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The ’90s Revisited: The Phoenix Resurrection – Genesis

90s_revisited

phoenix_resurrection_genesisGenesis

Writrs: Ian Edginton, Dan Abnett
Pencillers: Darick Robertson, Mark Pacella, Greg Luzniak, Rob Haynes
Inkers: Tom Wegrzyn, Art Thibert, Larry Stucker, Bob Wiacek, Philip Moy
Letterer: Vickie Williams
Color Design: Robert Alvord
Interior Color: Malibu Color
Asst. Editor: Scott Bernstein
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

As Marvel publishes Phoenix Resurrection in the present, 22 years ago it published The Phoenix Resurrection through Malibu ComicsUltraverse line. Malibu Comics, which Marvel had purchased in order to keep DC Comics from buying the smaller publisher. And with the smaller publisher in-hand…looking back through this issue at least, it seems Marvel had no idea what to do or have done with the small superhero universe it now had in addition to its own.

This Genesis issue was preceded by a month-long promotion in which each of the 7 then-current Ultraverse titles had a 3-page flipbook segment showing the characters encountering some kinda reference to a phoenix, though taken as a whole that made for a disjointed mess. The seven chapters were reprinted/collected into a single issue in The Phoenix Resurrection: Red Shift.

Getting into the main/actual story of the "event" now with this issue, we get a prologue of the Phoenix Force being discovered by some probe from another universe. Before long, through machinations of the Gateway character, a squad of X-Men find themselves once more in a parallel universe that they’ve become increasingly familiar with (a footnote reference to the Mutants vs. Ultras special issue, itself collecting several previously-exclusive American Entertainment editions such as Prime vs. Hulk, Wolverine vs. Night Man, and All New Exiles vs. X-Men).

While bystanders and news media are focused on something coming from the sun, Ultra hero Prime engages the X-Men in combat, because of course they’ve gotta fight. The source of the aforementioned probe–a mother ship that’s buried in the ocean–reunites with a counterpart in the sun, and brings the Phoenix Force to this Earth, and then tries to drain its energy–its life–causing the Phoenix entity to be driven insane with pain. The entity bonds with Prime as a host body, and continues to fight the X-Men, as other Ultras are brought to the scene. (It should be mentioned that apparently the mutants’ powers are severely dampened in this reality…but that’s a crutch that doesn’t much matter for discussion of this particular issue). Eventually, the Phoenix and Prime are separated, and the Phoenix takes a new host, as the issue ends (to be continued in Phoenix Resurrection: Revelations).

Maybe it’s that I look back on the likes of Prime, Mantra, and Rune with memory of more complex, authentic-sounding stories and characters, as well as the same from the X-Men books from the early/mid-’90s (particularly stuff like Fatal Attractions or the Age of Apocalypse and immediate aftermaths) but this just does not feel like it has much depth, nor is there–even in an extra-sized issue like this–much characterization. It’s like the characters were chosen for the book by "popularity" and "mainstream-ness" (plus, of course, being characters appearing in books that survived into the pared-down 7-book line of Black September-onward), and not really for much else. We have a squad of X-Men and some major Ultraverse characters thrown together, but I get no real sense of depth, development, or motivation. The probe and mother ship have a far-too-convenient means of getting the Phoenix to Earth, Gateway seems nothing but "convenience" personified, and we’re told rather than shown that the mutants’ powers are lessened here. Prime comes off as nothing but some petulant kid–while he IS a kid, he’s lacking a depth I feel like I remember from his own original title. Bishop seems to be present for appearance’s sake, and with the mutants not even really trying to use their powers, there’s no particular point to any specific character’s presence…they’re interchangeable.

With the art, I recognize Darick Robertson and Art Thibert as names if not an actual art style here; but having numerous artists on this single issue doesn’t particularly do it any favors…at least for me reading it in a fair bit of isolation here–perhaps they’re the artists on the main books, in which case I’d welcome that (in idea at least), but just jumping into this issue after the Red Shift collection of 3-page shorts, I’m not thrilled with the visuals. I recognize the various characters–there seems to be an attempt to have them all look a certain way, perhaps using a "house style" or such–but virtually nothing stands out to me. Everyone is for the most part a generic iteration of iconic appearance (for lack of better phrasing). The only real stand-out bit for me was the large image of the Phoenix-possessed Prime (though zero mention or visual reference from the Ultraverse side OR X-Men side of the Prime body being healed/repaired after an obvious significant slash from Wolverine’s claws and Jubilee’s reaction to the green goop).

Ultimately, offhand, I didn’t so much "not enjoy" this as I "didn’t ENJOY" it. It’s cool–at least conceptually–to see the mix of characters thrown together and all. But after 17+ years of having "decompressed stories" that are clearly serialized graphic novels, I definitely am expecting much more depth of character and stuff from two sides like this to be brought out.

