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Review: Heroes Reborn: Magneto and the Mutant Force #1

Magneto and the Mutant Force #1

Before I start my review, I have to disclose that I haven’t been reading Heroes Reborn (The 2021 edition), but I’m familiar with the Squadron Supreme of America from earlier in Jason Aaron’s Avengers run as well as their earlier appearances. However, not following Heroes Reborn won’t be a problem for fans of the merry mutants as Steve Orlando, Bernard Chang, and David Curiel conjure up a popular X-trope in Magneto and the Mutant Force #1: the dark future. Basically, Professor X is presumed dead, and a wheelchair-bound Magneto, Jubilee, Rogue, Frenzy, and Emma Frost have to beat the clock and psychically find the last bit of his consciousness to protect the mutants of the Island of M (Krakoa, but less utopian and in the Bermuda Triangle.) from the Squadron Supreme of America.

This kind of story’s been done a lot in X-Men comics over the years, but Orlando and Chang go even darker and spring some traps and twists along the way. Bernard Chang’s art and Curiel’s colors are pretty standard issue superhero comics in the outside world. However, once they get into Magneto/Professor X’s mind, panel boundaries become more fluid, and much more black is used. Chang unveils some macabre, “maybe I need a little more context for that” imagery like Professor X enacting genocide on Power Princess of the Squadron Supreme of America’s people, the Utopians. It’s the kind of violence we see from Magneto in some of his experiences, and it’s that much more jarring coming from an overtly “peaceful” figure in Charles Xavier although almost 60 years of X-Men comics show he’s definitely a manipulative and messed up guy. The different approach to layouts and storytelling during the mindscape scenes does keep Magneto and the Mutant Force visually compelling for the most part as the outside battle erupts into evil (and possibly racist) Superman and Wonder Woman versus the X-Men.

One aspect of Steve Orlando’s approach to writing that I enjoy is how he uses his knowledge of continuity and character relationships to enhance his stories, and this is evident in both his Big Two work as well as some of his creator-owned comics like Commanders in Crisis and Project Patron. My favorite continuity nod he uses in Magneto and Mutant Force is a huge spoiler, but he brings back Israeli mutant Sabra to provide security for the psychic excursion and makes the Frenzy the embodiment of rage against the oppressors of marginalized folks. Bernard Chang also draws her as a total tank wrecking weird cop versions of Fantomex when they break Emma Frost out of the Muir Island Psionic Detention Center.

However, Orlando wisely centers Magneto and the Mutant Force around the relationship between Charles Xavier and Magneto while also undercutting it and talking about how mutants need to go beyond this paradigm. He writes dialogue that could easily be recited by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen (Or James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender), but also ends up showing how mutants could thrive and not just survive by moving on instead of trying to salvage their past. I would be interested in seeing these ideas explored in a X-Book and not just an event tie-in, which is really a credit to Steve Orlando’s skill with characterization and using the one-shot format to do something bold plot-wise.

Because it’s a one-shot to an event centered around the Squadron Supreme of America, Magneto and Mutant Force #1 is hamstrung by their less than charismatic appearance, but Orlando and Chang still spin gold out of the situation by including elements of classic X-Men stories and also poking and prodding at them. Plus it features cool psychic visuals and phonetic spelling of Rogue’s Southern accents. Even if you’re not following Heroes Reborn, this comic is worth checking out for fans of stories like “Days of Future Past” (The film more so than the comic, honestly.), Age of Apocalypse, and “Here Comes Tomorrow” with a team dynamic that is classic X-Men-meets-Exiles.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Bernard Chang
Colors: David Curiel Letters: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.2 Art: 7.2 Overall:7.7 Recommendation: Read

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus ComicsTFAW

Super-Articulate: Marvel Legends House of X

Greetings, mutants! This much is true: Jonathan Hickman and an army of collaborators totally reinvigorated the X-books with the twin House of X/Powers of X minis and the subsequent wave of related X-titles. The overall storyline gave the subline a much-needed shot in the arm and propelled the X-Men back to the forefront of comics conversation. Anyone that even vaguely pays attention knew that the story would get represented in figure form sooner rather than later. The (first?) House of X Marvel Legends is in stores now. Let’s take a look.

Overview: The initial figure selections are totally sensible. Charles Xavier, Magneto, and Moira McTaggert are crucial to this particular story. Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Wolverine are likewise pivotal and among the most important X-characters (in fact, those three, Xavier, and Magneto appear on the House of X #1 cover). The Omega Sentinel appears as an antagonist early on, and the Tri-Sentinel looks cool as hell. So, onward.

