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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

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The ’90s Revisited: Parallax: Emerald Night #1

parallaxemeraldnight001Emerald Night

Writer: Ron Marz
Penciller: Mike McKone
Inker: Mark McKenna
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Associate Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.95
Cover Date: November 1996

I missed Final Night when it originally crossed the DC Universe. (Of course, that was an easy enough thing to do, as back then an event even of this magnitude seemed to be contained to a single month rather than spread out across half a year or more!)

I came across this issue in a random box of comics I got for $5. I knew it had ’90s stuff in it; my interest was piqued by some Onslaught (Marvel/X-Men) issues and a couple issues of Wizard magazine on top of the stack. This was one of the brightest “gems” of the entire box, though, once I actually dug through…well over 100 issues and yet I found myself leaving everything else partially sorted and began reading this, just because of what it was!

Kyle Rayner finds Hal Jordan–Parallax–and explains that Earth really needs him…the hero that he WAS, anyway. A sun-eater has darkened Earth’s sun, which means if it’s not reignited…well, that’ll be the end of the world, within days. Jordan wallows in indecision given his checkered recent-past, and winds up visiting several figures from his past in order to seek internal “guidance” on making a monumental decision. As we see him interact with Guy Gardner, John Stewart, an old mechanic ally and finally Carol Ferris, we see the influence they’ve had on him, and Jordan–Parallax–makes his decision.

Story-wise, this issue is rather cliche. The Hal Jordan I knew and have had thrust upon me for the last decade or so certainly wouldn’t have had this hesitation…yet, this was a much different character, and was Parallax at the time, which we’ve come to know means he was possessed and thus not entirely himself anyway. That doesn’t remove the cliche, but makes it bearable as a piece of the past, filling in a small gap in my experiential knowledge of this character. Yet, this is a Ron Marz issue, and it’s nice to see the way he handled the Kyle/Hal stuff, and the rest of the Hal stuff…what I recognize retroactively to be making the best of a bad situation.

Visually, I liked the look of this overall–I rather enjoy McKone‘s work–yet it didn’t seem quite as refined as I expected, and something was a bit “off,” keeping this from being as much a visual enjoyment as I expected for the name on the cover.

Still, as something that I functionally paid maybe 4 or 5 cents for, this was very much a worthwhile read, worth my time and I’m glad to have read this. The primary drawback is that now I want to find my other Final Night issues to reread that core story, and I’m re-interested in tracking down the actual Green Lantern issue(s) that tied in, as all these years later I’ve still never read those in any form!

Faces of Evil: Deathstroke #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Faces of Evil: Deathstroke

After suffering a humiliating defeat, Deathstroke takes stock of his life and makes plans for moving forward.

facesofevildeathstroke001 Writer: David Hine
Penciller: Georges Jeanty
Inker: Mark McKenna
Colorist: Jo Smith
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Michael Marts
Cover: Ladronn
Publisher: DC Comics

Last I recall seeing Deathstroke was in the Last Will and Testament special last Fall, when Deathstroke was defeated in combat by Geoforce. After that humiliating defeat, Deathstroke has had some time to recover, and to take stock of his life. This issue opens with him in the hospital–where those attending to him marvel at his very survival. Once he’s awake, Deathstroke arranges a meeting with his daughter, and the two deal with "family issues" they have with one another. Finally, we see Deathstroke beginning to set up what may be his new status quo.

Hine seems to get this character quite well. The story here is believeable and well within what I’d expect of the character despite my limited exposure to him. We have a man who’s been pushed to his limit and forced to reassess what he is going to do with his life. We get to see him contemplative and in action, see what makes him very dangerous.

The art is solid, too. No complaints here–everything’s nice and clear, with no problems following the action. There’s a slight change in the coloring for a flashback scene that sets that sequence apart from the rest of the issue–gives it a bit of a surreal effect without going hokey or cheesey on us.

Next to Meltzer‘s writing of this character in Identity Crisis and Last Will, this has to be the best depiction I’ve seen of Deathstroke. This issue is–at standard cover price, even!–well worth snagging if you’ve any interest in Deathstroke. And if you’ve never dealt with the character before, you could probably still quite enjoy this issue, as it deals with the here-and-now of the title character as he prepares for what he is going to do moving forward from here.

Ratings:

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

Supergirl #50 [Review]

Queen

Writer: Sterling Gates
Penciller: Jamal Igle
Inkers: Jon Sibal & Mark McKenna
Colorists: Nei Ruffino, Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover Artists: Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

After quite a bit of foreshadowing, last issue provided the culmination (or so I’d thought) of Lana’s story. Where I’d thought it was going to be cancer or some other terminal illness and that DC would actually allow the character to be killed, that issue ended with Supergirl barging into the morgue and finding a cocoon where Lana’s body should have been. This issue opens some time after that with General Lane and his grunts finding the re-grown body of his daughter Lucy and discovering that she’s actually alive, despite being thought dead when her super-suit exploded awhile back. We then pick up wtih Gangbuster (in a new, weird-looking costume) busting into some alien hive and getting Supergirl out…as she’d been captured off-panel since the previous issue. The hospital Lana was in has been grown over by a cocoon, as we find out that the Insect Queen lives once again, having spent the past year preparing Lana’s body to be taken over. Supergirl and the Queen fight, and it’s not hard to guess what happens by the issue’s end. We have some definite closure to things, while elements are left open to coming stories…but this issue’s events are not likely to be simply brushed under a rug.

