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Showing Off the Shelves: Kotobukiya X-Men ’92

Earlier in the year, I discovered the Kotobukiya line of X-Men ’92 figures/models/statues.Where I’d originally only intended to get Rogue and Gambit, that quickly expanded until finally, I wound up with the entire line (that I’m presently aware of)!

kotobukiya_xmen92a

Professor X and Phoenix/Jean Grey were the only figures to come as single-characters, all the rest came in packs of 2. Jubilee came with Wolverine, and Storm came with Bishop.

kotobukiya_xmen92b

Gambit and Rogue came together, which is what set me off on this entire line. Cyclops and Beast make up the final pair.

The Bishop/Storm set was the most expensive for me, and I paid more than I’d have preferred–still a bit of buyer’s remorse there–but after missing one heckuva sale price at Black Friday, I decided to splurge and order them from BigBadToyStore just to HAVE them and not have to worry about them becoming even MORE extremely-exspensive if they’re "out of print" or such.

Despite that/leaving the cost off to the side…I really dig the set, and would certainly prefer to see more releases for it.

Most immediately, a "regular" Jean Grey, perhaps paired with a Morph (possibly with an "extra" head for "Dark Morph"); and then of course, some villains.

Magneto and Mr. Sinister would be definites for me, along with Apocalypse, perhaps Mystique, Blob, Pyro, and Avalanche. Perhaps swap Juggernaut for Mr. Sinister if we’d keep to the first season, though Jean in her Phoenix form is from beyond the 2nd season, even, so…yeah.

It’d even be great to see a sentinel, perhaps…though for the price of these-sized figures, I hate to consider what a Sentinel would cost from Kotobukiya!

Despite wanting more…this present set pretty much perfectly fits on two "floating" wall shelves I bought on Amazon; it wasn’t until I was mounting the shelves to the wall that I realized they’d be good for these figures.

I may look into getting some more of these shelves in the new year when I do some re-arranging of the basement space; I have a number of ideas there (plus thoughts toward some alternate shelving as most of my shelves have bowed significantly, and I reconfigure the overall space a bit to accommodate the last couple of years).

Time will definitely tell, though…as always!

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Astonishing X-Men (2017) #1 [Review]

astonishing_x-men_(2017)_0001Life of X – Part One

Writer: Charles Soule
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego, Walden Wong
Colors: Richard Isanove, Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Jim Cheung & Richard Isanove
Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen, Anthony Gambino
Assistant Editor: Christina Harrington
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: September 2017
Cover Price: $4.99

I was a sucker. I’d seen a poster-image of this issue’s cover, and I vaguely recall the image grabbing me initially when it was first debuted with solicitation or shortly after. Archangel has always been a striking figure for me, and despite the last ten or so years, Bishop (especially looking as he does here) rings quite nostalgic for me. Then there’s Rogue, and while I don’t much care for the “Old Man” version, seeing ‘a Wolverine figure’ here drove it home. But in addition to that, there’s something about the blending of the coloring–the rich orangey-yellow background and the yellow and blue of the logo…and that the logo may not be the “classic” X-MEN logo, but it has a certain blend of the old and new while being its own thing…and NOT coming off as “pretentious” (as if text CAN be pretentious) to me.

I was ALSO a sucker because a local comic shop had sent out an email informing us that any Marvel purchase would get a free “cosmic cube,” and while I am actively disinterested in the current comics Event, I’m a sucker for plastic comic artifacts (such as Lantern Corps Rings), and the Cosmic Cube goes way back. And with Astonishing X-Men #1 being out this week and already having the against-my-better-judgment interest, I figured hey…fine. I tried X-Men: Gold #1 and X-Men: Blue #1, so I could give Astonishing X-Men #1 a go. Especially at $3.99.

After I’d bought the issue (amidst my other purchases), and gotten it home AND read it…THEN I realized that no…this was NOT a $3.99 issue. It was $4.99…so for that, I’m not a happy camper. But where even comic shops are lucky to return comics, it’s not like I can “return” the issue, so I’m sorta stuck with it, whatever “principle” I want to take with it.

