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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Universe #2

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xuniverse002Dying Breath

Story by: Scott Lobdell
Script: Terry Kavanagh
Pencilers: Carlos Pacheco, Terry Dodson
Inkers: Cam Smith, Robin Riggs
Colorist: Kevin Tinsley
Color Separations: Electric Crayon
Lettering: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover: Pacheco & Smith
Editors: Marie Javins, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $3.50

We open on a new/arbitrary character–a father holding his child, as people are given over to Rasputin for upgrading, a last chance to stand with mutants without being eradicated. We then move to our Phenomenal Five (I saw THAT term in the monthly checklist on the X-Books This Month section) who have been captured and are helpless…at least until a contingency plan kicks in. Meanwhile, no one’s told the humans of the atrociously low survival rate of the upgrade process, that only one in a hundred-thousand survive any length of time and few of those survive indefinitely. Stark’s plan kicks in, and the humans begin breaking free, and the rebellion is on. After the battle, few humans are left, but they’ve acquired technology from Mikhail’s ship and make a last bid for permanent escape from Apocalypse’s rule.

This issue is all over the place. And when it ends…I only know it does because there are simply NO MORE STORY PAGES. There’s no particular icon or note or any indication the last page is the last page. It has all the makings of a second-to-last page, that you’d turn the page for some full-page image to finish out the series, but instead it turns to a double-page ad, then a double-page info/profile section, another couple ads, and that’s that.

The art’s so-so…not bad, not spectacular, and a bit minimalistic at points and just somehow looks a bit "off" from the rest of the Age of Apocalypse. Of course, multiple pencilers and inkers, suggesting (to me, with contemporary sensibilities) that this issue had run behind and needed to be caught up in a hurry to get it out on time. That’s also something that suggests further to me that this series was an afterthought of sorts, a late addition to the AoA stuff.

The story’s also only so-so. It could certainly be worse, but it doesn’t really feel like it has any real significance, given we’ve had no real reference, even, to these characters, nor any dealings with Rasputin elsewhere in the AoA, so this is just stuff going on "in the World of the Age of Apocalypse" and can be pretty safely ignored in the grand scheme.

Another element that lends the notion of this X-Universe series being set apart from the rest of the AoA is the covers. These are $3.50 cover price with cardstock covers and foil-ized logos. The chromium double-size bookend issues make sense as they’re "special," kicking off and concluding the entirety of the story. But the issues in-between have all been standard covers with no fancy enhancements or foiling or such. This mini just reeks of typical ’90s saturation.

Unless you’re–like me these last number of weeks–specifically determined to read the entirety of what was published as part of this original Age of Apocalypse series, this seems like a safe mini to skip. And I’m thankful to be through this because now I can jump into the #4s and the final parts of the story, as the various threads in the minis begin to–finally–pay off.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: AoA: The Chosen

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ageofapocalypsethechosen001Cover: Ian Churchill, Scott Hanna
Cover Graphics: Ashley Underwood
Colorist: Ashley Underwood
Designer: Ronnie Lawler
Computer Imaging: Steve Alexandrov
Editors: Jaye Gardner, Kelly Corvese, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $2.50

I had it in my head to include a review of this since I’m trying to cover everything else with the original Age of Apocalypse…but there’s really not much TO review. We have a 3-page framing sequence to shoehorn this issue into the AoA story, suggesting that we’re reading profiles through the eyes of one of the Madri and not just a random Marvel Comics publication offering some basic details on several key characters and titles involved with the AoA stuff.

The art and premise are passable and I appreciate what’s being attempted, though the execution falls pretty flat for me.

The profiles themselves provide a somewhat diverse mix of art and text–supposedly computer files Apocalypse has on major players in things and whether he deems them worthy or unworthy of survival ("Chosen" or "Forgotten").

Looking at this "in-continuity" as seems to be the intent, I have a lot of issues here, from how short and UNdetailed the entries are, to several spelling and punctuation gaffes I noticed (one that made me cringe before moving on), to the very notion of Apocalypse keeping such files and deeming anyone "Chosen" or "Forgotten" as if labeling toys on a shelf or some such.

