The Sunday Pages #63

21st June 2009 | by | 1 Comment

This week’s capsule reviews cover Ex Machina, Incognito, X-Men Origins: Gambit and (ugh) “Ultimatum” Spider-Man : Requiem.

Review: Ex Machina #43
I’m not sure what it is, but something feels off about Tony Harris’ art here. He’s usually pretty dependable (artistically if not timing-wise), and his style – while different to his incomparable work on Starman – has remained consistent throughout Ex Machina‘s run. But throughout this issue there are occasions where familiar characters simply don’t feel right – wobbly faces and something strangely flat about the expressions, usually one of his greatest strengths. Anyway, the series continues to roll on towards its conclusion – I’d be lying if I said it was desperately gripping, and it’s really more about seeing how things shake out for these characters we’ve followed for so long (I can’t even say the mystery of the white box is as interesting as it might once have been). On that score, the last couple of pages are lovely, but on the whole (and in a manner akin to Planetary) the Pherson threat/story that the whole thing’s become wrapped up in is far less interesting than some of the individual tales from the early days. [SP]

Review: Incognito #4
The various players moving around this series are starting to make things a little confusing; but the chief moral message appears to be that the good guys and the bad guys are as bad as one-another. That’s all well and good but it doesn’t help us decide how we’re meant to feel about our protagonist – and for all that this is a superbly atmospheric, supremely well-crafted series (and increasingly reminiscent of the better elements of Brian Bendis’ canon), four issues in I still don’t feel like I have much of a handle on where it’s going. Still a strong read, but it’s not quite feeling desperately essential [SP]

Review: Ultimatum Spider-Man Requiem #1
What a hideous, hideous title. No explanation for why it has to be “Ultimatum Spider-Man”, of course – despite the fact that, brief framing device aside, this is blessedly free of anything to do with Loeb’s crossover. Sadly, nor is it really the “final” story that Bendis promised – instead, framed by the story of J. Jonah Jameson reading Ben Urich’s killed stories about Spidey, it’s a flashback tale involving MJ, Tony Stark and HYDRA. And it has all the attributes you’d expect from a typical USM story, but sadly all that does is serve to remind you how frustrating it is that the book is being killed. Lovely to see Bagley back on art for the flashback, too, although I wish someone had told him that Ultimate Iron Man has a completely different suit to the 616 version – even Loeb got that one right. [SP]

Review: X-Men Origins: Gambit
Ah, Gambit. Love him or hate him, you can’t help but notice his popularity, in spite of being one of the most poorly-conceived X-characters around. Carey manages to be fairly comprehensive about Gambit’s rather fractured “origin” – between Gambit getting married, feuding with the assassin’s guild, making a deal with Sinister and helping out the Marauders, we see all of the major pre-X-Men events right up until the point he met Storm, but at the same time there’s very little in the way of a story arc. Gambit’s a hard character to nail an origin onto because his self-reliant, self-serving attitude is a result of many different influences, without the power/responsibility moment of someone like Spider-Man, or even the “runaway mutant” simplicity of someone like Rogue. Kudos to Carey for acknowledging the Gambit/Sinister backstory invented by Nicieza years ago, but would it really have killed him to include an explanation of what Sinister’s “payment” to Gambit was? It’s a thread left irritatingly dangling by the issue, and not one that’s easily tied up. [JHu]