Eric: Welcome to Week 5 of Comic POW! I hope all our US readers had a great Thanksgiving
Dan: We were too busy eating turkey to talk about comics
Eric: Yeah, the timing just didn’t work out with comics being released on Wed.
Dan: I didn’t even buy last week’s comics until this week myself
Eric: I can’t believe you were able to wait that long to see what happened in Fantastic Four! This week was a very small release week for me. All the comics were great, but I’ve selected Uncanny X-Men #2 because I’m a huge sucker for Xanatos Gambits.
Dan: Is that what that was? Are you talking from the X-Crowd or the Sinister Hive Mind?
Eric: From the Sinister Hive Mind. So, for any of our readers who don’t know – a Xanatos Gambit is named after the villain from Gargoyles and it’s when you’ve come up with a plan that takes into account every single one of your foes and their possible reactions and then creates something like a Rube Goldberg machine of a plan that requires everyone to act the way you expected
Dan: For a more detailed explanation and examples, check out this article on TV Tropes
Eric: As TV Tropes mentions, it’s related to Batman and the way he plans for every contingency including kryptonite in case Superman goes mad. I tend to like these types of gambits because of how ridiculous they are. People can only be this smart in comics and TV shows. I usually enjoy the creative way that the authors choose to have someone act out of character or otherwise upset the delicate balance of the plans
Dan: So this is only the second book after the big Schism, right?
Eric: That’s right.
Dan: It was helpful to have a team breakdown and events summary at the beginning of the book because I had no idea who some of these mutants were. One thing I did already know: you don’t fuck with Celestials
Eric: Yeah, and, in this case, as this is only the second issue of Uncanny X-Men Vol 2, you didn’t miss much. Issue #1 was a typical setup issue in which very little actually happened. Cyclops set up an “Extinction Team” and then Sinister stole the Celestial’s head. Since Schism was a mini-series Uncanny X-Men Vol 1 ended with Fear Itself and a little epilogue to Schism. So I feel like the series is really picking back up again, as its Fear Itself stories were pretty lame. The only fallout is that Colossus now has Juggernaut’s powers/curse
Dan: Is part of the curse that ugly helmet?
Eric: Yup! Comics, Everybody! It is kinda dumb in-universe, but it serves to show readers old/new that something’s different about this Colossus
Dan: Plus it’s got that useful +5 anti-psionic stat boost!
Eric: OK, getting into this issue – we start off with Hope Summers blasting away at Victorian-Era Sinister Army Clones
Eric: Given that Sinister is from Victorian London, I love this new character style much better than the old one
Dan: I wasn’t aware of Sinister’s origins, so that’s a nice touch I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise
Eric: Then we get a two-page spread showing us that there are LOTS of Sinister clones running around, fighting the X-Men
Dan: It’s pretty intense. Is the giant gold head the Celestial or is that just a vanity decoration?
Eric: It’s the head of the Celestial. So in the first issue when he takes it off and uses it to create this Sinister-Land in SF all we’re told is that if the Celestial breaks apart that SF is toast. I know Celestials are powerful beings, but are they robots? Organisms? This particular one was known as The Dreaming Celestial and it was just standing there in SF like a statue, I didn’t even realize at the time that it was a being. I’m still catching up on my X-Men trades, so I don’t know when it arrived there
Dan: They are god-level beings responsible for creating the Eternals and the Deviants and, to a certain extent, mutants. They are as close as the Marvel Universe comes to gods. Celestials are super dangerous and super powerful
Eric: OK, I think they were in a story that appeared in X-Men this year where they’d endowed some monkeys with the ability to guide evolution. I’ll have to go back to that at some point
Dan: They were in F4 as well. Remember the dudes who straight up murder the Council of Reeds? Celestials.
Eric: An, I see. So they are haters of Reed in addition to haters of those who decapitate their fellow Celesitals
Dan: The Asgardians have also feuded with them … and lost.