I’m not happy that my inattention to detail had me ignorantly buying yet another $5 #1 issue from Marvel (in an industry when other publishers proved $10 vol. 1 collected editions with 5-6 issues).

Buuuuuut…

I enjoyed this issue.

I actually did!

We open on a quick scene, learning that mutant psychics all over the world are dying. Then we come to Betsy Braddock–Psylocke–who is one of the STRONGEST mutant psychics, and the force that’s killing the others isn’t able to subdue her until after she’s sent out a psychic cry for help. We’re also (re) introduced to Bishop; to Angel/Archangel, Gambit and Fantomex, Old Man Logan and Rogue; four of whom are on the receiving end of Psylocke’s cry for help; which draws them all in to her location. The force that’s been attacking the psychics is concentrated, and no longer constrained to just the local psychics. As the group converges, they must face the psychic energy-outlash while saving civilians and surviving themselves. Working together, the immediate, outward threat is resolved…but Betsy reveals that she now knows who is behind it–and that things are worse than even this was. Some of the group must go to the Astral Plane to stop the Shadow King. No time to seek shelter or plan–she sends them immediately, with Angel and Bishop remaining behind to protect them all. Meanwhile, we confirm that yes indeed, this is definitely Shadow King. And he’s got quite a secret…which provides a major “hook” for me regarding subsequent issues of this series!

While I was incredibly skeptical of X-Men Prime, X-Men Blue, and X-Men Gold, I bought the one-shot and #1s to “try,” to go against my anti-Marvel negativity and give the things “a shot,” an ISSUE, at least. And that way I could at least judge for myself how things seemed, and feel like I had more room to criticize–at least I’d have bought the big, over-priced first-issues, and have SOME hands-on “experience,” not just second-hand stuff.

And so, too, I figured for this. $4.99 is too much for a single issue, for a first issue. MAYBE for an Annual, or an oversized special/one-shot. But a $5+ issue should be rare and special…not plentiful as water. Marvel has abused the price point to where I virtually NEVER even bother to look at their comics, because I just KNOW they’re basically the most ridiculously-priced premium-priced things in the market. Real or perception, but that’s where I am.

But I’ve got the issue, I read it, and I actually enjoyed it. We have some prologue. We have character introductions. We have an immediate threat, and we see a group of disparate mutant figures come together, face the threat, and emerge victorious. We then have the setup for an even bigger threat–the one that carries beyond “just” this issue…and it looks to involve other nostalgic elements that work organically with the Shadow King character, as well as perhaps grabbing onto continuity and yanking on a loose thread, in preparation of some re-stitching and mending.

The story is engaging and keeps stuff moving; I can and will allow any “inconsistencies of character” to be credited to the last decade or more of mutant comics and lack of continuity and the apparent attempt here to play with the existing status quo. Visually, I dug this issue. Everyone’s recognizable and I like the visuals; there’s a sense of modernity with the aforementioned nostalgia; new and old, simply making this a good-looking comic. The multiple inkers do not take away from that–I only even know there were multiple inkers due to seeing the credits.

I don’t want to like any Marvel series right now. The X-Men are old favorites, and I’ve felt largely let-down by everything that’s been done with, to, and involving them for years, such that many of them are hardly recognizable to me anymore. I do not TRUST Marvel to not “yank the rug out” from under me, or some sorta bait-and-switch with this. I’ve already seen one or two of the other X-titles tie in to a major crossover event…and I want nothing to do with that, either. So…I might come back for the next issue of this arc, or at least check it out if I notice it on the rack. I am honestly very interested in what this particular story arc holds, and if I’m gonna pay Marvel‘s too-high inflated/”premium” price point, I can justify it a bit easier in smaller doses as single issues than collected volumes.

