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Phoenix Resurrection (2017) #1 [Review]

phoenixresurrection2017_0001Chapter One: Frustrate the Sun

Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Penciler: Leinil Francis Yu
Inker: Gerry Alanguilan
Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Main Cover: Leinil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho
Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen & Anthony Gambino
Assistant Editors: Christina Harrington & Chris Robinson
Associate Editor: Darren Shan
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February 2018
Cover Price: $4.99

I read the first couple issues of Morrison‘s NEW X MEN run, along with the first issue or two of that "new era" of Uncanny X-Men as well (and I think same for X-Force and/or X-Statix and Soldier X) before trailing off for awhile. I got back in toward the latter part of the run, having obtained the first two "deluxe oversized hardcovers" and not wanting to wait (then) for another. I remember making a special trip to the Toledo comic shop while visiting a friend for her graduation in December 2003, largely to get #150…and reading it left me with quite a surprise. Jean…dead? Well, SURELY, being Marvel, she’d be back pretty darned quick. A year, maybe two? Endsong kinda let me down, and I’m not sure if I ever actually read Warsong.

Move through time–2004, 2008, 2012…the Jean from the past was brought to the present (how long would THAT last? A year or two? The premise of the "original five" coming to the present sucked me into All-New X-Men for a bit!). 20012 to 2016, still the "original five." Into 2017…now the very tail-end of 2017, and we have this issue. Phoenix Resurrection #1 (never mind that 1995 gave us a Phoenix Resurrection in the Ultraverse books!).

Unlike the anecdotal "disaster" of the ordering requirements for the main wave of Legacy Lenticulars (LL, anyone?), this one’s "main cover" is *A* lenticular…but this one is actually done "right." Gone is the blurred mess of two static images blended together to approximate a real-life "gif," here we have an image of several of our mutants reacting to the flaming appearance of Dark Phoenix–Jean Grey–in the Red Costume…and we get that 3D/slight movement effect that DC has used to great effect and that had put to shame Marvel‘s versions. My main complaint with the cover is that it is at best symbolic, or some sort of prelim for use with an eventual collected edition…as has become the "norm" for modern comics, the cover does not necessarily depict what’s contained within the issue itself.

Visually, this is a pretty book, and I enjoyed the art itself throughout. As I’m no longer closely familiar with much of the X-verse, and am aware of plenty of recent changes and such, nothing much stood out in a negative way for me, and I marked inconsistencies up to my unfamiliarity; nothing seemed horrendous or off-putting to me.

Where I have problems with the visuals is layouts: the issue has 30 pages of story, 32 content pages if you count the "cinematic" double-page splash with the series’ logo and credits for the issue (in place of an opening/frontispiece to be simply omitted in collected format). While I applaud the relatively "strict" panels/gutters–a "classic" sort of page layout rather than EVERYTHING being full-bleed quasi-panels and such, I was not thrilled at so few panels per page–many pages having a mere 3-4 panels, a number of them having only 2, with very few words to a page. One page has a whopping THREE WORDS: "Elsewhere," "Well," and "fudge." (18 letters, not 18 words!). Yeah, the art is an integral part of telling (selling?) the story, but given this IS a comic book and not actually cinematic video, I’m rarely keen on "wasted space" trying to imitate another medium.

Story-wise, I did not feel that this issue remotely lived up to the hype or expectation–at least not the hype and expectation that I personally laid at its feet. Phoenix Resurrection. The Return of Jean Grey. Dark Phoenix (not Phoenix) depicted on the cover. Shiny cover. Surely Jean would appear in this issue, with plenty of questions as to her authenticity, what brought her back, why she’s back, what it means for "Young Jean," how it’ll affect other characters, if it has anything to do with "Regular Real Not-Old-Man Logan/Wolverine" being back, etc. Appear in this issue, set up questions and four more issues to dig into the details, the effects, push this story itself forward, etc.

While I can guess that the Jean we see toward the end of the issue is supposed to be "our" Jean (though whether it implies she’s been alive awhile–long enough to have a job and home and life with no overt recollection of life as one of the X-Men, or is some sort of dream-sequence or illusion or some sort of alternate life in her mind as her body heals/comes back/whatever) is not clear to me as of this single issue, on a typical single-read-through that I give whatever (new) issue(s) I read. I don’t see THAT she’s back (or not). I don’t see if there’s actually another force behind her return (the Phoenix Force) or if this is some sort of self-resurrection from her having BEEN one with the Phoenix Force in the past. Is there likely some other Big Bad waiting in the wings? Other than Jean maybe showing up/being back and having to figure out for herself what it means to her as herself, what’s the driving conflict of this title? What makes it justify five weekly issues (and I think a tie-in for a sixth issue) vs. Jean just showing up again/being a subplot in some sort of main title?

