Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest - X-Men: Phoenix - Warsong #1

Posted: Sunday, September 10, 2006
By: Keith Dallas

Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Top Cow Studios, Tyler Kirkham (p), Sal Regla (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Average Rating: 2 BULLETS

Ariel Carmona Jr.:
Michael Deeley:
Sam Kirkland:
Judson Miers:

Ariel Carmona Jr.

Marvel continues to benefit from the fruits of Grant Morrison’s labors on his now legendary run on New X-Men. To wit, the Stepford Cuckoos take center stage in this new series, a Marvel-Top Cow production, and a sequel to last year’s Phoenix Endsong. Here, they are telepathically assaulted by the Phoenix Force, which had previously possessed Emma Frost.

I found the original series very appealing and entertaining and more of the same can be said for this one: Emma Frost trying to control the telepathic Three-In-One, while they cope with the Phoenix makes for a great read and shows that action in a comic doesn’t always have to be relegated to fisticuffs and slugfests. I like the way different colored captions are used to depict the thoughts of each character. This is an old device, but one which is used to great effect here.

The dialogue in this comic is at times hit and miss, while there are some great lines uttered by Emma, at times it is very stilted and seems unnatural. In one scene, after she has a nightmare, Scott tries to find out what is worrying Emma after she’s transformed into her diamond form. It’s a great metaphor for the walls we all erect, but Emma’s walls manifest themselves in a physical way. However, Pak’s writing isn’t up to par when Emma responds, “Nothing, you’re perfect, never change.” It sounds artificial and contrived.

However, there’s some great characterization in this one. Celeste goes to Hank McCoy (Not the original Beast from days gone by but the new furry, more feline form) to try and make sense of what’s going on. He tries to convince her that it’s nothing more but a secondary mutation manifesting itself, though Celeste knows there’s something more going on. On a side note, I don’t like the Beast being depicted more catlike as in Astonishing X-Men. He even makes a self-deprecating joke of it. I am not sure if this has been explained as a secondary mutation in previously released comics, or if it’s an artistic interpretation started by John Cassaday and adopted by other artists, but whatever the case, it’s kind of off-putting. At any rate, the scene between Beast and Celeste is very well crafted, revealing Hank’s opinion of the lethal potential dormant within all mutants.

As if to drive home the point, Tyler Kirkham’s artwork resurrects the Phoenix in a series of awesome visuals and full page spreads. The book’s climax is handled in a subtle matter, as it builds up from a training fight between Logan and one of the Cuckoos and builds like a crescendo, until we are left with the image of a battered and tattered Emma in Scott’s arms and a cliffhanger which promises to build on previous plot points from New X-Men. This comic book rocks. Though Greg Land and Justin Ponsor’s artwork on the original seemed superior to this, Kirkham and the rest of the art team still manage to capture enough of the look of the original series to enhance an enjoyable first issue.

Michael Deeley

Setting aside the idiocy of creating a sequel to a story called Endsong, this book sucks.

Something is happening to the Stepford Cuckoos. They’re exhibiting new and different powers. It seems as though the Phoenix force is behind this. There are implications that the girls are Cuckoos in nature as well as name. Terrible things are afoot. Really terrible. Like four more issues of this!

Honestly, this book looks lame. The figures are stiff, boring, and identical. Art is credited to Top Cow Studios first, and Tyler Kirkham and Sal Regla second. This looks like the work of an assembly line. Bland, uninspired, and completely lacking in personal style. It’s like a third-rate knockoff of Marc Silverstri. Just looking at this comic makes me want to avoid it.

I like Greg Pak’s work. I liked Endsong. And I like how Pak takes inspiration from the Stepford Cuckoos’ rather nonsensical name. A cuckoo is a bird that lays its eggs in other birds’ nests. The baby forces the other birds out of the nest, and is raised by the mother. Stepford comes from the film The Stepford Wives about liberated women being replaced by obedient robots. So our girls are going to be revealed as something more powerful than we knew, and might be robots who replaced the “real” sisters. But that last one’s not very likely.

Pak’s writing might be enough to save this series, but the premise is pretty weak. The phoenix is back, again, and the Cuckoos are more than they appear to be. Why would we care about these third-string characters who haven’t played a major role in any X-Men series since Grant Morrison left the books? (Save The End, but I’m talking about the monthly series.) Endsong fails to answer the basic question, “Why should I read this”?