This is a definite novelty, one certainly worth 25 cents or so as a bargain-bin purchase, if only for the time it takes to read making it more worthwhile than most anything of its size published in present-day. You can definitely dive into this issue withOUT reading anything before it…the "crossover" stuff from the Red Shift 3-page segments are little but token reference-points thus far, making this a better "starting point" if only for having a big chunk of a single story that’s not jumping to a new setting/character every 3 pages. You could do worse than this issue…but much as I’m down on modern Marvel, if you’re looking for "return of Phoenix" stuff, you’d be better served with the contemporary Return of Jean Grey story in the 2017/2018 Phoenix Resurrection, or in 2012’s AvX event series.

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General Mills Presents: Justice League (2017) #2 [Review]

general_mills_2017_justice_league_0002Dark Reflections

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciller: Rick Leonardi
Inkers: Bob Wiacek and Scott Hanna
Colorist: Rex Lokus
Letterer: Comicraft
Cover Artist: Scott Koblish
Cover Colorist: Val Staples
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Steve Buccellato
Group Editor: Marie Javins
Design Director: Larry Berry

This is the "second" issue of four being made available to the public "blindly" via insertion into specially-marked boxes of General Mills cereal. Though the issues ARE numbered, the first issue and this one do not seem to draw on each other or lead into the other with any singular story, so the numbers are–I’m pretty confident in saying–there to stimulate collectors’ OCD to collect ’em all.

This issue focuses on Batman, though it guest-stars the rest of the Justice League.

Batman arrives home after a "typical" night out. After talking with Alfred and having a flashback to his youth where his parents were still around, Bruce catches a glimpse of a reflection in the mirror that is most certainly not him looking back! Turns out that Mirror Master (one of Flash’s Rogues) has expanded his reach (with the unintentional assistance of Flash himself) to vex the entire Justice League. Using mirrors as gateways, interdimensional counterparts of our heroes are brought through, and the heroes square off with them. While everyone tangles with their mirrored counterparts, Batman (through recalling an incident from his youth) develops a plan to deal with this threat and stop Mirror Master.

Nicieza and Leonardi are a couple more names that I’m definitely familiar with, though I’m far moreso with the former than latter. I’m honestly impressed at the way this issue–and this round of GM Justice League as a whole–has the talent and appearances of something much bigger and less generic than "just" cereal-box comics. At the same time, unfortunately (by seeming necessity) these ARE rather smaller and more generic than non-cereal counterparts.

The story itself is fairly basic, drawing on some basic tropes of comics in general…particularly the lead-in with Batman having just gotten back from a night out, talking about the off-panel adventure, remembering something from his childhood while his parents were alive, and that conveniently being relevant to the current story at hand. Yet, while that may come off as a negative…it fits perfectly into what these comics can and might be–someone’s first. These days, it’s not hard to imagine that there are countless staunch fans of even "obscure" comic book characters…yet said fans may never have actually experienced a comic book! So while these are overdone, overly-familiar things to me as a nearly-30-years comics reader, they may well be someone’s first exposure and be at least some small part of their journey into comics.

The story elements overall do not particularly contradict what I know of the characters, and particularly Batman in this case, though this definitely comes detached from the nuances of recent continuity that I’m familiar with. My biggest eye-opener is the notion of the characters nonchalantly hauling the moon out of its orbit with zero repercussions to the Earth. Perfect for a comic like this, maybe, but epic event-level stuff in general continuity.

Visually, if the pages were "regular" sized and I didn’t see a cover, I wouldn’t really know this was "just" some cereal-box comic…it has "established talent," and does not look like some generic thing. The art is quite good in and of itself, though as with a lot of comic book art, its primary drawback is simply in not being by one of a handful of my favorite comic artists. Once again, these characters look like they’re right out of early-2017 full-size DC comics, down to Batman’s current gold-outlined black bat symbol. Superman’s look is about to be out of date, but fits well into the past ten or so months’ worth of DC Rebirth.

As with the first issue, this was an ok read with good art. It’s a cereal comic and certainly worth reading, but it in no way affects continuity nor particularly draws from it. You might appreciate this more if you’re NOT up on current comics, as you may be less likely to do hard comparisons. I wouldn’t go out of the way to hunt this down, but if you like the cereal and it’s in the box, definitely give it a read-through!

general_mills_2017_justice_league_0002_blogtrailer

Wonder Woman #600 [Review]

This is the third “mega-anniversary” issue from DC in a month’s time (Batman #700 and Superman #700 preceded this) and for me, these are 3-for-3 in terms of being disappointments. Huge numbers, sure…and at least Batman and Superman got to theirs “legitimately.” Last month, Wonder Woman was on issue # 44…so it seems kinda fishy to arbitrarily skip 556 numbers just because issue #45 would be the 600th issue if you strung all the previous series combined in one continuing run.