Eric: Which makes it all the more amazing they consider Franklin Richards to be an equal. But we digress. So, speaking of these guys, Agent Brand – my favorite character to come out of Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men – tells Cyclops that the Celestials are on the war path over what’s happened to their buddy
Dan: Which makes Sinister’s actions all the more bizarre. He knows the Celestials are coming as a result of what he’s done, but he seems pretty chill about it
Eric: I’m also curious, on this new reading, how he knows – is it because he surmised it would happen or was privy to the conversation that just took place. The interesting thing is that it leads right into another trope – “It’s a Trap and We Know it’s a Trap” That’s not the name of the trope, I hope, but it’s one I’ve seen in many-a-narrative medium. I tend to enjoy this trope as well because while any genre-savvy hero knows that going into a villain’s lair is a trap, the fun is in whether they can discern the trap on time or even the correct trap! (out of potentially many bluff traps)
Dan: The true fun is in Namor thinking the whole thing is stupid
Eric: Namor almost steals the show with his few quips
Eric: We then get a great shot of the World’s Fair Grounds that Sinister set up and then get some slightly comic book-y dialogue to remind readers that Sinister has telepathic powers
Dan: It’s not that egregious, as far as power reminder conversations go, but it’s not elegant either. Maybe that’s because I actually needed the reminder.
Eric: Well, I saw it as fitting in well within Emma’s character, so it wasn’t bad. It just veered ever so slightly out of normal conversation. Then we get Namor hitting on Emma. I found this especially tickling because he just did the same thing in a recent FF or F4 with Ben telling him to knock it off. Both times the object of his wooing’s significant other was right there
Dan: Namor knows no shame. IMPERIUS REX!
Eric: It was only through my recent reading of an old Avengers comic that was available for free on the Marvel Comic App that I even remembered that Namor used to be a villain
Dan: He’s really just more of a grey character. Villainous when things get in his way, I think
Eric: I think he literally was a villain around the time of his introduction or maybe reintroduction, but our readers can go to Comic Vine to fact check us. We then get Danger, my least favorite Whedon creation, explaining that all the Sinisters are clones — even the horses? That didn’t make scientific sense to me, but it IS a comic book
Dan-, Just ignore it and proceed. I doubt there will be some kind of payoff in two years where they need Sinister DNA and grab it from an equine source
Eric: Ha! Finally, the X-Men meet up with Sinister and we get a so-bad-it’s-good pun on his name. We next get his backstory and it looks like they’ve really amped up his Victorian-ness. I mean, I really only know Sinister from the 1994 cartoon, but I feel like they’re taking advantage of the new volume of Uncanny X-Men to somewhat reboot the character Not in the sense of eliminating canon, but maybe realigning his motives
Dan: I do appreciate the neat spreads that accompany it. I’ll always applaud Kaiser helmets
Eric: Haha! But, although a history major might correct me, I think it seems very Victorian of him to not only want people to know their place, but to fit like clockwork. It was the industrial revolution (or right on the cusp of it) and society was being compared to cogs on a machine and so on. So I think it works perfectly. Rather nice fit vs when villains go on contrived quests
Dan: I applaud thematically appropriate motivations too
Eric: On the next page he lets Scott know that he doesn’t give a crap about the Celestials destroying the Earth. He’s always been about genetic ascension and purity which is why he’s aligned himself with Apocalypse in the past. In fact, what Sinister is nonchalant about in this issue is being actively pursued by Apocalypse in Uncanny X-Force
Eric: He also reveals that he brought them to him not only for the trap, but also to gloat. While a bit more of a stretch, it does also seem a Victorian thing to do – based on the Victorian fiction I’ve seen. And I love that he calls Storm a Colonial Pet, hehe. So he starts mind controlling people and picking the team apart
