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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Men Chronicles #1

aoa_revisited_logo

xmenchronicles001Origins

Writer: Howard Mackie
Penciler: Terry Dodson
Inker: Klaus Janson
Colorist: Matt Webb
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Cover: Carlos Pacheco, Cam Smith
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

"Traditionally," this is one of my favorite Age of Apocalypse issues. As much as anything tied to the larger AoA epic really is, this is a self-contained issue, functionally a one-shot. And it’s double-sized, a larger chunk of story in one go than anything but X-Men: Alpha itself so far.

Everything else to this point has been set in the "present-day," the contemporary X-Universe of the time, 20 years after the death of Xavier. This issue is set some years earlier than that–at the dawn of the Age of Apocalypse itself, at Apocalypse’s "first strike" of sorts, against humanity at large.

We meet a young-ish Magneto training his band of X-Men in a secret location in the mountains. The group is introduced to a new teammate–the older and more dangerous man known as Logan…or Weapon X. As training draws to a close, a second new member is brought to their location–a young woman named Rogue. Amidst all this, Apocalypse strikes…forcing Magneto into action sooner than he’d expected. And while he and his young mutants fight off Apocalypse’s minions…another strike is carried out against their home.

Probably the most "glaring" thing about this issue–for me–was a narration box stating (after introducing the characters) "Together, they from the mutant team known as…the X-Men." They FROM the mutant team? Not form–eff oh are emm–they "from" it? A simple transposing of two letters, but for me it stands out in a huge way. Maybe it’s been corrected in digital reprints or other reprint editions, but I’m pointedly reading the single issues that were actually put out at the time.

But to be frank on it…if the worst I see in editing is a spelling glitch and I’m not grousing about huge giant plot-holes or character inconsistencies…I’d say things are going pretty well on that front. Being human, I can forgive the only spelling error I’ve noticed in however many issues so far.

The art has an interesting flavor to it, feeling at once "typical ’90s" to me and yet definitely conveys an "older" tone just from the look, even though the story is pointedly set in the past. As I often find myself saying: the visuals don’t blow me away, but they were quite well for the issue and I didn’t particularly notice anything worth grousing about.

Given the real-world quantity of comics chronicling the adventures of the X-Men through the years and the amount of time purported to have passed for these characters…there is still a huge body of stories that could be told of the characters in this Age of Apocalypse timeline. At the time this was published, everything was ‘face value’ and this issue was the sole, primary glimpse into "the past" of the characters, giving us one of THE key stories–that of Apocalypse’s first strike against humanity as well as the fate of the Scarlet Witch.

And this has that feel…sort of like having all these contemporary issues, but then picking up an old issue and reading a good story that "still matters" in current continuity. While I’m consciously aware of plenty of "Untold Tales from the Age of Apocalypse" stories that eventually came out, this is the first and one of the best. We see a version of the characters both familiar yet different…but not yet as "dark" as they are by "present day." This gives us–as readers–the chance to witness the introductions of Rogue and Weapon X to the team, Apocalypse striking out, without having to solely be "told" it happened.

It’s also rather nice to get "just" a story of these X-Men that does not directly tie to the premise of the main epic, of bringing pieces together for the final showdown at the end of the Age of Apocalypse. Knowing solely the basic premise–that Xavier was killed in the past and Magneto formed the X-Men instead–one can easily read and enjoy this issue in and of itself as a one-shot without even having to read any of the other Age of Apocalypse issues.

To me, this truly is Age of Apocalypse done right…unlike most everything done SINCE the 1990s involving the timeline.

Mid-March Acquisitions

A few more reasons I love my local comic shop: over the last couple weeks, got Ultimate Comics X: Origins, Ultimate Spider-Man vol. 10, The Iron Age, and X-Force vol. 1 hardcovers for 75% off.

Fitting right into that theme, I stumbled across X-Men: X-Cutioner’s Song for what worked out to 73% off cover price at another shop last week.

spines

I read the first issue of Ultimate Comics X a little over 3 years ago, and even having paid full price for that issue then, I still have not paid the equivalent of 3 single issues for this series…and definitely look forward to reading this to see if it’s worthwhile.

ultimatexoriginshc

Back in 2004-2005 or so, I tracked down X-Cutioner’s song after simply never having gotten around to it in years previous. I believe I found a cheap secondhand copy of an old edition of the paperback…but I’ve had my eye on this quasi-“Omnibus” edition for a couple years now…spotting it for $14 made my week!

