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The ’90s Revisited: Uncanny X-Men #303

90s_revisited

uncanny_xmen_0303Going Through the Motions

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Special Guest Artist: Richard Bennett
Inks Pgs. 8, 14-18: Dan Green
Editor: Bob Harras
Cover Date: August 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

My first issue of Uncanny X-Men that I got off the shelf was #300…partly BECAUSE it was #300. Big, round number…shiny, foil sparkly cover…a group shot of a bunch of characters I recognized from the animated series…it was a great attention-grabber. (Even if right now, I wouldn’t be able to tell you 27 years later what that issue was ABOUT/what its plot was).

I then missed several issues, picking back up with #304 (Fatal Attractions) and found a newsstand copy of #303 (at least as I recall offhand).

And it was #303 that really stuck with me. I always remembered that it was an issue that actually moved me to tears…it hit hard. And it was a character death that then informed several key things going forward for a few years into 1999’s The Twelve and onward.

When I decided to re-read it as a random "grab an issue from a stack of recent quarter-bin hauls" I recalled the emotional impact…but figured since I knew what was coming, knew where things had gone, character arcs and returns…SURELY this time through would be a clinical thing for me to analyze and consider the issue in terms of reading as an almost-40-year-old versus having read at age 12 or so.

But wow, was I wrong on that front!

The issue opens on Jean Grey entering Professor X’s ready room to check on Jubilee, to see how she’s doing after what just happened. Jubilee puts on a tough front, but as she and Jean talk–and we as readers see the flashbacks–that front cracks, as we see Jubilee open up and begin to accept the enormity of what she’s just seen unfold. Namely, that despite the Professor and Moira doing everything they could…they were unable to SAVE Illyana. Meanwhile a squad of X-Men including Colossus–Illyana’s older brother–was on their way back. Jubilee had bonded a bit with the visiting Kitty Pryde, and through Kitty’s translating, found out that she–Jubilee–had actually been having a positive impact on the dying young girl. But then things ‘blew up’ as Illyana went into respiratory failure, and though they eventually were able to stabilize her physically…she was left comatose, unlikely to regain consciousness. Leaving consideration to be had of what the young girl would (have) want(ed). We get this from Jubilee’s self-deprecating point of view as she considers herself and how dumb it was to say, place Illyana’s Bamf doll in her arms, while "the adults" argued over what to do going forward.

And then she recounts Peter’s arrival after–his getting off the X-jet and asking why no one was looking after his sister and if they couldn’t be trusted to look after her, should he ever leave. Only for Xavier to break down, having to tell Peter that his sister was gone, that they did everything they could. She was alive when he left, and alive when the group had last communicated, but now, arriving home, his beloved little sister was gone (and he hadn’t gotten to say goodbye…he wasn’t there in time, he wasn’t able to save her, etc.)

Which is–there–some of my projecting. And I actually laid the comic down and pushed it away, failing to hold my own tears in check.

Because this one hit close to home. Really close to my heart. Easy to project, easy to put myself into the situation. To see from Jubilee’s side, her coping mechanism. To see the anguish in the others–in Xavier and Moira. To imagine being in Peter’s position, being told of the passing of a loved one when–even if it was expected as a chance coming up, wasn’t prepared for FOR THAT PARTICULAR MOMENT.

The writing is quite good. It carried a strong authenticity to it–from Jean going after Jubilee and just being there for her, to Jubilee and her reactions to events as they’d unfolded (in flashback) as well as her after-it-all tough front and eventually breaking down. While I don’t relish the death of a child or anyone…this left an impact on me 27 years ago and it ripped into my heart again this time. This is the sort of issue that made me a fan of the franchise. Not some big globetrotting adventure or 6-issue battle with or for Magneto, not some culmination of years of subplots and rumors of a legendary group destined to rise up and defeat a villain, nor the identity revealed of some secret traitor.

Just a (relatively) "quiet" issue involving the characters just being PEOPLE, being a family, being…"normal." Being RELATABLE.

And there was certainly some impact from the bulk of the issue being flashbacks. There’s a sense of trepidation as the issue opens, and as Jean and Jubilee begin to talk and it becomes obvious that something really important has happened. To become increasingly aware of what it was, and that it has already happened–there’s not that "will they or won’t they" wondering, and not even that "hope" of some last-second save. Just the details unfolding and dealing with the loss this family–immediate and extended–has suffered.

