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The ’90s Revisited: Uncanny X-Men #303

90s_revisited

uncanny_xmen_0303Going Through the Motions

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Special Guest Artist: Richard Bennett
Inks Pgs. 8, 14-18: Dan Green
Editor: Bob Harras
Cover Date: August 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

My first issue of Uncanny X-Men that I got off the shelf was #300…partly BECAUSE it was #300. Big, round number…shiny, foil sparkly cover…a group shot of a bunch of characters I recognized from the animated series…it was a great attention-grabber. (Even if right now, I wouldn’t be able to tell you 27 years later what that issue was ABOUT/what its plot was).

I then missed several issues, picking back up with #304 (Fatal Attractions) and found a newsstand copy of #303 (at least as I recall offhand).

And it was #303 that really stuck with me. I always remembered that it was an issue that actually moved me to tears…it hit hard. And it was a character death that then informed several key things going forward for a few years into 1999’s The Twelve and onward.

When I decided to re-read it as a random "grab an issue from a stack of recent quarter-bin hauls" I recalled the emotional impact…but figured since I knew what was coming, knew where things had gone, character arcs and returns…SURELY this time through would be a clinical thing for me to analyze and consider the issue in terms of reading as an almost-40-year-old versus having read at age 12 or so.

But wow, was I wrong on that front!

The issue opens on Jean Grey entering Professor X’s ready room to check on Jubilee, to see how she’s doing after what just happened. Jubilee puts on a tough front, but as she and Jean talk–and we as readers see the flashbacks–that front cracks, as we see Jubilee open up and begin to accept the enormity of what she’s just seen unfold. Namely, that despite the Professor and Moira doing everything they could…they were unable to SAVE Illyana. Meanwhile a squad of X-Men including Colossus–Illyana’s older brother–was on their way back. Jubilee had bonded a bit with the visiting Kitty Pryde, and through Kitty’s translating, found out that she–Jubilee–had actually been having a positive impact on the dying young girl. But then things ‘blew up’ as Illyana went into respiratory failure, and though they eventually were able to stabilize her physically…she was left comatose, unlikely to regain consciousness. Leaving consideration to be had of what the young girl would (have) want(ed). We get this from Jubilee’s self-deprecating point of view as she considers herself and how dumb it was to say, place Illyana’s Bamf doll in her arms, while "the adults" argued over what to do going forward.

And then she recounts Peter’s arrival after–his getting off the X-jet and asking why no one was looking after his sister and if they couldn’t be trusted to look after her, should he ever leave. Only for Xavier to break down, having to tell Peter that his sister was gone, that they did everything they could. She was alive when he left, and alive when the group had last communicated, but now, arriving home, his beloved little sister was gone (and he hadn’t gotten to say goodbye…he wasn’t there in time, he wasn’t able to save her, etc.)

Which is–there–some of my projecting. And I actually laid the comic down and pushed it away, failing to hold my own tears in check.

Because this one hit close to home. Really close to my heart. Easy to project, easy to put myself into the situation. To see from Jubilee’s side, her coping mechanism. To see the anguish in the others–in Xavier and Moira. To imagine being in Peter’s position, being told of the passing of a loved one when–even if it was expected as a chance coming up, wasn’t prepared for FOR THAT PARTICULAR MOMENT.

The writing is quite good. It carried a strong authenticity to it–from Jean going after Jubilee and just being there for her, to Jubilee and her reactions to events as they’d unfolded (in flashback) as well as her after-it-all tough front and eventually breaking down. While I don’t relish the death of a child or anyone…this left an impact on me 27 years ago and it ripped into my heart again this time. This is the sort of issue that made me a fan of the franchise. Not some big globetrotting adventure or 6-issue battle with or for Magneto, not some culmination of years of subplots and rumors of a legendary group destined to rise up and defeat a villain, nor the identity revealed of some secret traitor.

Just a (relatively) "quiet" issue involving the characters just being PEOPLE, being a family, being…"normal." Being RELATABLE.

And there was certainly some impact from the bulk of the issue being flashbacks. There’s a sense of trepidation as the issue opens, and as Jean and Jubilee begin to talk and it becomes obvious that something really important has happened. To become increasingly aware of what it was, and that it has already happened–there’s not that "will they or won’t they" wondering, and not even that "hope" of some last-second save. Just the details unfolding and dealing with the loss this family–immediate and extended–has suffered.

