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The ’90s Revisited: X-Men Series 1, Cards 1-9

Several years back, I started covering this card set, one "page" at a time. (You know, those 9-pocket pages that fit in standard binders and are commonly used for storing trading cards and gaming cards and whatnot).

Life got in the way at the time and I’m pretty sure that was one of the points that I trailed off and let this blog go for awhile.

I’m almost curious myself what I wrote about these back then and how my thoughts/perceptions/memory may have changed since then. But now I’m going to give it another shot, and see if I can get through the entire set this time…and perhaps get a bit more detailed than I had that time.

What I intend for now is to show the entire "page" of cards, and then I’ll offer some sort of comment(s) on the individual cards, which I’ll show further below.

I scanned every one of these myself and did all the editing to make ’em pretty for these posts. If this goes well, I may cover a couple other sets. I suppose time will tell!


It’s interesting-ish to note the mix of "wide" vs "tall" images and the rather arbitrary placement/use of them. As I believe these are all Jim Lee pieces, perhaps it’s just what he felt like drawing, or whoever was working on the card set felt like cropping.

As I think this was one of the "earlier" such card sets (and pre-dates Magic: The Gathering and the whole "collectible card game" thing by a few years) so perhaps they were "learning" what/how to do a card set. C’est la vie.

xmen_series1_full_001-009

Beast and Wolverine I can see as some of the top X-Men…I’m a little surprised at Havok’s place here (but then, I’m typing this in 2017, and these were published in 1992–a quarter-century ago!) Similar goes for the others. I wouldn’t tend to associate Siryn or Wolfsbane with top-level, premiere X-Men…I associate them more with stuff like X-Force or X-Factor. Same for Cannonball.

I’ve noticed, though, that the "X" icon on the cards changes color depending on the character–this seems to correspond a bit to their specific team/title affiliation. I guess we’ll see as we go through the cards!

001a

Typical Beast…and very much a classic rendition of the character. I far prefer this version to the more modern takes.

001b

I don’t care at all, really, for the "stat graph". I do find the description basic and to the point, and the sort of thing that would definitely "informed" my knowledge of the character. I also like the brief info for name, affiliation, and first appearance…though Beast is a character that (now) that’s all information I take for granted.

002a

I’ve always preferred the yellow costume on Wolverine…though I appreciate this one. I’m sure part of that is the ’92 animated series, and that the character had "gone back to" the yellow by the time I was actually getting "into" the X-Men.

002b

Would it be wrong to suggest that this card’s text is "cute," given all the additional info that’s been added to the character in 25 years? In a way, it’s almost laughable how dated the card is for the character as he’s evolved…PARTICULARLY the bit about his "first recorded mission!" First? Pretty sure that’s long since been retconned…and/or I just take for granted how MUCH the character did long before that.

003a

This image of Havok reminds me a BIT of the holographic image from X-Factor #92…though this predates that issue by a year or so at least.

003b

I don’t think I ever realized Havok "absorbed cosmic energy," I just thought his power was some sort of bio-energy projection. Sorta interesting that there’s no mention on the card of Havok being the brother of Cyclops–Scott Summers. I know it, obviously, but you’d only be able to "guess" from the info provided here.

004a

Not really sure what I think of Iceman at this point. This is one of the more boring sort of looks for the character, even if it’s good art. I remember enjoying some of the stuff in the early/mid ’90s with them building the character a bit after Emma Frost got inside his head and utilized aspects of his powers that he himself hadn’t used. There’s also his role in LegionQuest and attempting to freeze Legion solid.

004b

I don’t recall the story this card mentions, of his being unable to control his powers. That strikes me a bit like Rogue’s, perhaps–though I can’t be certain (since I haven’t read the story!). I’ve also never "gotten" the ice-slides as travel…the LOOK is cool (no pun intended) but the physics and such behind it seems questionable. Still…suspension of disbelief and all that, right?

005a

While I don’t consciously recall reading much involving this version of Phoenix, I do recall seeing the character here and there and not being quite sure what to make of the character. That said, that fact and this sort of imagery is part of where I had a real problem with AvX–if the Phoenix was manifesting regularly like this, it was a bit more suspending of disbelief to buy into it as such a rare entity needing to "return," but that’s a bunch of thinking for another time.

005b

Well there’s another thing I’d forgotten–Rachel using her powers to hide the tattoos. I’m sure I knew that along the way because her being shown with OR without them rarely phases me or gives me much pause over the different appearances.

It’s interesting to note the language here–rather than going into the more complex aspects of her history, they say "an alternate reality." Days of Future Past

006a

Nightcrawler’s one of my favorites, yet I rarely think of the character when put on the spot or trying to think of favorites off the top of my head. I guess that’d make him a "forgotten favorite."

