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Marvel Universe Series IV Revisited, Part 5

Here we have some tangential X-characters that I’ve come to know MUCH more about in intervening years than I knew at the time these cards came out!

To this day I’m not entirely clear on the Guardian character, and outside of these cards know nothing of Micromax or Wildheart (though I wonder at the Wild Child connection, and am obviously missing plenty of context there, even after Age of Apocalypse).

I certainly didn’t appreciate the Phoenix character at the time–though particularly after last year’s AvX, I’ve come to appreciate the enormity of the Phoenix Force…which seems a bit shoe-horned in given its regularity here in the early-’90s.

While I associate most of these characters with Excalibur, Havok and Strong Guy I strongly associate with X-Factor, particularly from this time-period; in Fatal Attractions and at least on up to just before Age of Apocalypse.

I’ve become most familiar with Captain Britain in the first Uncanny X-Force run, and certainly miss Nightcrawler, given his fate a few years ago.

This image these 9 cards make up would make for a cool (or hot?) poster, I think– nicely showcasing the characters.

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Superman #696 [Review]

Man of Valor part three

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover: Cafu, Santiago Arcas
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

I continue to read this book, though I’m a bit anxious to see if it improves once Superman (assumably) actually returns to it. Mon-El is a character I’ve never cared for all that much–what little I’ve known of him–and given that, I much preferred him as “Valor” from the early 1990s. But that’s from a different continuity and reality, apparently…at least since Infinite Crisis…so we’ve got what we’ve got. Mon-El–despite being written by James Robinson–remains almost entirely uninteresting (aside from the fact that I look forward to him facing off with General Lane). I’m also not much more interested in the Guardian. After the set-up of his apparently having a “daughter” to care for–who has hardly been referenced in I-don’t-know-how-long) and the confusion I have as to his identity (to this day, I have not figured out if this Guardian is a clone of the Guardian I read in the 1990s Superman titles, or if this is that same Guardian, with his origin played up more than ever before). Yet, I don’t really care enough to find out, as neither option thrills me. I also care very little for Nightwing and Flamebird. Despite their potential, there just hasn’t seemed to be much in the way of satisfying development with them…I feel like they’re just pieces being pushed around a gameboard for some inevitable endgame or arbitrary “big sacrifice” or other role in coming events.

This issue continues the “Man of Valor” arc from Action comics…which at least in itself is kinda refreshing–though it renders the cover “shield numbering” fairly irrelevant (Parts 2 and 3 of this story are “shield #23” and “shield #25” respectively). Mon-El, Nightwing, Flamebird, and Guardian make sure everyone is ok after the blast that seemingly took ’em all out. Mon-El and Guardian send Nightwing and Flamebird away, preparing to hold off General Lane’s forces while the Kryptonians make their getaway…unfortunately, the two lovers double back fearing for their friends, but ultimately leave at Mon-El’s urging. While Mon-El and Lane trade words, Guardian finds someone apparently named “Control,” and Mon-El rushes to their side to face the horror of what has happened to this character.

I don’t know who this “Control” is, though I suspect she is just one particularly forgettable character that never made any real impact on me whatsoever in my reading. As stated above, the writing inspires no real sense of connection to any of these characters, nor any interest in them.

The art comes across as better than some recent issues, though it’s still not something I’d categorize amidst my favorite work.

I can’t help but wonder if this story being more of a “crossover” with actual Story Name and chapters crossing from Action Comics is an effort to tie things together, get things over with quicker, or both.

If you’re already following the events of this ongoing “World Against Superman” mega-arc or the Superman/Action Comics Man of Valor arc…this issue’s probably worth getting. Otherwise, nothing special or spectacular here to warrant picking up outta the blue.

Story: 5/10
Art: 6/10
Overall: 5.5/10

Action Comics #885 [Review]

Divine Spark, part 3

Writers: Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann
Artist: Pere Perez
Colorist: Javier Mena
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Cafu with Santiago Arcas
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

With Chris safe (for now) from the aging that was killing him, Nightwing and Flamebird confront The Guardian and his Science Police as well as Mon-El. The confrontation sees revelations shared as to what the two are doing on Earth, and new alliances as the “true” “enemy” emerges. Lois confronts her father, and everyone’s lives are in jeaopardy at issue’s end.

I continue to hope for another spark of enjoyment of this title like I had during the Brainiac arc. While I still don’t like that Jonathan was killed off, there was something to Johns’ story then, and Frank’s art, that as a whole made for a very enjoyable product. Fair or not, that’s the standard I find myself holding this title to, and it’s a standard that–for me–is not met.

