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The ’90s Revisited: Dr. Strange #36

90s_revisited

dr_strange_0036Footnote to Infinity

Writers: Roy & Dann Thomas
Penciler: Dan Lawlis
Inker: Andrew Pepoy
Letterer: R. Parker
Colorist: George Roussos
Editor: Mike Rockwitz
Editor in Chief: Tom Defalco
With Special Thanks To: Jim Starlin, Advisor
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: December 1991
Cover Price: $1.50

I bought this issue completely outside of any kind of context for the Dr. Strange: Sorcerer Supreme series. It initially caught my attention specifically for the presence of Adam Warlock on the cover with the Infinity Gauntlet. The corner blurb that this is an Infinity Gauntlet "Epilogue" solidified it for me. I’ve read The Infinity Gauntlet a couple times (though it’s been a number of years now and I’m due for a re-read–as if I’m not extremely far behind on all my NEW reading) and early issues of Warlock and the Infinity Watch. But I’d never read this issue, and I was curious as to exactly how it was addressing Infinity Gauntlet, its place in the timeline. I’m glad to say that my curiosity was satisfied.

We open on Dr. Strange arriving back home, reuniting with his supporting cast. It’s an impromptu party, and among other reunions we see Strange and Clea (who is the only other person in the room that remembers what happened). As they dance around the subject and share the joy of everyone being present, Wong announces that he’s engaged…and moments later, Pip the troll and Gamora appear, disrupting things–they’re here for Dr. Strange, hoping he might aid them in dealing with a driven-mad-with-power Warlock. Strange confronts Warlock, and winds up having to use every resource available to him, basically, just to hold his ground. After he’s "survived" attacks involving the other Infinity Gems (yes, this is back when they were GEMS, not STONES), he turns the tide by going after the Soul Gem–the one most closely linked to Warlock…and manages to get through to him, helping him see what’s happening, and stand down. After thanks, a friendly handshake, and promises to see things stay on the right path, everyone parts ways…though Strange gets a brief encounter with Eternity…the cosmic being representing the universe itself. Eternity intends to claim the Infinity Gems, by bringing Warlock to some cosmic trial…but that’s not for Strange to deal with, and he finishes his return journey home.

I’m sure I would have enjoyed this issue more if I was "up" on contextual continuity for this series at the point this issue falls. I basically remember THAT Strange was involved early on, being maybe the first Silver Surfer made contact with of the Earth heroes regarding Thanos having assembled all the Gems; and then with Warlock and the "behind the scenes" crew in taking on Thanos. I also vaguely remember that Wong was one of the "half the living entities in the universe" that were blinked out of existence at the start of Infinity Gauntlet. I’m not invested in any of the supporting cast or cameo appearances. And I felt like Warlock was extremely out of character, given the out and out attacks directed at Dr. Strange…and it all rang as the old cliché "hero vs. hero" and such that I really don’t care about. At least here, though, the situation is resolved within the same issue, it does NOT take up the ENTIRE issue, and certainly does not become an entire story arc for a mini-series or title. I was glad to see stuff resolved here, and where I was curious going in as to WHERE exactly this took place in "the timeline," the end of the issue with Eternity suggests to me that this essentially led into Warlock and the Infinity Watch #1.

Story-wise, this felt like "the next issue" of the title. That is, it didn’t waste time trying to retell that which is told elsewhere, nor did this feel like just some "middle chapter" or such of a serialized graphic novel. There are details that are obviously "subplots" being moved along, while the main focus of the issue is an encounter that is begun, run, and resolved within this issue. For a reader perhaps checking this out BECAUSE of seeing Strange in Infinity Gauntlet, it seems to have him pulling out all the stops, and in a way "showing off" for the newer readers, while perhaps reminding older readers of what he can do on his own, as more than just a single character of a huge ensemble cast in a Marvel Universe event.

Visually, I liked the art for this issue overall. For one thing, I felt like I recognized everyone I would expect to–particularly Dr. Strange himself, Pip, Gamora, and Warlock. I attribute this to a "house style" that I feel like I recall being prevalent in the early ’90s; at the least, everyone looks familiar enough that I had no problem with their appearances and nothing messed with my memory of how they "should have" looked or whatever.

