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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 Sandman: The Dream Hunters #1 [Review]

Original Words by: Neil Gaiman
Graphicplay and Art by: P. Craig Russell
Coloring: Lovern Kindzierski
Lettering: Todd Klein
Associate Editor: Pornsk Pichetshote
Editor: Karen Berger
Covers by: Yuko Shimizu and P. Craig Russell
Published by: Vertigo/DC Comics

As this story begins, a Badger and a Fox make a small wager, that whoever can drive a young monk from the temple can claim the temple as their own home. While each puts on an impressive show, the young monk sees through each, and remains. However, the fox finds herself in a bit of a predicament–she has fallen in love with the monk. Having done so, when she learns of a plot hatched by demons to kill the monk, she seeks some way in which she might save this monk, and finds herself encountering the king of dreams–Morpheus–The Sandman. She gets an answer to her dilemma…and wakes.

The art here is quite good. There’s a certain charm to it–it’s fairly simplistic, but not overly so. There’s plenty of detail where necessary. Other than the fact that the art fits and simply works very well for the story, I don’t have much to say on it.

The story is by Neil Gaiman, and was originally published as a novella a decade ago. This is the first of a four-issue comic adaptation of that novella. The story maintains its strength, and having the panel-by-panel visuals to chronicle the story gives a much different feel to the story while staying extremely true to the original.

I don’t always find adaptations of anything to be all that wonderful–but I have to say, just as a first issue, this is probably the best adaptation of a written work I’ve come across–at least in recent memory. Curious from the start how closely this would follow the original source material, I actually pulled the original from my shelf to compare…and was very much impressed. Virtually word for word, this is identical to its source. The difference is in the format. Narration in the original that describes a setting doesn’t have to be prose–we see it in the visuals. We also don’t have narration telling us that the Fox said this or the Badger said that–we have the word balloons showing who says what, and what they ‘re saying. Though I recall enjoying the original well enough–the art was certainly beautiful to look at–the story itself never really stuck with me all that much. Somehow, the way it is presented here, it sticks, and thus puts this at least in equal footing with the original–if not surpassing it in its own way.

This comic adaptation brings something new and fresh to the table–enhancing the original, without displacing it. Neil Gaiman fans, P. Craig Russell fans, Sandman fans–all ought to find plenty to enjoy here, if only for nostalgia’s sake. You could certainly do far worse with a prose-to-comics adapted work.

Story: 8/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9/10

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