The art is good, but in a way, it’s almost forgettable. Not in a bad way, mind you–but in that it has no particular problems or such to distract from the story itself, and so the story is just experienced. For me, it’s also that the dialogue and the fact of what’s happened that drives the issue…the artwork is there because it’s a comic book, a visual medium. But it’s the characters’ interactions, what they have to say to each other about stuff that matters more. And there’s nothing for some big double-paged splash scenes missing dialogue. That the art "disappears" into the "story" makes it a strong positive to me.

The events of this issue come out of then-recent plot elements in the X-titles, particularly out of the crossover event The X-Cutioner’s Song. If I’m recalling correctly, Illyana’s death was the first from the Legacy Virus…before the virus had even been named. It heavily influenced immediate changes such as Colossus first defecting to Magneto for a time and then eventually spending some time overseas with Excalibur before ultimately returning to the X-Men and then dying himself to activate a cure for the Legacy virus…and later both brother and sister resurrected and so on to where-ever the X-books and all the characters are in 2020 preset-day.

The issue stands along pretty well the way it’s written. And as the cover proclaims–"If you read only ONE X-Title this month–this issue MUST be it!" If you find this issue in a bargain-bin: 25-cent, 50-cent, even $1 or so…it’s well worth the read, and without even really NEEDING much context. But having read it will lend contextual value to most anything else X-related to be read that was published from 1993-2000/2001 or so in particular…including the (in?)famous Age of Apocalypse.

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Showing Off the Shelves: Kotobukiya X-Men ’92

Earlier in the year, I discovered the Kotobukiya line of X-Men ’92 figures/models/statues.Where I’d originally only intended to get Rogue and Gambit, that quickly expanded until finally, I wound up with the entire line (that I’m presently aware of)!

kotobukiya_xmen92a

Professor X and Phoenix/Jean Grey were the only figures to come as single-characters, all the rest came in packs of 2. Jubilee came with Wolverine, and Storm came with Bishop.

kotobukiya_xmen92b

Gambit and Rogue came together, which is what set me off on this entire line. Cyclops and Beast make up the final pair.

The Bishop/Storm set was the most expensive for me, and I paid more than I’d have preferred–still a bit of buyer’s remorse there–but after missing one heckuva sale price at Black Friday, I decided to splurge and order them from BigBadToyStore just to HAVE them and not have to worry about them becoming even MORE extremely-exspensive if they’re "out of print" or such.

Despite that/leaving the cost off to the side…I really dig the set, and would certainly prefer to see more releases for it.

Most immediately, a "regular" Jean Grey, perhaps paired with a Morph (possibly with an "extra" head for "Dark Morph"); and then of course, some villains.

Magneto and Mr. Sinister would be definites for me, along with Apocalypse, perhaps Mystique, Blob, Pyro, and Avalanche. Perhaps swap Juggernaut for Mr. Sinister if we’d keep to the first season, though Jean in her Phoenix form is from beyond the 2nd season, even, so…yeah.

It’d even be great to see a sentinel, perhaps…though for the price of these-sized figures, I hate to consider what a Sentinel would cost from Kotobukiya!

Despite wanting more…this present set pretty much perfectly fits on two "floating" wall shelves I bought on Amazon; it wasn’t until I was mounting the shelves to the wall that I realized they’d be good for these figures.

I may look into getting some more of these shelves in the new year when I do some re-arranging of the basement space; I have a number of ideas there (plus thoughts toward some alternate shelving as most of my shelves have bowed significantly, and I reconfigure the overall space a bit to accommodate the last couple of years).

Time will definitely tell, though…as always!

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Some Reflecting on Recent Phoenix-y…Stuff

phoenix_resurrection_0005I’d had high hopes for Phoenix Resurrection/The Return of Jean Grey series. I was especially looking forward to the return of the character, period. But this 5-issue "event comic," quasi-weekly series gave me two $4.99 books with three $3.99s tossed in, and other than "Psychics disappear, X-Men encounter several foes thought dead, and find out Jean is living in a Phoenix-created artificial reality," not much seemed to really happen. Add to that some half-arsed (to me) marketing about a Jean Grey tie-in issue where I thought I had missed something at the start of the ‘event’ and then made darned sure to grab when it actually came out the week of the finale, and I wasn’t overly keen on it.