Dan: I do like Danger’s diss to Emma
Eric: It was awesome. I was about to mention that as well. The funny thing is that a couple months ago (in real life) they went on a little girl-bonding adventure in Astonishing X-Men. Guess those sentiments didn’t last
Dan: Of all the brothers, you are most terrible
Eric: lol. Then it’s revealed that when Emma went to have a word with Hope, it was to implant a codeword that would manifest Hope’s powers. Hope then borrows Magik’s power and bounces out of that joint. Sinister goes on a diss-rant about how Emma is not as awesome for breeding with Cyclops as Jean was. Gillen’s been playing with that a lot – with Namor telling her a few issues back that Scott married Jean – why wouldn’t he marry her. They’ve been a couple other issues with that recently – so it may be coming to a head in a future issue. Then comes the big Xanatos Gambit reveal. By knowing their genetics he knows what they will do. Not sure I buy that on its own, but it appears to be working – he even gets shot on cue
Dan: I guess the payoff for that is in the next issue
Eric: Finally you get to see that Sinister truly is a hive mind, as every destroyed Sinister’s dialogue is finished by the next. The last thing I want to mention is that I know classic X-Men wouldn’t kill. It’s actually a big plot point in one of the trades I recently read. Looks like Team Cyclops has abandoned that – at least when it comes to Sinister clones.
Dan: Wasn’t that what the whole Schism was about anyway?
Eric: No, because Wolverine leads X-Force which is sanctioned to kill. Schism was over using kids in combat
Dan: It’s definitely a change to see Colossus squashing the head of an organic into paste
Eric: Yeah. Although he’s lost some of his morality as Juggernaut-Colossus. So shall we move along to your book?
Dan: Let’s do it!
Eric: So, strangely for a modern Marvel comic book, this issue doesn’t have a summary on page one. It was, however, surprisingly easy to get into given that I haven’t been following Daredevil. Why don’t you give the readers a quick overview of what’s going on?
Dan: The Daredevil books have actually been stashing their plot summaries on the Daily Bugle pages. It’s not comprehensive, but it usually relates to events that immediately preceded the issue. This mini-arc deals with blind interpreter Austin Cao. He overheard Latverian representatives at his job saying the word Hydra. As such, he was fired and, unbeknownst to him, targeted by the five major terrorist groups of the Marvel U. Daredevil has been trying to save his life and get to the bottom of it, but this new bad guy, Bruiser, just beat him up and threw him off a boat… bringing us to the present
Eric: He’s falling underwater in the first page, that’s for sure
Dan: Which plays to his strengths, considering how he “sees”. It is night and the water is dark, but I appreciate how Marcos Martin likes to use darkness to emphasize Daredevil’s inherent blindness
Eric: Yup, the water is blacker than the sky.
Dan: Of the two artists who draw Daredevil vision, I prefer Paolo Rivera’s work (you’ve seen it before, I know), but Martin’s concentric circle thing is pretty neat.
Eric: I know this is another comic book moment, but I don’t buy that his grappling hook thing can travel that far under water
Dan: Yeah, no, I thought the same thing. I just glossed over it
Eric: I certainly did on my first read through. So they kidnap and old guy and take him somewhere. When they get there I love the conversation between Biggs and Wedge about The Bruiser
Dan: It’s a nice trip from the exposition fairy, but the humor really helps conceal it
Eric: I enjoyed it tying the Marvel U together – he wants to fight the Hulk. The only unfortunate thing is that the web page ref will end up dating this otherwise mostly timeless issue. The next scene with all the Marvel U terrorists made me laugh. Not in a bad way, mind you, just that they’ve taken the whole double-crossing gangs things to a whole new level. Like I MIGHT think of double-crossing crime bosses – MAYBE …. if I’d taken a few hits to the head or were really drunk…But terrorists! At least two of those terror groups are comprised of scientists!
