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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Calibre #4

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xcalibre004On Fire

Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencils: Ken Lashley
Inks: Tom Wegrzyn with Philip Moy
Colors: Joe Rosas
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Cover:
Editors: Suzanne Gaffney, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Damask, Switchback, Mystique, and Nightcrawler pause for a moment before heading back to Avalon to try again to convince Destiny to return with Kurt to Magneto. Before long, a new presence is discovered…the Shadow King has arrived, and causes all sorts of death and destruction. He’s able to possess others, trigger parts of their mind…yet by possessing he can cause physical danger for others while he himself–as a psionic entity–continues on if a host body is destroyed. Eventually he possesses Mystique, triggering a desperate idea for Kurt. Utilizing teamwork, a combination of his own powers and those of Switchback and Damask, Kurt leads his "X-Calibre" team to take on the Shadow King, despite the dream that was Avalon now being so much ash and remnants of destruction.

Here we are with another "final issue" of "a four issue series," and again we don’t have a true ending so much as a turning point or point of continuity, where a fleshed-out adventure moves characters as pieces around a board to get them where they need to be for X-Men: Omega.

Unlike the previous issues, I read this in eagerness to get THROUGH it…the end of the Age of Apocalypse is in sight and I am very much looking forward to getting to X-Men Omega. Like previous issues, I didn’t recall any details of this series, so it reads like a "new" issue, though I knew if not its endpoint, at least its end result. Given my mindset reading this, I didn’t notice much of anything distinctly Ellis in the story. I simply saw the characters, watched the story unfold, and got to the end of the issue sooner than expected, not realizing how much ground is yet to be covered between this final page and where Kurt and Destiny go in X-Men: Omega.

The art holds to a consistent quality; characters look familiar to my memory of prior issues, and the art itself never distracts. The layouts, however, prove distracting much as in Weapon X, as there are multiple double-page spreads where I have to physically rotate the entire issue 90 degrees to read the sideways double-page top to bottom. Forcing such movement proved quite distracting.

All in all…not a bad issue, not a great issue. Characters picked up with the term "X-Calibre" and used it as a team-name to describe the group, which is sort of disappointing to me after thinking for awhile since the previous issue how cool it was to have the title referenced as it was on a "meta" level without actually being otherwise referenced within the story. Granted, it FITS in this way, it just changes things a bit. And we again get an ending of "intent" though we have to see actual action to get the characters from here (point A) to X-Men: Omega (point B) or trust that it’ll be explained as having happened off-panel.

The end is in sight, and I think I’d’ve enjoyed this issue more in and of itself if I weren’t so eager to get to the end of everything.

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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Weapon X #4

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weaponx004Into the Maelstrom!

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

Weapon X and Emma Frost open the issue, showing Gateway a holographic projection of North America…the destruction, the death, the whole mess–as they seek to convince him to lead the humans’ armada to Apocalypse’s door. Though counter-intuitive, it ends up being Logan’s in-your-face attitude that ultimately convinces him–not the images of Apocalypse’s atrocities. Moving to the armada, as things get underway they’re attacked by Pierce, who has also alerted Apocalypse’s forces of the coming assault. Pierce is surprised by a trick not exactly up Logan’s sleeve that allows him to save Gateway…who in turn tries one last gambit to get the Armada where it’s headed.

I’d previously "written off" the events of X-Universe as being entirely tangential to stuff and unimportant…the references it gets in this issue shows–at least–that effort is being made to have it matter, and I suppose it actually does, just not in any essential way. Much of this issue is "action," mixed with some foreshadowing. Though the scene with Apocalypse leaving Magneto’s interrogation and showing off a gene-tank to his minion adds context for Carol’s appearance, explains a fatal flaw in Apocalypse (he could easily stop the armada but chooses to allow things to play out just for the entertainment, justifying it that if he WOULD actually be brought down, hey–"survival of the fittest" and all that) and fills a couple pages.

