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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Generation Next #2

aoa_revisited_logo

generationnext002Hither Comes the Sugar Man!

Created by: Scott Lobdell & Chris Bachalo
Inks: Mark Buckingham
Colors: Steve Buccellato and Electric Crayon
Lettering: Starkings and Comicraft
Editor: Bob Harras
Cover: Chris Bachalo
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Now that we know Illyana Rasputin is alive, we pick up on her, showing a newcomer the way of things in the realm of the Sugar Man. We then cut to her brother, initiating plans to get into the heavily-fortified facility with his team of young mutants. The bulk of the issue follows these young mutants as things get moved into place, despite their skepticism at the worth of one young girl simply on the word of a single individual only recently discovered. Part of this plan involves taking out Quietus, the foreman of the operation, to get in and figure out which mutant IS Illyana and where she can be located.

I’m still not much of a fan of Bachalo‘s art here…but despite that, it definitely sets a certain tone here–a bit dark, and fairly disturbing (and at some points, almost surreal). This certainly "works" for the issue, keeping this series visually distinct from the rest of the Age of Apocalypse stuff. I really can’t fault it too much there.

The story is interesting enough. Even in the "main" or "regular" X-Men/Marvel universe, I’m not nearly as familiar with these characters as I am many others…Generation X is a rather dim spot in my X-experience from the ’90s. So my emotional investment here, my interest in the characters is thus fairly limited. Things are easy enough to follow, but I find myself questioning more about Colossus and Kitty and how they met and so on, given the nature of this reality compared to the original.

It’s good to see the various characters and that they’re not just blindly on-board with stuff. There’s a certain authenticity there. It also seems quite reasonable to me for people to question stuff. As a reader, I know this isn’t the "true" reality and that OF COURSE things have to be "put right" but from the characters’ point of view, reality simply IS and anything else is what-if or "alternate reality."

This title continues to be a sort of "surprise" to me; that I’m actually enjoying it as much as I am. Despite the faults and such I point out above, and that I don’t actually enjoy seeing anyone suffer…this title in itself has been a much more enjoyable read than I’d anticipated. Even after realizing that with the first issue, I again found that I had to talk myself into NOT skipping the reading of this issue in favor of several of the other #2s.

As with a lot of the other issues so far and presumably to come, I recall the broad strokes and basic end results or strong key moments from these minis (perhaps blended/crossed with X-Men: Omega) but not much in the way of the nuanced details…which makes re-reading these similar to getting to read them for the first time.

Though it interrupts the "flow" of just flying through for the reading experience as a whole, there’s something to pausing between each issue to write up these thoughts on them, taking the time TO reflect before moving on to the next.

I’m sure the reading experience would also be different if I were to read these as individual series, but I’m also enjoying seeing the world unfold as it did originally, learning stuff in the "order of publication" and all that.

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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Generation Next #1

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generationnext001From the Top

Created by: Bachalo & Lobdell
Inker: Mark Buckingham
Colors: Steve Buccellato/Electric Crayon
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Cover: Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

On a more pronounced scale than X-Man #1, I remember disliking this series and so kinda "dreaded" "having to" read it to progress through the Age of Apocalypse saga. I know present-day I tend to not care for Bachalo‘s visual style, finding it cluttered and often hard to follow in the flow of just reading the story. But I actually rather enjoyed this issue.

The bulk of the issue follows a "training exercise" in which the younger mutants fight–Danger Room style–as training in use of their powers. First against each other, and then against their teachers–Colossus and Shadowcat, who prove to be quite ruthless and deadly, and encourage the same in their students. "Training" gets cut short with the appearance of Magneto, who (in his first "live" appearance to the kids) has Bishop in tow and seeks discovery of a possible time traveler…who, as it turns out may well be the sister Colossus thought killed. It will be up to this team of mutants to retrieve her.

As said, I haven’t really cared for Bachalo‘s work in more contemporary comics, and as such really was not looking forward to this issue. But I actually forgot as I read that this was a Bachalo-drawn issue, as the problems I’ve had with more recent stuff he’s done does not seem to be apparent here. I don’t know if that’s the inks, colors, pencil styles, or what. Whatever it is, I’m thankful, as this issue thusly has a distinct grittier, darker tone than the other issues I’ve read so far of the Age of Apocalypse #1s…setting it apart but not distractingly so.

