When it comes to Sam Humphries as a writer, my feelings are a bit mixed. I enjoyed his Avengers AI run, and so far his Legendary Starlord series is great. On the other hand, I wasn’t a big fan of his Uncanny X-Force. When they announced that he was spearheading a big crossover that features both the Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-men, I was both excited and nervous. But since I’m reading all but one of the titles involved with this (I’m not reading Nova), I might as well pick up the full crossover. Let’s see if he can pull this off.
Oh, and after the review I’ll offer my thoughts on today’s announcement that Brian Michael Bendis is leaving the X-Men after Uncanny X-Men 600.
Black Vortex 1 kicks off with a flashback to the ancient artifact’s origin. Basically it’s a cosmic mirror of some sort that grants people immense power, but at the same time they submit themselves to the artifact. Through later flashbacks it reveals that perhaps the mirror has been hidden for a reason, and its uses for those it powers are far from altruistic. This part of the story is fantastic, and the mythology could lead to a very good crossover if the writing remains consistent.
For the most part, the rest of the comic is fun and keeps a steady pace. Magik has several amusing lines here and there. It’s hilarious how when all the different teams meet up, they spend more time greeting each other than they do paying attention to Starlord’s explanation of what’s going on. The whole thing feels like a big reunion for the characters involved with the Trial of Jean Grey crossover, along with old Beast and Captain Marvel. It’s always nice when heroes get along instead of fighting each other before working together. The story also progresses well, wasting little time with the setup and promising an epic fight in next week’s issue.
On the downside, not all the characterization feels right. Kitty Pryde is fine, but watching her stealing the Black Vortex with Starlord may be jarring for those not reading his solo series. The early pages have a couple off moments of dialogue and description beside the characters. Storm calls out Magik for “practically being a criminal”. I’m pretty sure she’s been considered a criminal since Avengers vs. X-Men. It also mentions in X-23’s character caption that she has a bad attitude – that sounds more like a Wolverine trait since she’s usually more emotionally balanced and reserved. Also, when exactly did Agent Venom gain a knife sharper than adamantium claws? Am I missing something here?
The art is handled by both Ed McGuinness and Kris Anka, with McGuinness handling the flashbacks (including Peter and Kitty’s robbing spree) while Anka handles most of the current timeline. McGuinness’s art is great. His spread pages are huge, with beautiful landscapes from billions of years ago and the entity that created the Black Vortex towering over them. The action flows smooth and there’s good use of lighting effects and facial expressions. Anka’s art is appealing to the eye, but it’s not nearly as detailed. The environments are simpler and so are character’s outfits and faces. Far as I can tell, someone else takes over on the last few pages because the quality dips. The two-page spread of the fight at the end is a mess of characters all over the place, mostly showing heads giving dirty looks or people preparing to fight. There’s no sense of progression and the following pages really don’t match up.
Despite its hiccups, this is a good start for the Black Vortex crossover. The story is intriguing and there’s a lot of potential for this to be an epic crossover. Having an artifact give people intense power boosts yet not without unforeseen consequences could make for a great story and I look forward to see where this goes from here. I’m not quite sure if I’d recommend this to anyone who has strong doubts about the crossover, but if you’re already interested, you’ll likely enjoy this.
On the Bendis side-note, I might as well talk about it here since I don’t have enough to say to make a full blog post, and he’s pretty much second in command for writing this crossover.
I’m kind of sad to see him go, but at the same time it might be for the better. He’s been writing some great character-focused work in both of his X-Men books while also telling big stories. From what I’ve heard, his Avengers run started off very well and went downhill over the years until it ended up being pretty bad. I can’t comment on it directly, having not read any of his Avengers works outside of the events, but it’s probably best to leave before you burn out.
I’m not going to buy into any “the X-Men are doomed” conspiracy theories because why would Marvel abandon one of their top-selling franchises. It’s ridiculous, and the whole X-Fan thing about being persecuted is insane. That said, with no idea of who will take over when he’s gone or what will happen to the All New X-Men during and after Secret Wars, I’d be lying to say I’m not nervous.