This issue is really a primer, to give some basic information on a number of the main characters involved in the Age of Apocalypse, whether singularly or by title they appear in. I definitely have a problem with Mystique and Nightcrawler being labeled X-Calibre by Apocalypse…this is one of THE key elements that strikes me as entirely implausible given context of this book as well as those characters, that Mystique’s "X-calibre" bullets are the reference for the title and not a team name).

I believe this was supposed to be the Age of Apocalypse equivalent to the X-Cutioner’s Song issue Stryfe’s Strike File. In that regard, sure, it "works" and I can’t fault its existence entirely. The $2.50 cover price prices it as a premium issue, functionally an extra 50 cents over the price of the rest of the regular issues in the AoA…yet it seems like it was–as a unit–something much cheaper to have made, being primarily text over singular images rather than most of the "usual" that goes into the production of a comic…especially with only 3 "story pages."

Perhaps I should have covered this sooner…covering it now, in a gap between the #3s and #4s of the AoA arc, I’m already familiar with the characters and status quos so this seems all the more superfluous.

At the time, I suppose this issue would’ve been fascinating, coming out with the #2s and so possibly fleshing things out a bit more than had been done to that point in the overall arc. It’s more like a full-issue "bonus feature" to the arc, and neither truly adds nor detracts from the main arc. It exists if you’ve interest, but is not at all essential nor revelatory.

See below for the characters who got profiles, and the artists who did the visuals.

PAGES 1,2,31: Ian Churchill, Scott Hanna
MAGNETO/ROGUE: Salvador Larroca, Sergio Melia
X-MAN: Steve Skroce, Bob Wiacek
CYCLOPS: Slvador Larroca, Sergio Melia
HAVOK: Ian Churchill, Karl Kesel
MR. SINISTER: Ian Churchill, Karl Kesel
STORM: Salvador Larroca, Sergio Melia
QUICKSILVER: Ian Churchill, Terry Austin
NORTHSTAR/AURORA: Ian Churchill, James Pascoe
THE BEAST: Ian Churchill, Terry Austin
THE FOUR HORSEMEN: Val Semeiks, Bob Wiacek
X-CALIBRE: Tom Lyle, Dan Panosian
THE HUMAN HIGH COUNCIL: Salvador Larroca, Sergio Melia
WEAPON X: Ian Churchill, James Pascoe
X-TERNALS: Ian Churchill, Scott Hanna
COLOSSUS: Salvador Larroca, Sergio Melia
ANGEL: Salvador Larroca, Sergio Melia
SABRETOOTH/WILDCHILD: Tim Sale
BISHOP: Tim Sale
CHARLES XAVIER: Tom Lyle, Dan Panosian

ageofapocalypsethechosen_wraparound

Past Aways #1 [Review]

pastaways001Script: Matt Kindt
Art: Scott Kolins
Colors: Bill Crabtree
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Scott Kolins
Digital Production: Jason Rickerd
Design: Jimmy Presler
Assistant Editor: Ian Tucker
Editor: Brendan Wright
Publisher: Mike Richardson
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Date: March 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

Perhaps the most dismaying (to me) thing of this issue came in the backmatter, after the core of the issue itself. In reading stuff from the editor (Wright), I learn that several months ago there was an 8-page prelude to this issue in Dark Horse Comics Presents. In other words, deciding to pick up the FIRST ISSUE of a NEW SERIES did NOT actually let me start “at the beginning.” I’m NOT getting the very start of these characters (real-life time), and now if I want what happened before this I need to track down some other comic–from MONTHS ago–as it wasn’t even reprinted in this issue. Or I should forego the single issues, as that prelude may well be reprinted in the first collected edition. (However, being Dark Horse and not Image I’m not hopeful of a $9.99 first volume).

PRIOR TO learning that I’d missed content relevant to this story, this was an ok issue. The concept is certainly more interesting to me than the execution, the actual story. People from the far-future trapped in 2015, present day and trying to get home. I personally often marvel at modern technology and wonder what people would think seeing it fifty years ago. I rarely consider how “primitive” it might seem to people fifty years from now, or more.