The art is good, but in a way, it’s almost forgettable. Not in a bad way, mind you–but in that it has no particular problems or such to distract from the story itself, and so the story is just experienced. For me, it’s also that the dialogue and the fact of what’s happened that drives the issue…the artwork is there because it’s a comic book, a visual medium. But it’s the characters’ interactions, what they have to say to each other about stuff that matters more. And there’s nothing for some big double-paged splash scenes missing dialogue. That the art "disappears" into the "story" makes it a strong positive to me.

The events of this issue come out of then-recent plot elements in the X-titles, particularly out of the crossover event The X-Cutioner’s Song. If I’m recalling correctly, Illyana’s death was the first from the Legacy Virus…before the virus had even been named. It heavily influenced immediate changes such as Colossus first defecting to Magneto for a time and then eventually spending some time overseas with Excalibur before ultimately returning to the X-Men and then dying himself to activate a cure for the Legacy virus…and later both brother and sister resurrected and so on to where-ever the X-books and all the characters are in 2020 preset-day.

The issue stands along pretty well the way it’s written. And as the cover proclaims–"If you read only ONE X-Title this month–this issue MUST be it!" If you find this issue in a bargain-bin: 25-cent, 50-cent, even $1 or so…it’s well worth the read, and without even really NEEDING much context. But having read it will lend contextual value to most anything else X-related to be read that was published from 1993-2000/2001 or so in particular…including the (in?)famous Age of Apocalypse.

uncanny_xmen_0303_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Uncanny X-Men #308

uncanny_xmen_0308Mixed Blessings

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Inkers: Dan Green, Al Vey
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: January 1994
Cover Price: $1.25

This issue brought back a number of fond memories, as well as a new feeling as I “noticed” the art rather consciously this time. Having this issue relatively on-hand for this reading is something I must credit to fellow blogger Chris Sheehan, whose comments/discussion of the issue prompted the purchase and encouraged making the time for the re-read. It was his post that prompted me to re-purchase the issue (for the convenience of immediate availability in print without digging through umpteen unorganized longboxes to locate my original copy).

For a single issue, there’s a lot packed into so few pages. Essentially, though, we have Scott and Jean–Cyclops and Phoenix–walking the grounds outside the X-mansion. For once, there’s no overt threat, no villain interrupting, the world-at-large doesn’t need immediate saving, etc. Just a young man and woman spending time together, enjoying cool fall weather (well, Thanksgiving Day) and doing so amidst a larger group also living on the premises. So we get a bunch of “moments” between characters…and while the couple reminisces, they also come to a decision about their future.

This issue is one of a handful of X-Men comics I recall from the early/mid 1990s where we basically just have the characters hanging out at the mansion, interacting with each other in down-time withOUT having to deal with some villain or crossover or whatever. And reading this in 2016 where every story is written for the trade, and every trade is part of some big event and every event leads into the next with no time between…this issue is highly refresshing. There just aren’t issues like this anymore (at least not from Marvel/DC!).

The story itself is very much what I prefer in comics, giving us the characters, “quiet” “moments” and generally giving us a glimpse of what these characters do, how they might interact when not in the midst of fighting for their survival. We get to see them presented as actual people…which makes them that much more truly relatable (at least, to me!).

I remember thoroughly enjoying this issue over 20 years ago…and I enjoyed the story now. Unfortunately, while I don’t recall noticing the art–back then, if I did it didn’t throw me–but this read-through I REALLY consciously noted the art…and between this and bailing on a Superman story some time back for so disliking the art, I must conclude that as a general thing I dislike Romita Jr.’s visual style. There’s something to the style–sometimes a sense of sketchiness, other times something to faces and lips particularly that just doesn’t work for me and proved flat-out distracting to me, taking me out of the story itself. Which, while a complaint that I have, myself, is not to suggest the art is bad…it’s just definitely not to my taste, and it now being a conscious thing, it’s something I can watch out for.

And then, regardless of the linework and such itself, I had consciously forgotten (but hey, deja vu or such!) how much I dislike the flipping and flopping one must do to read certain ’90s comics, when the artists played fast ‘n loose with the “traditional” comic page and layouts. Some pages read fine, but rather than just varying panels across one or two pages, where one can just page through the issue with a single physical orientation and be fine…here, we’re given some instances with a double-page piece where you have to turn the comic sideways for a top-to-bottom experience with the issue physically turned sideways; others where the issue must be turned on its side for a then-typical left-to-right experience, and so on. Rather than being able to just lay the issue flat and page through, reading, while say, eating a bowl of cereal as breakfast it requires an active, physical experience of manipulating the book, which gets distracting and kicks one out of the story.

All in all, though…this is an excellent X-Men comic that I paid less than $4 for, and got so much more from it than any $3.99 new comic I can think of. If you know your X-Men and enjoy such stories, or have never read this, I’d urge you to give it a shot, if you can get the issue for (or less) that $4. If you find it in a 25-cent or 50-cent bin, all the better!