Dan: Still always a bad idea
Eric: What I enjoyed the most about this scene was that their bosses were genre-savvy. They weren’t going to Bond-villain this killing and take the hired help’s word sight-unseen that the good guys were eliminated. They wanted first-hand proof
Dan: The time when that kind of storytelling was acceptable has long since passed
Eric: You make a very true point and yet I still see variations of it in comics, movies, TV shows, etc
Dan: :shrug: It’s no longer acceptable to me as an adult
Eric: So for the next few pages we see Daredevil fight Bruiser while he figures out his powers
Eric: Of course, that leads to a trope that Mark Waid has to abide by, unlike the Bond villain one, where there are five dudes there who could just waste Daredevil right then and there, so they need a reason not to. At least it’s not the oft-used “it’s not honorable”
Dan: It’s also the first instance of Daredevil using a precision strike against overwhelming force. Bruiser is undefeatible without using the right angle/position, much like the terrorists are when he is cornered later
Eric: Yup! So is the bald guy trying to double-cross everyone before the plan goes awry?
Dan: He’s pretty much just trying to save his own ass.
Eric: Because as the fight is going on he’s trying to steal or move the disk we’re about to find out about.
Dan: It’s his leverage to keep them from killing him. At least he thinks so.
Eric: Right, but each of those groups put their data in it. Are they all trying to steal it? I know that happens later or is part of Daredevil’s bargain, but is that the intention they have coming in?
Dan: I thought it was a collateral. Double-cross us and we’ve got all your data. The idea was that an impartial sixth party would hold that data to keep everyone in line.
Eric: Right, so why does he get shot in the next panel?
Dan: The whole reason everyone was there was to try and hide their operations under the Latverian flag to provide diplomatic immunity or something like that. He gets shot immediately after threatening them with the disc he has because they see no reason not to just shoot him and take it. The book’s not in front of me, but that’s how I read it
Eric: Makes sense
Eric: What I love, and what I didn’t notice the first time is that they all shoot him. At least two of them have smoking guns. So at least two shot him. I just love the idea of them all thinking the same way. I love the variation on the Mexican standoff we get as part of Daredevil’s plan
Dan: Where he once again precision strikes at the only weak point the terrorists have while also diverting the guns away from Austin and his boss
Eric: Yup, I love how he pits them against each other and essentially makes himself the person who holds all their incriminating data
Dan: In an F4 patch, no less! Way to set up future tie-ins, Mark Waid!
Eric: As he leaves we get a scene that you and I discussed before the POW. The hostage says “you should be a lawyer” and then Daredevil tells Austin “Not a word.” So in the current continuity it’s “out” that Daredevil and Matt Murdock are the same guy, but Murdock is publicly denying it
Eric: And obviously the hostage didn’t know or believe it. You and I debated whether or not Austin knew and we figured that if he did it was because, being blind, he needs to recognize voices to a higher degree and would probably associate them both with the same person. I’d thought you were going to tell me he confided in him one blind guy to another, but this theory also makes sense
Dan: Ultimately it doesn’t really matter. We’ll never see Austin again
Eric: Oh, I thought when he said he’d keep tabs on him that he was hiring him into the firm. And we end with the tagline that Black Panther has been borrowing (only until Feb 2012) of Daredevil being the most dangerous man alive.
Dan: So he’s both a man without fear and the most dangerous man alive. Impressive Eric: Well, doesn’t one lead to the other?
Eric: After all, assuming the dude is capable of doing damage, what’s more dangerious than a dude without fear. He’ll go until the last breath
Dan: Speaking of going until the last breath, LET’S BATTLE!
Eric: OK, so positives on Uncanny X-Men? Namor. Nuff said on that point.