I do feel somewhat disappointed in this issue–I think I feel like while we’ve SEEN a lot of Weapon X here, we haven’t really gotten to KNOW the character. There’s plenty of posturing, but for me at least, I "hear" and see WOLVERINE more than I do this character. Sure, semantics and all, this IS the Wolverine of the AoA reality and all, but the character serves more as "just another character" amidst the Human High Council and such. There’s something to be said of the character not only being capable of but actually working as part of a team, serving as an "agent" of (in this case, the Human High Council) and whatnot…but in retrospect it seems like Logan’s been a small player in his own title.

I like the visuals of the issue overall. I don’t quite "get" visually that Logan’s arm is all that damaged, and while I appreciate that he IS shot on-panel, it looks a bit "convenient" in a sense, like a box being checked. Otherwise, no real complaints on the art, outside of the usual–I don’t like the sideways double-page spreads, as turning a page and then realizing I have to further physically rotate the way I’m holding the comic itself is a huge distraction.

This issue is definitely a product of its time–the 1990s–both hokey and "fitting." Logan chomping a cigar, the various characters’ posturing and recklessness just to show how "cool" they are, etc. Still, it makes for an issue that feels like that bit in a movie where you realize that what’s come before is about to fall by the wayside for the climactic stuff that’ll end the whole thing and leave you barely remembering the story from the first 2/3 to 3/4 of the story thus far.

Had this been a contemporary series, I would not be surprised if Logan would have interacted with characters in X-Universe, as some of that stuff could have been folded together, this series’ chunk of story having such a huge involvement of the HHC. Weapon X doesn’t really tie much up, outside of Pierce being removed from the equation…but where we leave off here has a huge impact, if I’m correctly recalling, on the events that unfold in X-Men: Omega.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Calibre #3

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xcalibre003Body Heat

Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencils: Ken Lashley
Inks: Tom Wegrzyn, Philip Moy
Colors: Joe Rosas, Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings, Comicraft
Cover: Ken Lashley
Editors: Suzanne Gaffney, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: May 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Three issues in, and Nightcrawler has finally found Mystique (actually, she found him) though the reunion isn’t the greatest as they still have work ahead of them–getting to Destiny…something Mystique is actually quite hesitant on, for her own reasons. The two eventually get to Avalon, connect with Destiny…though SHE is hesitant to leave, speculating that it could be her leaving that causes everything to be destroyed as it appeared in her visions. Still, the place is found out and Mystique and Nightcrawler defend the group against Apocalypse’s agents–Damask and Dead Man Wade. Realizing the beauty of the place, though, Damask turns on Wade and he’s taken out. The group–Nightcrawler, Mystique, Switchback, and Damask–then prepares to take Destiny and get out.

Toward the end of the issue, Switchback asks Mystique about the bullets she has, the only markings being an "X." Mystique explains them:

"They WERE Magnum loads for a .44 calibre, but I customized them. The ‘X’ was kind of a joke."

And thus we get the title of this series: X-Calibre, a literalness that works, and juxtaposes nicely with the regular X-title Excalibur, referencing the legendary sword. The fact that that is worked into this reminds me of what I often very much enjoy in movies that seem to have a random title–explanation is given within the story as to the title…perhaps explicit, perhaps not…but noticeable when caught and yet not particularly intrusive. We also get a brief exchange between Nightcrawler and Mystique suggesting they both–in the Age of Apocalypse–know who Kurt’s father is, though I don’t believe THAT was revealed until nearly a decade later in the main Marvel universe.

This issue moves things forward into a second act, in a way. The first act (issues 1-2) involved Nightcrawler seeking Mystique in order to be able to then seek Destiny. The "finding" occurring at the end of last issue left this issue for them to proceed in seeking Destiny, and now we’re left with Avalon no longer being safe and though they HAVE Destiny, they still have to get her to Magneto to do her thing.

And as with the earlier issues, this was an enjoyable enough read. It may not be my favorite, but it’s not bad. I had to flip back through to find where Switchback came in, having totally glossed over her as an incidental character and not realizing she’d be significant at the issue’s end.