Convergence – Batman: Shadow of the Bat #2 [Review]

convergence_batmanshadowofthebat002Home is the Sailor

Words: Larry Hama
Pencils: Rick Leonardi
Inks: Dan Green
Colors: Elmer Santos
Lettering: Steve Wands
Cover: Philip Tan, Elmer Santos
Assistant Editors: Holzherr & Kraiger
Editor: Marie Javins
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

Batman and Azbats…er…Azrael, vs. Wetworks, for the fate of the city? Yeah, but I don’t even know WHICH city they’re in from this. The previous issue was several weeks ago and this one lacks anything to bring one up to speed. Sure, it’s ONLY the 2nd issue of two, but…really? So the Batmen fight Wetworks while befriending a woman and her son as the notion of getting the Wetworks team to slow down long enough for a teamup to be proposed, to endeavor to save BOTH cities. And while both cities are still around at the end of the issue, there’s no truly definitive ending.

We get the "conclusion" of a story that is NOT a conclusion. At best it’s the first act in a larger arc…but there’s no To Be Continued note, no "continued in Convergence #7," no "for the final fate of BOTH CITIES, check out Convergence #8 on sale in TWO WEEKS!" note, just some ridiculous, cliché stopping point because we’re out of pages.

And I really feel like I should have gone with my initial instinct and left this thing on the shelf. But in a fairly rare instance of it happening, the cover sold me, just by its weird coloring, and the title logo…and the strength of the previous issue’s cover (which I liked SO MUCH that I made it my phone’s lock screen, so have been seeing it several times a day for the past month or so).

I was further sold, again, by Hama‘s name on the cover…though sadly, that (and the interior credits) are the only place I have anything to truly suggest to me that Hama‘s even involved. Nothing about this "feels" like some kind of GI Joe thing, nothing reminds me of 1993-ish Wolverine, and nothing about this otherwise screams "I’m by Larry Hama!" to me.

I blame that not on Hama, but on the lack of room for anything to truly develop. And having soured CONSIDERABLY on Convergence in general since its start, having allowed myself some general enjoyment of Marvel’s version of stuff in Secret Wars, this just pales all the more as an issue.

This felt paced to be the opening of a larger story, and if this were a six-issue arc, it would seem on track to be a good story overall, having spent the first issue (re)introducing us to Zero Hour-era Batman and Azrael and setting up the Wetworks fight; this issue gave us the actual fight and leaves us with the two groups seeming about to team up; leaving several issues to show them interacting and preparing a plan; putting the plan into action and the plan going awry; an issue to refocus or have some significant change to the Batmen at least, and lead into some cataclysmic or miraculous event for one/both of the cities and a possible lead-back into some core event series.

So in a way, this is like a 6-issue mini getting canned after only 2 issues; or checking out a couple episodes of some tv show, being somewhat interested, but then told "oh, no, they just never put any more episodes out" or some such.

I’m irked at the length (technically, the lack thereof); irked at the Deathstroke "preview," that I don’t care about especially for not caring about the title or character, I’m irked at the $3.99 cover price vs. $2.99; and I’m irked that I bought this thing at all as a single issue.

This totally feels like it’s something destined for bargain bins; whether dollar bins or cheaper I don’t know. The entirety of Convergence does, for that matter. I’d bought the Superman #2 issue last week and now this; I’m wrestling with OCD on the STEEL issue as well as the handful of other #2s still pending. Consciously I know I should wait for the bargain bin appearances, but there’s part of me that just HAS TO "experience" what’s happening real-time with some of these ‘key’ issues, that is not content to just sit back and get it second-hand.

As long as you’re not feeling that way, I’d say this issue is totally skippable and inconsequential…to whatever the main story has gotten to and in general. There’s no #3 and no new #1 for Batman: Shadow of the Bat that I am aware of; no new pending title debuting starring Jean-Paul Valley, any incarnation of Azrael, or a Zero Hour era Batman, so…if the cover doesn’t suck you in or some other sentimentality grab you, wait for the bargain bins or an attractive collected volume that includes this.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Weapon X #4

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weaponx004Into the Maelstrom!

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Inks: Dan Green
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Colors: Joe Rosas
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Cover: Adam Kubert, Dan Green
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Weapon X and Emma Frost open the issue, showing Gateway a holographic projection of North America…the destruction, the death, the whole mess–as they seek to convince him to lead the humans’ armada to Apocalypse’s door. Though counter-intuitive, it ends up being Logan’s in-your-face attitude that ultimately convinces him–not the images of Apocalypse’s atrocities. Moving to the armada, as things get underway they’re attacked by Pierce, who has also alerted Apocalypse’s forces of the coming assault. Pierce is surprised by a trick not exactly up Logan’s sleeve that allows him to save Gateway…who in turn tries one last gambit to get the Armada where it’s headed.

