District X Vol. 1: Mr. M collects the first six issues of the short lived District X series, originally published some time in 2004. District X is a region within New York, populated largely by mutants. These aren't the 'cool' type of mutants though. No one pops claws or teleports. These are the kind of mutants that smell bad when stressed. The main premise behind the District X series seems to be that even though the District may be 'different', its population is still bound by the law.

Enter the X-Man Bishop. In the ye olde days Bishop was just a gun totting mutant soldier from the future. In District X he's much more the mutant detective. It gives his character a lot more depth, and it has to be said, purpose. In District X, Bishop is partnered with NYPD patrolman Ismael Ortega, to assist in managing the increased crime rate in District X, also known as Mutant Town.

Bishop and Ortega begin investigating a series of crimes that finds them smack bang in the middle of a gang war between two rival mutant crime lords, fighting for control of Mutant Town as well as sale of "Toad Juice" a drug synthesised from the bodily excretion of a mutant boy, known as Toad Boy.


Violence erupts between rival crime lords “Shaky” Kaufman and “Filthy Frankie” Zapruder over a mutant, Toad Boy, and the addictive narcotic he produces (known as “Toad Juice”). When Kaufman learns of the lucrative sales of “Toad Juice” in District X, he raids Zapruder’s facilities and kidnaps the Toad Boy for himself. However, it is unknown that Toad Juice can be fatal to normal humans.

The first six issues also cover the emergence of the mysterious "Mr M", Absolom Zebardyn Mercator, who later pops up to play a pivotal role in the House of M followup, X-Men: The 198. With Mr M becoming increasingly detached from society, he decides that the only way to help District X is by destroying it. Bishop and Ortega are then in a race to not only quell the gang violence, but to stop the destruction of the community they have sworn to protect.

District X Vol. 1: Mr. M is a little like an X-Men version of CSI or Law and Order. To be fair, I don't know whether District X is that good, or whether my whole rating system has been thrown out by Chuck Austen's run on Uncanny X-Men that I'm still labouring through.

While not exactly revolutionary, District X Vol. 1: Mr. M was an enjoyable read, and did enough to make me want to track down Volume 2. Overall I'd give it 6.5 out of 10

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Like a sadist I picked up Uncanny X-Men Volume 3: Holy War TPB. I really should have learnt my lesson after reading Volumes 1 and 2, but clearly I'm a slow learner. The trade paper back Holy War, collects Uncanny X-Men issues #421-427. In this collection, writer Chuck Austen seems to have struck a new low in his Uncanny X-Men run.

Once again he persists with the angst ridden love triangle of Alex Summers (Havok), Lorna Dane (Polaris) and "Nurse" Annie, which culminates in a wedding and a 'surprise' (that is sarcasm) twist. Does Alex love Lorna? Or does he love Annie? Woe is he. I would write more about it, but that about sums up that plot line.

The other major plot featured in the collection is the "Holy War" itself. This story focuses on The Church of Humanity's attempts to use Nightcrawler to bring down the Catholic Church. Essentially Nightcrawler begins to show signs his faith is wavering. The Church of Humanity, led by a former nun who was raped by a priest (hence her anti-Catholic motivation), target Nightcrawler with plans on making him the next pope and then revealing him to be the devil (due to his appearance)... or something... Basically this plot line, like the rest of the book sucked, and made very little sense. I get the impression that Chuck Austen is not the biggest fan of the Catholic Church.

The only glimmer redeeming feature in this collection is the story of Cain Marko (The Juggernaut) and his relationship with young mutant recruit Sammy. Following the Juggernaut has he tries to redeem himself is the most interesting idea Austen seems to have developed in the three volumes of his run I've read so far.

In summary, this is the worst collection I've read to date, even worse than volume 2. The characterisation of Nightcrawler in particular was hard to take... apparently Austen writes Nightcrawler as an emo kid? On a side note, this is another trade paper back that has Wolverine on the cover even though he appears in the six issues collected briefly. Avoid this one like the plague, unless you just have to have the whole set. 1 out of 10
» Read the rest of the entry..

I read Uncanny X-Men Volume 2: Dominant Species TPB straight after I finished the mediocre Volume 1: Hope. Let me start by saying that Chuck Austen's first arc, Hope, wasn't the worst thing I've read, but it was by far not the best either. It wasn't until I finished Volume 2: Dominant Species that I realized that the bad reputation Chuck Austen seems to have with X-Men fans is entirely well deserved.