Overall I very much enjoyed the art, especially the first page with Nightcrawler and Mystique–linework, coloring, all of it–the two characters definitely look the part of mother/son (if not husband/wife or such)–the family appearance is there. I don’t quite "get" the sideways-double-page layouts from this time period, and though that’s mainly been something I’ve noticed in Wolverine (and thus Weapon X) opening this issue to that brought it back to conscious thought. That was the main ‘distraction’ to reading the issue, though.

I actually don’t recall anything offhand from the fourth issue, so whatever transpires between this and Destiny’s role in X-Men: Omega will be like another "new issue" for me…something I do look forward to.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Weapon X #3

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weaponx003The Common Right of Toads and Men

Writer: Larry Hama
Penciler: Adam Kubert
Inks: Dan Green and Mike Sellers
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Cover: Adam Kubert
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: May 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Having "lost" Jean in the previous issue (she can be followed into Factor X #3), Logan heads to Wundagore Mountain seeing Gateway on behalf of the Human High Council. He runs into a couple of cyborgs–humans who voluntarily allowed themselves to be "enhanced" to serve Apocalypse–guarding the place. After dealing with them, he finds Carol Danvers and the two ascend to find Gateway. Meanwhile, the High Council’s resolve deepens. Carol, Logan, and Gateway are attacked by the Cyborgs (who melded for survival) as well as Pierce and Vultura…and after the fight, Logan faces the quasi-success of his mission.

This issue really felt like a whole new one for me–I’d completely forgotten the entirety of this chapter as well as the characters involved. The story isn’t all that thrilling to me despite the action…but then, I’m not a fan of the antagonists–I vaguely recognize Pierce as having a 616-counterpart though I don’t recall the context, and the cyborgs are relatively generic, providing something for Weapon X to fight and dispatch to show how tough and rough he is. Carol Danvers being here seems arbitrary, like her inclusion is simply to have a woman fighting at Logan’s side. Throwing my mind back to 1995, I think Carol was "off the table" at the time with Marvel so this appearance would have been her being "brought back for the story." As such I’m ok with it overall.

Kubert‘s art doesn’t work for me quite as well in this outing (thanks to my disinterest in the antagonists) though I wouldn’t call it bad. It simply doesn’t blow me away in any positive manner.

Passive as it sounds–I didn’t NOT enjoy the issue, but I didn’t find myself particularly enjoying it. It felt like this issue was treading water a bit, moving us from bad-ass Logan & Jean and then the pair splitting, to a "key reveal" I recall happening in the 4th issue right before going on to X-Men: Omega. Still, for me this is a much more satisfying issue than many contemporary comics.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Calibre #2

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xcalibre002Burn

Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencils: Roger Cruz, Renato Arlem, Charles Mota, Eddie Wagner
Inks: Phil Moy, Tom Wegrzyn, Harry Candelario
Colors: Joe Rosas, Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings, Comicraft
Cover: Ken Lashley
Editors: Suzanne Gaffney, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Some of these covers stick out to me and are rather instantly recognizable by image alone, without or in spite of the logos. This cover, though, could be brand new and I wouldn’t be able to tell you one way or the other. I suppose that’s because I only clearly recall broad strokes and not the details of the series.

This issue picks up on Destiny and her vision of Avalon burning. We then jump to an attack on Apocalypse’s forces, before cutting to Nightcrawler suffocating with fellow refugees in a sub. Though he escapes, others are not so fortunate. When the sub surfaces and seeks repairs, the refugees are transferred…and only his hanging back saves Nightcrawler from suffering the fate of the others. His inability to save them, though, leads our hero to attack Callisto and her minions, meteing out death for death-dealing. Finally, confronting Callisto herself, part of Nightcrawler’s mission fulfills itself in the arrival of Mystique.

