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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Universe #2

aoa_revisited_logo

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: X-Universe #1

aoa_revisited_logo

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.

Superman #712 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Final Crisis #6 [Review]

How to Murder the Earth

Script: Grant Morrison
Art: JG Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Doug Mahnke, Marco Rudy, Christian Alamy, Jesus Merino
Colors: Alex Sinclair & Pete Pantazis
Lettering: Rob Clark Jr.
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover: JG Jones (sliver cover by Pacheco, Merino & Sinclair)
Publisher: DC Comics

This sixth issue opens with a scene featuring Superman and Brainiac 5…presumably our Legion of 3 Worlds link. Brainiac has something he needs Superman to see, and Superman’s concerned because he’s been beyond reality and has to get home (no mention of Lois). We then cut back to a gathering of heroes doing what they do, and the Supergirl/”Black Mary” battle (we find out who’s pulling Mary’s strings). Heroes find themselves facing friends and loved ones now under Darkseid’s thumb; the Flashes hatch a plan, and Batman breaks one of his personal rules in order to face Darseid. Finally, Superman enters the battle on Earth, bringing with him anger not often displayed.

The art jumped out at me for this issue–unfortunately, though, not a good thing. Rather than the fairly distinct JG Jones art alone, we have a number of other artists brought on to get this done, and so there is quite a bit of variance in the visuals throughout the issue–this looks like just another comic instead of a singular, special event/series. The art in and of itself isn’t all that bad–characters familiar to casual readers are familiar and recognizeable. The Tawky Tawny battle, though, was a bit hard to follow, and took me a bit beyond the battle itself before I even realized who won the fight. While I’m sure intended for dramatic effect, a key double-page shot toward the end looks almost comical (in a “ha, ha” sort of way) and seems almost out of place in this title given other events that have ocurred off-panel and been referred back to almost as an afterthought.

The story is far from wonderful, but it is serviceable, at least on the surface. We get a number of scene-jumps without much flow, just jumping from one scene to the next. One has to keep track visually of what and who is where as the Supergirl/Mary battle is cut with the Tawny battle, for example. The main Batman scene comes across like it’s supposed to be reminiscent of a certain speedster in a prior Crisis, and for this reader felt forced and overly predictable.

On the whole, due to one character’s fate apparently shown here, this issue is pretty important to DC continuity, at least for the moment. However, this is an issue I read more to seek a conclusion to Batman: RIP and in the hopes of staying somewhat current with the most major goings-on of the DCU than out of enjoyment. This is one of those comics that is probably going to wind up being pretty “essential” to the bigger picture in the DCU…though it lacks the feel I’d expect for something of its supposed enormity.

Recommended for its necessity in the DCU-to-come, but not for the story and art.

Story: 5/10
Art: 3/10
Whole: 4/10

Final Crisis #5 [Review]

Into Oblivion

Script: Grant Morrison
Art: J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Marco Rudy, Jesus Merino
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Lettering: Travis Lanham
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover: J.G. Jones (sliver by Pacheco, Merino & Sinclair)
Publisher: DC Comics

Green Lantern Hal Jordan is tried for apparent deicide, though it turns out someone has corrupted an Alpha Lantern–something that is not supposed to be able to happen. Meanwhile, as the dark gods revel in their victory and the nearly-awoken Darkseid, certain heroes band together to strike back as the world falls apart around them.

There’s a lot going on in this issue, which makes it feel somewhat choppy as we jump from point to point to point to point. This is going on, that’s also going on, this other thing’s happening, someone’s doing this other thing over here.

The art felt rather choppy as well with multiple artists covering different parts of the story. I’m hard-pressed to think offhand of an example of multiple artists detracting from a story for me, but this might be a first.

The story leaves me scratching my head–both for trying to get to an understanding of what’s actually going on in the bigger picture sense as well as the execution. As a “contained” story limited to just this mini and some tie-in minis, I don’t feel any great sense of urgency or crisis…this reads simply like some alternate unverse where Darkseid wins, and not the main DC Universe I’m supposed to actually care about.

This may read much better in a single volume when all the pieces are on the board to be read at once, and we actually see how events play out in the main DCU whenever the let this affect other books. Until then, it is a huge disappointment for me and is far less enjoyable than Rogues’ Revenge, Revelations, and Legion of 3 Worlds have been.

Worth getting if you’re following the event for the event’s sake, and if you’re enjoying this title thus far. If you’ve not been getting it so far, you’re probably better off catching up through wikipedia and if you’re so inclined, snag collected volume.

Story: 6/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 6/10

Final Crisis #4 [Review]

Darkseid Says

Script: Grant Morrison
Art: JG Jones, Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino
Cover: JG Jones
Sliver Cover: Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino
Colors & Sliver Cover: Alex Sinclair
Lettering: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza

This issue opens with the heroes defeated. Evil has won–and those heroes that remain are busy organizing safety zones–“watchtowers”–for surviving, uncorrupted civilians. An “underground resistance,” if you will. We get to see a world of darkness, in which the evil “gods” of the “5th world” have taken over, creating an Apokalips-on-Earth. While Earth has been subdued, the various evil “gods” are intent upon the re-awakening/return of their master, Darkseid…whose return will, apparently, seal the deal–Earth will be theirs, heroes won’t be able to stand, and so on.

The art for this issue is pretty good overall. I have no real qualms with it. Though it’s a bit disappointing to not have “just” Jones’ art, there are plenty of scene-shifts and points that I already don’t really have a clue what’s actually going on that hey…different art? Hardly jarring at all. It’s actually slightly helpful, as I assume as I read that different art means the scene has undoubtedly shifted and might be something to take note of.

The story? I’m “getting” a bit of the overall story, but I still am not getting the nuances. I’m sure there’s PLENTY going on that I’m not noticing, not picking up on. And…chances are those details I’m missing are rather important to enjoyment of this story.

I feel like I’m along for the ride–but not much else. This is a core-series “event” book…and it’s my LEAST-favorite of everything with the “Final Crisis” title on it. I just do not care about the New Gods–I never will, and the fact that their story is essentially THE story frustrates me all the more. Three issues to go–perhaps I’ll see by then why they’re ever so important to the fabric of the DC Universe that their coming into a new iteration is so tied to Earth.

Another issue I have with this particular issue is that there are several empty word balloons–was that intentional? an effect of us needing to know something was said, but not supposed to know WHAT just yet, and/or effect of hearing SOMETHING, but not over an explosion and other surrounding noise? Or is it just something that slipped through the cracks? Additionally, in my decision to read this issue to see how the story may have progressed, I learned the outcome of the Final Crisis: Submit one-shot, which was a bit frustrating when I turned over to that issue and realized what had happened.

Whether on me to “dig deeper” or not, I am not enjoying this series. I find myself following it for whatever context I might be able to find for the tie-in stories (which–excepting Superman Beyond–have all been far more enjoyable) and in the hopes that something might occur in this core series to change my mind, to make me feel like it’s actually a story that lives up to the year of hype predating its debut.

Story: 5/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 6.5/10

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