I’d previously "written off" the events of X-Universe as being entirely tangential to stuff and unimportant…the references it gets in this issue shows–at least–that effort is being made to have it matter, and I suppose it actually does, just not in any essential way. Much of this issue is "action," mixed with some foreshadowing. Though the scene with Apocalypse leaving Magneto’s interrogation and showing off a gene-tank to his minion adds context for Carol’s appearance, explains a fatal flaw in Apocalypse (he could easily stop the armada but chooses to allow things to play out just for the entertainment, justifying it that if he WOULD actually be brought down, hey–"survival of the fittest" and all that) and fills a couple pages.

I do feel somewhat disappointed in this issue–I think I feel like while we’ve SEEN a lot of Weapon X here, we haven’t really gotten to KNOW the character. There’s plenty of posturing, but for me at least, I "hear" and see WOLVERINE more than I do this character. Sure, semantics and all, this IS the Wolverine of the AoA reality and all, but the character serves more as "just another character" amidst the Human High Council and such. There’s something to be said of the character not only being capable of but actually working as part of a team, serving as an "agent" of (in this case, the Human High Council) and whatnot…but in retrospect it seems like Logan’s been a small player in his own title.

I like the visuals of the issue overall. I don’t quite "get" visually that Logan’s arm is all that damaged, and while I appreciate that he IS shot on-panel, it looks a bit "convenient" in a sense, like a box being checked. Otherwise, no real complaints on the art, outside of the usual–I don’t like the sideways double-page spreads, as turning a page and then realizing I have to further physically rotate the way I’m holding the comic itself is a huge distraction.

This issue is definitely a product of its time–the 1990s–both hokey and "fitting." Logan chomping a cigar, the various characters’ posturing and recklessness just to show how "cool" they are, etc. Still, it makes for an issue that feels like that bit in a movie where you realize that what’s come before is about to fall by the wayside for the climactic stuff that’ll end the whole thing and leave you barely remembering the story from the first 2/3 to 3/4 of the story thus far.

Had this been a contemporary series, I would not be surprised if Logan would have interacted with characters in X-Universe, as some of that stuff could have been folded together, this series’ chunk of story having such a huge involvement of the HHC. Weapon X doesn’t really tie much up, outside of Pierce being removed from the equation…but where we leave off here has a huge impact, if I’m correctly recalling, on the events that unfold in X-Men: Omega.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Weapon X #3

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weaponx003The Common Right of Toads and Men

Writer: Larry Hama
Penciler: Adam Kubert
Inks: Dan Green and Mike Sellers
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Cover: Adam Kubert
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: May 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Having "lost" Jean in the previous issue (she can be followed into Factor X #3), Logan heads to Wundagore Mountain seeing Gateway on behalf of the Human High Council. He runs into a couple of cyborgs–humans who voluntarily allowed themselves to be "enhanced" to serve Apocalypse–guarding the place. After dealing with them, he finds Carol Danvers and the two ascend to find Gateway. Meanwhile, the High Council’s resolve deepens. Carol, Logan, and Gateway are attacked by the Cyborgs (who melded for survival) as well as Pierce and Vultura…and after the fight, Logan faces the quasi-success of his mission.

This issue really felt like a whole new one for me–I’d completely forgotten the entirety of this chapter as well as the characters involved. The story isn’t all that thrilling to me despite the action…but then, I’m not a fan of the antagonists–I vaguely recognize Pierce as having a 616-counterpart though I don’t recall the context, and the cyborgs are relatively generic, providing something for Weapon X to fight and dispatch to show how tough and rough he is. Carol Danvers being here seems arbitrary, like her inclusion is simply to have a woman fighting at Logan’s side. Throwing my mind back to 1995, I think Carol was "off the table" at the time with Marvel so this appearance would have been her being "brought back for the story." As such I’m ok with it overall.

Kubert‘s art doesn’t work for me quite as well in this outing (thanks to my disinterest in the antagonists) though I wouldn’t call it bad. It simply doesn’t blow me away in any positive manner.

Passive as it sounds–I didn’t NOT enjoy the issue, but I didn’t find myself particularly enjoying it. It felt like this issue was treading water a bit, moving us from bad-ass Logan & Jean and then the pair splitting, to a "key reveal" I recall happening in the 4th issue right before going on to X-Men: Omega. Still, for me this is a much more satisfying issue than many contemporary comics.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Weapon X #2

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weaponx002Fire in the Sky!

