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The ’90s Revisited: X-Men Prime

90s_revisited

xmenprime001Racing the Night

Writers: Scott Lobdell & Fabian Nicieza
Pencilers: Bryan Hitch, Jeff Matsuda, Gary Frank, Mike McKone, Terry Dodson, Ben Herrerr, Paul Pelletier
Inkers: Al Milgrom, P. Craig Russell, Cam Smith, Mark Farmer, Mark McKenna, Tom Palmer, Tim Townsend, Hector Collazo
Letttering: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Coloring: Steve Buccellato and Electric Crayon
Cover: Bryan Hitch
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 1995
Cover Price: $4.95

With this issue, we’re back to the “real” reality/universe/timeline/whatever. The 616 Marvel Universe. Bishop and his mission was a success, and by stopping Legion from killing Xavier…the Age of Apocalypse never happened, things have been set right. Or have they?

We have a bunch of plot points sharing this issue…while the various Age of Apocalypse mini-series led into X-Men: Omega, this issue now serves as the focal point for the return of the “regular” X-Men titles…as a “regular universe” Alpha issue to introduce readers to the current status quo of the characters and teams that make up the X-side of the Marvel Universe and send the readers into the mix of titles having had this bit of setup for where things are moving forward.

I do think that if Free Comic Book Day had been around in 1995, this would certainly have been a Marvel offering…an in-continuity quasi-anthology to get readers to jump aboard the entire line of X-comics.

I can’t say I’m honestly all that thrilled with this issue on this re-read. I certainly appreciate that there are “only” two writers credited, offering a bit of consistency to the story side of things. The issue is quite a mix visually due to the numerous pencilers and inkers getting their chance to work on pages presumably germane to the individual titles. Reading through this time, I noticed a bit of wonky art at points, but somehow was not particularly jarred by the shifts…perhaps for familiarity with the Age of Apocalypse stuff as a whole.

After the shiny “chromium” covers for X-Men: Alpha and X-Men: Omega, seems Marvel felt the need to give this a special cover as well–a clear plastic-ish thing with an inner orangey background. We also get the “alternate” X-Men logo, with the Prime part next to it…and the whole thing is a wrap-around (which I very much appreciate 20 years later in an age of VARIANT “interlocking” covers).

The story introduces or re-introduces some characters–and I even see hints of Onslaught in this reading. We find out that several characters–Nate Grey, Dark Beast, Sugarman, and Holocaust–escaped the Age of Apocalypse and wound up in the real timeline. Nate first appears in the “present,” while Magneto’s Acolytes only now in the present discover what will be revealed to be Holocaust…but Beast and Sugarman arrived 20 years ago, and were responsible for the Morlocks and Genosha’s Mutates, respectively. Marrow is reintroduced, aged twenty years from a prior appearance…Rogue and Iceman are on a roadtrip, the former haunted by whatever she saw in Gambit’s memories (Gambit’s in a coma). Trish Tilby reveals the Legacy Virus to the public along with the knowledge that it’s affecting humans as well as Mutants. X-Factor chases Mystique and Havok’s powers act up on him; X-Force’s base is destroyed. Wolverine is living in the woods outside Xavier’s mansion (refusing to reside under the same roof as Sabretooth) and Bishop is having unconscious outbursts as a result of the visions he’s having as a result of his temporal status in relation to the Age of Apocalypse. Amidst all this a mutant seeks the X-Men but winds up victim of humans lashing out against something they fear and do not understand.

This certainly sets up the various X-titles moving forward, so for that alone is pretty much an “essential read.” Yet, unless one intends to pursue those issues from mid-1995 that this is immediately germane to, there’s not much to really dig into singularly with this issue. Outside of characters involved and how they now will interact in the 616 universe, there’s no actual story-content directly tied to the story of the Age of Apocalypse timeline.

Given that, my covering of this issue is much like why I covered the non-Legion Quest X-books that preceded Age of Apocalypse: this is stuff coming out on the “other end”, the border, “bleed,” or whatever butting up against the Age of Apocalypse without actually BEING an issue of that..

While rarer than the Alpha or Omega issues in bargain bins, I certainly would not pay much more than cover price for this (and that would be a grudgingly-paid price). I’d seek this out to use as a starting point diving into any or all of the X-books of the time but certainly not if you’re only interested in the Age of Apocalypse.

