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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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The ’90s Revisited: The Phoenix Resurrection: Red Shift #0

90s_revisited

phoenix_resurrection_redshiftRed Shift

Writers: I. Edginton, J. Smith
Pencillers: J. Royle, P. Peletier, C. Wojtkiewicz, R. Green, B. Murray, R. Haynes
Inkers: P. Moy, S. Moncuse, M. Farmer, T. Austin, G. Martin
Letterers: P. Owsley, V. Williams
Color Design: R. Alvord
Interior Color: Malibu
Asst. Editor: S. Bernstein
Editor: H. Kanalz
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: n/a (American Entertainment Edition)

I remember the Black September ‘event’ back in 1995. Perhaps for its timing–Black September, this new era for the Ultraverse, this reboot/relaunch/renumbering–coincided with my entering high school, so for me my own life was starting a brand new direction and all that. I also remember stuff about this particular trail through the Ultraverse titles post-Godwheel heading into the event, though I missed out on the Ultraforce/Avengers issues, and so dropped in "cold" on the black-cover "Infinity" issues that September (with #1s in October). At the #2s in November, each book had a 3-page "flip book" chapter of this Phoenix Resurrection thing, in much the way Rune had premiered a couple years earlier. Then there were the larger issues Phoenix Resurrection: Genesis and Revelations, and Aftermath…and they led into some other title, Foxfire.

But I don’t recall if I ever got around to actually reading them all, or particularly caring about them all–this was late 1995, and rapidly heading toward one of my "off periods" with comics where I barely kept up with anything for about a year. So reading this now is like reading a whole new thing for me–I was aware of its existence, but have no conscious memory of actually reading the thing. And this Red Shift issue is something I don’t recall being aware of at the time in 1995–I discovered it some years after.

Red Shift is actually a collected edition of sorts: it collects the seven 3-page segments, making up a 21-page single-issue comic. The indicia shows it to be an American Entertainment edition–and its lack of cover price indicates this to be a special issue that would have been available through the mail-order comics company. This issue turns a ten-comic "event" into a 4-issue thing…making for a line-wide event of only 4 issues…something virtually unheard of in present-day, particularly from Marvel!

Marvel had bought Malibu by this point, and though the Malibu Comics logo remained on the covers, there were a number of Marvel characters that had crossed over into the Ultraverse, perhaps most notably Avengers character Black Knight, and X-Men villain Juggernaut. There were a number of other specific-story crossovers, where characters would cross for the story but not as a status quo.

Red Shift feels like what it is, as a collection of 3-page snippets, with numerous visual styles, and nowhere near enough room for any true story to develop, as they’re basically short little vignettes contextualizing each title’s "recent" prior experience heading into the main event story. Had I bought all seven issues specifically for the flip-book/backup, I’d have been sorely disappointed. Though I know the characters from my own prior experience reading Ultraverse stuff, as a standalone issue, this felt like a real mess trying to read it, and I really had to rely on memory of status quo from 22 years ago to have any slight idea what was going on.

The differing art styles seem–especially looking back–to be absolutely very "’90s" in style…with some generic and gratuitous posing, quasi- or wannabe "iconic" images, and so on…nothing overly dynamic or bad, exactly, but nothing great, either. Most of the creative team are names I don’t recognize (though I recognize several, as this would be early work by them before going to higher profile stuff). That leaves things to the characters, who are mostly recognizable, albeit as their relaunched looks, which were less distinctive and striking than their 1993/1994 debut appearances.

Story-wise, again, these were way too short and disjointed to really have any significance or development. Had they been simply 3 pages apiece within a main issue, worked into 3-page-longer-than-usual issues, they might have had more significance, serving as a universe-wide subplot, rather than being isolated out of whatever story was beginning in the respective titles.

All in all, I’m far from impressed by this issue, outside of the novelty of having these disparate segments brought together in a single issue like Rune #0. The art isn’t horrible but isn’t anything wonderful, and the story doesn’t do anything for me and doesn’t really do anything for the characters except provide a slight reference point. If you’re not already into these characters, I’d avoid this issue; there’s almost certainly more to be had in the "main" Phoenix Resurrection issues.

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The ’90s Revisited: All New Exiles vs. X-Men #0

90srevisited

allnewexilesvsxmen000X-Over

Writer: Terry Kavanagh
Penciller: Ken Lashley
Inker: Tom Wegrzyn
Letterer: Patrick Owsley
Color Design: Shannon Blanchard
Interior Color: Malibu
Cover: Dan Panosian
Editors: Chris Ulm, Jerald Devictoria, Bob Harras, Ben Raab
Published by: Malibut Comics
Cover Date: October 1995
Cover Price: n/a (promo/mail-away issue)

I’ve long sought this issue…based on the cover date, it’s safe to say I’ve had at least SOME level of interest in this for 19 years. From what I recall, this was a send-away promo issue. Mail in some bound-in coupon from an ad along with $10 or so, and receive the issue in the mail once it shipped. Simple…but very, very EXPENSIVE…especially for a then-14-year-old. As such, the offer passed me by and my life moved on none the worse for it.

