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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Men Omega

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xmenomega001_front…Endings

Story: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Pencils: Roger Cruz
Inks: LaRosa, Townsend, Kesel, Candelario, Hanna, Milgrom
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Colors: Steve Buccellato, Electric Crayon
Cover: John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

While not nearly as "iconic" as the Alpha issue to me…this issue is still one of THE most iconic comic issues of my youth. Though the majority of the context comes from the various individual titles that make up the Age of Apocalypse, this is THE issue they all led into, after spinning out of X-Men: Alpha. As such, while I didn’t remember details of most of the individual series, I remembered where things wound up because of this issue.

We open on a full-page of Magneto, bloodied and energy crackling around him, standing defiantly against an off-page foe, who we find is Holocaust, battering the leader of the X-Men for Apocalypse’s amusement before the villain reveals his final plans. Meanwhile, Angel finds Karma, while in the pens, the X-Men arrive via Blink’s portals. As they contemplate the lack of opposition and come across Beast, we move to see Cyclops and Jean leading freed humans across the bridge away from Apocalypse’s stronghold. Apocalypse’s forcefield is taken down by Angel’s suicide bomb…his sacrifice allows Nate (X-Man) access to Apocalypse…where he finds and is recognized by Magneto as The One that Forge had long ago promised to deliver.

while Nate takes on Holocaust, the X-Men have found the M’Kraan crystal, and Destiny confirms Bishop’s claims and everything comes down to Illyana choosing to help restore broken reality. The three enter the crystal, leaving the X-Men to fight Apocalypse’s forces. On the bridge, Jean realizes the bombs have been launched and throws up a psi-shield…holding them back as long as she can. In the crystal, Destiny guides Illyana in unlocking her powers, getting Bishop back to the moment things went wrong. Back on the bridge, Havok reveals himself, unleashing his powers to take out Jean and Scott before being taken out himself by Weapon X. The X-Men rescue baby Charles, mess up Beast’s escape attempt, while others have fallen in battle and misunderstanding.

In the past, Bishop confronts his past self and Legion, preventing Legion from killing anyone…and closing a loop that sees the X-Men ripped back to their own time and the chronal energies erasing their presence and Legion’s from the memories of all left behind…that events would unfold as they had with no taint from Legion’s obtrusive presence.

Nate finally gets to Apocalypse before being attacked again by Holocaust…using a shard of the M’Kraan crystal he and Holocaust are unexpectedly removed from the equation. The distraction is enough for Magneto to summon the power to rip Apocalypse apart, finally killing the evil mutant and ending his reign. In the last few moments left to him, he rejoins Rogue and his son, while reflecting on the importance of one man to the world itself…as the nuclear blast is about to engulf them. Hope is left behind, in Bishop accomplishing his mission…and preventing any of this from ever having happened.

This issue being what it is, as mentioned above…there’s little separating its nostalgic and emotional, lasting impact on me from the technicalities of the issue itself.

At this typing, I don’t particularly recognize Cruz‘ name or art…and would have sworn there was someone else on the art. Looking back, Cruz contributed to a couple previous X-issues, and was the penciler on the Alpha issue as well…so while the art isn’t ENTIRELY consistent with the individual series, it provides a definite consistency to the other bookend issue of this entire mega-arc. In and of itself, I really don’t have any complaints on the art…everyone is recognizeable and obvious for who they are…and though many of the characters don’t look quite as well-done as they were in the individual books, given this issue involves so many without being a "jam book," that’s hardly an issue for me. We have numerous inkers and a full roster of Letterers and Colorists…whether that was to get the book out "on time" or to allow more hands to touch the project, be a part of it, I don’t know. It’s really something I mostly notice for specifically scoping out the credits to write this up.

Story-wise, I see Mark Waid on dialogue, as with X-Men: Alpha…which is interesting again as before given I wasn’t consciously aware of him 20 years ago but know him as a writer whose work I like present-day…and realize how much I like his dialogue through this issue, hokey and cheesey as parts are. Magneto’s final moments in the issue resonate particularly for me.

Given the specific issues that things unfolded in, this is the first we’ve "seen" of the "regular" X-Men in the entirety of the labeled Age of Apocalypse issues. The brief bit we get with them–specifically of Storm realizing the true battle was fought elsewhere–is something that has stuck with me since originally reading the issue, and worked its way into my head over the years as a concept that truly influences my understanding and conception of time travel and alternate reality stories…really in a way I can’t quite put to typed words.

The Age of Apocalypse ends, the "true reality" is restored…but this story left lasting repercussions (and characters) on the X-universe and the Marvel universe in general. Fitting in a way, perhaps, that present-day 2015 we’re about to get major changes to the very fabric of the Marvel universe, as I’ve just finished re-reading this tale.

xmenomega001_full

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Men Chronicles #2

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xmenchronicles002Shattered Dreams

Writer: Howard Mackie
Penciler: Ian Churchill
Inks: Hanna/Vey/Moncuse/Wiacek
Colors: Matt Webb
Color Separations: Digital Chameleon
Lettering: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover: Churchill
Editors: Kelly Corvese, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

We open on Weapon X confronting Magneto. He and Jean are leaving, and Mags will NOT be convincing him otherwise. After the tense standoff, we shift to Wolverine–a huge mutant working for Holocaust. Holocaust, it seems, was once Nemesis–who killed Scarlet Witch in X-Men Chronicles #1, some time before this issue. Magneto doesn’t take Jean and Logan’s leaving all that well and throws himself AND his X-Men into training, none realizing the pending danger of the Wolverine. We also see the deterioration of Gambit’s pursuit of Rogue as we see the blossoming of the Magneto/Rogue relationship…which doesn’t begin to go over well with Gambit. Despite the huge wedge from a heart’s betrayal, Gambit stands with Magneto against Wolverine…though their broken friendship is one of the "key" events to come of the issue.