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Inks: Dan Green
Colors: Joe Rosas
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Cover: Adam Kubert
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

On reading the first page of this issue, I felt lost, and actually re-checked the cover. Yep–this IS #2. Not #3 or 4…I didn’t miss an issue. I don’t actually remember the ending to the first issue, but opening on Weapon X wading to shore amidst refugee/survivors, screaming for Jean definitely threw me a bit.

That’s where the issue opens–Logan’s just located Jean, who left to help with the evacuation of the humans from North America. The two reunite, a definite distance/rift between them that neither seems to want to acknowledge. There’s an attack, and the two leap in to help, though it brings things to a head between them and they part ways. Returning to the Human High Council, Logan is stopped by Mariko, and while the two converse another attack commences, and Logan again leaps into action in a way only he can. By the time the attack is over, Jean has left…though Logan is once more able to follow thanks to their psi-link, and the years of partnership between the two reach a tipping point.

This issue definitely feels like a “middle chapter” of a story. We’re thrown in the deep end at the issue’s beginning, and left with an unresolved situation at its end. At its end, we’re halfway through, having been introduced to Logan (Weapon X) and Jean in their status quo, we’ve witnessed their initial mission to completion and then further development of their situation, and things rapidly shifting into place for what I loosely recall of their placement for the far end of the Age of Apocalypse story.

I do like Hama‘s writing, and it’s still interesting to me to look back and realize what he’d done with the Wolverine character (and here, Weapon X) long before I ever recognized his GI Joe work. I touched on the notion covering the previous issue, but saw hints of it again in this issue: while this Weapon X is this reality’s version of Wolverine, there IS a darkness that I suppose I could “accept”–given what I recall of the ending of this Age of Apocalypse epic–morphing into what I considered a ridiculous and stupid thing in more recent years, NEARLY 20 years after the fact.

There’s an authenticity here that I appreciate, and while the story doesn’t leave me chomping at the bit for the next issue, I’m not disappointed to have read this one.

The art is quite good, and I continue to really enjoy Kubert‘s take on things, particularly Weapon X’s hair. That, combined with the burnt-critter version and then seeing the hair growing back over the span of a number of pages was cool–a sort of detail that worked well and conveyed how “tough” the character is physically.

Weapon X may not be my favorite of the Age of Apocalypse titles, but it’s not one I’ve dreaded reading…it falls somewhere in the middle or a neutral place if I were to rank ’em. This was a good issue, and ties in with stuff unfolding in Amazing X-Men, and while this stands alone overall, it’s great to see reference to other chunks of the whole, as this series is not unfolding in a vacuum.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Astonishing X-Men #2

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astonishingxmen002No Exit

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Joe Madureira
Inkers:
Dan Green & Tim Townsend
Color Art: Steve Buccellato & Digital Chameleon
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover: Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Rogue’s team finds themselves in the remnants of Chicago about to be trampled by its fleeing human population. Sunfire lashes out, determining that he MUST take the fight to Holocaust…but Rogue winds up stopping him, keeping her team together to help the humans here, now…not fly off half-cocked to be slaughtered. Meanwhile, Bishop finds Magneto sitting quietly alone while his young charges race around the globe, and chastises him…before realizing he is functionally saying goodbye to the infant son whose very existence will be sacrificed by "remaking" the world to what it should have been. Further meanwhile, Sabretooth enlists Blinks help to take the fight to Holocaust, eluding Rogue where Sunfire did not…and battling the monstrous son of Apocalypse…a battle that goes roughly as he planned, but not before sending Wild Child away with valuable information to survive the encounter.

Re-reading the Age of Apocalypse epic issue-by-issue in single-issue format for the first time in nearly two decades has been a true delight, taking me back at once to my all-time favorite X-Men story, period…as well as a nostalgic, simpler time when I found the X-Men comics to BE fun and enjoyable and a real treat to read…a time before the Internet and daily spoilers and the Next Big Event being hyped hardly halfway into the Current Big Event…when the Current Big Event mattered, was huge, was all-encompassing, was…THERE.

This issue embodies all that. We have favorite characters–Rogue, Magneto, this version of Sabretooth, Blink, Bishop…we have the latest chapter of an epic adventure, the last adventure, the One That Will Change Everything…as we witness the twilight of the Age of Apocalypse, the last-ditch effort of all those involved to make a difference in this darker world. And while the darkness and death is by no means a fun thing, a fun setting…the story itself, reading this…is.

