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The Black Vortex Checklist

An ancient artifact.
An unknown power.
The fate of billions.

February 2015
The Black Vortex Alpha #1
Guardians of the Galaxy #24
Legendary Star-Lord #9
All-New X-Men #38

March 2015
All-New X-Men #39
Guardians Team-Up #3
Guardians of the Galaxy #25
Nova #28
Legendary Star-Lord #10

April 2015
Cyclops #12
Captain Marvel #14
Legendary Star-Lord #11
The Black Vortex Omega #1

source: Promotional Bookmark (pictured below)

checklist_black_vortex

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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Factor X #1

aoa_revisited_logo

factorx001Sinister Neglect

Writer: John Francis Moore
Penciler: Steve Epting
Inker: Al Milgrom
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Cover: Steve Epting
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

I’m beginning to consciously realize that some of my trepidation approaching these various Age of Apocalypse minis is that I apparently think of Astonishing X-Men, Amazing X-Men, and X-Men Chronicles as my favorites (along with the bookend Alpha/Omega issues). Any of these others are simply "other" and so part of me just isn’t as interested in the "idea" of them. Yet, that’s added to some relative surprise at enjoying these, thinking I’ve "forgotten" how much I enjoyed them…but if I didn’t enjoy them as a kid, there’d be no reason for Age of Apocalypse to reign as one of my all-time favorite X-stories.

The issue’s cover shows us Cyclops, Havok, (Dark) Beast, Northstar, and Aurora…Sinister’s "Elite" group of enforcers. Not a bad image, and certainly conveys the menace they exude…this definitely shows a group one would PROBABLY not want to mess with. Sort of generic, kinda iconic if forgettably so, but it works.

The story is a blend of Sinister’s narration as he prepares to fully set into motion his own plan against Apocalypse while we follow Cyclops, Havok, and the others about their business in the early days of Sinister’s disappearance. We’re shown the tense/adversarial relationship between Cyclops and Havok, and the latter’s jealousy/ambition; more of the atrocity from Beast, and that Angel’s "Heaven" is definitely neutral ground for anyone who can pay.

Showing the change in myself and the notion of picking up on new things each time through even a familiar story–there’s a snippet of conversation in the bar scene with reference to Lazlo and letters of transit that made me grin, picking up the obvious-to-me-now reference to Casablanca.

I rather liked the juxtaposition of Sinister’s narrative with the unfolding events–there’s something rather identifyable in the narration, in branching off on one’s own and wondering what others are doing without us after a period together.

The issue’s visuals are quite good, and aside from some slight weirdness to me in Cannonball’s appearance in a couple panels, everything else worked well and only stood out to me in appreciating how much I liked the way things looked.

In some ways, I want to judge this issue simply as another #1, but it (as the other titles also do) draws heavily on the events of X-Men: Alpha which in some ways makes this a #2 issue. We’re (re) introduced to several characters, others are furthered, and we’re introduced to still others, while things are set up for what’s to come: Beast and what he’s doing, Havok and his romance with a human, Cyclops being basically good despite currently working for Sinister and Apocalypse, and Sinister having something major up his sleeve in going against Apocalypse.

This title and the main group of characters it focuses on being "villains" adds another "side" to the overall story and rounds things out, giving some depth to even the "bad guys," rather than leaving them as two-dimensional strawmen to throw the X-Men against. I enjoyed this issue, and look forward to others…as well as the alluded-to reference to Havok’s incident in Weapon X #1.

That footnote reminded me that these issues don’t have an exact reading order printed in them…this is Factor X #1 with characters who appear in the general AoA continuity and thus other titles as well, and more is happening than is necessarily focused on for any given character in only one series…particularly high-ranking characters such as Havok and Cyclops. Which is part of the fun of continuity–for me–and the appreciation of footnotes in issues I read.

X-Men Series 1 Revisited, Part 2

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This is an interesting grouping of cards. I consciously learned the origin of Lockheed’s name, which is a bit tangential in a way that I can appreciate for such names.

Most of the information on these cards I was already aware of present-day, though it’s cool to learn that Storm’s greenhouse is actually a long-established thing–I just learned of it several weeks ago with a scene in Amazing X-Men #3 where Nightcrawler flashes back to a moment with Storm.

Cyclops’ costume shown on his card here is his most “iconic” to me–this was his current costume in the comics AND the cartoon when I first discovered the X-Men, and as it was maintained throughout most of the ’90s, it had plenty of time to grow on me, and was part of many key stories that stick out for me and were important parts of my growing up.