As a single issue, this isn’t enough to "sell" me on Dr. Strange’s series…I’m in no particular hurry to find out what happens with the next issue (though I’m "curious" at the tease of "Frankensurfer" and wouldn’t be entirely opposed to keeping an eye out for the issue in a passive sense) nor do I feel any great need to rush out and get previous issues. That said…this seemed a solid issue, a decent follow-up to Infinity Gauntlet, and probably not the worst thing one could read from Marvel for the early 1990s. I enjoyed it enough to have more than justified the 25 cents I spent for it, and I’m glad to have read this.

dr_strange_0036_blogtrailer

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The ’90s Revisited: Captain America #436

90s_revisited

captain_america_0436Fighting Chance (conclusion): Everybody Hurts Sometime

Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Penciler: Dave Hoover
Inker: Danny Bulanadi
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: George Roussos
Editor: Mike Rockwitz
Group Editor: Ralph Macchio
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February, 1995
Cover Price: $1.50

I’m not sure what I expected out of this issue, but what I got wasn’t it. I’d’ve sworn I read this before, some years ago…having borrowed the entire Fighting Chance storyline from a friend (who had a subscription that incidentally STARTED with the first issue of this 12-part story, which I’d thought was pretty neat at the time!) But this read-through felt like an all-new issue to me, completely unfamiliar and even if I did read it once before, I’d totally forgotten any details (even a bit after actually reading it this time, the details are fuzzy!)

Though it was years after the story was over and done with that I would have read it, I was acutely aware of it going on and remember it really sticking with me as a concept. A whole YEAR’S worth of issues dedicated to a single story! The very thing that gave Captain America his physical ability, to BE Captain America, was killing him! How would that play out? How would such a story end? Surely, the hero would triumph…but wow! What a journey that would be, and such a victory…

Nope.

This issue sees Cap being spit out of some drainage pipe that he was apparently dumped into in the previous issue…pursued by Cobra and Hyde. We get some exposition (super soldier serum killing him, Cap’s under doctor’s orders not to exert himself, he’s thoroughly exerting himself anyway, blah blah blah). Even with his body betraying him, he manages to avoid being killed by the two villains…but at great personal cost. By the end of the issue, he’s pushed himself too far, and with ghostly images of the Statue of Liberty and then-thought-to-be-dead-but not-really-though-we-wouldn’t-find-that-out-for-another-20-years-when-Brubaker-does-TheWinterSoldier-story Bucky flashing before him, Steve seems to lose his battle…he’s paralyzed, a mind trapped in a worthless body.

Hank Pym finds Cap, realizes the situation, and that’s that.

The final chapter, the twelfth issue of a 12-part story…ends on a cliffhanger.

Lovely.

Yeah, yeah…what else should or would I expect…especially reading the issue closer to 2020 than to 2000?

I know Gruenwald‘s name as being one of THE names of this title, and tend to myself think of him as one of the more important writers to handle the character (perhaps for longevity on the title if nothing else). I do like that this issue is squarely a "typical ’90s super-hero brawl" type thing, and Cap is just a super-hero figure, standard ’90s stuff, nothing overly complex (if not simple) about him (compared to sharper, "edgier," more "realistic" takes that would come later). But I found this issue to be rather generic, anti-climactic, and ultimately a disappointment overall.

Of course, as stated above, I think I’d read this once before but didn’t remember anything of it; and this particular reading (either way) was as a singular, isolated issue with no context from any of the introduction and build-up to stuff.

The art was fairly bland…I recognized the characters I would expect to, visually, with no trouble, and there was not much in the way of subtlety to the story being conveyed; any doubt of action was covered by story context.

I’d also forgotten ("realized" after the fact) that despite the initial impact the very notion of this story had had on me, there was an epilogue issue or two that were rather crucial to things, or made a more effective ending (at least looking at cover images and drawing on what I recall of this period in the title’s history).

So ultimately…I do not recommend this issue for a one-issue isolated read. It’s the supposed ending of a major story, yet leaves stuff hanging and just seems like a weak ending for a character such as this after such a long storyline. That said, I would have no problem recommending the run offhand if the entire story and the follow-up issues were found in a 25 or 50 cent bin, just on principle of getting the story for a fraction of the cost of a modern story that’s–at best–equally contrived.