The art by Igle is quite good. In and of itself, I have no problems with the art.

The story is also quite strong as what it is. I have never had any interest in the Insect Queen stuff with Lana, and have zero nostalgia for the silver age stuff…it was actually the Insect Queen story in the main Superman book several years ago that led me to bail on the Superman titles entirely for a brief time. As such, I was quite dismayed to see it becoming a focal point for this storyline. To its credit, the actual, overt Insect Queen stuff is basically limited to a couple brief bits last issue, and now this issue, rather than being a huge part of the overall arc. I’m interested in seeing where Supergirl herself goes from here, as Gates has continued to grow the character and give her surprisingly realistic reactions to things instead of the usual, simplistic cliches one would normally expect.

What I dislike most about this issue is the ties back to the Superwoman story, as I to this day cannot be convinced that the Lucy Lane I’ve read for 15-some out of the last 20ish years is the same character…whether this is Gates claiming the character or simply doing the best with the hand dealt, I’m not sure.

In addition to the 40-page main story (which has a 26-page chunk with no ads!), we also get a short bonus tale by Jake Black and Helen Slater (the actress who played Supergirl in the Supergirl movie in the 1980s).

A Hero’s Journey

Writers: Jake Black, Helen Slater
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Wil Moss
Group Editor: Matt idelson

This short is pretty simplistic and straight-forward: it’s a recap of much of these first 50 issues of Supergirl. I recognize Black from his TMNT work, and it’s cool to see his name popping up like this. While the story is basically recap, it does add a bit to the Supergirl character, as we are reminded how far she’s come, and the changes over the past 17 issues or so have been brought both betterment and clarity to the title as well as the character in the title. I also quite enjoy the fact that Ron Troupe is still around and being used again lately…he is just as important a character to me as any of the supporting cast of the Superman family of titles…and I like a great deal better than, say, Steve Lombard or the current interpretation of Cat Grant.

The art for this story is clean and fairly simple, reminding me of any of a number of animated works that don’t use too much in the way of detailed lines to get things across. Again, that works for this story, though I don’t think I’d care much for the style on any ongoing basis for this title.

As a whole, I think the only “weak point” of the issue is the cover. Turner had a significant role in bringing this version of the character into contemporary continuity, but the art used for the cover just doesn’t work for me–it seems extremely out of place, especially given how far this title and the character have come over the past few years. Maybe it’s just over-nitpicky, but Supergirl’s ears on this cover make her look like an elf, and her physical build just seems out of proportion with the way she’s portrayed lately. As with most books, though…the issue can’t be judged solely by the cover.

Story: 3.5
Art: 3.5
Overall: 3.5

Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead? #1 [Review]

The Veil, Vicki Vale, Stephanie Brown, Leslie Thompkins, Harvey Bullock

Written by: Fabian Nicieza
Art by: Dustin Nguyen, Guillem March, ChrisCross, Jamie McKelvie, Alex Konat, Mark McKenna
Letters: Swands
Colors: Guy Major, Guillem March
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Dustin Nguyen
Publisher: DC Comics

This one-shot takes a quick look to check in with several major characters operating in Gotham City, and how they are impacted by the apparent death of Batman. The opening/closing is from the point of view of The Veil, who I’m pretty sure is the character introduced in a recent Detective/Batman two-parter. The scene shifts from her to the other characters. Vicki Vale is back in town, working for the Gotham Gazette again, rather than a tv studio; she finds herself needing to re-proove her abilities at the paper, and seeks to contact Bruce Wayne who also seems to be gone, though there have been a number of sightings of the man around the world. At the same time, Stephanie Brown–Spoiler/Robin IV–looks at the city from her (apparent) new role as she observes Robin (Tim Drake) in action. Leslie Thompkins returns to the city, and seeks to get a feel for herself of what the city is like now, minus its caped crusader. Harvey Bullock has his hands full with a new partner as he himself continues working back from his recent “fall from grace.”

We have a number of artists on this issue, each providing the visuals for the different characters’ chapters. Nothing really stood out to me…which is both good and bad here: bad because hey, nothing blew me away. But it’s good as nothing stood out that I’ve any real complaint with. That each artist contributed to a specific chapter speaks to me of intention rather than “fill-in” work. Having different artists also helps to separate the characters involved, injecting just a bit of a difference or personality to them that could be lost with a single artist.

The story is solid if a bit choppy, since there’s no singular through narrative; we’re checking in on a numerous characters in different contexts and situations, unified simply by being in Gotham and not knowing if there is still a Batman. Nicieza, though I’ve not read much of his Batman work, seems to have a feel for the characters much as I associate with Chuck Dixon’s work on the same, which certainly is for the positive in my eyes.

This issue I believe is to serve as a prologue of sorts to the Battle for the Cowl mini and its tie-ins. This does a pretty good job of showing situations characters are in at present, giving them some facetime that may not be found in the main Battle for the Cowl series.

I’m not sure that this is essential to that story except to add context, but it is probably worth getting if you’re planning on following the entirety of the story.

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

Faces of Evil: Deathstroke #1 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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