The story isn’t bad…it doesn’t blow me away and is actually fairly cliché in its own way…but it works here, setting tone and showing the harshness of things these kids are facing (though we don’t get much explanation for Kitty’s behavior/personality compared to her non-AoA self).

While I have YET to read the Phalanx Covenant in full and really much with all the Generation X characters, I always found the timing of this interesting: by the end of the Age of Apocalypse stuff, there’d been equal time spent with Generation X as a title as this Generation Next…4 issues and 4 issues.

Not a bad read, certainly much more enjoyable than I remembered or expected…we’ll see what the later issues do for me.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Men Alpha #1

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xmenalpha001Beginings…

Story: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Pencils: Roger Cruz w/Steve Epting
Inks: Tim Townsend w/Dan Panosian
Letters: Starkings w/Comicraft
Colors: Steve Buccellato w/Electric Crayon
Editor: Bob Harras
Cover: Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

The cover proclaims A NEW World! A NEW Beginning! This issue sports a fancy "chromium" cover, and is itself a rather iconic image–to me, at least–of the "new" X-Men, as brought together by Magneto. We see Weapon X (Wolverine) front ‘n center on the front panel of this wraparound cover. Blink, Sunfire, Bishop, Rogue, Magneto, Jean Grey, Quicksilver, Nightcrawler, and Gambit round out the bunch here. Open the issue up to see the back cover as well and we see Apocalypse in the background, with Sabretooth and Wild Child in the foreground, Jubilee and Colossus behind, and some flying stormtroopers (Infinites, I believe) filling out the sky-space of the image.

There are no ads in this issue. 48 pages of story, plus the cover–that’s it. For "only" $3.95. Sorta pricey "back in the day," but quite a bargain by today’s standards. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like this priced around $9.99 by Marvel nowadays–and shocked to see it under $7.99.

Though this issue kicks off the Age of Apocalypse epic, it does not itself carry an Age of Apocalypse badge–this is a "bookend" issue that serves as a prologue to the entirety of the event encompassing ten or so titles across the four months.

We open on a wasteland, where we meet Bishop–whose mind was damaged by the energies that ripped Legion and the other X-Men away in X-Men #41. We find that he’s wandered for the 20 years since. Here, he’s become the focus of an attack from Unus and his troopers who were chasing a young human who found momentary hope in Bishop. The X-Men arrive–Magneto’s X-Men–and the battle is joined. Emerging victorious, the X-Men are then confronted by Bishop, who recognizes Magneto and levels some major accusations at him. Magneto sedates him and they take Bishop for questioning.

Meanwhile, we meet Beast–Henry McCoy–a mad scientist figure experimenting on mutants. Havok touches base, and the mutant (Blob) being experimented on attacks, and the pair are "rescued" by Cyclops–with long hair and only one eye, and see that he and Havok have a horrible relationship. The two are part of Apocalypse’s group, by way of Sinister–who arrives and chastises the two for fighting, and then speaks cryptically and leaves. The scene shifts to a bar maintained by Angel–Heaven–where he’s confronted by Gambit, who is looking for Magneto. We shift to the X-Men, questioning Bishop, then to Apocalypse and his upper ranks as he reveals plans to destroy the last of humanity.

The story shifts to Weapon X and Jean meeting up with the Human High Council, and then back to Magneto’s group. "Feedback" from Rogue touching him leads to Magneto seeing fragments of a universe that might have been, leaving the older mutant troubled. He immediately sends Nightcrawler to seek Destiny in order to get confirmation of his vision. Meanwhile, Sinister’s gone missing, and Apocalypse nudges things into motion. The X-Men know "something" is up, but not specifics. While off in space, a certain crystallization wave heads toward Earth.