Unlike contemporary Marvel, this does not kick off “the next” EVENT but rather gives the individual titles time to flex and explore their own things for awhile before everything heats up again with the following year’s Onslaught stuff.

xmenprime_wraparound

The ‘90s Revisited: December ’94 X-Books

As the events of Legion Quest were reshaping the ENTIRE line of X-books for the start of 1995, even the titles not directly involved in Legion Quest itself reflected the fact that story was going on, with each title ending with the reality-ending crystallization wave washing over things, most of the books being left on a cliffhanger. While I wasn’t originally going to cover these other titles due to not being direct tie-ins/chapters of Legion Quest, I figured I’d touch briefly on them after all. Here are the resultant five “mini-reviews” of the rest of the December 1994-shipping X-Books.

WOLVERINE #90

wolverine090The Dying Game

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Inks: Mark Farmer & Dan Green
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Coloring: Marie Javins
Cover: Adam Kubert, Greg Hildebrandt, Tim Hildebrandt
Editor: Bob Harras

This is one of the more "iconic" issues of this series for me–and certainly harnesses the "feel" of this "era" of the comic for me. The cover is the first thing that stands out, with a hybrid Kubert/Hildebrandt Bros. image–the distinctive Hildebrandts image that would be great on its own, with Kubert‘s art overlaid to the side, and the series logo is almost an afterthought or a formality.

The issue’s story is fairly simplistic, with Wolverine returning to the X-Mansion to keep an eye on the imprisoned Sabretooth while everyone else is away. Wolverine starts out refusing to fight, but pieces things together about the time Sabretooth pulls an escape, and the two brawl. Ultimately they wind up with Wolverine on top, having popped two claws, one to either side of Sabretooth’s head. The villain taunts Wolverine, threatening everyone he loves and cares about, and right as Wolverine pops the third claw–into Sabretooth’s brain–the crystallization wave hits and this never happened, as this universe ends.

While not on the same level as X-Men #s 25 or 41 or Wolverine #75, this is an issue that’s long stood out to me. The ending plays very well with the pre-Age of Apocalypse cliffhanger thing, leaving us hanging a bit on the supposed fate of Sabretooth, what it means for Wolverine to have at long last apparently killed his old foe, etc. (However, the popularity of the characters renders this cliffhanger moot, where some of the "lesser" characters/titles have faded over the years and hold far less memory).

X-FACTOR #111

xfactor111Explosive Performance

Plot: John Francis Moore
Script: Todd Dezago
Pencils: Jan Duursema
Inks: Al Milgrom
Colors: Glynis Oliver
Letters: Starkings/Comicraft
Cover: Tom Grummett, Al Milgrom
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras

This issue is one of the more memorable cliffhanger-issues for the month’s X-books, with Guido (Strong Guy) falling to a heart attack, and Reality ends before we learn if he’s actually dead or not.

I remember THAT I’d read a handful of issues of the title from #92-onward thanks to my introduction via the Fatal Attractions crossover the year before. However, other than apparently having read the END, I don’t recall THIS issue’s story prior to reading it this time around.

On the whole, this was a solid enough jumping-in issue…helped perhaps by having read #109 (the Legion Quest Prelude). As I read this issue, I kept mixing up Lila Cheney with Dazzler…two characters I’m familiar enough with name-wise but not so much story-wise. And though I didn’t totally follow–there’s a definite sense I missed plenty with skipping #110–I didn’t feel "lost" or have any particular problem with reading this issue.

That’s probably primarily helped by the fact I read this solely for its "tie-in" to Legion Quest and specifically TO get to the cliffhanger, to have the sense of where the title left off immediately preceding the shift into the Age of Apocalypse itself.

GENERATION X #4

generationx004Between the Cracks

Story: Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo
Inks: Mark Buckingham
Colors by: Steve Buccellato
Lettering: Richard Starkings/Comicraft
Cover: Chris Bachalo
Editing: Tom DeFalco, Bob Harras

I’ve yet to *really* ever read any issues of this title–I couldn’t say for sure if I’ve ever actually read an issue, including this one. I remember getting this when it came out, though, so I probably did read it…just without knowing much about the characters. I’d only partially followed the Phalanx Covenant stuff that led to Generation X, and didn’t yet know (m)any of the new characters. This issue’s very stylistic, which I’m not all that enamored with. The story itself isn’t bad, though I don’t much care for the page borders or the little character wandering said borders and holding up page-number signs. It’s an interesting thing to do, and I can appreciate it setting this title apart, as well as the "meta" nature of it. Perhaps it was even "fun" at the time. It just doesn’t do much for me.