Moira McTaggert: It’s about time. Moira McTaggert is about as important as a supporting character in the history of X-Men that I can think of. She should have been made years ago in her classic yellow and purple costume. I thought it was excellent that Hickman’s story elevated her profile and gave her an amazing and surprising backstory. Hasbro cleverly expounded on Moira’s multi-faceted role by making the figure in such a way that in can have two distinct looks. One is jaunty, mod-ish look with the cap and scarf, and the other, which I prefer, is the scientist look with the lab coat. This is another good example of Hasbro creating maximum value with extra parts and accessories that can completely change a figure. Here you have an extra head, two extra arms, extra hands, the removable lab coat piece, and the scarf, as well as a science book. The design team obviously put a lot of thought and care into the look. Amid iconic mutants, they made Moira stand out.

Professor Charles Xavier: The helmeted Xavier was an instantly iconic look. Nevertheless, the figure also comes equipped with an extra regular head and an attachable psionic power effect. The figure’s slim build is evocative of the fact that Hasbro really has developed a broader array of body types to more accurately capture a character. Maybe I like it more because I like the story, but I appreciate that it’s sometimes more difficult to nail the simpler design. This is a solid piece.

Magneto: I’ve been waiting for a white-costumed Magneto for some time, and I was not disappointed. This is a figure with presence. Great head/helmet and cape sculpts pull this together, and the extra grasping hands are perfect for poses to would illustrate Magneto using his powers. The stark white next to the primarily black costume of Xavier is a great contrast, and they look really good next to one another.

Marvel Girl: There were those that were unhappy with Jean taking back the Marvel Girl name and costume in the House storyline, but it’s hard to argue with an iconic name and look. In figure terms, this is an excellent representation of Jean from the storyline, and a solid take if you want to get a second one for your classic-era display.  The only negative for me is that the stiff vinyl of the skirt makes leg poseability a little bit difficult. Apart from that, it’s a good version.

Cyclops: As Cyclops is one of my all-time favorite characters, I’m always down for another version. I like the new blue-on-blue costume; it’s a deceptively simple, but cool, design. In terms of the sculpt, it’s a really good representation of Scott Summers. Like the previous Retro Cyclops in the X-Factor costume, this employs a second head and an attachable optic blast. This is another strong entry.

Wolverine: Let’s hear it for the fat claws! I vastly prefer the broader blades to the slimmer ones, and this figure gets that exactly right. And again, I’m happy that Hasbro makes a consistent effort to keep Wolverine shorter to be in proper scale with the other characters. While this costume is specific to the House/Powers story, this is actually a really strong Wolverine for those that collectors that just want a good version of each character.

Omega Sentinel: I’m always up for a previously unmade X-villain, so I was pleased to see this one added. The Omega Sentinel comes with two heads; the bald one reflects the House/Powers appearance, and the head with hair is an earlier look. Yes, the hair is a different color than the comics appearance, but the volume and detail of the hair sculpt is impressive. The interchangeable weaponized arms are great; they really make the figure pop and stand out from the other figures on the shelf.  This is a dark horse favorite for me in this wave.

Tri-Sentinel: I’m going to be completely honest: getting the three heads into the body was a MASSIVE pain in the ass. I can’t recall the last time I had this much trouble fitting a BAF piece in, let alone three. I had to go the hot water route on the neck joints in order to finally get them to fit. By contrast, the arms and legs fit extremely easily. Difficulty aside, I think it’s a great-looking BAF. As a big Neon Genesis Evangelion fan, I like the subtle referencing here. I also like BAFs that are big, and this fits the bill. It’s also surprisingly poseable. This and the Omega Sentinel look great next to each other; when I get a chance to do some shelf adjusting, I’ll be putting them next to Nimrod, too.

This is another strong showing from the Marvel Legends team. I do hope that we get some more House/Powers figures; I’d like to see a Marauders Kate Pryde, more New Mutants, and some undone characters, like Quentin Quire, in particular. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next. What about you, readers? What’s your take?

Enter the Mindscape with Professor X on Marvel Contest of Champions

Allow the ultimate mutant to guide you to the Rise of Xto the true ‘Garden of Eden.’ Duel for dominance and become Champion with Professor X as he makes his way into The Battlerealm in Kabam’s MARVEL Contest of Champions.