I’m curious about stuff–especially given I was there when she died back in 2003’s New X Men #150, and expected her return at least a decade ago–so will get the next issue, at least. And I would not be surprised if this was a good opening chapter to the eventual "graphic novel" when this series is collected into hardback, deluxe oversized hardback, and/or TPB. But as a single-issue, as a first issue of a mini-series, I’m not impressed with this, and would not recommend it if you’re looking just to do a toe-dip on stuff…especially at $4.99 instead of $3.99. As an art piece, the cover wouldn’t be bad to hang on a wall or such. Unless you’re eager to read/follow along in "real time" as issues are released (and given the title/subtitle, it’s not like there’s really any mystery as to whether or not it’s actually Jean, if she’ll actually be back, etc.) you’re probably better off waiting a couple months for the inevitable collected edition, if anything.

Otherwise, if you’re willing to invest in a 6 issue story within about 5 weeks, and you’re a fan of Jean herself, I’d say this is worth getting, as an opening chapter, that is by no means a stand-alone issue/story.

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X-Men: Grand Design #1 [Review]

xmen_grand_design_0001X-Men: Grand Design

Cartoonist: Ed Piskor
Editor: Chris Robinson
X-Men Group Editor: Mark Paniccia
Editor in Chief: Axel Alonso
Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
President: Dan Buckley
Executive Producer: Alan Fine
X-Men Created by: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February 2018
Cover Price: $5.99

I crab about Marvel comics all costing $3.99+ and virtually always put back even curiosities once I “confirm” that they’re $3.99+ for the issue held in-hand. I’m down on much of what Marvel has published for the last few years at least, and have had extremely mixed feelings on what stuff I have picked up.

This issue is $5.99.

And I barely thought anything of it. The issue FEELS thick, and heavy, and quite possibly THE single best value in a single issue that I have come across from Marvel in a long, long time.

It took me three sittings to get through this issue. Granted, I had other stuff going on, but I also hadn’t mentally “budgeted” a long time to stay put and read, used to even the extra-sized issues being pretty quick reads.

I’m not actually sure what I expected from this issue. I think initially I thought it was going to be a book that was text-only; when I realized it was actually a comic after all, I decided to give it a shot. What I got out of it is that whatever the length of the finished product, it’s like this detailed “history” of the X-Men, in comic format–using new art and narrative but covering existing material.

The page design includes coloring to make these glossy, higher-quality-paper pages look like old newsprint; the coloring to the story/art itself lends to that effect, giving this the appearance of a classic 1960s comic book or such. While there’s a little bit of “panel creativity” and “white space,” by and large the page layouts are tight and dense, modular classic panels–squares and rectangles with actual borders and gutters in a way that seems to have been largely jettisoned in “modern” comics. The dense visuals share space with dense text–plenty of caption boxes, speech balloons, and thought bubbles; the art is there, the art shows plenty, but there are no full or double-page splashes. The art serves the narrative, rather than some limited text serving up an excuse for big, flashy art.

Story-wise, I didn’t really feel like there was anything “new” or “fancy” or such here. Nothing particularly stood out, nothing was singularly memorable. But then, I was not expecting such. What the story is, what the writing is, is basically a straight-forward narrative, in chronological order, from the beginning of Marvel Comics into the 1960s and the beginning of the original X-Men issues. Things that were revealed in flashbacks a few issues in or 30-something YEARS’ worth of issues in, it’s here in order, unfolding as events unfolded–NOT in the order that details were doled out to readers as the actual issues were published. And this is presented as a tale from Uatu, the Watcher…giving a good context to things now being told in order.

In many ways, I’m sure a lot of people would consider this a boring read, and a re-tread, and probably a few other negative connotations to stuff. Me? I thoroughly enjoyed this. Part review, part history lesson, part summary, and part condensed revisitation of classic stories. I totally appreciate comics in general and the nature of them; the occasional “new reveal” or such, new flashbacks revealing previously-unknown information, the introduction of a character from someone’s past who just happened to not have been mentioned or relevant til “now” in the story that sheds new and different light on past events. But there’s something cool and refreshing about just following a single, one-directioned narrative pulling in everything–from information we got in X-Men #1, to stuff brought up/shown into 2009, 45-some years after X-Men #1.

X-Men: Grand Design (sample 2 pages' layout)

Pages seem to have 5-9 panels each, some more…making for plenty of room to cram a LOT of story into small space. No half, full, or double-page splashes to “cheat” or anything!

For my $5.99, three “sittings” to read, and sheer amount of time spent to read this whole thing, this is the best value in time-to-money I’ve found in years. As I got to the end of the issue, I wondered if this was monthly, or if I’d have to wait up to TWO months for the next issue…but then saw the next issue is supposedly in a mere two weeks.