Reading this issue for its "lead-in" to Age of Apocalypse was quite disappointing, as it also "bucked the trend" of the other X-books in doing its own thing and then a tacked-on bit to account for the ending of the universe. Not bad in and of itself–a good way to get around being totally formulaic, but my appreciation does not equal enjoyment–and this was the least-enjoyable of the non-Legion Quest X-issues heading into the big event.

X-FORCE #43

xforce043Teapot in a Tempest

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Tony Daniel
Inker: Kevin Conrad
Coloring: Mike Thomas
Cover: Tony Daniel, Kevin Conrad
Editor: Bob Harras

I definitely don’t remember this issue’s story as something I’d read before. I’m familiar with a number of the characters–perhaps from stuff I’ve read in the last 20 years, where I can’t say for sure I’d’ve been familiar with them at the time. I liked the art for this issue, and it’s interesting to see that it’s Tony Daniel, whose work I enjoyed on Batman a few years back. In addition to appreciating the art, I enjoyed this snippet of story–it was cool seeing a number of different characters/situations without them all having to be together in one space; with these multiple ongoing subplots weaving about. The Reignfire reveal seems like it was rather huge at the time, though not recalling anything of the character tells me that’s not something that’s particularly carried to this day.

That the issue involved communication with Cable and was affected by his absence due to things going on in Legion Quest was a definite treat, showing how the various characters tie together and that this issue is not something "on the fringe" of the X-universe of the time but was still closely affected.

EXCALIBUR #86

excalibur086Back to Life

Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencil Artist: Ken Lashley
Ink Artist: Tom Wegrzyn
Letterer: J. Babcock
Colorist: J. Rosas
Cover: Ken Lashley, Tom Wegrzyn
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Group Editor: Bob Harras

While I certainly did not pick up on the significance of things at the time, rereading this issue brought back snippets of memory–particularly Kitty’s threat to put Wisdom’s cigarette out, and the issue’s end with the jet crashing.

I do not recall consciously noting before now that this was a Warren Ellis-written issue, though somewhere along the way I became aware of his having been the writer in this general time, and being the one behind the Pete Wisdom character. That this seems to be Wisdom’s first appearance is rather cool.

This issue was a welcome glimpse back to the then-status-quo, and a reminder that Kitty and Nightcrawler had a period of time where they were NOT part of the X-Men themselves. I’d also forgotten about other characters, as well as how much I "miss" Moira’s presence in the X-books. Of course, given contemporary things, that’s practically a generational factor.

The cliffhanger of the characters facing a crash-landing that they weren’t certain of surviving was compelling even back in the day, and has me curious about how the point was resolved when everything returned after the Age of Apocalypse…I’m partially torn on digging that issue out to find out versus allowing myself the wondering until after covering the event itself.

The ’90s Revisited: Wolverine #79

wolverine079Cyber! Cyber! Burning Bright!

Script: Larry Hama
Penciler: Adam Kubert
Inkers: Mark Farmer and Mike Sellers
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Coloring: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $1.75
Cover Date: March, 1994

I was introduced to the X-Men in 1992 or so–though I have a vague memory of a 1989ish viewing of the one-shot “pilot” Pryde of the X-men. My clearest memory of early discovery of the X-Men is a re-viewing of that episode along with the initial premiere of the 1990s X-Men cartoon. And of course, Wolverine was quite a stand-out character. But it was barely a year after I was introduced t othe character that he lost his adamantium in the Fatal Attractions crossover…it would be about six years and another 70-odd issues of “bone-claw Wolverine.”

Which makes this issue that much more significant to its time: now that his claws are “just” bone, an interesting question was answered as we learned that yes, indeed, his claws could now be broken.

And just as the cover focuses on the agonized broken-claw Wolverine, the issue itself isn’t all that memorable other than the fact that Wolverine’s claws are broken. Musing at recent events, Wolverine finds himself having to face Cyber, yet another villain after him for his adamantium…only to have the villain realize that Wolvie no longer has the famed metal, and is far more susceptible to a sound beating. During their scrap, Cyber sees an opening and takes it–stomping the exposed claws and breaking them off, a whole new experience for either character.