Then for that supposed-tie-in to basically have nothing at all to actually do with the Phoenix Resurrection series/event itself, it’s like…why, exactly, was I just conned into buying the final issue of a series, when it’s not the end of the character, not about the character I wanted, and doesn’t offer anything meaningful to my reading of the earlier issues of Phoenix Resurrection? It seems that the Psych Wars arc had stuff earlier that did pertain to Phoenix Resurrection, and I didn’t get those; but this is tangential at best.

jean_grey_0011Once several issues were out, I wasn’t going to "just" hold off for a paperback–gotta give Marvel "credit" for that–pumping this out as a weekly thing rather than monthly. Rather than "have to" wait even just a couple months for a collected edition, seemed simpler to just continue with the singles, getting to read the serialized story closer together at least. But there’s also the fact that we knew blatantly from the start well before the first issue even hit that yes, this WOULD actually have the REAL return of the REAL Jean Grey…so it’s not like it was, say, a decade-later third mini to go with Phoenix: Endsong and Phoenix: Warsong, where we could "wonder" if it would actually end with Jean back among the living or not, or leave her dead. Like reading something called The Death of Superman, you know the outcome…and so the journey there, the details become all the more important. And for me, frankly, this series failed to deliver on that. Nothing much in it was singularly memorable, really; except the confirmation that yeah, Jean’s back, and a brief cameo near the end of the final issue..

We had the surprise of a temporarily-resurrected Cyclops (and then being left with a corpse, not even "just" the renewed absence of the character). Sure, Jean wanted "one last talk" with her husband/former husband/whatever they considered themselves. But how fitting would it have been to have also brought him back, with her? Resurrecting her, bringing him back, them having to learn to deal with each other again after how things were going with them just before her death, to say nothing of the actions Cyclops himself took after M-Day and AvX and all of that? (‘course, with Xavier apparently being back, too…almost seems "no harm, no foul" or such…) But it was basically "just" a cameo.

jean_grey_10_psych_warsI suppose I figured with a weekly 5-issue series titled with The Return of Jean Grey, we’d get MORE in the way of a contained "struggle" with her of simply being back; like they’d find her during issue 2, have 3-4 with stuff going on and her re-meeting the still-living, and perhaps by 5 have some big crisis come about because she IS back, where she’d have to face it and maybe face the likelihood of being killed again or something. As such, with the various X-characters dealing with missing psychics, the appearance of characters thought dead, etc. it seems like this would have worked far better as a bunch of subplots perhaps scattered across several titles, that would all then lead together into a one-shot issue; where the characters–having been brought together by events–would be there, and Phoenix Resurrection #5 could have been the oneshot or whatever.

A couple weeks back–the week after Phoenix Resurrection #5–I saw a lone copy of Jean Grey #10 remaining, and flipped through it and saw Phoenix stuff, so went ahead and bought it, feeling rather curious/suspicious. Sure enough, that one issue, not even branded as part of Phoenix Resurrection, had more conflict with the Phoenix Force and such, was more satisfying (BRIEF though it seemed!) than the entirety of the actual Phoenix Resurrection event/mini-series.

xmen_red_0001Then there was X-Men: Red #1. A bit larger physically, and $4.99 as a single issue…like last year’s X-Men: Prime, X-Men: Gold, and X-Men: Blue #1s. It’s got Nightcrawler, and our returned "real" Jean Grey, the adult, original, non-time-traveling character. Something to the issue as a whole has me considering getting #2, though I was not overly impressed with the issue or this newer take on Jean. I wanted her back as part of a team, back interacting with Cyclops, Wolverine, and various other ’90s mainstays…or something. On the five issue mini-series and now "headlining" a new series…I’m not seeing anything but "nostalgia" to "sell" me on the character. Like…great, now she’s back, but now what? What makes her singularly interesting and worthwhile TO get this sort of treatment?

I guess time will tell.

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The Weekly Haul: Week of February 7, 2018

Been a long while since doing one of these posts. But, since I’ve not been in the mood for other posts, wanted to get something up this week. And this week does have several big books in it!

weeklyhaul_02072018a

First off, the Swamp Thing Winter Special that I’ve been looking forward to for awhile. Though it’s an $8 book, it boasts more than two issues’ worth of pages, maybe three…justifying its price. And as a "squarebound" issue, it’ll be able to go on the bookshelf with a growing number of such issues from the last few years. X-Men: Red #1 is here, and at $5, needs to do a LOT to justify its price…though I suppose ultimately it’ll simply fit with X-Men: Prime and X-Men: Blue and X-Men: Gold from last year. I’m definitely a fan of Adam Warlock, so at least somewhat interested in this, if only as a curiosity. Not so keen on Starlin feeling driven from Marvel, though, and haven’t been overly keen on the character in hands other than his. So we’ll see.