But that’s a complaint to go into detail on another time.

This issue–even after reading the whole thing–is virtually forgettable. Less than 2 days after initially reading the issue, I couldn’t tell you what the “lead story” even was. I remembered the short with Power Girl’s cat, because it was a cat-story and combined with the Origin of Dex-Starr in Green Lantern #55, they stuck out as significant for hitting me close to the heart, having recently lost a cat I’d had for 18 years. The other story in the issue was setup for when Straczynski takes over the title, and showed a Diana Prince in a costume quite a bit different from the recent “traditional” version (and works extremely well in the story, despite all the buzz in the media..more on that later). There are also a number of “pinup pages” where other artistic teams had a chance to display their take on the character for this anniversary issue.

We open with an “introduction” by Lynda Carter–the actress who portrayed Wonder Woman in the old tv live-action series…I hardly remember the last time I saw a collected edition with an introduction, and now here we have one for a single-issue comic…I understand there’s big-time significance to a female character having so many issues published, but it still seems strange.

Valedictorian
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: George Perez
Inker: Scott Koblish
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Assoc. Editor: Sean Ryan
Editor: Brian Cuningham

The first story then begins, with Wonder Woman leading most of the well-known (and some less-so-well-known) female characters into battle, before rushing to a graduation ceremony where she’s glad to have arrived in time to see a girl graduate. We find out this is a girl who was part of the supporting cast, apparently, back when the Wonder Woman title was relaunched in the late 1980s after Crisis on Infinite Earths. The story here–at least to this male reader–as fairly generic. It’s cool to see the follow up on a character who has since her first appearance grown up, which lends some real history to the Wonder Woman tale as a whole…but it’s still–structurally–not all that interesting. The art by Perez is awesome, though, and I can overlook a boring story for the beautiful art, the detailed portrayal of the various characters. Plus, there’s that little tidbit of info older readers know: it was Perez who relaunched the character back in the 1980s, so seeing his return to contribute to a story all these years later–as the artist, and by indication in the credits, as an “inspiration” for the story.

Fuzzy Logic
Writer & Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: John J. Hill

Next up, Wonder Woman teams up with Power Girl to defeat “Egg Fu,” and then retire to Power Girl’s office, where they discuss the way Power Girl’s cat has been acting, and Power Girl realizes she needs a place away from the office, where she and the cat can be away from the day-to-day business of things. The art is so-so…nothing spectacular; it doesn’t blow me away or make me feel it’d be anough to carry a boring story. But it works for this story, and doesn’t put me off. The cat seems a bit stocky/bulky…but in terms of a fictitious comic-book cat, I really shouldn’t complain…he’s a cute little thing without being overly-cutesy.

Firepower
Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Eduardo Pansica
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Travis Lanham

The story that follows is a short that basically pit Superman and Wonder Woman against Aegeus, who has stolen lightning bolts from Zeus. The character apparently is Olympian–I’m not familiar with this version of the character, but the name and visuals seem somewhat familiar, suggesting I’m not entirely unfamiliar–whether in DC‘s comics or simply in reading of Greek mythology. As Superman is vulnerable to magic, he’s more the “backup” in this tale, as Wonder Woman takes the lead in bringing the villain down. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of point to this story in and of itself outside this issue…it’s just a tale to show Wonder Woman and Superman teamed up, though giving Wonder Woman the starring role and relegating Superman to an almost second-tier status (as a guest-star, that’s how it goes, though)! The visuals are ok, but again…don’t stand out as significant (whereas the opening story with Perez’ art I recognized it and knew without looking at the credits that it was Perez’ work).

The Sensational Wonder Woman
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Scott Kolins
Coloris: Michael Atiyeh
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano

The next story reeks largely of being little more than metatextual. Wonder Woman is shown in battle, while narration boxes discuss her journey, and leads to what symbolically indicates the character rushing into an unknown future, from an established past…almost feeling like a vague series or season finale where the makers aren’t sure if they’ll get to do anything else with the story.

Odyssey – Prologue: Couture Shock
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Don Kramer
Inker: Michael Babinski
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Travis Lanham

Finally, we have the prologue to Staczynski‘s story, where we find a young Diana Prince in a new, unfamiliar (but with touches of familiarity) costume, seeking an oracle, and referencing a dead mother recently brought back…after having been dead for a few years. We come to see that this new, “current” Wonder Woman is the result of something screwing with the timeline, and she’s going to have to put things back to rights, to exist in the mainstream current DCU again.

We then close with a preview of Action Comics #890 with no cover image to differentiate it from any of the other stories in the issue.

Between stories, we get some “iconic” Wonder Woman pinup pages. While on the one hand they seem a bit like filler material, I am (as I was with Batman #700) very, VERY glad to see these on the INTERIOR of the book, rather than as variant covers!

