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The ’90s Revisited: The Phoenix Resurrection – Genesis

90s_revisited

phoenix_resurrection_genesisGenesis

Writrs: Ian Edginton, Dan Abnett
Pencillers: Darick Robertson, Mark Pacella, Greg Luzniak, Rob Haynes
Inkers: Tom Wegrzyn, Art Thibert, Larry Stucker, Bob Wiacek, Philip Moy
Letterer: Vickie Williams
Color Design: Robert Alvord
Interior Color: Malibu Color
Asst. Editor: Scott Bernstein
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

As Marvel publishes Phoenix Resurrection in the present, 22 years ago it published The Phoenix Resurrection through Malibu ComicsUltraverse line. Malibu Comics, which Marvel had purchased in order to keep DC Comics from buying the smaller publisher. And with the smaller publisher in-hand…looking back through this issue at least, it seems Marvel had no idea what to do or have done with the small superhero universe it now had in addition to its own.

This Genesis issue was preceded by a month-long promotion in which each of the 7 then-current Ultraverse titles had a 3-page flipbook segment showing the characters encountering some kinda reference to a phoenix, though taken as a whole that made for a disjointed mess. The seven chapters were reprinted/collected into a single issue in The Phoenix Resurrection: Red Shift.

Getting into the main/actual story of the "event" now with this issue, we get a prologue of the Phoenix Force being discovered by some probe from another universe. Before long, through machinations of the Gateway character, a squad of X-Men find themselves once more in a parallel universe that they’ve become increasingly familiar with (a footnote reference to the Mutants vs. Ultras special issue, itself collecting several previously-exclusive American Entertainment editions such as Prime vs. Hulk, Wolverine vs. Night Man, and All New Exiles vs. X-Men).

While bystanders and news media are focused on something coming from the sun, Ultra hero Prime engages the X-Men in combat, because of course they’ve gotta fight. The source of the aforementioned probe–a mother ship that’s buried in the ocean–reunites with a counterpart in the sun, and brings the Phoenix Force to this Earth, and then tries to drain its energy–its life–causing the Phoenix entity to be driven insane with pain. The entity bonds with Prime as a host body, and continues to fight the X-Men, as other Ultras are brought to the scene. (It should be mentioned that apparently the mutants’ powers are severely dampened in this reality…but that’s a crutch that doesn’t much matter for discussion of this particular issue). Eventually, the Phoenix and Prime are separated, and the Phoenix takes a new host, as the issue ends (to be continued in Phoenix Resurrection: Revelations).

Maybe it’s that I look back on the likes of Prime, Mantra, and Rune with memory of more complex, authentic-sounding stories and characters, as well as the same from the X-Men books from the early/mid-’90s (particularly stuff like Fatal Attractions or the Age of Apocalypse and immediate aftermaths) but this just does not feel like it has much depth, nor is there–even in an extra-sized issue like this–much characterization. It’s like the characters were chosen for the book by "popularity" and "mainstream-ness" (plus, of course, being characters appearing in books that survived into the pared-down 7-book line of Black September-onward), and not really for much else. We have a squad of X-Men and some major Ultraverse characters thrown together, but I get no real sense of depth, development, or motivation. The probe and mother ship have a far-too-convenient means of getting the Phoenix to Earth, Gateway seems nothing but "convenience" personified, and we’re told rather than shown that the mutants’ powers are lessened here. Prime comes off as nothing but some petulant kid–while he IS a kid, he’s lacking a depth I feel like I remember from his own original title. Bishop seems to be present for appearance’s sake, and with the mutants not even really trying to use their powers, there’s no particular point to any specific character’s presence…they’re interchangeable.

With the art, I recognize Darick Robertson and Art Thibert as names if not an actual art style here; but having numerous artists on this single issue doesn’t particularly do it any favors…at least for me reading it in a fair bit of isolation here–perhaps they’re the artists on the main books, in which case I’d welcome that (in idea at least), but just jumping into this issue after the Red Shift collection of 3-page shorts, I’m not thrilled with the visuals. I recognize the various characters–there seems to be an attempt to have them all look a certain way, perhaps using a "house style" or such–but virtually nothing stands out to me. Everyone is for the most part a generic iteration of iconic appearance (for lack of better phrasing). The only real stand-out bit for me was the large image of the Phoenix-possessed Prime (though zero mention or visual reference from the Ultraverse side OR X-Men side of the Prime body being healed/repaired after an obvious significant slash from Wolverine’s claws and Jubilee’s reaction to the green goop).