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X-Men Origins: Gambit #1 [Review]

Random Acts of Redemption

Writer: Mike Carey
Artists: David Yardin and Kraim Roberson
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: Rob Steen
Assistant Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Editor: Nick Lowe
Cover: David Yardin
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I broke a personal rule for this issue: I actually paid the $3.99 cover price for it–a price that I despise and on the whole make a point of avoiding on principle alone. However, it’s a one-shot, and I count 30 pages of story, which is slightly higher than a standard issue.

The story of this issue basically follows Gambit–Remy Lebeau–from childhood until what I believe is the incident that introduced him to the X-Men (though I’ve never actually read his first appearance). This is a bit of a recap sort of issue, taking what’s been revealed and established through the years on the character and putting it into a single chronological narrative. That feat is accomplished quite well, and I enjoyed the story as its presented here. It’s also interesting to compare to what I remember of the Gambit series that ran for a couple years back in the late 90s/early 2000 to this…I’m pretty sure that a lot of the story here is based on what was established in that series.

Carey does an excellent job of boiling things down and hitting “the main points” of Gambit’s background. It’s kinda hard to believe (in a way) just how little was known (established) for so long about this character in the first few years of his existence, particularly throughout the 1990s…I’d be quite curious as to how one would “read” those issues in light of currently-established facets of the character, and see how all the cryptic comments/references to vague events hold up–how well more recent writers have fit things to those.

The art somehow reminds me a bit of the Ender’s Game/Shadow books–moreso with the coloring, I think. The style works well, and it’s enjoyable to see the “modern” take on glimpses at 20-year-old events in the X-Universe…characters look as they should on the whole, but the art style is obviously in line with this book as a whole.

If you’re a Gambit fan, this issue’ll be well worth snagging if you haven’t already (I had to wait an extra week as it sold out at my local shop the first week). As a one-shot with extra pages, it’s even worthwhile if–like me–you hate paying $4 for any single issue.

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

Green Lantern #38 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Robin #183 [Review]

Last Rites: Robin Dies at Dawn!

Storytellers: Fabian Nicieza & Freddie Williams II
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Colors: Guy Major
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Freddie Williams II
Publisher: DC Comics

Robin’s ally on the GCPD receives a note suggesting that at dawn, Robin will die. It is quickly determined that it is from Lady Shiva–one of THE most dangerous individuals in the world (and the woman against whom Tim Drake proved his mettle at the beginning of his career, showing that he had what it takes to BE Robin). As he faces his own “final night,” Tim/Robin touches base with–or tries to–with some key individuals in his life. Toward the story’s end, having prepared himself for what he is to face, Robin once again goes up against Shiva in mortal combat.

The art for this books is pretty good. I’m not sure if the artist’s style has changed or if I’m thinking of a different artist, but I like this far better than I liked the artwork on this title pre-One Year Later. I still find it sorta strange seeing Robin’s black-and-red costume after so many years of the other; ditto Tim’s longer hair. But really, both aspects of the visual show growth and change in the character–it’s great to be able to see that even as the character has matured, the visuals have matured to go with the overall maturation.

I’ve been following this title rather sporatically lately–an issue here, an issue there, so I can’t speak to where this plays in terms of the overall continuity. The story I found here was rather fitting, though, for a final issue–we got to see Tim interact with a number of characters who I’m familiar with (and one I think I am, but not sure), sorta touching base with them on this possible final night, before he steps up to face his responsibilities. I’m not sure how many issues now (between the actual RIP tie-ins and the Last Rites semi-arc) this title has featured Robin solo withOUT Batman. It’s rather like the series’ beginnings during the Knightfall arc when Jean-Paul kicked Robin out of the Cave to fend for himself. Bruce was gone then, and Bruce is gone now…but the details and characters are different.

Though pretty well done, this does feel a bit rushed–and we know Tim’s part of the Battle for the Cowl–so this basically just touches on stuff, offers some sentimentality, but then we’re going to follow the character to another writer and possibly huge status quo changes.