Professor X believed in peaceful coexistence of mutants and humans, but this all changed when Moira MacTaggert revealed to him the inevitable demise of mutantkind, unless Professor X could change his ways. Under the new moniker “X”, he gave up his old dreams. No more would mutants endure the afflictions and prejudice of humankind. Under the formidable rule of X, the mutant nation of Krakoa was founded. And those who defy the nation must enter the Mindscape and face Professor X in a duel of mental strength.

Take a look at Professor X’s Champion Spotlight, which details his abilities, history, strengths recommended masteries.

Review: House of X #2

After House of X #1’s worldbuilding and ideological treatise and Powers of X #1’s time-skipping narrative, Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, and Marte Gracia settle down into what looks to be a character study of Moira MacTaggert, long time, underrated X-Men supporting character. On a very surface/spoiler-free marketing level, House of X #2 is this. However, in actuality, this is the first issue of Hickman’s X-Men story that will be in the proverbial history books, and the changes can already be seen on Moira’s Wikipedia page.

In effect, he makes Moira MacTaggert, or X as she is known in the comic, the new center of the mutant universe taking the crown away from Xavier and Magneto, Cyclops and Wolverine, or even Apocalypse and Sinister. Her perpetual, yet unfortunately invisible connection to the X-Men ends up becoming her power. House of X #2’s main reveal is that Moira is a mutant with the ability to reincarnate, have all memories from her past life in her new one, and have her mutant nature be undetectable. Hickman and Larraz showcase this final power in a throwdown between Moira X and Destiny where they use a nine-panel grid to flex Destiny’s ability to sense when Moira reincarnates and take her out every time Edge of Tomorrow style.

At its core, House of X #2 is a wonderful speculative fiction story about how you would add differently in your life if you already knew the outcome of your decisions and relationships. Moira’s ideology and her relationship to the major X-Men universe players, including Professor X, Magneto, Apocalypse, and Sentinels, evolves throughout the issue as she plays a variety of roles from housewife to her previously canonical one as a support scientist to co-founding the X-Men with Apocalypse and being the Terminator to the Trask family.

Larraz and Gracia keep these sequences lively with an ever-shifting visual style, especially in layouts. They can go from a three-panel progression of X-Men history a la Kirby, Cockrum, and Immonen to diagonal panels to show Moira gripping with the inevitability of AI and utter darkness when she teams up with Apocalypse. But House of X #2 also has a lot of conversations, and Pepe Larraz nails the shifts in body language in the interactions between Moira and Professor X, which range from slowly building a bond to complete disdain and finally creating the world of House of X.

Moira’s lives are truly the hidden part of the metaphorical iceberg that is the world of House of X and attempt at utopia that is Krakoa. She has seen how mutant history has developed nine times, and the tenth time is the charm as she is back to Xavier’s dream, albeit, in a radically different way from a school of gifted youngsters or team of superheroes. Moira X is the container of potential and the results of ideological struggle, and the multi-page timeline at the end of House of X #2 is a fantastic representation of this and one of my favorite Hickman diagrams this side of Black Monday Murders.

House of X #2 seamlessly works at two levels. On one level, Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larraz are telling the life story of Moira MacTaggart, who has played a pivotal role as a bridge between humans and mutants for decades of comics, and what you think about her is all wrong. Finally, on a macro level, they craft several visions for how the relationship between humans, mutants, and machines plays out and begin to provide a reason for why the world is like it is in House of X #1 and how it ends up in Powers of X #1.

Story: Jonathan Hickman Art: Pepe Larraz Colors: Marte Gracia
Story: 9.5 Art: 9 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Marvel Legends Ultimate Action Figures with Vehicles Wave 2 is Available for Pre-Order

If you missed Professor X when he was released in the first wave of Marvel Legends, you can get him now in the second wave of figures. Professor X and Captain America with Motorcycle make up the release.

With Marvel Legends Series 6-inch-scale figures and vehicles, kids and collectors alike can start a legendary collection of comic- and movie-based Marvel characters. With these 6-inch-scale figures and vehicles, featuring classic design and premium articulation, Marvel fans can imagine recreating the arcs from some of their favorite Marvel comics. 

Marvel Legends Ultimate Action Figures with Vehicles Wave 2 case includes 3 individually packaged action figures with vehicles:

  • 2x Professor X
  • 1x MVL Legends Vehicles Vintage Captain America

The wave of three figures retails for $119.99.