I actually don’t feel I can really speak to whether old fans or new fans or both would care or not care about this issue…I’m a weird creature when i comes to Marvel, and the X-Men. Suffice it to say that even at that $5 price point and $3.99 otherwise with possible bi-weekly shipping, I’m hooked here where even the likes of Blue and Gold didn’t grab me at this level. That makes this a definite “light in the darkness” of X-Books, and if you can stomach the $4.99 price point, this is about as good an issue for that as any that Marvel‘s put out of late!

astonishing_x-men_(2017)_0001_blogtrailer

1990s Aliens Toys: Bishop

I remember, as a kid, seeing some Aliens toys while out at some store with my Mom. I’d thought they were kinda cool, but she had zero interest in buying any of them for me.

I think I’d associated them with an arcade game that was at the local skating rink…it’s also possible that I associated them with a bit of a movie I’d seen when Dad fell asleep watching tv; it’s also likely that–this being Kenner–I may have seen commercials for the toys. At the same time–the more I do think about it–I may have already read the novelization of Alien3, and perhaps had already seen the movies, which may have further explained my noticing/taking an interest in these…possibly prior to my getting into the books based on the Dark Horse Comics series.

I recently came across a couple of the figures at a local The Exchange and for the price, went ahead and bought them…though disappointingly, they did not have any of the actual Alien creatures…just a couple of the soldiers.

I was also particularly interested in the "free comic" that was included, quite interested in what that was content-wise. I did not bargain for it to be a rolled up pamphlet with no real story that simply serves as a guide to playtime and/or other toys to get!

Anyway…here’s stuff with the first figure–Bishop!

Aliens_Kenner_Bishop_front

The character looks like a "cool" android here, but not much like the film character. Considering these toys were (as I recall) marketed to kids, and (also as I recall in coming across them as a kid) found in the toy aisle with other kids’ toys…it’s just as well that there were differences as I doubt most kids that would’ve been wanting these toys would have been old enough to (responsibly) be shown such a violent R-rated film.

Aliens_Kenner_Bishop_back

The back of the card gives a tidbit of information about the character, and shows off the other toys in the line–something that (in this quantity) I wish more toy lines would do to this day. Seeing/knowing what’s out there does a lot more than having to (or happening to) "research" a toy line and whatnot. Show off the other cool stuff and prompt the person with this toy to also want those toys!

Aliens_Kenner_Bishop_profile

While these were just into the early 1990s, they tried to (somewhat) follow the "clip and collect" thing (something I personally most associate with GI Joe and TMNT figures).

Aliens_Kenner_Bishop_profile_instructions

Also good to have some basic info about the figure without having to "guess" or "not know until purchase" and getting the figure out of the package!

Aliens_Kenner_Bishop_back_tagline

"Space Marines," huh? "Space ______" sounds cool, I guess. Aliens "attacking," but no significant details. "heavy metal," yeah, ok, sign of the times. Generic text/"tagline"/"elevator pitch" for the line…rather sanitized, but hey…these were for kids!

Aliens_Kenner_Bishop_back_aliens

The aliens look a bit blocky here…but still cool. I’d be most interested in the Alien Queen and the Scorpion Alien, though wouldn’t mind getting the other two!

Aliens_Kenner_Bishop_back_marines

The rest of the "Space Marines"–though I notice at least one prominent character missing. Ripley had to be included, obviously…but otherwise, apparently who actually wanted any females? I’m not sure who "Atax" is with the "disguise" suit; but otherwise, looks to me like a good mix on the characters generically: A woman, "only" a couple white guys, a black guy, and robot.

And perhaps that was one of the things for the film–quite the good ensemble cast.

Aliens_Kenner_Bishop_back_vehicles

And as with any ’80s or ’90s toy line…of course you had to have "vehicles" to go with the figures! Of these, I’d sorta be interested in Ripley’s power loader…though ultimately I’m not all that interested in any of these.

As for the line itself, I’d love to find the Aliens themselves cheaply, even "loose," though I’d be quite interested in seeing what sort of "story" one gets across all the included "comics" inserts.

And speaking of said inserts…here’s the Bishop one, numbered as "No 1" and apparently starting off the adventure!