Origins & Omens
Story: Fabin Nicieza
Art & Colors: Freddie Williams II
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Ass’t Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts

This backup–like the “main story”–touches on stuff going all the way back to the earliest days of Tim Drake–I believe back to even before his very first MINI-series. We see him fighting the man who killed his mother, and facing a choice between vengeance and justice–a choice that apparently is going to have some definite impact on the future of this character.

The art’s decent, but not wonderful–I don’t like it nearly as well as I liked the art in the main story. On the whole I could’ve really done without this backup (or enjoyed a text/prose page or journal entry from Tim in its place).

All in all, as final issues go, this isn’t the best, but certainly isn’t the worst. As a standard comic with no fancy covers or extra pages/higher price and such–that just happens to be the last for this title–it’s fitting…especially since we know it’s not the end of the starring character.

Recommended mainly for regular readers of the most recent stuff…but as a lapsed reader who read all 3 original minis and then followed the first 120-some issues of this title…it’s also worth while to see where Robin’s wound up.

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

Supergirl #38 [Review]

Who is Superwoman? part two: Clashes

Writer: Sterling Gates
Penciller: Jamal Igle
Inker: Keith Champagne
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Joshua Middleton
Publisher: DC Comics

I’m finding myself with mixed feelings on this book. True, Kara finally has some depth and personality, motivation and complexity, and most of the crap from the earliest issues of the book has been dealt with to satisfaction and we’re moving forward. While that’s all a good thing, I also find myself growing a bit bored of the New Krypton stuff. The trouble with it is that I have no idea how long this will be a part of DC’s continuity for these characters–I feel like it’s still a bit of a bubble that’ll burst in some deux ex machina that’ll take us back to something resembling the recent post-Infinite Crisis status quo. I also don’t see how this title would have or could play much with Final Crisis–even if the Kryptonians would be too aloof to want to help earth, wouldn’t the New Gods have detected the presense of all these Kryptonians and sought them as hosts far more powerful?

All that aside, this issue picks up with Supergirl back on Earth–where “all Kryptonians except for Superman” have been legally banned. She’s there by order of her mother to retrieve Reactron–the man who murdered her father, Zor-El and bring him back to New Krypton to face the Kryptonians. At the same time, a Superwoman with questionable loyalties fights Kara, insisting that she not be on Earth and return to New Krypton at once, mission unfulfilled. After this battle, we cut (no pun intended) to the pending autopsy of Agent Liberty, and a squabble over who has rights to the body. Back at Lana and Linda Lang’s apartment, Supergirl staggers in, battered and beaten. Meanwhile, Superwoman faces Reactron herself–and poses a very interesting question.

The story itself maintains a solid flow–we’re building on events from the last few months, both from this title and the other Superman family books, particularly the New Krypton story. As said above, I’m growing a bit tired of it, though, and it’s not really holding my interest. Which is not to say it’ll hold no one’s interest, but it doesn’t hold mine the way the opening chapters of New Krypton did.

The art is solid–as with previous issues, for whatever reason my only real gripe is with the way the artist draws ears. Aside from that, I have no particular complaints visually–the art is distinctive, clear, keeps one in the action and does not leave me scratching my head as to what’s going on.

Origins & Omens
Writer: Sterling Gates
Artist: Matthew Clark
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

I’m definitely growing a bit tired of the Origins and Omens backups–they take away valuable pages from the main story, rather than being an entire extra batch of pages tacked onto the existing full-sized issue. This one expands upon the fact of Kara’s being torn between Earth and New Krypton, the choices she faces by giving full loyalty to one or the other. This short also suggests a rather harsh road ahead for Lana, which may tie into a story done in this title before the current team took over.

Story was brief and simplistic…not much in the way of plot–it’s more a feeling or environmental, almost surreal sorta scene. The art was fine–I recognize the artist’s name, but can’t quite place it, unless this was the previous artist on Supergirl.

All in all, a good issue of this title, but not really flying to greatness just yet. I do expect the story will actually come across better down the road–in collected-edition format and/or simply with some time given to be able to look back on it and see where everything was headed, rather than wondering what IS.

Worth snagging, especially if you’re a fan of the character, the creative team, or those slightly-questionable-at-this-point green pentagonal “triangle numbers” still showing up.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7/10

Adventure Comics #0 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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