The story itself is fairly straightforward, and well within the bounds of the overall story being played out in the Superman family of comics from the past year-plus. It continues to hold potential, but somehow just doesn’t quite fully take off and actually do anything with it.

The visuals also are pretty solid, but not much to my liking–but as with all art, that can be very subjective. Characters are all recognizeable and no one comes across as particularly abnormal-looking, and there’s little trouble following the action. The art certainly fulfills its role that way…it just doesn’t have anything that leaves me in awe or particularly marveling at the issue’s visuals.

Taken in a vacuum, the story’s worn thin and worn out its welcome with me–I’m ready to see Superman restored to the blue and red as well as to his own title and this one. Taken in context of solicitations, previews, and the like…it’s great to know that the “status quo” is about to change, if only to see what the next “phase” of the overall Superman corner of the DCU will be like.

Captain Atom, Chapter Seven
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Cafu
Colorist: Santiago Arcas
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

In this issue’s second feature slot, Captain Atom battles a number of other DC super-heroes in typical fashion before ultimately having a chance to explain himself and what he’s doing here. Others then step in, leaving us on a “cliffhanger.”

Visually, this segment isn’t all that bad, though the characters all come off with a somewhat generic appearance, almost a lack of some sort of detail I can’t quite put my finger on. The story is typical and seems to break no new ground, and really just serves to fill in a continuity hole, bridging events involving this character over the past six years.

While Captain Atom’s story is presently tied to the Superman books by story itself as well as being a second feature, it seems that his segment shortchanges the lead story, taking valuable space from that. It’d be preferable to have a separate bi-monthly or quarterly regular-sized-issues series to tie this character into things.

As a whole, this is another standard issue of the title. If you’re already following things, it’s worth continuing. If you’re on the fence…I can’t say this issue would really convince you to hop on in. I’m obviously not blown away by the issue…but neither am I convinced to drop it. Just disappointed that this doesn’t in any way feel like required Superman reading.

Action Comics
Story: 4/10
Art: 5/10

Captain Atom
Story: 4/10
Art: 5/10

Overall: 4.5/10

Adventure Comics Special featuring The Guardian #1 [Review]

New Krypton part three: The Worst Night of His Life

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Pere Perez
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: John J. Hill
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Aaron Lopresti (variant by Victor Ibanez)
Published by: DC Comics

This issue takes place between-pages of the Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen Special from several weeks ago. In short, it details exactly what the Guardian Jimmy tracked down told him, and brings readers up to speed on further details hinted at or sped through in that special.

First off, I think I’m thrilled to see the return of classic characters to the Superman continuity. Agent Liberty last week, more Guardian this week, the revelation that Cadmus’ impact is still being felt after largely being ignored for so many years…

Robinson seems to be quite good at digging into comics’ past and dredging up old characters, working them into the present, and making the whole thing just simply work. This seems to be no exception. Unfortunately, there’s something to this issue that doesn’t quite ring true, and seems like characters have been dealt with as they have for shock value more than anything else…though there’s definitely potential here. The main drawback is in the ambiguity of elements of Superman since Infinite Crisis, and I honestly do not know if this Guardian is the one I remember reading in the Superman books from the early to mid/late 1990s…or if the identity of that character is being mucked with. As it seems there is a lot of mucking about going on lately I fear the latter, and am thus a bit skeptical here.

The art doesn’t blow me away–but it is quite solid, and serves the story very well. I have no real complaint with it, nor any out of the ordinary praise.

What actually makes this issue stand out–and ups the enjoyment factor–is that it is actually part of the New Krypton story going on in the Superman family of books right now. I’d have to look to see if there are any more of these specials lined up…but for now, this issue marks the FIFTH week in a row with a new comic in the Superman corner of the DC Universe…essentially, the fifth week of an ongoing Superman story that continues from one book into the next. I may not be entirely sure the status of certain characters…but the fact that I’m getting so much of a single, ongoing narrative of Superman and his supporting cast–elements all playing into a single, ongoing story…that takes me back to the 1990s and the sheer enjoyment of a new “episode” in the Superman mythos each and every week.

If you’re following New Krypton, you’ll probably want to pick this up given it’s got the trade dress and “triangle number” making it part 3 of the story. If you read that Jimmy Olsen special, this will flesh it out more for you. And of course…if you’re a fan of The Guardian, again…you’ll probably want to check this out.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

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