At $5.99 an issue, and biweekly, and I’m very much looking forward to the next issue? Anyone reading much of my writing of late ought to realize that alone should speak to the quality I see in this. Again–this will not be for everyone. That said…I highly recommend it, especially to anyone who is or was a fan of the X-Men, particularly the 1960s “early days” OF the X-Men.

Cable #150 [Review]

cable_0150_lenticularThe Newer Mutants (Chapter 1)

Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Jon Malin
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover Artists: Jon Malin, Federico Blee (Lenticular Cover Artists: Rob Liefeld and Jesus Aburtov (based on New Mutants #87 by Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane)
Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen, Anthony Gambino
Assistant Editor: Chris Robinson
Associate Editor: Mark Basso
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: December 2017
Cover Price: $3.99

I "sampled" the ResurrXion stuff back in the spring, though between the pricing, frequency, "art," quantity of variants, quantity of titles involved, etc. I opted not to follow the various series. I did apparently buy Cable  #1 as I saw it recently while going through other recent-ish stuff for something, but haven’t yet read that, and otherwise figure it’s been at least a couple years since I’ve bought anything with Cable on the cover, though I’d followed the beginning of his post-Messiah CompleX series, and the final several years of his ’90s series into the first couple issues of Soldier X back in the day. I even sampled a couple issues of Cable & Deadpool at the beginning and end of the run (oops…Cable gets no "credit" for that series, as Marvel tossed it entirely into Deadpool‘s…um…pool).

Long complaining of Marvel‘s pricing, variants, stunts, rebooting of numbering, renumbering, event-into-event-into-event churn, etc, I’ve also long avoided most of their "newer" output–certainly over the last half-decade. But there comes a point where "curiosity" gets the better of me, or "nostalgia," or perhaps just "morbid curiosity," and I check out an issue or few. Plus, I can only complain so much while never actually purchasing something–I can grouse about stuff all I want, but I feel I have to occasionally have some hands-on experience, not just 100% taking "everyone else’s word" on stuff.

So I’ve got Cable #150. After all the hubbub on the "lenticular covers," I opted to go for that version…after all, it was available in-person, at cover price, and said cover price being the "regular" $3.99, I figured at least I’m getting a "fancy cover" for the price. Alas, though the cover has the slick, plastic-y feel (and sound!) of DC‘s lenticulars, I really don’t like this at all. It’s supposed to have both the New Mutants #87 cover from 1990 or so with the 2017 re-iteration of the image. But try as I might, I can’t get a clear, non-fuzzy view of either that doesn’t have distinct bleed-in of the alternate image. If it wasn’t for the non-lenticular version presented as the first page, I wouldn’t really even know what the "newer" image truly looks like! And honestly, the best the cover has looked to my eye is the scan I did for the image above…so not even "just" to the naked, human eye as far as looking at the cover in-person!

Simply as an image, I like the thing. I really dig the nostalgia–we go from Cable’s first appearance in a #87 to his own series at #150…full circle and all that. While I like the Liefeld re-do of the original, it works well as the cover, and I’m glad the interior is a different artist. Malin does a good job of giving a clean, sleek design to the characters while capturing the classic look–including Cable’s ridiculously huge gun, a staple of the ’90s. On one hand, I’m quite glad to see the character simply looking like himself; on the other, I’d swear he’s been through more changes and was looking much older. Of course, there’s also flashback stuff to this, so, whatever.

Overall, there doesn’t feel like there’s much story to this issue. Cable’s with Longshot, investigating the death of an External named Candra. Confirming the death (which shouldn’t be able to happen, as she was supposed to be immortal), they proceed to meet up with old Cable-ally Shatterstar, and the group then goes to confront the last remaining External: Selene. The confrontation proves less than ideal, with Selene thinking Cable & Co. are there to kill her, not question her…and ultimately we’re left with a bit of a revelation that screams "retcon" to me, while leaving us as readers none the wiser, really, and stuck waiting for another issue.

I’m not familiar with Brisson offhand, but this isn’t bad. Strictly in and of itself, I enjoyed this issue…just not the fact it’s (as "always") simply 1/6th of a constrained story arc. I get a sense of the nostalgia being gone for with this, but don’t really feel like there’s much context to stuff…while I expect things’ll be clarified in later issues, this feels more like the first chunk of pages of a singular lengthier story, and not a full story in itself. I shouldn’t be surprised–that’s basically standard practice these days, for the last decade or more. There is a brief ~3 page segment with the character’s "origin," rather broad and boiled down, but hitting a few key points (far from all, and basically touching on none of the development(s) since 1993). I don’t know that anything Marvel would publish on that front for this would satisfy me, though…especially as none of the origin was "new" to me. I’m clearly not the target audience for it, though!