Super-Articulate: Marvel Legends Professor X

Every once in a while, there’s a consistent, ongoing call for a figure to get made. Since the beginning of Marvel Legends, one of the most relentlessly demanded figures has been Professor X in his hover chair. A Professor X in his conventional wheelchair was produced in 2005 as part of the Galactus wave, back when the line was made by Toy Biz. A movie version in the film chair was also produced early in the decade. In the 1990s toyline based largely on the animated series, we saw the only American mass market version of the Professor in the hover chair. But no longer! The brand-new Ultimate Riders Professor X in his hover chair is here. I could do this review in one word, and that is: DAMN.

Hasbro knocked this out of the park. I know I’ve been high on their work lately, but that’s because they’ve been delivering consistently. This particular item is a step above that. The accessories are clever (one is outright brilliant), the chair design is detailed and extremely well-made, and the figure is solid. It’s high-caliber work.

First off, check out the box. The hover chair is in two pieces; it easily and cleanly fits together. Yes, there’s a seam on the back, but if that’s your biggest gripe, it’s really minimal. The “hover stand” (of, what? Compressed air? Energy? Doesn’t matter) gives the chair an elevated feel. The chair pads fit in easily and sport some crazy detail for pieces that you don’t see much of with the figure in place. The “blanket” helps keep the figure in place. There’s the Cerebro helmet with a power effect, and finally, there’s the Shadow King head.

I’ve praised these before, but I’ll do it again: creating extra accessories and swappable body parts for value-adds that create “new” characters is a brilliant idea. The Shadow King head goes perfectly with the BAF Kingpin, and I’m keeping it there. (I have an early Kingpin. It’s fine. Head stays. In fact, a major driver of my interest in the Kingpin BAF was the fact that I’d be able to make him into the Shadow King; if you’re not familiar with the character, look him up and watch Legion).

The hover chair itself is well-made, with a pair of sliding panels revealing instruments underneath. It’s super-easy to slide the figure in; you more or less “lock” him in place (though its not a true locking mechanism) with the blanket. The chair is big, but not disruptively big on the shelf.

The figure itself has a standard ML suit body, but they killed it on the head and hands. Those crazy eyebrows look like the early Kirby take on the character, and hand gesture positions are perfect. I photographed the figure with the helmet and without. I’m going to display without, but I think it looks decent; the effect isn’t as good as Psylocke’s psionic butterfly, but it’s decent.

Professor X looks great on his own, but he really comes to life when you put some of his X-Men around him. Here he is with the recent Cyclops, Jean Grey, my favorite of the Wolverines (because he’s short) and that dick Hank McCoy (what? I’m a big Cyclops fan, and he owes Scott a big apology). Since I have a new Charlie to put with my modern X-Men, I moved the old Chuck up to what I call my “First Appearance” shelf.

Overall, this is terrific work. The figure is available now. It reads “sold out” on Hasbro Pulse, but it’s popping in and out on Amazon (I got mine there for regular price; just be patient) and also showing up at Target and Wal-Mart, along with the Deadpool/Scooter box. GameStop lists them as arriving by the weekend, but your location’s stock may vary.

Professor X and Gabrielle Haller are Cast and Coming to FX’s Legion

The third season will be the final one for FX‘s Legion based on the Marvel characters by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz. But, it’s going out with a bang as we’ll meet David’s parents, Professor X and Gabrielle Haller.

The two actors who will bring the characters to the small screen are Harry Lloyd as Professor X and Stephanie Corneliussen as Gabrielle.

The third and final 8 episode season will debut in June on FX.

FX's Legion

Review: X-Men Grand Design- Second Genesis #1

X-MEN GRAND DESIGN SECOND GENESIS #1 (OF 2)Cartoonist Ed Piskor leaves the Silver Age and enters the Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, and John Byrne era in X-Men Grand Design: Second Genesis #1 retelling the story of the X-Men from Cyclops and Professor X’s assembly of the “All-New, All-Different” team of Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Thunderbird, and Sunfire to rescue the original X-Men from the mutant island Krakoa to the conclusion of the classic “Dark Phoenix Saga”. The comic’s biggest strength is Piskor’s meticulous attention to craft including panel layouts and lengths, color choices, and lettering. With so much material to cover, there are no wasted beats in his storytelling, no filler. This does harm its emotional resonance which pales in comparison to Claremont’s original saga that partially worked because the longform storytelling created a connection between readers and characters and developed various relationships in more depth, like Wolverine and Nightcrawler, Jean Grey and Cyclops, and Professor X and Lilandra to name a few in this time period.