Gambit was still quite new at this point–and knowing what I know now his card is rather bland and boring here…but that’s with the character having existed less than 2 years, and it’s been over 20 years now SINCE the card was published.

As noted last week, this grouping of cards shows the lack of “awareness” of 9-pocket storage pages, as Lockheed’s car is “landscape” while all the others are “portrait” in layout.

Domino I was not all familiar with back in ’92/’93…but became a lot more aware of her in Cable’s own series in ’95/’96 after the Age of Apocalypse.

Click below to see the individual cards…

Continue reading

Marvel Universe Series IV Revisited, Part 13

This is EASILY my favorite “page” of the entire set. Between the comics and the animated series, I’m quite familiar with all nine of these characters.

It’s kind of amazing to consider how far they’ve all come in the past 20 years; through multiple solo titles and mini-series, and their various developments in the “main” X-Men titles.

Storm’s card is probably the only one I’m not particularly thrilled with here; all the others look quite good to me individually as well as put together for the single image. Archangel benefits the most, I think, from the larger whole of the cards put together…and Magneto’s card looks fantastic even taken by itself…that energy burst blocks out most of the context of the image for his part, making it work especially well taken on its own. Wolverine’s also works well, with the bottom border being the main thing really indicating it’s even part of a larger image.

Because of the X-Men cartoon, I know I would have been quite aware of these characters from that alone, and with these costumes. I may not have been as familiar with Archangel at the time, though even he had appeared in a couple episodes of the cartoon by the time this card set was out.

While the X-Men “posing” doesn’t make much sense with Magneto (then an arch-nemesis) powered-up behind them doesn’t make much sense, on the whole I would absolutely QUITE enjoy having a poster of this image.

Perhaps it’s that I like these characters, at this time so much, but I think this is also some of my favorite artwork in this entire set, as well as the page makeup on its own.

Continue reading

Uncanny X-Men (vol. 3) #1 [Review]

uncannyxmenvol3001The New Revolution

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler/Colorist: Chris Bachalo
Inkers: Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza and Al Vey
Lettering & Production: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Associate Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Nick Lowe
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

I’ve been looking forward to this debut issue for a number of weeks now…pretty much since I learned this third volume would focus on Cyclops, Magneto, and their group of mutants; particularly after getting a taste of things in the pages of All New X-Men.

The issue has a framing sequence, of a man in shadows speaking with SHIELD about Cyclops, explaining why the mutant leader needs to be taken down. In the “core” of the story, we see Cyclops’ group continuing to reach out to new mutants, and facing off with a group of sentinels–something that once would have been little trouble for Magneto in particular–but the veteran mutants’ powers have been altered due to the recent Phoenix incident…and they struggle to “re-learn” how to use their own powers while looking to train the newly created mutants. The revelation of the shadowed man’s identity is a bit of a twist, sure to introduce further conflict, but not entirely surprising.

Story-wise, there’s plenty of potential for this title. While I’m not a fan of the “villainization” of Cyclops, for what times I’ve “checked in” on X-stuff over the past few years, this current place the character is in seems rather logical and makes sense, given everything we’ve actually seen the character go through–losing his wife, seeing the vast majority of the mutant population wiped out, struggling to protect what mutants remained against a world that still feared/hated them, finding hope and finally seeing a return to numbers and being in a position to reach out to these new mutants now from the start, proactively acting to solidify their place in the world.

I missed out on the re-introduction of Magneto, but have thoroughly enjoyed seeing his place with the X-Men of late; and it’s his character growth and evolution that has struck me almost as much as Cyclops’. That these two men–once bitter enemies–are now working together says a lot for both of them; and I’m interested in seeing where their alliance goes.

Again…there’s plenty of potential for this title.

Visually, however, I am extremely disappointed. From the start, I’m put off entirely by Cyclops’ “new costume” (mask). Going to the red on the outfit doesn’t bother me so much as wrapping red bands around the face as an “X” where the visor has always been. Maybe the X will be explained/become apparent as we learn more about Cyclops’ modified powerset…but visually it’s an atrocious look that I don’t like one bit. If I don’t like the redesign of Cyclops’ headpiece…I don’t entirely mind Magneto’s–though his is far from ideal as well, seeming to fit a more abstract, stylistic imagery that reminds me of how the character might be depicted in a nightmare interpretation (see 1993’s Wolverine #75).