Then, of course, Superman and Batman, basically "givens" for me. And Justice League if only because I haven’t figured out where/if to break my run.

weeklyhaul_02072018b

Rogue & Gambit as I am a fan of the characters, and together. Been debating whether or not I’m sticking all the way with Avengers: No Surrender, but definitely in favor of a single title instead of umpteen different Avengers books with erratic shipping schedules. I picked up Jean Grey #10 that I’d considered last month, but since it lacked the Phoenix Resurrection logo, figured it wasn’t going to actually tie to that (boy, was I ever wrong there!)

Getting toward the end of Bane: Conquest, and same for Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica and The Jetsons.

I’ve a lot of reading to catch up on, and find myself wondering just how it was I used to get to read as much as I did just a couple years ago. It’s a shame there aren’t regularly-released "audio-comics" for commuters to listen to and get something of a story out of it. Maybe not the art itself, but…something.

Whatever the case…a huge, expensive start to February, and certainly reminds me of the need to be cutting back on titles, and to REALLY assess what I’m gonna get around to reading right away vs. just as well off to wait for a collected volume!

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Phoenix Resurrection and Death and Legacy and Reprints

phoenixresurrection2017_0001It’s kinda interesting to me that I apparently had the same thought as Marvel last week. Namely, looking back to the last "true" appearance of a "live" Jean Grey to juxtapose the first issue of her apparent return. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

I already posted a review of the actual issue–Phoenix Resurrection #1–with comments on the issue itself as any other issue.

But here, I want to get a bit more of a look at the cover, the "death of" issue from 13 years ago, as well as Marvel‘s reprint of that issue as one of its True Believers $1 issues.

While I’m not keen on Phoenix Resurrection #1’s cover showing off a Dark Phoenix (I"d swear I’ve seen marketing with Jean in her traditionally-green Phoenix outfit), it does make the cover go a bit better with its 13-some-year-old-counterpart, if the issues are looked at as bookends of sorts.

Of course, I would be remiss, as an Ultraverse fan, if I didn’t bring up the fact that this is NOT the first time we’ve had a mini-series/mini-event Phoenix Resurrection. Back in November 1995 or so, the Phoenix Force crossed into the Ultraverse for a story that spanned seven 3-page segments ("flipbooks") of the seven then-current Ultraverse titles, leading into several double-sized one-shots: Phoenix Resurrection Genesis, Phoenix Resurrection Revelations, and Phoenix Resurrection Aftermath.

phoenixresurrection1995_poster

Pardon the quality of the Ultraverse image, as it’s actually a photo of a poster in a frame behind glass, on a wall with less than ideal lighting/reflection.

On to the current issue(s) at hand, though…

death_and_return_of_phoenix

I’d already thought, ahead of last Wednesday’s releases, that I wanted to track down a copy of New X Men #150 for "nostalgia" and as the opening "bookend" of stuff. Perhaps it’s the conscious knowledge of how old the issue is, but #150 actually looks quite dated, to me. Yet, with all the fire/flame effect on it, it fits right in, really, with the new 2017 issue. Even the cover dress is really not all that far off.

death_of_phoenix_orig_vs_true_believers_01

Marvel had the same thought/inclination, apparently, as they put out a True Believers #1 issue reprinting New X Men #150. Perhaps showing the modernity of stuff, even back to the early 2000s, the image doesn’t seem to have really been doctored or modified, outside of having "cover copy" swapped around–in an age of digital/digitally-available art, there’s a lot more that can (easily? simply?) be done, I’d say.

death_of_phoenix_orig_vs_true_believers_02

To hold/feel the two issues, the reprint felt incredibly skinny, like it was physically only about half the size. I recall being rather miffed at the True Believers reprint of X-Men: Alpha a couple years ago NOT having the entire issue in it, and feared the same had happened here!