This issue gives us a quick glimpse at several of these individuals from the future, showing where they are now, having been trapped in 2015 for some time. Outside of the descriptions given on the cover, there’s really not enough yet in just this single issue to establish the characters with any real depth or much to interest me. I can’t imagine there won’t be more depth in further issues as each character gets more “page time,” but there’s honestly not enough within the pages of this single issue to truly grab my interest the way I’d like.

The art is actually better in my assessment of this issue–though I recall having mixed feelings on Kolins‘ art, here I do like it. Having no prior “experience” with these characters, I have no other designs to compare them to, so they simply “are” as they appear here. Not being much for studying and picking up a lot of detail from the visuals, I’d’ve skipped over a LOT if it wasn’t for “captions” calling attention to certain things.

I picked this issue up with the expectation of trying a new series, only to learn that there was already story-stuff out before that I had no clue about, which is a huge turn-off. While I “get” that something like this will inevitably need room and time to develop on-page, having far more conceptual stuff than can POSSIBLY be put out in 26 or so pages…I feel like this is just a small slice of a larger story, even as an opening arc–something I’d probably enjoy more as a whole in a collected volume than serialized across a number of single/monthly segments. Whether Dark Horse will omit backmatter for collected editions or not, I don’t truly know–primarily, there’s a single page from the point of view of one of the characters describing an excursion into the “primitive” city and how that experience went.

Prose pages and image cutaways of bases and such can add depth and immerse a reader in things…but I do find I am a lot more skeptical of these things in newer series as I feel like they’re “cheating”–rather than more story content through pagecount, after reading a few pages of actual comic-style pages, then I’m subjected to prose reading to flesh things out. I’m TOLD stuff instead of being SHOWN or getting to “experience” it unfold across the issue(s).

If you’re willing–at $3.99 an issue–to invest in a new concept, a new series, track down a several-months-old issue of Dark Horse Presents and give more time to immersing yourself in this, it’s probably worth checking out. Otherwise, this seems very much like something that will be a more enjoyable thing in a larger chunk–such as the collected volume.

While I WAS learning heavily toward keeping an eye out for the second issue, to see where this goes, I’m probably going to “let it go,” as I have no desire to track down a random issue of Dark Horse Comics Presents to get the prelude…nor to continue onward KNOWING I’ve MISSED that prelude. I MAY check out the collected volume, but as I suspect 4-5 $3.99 issues’ content will probably be a $16+ volume (rather than an introductory-priced $9.99), this might be it for me.

The Mighty Mutanimals

I’m a sucker for random scenes in a book, movie, tv show, even comics–where the title is actually used within the story itself.

Reading TMNT: Mutanimals #2, I absolutely loved this scene. The mini-series itself simply uses the word “Mutanimals,” but getting the ‘mighty’ reference thrown in totally made my day.

All the more for a re-reading project I’ve had lately with the classic Archie-published TMNT Adventures series.

the_mighty_mutanimals

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Universe #1

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xuniverse001Last Stand

Story by: Scott Lobdell
Script: Terry Kavanagh
Penciler: Carlos Pacheco
Inker: Cam Smith
Colorist: Kevin Somers
Color Separations: Electric Crayon
Lettering: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover: Pacheco & Smith
Editors: Marie Javins, Bob Harras

We open on the familiar face of Gwen Stacy–dead in the regular Marvel universe but obviously alive in this altered reality of the Age of Apocalypse. She’s essentially a humanitarian worker here…saving those she can in Wakanda, though she quickly is reminded she can’t save everyone. Fisk and Osborne–Marauders–have arrived…though they’re almost immediately challenged by a Stark cargo ship carrying Tony Stark and Clint Barton. Once the Marauders are dispatched, there’s a reunion on the ground between Stark and Donald Blake. Shortly after, Mikhail Rasputin arrives on a peace mission from Apocalypse…though upon inviting Stacy, Stark, Blake, and others into his ship, his true colors stand revealed.

"Passable" is the first word that comes to mind on the art, though it’s not quite the word I’m grasping for. The art works here and I really don’t have a problem with it–but it’s nothing special or spectacular. Given the nature of this book, one probably shouldn’t expect too much of it as this is possibly the most "fringe" book of the Age of Apocalypse arc.