Without a compelling premise, Warsong can only succeed on the quality of the creators. The art is bad enough to drag down Pak’s mildly interesting writing. The writing is nice; I could see him on one of the main titles, but the story is boring out of the gate. Wake me when it’s over.

Sam Kirkland:

I can think of only one Phoenix-centric story that has ever interested me, and it took place eight years before I was born. Thank God for Essentials. Since that time, the exploration of the Jean Grey/Phoenix entity has become more tedious than anything else for me. Phoenix: Warsong does little to alleviate the problems I have with the character, as it amplifies that tedium to such an extent that I wonder if I haven’t read this exact story before.

Phoenix: Warsong is about the three who remain of Emma Frost’s original “cuckoos.” Her kookie quintet has become a trio, but that’s not the only thing different about them. Writer Greg Pak continues to explore Grant Morrison’s New X-Men leftovers. But even the best of leftovers can only sit in the refrigerator for so long before they turn rotten and should just be thrown away.

That’s how I feel about Xorn, Quentin Quire, and the aforementioned Cuckoos.

Quite frankly, Phoenix: Warsong #1 is boring. The Phoenix seems to have returned, making ominious and confusing comments that drag the book out to its full 22 pages. The cliffhanger ending is the most anticlimactic thing I have ever seen, as it’s done in a way that seems to suggest we have never seen anything rise from the dead before.

Still, some of the characterization isn’t bad. Beast’s explanation of how the Xavier Institute protects mutants from themselves as much as from the rest of the world rings true. Emma’s fear of the unknown and Kitty’s incredulity also make for nice touches. The issue isn’t bad per se; it just seems as if both the writer and artist are simply going through the motions rather than developing a truly interesting story. I like a good mystery as much as the next reader. I don’t want my comics to spell everything out for me, and I don’t mind having to use my brain, but the Cuckoos and Phoenix talking in circles with cryptic clues is frustrating and confusing.

Tyler Kirkham and the entire Top Cow art team create visuals about as bland as the story. Most of the artwork is sketchy, and the Transformers-style Sentinels look even more ridiculous than the more traditional ones did. Even Greg Land, annoying photo shoot poses and all, would be a better fit for the sequel to Phoenix: Endsong.

If you loved Grant Morrison’s New X-Men and want to see if his lingering ideas and subplots can become even more convoluted, look no further. If you need help falling asleep, look no further. Otherwise, you shouldn’t feel bad about passing on Phoenix: Warsong #1.

Judson Miers:

I’m going to have to say that I’ve been out of the general X-Men stories for WAY too long! AND, apparently, I’m one of the only people who isn’t completely pissed off at Marvel for killing Jean Grey and “replacing her” with Emma Frost. These revelations became even more apparent when I had to go look up who the Stepford Cuckoos were.

The artwork was visually stunning, except all the female faces looked like they’ve been Botoxed and couldn’t make any expressions. They also all looked like Emma but that may have been on purpose to show their “family-ness” between the girls and their surrogate mother – Emma. I also have to say that I’ve got a problem with the characterizations of most of the characters, especially when Beast said “There’s Jean, of course. When she turned Dark Phoenix, she sort of trademarked the feeling” (meaning the “something dark” that Celeste feels inside). If anyone’s had a dark side, it’s Wolverine when he was one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen, Agent of Hydra, went completely feral and lost his nose. You know what I’m talking about.

Here’s what can be surmised or implied in this storyline…It appears that the Phoenix IS coming back and using the Stepford Cuckoos (including those that have passed on) as surrogates until the real host comes back, most likely Jean Grey.

Well, I’m certainly under-impressed about any sort of Phoenix and/or Scott Summers story. The actual writing of the story was sufficient for my money, but there just isn’t anything compelling here. It’s bad enough that Jean’s gone, but why do we must have more and more Phoenix stories? I understand that the Phoenix was a mythical creature that would resurrect itself every 500 years or so. Let’s make a promise to quit digging up the old classic stories and try to pass them off as new and interesting or in need of further exploration. Let’s make up new stories and commit to creativity and quit hanging on the coat tails of creators who were allowed to create stories without so much pressure to sell copies!

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