But on side-by-side comparison, this reprint simply omits…a huge over-abundance of ads! In the original issue, the vast bulk of the issue was in single-page increments, with a story-page on the left, and an ad on the right (occasionally with another 2-page ad to follow). The thing felt so huge and bulky because it was padded out a good 50% or more with ads! So this "skinny" by comparison reprint has the entirety of the issue’s actual content, just minus the ads.

I was also interested at the lack of "previously" caption in the issue…it certainly would have benefited this reprint to have it, to further contextualize what someone was reading, particularly if they were getting the reprint TO read the story for the first time, not having read the original edition.

The original issue–as an extra-sized (even without the ads thing–was $3.50…something that would surely be at least $4.99 if not $5.99+ nowadays. And reprinted in full here for a mere $1. The art’s the same, maybe some slight differences on the coloring, but both issues being "modern," there’s not much of anything that would need to be "remastered" from old paper styling and whatnot.

With the reprint, I felt a bit foolish buying a new copy of the original issue, but I’d planned on getting that one for this sort of comparison, if only for my own sake, but I did get it on sale (for about $2.80, so even with the reprint, I got both for less than what a single, standard, regular Marvel issue would cost).

Phoenix Resurrection (2017) #1 [Review]

phoenixresurrection2017_0001Chapter One: Frustrate the Sun

Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Penciler: Leinil Francis Yu
Inker: Gerry Alanguilan
Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Main Cover: Leinil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho
Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen & Anthony Gambino
Assistant Editors: Christina Harrington & Chris Robinson
Associate Editor: Darren Shan
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February 2018
Cover Price: $4.99

I read the first couple issues of Morrison‘s NEW X MEN run, along with the first issue or two of that "new era" of Uncanny X-Men as well (and I think same for X-Force and/or X-Statix and Soldier X) before trailing off for awhile. I got back in toward the latter part of the run, having obtained the first two "deluxe oversized hardcovers" and not wanting to wait (then) for another. I remember making a special trip to the Toledo comic shop while visiting a friend for her graduation in December 2003, largely to get #150…and reading it left me with quite a surprise. Jean…dead? Well, SURELY, being Marvel, she’d be back pretty darned quick. A year, maybe two? Endsong kinda let me down, and I’m not sure if I ever actually read Warsong.

Move through time–2004, 2008, 2012…the Jean from the past was brought to the present (how long would THAT last? A year or two? The premise of the "original five" coming to the present sucked me into All-New X-Men for a bit!). 20012 to 2016, still the "original five." Into 2017…now the very tail-end of 2017, and we have this issue. Phoenix Resurrection #1 (never mind that 1995 gave us a Phoenix Resurrection in the Ultraverse books!).

Unlike the anecdotal "disaster" of the ordering requirements for the main wave of Legacy Lenticulars (LL, anyone?), this one’s "main cover" is *A* lenticular…but this one is actually done "right." Gone is the blurred mess of two static images blended together to approximate a real-life "gif," here we have an image of several of our mutants reacting to the flaming appearance of Dark Phoenix–Jean Grey–in the Red Costume…and we get that 3D/slight movement effect that DC has used to great effect and that had put to shame Marvel‘s versions. My main complaint with the cover is that it is at best symbolic, or some sort of prelim for use with an eventual collected edition…as has become the "norm" for modern comics, the cover does not necessarily depict what’s contained within the issue itself.

Visually, this is a pretty book, and I enjoyed the art itself throughout. As I’m no longer closely familiar with much of the X-verse, and am aware of plenty of recent changes and such, nothing much stood out in a negative way for me, and I marked inconsistencies up to my unfamiliarity; nothing seemed horrendous or off-putting to me.

Where I have problems with the visuals is layouts: the issue has 30 pages of story, 32 content pages if you count the "cinematic" double-page splash with the series’ logo and credits for the issue (in place of an opening/frontispiece to be simply omitted in collected format). While I applaud the relatively "strict" panels/gutters–a "classic" sort of page layout rather than EVERYTHING being full-bleed quasi-panels and such, I was not thrilled at so few panels per page–many pages having a mere 3-4 panels, a number of them having only 2, with very few words to a page. One page has a whopping THREE WORDS: "Elsewhere," "Well," and "fudge." (18 letters, not 18 words!). Yeah, the art is an integral part of telling (selling?) the story, but given this IS a comic book and not actually cinematic video, I’m rarely keen on "wasted space" trying to imitate another medium.