As usual for a Marvel issue of late…the Marvel brand itself is damaged as far as my feelings towards ’em on so many points, and while by no means a bad issue, this issue is not enough to leave me interested in planning on getting the next issue…and Marvel‘s pricing doesn’t leave me all that expectant of being highly inclined to even bother with the collected edition once it comes out.

Though this brings in some ’90s elements and looks like a familiar-ish iteration of Cable himself, this issue by itself does not stand out as anything overly special, either as part of Marvel Legacy or as a 150th issue. With the screwy numbering and not really being a standalone issue, I’d say wait for the collected edition if anything, if this didn’t already draw you in on nostalgia, number, or cover image(s) alone.

cable_0150_blogtrailer

Ultimate End #1 [Review]

secretwars_ultimateend001Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Production Design: Manny Mederos
Cover: Mark Bagley
Assistant Editors: Chris Robinson, Emily Shaw
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

Despite missing the first two issues (to this day 14-some years later I’ve had to rely on reprints for my personal collection) I had jumped into the Ultimate universe basically at its start, with Ultimate Spider-Man #3, and I believe I finally got to read the first two issues initially in a Mighty Marvel Must-Have edition. As such, seeing as how–after several false-starts on the “end” of the Ultimate universe–the ending is finally here, I couldn’t pass this up. And like I started with Ultimate Spider-Man with the single issues, so, too, I found it fitting to follow the single-issues here as well.

This triggers plenty of nostalgia for me from the cover, which utilizes the original trade dress of the Ultimate books–the two solid-color bars down either side of the cover with a skinnier image between. The Ultimate End logo looks familiar, though I think the font is slightly “off” from some of the other Ultimate _______ logos; and of course we have the Battleworld banner across the top and the Secret Wars stamp marking this as part of the overall Secret Wars 2015 event, specifically the Battleworld class of tie-ins. I had noticed an alternate cover with the Miles Morales Spider-Man costume, that looked like the original Ultimate Spider-Man #1 cover that I almost chose over the standard cover. However, never having acquired an original USM #1, I stuck to my guns on getting just the standard/main non-variant cover for this.

We open on (a) Spider-Man tangling with a Serpent Squad, putting him into interaction with Cloak, Dagger, and a Spider-Woman. We then shift to a huge gathering of heroes that seems made up of a mix and combination of “616” characters and “Ultimate” characters. Spidey joins in as everyone is debating the fault and situation itself they all find themselves in, before the party is further crashed by Thors.

Simply opening the book and reading, I was actually expecting the Miles Morales Spider-Man, so was surprised to see a classic-costumed Spidey. Further, this seems to be a Peter Parker Spidey, suggesting he’s either the 616 Spider-Man or another. The issue has a prologue and then jumps to “3 weeks ago,” and references a white portal/other world, so as a cursory read-through I’m not certain on the timing and how much the characters know of where they are and if that was pre-incursion or what; I have not kept up on any Marvel the last several years until Secret Wars #0 and 1. So what may be totally obvious to readers following along was not to me.

Still, knowing the basic premise, that didn’t bother me much…I recognized the various characters overall. Whether this was actually Battleworld as I assumed or a flashback to the universes still being separate isn’t a huge deal to me. Story-wise this worked well enough and had a familiar “feel” stylistically. The art of course is familiar, and Bagley‘s work is just as good now as I recall from when I was following the Ultimate Spider-Man series with his art.

This is only the first issue of–I believe–five, so there’s by no means a complete story here. We’re introduced to stuff, mostly, with a little bit of background/flashback given; this is clearly a first chapter of a larger singular story within the Secret Wars/Battleworld stuff. As I expected that going in and did NOT expect some one-off single-issue tale, I’m fine with that; I also went into this with the expectation that I’d enjoy it and that barring some huge disappointment or negative factor, I wasn’t going to bail on the series just from whatever this single issue held.

I enjoyed the issue overall–story and art, and appreciated the mix of nostalgia and new. I do look forward to the next issue and want to see where things go. I bought this because of my own history with the Ultimate books; though I suspect this may be one of the more “key” tie-ins to the overall Secret Wars as it deals specifically with ending the Ultimate Universe. (After all, Secret Wars is kicked off by the Ultimate and 616 Universes as the final two in existence, merging).

This seems like a very strong issue for a tie-in reading experience, and well worth getting if you’re following Secret Wars. It also seems likely to be a good story overall for putting the lid on the Ultimate Universe, fairly friendly even to readers like me who haven’t really read any of the Ultimate books for years. You could certainly do a lot worse than this issue!

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