Friday, November 19, 2010
I had hoped to have a book review ready for this week, because I like to switch back and forth between comic and book reviews, but I'm only about half-way through Greyfriar (Vampire Empire book 1). So that review will be coming next Friday (yes, the day after Thanksgiving there will be a new post here). Meanwhile, the X-Men meet the Men In Black in an out-of-this-world story taking place during the dark days after Secret Invasion - where alien shapeshifters have left behind an Earth populace wary of trusting anyone, and ready to expel every alien who currently calls Earth home. I’ve been doing a good job (almost completely by chance) of reading recent Marvel titles in a fairly decent order in terms of the overall timeline of that universe. Having recently read Secret Invasion and Dark Avengers, I had the exact background necessary to read this book, as it follows out of those events. In a world where Norman Osborn has been put in charge of SHIELD (and renamed it HAMMER) to protect Earth from alien invasion – S.W.O.R.D. (a group introduced in the pages of Astonishing X-Men) - Earth’s first line of defense against that very thing – now finds itself under his control. Or really under the control of his surrogate – Henry Gyrich, often antagonist of the X-Men. Gyrich has plans for S.W.O.R.D. – he wants to see them remove into custody ALL aliens currently living on Earth (including those who work for S.W.O.R.D. itself) – but to do so he must first get his co-commander (Agent Brand, girlfriend of Beast) out of the way. So he sets her up for failure on a number of levels – instructing her staff to ignore a number of messages from various alien threats until they’re too late to be dealt with – ensuring she’ll be occupied when he puts his plans in motion. What this all amounts to is a story like a mish-mash between Men In Black and a day in the life of a particular character (in this case Agent Brand). This book is “X-Men” in name only – yeah, Beast has a supporting role (mostly played for laughs, not the best use of his character in my opinion) and there are some other minor X-Men appearances – but this story really focuses on Agent Brand. And I suppose that’s no so bad, other than the fact that she’s just a relatively unknown character. It isn’t like having Captain America or Iron Man starring in your book. The art is only decent, with Beast coming out worse for the wear in many scenes (is he a horse now?). The various alien plots Brand is dealing with - her half-brother on the run from the bounty hunter Death’s Head (whose appearance gave me a smile), the aliens who are defending the Earth’s rocks from “death” at our hands, to the aliens who want to destroy the Earth and are willing to free a S.W.O.R.D. prisoner who may just be capable of destroying the entire universe in order to do so – all dovetail nicely together; allowing her to retain her position as head of S.W.O.R.D., remove Gyrich, and keep the aliens who have allied themselves with Earth safe from deportation. All before finally having her morning muffin. It was an easy read, the story never stops (just as the title suggests) with some decent twists and turns along the way. I’d complain about the use of X-Men in the title – but frankly there’s so little in terms of X-Men comics that interest me nowadays, if that’s what they want to call it then so be it. While I appreciated knowing the placement of this story in the timeline, I wouldn’t say it’s necessary for your enjoyment of the comic – no background is really needed before diving in – I’d also say it’s not a book I’d highly recommend; it’s a good story but nothing that screams “must read”.
Posted by Jim Haley at 11/19/2010