Madureira’s art works really well for me with this issue…the entirety of the issue just looks very good, affirms my (perhaps altered-by-recently-re-read-issues) memory of how much I loved the look of the book at the time as I quite enjoy it here. The characters are all familiar, successfully distinct where I’d expect and any similarities or indistinctness is minimal and only noticed by looking back through for such things and never took me out of the "reading experience."

The writing–the story–simply "is" for me. And that’s a good thing. I read the issue, and was sucked in and maintained page after page, knowing I’ve read this, vague memories creeping up and ever so slightly reminding me that something happens to this character, or that character actually does survive, etc. But by and large the "details" have been forgotten and so are read here anew as a fresh story that is quite enjoyable. This issue fits the ongoing narrative of the epic, gives a number of characters some significant facetime, and unfolds details that add further depth to them…from Rogue’s reluctance to use her powers on a teammate or see any of ’em throw their lives away; to Magneto struggling with the reality he knows versus the knowledge that everything he’s known for two decades can be (MUST be) somehow undone; to Sabretooth and what he means to Blink as well as seeking to atone for his past.

The reading of this issue "kicks off" Month #2 for me in this journeying back through the Age of Apocalypse…and leaves me extremely eager–moreso than I’ve been so far–to get through the entirety, wishing I had the time to just sit and devour the saga…and yet all the more curious (just for myself) at what the overall experience will be and how my own reading is impacted by taking the time between the reading of each issue to write these reviews, forcing myself to think and self-analyze, at least–on what I’ve read.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Weapon X #1

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weaponx001Unforgiven Trespasses

Script: Larry Hama
Breakdowns: Adam Kubert
Finishes: Karl Kesel, Dan Green, Chris Warner
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Coloring: Mike Thomas
Cover: Adam Kubert
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

After seeing Logan and Jean arrive at the Human High Council in X-Men Alpha, we now find them on a mission while the council decides what to do with the information they’ve been provided. Their mission: to cause trouble for Apocalypse by taking out a structure and allowing a wave of Sentinels in to evacuate what humans can be. Their ride (a sentinel) takes damage, but remains operational; while Logan and Jean fight their way in and ultimately out, even through Havok’s arrival. Once back with the council, the duo learn some shocking news about the humans’ intent moving forward in the face of Apocalypse’s deceit with the Kelly Pact.

This was a good issue, overall. Plenty of action, even if I didn’t comPLETEly follow everything. While I’m sure there are some subtleties I missed in my reading, I take it mostly at surface value. I struggle to see how this Weapon X can be the "villain" I recall from a couple years ago in a more contemporary issue. This seems quite a bit like the Wolverine of the time, but with adamantium (since Magneto never went down his dark path that led to Fatal Attractions and all that entailed). There’s a hint to Logan and Jean’s past, though it’s quick and not something dwelled on by the story. It’ll be interesting to get to the next several issues, and being reminded of the "cool" factor of this title and the character(s).

The visuals were good on the whole…no real complaint. I’m actually a fan of the "big hair" Wolverine rather than the tamed-down Hugh Jackman version of the last decade-plus in contemporary comics. Plenty to "appreciate" here and even as the issue may not be a favorite I still enjoyed it. The only let-down may have come from higher expectations for this than several other recently-read issues.

I do think the cover is one of my favorites–certainly one of the more memorable–of the AoA #1 issues, probably the entire saga. It shows all we really need, with Weapon X front and center and Jean right nearby…two mutants not to be messed with.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Astonishing X-Men #1

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astonishingxmen001Once More With Feeling

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Joe Madureira
Inkers: Dan Green, Tim Townsend
Letters: chris Eliopoulos
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Cover: Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend
Editing: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This is another “iconic cover” to me, with Magneto front ‘n center and the rest of his group of X-Men there as well–Blink, Sabretooth with Wildchild, Morph, Sunfire, Rogue, Banshee, Iceman, and Storm. The AoA Magneto is probably my all-time favorite version of the character, and I quite like Rogue with the cape. This is also my favorite Sabretooth design.

While Magneto ponders how to proceed in light of what he’s learned from Bishop (see X-Men: Alpha), Blink and Sunfire return via one of her portals, barely escaping one of Apocalypse’s minions. The X-Men are “victorious,” and Sunfire reveals that Apocalypse not only lied but has sent his son Holocaust to personally carry out a new round of cullings. Meanwhile, Apocalypse is briefed, that it’s only a matter of time until the X-Men are located. Gambit gets a few moments with Rogue to catch up before he takes off with his X-Ternals. Nightcrawler converses with Magneto about the implications of Bishop’s presence. Morph adds a bright spot to things as Rogue readies her team to leave, and Bishop has a moment with Quicksilver over what he’s set in motion.

