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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Man #4

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xman004The Art of War

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Steve Skroce
Inks: Bud LaRosa
Colors: Mike Thomas, Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings, Comicraft
Cover: Skroce, LaRosa
Editors: Lisa Patrick, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Clearly, Apocalypse has no problem "shooting the messenger," and thus–it’s safe to say no one should look forward to being the bearer of bad news. Fortunately, the Shadow King is capable of surviving this particular wrath of the mutant master, who delivers the news that Domino has failed to remove the telepath she was sent to deal with. We then cut back to Nate battling Sinister over the death of Forge. Sinister killed Forge to remove what he saw as a detrimental attachment, and now faces the rage of his most powerful creation. Talking Nate down, Sinister reveals the young mutant’s origins, though still finds himself subject to Nate’s wrath. After bidding his remaining friends farewell, Nate heads to Apocalypse’s stronghold, where he bumps into would-be allies…faces from Sinister’s revelation. However, he keeps to himself, determined to chart his own course, to take out Apocalypse himself.

The cover is rather generic yet spoiler-y…showing an enraged Nate victorious over Sinister. It’s also relatively patriotic (to the US) with a general white background, red 3-D to the white and blue-ish logo, as well as the blues of Nate’s getup and Sinister’s blue and red. Generic as the image is, I do like it…enough that I’m talking about it here where I’ve not made a point of discussing EVERY cover of this Age of Apocalypse event.

The interiors work quite well, also. There’s something that seems a bit simplistic about the way Nate looks in certain panels, but aside from simply noticing and thinking that, the art team does a very good job with this issue. Nothing jumped out at me as atrocious or distractingly weird, and I never had to pause to ask myself what exactly just happened or try to piece it together contextually. As such, the art certainly did its job at the minimum, and since I enjoyed it overall, I must say that the art exceeded expectations.

This is a good "next chapter" to Nate’s story, following the events of #3…but there’s not much sense of things being tied up here outside of Sinister’s apparent fate. The wording there was a bit awkward…obviously going for the dramatic effect. But, being a nitpicker in wording, I found myself a bit distracted by the phrasing on Sinister’s final page. While the other Age of Apocalypse series are functionally mini-series…Nate’s four issues are more functionally a single arc. The X-Man title actually carried on after the Age of Apocalypse business, and ran about 75 issues if I recall correctly. So this "final issue" within the event is fairly well suited as simply a "next chapter" rather than having a conclusion…just that from issue 4 to 5 one pretty much has to read X-Men: Omega.

All in all, this is another good issue that gets Nate to where his story can converge with the others into a single, epic issue in X-Men: Omega.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Man #3

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xman003Turning Point

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Steve Skroce
Inks: Bud LaRosa and Mike Sellers
Colors: Mike Thomas
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover: Steve Skroce
Editors: Lisa Patrick, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: May 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

I miss the single-issue titles and creative presentations of credits…maybe it’s reading so many of these 20-year-old comics lately and barely touching contemporary Marvel books, but it really seems that these aren’t done like this anymore. I appreciate the "Previously…" Pages that catch you up, and avoid disrupting the story or filling it with exposition that (in the inevitable collected volumes) can seem rather silly at points. But that’s part of the fun of revisiting the Age of Apocalypse and pointedly doing so on an issue-by-issue basis rather than via any of the collected editions or digitally.

This issue’s cover is relatively generic…yet, I like it. There’s no real background to it (though the title’s logo takes up most of the space where there otherwise WOULD be background, so there’s not much point to it), and we see Forge with Nate, both men standing together, eyes gleaming, ready for battle. Not terribly dynamic or iconic or stand-out, but works for the issue…and as said, I like it.

The art for the issue continues–as with previous issues–to work well for me, getting things across and not distracting me from the story.

The story itself is solid, and does well as a third issue of a four-part story, building on the previous chapters and leaving things at a tipping point for the fourth issue to wrap up.