Dominant Species is like the three pronged turd. Poor plotting, poor art and poor characterization. The main thread running through Dominant Species is that people with similar character characteristics gravitate toward one another. A majority of the story is told from the point of view of Angel and Husk. There's a bit of old school sexual tension.

There's also a new villain, Max Lobbo, who's head of some sort of mutant werewolf pack. Who he is, where he comes from and what his motivation is, doesn't receive much attention. He works/runs a company that is owned by Warren Worthington (Angel). Besides that Lobbo kills people and mutants for fun, and has a pack of werewolf mutants following him around that seem to do nothing more than repeat everything everyone says.

At one point Wolverine gets pummelled and then has to be rescued by Northstar and taken away to heal. Is this the same Wolverine that survived an explosion and healed himself from skeletal remains in his Civil War tie-in?

So basically, a new bad guy is introduced, but barely fleshed out, and Husk has a thing for Angel, although Angel does not really know that. Havok is brought out of his coma, and Lorna Dane (Polaris) returns.

From what I've read so far Austen applies the same template across his stories. He ticks the 'unrequited love' box, and also makes sure to include a little vague social commentary. Female characters exist solely to stare longingly at their male counter parts.

According to the Amazon description, Dominant Species was illustrated by "superstar" Japanese artist Kia Asamiya. The X-Men clearly take on a manga flavor, but in this instance, I can't say it's a good thing. Some of the characters look just plain weird, and it's often hard to get past the nose. Another thing that stuck out for me was the costume Polaris rocks up in. It looks like she has a set of wings coming out of her head, and I have no idea why.

For me, there were only two interesting elements in this collection. One, the concept of secondary mutation. Mutants mutating further, for example, Angel develops a healing factor and Iceman begins to turn into ice, full time. Two, the idea that Juggernaut is not always such a bad guy. Some people would no doubt hate this aspect, but in a story as pedestrian as the one played out in Dominant Species, people should be grateful for small mercies.

In summary, this is officially the worst trade paper back collection I have read to date. 2 out of 10

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I picked up the trade paper back Uncanny X-Men Volume 1: Hope TPB (Uncanny X-Men) in a nick and dent sale with relatively low expectations. Why? The book carried Chuck Austen's name on the cover, the guy that has been roundly criticized for steering the title directly in to some of its more disappointing moments.

This trade paper collects Uncanny X-Men issues #410-415, and covers off a couple of story arcs. The first deals with the team sent on a rescue mission only to learn that it is the Juggernaut they have been sent to help. Black Tom Cassidy is smack bang in the middle of a secondary mutation, and Juggernaut needs help. Fairly stock standard stuff. The early issues also deal with Professor X tracking down a young mutant named Sammy who has a fish like appearance. We are also introduced to Annie, a nurse caring for a comatose patient that later turns out to be Havok.

Uncanny X-Men: Hope on Amazon.comIn the final two issues, Northstar joins the undermanned group, at the request of Xavier, to assist them to bring in an explosive mutant child unable to control his powers. The big revelation for me here was that Northstar is gay, and has a crush on Bobby Drake (aka. Iceman), who happens to be going through a secondary mutation of his own.

By the end of the collection, Austen seems to have all his players in the game, and it feels like I've just read six issues of 'set-up'. One of the problems with issues #410-415 seems to be that Austen was operating with the X-Men 'C' grade squad to a certain extent. Angel? I've never been a huge fan. Stacy X? Pheromone powers? I've read Austen quoted as saying he wanted to "inject some soap" into his Uncanny X-Men run, which seems to be the exact result he achieved. Is that a good thing? I'm not so sure. A love triangle between Angel, Stacy X and Husk? I'm not sure that I could have been less interested. The whole unrequited love angle doesn't work for me either. The Annie/Havok and Northstar/Iceman thing just didn't float my boat. I want to read an X-Men story, not a rejected script from the OC. » Read the rest of the entry..

The Spider-Man: Breakout trade paper back collects the five issue Spider-Man: Breakout miniseries that was originally published between June - October 2005. Breakout expands upon some of the events that occur in the first few issues of New Avengers. Basically, if you haven't read the New Avengers Vol.1 trade paper back, you'll struggle to make much sense of Breakout. To re-cap, New Avengers began with a prison break, instigated by Electro, that results in the escape of a large number of supervillians from the island prison call "The Raft". A number of heroes, including Spider-Man, are in the area, and attempt to stop the breakout. These events are the catalyst for the formation of the New Avengers.

