt it was a little too much and not entirely fitting. Secondly, the start of issue five was somewhat... jarring, and left me wondering what exactly was going on. It's pretty vague, especially compared to the start of the first story arch here, and I had a hard time getting back into the story for a page or two afterwards. Finally, I'm unsure as to how some of the characters introduced in the fifth issue will meld into the series. I appreciate what's going on, and I like where the series is taking us, I'm just not entirely certain the roles that these figures will take on.
At the end of the day, this is a great and well thought out book. It's insightful, though-provoking, and a treat to look at. Pick it up if you haven't already.
Story: 8/10: Falls into a couple of classic comic cliches, but there's such novelty and ingenuity in the conflict that the narrative was thoroughly enjoyable.
Characters: 8/10: Thor and Wolverine are pushed to the side, which is good and bad, and the characters in issue 5 have yet to really show me how they'll impact the book, but the development for the rest of the team is great so far, and hearkens back to some really good team dynamics.
Art: 8/10: Stands out in terms of coloring and design, but not the best in the world.
Re-readability: 8/10: There's a lot to ponder and think over here, even if the narrative itself becomes familiar enough.
Length: 5 issues (not the best, but there's a lot packed into it).
Overall: The scores speak for themselves. A solid read through and through, though not the best. Pick this up if you can!