Dan: I could read a whole comic just about Namor. Sadly I think I’ll have to settle for a team book in The Defenders
Eric: Out next week! I really enjoyed what Gillen has done with Mr Sinister. While I haven’t read a comic with him, I’m familiar from the cartoon, as I mentioned before. I think he’s a believable villain and I like that so far it’s been brain vs brawn with brain coming out ahead. (Not counting the X-Men’s planning for the trap). I think he’s a jerk without being evil to a caricatured level and his actions match his motives. It’s also well-written as a team issue. Only Storm didn’t really contribute as much as the other characters
Dan: You’ve never played Metal Gear Solid, but his prattling on and on about genes is very remniscant of Liquid Snake
Eric: I like that things are potentially going to get pretty crazy with the Celestials coming. Overall, a very good second issue in an arc. The art was good. Not mind-blowing nor horrible. Anything good jump out at you in any aspect of the issue?
Dan: Not especially. Aside from Namor’s presence (which loses points for wearing the full suit), I didn’t really care for Uncanny. Sinister was just a touch too chatty and I didn’t quite feel it
Eric: That shouldn’t surprise me, you’ve expressed many times with Spider-Man that you’re more of a show than a tell kinda guy. Me, I like my villains chatty. My heroes too, if they have good dialogue like Spidey or Thing
Dan: I don’t mind it if they’re interesting. Holding off on Sinister’s villainous payoff until #3 bores the hell out of me. He’s chatty to no end.
Eric: Yeah, I think it’s my biggest negative, but it’s only the second issue of an arc. Given that MOST X-Men arcs are 4 to 5 issues long, it makes sense that the payoff wouldn’t come yet. OK, let’s move on to Daredevil. What were your top positives on the issue?
Dan: Per usual, I love the way that Martin handles his onomatopoeia. It’s arty and neat to see the words reflect the source and it seems like it’s not that much more work. I also dig the coloring work of Vicente as it’s bright and almost chipper. Beyond that, Mark Waid has been writing clever and fun plots for Daredevil to play in. Gone are the overly serious works of the last few writers
Eric: That’s a very interesting point because I feel like the art has a really weird style that messed with my brain. It goes for simple, flat colors that hearken back to the 1990s (if not earlier), but, at the same time, the pencils are pretty modern. It creates a very unique look
Eric: Sometimes it fits in so perfectly with the story and every once in a while it pulls me out a little
Dan: I prefer the other artist on Daredevil a smidge more, but Martin’s art is still solid, even if the noses are a little weird
Eric: Yeah! On Biggs and Wedge, the blond guy looked like a Beevis/Butthead character in one of the panels, but that’s a bit nitpicky. I have to say that I rather enjoyed the story and Waid’s way of telling it that makes it so easy to jump in. It’s completely different from the way Remender does Uncanny X-Force where you pretty much have to be there since the beginning of the arc
Dan: Waid’s Daredevil hearkens back to a simpler time. It’s almost Silver Age in simplicity and in terms of its conflict, but without being annoyingly Silver Age
Eric: Yes! I agree – with art to match. This is definitely a tough one. I LOVE the tropes used in Uncanny. I enjoyed the story in Daredevil
Dan: Daredevil has always been (since the relaunch, at least) a comic book that you could sit a non-fan in front of and say, “This is pretty cool.” It’s neither intimidating nor is it full of the kinds of insane comic book embellishments that detractors of the medium typically mock
Eric: Definitely true. Somewhat like the Batman story I chose before, you don’t need to be deep into the mythos to get it
Dan: Indeed. There’s almost no backstory, but that could be because it’s the last issue in an arc.
Eric: At the same time it didn’t feel like the typical last issue in an arc – a lot of the questions I asked you weren’t even answered during this arc
Eric: Although I don’t feel that you needed to know TOO much about the X-Men to enjoy my issue. Mostly the powers, but that was explained at the beginning and the Jean/Emma thing for Sinister’s taunts. However, I do think Daredevil is the stronger book for this POW! Not only does it stand alone well without having read the earlier books in this arc, but I agree that anyone – Marvel or DC or even non-typical-comic fan could enjoy Daredevil on its own.
Dan: I know where I stand on this POW!
Eric: I concede defeat!
Dan: You have battled honorably!