Breakout opens sometime prior to the events featured in the New Avengers, and focuses more on two rival criminal factions, who have a world class beef with one another. Once the breakout occurs, these two factions take their problems out on one another, with New York as the back drop. Spider-Man is caught in the middle.

As the New Avengers haven't officially been 'assembled' yet, Spider-Man is left mostly on his own devices to figure out why the two groups are trying to kill each other, and why they've stayed in New York when they could have skipped town already. Are they looking for something? Or someone?

Breakout is a strange miniseries, and I can't really figure out what the motivation for it was? Perhaps Marvel wanted to capitalise on the popularity of Spider-Man a little more, and decided to rush this one out, but I still don't see how this warranted it's own miniseries. The problem I had with breakout was that it doesn't really add anything to the New Avengers story, and it's more about the villains than it is Spider-Man, although that's not necessarily a bad thing.

As far as tie-ins go, this is probably one of the more unnecessary ones that I've read. While the story following the villains is interested, I'm not sure that it's deserving of it's own series. The artwork is good, and the characters are interesting enough, but it still, I can only give this a generous 6 out of 10. Fortunately I picked this one up for a couple of bucks in the last TFAW scratch and dent sale, otherwise I may not have felt so generous in my assessment.

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The Dark Phoenix Saga is arguably the most recognised and referenced stories in the X-Men catalogue. It has served as the inspiration for much of the original X-Men animated series, as well as the X-Men live action movies. The Dark Phoenix saga is featured in X-Men Vol. 1 #129-138 during 1980, and now collected in trade paper back X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga.

When talking about the Dark Phoenix Saga, it's important to know that originally the Phoenix actually was Jean Grey, at the height of her powers, and was not simply a cosmic entity linked to her, as is the case since the character was retconned by Marvel in later issues.

In an earlier arc, Jean Grey was exposed to radiation from a solar flare, which unlocked her powers so she achieved all her telepathic and telekinetic potential. She turned into a 'being of pure thought', and upon reforming herself once she returned to Earth, took on a new costume, identity and wielded the power of the "Phoenix". After repairing the damaged M'Kraan Crystal, she saw the danger her powers posed on voluntarily kept them under control. These events led into the Dark Phoenix saga...

Recognising her immense power, Jean Grey became the target of Mastermind, as he attempted to gain the favour of the Hellfire Club. With the help of the White Queen, an evil Emma Frost, Mastermind (aka. Jason Wyngarde) projected his illusions directly into Jean Grey's mind, making her believe that she was actually living in period times as Lady Grey, Wyngarde's lover. Through Mastermind's manipulations, Jean Grey joined the Hellfire Club as the Black Queen, a role that lead to the breaking of the barriers she had created to keep the Phoenix under control.

When the X-Men came to her rescue, her love for Cyclops broke the psychic hold Mastermind had over her. At the same time though, the last of the psychic barriers keeping the Phoenix in check was also broken. Jean Grey's mind and body was taken over, and she called herself the "Dark Phoenix".

After a brief battle in which the Dark Phoenix hand the X-Men their asses on a silver platter, Dark Phoenix grew hungry, created a wormhole, and disappeared, transporting herself to another galaxy, devouring the power of a star, which in turn went nova, causing the deals of billions of innocent aliens in the process. A passing Shi'ar space craft spotted the carnage, and attacked the Dark Phoenix, in an effort to stop any further destruction. Before they were destroyed, the Shi'ar were able to transmit a message to their Empress Lilandra, warning her of the threat. Lilandra gathered a posse of intergalactic butt kickers, including the Kree and Skrull empires, who all came to the same conclusion. The Dark Phoenix was bad news, a bigger threat than Galactus, and needed to be stopped immediately.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the X-Men and Beast (who was a member of the Avengers at the time), devised a plan that would nullify the powers of the Dark Phoenix long enough for them to defeat her. Lucky for them, because before they could say 'Magneto's hairy nipple', the Dark Phoenix had returned to earth. Their plan worked and Professor X was able to rebuild some psychic circuit breakers, in order to keep the Dark Phoenix's powers at a more manageable level.

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Bad luck comes in threes, so the Shi'ar arrive, abducting the X-Men, informing them that the Dark Phoenix had killed billions and had been sentenced to death. Professor X, who was tapping Lilandra at the time, challenged the Shi'ar to a duel of honour. If the Shi'ar won, the Dark Phoenix would be killed, if the X-Men won, she would be granted mercy.
» Read the rest of the entry..