Ultimately, offhand, I didn’t so much "not enjoy" this as I "didn’t ENJOY" it. It’s cool–at least conceptually–to see the mix of characters thrown together and all. But after 17+ years of having "decompressed stories" that are clearly serialized graphic novels, I definitely am expecting much more depth of character and stuff from two sides like this to be brought out.

This is a definite novelty, one certainly worth 25 cents or so as a bargain-bin purchase, if only for the time it takes to read making it more worthwhile than most anything of its size published in present-day. You can definitely dive into this issue withOUT reading anything before it…the "crossover" stuff from the Red Shift 3-page segments are little but token reference-points thus far, making this a better "starting point" if only for having a big chunk of a single story that’s not jumping to a new setting/character every 3 pages. You could do worse than this issue…but much as I’m down on modern Marvel, if you’re looking for "return of Phoenix" stuff, you’d be better served with the contemporary Return of Jean Grey story in the 2017/2018 Phoenix Resurrection, or in 2012’s AvX event series.

phoenix_resurrection_genesis_blogtrailer

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TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #25

tmnt_adventures_revisited

tmntadventures025Raw Power

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Chris Allan
Inks: Rod Ollerenshaw
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: October 1991
Cover Price: $1.25

This is another very special issue in my personal history with the turtles: this was THE first issue I ever got of TMNT Adventures at Waldenbooks as a then-new issue “off the rack,” still some months before I ever discovered such a thing as a comic shop. Along with that, the way I’ve mentally divided the series into “seasons” over the course of this re-reading project, I do see this as a “second season” finale.

The issue starts with a shot of the outside of a couple stores, as we’re left to imagine the naked Bebop and Rocksteady doing their shopping for clothes and guns. As they gather supplies, we return to the main thrust of the action–the TMNT vs. Slash, Bellybomb, and Krang as Shredder’s head. The bulk of the story is the details of the fights–Krang/Shredder vs. Leonardo, Donatello and Mikey vs. Bellybomb, and Raph vs. Slash. While they all fight, we find Bebop and Rocksteady freeing zoo animals, while bantering and generally enjoying themselves. Slash gets distracted remembering that he’s looking for his palm tree and leaves the fight; Bellybomb is knocked out by his own “mega-halitosis” and Raph gets Krang of Shredder, leaving the villain in the turtles’ debt. When Bebop and Rocksteady show up leading an army of dangerous animals, the turtles are out-gunned and out-numbered and consider cashing in that debt…but turns out the mutant duo is quite satisfied simply with the turtles admitting defeat. They just want to go home, and agree to take Bellybomb and Krang with them.

So the “season” ends with Shredder leaving to ponder the turtles’ having saved his life and “owing” them; Krang and Bellybomb are left back on Morbus (but not on a sinking barrel this time). Slash finds his palm tree and seems happy. The turtles return home…and Bebop/Rocksteady, too, return home. We have to continue on to the backup for April’s whereabouts, but that ends on a bit of a cliffhanger such that I could live with it within the “season” analogy.

Dragon Rage

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Chris Allan
Inks: Mark Pacella
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: Victor Gorelick

Chu Hsi has brought forth the Warrior Dragon, and attempts to rescue Fu Sheng from the ninjas that’ve kidnapped him. Though the Dragon has little physical trouble with the ninjas, one of them throws a strange powder in his face…causing him to revert back to human form, and the naked fireman is dragged off with April unable to do anything but watch.

When I first read this issue more than two decades ago I had no idea who Bellybomb or Chu Hsi were, where they’d come from, etc. They were just simply “there.” I’d recognized Slash from the action figure; the turtles and Shredder/Krang as well as Bebop and Rocksteady were givens, of course. However, the Shredder/Krang relationship obviously was not what it was in the cartoon, and Bebop and Rocksteady are portrayed quite differently here than in the cartoon but everyone was still obvious as to who they were and all that, otherwise.

