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The ’90s Revisited: The Phoenix Resurrection – Revelations

90s_revisited

phoenix_resurrection_revelationsRevelations

Writers: Ian Edginton & Dan Abnett
Pencillers: Kevin West, John Royle, Randy Green, Rick Leonardi
Inkers: Tom Wegrzyn, Philip Moy, Rick Ketcham, Jeff Whiting
Letterers: Vickie Williams, Patrick Owsley
Color Design: Mike Tuccinard, 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

This issue was a bit of a challenge to read. In it, much as I hold very fond memories of the Ultraverse, this really drives home the notion that my fond memories precede the Black September event, that they come from the "original" Ultraverse, before it "rebooted" into a "Marvel-Lite" imprint sorta thing. And just looking at the credits, if only from a 2018 standpoint, this reeks of non-priority to the publisher. I recognize several names that SHOULD have meant this was an excellent issue–especially seeing Dan Abnett‘s name as a writer. But when you have two writers, four different pencillers and 4 different inkers, two different letterers, two different colorists…this screams "piecemeal" and generic incoherence.

Story-wise, we basically have these characters from two different universes spouting off at each other, commiserating generically over stuff (the X-Men recognize Black Knight, for one and he them). But once again, there doesn’t seem to be any real INDIVIDUALITY to any of the characters. Night Man shows up outta nowhere and Wolverine welcomes him as if totally expected…just pieces being moved around the board, so to speak. And then for as big a threat as the Phoenix is supposed to be, everyone winds up just throwing their powers or fists at it to drive it through a portal back into its own (the X-Men’s!) universe, and the problem’s solved? If it’s a threat here, surely it’s a threat there…

We get "big" story beats in stuff like Rex Mundi’s "Alternate"–somehow because he–in this universe–did such a perfect job of cloning himself, the Phoenix–brought into this universe from another–subdivides itself to match. We "see" Mantra, and get a moment of her seeing/thinking she’s been "warned" about Topaz, but why does she get the look she does? But there’s zero explanation as to who/what she is, or the relationship…and if nothing’s going to be expounded on, why include it to begin with?

Probably another problem with this comes with reading it now in 2018, after 15+ years of being conditioned to 6-issue (minimum, mostly) story-arcs and year-long mega-crossover-events and the like. As something spanning two teams from two universes, plus so many ancillary characters from one, with a huge, cosmic, universe-threatening entity…it just seems impossible for anything to be done justice. Something like this really WOULD be fairly justified to have AT LEAST one full issue apiece for each of the Ultraverse titles, a couple "main" issues for everyone, and even an X-Men tie-in or few. Not full 3-4-6-issue arcs per title, but at least a few more full-length issues. Everything crammed into just a couple issues after just a couple pages per title…it’s rushed, and sloppy, and overall just generic and mostly incoherent.

As I’ve read these, I’ve become all the more convinced that the beauty and depth and such of the Ultraverse–the "heart" of the Ultraverse–is definitely in its first couple years, its run of titles when they were actually their own thing, before being wholly given over to Marvel and all that.

I had a hard time getting through this issue–I think it took me at least three times situating myself with it to read to get through the whole thing. Where often that would seem a compliment to a well-done, dense comic proving its 2018 "value" of a $4 cover price, this happened for lack of engagement and interest. Really, I forced myself through the issue simply to have read it (and now typing all this, which is far from my favorite sort of review/write-up!)

The cover-art, and the CONCEPT is sound; and the idea of some crossover between the X-Men and most of the Ultraverse, and their facing the Phoenix Force, and it having counterpart/ties within the Ultraverse isn’t all that bad. But this execution of it all is not much to my liking, and really feels like the sort of thing I’d say one is better off passing on. Of course, if you find it in a 25-cent bin–the whole ‘event’, anyway–it might be worth $1 or so to get all four issues; but I’d encourage one to seek out older Ultraverse stuff if you’re just interested in "trying" an Ultraverse title.

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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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Hypernaturals #5 [Advance Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
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Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Hypernaturals #4 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
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Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Boom! Studios’ The Hypernaturals

Back in May, I reviewed the Hypernaturals Free Comic Book Day Edition.

Since then, I ended up deciding to throw in with several Boom! titles (Higher Earth and Extermination as well as this one) and though it lacks the familiarity of a Marvel or DC title, I’m quite enjoying this so far.