This copy, that I’m covering this in mid-December 2014, came from finding the issue loose in a 25-cent bin this week, and in remarkably good condition for its age and rarity. Of course, I say rarity as I cannot recall ever before coming across this issue in any sort of bargain bin. While it’s not a particularly expensive issue, it’s been expensive enough–more than “just” a couple dollars–that I hadn’t acquired it before now.

Unfortunately, this issue’s had nearly two full decades to build my anticipation of the reading experience…which made this the obvious let-down that one really ought to EXPECT from the situation. This is a one-shot, in-continuity for the Exiles characters but not so much the X-Men side. It was published as a promo outside the regular numbering of the post-Black September All New Exiles series. And it’s no “key issue” of any sort that I can tell…a fact that adds to the sense of disappointment. So let’s leave all that aside.

The cover feels a bit odd to me with the two teams’ logos seeming strangely small on the cover. Granted, each logo individually would usually fill the top space of a cover and it’s not likely anyone wanted to crowd out the image with logos. But these logos being so small and the image being what it is, the logos kind of get lost in the viewing. The image itself, though–of X-Men Storm, Beast, Iceman, Rogue, and Gambit standing in front of some sort of poster of the Exiles–works quite well for me despite the visual style seeming vaguely manga-esque and cartooney to me (particularly compared against some of my favorite Age of Apocalypse-era X-books from early 1995).

The interior art is not bad, and carries a definite ’90s “feel” to me. I recognize Lashley‘s name from Excalibur (and the title’s Age of Apocalypse iteration X-Calibre), so there’s that air of “authenticity” on the X-Men angle for me, even if Excalibur was never a “core” X-book to me growing up. Characters look pretty good throughout this issue with only moments of difference to me where something doesn’t look quite “right.” I do attribute this to the art not being Kubert, Lee, or someone I’m more consciously (and nostalgically) familiar with far more than I do any particular artistic fault. I’m not unimpressed, and other than the conscious analyzing for this review, the art remained relatively unnoticed and simply “there” as I read the issue.

The story isn’t anything fancy…it has a lot of potential but seems rather rushed. Of course, that particular fault I’d attribute to contemporary comics and the drawn-out 4-6 issue story arcs and lack of done-in-one single issues…especially something with only 22 pages, that isns’t even an over-sized/extra-length issue.

We open on Charles Xavier–founder of the X-Men–frustrated at his inability to locate the Juggernaut (Cain Marko, his step-brother) anywhere on Earth. Having picked up on their mentor’s frustration, the X-Men join a physical search, enlisting the aid of Gateway to check other dimensions. Once in another dimension, they find themselves face to face with the Juggernaut and others, where a fight breaks out. The two groups are then distracted when a creature attempts to come through the portal Gateway had opened, and they’re forced to work together to stop it. Ultimately, the status quo is restored with the X-Men returning to their dimension and the Exiles left on theirs with no way to follow the X-Men without re-energizing the creature they’d just stopped.

There’s not a lot of room for any characters to have actual characterization given how many are here and how few pages, along with the story being set up and moved along. Again based on contemporary standards, something like this seems like it would be best served existing as a 3-4+ issue mini-series. Crammed into one issue, we pretty much need to be familiar with the characters to get anything out of this. Familiar or not, everyone’s pretty much to be taken at face-value, with limited dialogue to contextualize things.

I would expect more of this issue–as a singular, special thing. Given its length and publication, this feels more like I picked up a random issue of All New Exiles that happens to guest-star the X-Men…something rather akin to what I picture of random crossovers in “indy” comics…that is, one side or the other takes more out of the story and the other property seems to have no reference to it other than the character(s’)’s existed in the given issue.

Despite my expectations and relative disappointment…for the 25 cents I paid, this was a very good issue and well worth my having bought and taken the time to read. It does also lift my interest in delving into the All New Exiles…though that particular reading project is quite a ways off yet as I seek to complete my Ultraverse collection.

allnewexilesvsxmen0

Mission: Ultraverse Revisited

ultraversespreadA few weeks ago, a Facebook group I had joined some years back–for the long-dead comics universe, the Ultraverse–suddenly exploded into activity. It’s been stirring my interest back up in the Ultraverse comics. I already had a stack of PRIME issues on a shelf, waiting for a re-reading project I’ve had in mind for over a year.

In addition, this past weekend I snagged a handful of Ultraverse comics from quarter bins at a couple different comic shops.

Monday night, I decided to take a peek in my “most accessible” longbox, and lo! Ultraverse comics! So I pulled the Ultraverse comics, and decided to look at the next box. Then the two shortboxes.

Amazingly, I found QUITE the mix of Ultraverse comics in just 3 longboxes and 2 shortboxes.

ultraversepilesSeems that without particularly realizing it, I’ve actually been grabbing a number of Ultraverse comics the last few years from various bargain bins and such sales. I even found that I’ve got the Black September: Infinity issue, as well as the Ultraverse: Future Shock. And turns out the that special PRIME issue I picked up a couple years back for $1 at a used media store is one of those Limited-5,000 editions.

So, now have a mission before me: to dig through all the longboxes I have in this apartment, to pull together whatever Ultraverse comics I have. From there, see what’s out there that I’m missing, and begin very specifically hunting these things down.

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