This time through I obviously have the “full” context of the series to date so (among other things) actually know that Krang attached himself to Shredders head and it only just happened at the end of the previous issue, as opposed to a multi-issue development or some such. Bellybomb’s not some long-time foe in this series any more than he is any other TMNT book; Slash is the generic mean/evil-turtle longing for his palm tree, and the story just “is.”

From the dialogue between them, we get a lot of exposition on Rocksteady and Bebop as well as the clarification that they actually DID start out human, but have the MEMORIES and such of the animals they were mutated from (apparently a slightly different mutagen than what transformed the turtles and Splinter). I’m not entirely sure if I’m disappointed at that or not, having come to kinda like the notion of them being mutated animals rather than mutated humans.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the two leaving the turtles…on one hand it’s a letdown and inconsistent with their brash talk in other issues of dealing with them. Yet, given their time on the Eden planet and such, I can accept it. All the more as I believe this is the last we see of them until the TMNT 30th Anniversary Special from IDW last year.

The backup story is another short snippet that goes by rather quickly and simply. I appreciate its placement as a separate thing from the main story as that allows it to breathe while not being shoehorned into the main story. Knowing what it leads to certainly colors my perspective and lends “meaning” to it, as the story otherwise seems rather generic, getting such a little piece of it here.

Having Allan back on pencils for the entirety of the issue is a welcome thing, main story as well as backup. Liking his work, I don’t have much to say on it except it’s good and this being roughly where I joined the series it makes sense that he was a definitive artist on the characters for me.

If this were a tv show, I suppose the backup stuff would have been worked into the main body of the “episodes,” leaving us on Chu Hsi’s capture as the cliffhanger to keep us hooked for the next season.

TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #24

tmnt_adventures_revisited

tmntadventures024Gimme Danger!

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Garret Ho, Jim Lawson
Inks: Brian Thomas, Rod Ollerenshaw
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: September 1991
Cover Price: $1.25

Well, there goes my thoughts of a consistency moving forward with Allan on art…or at least, that was my first thought with a different style to the art from the first page. Turns out this is a split issue with a lead story and a backup!

The lead story finds Krang and new allies Bellybomb and Slash arriving on an “Eden planet” (planets set aside by elder races of Dimension X as nature preserves/places of peace). Conveniently they arrive not only at the PLANET Cherubae sent Bebop and Rocksteady, but in the very field the two are hanging out. The ship having let its live cargo off, the group is free to return to their Earthbound journey, no longer captive to the ship’s auto-programming. On Earth, Shredder prunes a bonzai tree while lamenting his recent defeat…even as the turtles draw close, having found this latest base. While they fight, Krang has piloted his gang to the HQ and crashes in, leaving the turtles to fight Slash, Bellybomb, Bebop, and Rocksteady while he hides and waits for Shredder. Krang’s plan for revenge and acquisition of a new body prove a “two birds/one stone” situation as he takes control of Shredder’s body, somehow attaching himself to Shredder’s head/face.

The art’s a bit “off,” with both Ho and Lawson splitting the story. After so enjoying the previous issue, the art on this one is quite a letdown. It’s not bad, but definitely different and not what I was expecting. Ho‘s work has come to be somewhat familiar, though I found Lawson‘s part seemed to be a lot different than his last time around with this title. Compared to Mitchroney and Allan, though, this is not a preference for me.

It Started in Chinatown

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Chris Allan
Inks: Mark Pacella
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick

Though we got a full 20-page story, we also get a “backup story,” starring April as she meets up with new friends Chu Hsi and Fu Sheng. When Fu Sheng is kidnapped, and Chu and April are unable to take on a small army of ninjas, Chu calls forth the warrior dragon spirit to aid the situation.

I had completely forgotten about this backup…I was thinking it’d be a few more issues before we’d hear from Chu and the Dragon again. I’d also forgotten that the “solo April stories” started this early in the run.