I don’t usually like summarizing an issue so thoroughly–but there is a LOT going on here. And it all works, for me. There’s a lot of vagueness and toss-off references scattered throughout that don’t necessarily make a lot of sense now, in context of just this one issue–but having read this before and knowing the characters, I follow them quite well. This sets up the various books that make up the Age of Apocalypse saga, introducing us to core elements–the characters and places that will have significant roles in the story to come.

There’s a definite sense of "history" here, and it feels like this could easily BE just a random issue I picked up, amidst an ongoing continuity and not the first actual glimpse at the entirety of said continuity. This is–to the reader–a new world, a beginning of an "Event," but for the characters involved this is simply the present, 20 years after a key incident in Israel.

I remember being quite eager to get into the Age of Apocalypse as a whole and being fascinated by this new version of all the characters. Despite the dark setting of the story, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, with a familiarity and warm sense of nostagia as I did so.

The art is slightly stylistic at points, and I’m not particularly familiar with Roger Cruz‘s name…but this issue being what it is, none of the art bothered me…I was simply a kid again, enjoying seeing all these characters and where they were, and trying to glean where the story was going from this single issue.

It’s refreshing to read this issue again, and getting a sense of pureness or "authenticity" from what I so enjoyed about this event…before everything that’s come in the past ten years or so as things were changed, pulled from, and generally mucked about with in attempt to get as much out of this story as possible beyond its relatively self-contained nature in 1995.

In short, this issue holds up extremely well to my memory, is still very enjoyable, and leaves me eager to get into the heart of the story.

The ’90s Revisited: Uncanny X-Men #325

uncannyxmen325Generation of Evil

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Joe Madureira
Inkers: Townsend & Ryan
Colors: Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon
Leters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Editor and Chief: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.95
Cover Date: October, 1995

This issue always throws me, just from the cover. This is from that period of time when Marvel apparently thought the covers’ numbers didn’t matter and would have the issue’s number in tiny print somewhere in the UPC box, at the bottom of the cover, rather than somewhere near the upper part with the cover logo. For this cover, they actually hide all of that–the title logo folded to the inside, and the UPC to the back cover, so all you have is Storm, Colossus, and Wolverine attacking someone off-panel, and a tiny banner at the top specifying this as a Special X-Men Anniversary Issue. (20th anniversary of the “All-New” X-Men from Giant-Size X-Men #1)

While the issue opens on the X-Men playing baseball, the bulk of the issue features a “return” of Morlocks, apparently in the wake of some of their number taking on the name “Gene Nation” or such and executing terrorist acts around the city. Leader of the Morlocks Callisto shows up and explains it’s the “younger generation” that feels the older has failed them, failed to act–and seeks to rectify the issue. This also brings up Storm’s “history” as a former leader of the Morlocks (having once challenged and beaten Callisto FOR said leadership), and what that means for her in the face of the current situation.

Story-wise this is a solid issue; nothing horrible about it to me; but nothing fantastic, either. However, having the baseball game is a great moment…the sort I recall truly enjoying in the X-books…just seeing the characters relax and not have to be fighting the villain of the month/issue…I’d probably thoroughly enjoy a full issue that’s nothing but the characters just being who they are, interacting with each other; no villains or any particular antagonist, period. I like that the issue is definitely set in continuity, dealing with the history of the Morlocks, as well as keeping several subplots moving (Gambit, and Rogue/Iceman).

Visually this is a mixed thing for me: the style is a bit cartoony at points and feels a bit “off” to my sensibilities with these characters, and yet it totally brings back (good) memories OF this era of X-Men comics, and works in that regard.

For an issue fished out of a 25-cent bin, certainly well worth the purchase and reading. There’s no funky foiling on this copy, so I think this is the “newsstand” edition where the original copy I bought when it came out new I’m pretty sure was the “direct edition” or otherwise had shiny-ness about it. (Which works for my interest in “converting” FROM shiny covers to standard/newsstand editions for my various “runs” of series). It’s also worth noting that these days, this would probably be at least 2-3 variant covers, rather than the 4-panel wrap-around/fold-out this actually carries.

Given the lengthy role Marrow (I believe) went on to play in the X-Books, this is a good jumping-on point to see where she comes from and (presumably) changes. All in all quite a high-quality bargain-bin purchase!

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