While this is a first issue, it’s clearly part of something larger. For one thing, it draws heavily from the introductory stuff in X-Men: Alpha–from Bishop and his presence, to Magneto having set other stuff in motion. However, I’m a bit surprised at Nightcrawler’s presence here, having thought he actually took off immediately on Magneto’s order to go find Destiny. Even having so recently re-read Alpha, I can’t recall for sure what Blink was up to, so the fact she and Sunfire were off and about is a slight surprise to me, at least in their discovering the resumation of the cullings being either off-panel or in another issue I’ve not gotten back to yet.

Somehow through the years, I’ve gotten it into my head that I was not particularly a fan of Madureira‘s work…but by and large I really enjoyed his work in this issue. As mentioned regarding the cover, I particularly enjoyed the character designs on Magneto, Rogue, and Sabretooth here. Blink also looks quite distinct, familiar, and “normal” to me. The visuals brought back a definite sense of nostalgia here–as I expect most (if not all) of these Age of Apocalypse issues are going to do.

I don’t recall much in the way of thoughts I had back in the day beyond the cover still standing out to me. I noticed on this read-through that Rogue has a collar much like Magneto’s holding her cape in place, and it’s interesting re-adjusting to the notion of a romance between the two. She’s certainly a rather young mother figure to Magneto’s relative age…and yet, that works quite well for me here. Events in my personal life as I’ve aged myself make Gambit’s situation a lot more understandable and identifiable for me…where the character wasn’t nearly so sympathetic 20 years ago.

Though this has the aforementioned feeling of being something larger, it also feels like a solid first issue, introducing the reader to the basic situation at hand and identifying the main characters. References are made to the larger story, accompanied by the Lost Art Of The Footnote directing readers to consider Amazing X-Men, X-Calibre, and Generation Next in an offhanded way that doesn’t require it but shamelessly “plugs” those series. This issue is clearly moving pieces around the board a bit and starting to situated stuff, while bridging the events of X-Men: Alpha and the series that make up the Age of Apocalypse saga itself.

The ‘90s Revisited: December ’94 X-Books

As the events of Legion Quest were reshaping the ENTIRE line of X-books for the start of 1995, even the titles not directly involved in Legion Quest itself reflected the fact that story was going on, with each title ending with the reality-ending crystallization wave washing over things, most of the books being left on a cliffhanger. While I wasn’t originally going to cover these other titles due to not being direct tie-ins/chapters of Legion Quest, I figured I’d touch briefly on them after all. Here are the resultant five “mini-reviews” of the rest of the December 1994-shipping X-Books.

WOLVERINE #90

wolverine090The Dying Game

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Inks: Mark Farmer & Dan Green
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Coloring: Marie Javins
Cover: Adam Kubert, Greg Hildebrandt, Tim Hildebrandt
Editor: Bob Harras

This is one of the more "iconic" issues of this series for me–and certainly harnesses the "feel" of this "era" of the comic for me. The cover is the first thing that stands out, with a hybrid Kubert/Hildebrandt Bros. image–the distinctive Hildebrandts image that would be great on its own, with Kubert‘s art overlaid to the side, and the series logo is almost an afterthought or a formality.

The issue’s story is fairly simplistic, with Wolverine returning to the X-Mansion to keep an eye on the imprisoned Sabretooth while everyone else is away. Wolverine starts out refusing to fight, but pieces things together about the time Sabretooth pulls an escape, and the two brawl. Ultimately they wind up with Wolverine on top, having popped two claws, one to either side of Sabretooth’s head. The villain taunts Wolverine, threatening everyone he loves and cares about, and right as Wolverine pops the third claw–into Sabretooth’s brain–the crystallization wave hits and this never happened, as this universe ends.

While not on the same level as X-Men #s 25 or 41 or Wolverine #75, this is an issue that’s long stood out to me. The ending plays very well with the pre-Age of Apocalypse cliffhanger thing, leaving us hanging a bit on the supposed fate of Sabretooth, what it means for Wolverine to have at long last apparently killed his old foe, etc. (However, the popularity of the characters renders this cliffhanger moot, where some of the "lesser" characters/titles have faded over the years and hold far less memory).

X-FACTOR #111

xfactor111Explosive Performance

Plot: John Francis Moore
Script: Todd Dezago
Pencils: Jan Duursema
Inks: Al Milgrom
Colors: Glynis Oliver
Letters: Starkings/Comicraft
Cover: Tom Grummett, Al Milgrom
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras

This issue is one of the more memorable cliffhanger-issues for the month’s X-books, with Guido (Strong Guy) falling to a heart attack, and Reality ends before we learn if he’s actually dead or not.