So, not a whole lot to the story itself, but definitely an extremely key moment in Wolverine’s history…the first time his claws had ever been broken. And the question also set out would be: do they regenerate? And how would this affect the character moving forward?

Visually, I quite enjoyed this revisitation of Kubert‘s take on Wolverine. As this is from very early in my experience reading the Wolverine solo title, this really IS “my” Wolverine. I’d forgotten all the double-page “tall” layouts, though…something I never really cared for. Takes me out of the story a bit having to physically re-manipulate the way I’m holding the issue and re-orient visually.

Overall, definitely a “dated” issue–between Cyber himself, and the bone-claw Wolverine, and given how common it became for the claws to get broken and grow back (I believe Kitty Pryde at one point was shown to use old broken claws as weapons herself?). And as a piece of “history,” not a bad issue to snag for a one-off read; though I’m sure I appreciated this more having read it before, as well as surrounding issues before and after, and remembering this “era” rather fondly.

Fatal Attractions Revisited: Wolverine #75

Nightmares Persist

Writer: Larry Hama
Penciler: Adam Kubert
Inkers: Mark Farmer, Dan Green, Mark Pennington
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Cover: Adam Kubert, Mark Farmer
Editor:
Bob Harras
Published by:
Marvel Comics
Cover Date:
November 1993
Cover Price:
$3.95

Bishop arrives in the blackbird (having been called by Colossus) to take the X-Men home. Wolverine’s obviously gravely injured from losing the adamantium. Xavier, weakened from the exertion of the exo-suit and shutting Magneto down gets Jean’s help to go into Wolverine’s mind, to try to deal with the psychological trauma of what’s happened. They see bits of his past–as he remembers it–but it’s not much help. They’re ripped out of his mind when the Blackbird hits turbulence and Jean winds up having to hold the plan together with her telekinesis, leaving Xavier alone to keep Wolverine alive. As things get particularly bad, Jean is taxed to her limit and about to lose it–while on the ground, Moira, Cyclops, Jubilee, and the others are horrified by what they’re hearing. Just as Jean does lose the plane, she’s caught by a bandaged arm–Wolverine. They share a moment, as they realize that while he was basically dead, some part of him was aware of her situation and he came back–for her.

Later, Wolverine’s determined to prove himself, to see if he still has what it takes to call himself an X-Man, and takes on a Danger Room scenario. Others watch, and while he’s holding his own, he’s having trouble. Instinctively, he finally pops his claws, to everyone’s horror–not only does he still HAVE the claws, but they’re BONE…and his healing factor so taxed, the punctures of them ripping out of the back of his hands are not closing easily, leaving him literally a bloody mess. A couple weeks later, Wolverine spends some time with Jubilee, catching up a bit, before offering some “final advice” that makes her suspicious. Finally, we close with a letter he leaves for her as he’s made the decision to leave the school and strike out on his own–to find himself, and deal with what’s happened and how it affects things moving forward.

This is the only “solo” title of Fatal Attractions-all the other issues are team-books: X-Factor, X-Force, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, Excalibur. As such, the hologram on this cover is the most appropriate–Wolverine himself. While it’s a cool hologram, it’s not my favorite–I think that distinction goes to the Havok or Magneto ones. The cover takes a different perspective than X-Men #25, showing Wolverine with all these curvy spikes sticking out of his body, apparently representing the adamantium; rather than him just injured with metal/bone showing through.

As I’ve been saying over the past several posts, this issue and X-Men 25 are my favorites of the 6, and form the “heart” of the story. X-Men 25 climaxes with Wolverine losing the adamantium; this issue picks up the pieces, and ultimately results in Wolverine leaving the team for a time. Also as I’ve said, this issue is such a core part of my childhood with comics that it’s not an issue I see particularly objectively. It’s an iconic, key issue in things–and began nearly six years of Wolverine NOT having the adamantium (a long enough time and becoming a part of the character that the depiction even made it out into licensed products at the time). From #75, Wolverine was without the adamantium until #146, 71 issues later; nearly half the entire run of his series to that point.