Story-wise, I did not feel that this issue remotely lived up to the hype or expectation–at least not the hype and expectation that I personally laid at its feet. Phoenix Resurrection. The Return of Jean Grey. Dark Phoenix (not Phoenix) depicted on the cover. Shiny cover. Surely Jean would appear in this issue, with plenty of questions as to her authenticity, what brought her back, why she’s back, what it means for "Young Jean," how it’ll affect other characters, if it has anything to do with "Regular Real Not-Old-Man Logan/Wolverine" being back, etc. Appear in this issue, set up questions and four more issues to dig into the details, the effects, push this story itself forward, etc.

While I can guess that the Jean we see toward the end of the issue is supposed to be "our" Jean (though whether it implies she’s been alive awhile–long enough to have a job and home and life with no overt recollection of life as one of the X-Men, or is some sort of dream-sequence or illusion or some sort of alternate life in her mind as her body heals/comes back/whatever) is not clear to me as of this single issue, on a typical single-read-through that I give whatever (new) issue(s) I read. I don’t see THAT she’s back (or not). I don’t see if there’s actually another force behind her return (the Phoenix Force) or if this is some sort of self-resurrection from her having BEEN one with the Phoenix Force in the past. Is there likely some other Big Bad waiting in the wings? Other than Jean maybe showing up/being back and having to figure out for herself what it means to her as herself, what’s the driving conflict of this title? What makes it justify five weekly issues (and I think a tie-in for a sixth issue) vs. Jean just showing up again/being a subplot in some sort of main title?

I’m curious about stuff–especially given I was there when she died back in 2003’s New X Men #150, and expected her return at least a decade ago–so will get the next issue, at least. And I would not be surprised if this was a good opening chapter to the eventual "graphic novel" when this series is collected into hardback, deluxe oversized hardback, and/or TPB. But as a single-issue, as a first issue of a mini-series, I’m not impressed with this, and would not recommend it if you’re looking just to do a toe-dip on stuff…especially at $4.99 instead of $3.99. As an art piece, the cover wouldn’t be bad to hang on a wall or such. Unless you’re eager to read/follow along in "real time" as issues are released (and given the title/subtitle, it’s not like there’s really any mystery as to whether or not it’s actually Jean, if she’ll actually be back, etc.) you’re probably better off waiting a couple months for the inevitable collected edition, if anything.

Otherwise, if you’re willing to invest in a 6 issue story within about 5 weeks, and you’re a fan of Jean herself, I’d say this is worth getting, as an opening chapter, that is by no means a stand-alone issue/story.

The ’90s Revisited: X-Men Series 1, Cards 19-27

Well, it’s been a couple weeks longer than intended since revisiting these X-Men cards…but here we are, with the next "page" of 9 cards!

xmen_series1_full_019-027

With the exception of Kylun, I’m "familiar" with all of these characters, though some a bit more than others.

Let’s get into these and see what thoughts the cards bring up for me!

019a

This is definitely Cable as I remember him. Huge arms and muscles, giant guns, the scars and glowy-eye thing going on…and for this image, look! Even a random chain thrown in! Totally "the ’90s" visually–or at least, a PART of the ’90s.

019b

Well…this card is certainly "dated." Nathan Summers. Son of Cyclops. But back in ’92, he was just some new-ish unknown, not yet tied tightly into the X-Men mythos and all that. And since this card was published, we’ve learned a whole lot about his origins, the "bionic limbs," etc. Though there was a recent-ish run of Cable and X-Force or such, I’d say by and large his time with X-Force or the New Mutants is more a footnote in the character’s history these days.

020a

This image of Archangel is rather iconic. It’s typical Jim Lee for sure, and I’m pretty sure it was used as the cover for at least one comic, if only one that was highlighting card art in much large scale! Though I was aware of Archangel, this particular version of the character was a bit before my time…this (to me) still carries clear shades of the ’80s; it wasn’t terribly long into my time following these characters that the metal wings disappeared and Warren had actual wings again.

020b

To a certain degree, I don’t think I originally associated Archangel with Angel, as an "original X-Man." It’s sorta interesting to see the changes the character has gone through…as well as the "diluting" of his status as "Death," with seemingly so many other characters having held the role as well.

I’d forgotten the notion of the wings exerting any control over him…probably because that was largely done away with by the time I got into things.

021a

I definitely like this costume, or at least this rendition of it. Yet I’m not certain if I’ve actually read any "new" issues with this version of the character. Offhand I primarily know the character from the cartoon in the ’90s, and for his role with Generation X.