I remember THAT I’d read a handful of issues of the title from #92-onward thanks to my introduction via the Fatal Attractions crossover the year before. However, other than apparently having read the END, I don’t recall THIS issue’s story prior to reading it this time around.

On the whole, this was a solid enough jumping-in issue…helped perhaps by having read #109 (the Legion Quest Prelude). As I read this issue, I kept mixing up Lila Cheney with Dazzler…two characters I’m familiar enough with name-wise but not so much story-wise. And though I didn’t totally follow–there’s a definite sense I missed plenty with skipping #110–I didn’t feel "lost" or have any particular problem with reading this issue.

That’s probably primarily helped by the fact I read this solely for its "tie-in" to Legion Quest and specifically TO get to the cliffhanger, to have the sense of where the title left off immediately preceding the shift into the Age of Apocalypse itself.

GENERATION X #4

generationx004Between the Cracks

Story: Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo
Inks: Mark Buckingham
Colors by: Steve Buccellato
Lettering: Richard Starkings/Comicraft
Cover: Chris Bachalo
Editing: Tom DeFalco, Bob Harras

I’ve yet to *really* ever read any issues of this title–I couldn’t say for sure if I’ve ever actually read an issue, including this one. I remember getting this when it came out, though, so I probably did read it…just without knowing much about the characters. I’d only partially followed the Phalanx Covenant stuff that led to Generation X, and didn’t yet know (m)any of the new characters. This issue’s very stylistic, which I’m not all that enamored with. The story itself isn’t bad, though I don’t much care for the page borders or the little character wandering said borders and holding up page-number signs. It’s an interesting thing to do, and I can appreciate it setting this title apart, as well as the "meta" nature of it. Perhaps it was even "fun" at the time. It just doesn’t do much for me.

Reading this issue for its "lead-in" to Age of Apocalypse was quite disappointing, as it also "bucked the trend" of the other X-books in doing its own thing and then a tacked-on bit to account for the ending of the universe. Not bad in and of itself–a good way to get around being totally formulaic, but my appreciation does not equal enjoyment–and this was the least-enjoyable of the non-Legion Quest X-issues heading into the big event.

X-FORCE #43

xforce043Teapot in a Tempest

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Tony Daniel
Inker: Kevin Conrad
Coloring: Mike Thomas
Cover: Tony Daniel, Kevin Conrad
Editor: Bob Harras

I definitely don’t remember this issue’s story as something I’d read before. I’m familiar with a number of the characters–perhaps from stuff I’ve read in the last 20 years, where I can’t say for sure I’d’ve been familiar with them at the time. I liked the art for this issue, and it’s interesting to see that it’s Tony Daniel, whose work I enjoyed on Batman a few years back. In addition to appreciating the art, I enjoyed this snippet of story–it was cool seeing a number of different characters/situations without them all having to be together in one space; with these multiple ongoing subplots weaving about. The Reignfire reveal seems like it was rather huge at the time, though not recalling anything of the character tells me that’s not something that’s particularly carried to this day.

That the issue involved communication with Cable and was affected by his absence due to things going on in Legion Quest was a definite treat, showing how the various characters tie together and that this issue is not something "on the fringe" of the X-universe of the time but was still closely affected.

EXCALIBUR #86

excalibur086Back to Life

Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencil Artist: Ken Lashley
Ink Artist: Tom Wegrzyn
Letterer: J. Babcock
Colorist: J. Rosas
Cover: Ken Lashley, Tom Wegrzyn
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Group Editor: Bob Harras

While I certainly did not pick up on the significance of things at the time, rereading this issue brought back snippets of memory–particularly Kitty’s threat to put Wisdom’s cigarette out, and the issue’s end with the jet crashing.

I do not recall consciously noting before now that this was a Warren Ellis-written issue, though somewhere along the way I became aware of his having been the writer in this general time, and being the one behind the Pete Wisdom character. That this seems to be Wisdom’s first appearance is rather cool.

This issue was a welcome glimpse back to the then-status-quo, and a reminder that Kitty and Nightcrawler had a period of time where they were NOT part of the X-Men themselves. I’d also forgotten about other characters, as well as how much I "miss" Moira’s presence in the X-books. Of course, given contemporary things, that’s practically a generational factor.

The cliffhanger of the characters facing a crash-landing that they weren’t certain of surviving was compelling even back in the day, and has me curious about how the point was resolved when everything returned after the Age of Apocalypse…I’m partially torn on digging that issue out to find out versus allowing myself the wondering until after covering the event itself.

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