I remember this issue being a tense read–the situation the characters were in, and their not knowing what was actually gonna happen. I like the way it shows the characters working together–a team–and the sense of family sprinkled in. There are a lot of great moments that are truly enhanced by knowing about the characters and continuity; maybe even moreso now, with the knowledge of where many of the characters wind up. Xavier’s sense of responsibility to Wolverine–bringing him into the X-men to begin with, involving him in the mission to Avalon, his inability to help Wolverine break through the memory implants, but the help he has provided the man through the years. Stuff with Jean–her past with the Phoenix, and that other horrific return-journey to earth.

The art is a pretty definitive take on the characters–everyone’s familiar, and the visuals are very similar to X-Men 25, further placing both issues at the heart of the story. It also definitely helps that it’s one art team rather than an entire group, and thus a singular consistency throughout the issue.

Probably the roughest part of the issue for me is Wolverine’s letter at the end–the font is hard on the eyes after the lettering of the rest of the issue. I appreciate the representation of a hand-written note, but for just reading the issue, it’s a bit jarring.

On the whole, though…this is one of THE most memorable issues of Wolverine for me, in all the series/incarnations. It’s certainly my favorite, particularly for the time. And for awhile, this was the end of my experience with Fatal Attractions. I originally missed the Excalibur issue as these were coming out, and I’m not even 100% sure if I’d even read the issue until I read a copy for this series of ‘Fatal Attractions Revisited’ posts.

This issue is definitely well worth picking up–particularly if you come across it in a bargain bin. In the years since it originally came out, I’ve paid up to cover price for it–but know I’ve snagged at least one copy from a quarter-bin and one from a dollar bin, another as part of a 3-for-$10 purchase.

Secret Avengers #27 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 4/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 4/5

Fall of the Hulks: Alpha [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Meeting of the Minds

The Leader and his group of intellectual villains work behind the scenes through Marvel’s history to assemble the lost knowledge of the Library of Alexandria.

fallofthehulksalphaWriter: Jeff Parker
Penciler: Paul Pelletier
Inker: Vicente Cifuentes
Colorists: Guru eFX
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Cover: Ed McGuinness, Mark Farmer, Dave Stewart
Production: Irene Y. Lee
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Associate Editor: Nathan Cosby
Senior Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this issue, except perhaps a jumping-on point in preparation for the coming Fall of the Hulks "event." What I did not expect was what seems to essentially be an "Illuminati" of intellectual Marvel villains and their "backstory" throughout Marvel’s past.

This issue basically follows The Leader, M.O.D.O.K., Egghead, The Wizard, The Mad Thinker, The Red Ghost, and Dr. Doom as they assemble the contents of the formerly-believed-lost contents of the Library of Alexandria through the years. Their first mission is an incursion into the home of the Eternals. Here the protagonists discover there are other locations around the planet with further Alexandrian contents, including Wakanda and Atlantis. Bucking the silver Age trend of simplicity, here we see that it takes months and years for the protagonists to prepare to actually launch a mission to gain the knowledge they’re after, as well as the explanation that allows for what we’ve already seen in the last half-decade of continuity regarding these characters. As the issue closes out, we get some info regarding the Red Hulk, which actually intrigues me after never before this having any interest in even the concept of that character.

The story is pretty good in and of itself. It’s not spectacular, and I’m not a huge fan of retcons…but for my understanding of things, the backstory that is here inserted into existing continuity seems to work. Additionally, I feel like I have a better understanding of who The Leader and The Red Ghost are now than I ever did before.
The art is also quite solid…while keeping its own feel, it also evokes some of the feeling of the different eras the story touches upon.

Though I came to the issue familiar with little more than the characters’ names and visual representations (excepting Dr. Doom), everyone was quite recognizable, and I really enjoyed the visuals.
Even though I’ve not followed the Hulk side of the Marvel Universe since World War Hulk ended, I still really enjoyed this issue and found that I didn’t need to know recent events. I’ve often enjoyed stories that flesh out villain characters and give them depth and motivation, and true explanation for why they would door act as they do, and this is one such issue.

I expect this is little more than set-up in the grand scheme of things, but if you want a Leader story involving a teaming-up of supervillains (including death and betrayal) reminiscent of 1980s stories but with a modern feel, this is a great issue for that.

Ratings:

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Fall of the Hulks: Alpha [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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