021b

I also did not recall the character being an X-villain, though I do vaguely recall the character’s appearance in Giant-Size X-Men #1. Also seems like a "given" to me his relation to Black Tom Cassidy.

022a

I’ve never been overly keen on any of Kitty’s codenames…to me, the "default" name to the character is her name–Kitty Pryde. I first "met" the character from the animated Pryde of the X-Men, which was itself my first/earliest exposure to the X-Men, several years before my conscious getting into the characters.

022b

This card seems suitably generic and basis…hardly any "contradition" to the last 25+ years, except I’m not sure she’s a teenager anymore (or if she is, she’s incredibly mature for one..!)

023a

Ok, I’d guess here’s a character that may have Once Been A Big Deal, but I wouldn’t have been able to place offhand…though given the theme of these cards and ranking my familiarity with properties, my first guess WOULD have been Excalibur for this character, had I not seen the back of the card already!

023b

Though that sounds distinctly ’90s, it fits the ’80s as well. Nothing really to say except I’m not familiar with the character, and this doesn’t exactly prompt any interest in me…though perhaps part of that is that I don’t know that the character has appeared or had any significance, period, for over two decades…

024a

Typical-ish Jean…another character that I’ve "always" known by her own name more than any codename. And appearing here both very familiar and yet looking a bit more muscled and "older" than a number of other characters. Yet perhaps still a bit on the "young side" for me at my present age.

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I was rather oblivious to the whole Scott (Cyclops)/Jean thing at first, their interest in each other being a bit of a "surprise" to me when it manifested in the cartoon; ditto the "triangle" aspect with Wolverine. It’s been interesting to see the various takes on the character over the years, and learn more about her past from before I got into the comics. This also reminds me how much I’d like to have this "original" Jean back, in place of the "teen Jean" taking over in contemporary Marvel comics.

025a

Colossus is a mixed sort of character for me…one I feel like I’ve known quite a bit about, and yet still a bit of a "stranger" to read about. He was largely a "side" character to me at first, with one of my earliest comics with him being Uncanny X-Men #304 when he "defected" to Magneto.

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Another early memory for me of Colossus is the cartoon series, coming shortly after the end of the Cold War and whatnot, early in my developing any sort of consciousness for history or world events. Though not mentioned here, one of my favorite portrayals of the character is his friendship with Wolverine and Nightcrawler. I believe he was "stuck" in his "metal form" at the time when I got into the X-stuff; though that obviously didn’t last.

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I’m pretty sure I first came across Warpath in X-Force, probably the crossover with Spider-Man where they fought the Juggernaut and Black Tom.

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Though I’ve long known Warpath’s relationship to the X-Men via Thunderbird, I often mixed the two names. Seems rather cliché in a way to realize how many active members of the team "started out" as "villains" or at least antagonists. These cards also seem to lowball weights, as it seems almost impossible for characters to be so light given muscle mass and such at least!

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I’m not sure when I first found this character. This particular image doesn’t strike me as overly iconic, though the costume basically screams X-Factor to me. I probably did discover the character in that title.

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Another "early memory" I have of Polaris is–I think–a reprint of Giant-Size X-Men, perhaps in Classic X-Men/X-Men Classic. I feel like even now, too much of my thoughts on the character center on her being/not-being the daughter of Magneto, or her relationship to Havok.


I guess while familiar with more of these characters, I don’t necessarily have a LOT to say about them…at least not the way I’d want to in a post like this.

Here’s my first post in this series, covering cards #s 1-9

And my second post, covering cards #s 10-18

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: Factor X #4

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factorx004Reckonings

Writer: John Francis Moore
Pencilers: Steve Epting w/ Terry Dodson
Inker: Al Milgrom
Lettering: Richard Starkings, Comicraft
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Cover: Steve Epting
Editors: Kelly Corvese, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

The order has been given–the pens of humans are to be culled. The newly "promoted" Alex Summers lords it over the others to enforce the order. Meanwhile, Cyclops and Jean are trying to save the humans, help them escape. This leads to the two having to fight through multiple obstacles (though they find unexpected allies). Things ultimately come down to brother vs. brother, and a new leader of the would-be-culled humans. Also meanwhile, Angel’s club is shut down, while Worthington himself ditches the place, essentially laying aside his neutrality in things.

