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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Calibre #4

aoa_revisited_logo

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: X-Calibre #3

aoa_revisited_logo

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: 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.

Wolverines #1 [Review]

wolverines001Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Nick Bradshaw, Alisson Borges
Inker: Walden Wong
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Editors: Katie Kubert and Mike Marts
Cover: Nick Bradshaw, FCO Plascencia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

In a lotta ways, I’m lost. I recognize some characters, of course (at least by name/vague recollection)…but it’s rather difficult to reconcile this as taking place in the same continuity as the stuff I grew up reading in the ’90s and early/mid-2000s. It’s also quite a challenge to consider that Wolverine–Logan–is really, truly, permanently, not-coming-back-ever-never dead-is-dead DEAD. Moving on…

Thankfully, the “Previously…” page is there–I don’t have to track down all those Death of Wolverine follow-up minis I skipped. Sure, they’d flesh out the DETAILS, but for where this series and this first issue in particular picks up, that’d be superfluous for me.

We open on a bloodied Mystique getting psyched to go through a door; then jump “back” to present. Where we find Mystique, Sabretooth, Daken, and X-23 being forced to work with some escapees from Dr. Cornelius’ experimentations. The mission is to locate/retrieve an object to help them survive. Unfortunately, the Wrecking Crew has also appeared in the vicinity, and confrontation ensues. Though the object sought is located–the adamantium-encased remains of the late Wolverine–this success is short-lived with the appearance of an old villain I certainly would not have suspected. The villain absconds with precious bounty, leaving our protagonists’ situation in disarray.

I picked this up to give it a shot–I’m currently buying all 3 weeklies from DC Comics, might as well give Marvel‘s a try. Moreso than that, though…the cover intrigued me. Kinda generic in a way, but it certainly grabs my attention, seeing the adamantium-encased body of Wolverine surrounded by individuals tied to him (from life, and from what he gave it for). We only get the arms of Deathstrike, Sabretooth, Daken, and X-23 (with a couple of the Weapon X kids in the background)…no Mystique. But that’s not something I even noticed until writing this review.

The actual story is ok enough…where I’d thought the premise of the series might be the characters tracking the body, the cover suggested otherwise, which was why I bought this. And since (thankfully!) the cover suggests these characters around the body and the opening of the issue has them seeking it…hardly spoilers to say that yeah, they find the body IN THIS ISSUE. However, the villain that showed up and left the group in bad shape gives the characters a new quest/hunt, which should sustain the weekly nature of the series for a bit.

I appreciate Soule being on this, given my understanding that he’s the architect of the death of Wolverine…good to see that he’s the one to follow-up “long term” on the development, rather than just killing the character and moving on. And while I wouldn’t think I’d care about the characters involved, have not kept up with them (for example, the last I recall of Sabretooth, he was beheaded by Wolverine…though I’m loosely aware there was a recent-ish story that saw his return) the interactions are not too bad here and I’d be interested in seeing more, seeing these characters in a world without Wolverine.

The issue’s visuals are not bad…there’s a cartooney quality at points that’s mildly distracting and reminds me of Humberto Ramos‘ work. Not a terrible thing, but not entirely my cup of tea. On the whole this simply has the look of a comic book…I credit that to the strong linework (and I suppose that’s a shared credit with the inking). Ultimately the art’s relatively neutral for me…neither a significant turn-off nor a draw. It’s just there, it does its job, and I’m satisfied with it.

Had Marvel priced this at $2.99 as an enticement to investing in FOUR issues monthly, I might’ve been tempted to give it a shot on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, this is a $3.99 book…and a large contributing factor to my having been almost completely driven me away from Marvel stuff is their pricing. Their $3.99 price point combined with frequent double-shipping was a huge turnoff…and if 2 issues at $3.99 apiece each month is enough to frustrate me away from Marvel books, DOUBLING that frequency does nothing positive to my mindset.

I did see somewhere (Bleeding Cool, perhaps) that this series is scheduled to be collected in monthly volumes…provided those are not $20 apiece and I can find ’em at a discount, there’s a possibility I’ll go a bit further into this series that way…or perhaps consider an advance/pre-order for a discount on almost certainly inevitable Marvel Omnibus.