However, for the most part, Second Genesis #1 is beautiful, yet streamlined take on one of the most important pop culture icons from a talented writer/artist. Even though there are appearance from various secondary foes and antagonists and even mentions of and cameos from heavy hitters like Magneto and Galactus, Piskor establishes from page one that the Hellfire Club will be the chief opponent of the X-Men in Second Genesis while continuing the larger Ur-narrative of the Phoenix that he hinted at in the first volume of X-Men Grand Design. And the force or character that these two powers rotate around is Jean Grey and later the Phoenix force taking on the appearance of Jean Grey as Piskor agilely summarizes the retcon that allowed for Jean Grey’s “ressurection” and absolving of a murder of planets in a sequence of dark panels that show her go from a powerful mutant to almost a fetus. He even shows his horror chops in his recreation of the famous scene in the “Phoenix Saga” where Jean absorbs radiation and crash lands the X-Men team after they rescue Professor X from mutant hater and experimenter Stephen Lang. A classic countdown sequence combined with some shocked facial expressions builds the suspense that culminates in a firebird rising from Jamaica Bay.

Although Second Genesis #1 is much more plot-driven, and the best X-Men stories I would argue are more character driven (And Claremont managed to cram a lot of plots in too.), Ed Piskor still takes care to flesh out the individual X-Men’s flaws, personality traits, and memorable moments. There’s a baseball game with Nightcrawler playing catcher, early in the book, Colossus and Wolverine link up in a trademark fastball special, and there’s even a panel with Storm’s claustrophobia. Piskor writes and draws Kitty Pryde as plucky and ingenious without being annoying and accidentally saving the X-Men with her phasing ability as Claremont and Byrne were trying to finish off their great epic while also introducing an actual student for the Xavier institute per editorial mandate. She adds bursts of joy and energy between the shadow and flame of Dark Phoenix and whited out psychic duels between Mastermind and Cyclops. The Phoenix and Hellfire Club predominantly take center stage while Professor X’s deal with Lilandra and Shi’ar runs off to the side, and even though some of my favorite X-Men were on this incarnation of the team, they lack a strong identity unlike the original five plus Havok and Polaris in X-Men Grand Design.

Don’t get me wrong. For all its flaws in the characterization department (For example, Piskor puts Professor X and Cyclops at a graveyard at the top of the page, and Thunderbird’s death at the bottom and barely hints at his headstrong nature.) and lack of focus on the Jean/Scott dynamic when Jean is at the center of the story, Second Genesis #1 is the rare mainstream comic created auteur style by a single creator. Ed Piskor gives the subplot heavy, soap operatic narrative of the X-Men a strong thread to follow and lets his nostalgia and love for the source material shine on every page. His art style is retro without being simplistic, and there is a kind of minimalism to his use of captions and dialogue, especially compared to the overwrought style of Claremont. In fact, his strongest emotional beats involve few words at all like Jean and Scott spending one last night in bed before the X-Men’s honor duel against the Shi’ar, and he punctuates these emotional crescendos with the use of black and white instead of the colorful costumes, spaceships, and energy bursts that permeate this book and the X-Men canon as a whole.

Even if it focuses more on singular narrative building than the growth of one of superhero comics’ greatest ensemble casts, X-Men Grand Design: Second Genesis #1 is a wonderful example of the cyclical nature of myth as Ed Piskor filters the beginning of Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men through a lean, visually striking storyteller’s lens or his childhood fantasies through a steadier, yet no less energetic hand. I’d probably rather reread the “Dark Phoenix Saga” though.

Story/Art/Letters: Ed Piskor
Story: 7.2 Art: 9.0 Overall: 7.6 Recommendation: Read

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Funko Reveals Pop! Marvel: X-Men Deadpool and Pop! Marvel: X-Men

Remember when Deadpool joined the X-Men? Funko sure does! Today the company revealed their Pop! Marvel: X-Men Deadpool. Did someone say chimichangas?! The figure will be available this month.

Pop! Marvel X-Men Deadpool

Not leaving out his fellow X-Men, Funko has also revealed Pop! Marvel: X-Men, featuring Storm, Cyclops, Professor X, Colossus, Mystique, and Magneto! They’ll be available in November.

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