Continue reading

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Amazing X-Men #4

aoa_revisited_logo

amazingxmen004On Consecrated Ground

Plot: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Andy Kubert
Inker: Matt Ryan
Lettering: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Color Art: Kevin Somers and Digital Chameleon
Cover: Andy Kubert, Matt Ryan
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Here we are…the second-to-last issue of the entirety of this (as we’re in 2015 I have to use the word "original" to specify) Age of Apocalypse story.

The issue opens with Bishop in the hands of the Madri as they prepare to "sacrifice" him so that his knowledge does not pass further and inspire others to consider a world in which Apocalypse does not presently rule. Storm bursts onto the scene and frees him, though the doing drains her considerably. While this is going on, Quicksilver and Banshee locate the source of the Madri–Jamie Madrox–as we learn that the Madri are all "just" dupes of Jamie. Meanwhile, Rogue and her group arrive back at the mansion to learn Magneto has been taken and her son Charles is missing. Nightcrawler bamfs in with Destiny; Colossus and Kitty had also arrived with Illyana and now deliver the news that their students died in freeing the girl. Dazzler and Exodus return as well, Gambit and Lila Cheney in tow…but no sign of Charles. Rogue lashes out at Gambit for not returning with her child; while Banshee sacrifices himself to put an end to Abyss, and Madrox gives his own life to shut down the Madri and thus save Storm and Bishop. The various pieces of Magneto’s planning have come together, borne fruit…and the X-Men stand ready to end the age of Apocalypse.

Though this issue does technically continue threads from the previous issue, in many ways it feels more like a filler issue, not belonging to its own series, but rather, tying things together to funnel/filter several things into X-Men: Omega and the end of the overall AoA story arc. There’s a lot going on, though nothing really gets much focus.

The story as such doesn’t work as a solo issue, and even as a final issue, too much "space" is given to converging plotlines for this to really fit the standard expectation of a final issue. I suppose I’d say that this issue lacks much of its own identity as a chapter of an individual thread about to be woven back into a larger whole. Yet, this certainly sets things up and if one reads this issue, it certainly does not make much sense not to continue on to X-Men: Omega.

The art is good. Nothing really stands out positive or negative, though if anything it might be the portrayal of Abyss. I can’t quite figure out if I like or dislike the character’s appearance…though it’s a credit to the visual team that I can "hear" the sound of the character’s movements in my head.

This issue is a sort of bridge between the other minis and X-Men: Omega; particularly Generation Next, X-Calibre, Astonishing X-Men, and Gambit and the X-Ternals…really only leaving out Weapon X, X-Man, and Factor-X, as those series’ finales I believe are more directly connected to the pages of the bookend special.

The end of this issue points out the continuation into X-Men: Omega…which apparently was on sale the same week, so there would have been the double-dose of story, and making this one functionally an extension if one bought both. X-Men: Alpha, 8 4-issue series, two 2-issue series and a profile book…this is–if my math’s correct–the 39th part of AoA, with everything wrapping up in a 40th issue, capping things off.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Amazing X-Men #3

aoa_revisited_logo

amazingxmen003Parents of the Atom

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Andy Kubert
Inker: Matt Ryan
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Color Art: Kevin Somers, Digital Chameleon
Cover: Andy Kubert
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: May 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

We open with Magneto at Xavier’s gravestone, reflecting on the past and significance of Xavier and his life. Bishop interrupts and we learn the two are out on the grounds of the mansion due to a perimeter alarm, and before long the two are attacked…first by Infinites, then Apocalypse himself. The two fall to Apocalypse…leaving the grounds empty when Storm and Quicksilver’s group returns. They split to seek Magneto as well as his son Charles, but find only evidence that Nanny defended Charles, and Magneto did not leave of his own volition. While Quicksilver confronts Angel–who is "in the know" with this sort of thing–we see Bishop being probed for info by the Shadow King, and then Abyss arrives. Meanwhile, having gotten what info he needed from Angel, Quicksilver prepares the group to retrieve Bishop, recognizing that Bishop is key to Magneto’s plans, moreso than Magneto himself.