I could say the same for the story–I’m far less engaged by this than I’ve been with any of the other issues of AoA thus far. The story itself isn’t horrible or anything…it just fails to really draw me in or make me "care."

So far, we’ve been presented with a specifically X-centric take on this Earth–where mutants rose to power, crushing humanity beneath their collective heel. As an X-centric story overall, we’ve seen no appearance of nor any real reference to the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, the Avengers, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four–any of the "non-X" groups of characters or solo characters of the Marvel universe. This 2-issue series seems geared specifically to deal with that fact, by presenting us with a bunch of characters and references to off-panel prior deaths and such so as to not leave ‘em out of continuity ENTIRELY.

While i’m quite glad for the addressing of continuity in this way, trying to answer the question of what happened to these various other characters–the execution leaves plenty to be desired, in my eyes. I’ve been quite content to consider that the Human High Council in Europe "speaks for" humanity, and to "assume" that the likes of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and any younger characters had the entirety of their origins derailed by Apocalypse’s rise to power and thus would be faceless humans on the whole.

Given that…this series’ existence makes sense, but is a definite step away from the rest of the AoA issues, involving non-X characters. This mini does not seem to tie into any of Magneto’s plans nor have anything to do with him or any of the other X-groups, and as such this is largely "filler"…worth a read if you want a take on the non-mutant characters, but (for me) not at all essential to the rest of the AoA-verse.

TMNT: Mutanimals #2 [Review]

mutanimals002Story: Paul Allor
Art: Andy Kuhn
Colors: Nick Filardi
Letters: Shawn Lee and Tom Long
Cover: Andy Kuhn, Nick Filardi
Edits: Bobby Curnow
Published by: IDW
Cover Date: March 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

While Slash and Hob scope out the Null corporation and find heightened security, Mondo and Herman have some downtime. Eventually their new friend–Mutagen Man–joins them, and as the group bonds, Mondo dubs Mutagen Man “Seymour Guts” since he doesn’t have a real name. Hob learns the location of the other mutants–he and Slash return for the rest of the group and launch an assault to save them. Unfortunately, this doesn’t go as well as hoped, which reverses the equation–instead of a group going in to save two, we’re left with two to save a group.

An earlier reference in the main TMNT book to “mutant animals” seemed a nice little reference to the classic Archie-published continuity, expanded and heightened by the use of the actual term “mutanimals.” Getting a mini-series for this “new” version of the characters has been a huge treat (at least conceptually). This issue, though–like the “mutant animals” reference–gives us a familiar adjective that for me totally made the whole issue worthwhile.

In the story, though we see the two mutants Hob set out to rescue, we’re not given the names. One looks like it COULD be a character I’m hoping for, but with other alterations for the current continuity as well as possible ownership things, I’m honestly not sure if we COULD see Man Ray or Ray Fillet in this series…same for Jagwar and Dreadmon or Wingnut and Screwloose.

So Mondo (Gecko) is the sole representative of that group of characters for me, and this “contemporary version” of the Mutanimals is a far cry from what I’d prefer–though the story itself is interesting and I definitely welcome continuation and expansion of the IDW TMNT-verse beyond just a single issue of the main title each month.

I don’t like that this is only a 4-issue arc…but then, that’s the “standard” and somewhat pigeon-holes stuff, making for shorter stories that maybe COULD be longer or have more ongoing plot threads/subplots. That said, this puts us to the halfway point, and we do meet the head of the Null corporation…something I’d feared would not happen at all or at least not within this series (or not til some epilogue or final-issue reveal).

While I definitely appreciate the notion of adding female characters to the TMNT-verse and recognize that named major female characters are quite rare historically in the property…I’m not a fan of this sort of changeup. Still, that’s a gut reaction and other than basically meeting the character and seeing what she does in this issue, we have no idea the actual origin and backstory and all that…and with two issues to go there’s still plenty of room for things to be developed and change my mind or clarify what I might be mis-assuming.

Visually I’m not terribly impressed with the issue…but as with the turtles themselves, it seems that one constant is the abundance of different visual depictions of the characters, and not all are necessarily going to be fully to my personal preferences. The art certainly gets across everything going on and I’m not left wondering at the action or any wonky anatomy or weird stuff like that.