If you don’t mind the $3.99 and are a fan of Soule‘s work with Wolverine and/or Wolverine’s death so far, this may be a decent series to consider. As a single issue this fits the norm…the overwhelming part of the price comes from the realization of the series’ shipping frequency.

[ My thoughts on the final issue of The Death of Wolverine (the week it came out) ]

The ’90s Revisited: X-Factor #109

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xfactor109The Waking

Plot: John Francis Moore
Script: Todd Dezago
Pencils: Jan Duursema
Inks: Al Milgrom
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Colors: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: December 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

While this issue’s cover proclaims itself the start of Legion Quest, it’s still more of a prologue/lead-in than an official chapter…at least in my reading of it. The issue seems to be happening pretty much alongside Uncanny X-Men #319, though its labeling marks an official starting point from back in an age where stories were not “written for the trade” and neatly grouped in 4, 5, or 6 issue arcs with the eye on the collected volume.

The issue opens with Mystique in a hospital room being confronted by a couple members of X-Factor, where David Haller (Legion) has just awoken from a lengthy coma (I believe he’d been in the coma since the final pre-“adjectiveless” X-Men #1 launch). She’s there to kill him for (apparently) having killed Destiny, and X-Factor is there to stop her from murdering the boy. Finding herself outmatched, she makes to escape, vowing to return; and X-Factor pursues. The situation doesn’t go well, and eventually we’re left with Legion leaving the hospital and passing a message from Destiny (or *a* Destiny in his head) to Mystique. Legion then zaps X-Factor away, and leaves, talking about making things better.

The art’s a bit iffy for me–not bad, but there were parts (especially panels of Legion himself) that just look weird and exaggerated to me. Overall, no huge issue with the art, but it did distract me at a couple points, taking me out of the story.

The story itself isn’t entirely helpful–to me, it’s a “slice of life” sort of thing, with no “previously” page and not a LOT of context on stuff. At the same time…it’s not really needed…especially not for MY purposes here of reading the issue. This read-through is specifically for the issue being part of the Legion Quest stuff, and not for any specific story otherwise going on in the pages of X-Factor. But there’s plenty to give some context–Legion having killed Destiny, she and Mystique had History together, Forge was there when Destiny was killed, he and Mystique have some recent history, etc.

I really like that there’s some dialogue from Legion that I believe lines up with dialogue in Uncanny X-Men #319…this is the height of what I love about continuity in comics. In that issue, we see Xavier’s side as he dreams he’s interacting with Legion, and here we see Legion’s side, through the eyes of those around him at the time. This does not seem like anything that would truly fly in contemporary comics, from separate series not necessarily intended for collection in the same volume.

I also like that there’s lead-in to a story and it’s not just some sudden last-page reveal or epilogue sequence to something: we have at LEAST UXM 319 and this issue showing characters going about their business, the story unfolding in general but we get to key in on the specific “event” of Legion’s awakening and talking about changing the world for the better…which the main Legion Quest story itself is focused on as he actually executes his intentions.

The cover is a BIT misleading, showing a gleeful Legion standing over the unconscious (?) bodies of Mystique and X-Factor. But it fits the issue as we DO have Legion vs. Mystique and Legion vs. X-Factor, and Legion emerges victorious in both conflicts. Combined with the proclamation of Legion Quest beginning here, it’s a rather key image suggesting (among other things) that Legion’s taken out X-Factor before the X-Men even become involved…upping the threat-factor for the start of the main story itself.

Despite that, this issue is hardly essential to the core of that story, as I remember (not yet having read/re-read it recently). But this gives some good context, and alongside UXM 319 pads thing out pleasantly prior to jumping into the heart of the main story itself.

While not quite as enjoyable as last week’s UXM issue, I liked revisiting the X-Factor of this era, and getting a renewed sense of where things were at the time. Of course, even moreso I’m all the more eager to get into Legion Quest itself, and one of my all-time favorite single issues of a comic, as well as my all-time favorite X-Men story!

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