There’s a two-page spread showing the classic/traditional-costumed Wonder Woman striking a pose in the foreground, with slightly dimmed-out images surrounding as the background, displaying many of the main DC heroes she’s worked with, the villains, and they seem grouped by time-frame, from the different periods of the character’s life, at least post-Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Overall Thoughts on the Issue

These are all decent stories, though the issue as a whole feels more like it should be some sort of Annual rather than a (renumbering aside) regularly-numbered issue in the midst of the ongoing series. If this were a half-half split with an epilogue from the previous writer and a prologue from the incoming writer, with pinup pages to lend to the anniversary feel, it wouldn’t seem so out of sorts. As is, it’s an issue with a whole bunch of stuff crammed in, apparently to give a LOT of people some way to say they “got to work on” this anniversary issue.

If you’re a Wonder Woman fan, this could be a bit iffy. The opening story hardly seems worth a $5 price for its nature just to wrap up Simone‘s run on the book. For newer fans, the final segment is the same way…not worth the $5 just to get such a short prologue to the upcoming run, nor is it worth the price just to get the “debut” of the “new costume” that seems to be THE buzz of late.

This issue seems like it’s more well-suited for the random person who is familiar with the character in American popular culture, but virtually entirely UNaware of current continuity. The stories are so short and lacking in ongoing plot elements that one mostly needn’t know anything of the character or stories…there’s a little more flash than substance here.

Despite the hype…this issue isn’t really worth it unless you specifically want this sort of anthology book. It’s not going to give much to summarize the last several years’ stories, and there’s little more than “previewing the premise” in the prologue to the upcoming arc.

I don’t particularly recommend the issue…but on the whole it’s not something I recommend against, either. Ratings below based on the whole issue and not just any single segment.

Story: 5.5/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 6/10

Adventure Comics #7 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 2.5/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Adventure Comics #4 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Overall: 2.5/5

Justice Society of America #27 [Review]

Ghost in the Darkness

Script and Pencils: Jerry Ordway
Inks: Bob Wiacek
Colorist: Hi-Fi Designs
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Rachel Cluckstern
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jerry Ordway
Publisher: DC Comics

As the various JSA members go about their lives after the latest incident with Black Adam and their membership issues, a new threat shows up. First, Alan Scott’s son traps several members in the house, forcing the team to act against him, despite his claims of just trying to protect them. It’s quickly discovered that there’s more at play than first suspected, and that it is yet another “ghosts issue” for the team.

I passed on this issue when it first shipped last week–I wasn’t interested in sticking around post-Johns, and was content to go out on the high note Johns left this book on. But guilt at being in a comic shop and otherwise walking out empty-handed, I chose this issue as my token purchase…based largely on noticing Ordway’s name on the cover.

I was definitely correct in my assumption that the visuals would be top-notch for the issue, given Ordway’s being the artist. This is beyond a passive “no complaints” about the art–this is an active recognition that the art is very strong top-level stuff that I greatly enjoyed.

The story on the other hand feels rather…generic. I’m not a fan of generic “ghosts” stories, and actually avoided the Gentleman Ghost arc that closed out the previous version of this series around Infinite Crisis.

Though the characters here all seem familiar, and I want to like ’em with OR without Johns…there’s still a shift all around, and I can’t honestly say one way or the other whether I’ll be picking up the next issue or letting this title go.

Recommended for the art and for the die-hard JSA fans. Those following the book specifically for Johns’ writing may be disappointed–at the least, don’t leap into this issue thinking it a seamless change from Johns’ tenure on the series.

Story: 6/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Justice Society of America #25 [Review]

Black Adam & Isis part three: Family Feuds

Story: Geoff Johns, Jerry Ordway
Pencil art: Jerry Ordway
Ink art: Bob Wiacek & Jerry Ordway
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Jerry Ordway)
Publisher: DC Comics

We resume the story with “Black Mary” asserting influence on Billy–creating “Black Billy” and illustrating an interesting point of the nature of the Marvel Family’s use of the power that flows through them. While the Marvels clash with the JSA, Jay Garrick accompanies Billy’s father as things race toward pivotal “Marvel family” events.

The art on this issue is fantastic, and for me works perfectly with this story. In addition to being high quality art, the fact that it is Ordway–who has more than just passing familiarity to the Marvel family–is icing on the cake.

The story itself is accessible to me as a reader who never paid much attention to any of the Marvel family characters until relatively recently, and yet it is so obvious that this draws on continuity put down over the past couple decades (Ordway’s involvement is testament to that!)

As part three of an only four or five-chapter story, this isn’t the best point to simply jump in exactly, but as a whole if you’ve any interest in the Marvel family, this is a story you ought to be reading. And if you’re looking for a crash course or playing some wikipedia-catchup and the cover intrigues you, give this a shot!

Highly recommended.

Story: 9/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9/10

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