This is a rather dark story, facing the dark elements in a way that somehow hits me a bit closer than some of the other titles’ situations…perhaps Nightcrawler saving himself but not anyone else–regardless of the fact of his INABILITY to do so. Prior to re-reading this I could only have told you that whatever this issue contains must have happened, but would not have been able to tell even the context of the cover image or anything that went down in this issue. The dark tone fits, as well as Nightcrawler’s own actions–marking him as quite different from his "regular universe" counterpart. I liked the intro page included here, something years ahead of its time: catching me up as a reader without forced exposition/contextualization eating up valuable space within the story itself.

I’m surprised, looking at the credits, to see so many involved with the Pencils and Inks…simply reading the issue, I didn’t even consciously notice anything amiss in the art that would even suggest so many creators involved. That’s certainly a good thing art-wise; or at the least says something about my enjoying the story enough to not notice.

In and of itself, there’s really nothing "special" to this issue; it’s a middle chapter lacking the newness and nature of an intro issue, it isn’t a penultimate nor finale chapter. It moves pieces around the board (so to speak) and gets things in place for the back half of the series.

While I look forward to reading Nightcrawler and Mystique’s interactions in the next issue, it’s not in a chomping-at-the-bit sort of way. I am moreso looking forward to getting to  finishing up on the #2s and getting to month #3.

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.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Calibre #1

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xcalibre001The Infernal Gallop

Writer: Warren Ellis
Penciller: Ken Lashley
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Inkers: Wegrzyn, Moy, Larosa
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Cover: Ken Lashley
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

I was eager to get to this issue for what I remembered as a focus on Nightcrawler. While it’s not quite AS focused on the character as I thought I remembered, there’s still enough, and I found it rather interesting to revisit the character and address some perceived issues with more contemporary takes on the character.

In a quasi-cinematic or television-like way, the issue opens with an extended scene of a mutant being ferried and guided to Avalon…a haven for mutants and humans, in the Antarctic (a tamed Savage Land, apparently). We then jump back to the U.S., to Manhattan, where we catch up with Nightcrawler who is securing transit from America TO the Antarctic by way of Warren Worthington–Angel–at Heaven. Angel claims to have gone "legit" and not want to deal with "terrorists" like Magneto and his X-Men, but Kurt has none of it and we see there’s no love between the two. Meanwhile, Magneto converses with Mystique, informing her of why she will welcome her son and take him to Avalon to extract Destiny. Back in Avalon, the young mutant arrives and is introduced to Destiny…who promptly has a horrifying vision of the Apocalypse.

Visually, I quite enjoyed this issue. I really liked several of the panels of Nightcrawler in particular, and generally found myself rather appreciative of the way characters were shown. Aside from the art in and of itself I certainly appreciate what appears to my issue-by-issue eye to be a consistency in costuming with characters–and in this case specifically, Magneto. Nothing about him stands out as contradictory to other appearances…such contradictions being something some part of me pretty much would "expect" based on contemporary comics where the import seems to lie on the individual vision and touches over a consistency and continuity.

I like the story…from the pacing with the opening, getting into the heart of things; learning details of what Kurt’s to do, foreshadowing of what he’ll be facing, character appearances, and so on. I’m a little more conscious now of the author–that this is a Warren Ellis story, and in the back of my mind that influenced my reading, though this doesn’t exactly have the "feel" of a Warren Ellis story (whatever that would actually be). Yet I suppose I attribute stuff like the opening to an Ellis-style. There’s a darkness I did not recall, especially to Nightcrawler…but that puts the character in line with the contemporary version, putting that into a different light than I anticipated going into this issue.

I didn’t and don’t remember much detail from this series from all those years ago when I first read it, but this time through was rather enjoyable. I think even having overall broad-stroke memories of the Age of Apocalypse books, I’m getting added enjoyment from this re-reading project from the fact that I apparently never have actually gone back through and re-read the entire thing…so the faded memories and lack of details retained make the reading similar to reading something for the first time.

Of course…I’m especially looking forward to Amazing X-Men and X-Men Chronicles to finish out the month. But I’m also looking forward to the next issue of this mini and further experience with Nightcrawler.

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