It may be that the issue is extra-sized and so a bigger single chunk of story, minus issue breaks and fitting into the larger, more complex continuity of multiple titles going on simultaneously, as well as "seeing" a key point in this version of the X-Men’s past (relative to the "present day" waning moments of the Age of Apocalypse unfolding in the main X-books cover dated June 1995). It might be the art, and certainly an enjoyable story. But reading this issue, the thoughts it provoked, and the feeling I had when I got to the end…this is definitely one of my TOP favorite issues of the entirety of the AoA storyline.

There’s only one page in particular (but several, flipping back through the issue) with Magneto specifically, where I feel like I noticed a change in the inking, transforming Churchill‘s work such that I actually paused and looked back to see if there were multiple artists/pencilers on the book, as it just looks quite different from the rest of the book. Otherwise, I really liked the art, and would have to really dig to find anything NOT to like about it. I’m not all that fond of Wolverine’s visual design…but as a generic "evil mutant" he works quite well. I imagine part of that is simply the use of the name in association with someone NOT Logan. (Yet, it makes sense in a world with countless "codenames" if most know "Weapon X" but he’s not using the name…"Wolverine" WOULD be up for grabs!)

Mackie gets a bad rap, I think…or at least, I’ve allowed my opinion to be clouded by his later work, particularly–I think–his Spider-Man stuff of the later ’90s. Here, I just simply enjoyed seeing these characters and the story that we get through the longer segment. Even knowing what was coming, I found it rather authentic seeing Gambit’s naiveté regarding Rogue’s falling for Magneto, and empathized with his hurt and frustration at the unintended "betrayal" of Magneto and Rogue’s developing relationship.

We get some details hinted at previously, and the actual "on-panel" stuff with Logan and Jean leaving and the Magneto/Rogue/Gambit triangle, as well as 44 pages of story plus 5 double-page "historical moments" (basically, "pinups") to round things out. I truly miss–and consider it a "lost art" of late–the inclusion of such "pinups" or quasi-arbitrary art pages in comics. In 2015, these would be an additional 10 variant covers as 5 sets of double-panel interlocking images. In 1995, these were fun bonus pages adding some visual context to the X-Men’s history. If only by labeling, these pages definitely lend credence to the notion of a picture being worth a thousand words.

Given this is essentially a one-shot, simply "a" story of this universe’s X-Men, the issue stands very strongly on its own. Knowing only that this is an alternate reality as well as the general convolutedness of the entirety of X-Men history…one doesn’t have to be following the rest of the Age of Apocalypse to follow this or to take this as "a story." For that matter, one doesn’t truly have to have read X-Men Chronicles #1, even.

For me, at least…the Age of Apocalypse doesn’t get much better than this; and perhaps for its immediate recency as of this typing, if I didn’t before I definitely now hold this as cream of the crop when it comes to Age of Apocalypse stuff.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Man #2

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xman002Choosing Sides

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Steve Skroce
Inkers: Mike Sellers, LaRosa, Conrad, Hanna
Colors: Mike Thomas, Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover: Steve Skroce
Edits: Lisa Patrick, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

We pick up a bit after the last issue–Forge’s group has continued their usual, but there’s a growing rift where Nate is gravitating toward the newcomer–Essex. Essex is pushing Nate to use his powers to their fullest, while Forge wants him to keep restrained and not draw attention. Theresa with her newfound powers has adopted the name Sonique and is closer to Nate than the others. Essex leads the group to a factory–if they take it out, they’ll be hitting Apocalypse where it hurts. On seeing the facility, Nate leaps into action, seeing too much of his own past here and refusing to allow it to happen to anyone else. Though the group emerges intact, things seem to be getting out of hand. Meanwhile, Nate takes Sonique with him on a psychic journey to investigate the mansion he’d seen, and she recognizes the figure as Magneto…just before their presence is detected and she breaks their psi-link. Brute pieces things together and finally recognizes Essex, and things kick into gear for the back half of this 4-part arc.

Story-wise, this is a fairly "compressed" issue without being dense. I like that there’s been some passage of time since the first issue–that’s allowed for more development and we get to skip nuanced details and such (like Nate actually meeting Essex and whatever awkwardness may have been there). It allows us to get further into the story and what’s going on, bypassing that and seeing contextually that much has transpired. Yet we still get reference back to the previous issue, tying things together and keeping this from being adrift in a limbo of continuity.

The art’s not bad, though doesn’t really do much for me positive or negative here: it just "is," and keeps the look/feel I associate with the characters here FOR this title. It may not be my favorite, but it definitely does its job, and a good one at that, overall. And though there are multiple inkers…I only notice that specifically from looking at the credits; I don’t think I even picked up on that otherwise.

I find myself considering that this title carried over beyond the Age of Apocalypse, which in a "meta" sense affects my (re)reading of this chapter of what is essentially just an opening arc for the character, introducing him and setting up motivation/context that would be fleshed out later.

While this is paced well for a 4-issue arc, it’s still "interesting" to consider that "only" two chapters in, this series is already HALF done…given the contemporary state of things where a 6-issue arc is the norm/expectation.

Despite the cliffhanger, I don’t feel all that "eager" to get to the next issue…though I’m not dissuaded, either. As a second issue, this lacks the newness of a first issue, the anticipation brought by a third/penultimate issue, as well as being far from a finale. That’s sort of a tough spot for all second issues of four-issue arcs/series.

But for all it may not be structurally, it’s a strong issue in and of itself and an enjoyable read within the ongoing whole of the Age of Apocalypse.

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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