As far as the issue’s art in general…just a couple pages in–having initially ignored the credits page–I stopped in my tracks. “This is Bachalo, isn’t it?” I thought to myself. Flipping back to the credits, I confirmed that–though in this case, recognizing an artist’s work in and of itself is no positive. I’m not a fan of the visual style, and often have trouble trying to truly follow the action, what’s actually going on.

Despite the stylized take on the characters, for the most part they don’t look all that bad; and the double-page introduction of the sentinels reminds me of what I think is a similar shot from 2004’s Astonishing X-Men #1, and is fairly impressive–perhaps simply for the “space” the image has to breathe. In the introduction of the new mutant the group was after, though, I had no idea what was going on, what his powers were, or were doing–I sorta figured out a bit from just reading and the extra curiosity, but it really put me out of the story.

So while the story holds up and leaves me fairly interested yet in where things go–the art is a near-complete turn-off for me. The “AR” stuff holds zero interest–I’ve been “burned” too many times with the smartphone app having trouble actually loading whatever it’s trying to load, and it seems that more often than not, all I get is a transition from “pencils” to the “finished image”–something I have virtually NO INTEREST in…while the AR content might be intended to be “bonus” or “add value” or such to the issue, being more annoying than not with so little worthwhileness, I don’t even bother anymore…even for writing a review.

This is yet another relaunch–the 2nd Uncanny X-Men #1 in 18 months. Where the original numbering was scrapped to put Uncanny and Wolverine and the X-Men on “equal footing” numbers-wise…THAT logic has been thoroughly scrapped now as well.

Worst of all, this is a $3.99 book, and presumably will be mostly double-shipping…which is a pricing strategy I just cannot keep up with. Priced at $2.99 I would give this a few issues; but as-is, I tried this first issue, and I have every intention now of passing on subsequent issues, at least so long as I’d be paying “full price.” I’ll simply have to keep an eye out for these in bargain bins, snagging a collected volume (if still interested by that point) from Amazon, or “going digital” should these fall under a 99-cent sale from Comixology.

Marvel Now: All-New X-Men #s 2-5

allnewxmen002Of all of the Marvel Now books, All-New X-Men has been by far my favorite. I enjoyed the first issue quite a bit, and from the second issue on, the ride’s kept moving at a nice pace–other than the $3.99 price point, I’m actually quite enjoying the double-shipping.

The issue by issue pacing has been a little quick…I’m glad to get into the story more, but I do wish the single issues had a bit more content to them.

The preview that so thoroughly hooked me for the first issue had turned out to be the final several pages of the issue–a little disappointing, but it left me eager for #2. Getting into the second issue was a real treat–the writing is a definite “hit” for me from Bendis, and the art’s been thoroughly enjoyable. allnewxmen003Seeing the younger X-Men in the present and the reactions–theirs as well as the adults–worked very well…especially Wolverine’s reaction to Jean (and vice versa).

The third issue almost seems likely to be a backdoor pilot for Uncanny X-Men; though I have no complaint about the issue having a good look at Cyclops, Magneto, and their group…except it seemed a bit out of place after the first two issues–almost like it should’ve been something else. As a single issue, it sticks out; but the inevitable “graphic novel” collected edition will probably read just fine with the pacing.

allnewxmen004The fourth issue finally sees the intended consequence of the original X-Men being brought forward in time as Cyclops is stunned by their presence and tries to figure out what happened. And of course, the fifth issue seems to bring the first arc to a loose close, while solidifying the status quo.

And as has been all over the place, the fifth issue sees the Beast’s Next Mutation, which–after something like 11 years of getting used to “feline-Beast” is rather jarring and not much to my liking.

As said above–I’m really digging Immonen‘s art, and the rest of the art team is doing a superb job with giving a great-looking issue each time out. allnewxmen005I’ve yet to sit down and re-read the whole arc, but everything’s fit pretty well together visually.

The very concept of this title should leave me disliking it, but this is the original X-Men I read at the start of my freshman year of college in an Essential volume, meeting up with the present-day X-Men after 20 years I’ve followed them to some degree or another. And while the high concept shouldn’t seem to be sustainable–I once said that Lost, Prison Break, and Castle didn’t seem like [tv] series that should go beyond one season, so I’m open to seeing what’s done with this.

And with Bendis on the book, hopefully we get to see at least a couple years of this title, if not a good long run in general with something old bringing something new to the contemporary Marvel Universe.

All-New X-Men #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 4/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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