Forge and the group find themselves facing Domino, Grizzly ,and Caliban–agents of Apocalypse–and fight. The trio is dealt with, Nate "tasting blood" (so to speak) as he dispatches Domino rather harshly. As the group deals with what they just went through, Forge discovers Brute’s fate as well as the truth behind his suspicions of Essex. Forge’s fate, in turn, is felt by Nate due to their psychic link…and despite Forge’s dying words, Nate faces the killer and discovers the cold truth of Essex himself.

Knowing what comes next honestly "taints" my enjoyment of this issue. It’s a good issue, with plenty of forward movement and development for the characters. But important as the issue’s events are for Nate, I get a different feel from this third issue than I have others–and I’m reminded that just as these minis "spun out" from X-Men: Alpha…so, too, do they dovetail back into it, and thus while there may be endings to the 4th issues, the characters’ stories all go on to an overall conclusion apart from the individual minis.

All that aside…I enjoyed the issue and do look forward to the continuation of this story and the Age of Apocalypse in general.

The ’90s Revisited: Cable #20

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cable020An Hour of Last Things

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Guest Artist: Ian Churchill
Guest Inkers: Bud Larosa w/Barta & Carani
Lettering: Richard Starkings/Comicraft
Colorist: Mike Thomas
Editor: Lisa Patrick
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $1.95
Cover Date: February 1995

This issue takes place during and after Uncanny X-Men 321. That issue had noted this as a must-read; this returns the favor. This issue definitely requires the context of the Legion Quest story so far, but those issues don’t require this.

We get a bit of exposition while seeing the present-day group facing the apparent dangers Cable, Xavier, and Jean face with their psionic time-communication thing. We then pick up with Cable’s "return" to the present, and realizing that despite his having made contact, it apparently didn’t do any good–nothing in the present has changed, and the universe is still coming to an end…which forces everyone to face the fact that this IS their final hour. Much of the issue is the reactions the characters have, who they turn to and how, in this "hour of last things."

Despite some panels where the art seems a bit minimalistic or at least not as detailed in linework as I’m used to and would expect…I really enjoy the visuals in this issue. As with all the previous chapters of Legion Quest, this is extremely "familiar" to me, bringing back memories…something that surely colors my views on the art–where I might complain a bit with a contemporary issue, this one sits perfectly fine with me, being simply another part of a whole, a piece of a larger positive memory, and the general good feelings I have revisiting a favorite, favored period in comics.
I did notice, however, that Archangel’s costume seems to have a lot of red to it here, where I’d noticed blue previously. I’m not sure if there was something I’ve forgotten in-story for the varied colors, but it was a bit of distraction. I like the LOOK overall, just not sure why the red instead of blue.

The cover is one of those distinctive "iconic" ones for me. And yet, somehow looking at it for this review now MIGHT be the first time I consciously realized it’s showing the crystallization wave taking the characters, and not just a generic shot of them facing something else.

The story itself is by Jeph Loeb–who at the time I didn’t know from any other writer–but whose name I know quite well at present and have not been overly thrilled with despite quite enjoying Superman: For All Seasons and such in particular. While this IS part of a larger story, I love the "moments" between the various characters, as well as the overall feeling OF this being a final issue, an actual final chapter.

I’m pretty sure I knew better at the time, back in 1994 than to think these titles were going away PERMANENTLY, and was certainly geared up for the Age of Apocalypse as a large but temporary story. The "official" revelation in-story of Scott and Jean’s part in Cable’s life was particularly key, as is Cable’s "moment" with Domino. Despite this issue covering some of the same ground as Uncanny X-Men 321 and X-Men #41, it leaves certain particularly beats and "moments" to those issues…but what we see here builds on the overall feeling of continuity, that this is truly taking place in the same world and time as other issues rather than just being "related" to each other.
Perhaps it’s the issue’s ending, or the interaction of Cable, Cyclops, and Jean, but this is easily one of my favorite issues of the entire Cable series…and reminds me why the Cable of this period is my favorite take on the character (especially in the face of the last few years of the character).

Only one issue directly involved with Legion Quest remains, as the X-Universe comes to an end…if only for a time.

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