This issue really does not offer any true finality or closure to what’s been set up throughout…more, it’s the fourth chapter of this side-trip following Alex, Scott, and (Dark) Beast and whatnot–our glimpse into things going on within Apocalypse’s ranks with characters we’re familiar with from the "regular" universe. To get finality for these characters and their arc within AoA, one definitely needs to follow this with X-Men: Omega.

The story, though, is good, and AS a story I don’t really have much to say on it; the writing is solid and consistent and not unexpected. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s also something to Cyclops as written here that made me think he’s portrayed as a lot more interesting than I recall his being at the time in the regular Marvel universe. Perhaps the notion of his having served with Sinister and Apocalypse at all, or a number of other potential angles of the character that could be explored to answer "Why is he where and how he is now?"

My surprise with the issue’s creative side is just how much I really like the art. My one actual "problem" with the visuals is Jean’s hair–I’d swear she’s had much shorter hair in prior appearances, where Jean in this issue has the longer hair of her 616-counterpart of the time. I could be annoyed at the inconsistency…but I prefer long-haired Jean as depicted here, so I like it.

I’m not nearly as familiar with Havok in general, and it’s been rather strange seeing him as so thorough a villain in the Age of Apocalypse (same for Beast). Still, there’s a lot more than could be explored between just Alex and Scott’s relationship, that it’s sort of regrettable this four-issue journey is over.

I’ve enjoyed the series, and enjoyed this issue. Were it a self-contained mini-series I’d almost certainly be quite disappointed at the ending. As-is, it leads into X-Men: Omega, and I recall a definite end-point for Jean, Scott, and Alex as well as the fate of the Beast; looking ahead to that, it occurs to me that Omega serves in many ways as a #5 for the various minis, with Alpha having served as a #0.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Weapon X #2

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weaponx002Fire in the Sky!

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Inks: Dan Green
Colors: Joe Rosas
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Cover: Adam Kubert
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

On reading the first page of this issue, I felt lost, and actually re-checked the cover. Yep–this IS #2. Not #3 or 4…I didn’t miss an issue. I don’t actually remember the ending to the first issue, but opening on Weapon X wading to shore amidst refugee/survivors, screaming for Jean definitely threw me a bit.

That’s where the issue opens–Logan’s just located Jean, who left to help with the evacuation of the humans from North America. The two reunite, a definite distance/rift between them that neither seems to want to acknowledge. There’s an attack, and the two leap in to help, though it brings things to a head between them and they part ways. Returning to the Human High Council, Logan is stopped by Mariko, and while the two converse another attack commences, and Logan again leaps into action in a way only he can. By the time the attack is over, Jean has left…though Logan is once more able to follow thanks to their psi-link, and the years of partnership between the two reach a tipping point.

This issue definitely feels like a “middle chapter” of a story. We’re thrown in the deep end at the issue’s beginning, and left with an unresolved situation at its end. At its end, we’re halfway through, having been introduced to Logan (Weapon X) and Jean in their status quo, we’ve witnessed their initial mission to completion and then further development of their situation, and things rapidly shifting into place for what I loosely recall of their placement for the far end of the Age of Apocalypse story.

I do like Hama‘s writing, and it’s still interesting to me to look back and realize what he’d done with the Wolverine character (and here, Weapon X) long before I ever recognized his GI Joe work. I touched on the notion covering the previous issue, but saw hints of it again in this issue: while this Weapon X is this reality’s version of Wolverine, there IS a darkness that I suppose I could “accept”–given what I recall of the ending of this Age of Apocalypse epic–morphing into what I considered a ridiculous and stupid thing in more recent years, NEARLY 20 years after the fact.

There’s an authenticity here that I appreciate, and while the story doesn’t leave me chomping at the bit for the next issue, I’m not disappointed to have read this one.

The art is quite good, and I continue to really enjoy Kubert‘s take on things, particularly Weapon X’s hair. That, combined with the burnt-critter version and then seeing the hair growing back over the span of a number of pages was cool–a sort of detail that worked well and conveyed how “tough” the character is physically.

Weapon X may not be my favorite of the Age of Apocalypse titles, but it’s not one I’ve dreaded reading…it falls somewhere in the middle or a neutral place if I were to rank ’em. This was a good issue, and ties in with stuff unfolding in Amazing X-Men, and while this stands alone overall, it’s great to see reference to other chunks of the whole, as this series is not unfolding in a vacuum.

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