Wolverine and Mystique are two of the X-Men universe characters that I find most interesting, although much of Wolverine's mystery is quickly being eroded (see Origins). The Wolverine: Get Mystique trade paper back collects Wolverine issues #62-65, and follows on from the events seen in the X-Men event, Messiah Complex.

The story begins with a flash back. Wolverine is beaten, dragged outside and tied to a post to be shot by a firing squad, a voice next to him asks if he's a murderer. The voice turns out to be Mystique.
» Read the rest of the entry..

War Games was a Batman cross-over/event that ran in DC Comics between October 2004 and January 2005. The War Games story arc appeared in all the Gotham related titles running at the time, Detective Comics, Legends of the Dark Knight, Nightwing, Batman: Gotham Knights, Robin, Batgirl, Catwoman, Batman, and Gotham Central. The War Games story arc has since been collected in three trade paper backs, Batman: War Games, Act One - Outbreak, Batman: War Games, Act Two - Tides and Batman: War Games, Act Three - Endgame.

The story begins with Stephanie Brown (aka. Spoiler), trying to redeem herself in the eyes of Batman, after recently been fired as Robin. In an effort to regain Batman's confidence, and hoping to take back her Robin mantle, Spoiler sets into motion an elaborate contingency plan Batman had developed in the event of widespread gang violence. In essence the plan involved gathering all of Gotham's crime figures together and to unite them under a single crime boss, Matches Malone, and alias used by Batman to infiltrate Gotham's organised crime. In effect this plan would have given Batman control of Gotham's organised crime, if it were to go to plan. Unfortunately, Spoiler was not aware that Batman and Matches Malone were the same person.

When Spoiler gathers the crime figures without Batman's knowledge, and with Matches Malone an obvious no show, things turn pear shaped, and the gangs go to war with one another. Batman and friends are immediately drawn into the action, trying to put an end to the war before Gotham is destroyed.

In the chaos, The Black Mask appears, a villain that shares a history with both Batman and Bruce Wayne. An opportunist, the Black Mask decides to step into the role Matches Malone was intended to play. With Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Oracle, Batgirl and Catwoman stretched to breaking point, Spoiler is captured and tortured by the Black Mask. When Black Mask learns the truth behind the War Games scenario being played out in Gotham, he has all the information he needs in order to take control, and rule Gotham City's underworld.
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I just read on the Marvel website that Joe Johnston has signed on to direct the Captain America movie. This is pretty big news, actually I hadn't even heard that a Captain America movie had been confirmed.

Any way, here's what Marvel have to say on their website:

Joe Johnston has signed on to direct Marvel Studios' "The First Avenger: Captain America" based on characters developed by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. The film will be produced by Marvel Studios' President Kevin Feige. Executive Producers on the project are Louis D'Esposito, Stan Lee and Marvel Studios' Chairman David Maisel. Paramount Pictures will distribute "The First Avenger: Captain America" worldwide. The film will come to theaters domestically on May 6, 2011.

It what some people might view as a concern, Johnston's track recorded is not exactly golden. He has previously directed "October Sky," "Jumanji," "Jurassic Park III," "The Rocketeer" and "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids."

I have to admit, I had been very close to dropping Wolverine Origins up until volume 4 (collecting Wolverine: Origins #16-20 and Annual #1), in which did just enough to maintain my interest, largely due to the appearance of Captain America, Bucky and Nick Fury in the World War II flashbacks. The appearance of Deadpool on the last page of issue #20 had me eagerly anticipating the release of volume 4.

I pre-ordered Wolverine: Origins Volume 5 - Deadpool Premiere HC (Wolverine) from Amazon, fortunately before the value of the Aussie dollar took a nosedive. Wolverine: Origins Volume 5 collected issues #21-27 (even though Amazon only list it as containing #21-25) and begins with Deadpool having been hired by a mysterious third party to catch and kill Wolverine. The action takes place in San Francisco, and basically follows Deadpool doing what he does, running around, wise cracking and blowing stuff up. The running battle spans three plus issues, as you'd expect of two guys that can pretty much heal from any wound. In the end though, it's Deadpool that gets the upper hand, managing to bring Wolverine down.

As Deadpool has Wolverine restrained and strung up over a swimming pool, with the intention of drowning him, Wolverine's son Daken arrives and proceeds to cut off poor Deadpool's hand. Daken flicks the switch that would drop his old man into the water, however an explosion throws Wolverine against a wall and he remains on land. A single handed Deadpool then goes toe to toe with Daken. In the mean time Wolverine is able to free himself. » Read the rest of the entry..

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