This cover, and this issue in general–is one of the ones I remember and think of when I think of the Age of Apocalypse story in general. I remember the physical battle between Magneto and Apocalypse, and apparently have–at least subconsciously–been looking forward to this, despite not recalling for certain where stuff went down. I hadn’t remembered much detail on the X-Men and their searching for Magneto or how they connected the dots, but as I read this, that was almost "extra" after the battle between the two Big Players in things.

Visually, I dare say I was thrilled with this issue…everything looked good, ESPECIALLY a lot of the Magneto and Bishop stuff. Whatever nitpicks I might be able to find to cast some negative are easily overshadowed by the issue’s opening and the depiction of Magneto. As I’ve said in other reviews across the AoA stuff…this is where Magneto came to really be one of my favorite comic characters…and this version of him is easily my favorite depiction OF the character.

One almost needn’t have read the first couple issues to follow things here–technically those stand alone, apart, serving as our point of witnessing what the characters went through where in this issue we’re simply told THAT they helped with the evacuation of the humans. Magneto being attacked, and both he and Bishop being taken by Apocalypse cues the final stage of the Age of Apocalypse, as concepts and potentialities solidify and larger pieces of things are visibly coming together, everything being drawn toward Apocalypse himself at the heart of his empire.

Having so enjoyed this issue, I truly don’t relish forcing myself through (m)any other issues and I’m simply eager to get to the final issue of Astonishing X-Men, and of this title, and then on into X-Men: Omega…though there are a number of other issues yet to go before the finale of this story.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Amazing X-Men #1

aoa_revisited_logo

amazingxmen001The Crossing Guards

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Andy Kubert
Inker: Matt Ryan
Color Art: Kevin Somers
Separation: Digital Chameleon
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Cover: Andy Kubert
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date:
March 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

With this issue, we’re back to the X-Men "proper," as Storm and Quicksilver lead a squad of X-Men to assist with getting humans out of North America. In order to do so, however, they have to "hack" the High Council’s sentinels’ programming so they can be seen as friendlies and not just more mutants to be attacked on detection. Though they seek to help, their help’s not asked for. As the group preps, the distrust for the man called Bishop runs high as Magneto seems to be the only one who trusts him and believes that he might truly represent a chance to change the world before it ever went wrong.

It’s not really evident to me with this issue why I’ve long held this title to be my favorite of the Age of Apocalypse books–it might be the later issues that brought that to the fore and the way they lead into the end of things…but that’s something to be gotten to when I get to ’em.

This issue is another solid read with plenty of forward development in things as a whole if not overly so with any individual characters. Of course, it’s a team book so I wouldn’t necessarily expect a lot of individual character development. I certainly appreciate the Magneto/Bishop stuff, and rereading all these first issues has reminded me of why I’m such a fan of Magneto, as it WAS this saga 20 years ago that fully introduced me to the character, my prior experience having almost exclusively been Fatal Attractions and the animated series (which itself in its second season gave plenty to like with the character).

The story here is good, as is the art. I can be quite repetitive in talking about art with comics as I’m more a story guy, but with that–this issue’s art didn’t blow me away but it definitely provided strong visuals that certainly had played a part in defining this era of X-Men comics for me.

All in all, this was another enjoyable issue in the dawn of the Age of Apocalypse…keeping the "train" rolling and my interest high in continuing to relearn and revisit the entirety of the AoA epic.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Men Alpha #1

aoa_revisited_logo

xmenalpha001Beginings…

Story: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Pencils: Roger Cruz w/Steve Epting
Inks: Tim Townsend w/Dan Panosian
Letters: Starkings w/Comicraft
Colors: Steve Buccellato w/Electric Crayon
Editor: Bob Harras
Cover: Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

The cover proclaims A NEW World! A NEW Beginning! This issue sports a fancy "chromium" cover, and is itself a rather iconic image–to me, at least–of the "new" X-Men, as brought together by Magneto. We see Weapon X (Wolverine) front ‘n center on the front panel of this wraparound cover. Blink, Sunfire, Bishop, Rogue, Magneto, Jean Grey, Quicksilver, Nightcrawler, and Gambit round out the bunch here. Open the issue up to see the back cover as well and we see Apocalypse in the background, with Sabretooth and Wild Child in the foreground, Jubilee and Colossus behind, and some flying stormtroopers (Infinites, I believe) filling out the sky-space of the image.