Fatal Attractions Revisited: X-Force #25

Back to Front

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Art: Greg Capullo
Inkers: Wiacek, Green, Ryan, Palmiotti, Hanna, Conrad, Milgrom
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: George Roussos
Editors: Bob Harras, Tom DeFalco
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Dated: August, 1993

Twenty-five issues…big number, huh? Well…maybe not. I’ve seen this title repurposed for awhile, then renamed X-Statix and that ran for a couple years. Then post-Messiah-CompleX another X-Force ran for a couple years, and the current Uncanny X-Force has run about 30 issues. But y’know, back in the day, this was a common anniversary–a whopping 25 issues.

As with X-Factor #92, I re-read this and much of it was like I was reading it for the first time…certainly the first time with much comprehension of who these characters were. This was even before Cable first got his own series, which ran for over 100 issues (followed by Cable & Deadpool that ran about 50 and the more recent Cable series with Hope than ran about 25).

This issue seems to be the introduction of Exodus. A sticker on the bag this copy of the issue was in when I bought it stated “Exodus 1st App.” Back in the day, I didn’t pick up on that, and just thought he was another one of these “Acolytes” and didn’t dig or think any deeper. It’s also the “return” of Cable, apparently the first he’d shown up since the X-Cutioner’s Song crossover few months earlier.

The new mutants–the X-Force–return home from a mission. However, someone else is there–and the battle is quickly joined…though it turns out their mentor–Cable–has returned. Some are glad to see the man, others not so happy–but all listen as Cable explains a bit of where he’s been and what he’s learned since the events that seperated him from his pupils. Exodus arrives, inviting Cannonball and Sunspot to Heaven, but pre-emptively attacks the group for thinking of attacking him. Cannonball eventually agrees, but the team follows, and all find themselves aboard what apparently used to be Cable’s base, known as Graymalkin, with a sentient computer program called “The Professor.” After more fighting, Cable gets his young charges off the ship, and seeks to “rescue” the computer program that’s apparently been a father figure to him–and finds himself confronting an enemy all thought dead. This fight is much shorter, all but disassembling Cable before he escapes (nearly as a corpse) to rejoin X-Force.

As said above, I didn’t really “get” this issue when I first read it, when it came out. I recall (with a bit of deja vu) the ending with Cable, but not much else. I certainly lacked the context of Cannonball and Sunspot being part of the New Mutants prior to Cable’s 1st appearance and that title ending to be replaced with this one. I had not yet read X-Cutioner’s Song–or at least, not more than maybe a couple chapters (it was only about 6 or 7 years ago that I finally tracked the story down and read it all the way through) so I didn’t even have that context of what had happened to Cable, though from what trading card or another or Marvel Handbook/profile special (Stryfe’s Strike Files?) or Wizard or some such, I knew of Stryfe as being Cable’s clone from the future.

I hadn’t realized either, at the time, that Magneto had “died,” though from in-story context I picked up on the characters having thought him dead…but his death/etc was more of a “meta” thing than I was aware of as a 12-year old at the time.

This issue’s story is another that stands alone well enough, though it continues to build foundation for what I consider the “heart” of Fatal Attractions in X-Men #25 and Wolverine #75. The art is good, and somehow extremely familiar to me. This visual rendition of X-Force just is what it is, and I like it.

I’m a bit less impressed with the overall cover of this issue than I was with the X-Factor issue; but in a way the fairly close-up image of Cable with one of those HUUUUGE guns he carried is rather iconic, which makes this a more full cover from the front for me than the X-Factor issue. Of course, this cover (and the hologram) also totally gives away from the get-go that Cable is back, but especially near 20 years later, I’m not bothered by that at all.

I’ve snagged this issue from bargain bins–turns out I actually wound up with 2 copies of this issue for roughly $.75 total in the past month. Well worth getting, if only for the hologram, particularly if you can snag it from a bargain bin. Cover price was $3.50, which again is 50 cents cheaper than cover price of a standard Marvel comic nowadays, and this has a cardstock cover, hologram, and 48-ish pages (some of them ads).

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