006b

Another "X-tra Fact" that I didn’t/don’t recall about the character. Perhaps that’s further push that I need to read the entirety of the Claremont run one of these years. Like Wolverine, definitely interesting-ish to see the character’s background as presented here, compared to what would come over the subsequent 25 years.

009a

Cannonball is a character I remember primarily for "graduating to" the main X-Men team during the ’90s. Something to this costume is a bit off, so I’m thinking I’m more familiar with a different look…I just can’t recall it off the top of my head.

009b

I often "forget" that the New Mutants got their start in a "pilot" of sorts in the graphic novel, and that it was the first appearance of a number of characters. It’s further interesting to consider that that was 1982–maybe 11-12 years before I would have learned much of anything about the character. And that it’s been well over 2 decades SINCE learning of the character!

When I see the character’s last name–Guthrie–I often think of Age of Apocalypse and the character and his family as used there.

008a

I feel like I often mix Wolfsbane up with another character…yet, as I type this, now I can’t think OF the other character! Perhaps it’s more that the character changed over the years and wasn’t restricted just to New Mutants or X-Factor?

008b

And of course, part of the above association with the character is not clarified by the card text. I do recall the character being unable to shift back into a human form, though. And really have gotta get around to reading some of these other key stories from pre-1991/92 that had so much impact on characters as they were in the ’90s when I was actually reading their ongoing stories!

007a

I remember Siryn primarily because of her being in the Spider-Man/X-Force crossover that I initially read in its tpb form (when such things were relatively rare). Her costume is rather recognizable, so she’s one of the more distinct characters for me visually…at least with this costume.

007b

Here’s another case where I’m actually learning about the character NOW from the card–I did not know about her first appearance (and would have pegged it as X-Force #1 or thereabouts…not Spider-Woman…and at LEAST would have thought she was a more recent character than early-’80s! I also don’t recall much of anything about Banshee lamenting a lost child…but then, haven’t read much with Banshee, period, so…yeah.


Perhaps a bit disjointed/random…but that’s my stream-of-conscious commentary on looking through these first 9 cards!

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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.

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

aoa_revisited_logo

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.

X-Men Series 1 Revisited, Part 1

This is definitely a strange set to look back to, having come out in 1992…22 years ago! At the same time, it’s rather cool to look back this far, as this is the X-Men just shy of my discovering them originally, and it’s cool to revisit what these characters’ status quo was then, given everything that’s come about SINCE.

It’s also a bit odd to consider the publisher of these cards–Impel–as I am almost certain they aren’t even around anymore, and that they passed the torch (so to speak) for the next series of X-Men cards that was published in 1993.

Especially compared to the Marvel Universe Series IV set, this seems rather amateurish in a way…with some of the cards being landscape oriented, others portrait, and seemingly not organized within the set with an awareness of the standard 9-pocket card pages these would often be stored in.

All of these first 9 are oriented the same way, but as we’ll see next week, the next 9 switch to virtually all portrait orientation, where much of the set remains before a switch back. The coloring on some of the cards–as we’ll see in later posts–also does not all go together for single pages. And yet the final 9-card grouping does make a single larger image.

This first grouping introduces us to a mix of characters from several of the then-current teams: the X-Men themselves, as well as X-Factor, X-Force, and Excalibur.

I don’t much care for the power grid on the backs of the cards–I’ve never cared for this sort of stat with characters, as stories are constantly changing things and these never seem–to me–to remain accurate. All the more for comparing the characters.

The short snippets are nice as a bit of introduction to the characters, and I like the note of their first appearance…a rather handy piece of information to have, even these 20-odd years later. The “X-tra Fact” is also a neat piece of info to have…particularly to help set these cards within the time they came out, as I’m looking back on them now.

I actually hadn’t realized until going through these for this post that Siryn first appeared in Spider-Woman and not a “regular” X-book somewhere.

Nothing too spectacular about these, though I do rather like the Jim Lee art, as well as the use of DIFFERENT art on the backs of the cards rather than a re-use of the front…showing that there was a bit of thought put into these.

[Click below to see the individual cards…]

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Amazing X-Men (2013) #1 [Review]

amazingxmen(2013)001The Quest for Nightcrawler part 1 of 5

Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciler: Ed McGuinness
Inker: Dexter Vines
Colors: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover: McGuiness & Gracia
Assistant Editor: Xander Jarowey
Associate Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Nick Lowe
Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $3.99

I bought this because of Nightcrawler, and because of the cover. Well, the regular cover, anyway–the wraparound/double-page-spread-sized image (see below). I usually hate the “return” of dead characters, but given recent indoctrination to the “well, how LONG are they gonna STAY dead?” thing I’ve simply been waiting for this; knowing it WOULD come about, just not sure which year it’d be (turns out, 2013 into 2014). And darn, that’s a nice cover!