So far in this first arc, the Hypernaturals centennial team is feared lost, which means that a couple of retired team members are forced to come out of retirement, joined with a couple of didn’t-quite-make-the-team teens, as they set out to discover what actually happened to the newest team and rescue them if possible.

The first issue sees the “rescue team” come together and set out on their mission, where they get a really big clue as to what they’re up against. The second issue sees the team through their first battle together while flashbacks reveal more about the characters themselves and their motivations.

Story-wise, I’m enjoying this series on the whole. There are a number of characters, and while they are individually recognizable and stand out when I see them, I’m not yet all that invested in them, and character names don’t stick with me beyond actually reading the issues or paging back through FOR names. I like the somewhat super-hero feel to this series mixed with the “cosmic,” which makes a lot of sense since it’s written by Abnett and Lanning. The concepts and world-building have been interesting and make sense in their context, without making the environment overly “fantastic.” This is definitely sci-fi and all, but at its heart the story is familiar and timeless.

Walker, Derenick, and Downer make the whole thing look really good. This series looks like a standard super-hero comic–futuristic machinery, uniforms, the works. Given this is an entirely new series, nothing jumps out at me as being ‘wrong’ and I like the various character designs so far. In some ways, this puts me in mind of something vaguely Fantastic Four-ish with a definite hint of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

I also like the backmatter, as we (at least on the first two issues) have a double-page “interview” with one of the protagonists, allowing some further insight into the characters that just isn’t possible within the pages of the story itself. For what I imagine would be obvious reasons, these remind me a bit of Watchmen.

All in all, this is another new title from Boom! that I was hesitant on initially due simply to the $3.99 price point, but have recently thrown in with as an alternative to Marvel and DC. I’m not thrilled with the price, but it doesn’t bother me so much here as it does from standard Marvel and DC fare. So far, I’d say if you’re interested in stuff by Abnett and Lanning, this would be a great series to check out for something new from them that is not constrained by a corporate sandbox.

The Hypernaturals Free Comic Book Day Edition [Review]

Written by: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by: Brad Walker & Tom Derenick
Inks by: Mark Irwin, Tom Derenick
Colors by: Stephen Downer
Letters by: Ed Dukeshire
Editor: Dafna Pleban
Cover by: Francesco Mattina
Published by: Boom Studios

The appeal for me of this issue is exactly what its back cover celebrates: “Abnett & Lanning do Cosmic at BOOM! Studios.”

I’ve enjoyed Abnett & Lanning‘s work on other cosmic stuff from Marvel (what I’ve read so far of the Annihilation stuff and am looking forward to with War/Realm of Kings and so on). So, being a free issue, this caught my attention for their names alone.

Reading the issue itself, I’ve decided that part of their appeal for me came from their work involving characters I already had familiarity with, rather than all-new characters I know nothing about.

The basic bit of this issue is that we’re in the future / in space somewhere, and there’s this super-hero team that’s been around for ages, with a continual change in membership as folks try out for the team. At present, there’s some sort of celebration of the centennial for the team, but an emergency crops up that seems to be well beyond the capabilities of the current team, and may necessitate calling retired/former members of the team back to some kind of active status.

This seems to be largely prologue material–I get the feeling this is a sort of zero-issue, and the first issue will drop the reader right into the action, some of the events being shown “on-screen” in this issue but otherwise being mere exposition for the main series itself.

The story itself isn’t bad, and I kinda like the concept as this truly plays with the idea of legacies; and having a super-hero team for a century with all sorts of people moved through it in that time in varying capacities holds a lot of potential. The art’s not bad, though it’s not overly appealing to me. I had a certain distraction to trying to figure out/follow timing and the new terminology used throughout the issue, so the art wasn’t all that high on my priorities.

This is the sort of issue I tend to most enjoy from Free Comic Book Day: a new series, a new concept, and a relatively full-size issue’s worth of content that introduces the main characters/concept and really sets things up a bit for the debut issue. I’m intrigued, but I’m not sure that it’s enough to get me to pay the presumed $3.99 for this series, though I’d possibly pick it up for just $1 less at $2.99.

If you’re an Abnett and Lanning fan, I’d definitely recommend picking this up, though…especially as THIS issue’s price is quite right.

Rating: 7/10

Transformers: Infestation #2 [Mini-Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
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Rating: 3.5/5

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