I definitely enjoy seeing more of Hob and that while the character may be an antagonist to the turtles, he’s not some out and out villain…he’s like a Magneto of sorts, and that works well for me. I’m not used to a “smart” Slash nor a lack of the character seeking his palm tree…but I’m liking this take on the character.

I’m particularly eager to get the next issue to find out more about the two new mutants…and I’m quite curious at the future of this version of the Mutagen Man. I’d prefer the classics–Man Ray, Mondo, Wingnut and Screwloose, Jagwar, and Dreadmon–but given sufficent story space and development I could definitely see enjoying this new group and their dynamics quite well.

While one may not really have a lot of context for these non-TMNT mutant characters IN the TMNT universe without having read the main TMNT book, this does seem like it works well enough as its own thing as much as any “spin-off” or “tie-in” might. As a second issue, I’d certainly counsel grabbing the first…but unless you’re specifically seeking out the single issues and keeping up on a month-to-month basis that way, you’re just as well off waiting for the inevitable collected volume and get the whole story in one go. If you’re a fan of IDW‘s TMNT continuity, this is certainly a well worthwhile read.

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The Adjective comes into play, behind the cut:

Continue reading

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Calibre #3

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xcalibre003Body Heat

Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencils: Ken Lashley
Inks: Tom Wegrzyn, Philip Moy
Colors: Joe Rosas, Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings, Comicraft
Cover: Ken Lashley
Editors: Suzanne Gaffney, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: May 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Three issues in, and Nightcrawler has finally found Mystique (actually, she found him) though the reunion isn’t the greatest as they still have work ahead of them–getting to Destiny…something Mystique is actually quite hesitant on, for her own reasons. The two eventually get to Avalon, connect with Destiny…though SHE is hesitant to leave, speculating that it could be her leaving that causes everything to be destroyed as it appeared in her visions. Still, the place is found out and Mystique and Nightcrawler defend the group against Apocalypse’s agents–Damask and Dead Man Wade. Realizing the beauty of the place, though, Damask turns on Wade and he’s taken out. The group–Nightcrawler, Mystique, Switchback, and Damask–then prepares to take Destiny and get out.

Toward the end of the issue, Switchback asks Mystique about the bullets she has, the only markings being an "X." Mystique explains them:

"They WERE Magnum loads for a .44 calibre, but I customized them. The ‘X’ was kind of a joke."

And thus we get the title of this series: X-Calibre, a literalness that works, and juxtaposes nicely with the regular X-title Excalibur, referencing the legendary sword. The fact that that is worked into this reminds me of what I often very much enjoy in movies that seem to have a random title–explanation is given within the story as to the title…perhaps explicit, perhaps not…but noticeable when caught and yet not particularly intrusive. We also get a brief exchange between Nightcrawler and Mystique suggesting they both–in the Age of Apocalypse–know who Kurt’s father is, though I don’t believe THAT was revealed until nearly a decade later in the main Marvel universe.

This issue moves things forward into a second act, in a way. The first act (issues 1-2) involved Nightcrawler seeking Mystique in order to be able to then seek Destiny. The "finding" occurring at the end of last issue left this issue for them to proceed in seeking Destiny, and now we’re left with Avalon no longer being safe and though they HAVE Destiny, they still have to get her to Magneto to do her thing.

And as with the earlier issues, this was an enjoyable enough read. It may not be my favorite, but it’s not bad. I had to flip back through to find where Switchback came in, having totally glossed over her as an incidental character and not realizing she’d be significant at the issue’s end.

Overall I very much enjoyed the art, especially the first page with Nightcrawler and Mystique–linework, coloring, all of it–the two characters definitely look the part of mother/son (if not husband/wife or such)–the family appearance is there. I don’t quite "get" the sideways-double-page layouts from this time period, and though that’s mainly been something I’ve noticed in Wolverine (and thus Weapon X) opening this issue to that brought it back to conscious thought. That was the main ‘distraction’ to reading the issue, though.

I actually don’t recall anything offhand from the fourth issue, so whatever transpires between this and Destiny’s role in X-Men: Omega will be like another "new issue" for me…something I do look forward to.

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