There are no ads in this issue. 48 pages of story, plus the cover–that’s it. For "only" $3.95. Sorta pricey "back in the day," but quite a bargain by today’s standards. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like this priced around $9.99 by Marvel nowadays–and shocked to see it under $7.99.

Though this issue kicks off the Age of Apocalypse epic, it does not itself carry an Age of Apocalypse badge–this is a "bookend" issue that serves as a prologue to the entirety of the event encompassing ten or so titles across the four months.

We open on a wasteland, where we meet Bishop–whose mind was damaged by the energies that ripped Legion and the other X-Men away in X-Men #41. We find that he’s wandered for the 20 years since. Here, he’s become the focus of an attack from Unus and his troopers who were chasing a young human who found momentary hope in Bishop. The X-Men arrive–Magneto’s X-Men–and the battle is joined. Emerging victorious, the X-Men are then confronted by Bishop, who recognizes Magneto and levels some major accusations at him. Magneto sedates him and they take Bishop for questioning.

Meanwhile, we meet Beast–Henry McCoy–a mad scientist figure experimenting on mutants. Havok touches base, and the mutant (Blob) being experimented on attacks, and the pair are "rescued" by Cyclops–with long hair and only one eye, and see that he and Havok have a horrible relationship. The two are part of Apocalypse’s group, by way of Sinister–who arrives and chastises the two for fighting, and then speaks cryptically and leaves. The scene shifts to a bar maintained by Angel–Heaven–where he’s confronted by Gambit, who is looking for Magneto. We shift to the X-Men, questioning Bishop, then to Apocalypse and his upper ranks as he reveals plans to destroy the last of humanity.

The story shifts to Weapon X and Jean meeting up with the Human High Council, and then back to Magneto’s group. "Feedback" from Rogue touching him leads to Magneto seeing fragments of a universe that might have been, leaving the older mutant troubled. He immediately sends Nightcrawler to seek Destiny in order to get confirmation of his vision. Meanwhile, Sinister’s gone missing, and Apocalypse nudges things into motion. The X-Men know "something" is up, but not specifics. While off in space, a certain crystallization wave heads toward Earth.

I don’t usually like summarizing an issue so thoroughly–but there is a LOT going on here. And it all works, for me. There’s a lot of vagueness and toss-off references scattered throughout that don’t necessarily make a lot of sense now, in context of just this one issue–but having read this before and knowing the characters, I follow them quite well. This sets up the various books that make up the Age of Apocalypse saga, introducing us to core elements–the characters and places that will have significant roles in the story to come.

There’s a definite sense of "history" here, and it feels like this could easily BE just a random issue I picked up, amidst an ongoing continuity and not the first actual glimpse at the entirety of said continuity. This is–to the reader–a new world, a beginning of an "Event," but for the characters involved this is simply the present, 20 years after a key incident in Israel.

I remember being quite eager to get into the Age of Apocalypse as a whole and being fascinated by this new version of all the characters. Despite the dark setting of the story, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, with a familiarity and warm sense of nostagia as I did so.

The art is slightly stylistic at points, and I’m not particularly familiar with Roger Cruz‘s name…but this issue being what it is, none of the art bothered me…I was simply a kid again, enjoying seeing all these characters and where they were, and trying to glean where the story was going from this single issue.

It’s refreshing to read this issue again, and getting a sense of pureness or "authenticity" from what I so enjoyed about this event…before everything that’s come in the past ten years or so as things were changed, pulled from, and generally mucked about with in attempt to get as much out of this story as possible beyond its relatively self-contained nature in 1995.

In short, this issue holds up extremely well to my memory, is still very enjoyable, and leaves me eager to get into the heart of the story.

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