Though the story is a rather short, fast-paced segment, it’s cool to see April on her own, competently handling a katana, and having a life away from the turtles. Granted, we only really see her with a couple people the turtles just recently had involvement with, but the point stands. She’s not just simply hanging out with the turtles or fulfilling some stupid damsel-in-distress role.

I don’t recall how many chapters there were to this backup series, but it might throw a small wrench into my “season” analogy if it carries beyond two chapters.

I’d have to research Allan‘s work to see if this was his first series, and if there’s anything on why he was on the backup and not the main feature. Still, seeing more of his depiction of April is a welcome treat, and I look forward to the next issue.

TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #20

tmnt_adventures_revisited

tmntadventures020Sun and Steel

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Bill Wray
Inks: Hilary Barta, John Beatty, Mark Pacella
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Cover: Ryan Brown, Jim Lawson
Edits: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: May 1991
Cover Price: $1.25

Back in the days before "everything" was collected in full runs in collected volumes and every issue might be someone’s FIRST, there might not necessarily have been a recap page…stuff might simply be given as exposition in characters’ conversation or some such. In the case of this title, we get a several-page recap of the previous issue and Mighty Mutanimals #1 and then pick up immediately from there.

Null, Scul, Bean, as well as Raph and Mondo Gecko (stowaways) are gone via alien spacecraft, leaving the other turtles, Splinter, and April to deal with the arrival of police at Null’s building. The group escapes into Chinatown…but before they make it back to a sewer they witness a huge fire. When the sound of a baby is heard from within, one of the firemen–Chu Hsi–rushes in to save the child. An old man with a shop on the bottom floor throws a golden, dragon-shaped container into the building, where it smashes next to the fallen fireman…and the dragon spirit within bonds with him, transforming the fireman into a giant golden dragon. The turtles, old man, fireman, and April leave, though the fire still rages. Meanwhile, a giant Foot soldier bursts out of a building untouched by the fire and begins to menace the area. The turtles spring into action fighting it, but with no success. Splinter realizes the fireman can call forth the dragon at will, and encourages him to do so. The dragon puts a quick end to the giant Foot bot, the fire burns itself out, and Chu Hsi is left with the old man from the shop to face a future in which he is bonded to the spirit of the ancient dragon.

After the lead up to the Maligna/Invasion stuff, and the Mutanimals mini-series and then the event itself, this issue is quite a letdown for me. There’s also the huge plot-hole in that I simply cannot "believe" that the Statue of Liberty having a giant robot land on it would survive unscathed. This story takes us back to the "mutant of the month" in a sense, introducing us to a giant golden dragon–an ancient spirit bonded with a human fireman. That he immediately trusts the turtles and they he is another plot point that seems over-simplified…but I’ll accept it for what it is.

I recall that this character comes back into play later, in what I’m going to consider the "third season" of this title…but otherwise this seems like just a generic one-issue/one-off tale to get the turtles away from Null’s building and move things forward despite the missing Raphael.

Visually we have an entirely different art team than usual, which is rather noticeable to me. I’m not all that keen on the turtles’ appearance…but I rather like Splinter and April…and the dragon himself looks good throughout the issue. The giant Foot bot works for what it is, but I’m not all that impressed and echo the turtles’ question of when/where Shredder would’ve had the resources to have the thing built to begin with. I do like that the bot’s "speech bubbles" are skulls, indicating that it simply wants to kill…and I chuckled to myself when–after the turtles had "annoyed" it–the skulls showed with bandanas around ’em as the bot had refocused on killing the turtles specifically.

As a whole, this isn’t a bad issue though it’s far from a favorite. Recalling that Chu Hsi is a recurring character lends some "importance" to his introduction here for me, though he’d otherwise seem to be just a one-off throwaway that’s full of potential but not really explored. While Clarrain as writer maintains a consistency of sorts, this feels like a sort of "filler" issue, like this title’s on hold while the main action unfolds in the Mutanimals mini. I’m looking forward to issues 23-25…but not so much the next couple issues (21-22). Aside from seeing the on-panel introduction/first appearance of Chu Hsi and the Dragon, I’d consider this an entirely skip-able issue.

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