My expectation for this issue was pretty low going in, despite recognizing the potential, and “knowing” this is the “return of Nightcrawler,” from snippets I’ve spotted online–that I’ve come across without specifically seeking out. I figured hey, I’ll give this issue a shot. ONE issue, a first issue of a new series…a few pages to “convince” me to come back for another issue, without leaving me further disillusioned with Marvel Stuff.

The issue opens with an extremely basic summation of Nightcrawler, then picks up with Nightcrawler himself, and the beginnings of this grand adventure. Some demons launch a raid on the edge of this afterlife realm, and Nightcrawler fights back. Turns out his father–Azazel–is leading the campaign. Of course, Nightcrawler opposes him, a yet-unfinished task before he can “move on.” Back on Earth, Angelica Jones (Firestar) arrives at the Jean Grey school as a new member of the staff…but finds things are not nearly as simple as she’d expected. Amidst other goings-on, the staff–led by Beast–find that the Bamfs infestation is much more significant than they’d thought, and leads them to realizing something rather big is touching off.

Now, my first thought, slightly tangential: if there are plus Bamfs for sale anywhere, I totally want a blue one! I don’t know when these things showed up, but I think I was only just aware enough of their existence that I’m not scratching my head here…maybe I’m drawing on some metatextual knowledge as well that made ’em amusing…and Really Darned Cute!

Visually, I highly enjoyed this, from the cover on through. As said above, the cover “sold” me on this issue, and the art fit the cover and the story, and I was never once taken out of the story by some weird panel or not being able to follow what’s going on. (And darn if those Bamfs aren’t cute lil’ critters!) I don’t care for Storm’s look, but that’s the mohawk and such, not the art itself. Despite Beast’s relatively new look, I had to remind myself that it WAS his new look…he just looked like Beast. And I couldn’t help but grin at Nightcrawler getting the swords and swinging into action…the cover isn’t itself an exact scene from the issue, but it conveys some of the spirit of what went on.

Story-wise…The characters themselves are not (yet) reunited with Nightcrawler, sure. But we (the readers) get the first few pages of this issue to spend with him, before being “stuck” with the non-Nightcrawler characters of the title. We get Firestar brought into things, some context of her past with the characters (including Iceman), and stuff like that; context that Bamfs have been around the Jean Grey School for awhile and not a major problem til now. And by issue’s end we can see what’s coming, and left off with a cliffhanger that I don’t HAVE to see the resolution to…it’s a cliffhanger I WANT to see the resolution to.

The issue begins the return of Nightcrawler. We get Nightcrawler IN THIS issue–no waiting for #2 or #3 to so much as see the character. We get a great cover that fits the issue. We get immediate gratification while being primed for more to come. It’s a great balance. We get exposure to other characters that will feature in this title, despite also being featured in other titles…we get setup for coming issues.

I had planned to skip this issue. I’m tired of $3.99, I’m tired of double-shipping books (no clue offhand if this is going to be a double-shipper or just an old-style once-a-month title), but couldn’t resist checking this out. And for this first arc at least, I’m on-board. The story’s good and gives plenty I like in my first-issues; the art’s very much to my liking (and I don’t remember specifically liking McGuinness‘ work this much previously), so all in all I’m quite satisfied with the issue and definitely looking forward to the next issue.

All in all, you don’t really need to be up on a lotta current continuity, I don’t think. Knowing all the recent goings-on throughout the X-books will surely lend a richer experience and contextual knowledge. But the core stuff is given in this issue and/or looks likely to be able to be picked up further as the arc continues. Especially if you’re a fan of Nightcrawler, whatever you thought of his demise in Second Coming, this is very much an issue to get. And even taken alone, this is a solid first issue if you want to jump into an X-book fresh with a #1 issue. Highly recommended!

amazingxmen(2013)001(full)

Marvel Universe Series IV Revisited, Part 5

Here we have some tangential X-characters that I’ve come to know MUCH more about in intervening years than I knew at the time these cards came out!

To this day I’m not entirely clear on the Guardian character, and outside of these cards know nothing of Micromax or Wildheart (though I wonder at the Wild Child connection, and am obviously missing plenty of context there, even after Age of Apocalypse).

I certainly didn’t appreciate the Phoenix character at the time–though particularly after last year’s AvX, I’ve come to appreciate the enormity of the Phoenix Force…which seems a bit shoe-horned in given its regularity here in the early-’90s.

While I associate most of these characters with Excalibur, Havok and Strong Guy I strongly associate with X-Factor, particularly from this time-period; in Fatal Attractions and at least on up to just before Age of Apocalypse.

I’ve become most familiar with Captain Britain in the first Uncanny X-Force run, and certainly miss Nightcrawler, given his fate a few years ago.

This image these 9 cards make up would make for a cool (or hot?) poster, I think– nicely showcasing the characters.

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