X-Men: War Machines Hardcover – May 9 2012
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Bonus: X-Men (1963) #14
Variant cover art gallery
With Wolverine and half the X-Men in New York, and since Logan and Scott aren't exactly on speaking terms, Cyclops needs his own task force to take the fight to the enemy when the safety of mutantkind is threatened. If the X-Men title develops into a strike force for the Uncanny X-Men, it would be a welcome development for the series.
The War Machine graphic novel allows the San Francisco based X-Men to show off a strike team of their own. Headed by Storm with Warpath, Domino, Jubilee, Colossus, and Psylocke the X-Men are deep into fictional Eastern Europastan (Puternicstan, and I'm not making that up) to fight off a dictator with an army of sentinels.
War Machine attempts to avert the X-Men's foray into international intrigue, but a looming war that could escalate convinces War Machine to aid Storm.
The art throughout is convincing. Domino in particular is drawn in vivid detail. Her expression when she wakes up the morgue shows how Domino herself can be surprised by her unpredictable power.
The novel ends with Cyclops giving Storm and her team basically a free hand to tie up one very significant loose end.
Overall I enjoyed this novel. What's not to like about Colossus punching giant robots in the middle of a hurricane? The bonus issue at the back from the early days of the x-men franchise was fun. The sentinel menace from 1964--it's nice to see that eventhough just about everything that has to do with the x-men and their readers has changed, giant autonomous robots are still a bad idea!
I haven't read much X-Men related comics since Whedon's run on Astonishing. War Machines caught my eye and featured an interesting group - the back cover text described Storm leading a team of "Utopia's most powerful mutants - Warpath, Psylocke, Colossus and Jubilee." Wait, Jubilee?! Ok, between comments like that and what I've heard about the recent Cyclops/Wolverine split obviously I'd missed a lot of changes. Since this trade also sounded like a good jumping on point I decided to give it a try.
The title "War Machines" plays double reference to the threat Storm's team faces, a nation locked in border disputes that has decided to solve the problem with an army of Sentinels, and the fact that they cross paths with NATO's enforcer, War Machine. While there's not much in the way of explanation of past developments to catch new readers like me up, important information on the developments themselves is quickly presented in the first issue. Colossus now houses the powers of the Juggernaut, Jubilee is a vampire, etc.
The issues here are what I generally refer to as "action fluff." There is an interesting set up and payoff to the situation that the X-Men are dealing with, and it's a decent storyline framework, but the focus is on X-Men vs Sentinels and taking Storm's new team out for a spin for the readers. And there's nothing wrong with that - I enjoyed War Machines for what it is. I just mention it because anyone looking for more depth to develop the titular characters or justify Marvel's annoying trend of collecting only 4 new issues at a time in trades won't really find it here.
The art is very good and has a dark tone that compliments the covert strike team concept nicely.
I'm really not a fan of early Marvel work, so while I understand the inclusion of the Sentinels first appearance I really would've rather the pages be used to reprint something else (from the Claremont era maybe, or better yet just more new issues).
War Machines is a fun little story that wasn't mind blowing but that I enjoyed and has me interested enough to check out more. While I suppose means mission accomplished, but it's somewhat non-essential and insubstantial and I'm not sure it supports a retail price trade purchase on it's own.
Beyond this the best part of the trade was a reprint of the original appearance of the Sentinels in X-Men #14. Not only was it fun to read in its old pulpy style where all characters had diarrhea of the mouth for purposes of exposition and their thoughts were expressed, quite literally, as their thoughts (whereas now good writers and artists team up and show thoughts through faces and quieter attentions to visual details) but I was surprised at how much of the Sentinel story was laid down right there at the beginning and we've seen it regurgitated time and again with little deviation or change and not a whole lot added to it. That surprised me quite a bit, and the read of this reprint delighted me. It's the real reason to pick up this trade.