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Astonishing X-Men (2017) #1 [Review]

astonishing_x-men_(2017)_0001Life of X – Part One

Writer: Charles Soule
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego, Walden Wong
Colors: Richard Isanove, Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Jim Cheung & Richard Isanove
Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen, Anthony Gambino
Assistant Editor: Christina Harrington
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: September 2017
Cover Price: $4.99

I was a sucker. I’d seen a poster-image of this issue’s cover, and I vaguely recall the image grabbing me initially when it was first debuted with solicitation or shortly after. Archangel has always been a striking figure for me, and despite the last ten or so years, Bishop (especially looking as he does here) rings quite nostalgic for me. Then there’s Rogue, and while I don’t much care for the “Old Man” version, seeing ‘a Wolverine figure’ here drove it home. But in addition to that, there’s something about the blending of the coloring–the rich orangey-yellow background and the yellow and blue of the logo…and that the logo may not be the “classic” X-MEN logo, but it has a certain blend of the old and new while being its own thing…and NOT coming off as “pretentious” (as if text CAN be pretentious) to me.

I was ALSO a sucker because a local comic shop had sent out an email informing us that any Marvel purchase would get a free “cosmic cube,” and while I am actively disinterested in the current comics Event, I’m a sucker for plastic comic artifacts (such as Lantern Corps Rings), and the Cosmic Cube goes way back. And with Astonishing X-Men #1 being out this week and already having the against-my-better-judgment interest, I figured hey…fine. I tried X-Men: Gold #1 and X-Men: Blue #1, so I could give Astonishing X-Men #1 a go. Especially at $3.99.

After I’d bought the issue (amidst my other purchases), and gotten it home AND read it…THEN I realized that no…this was NOT a $3.99 issue. It was $4.99…so for that, I’m not a happy camper. But where even comic shops are lucky to return comics, it’s not like I can “return” the issue, so I’m sorta stuck with it, whatever “principle” I want to take with it.

I’m not happy that my inattention to detail had me ignorantly buying yet another $5 #1 issue from Marvel (in an industry when other publishers proved $10 vol. 1 collected editions with 5-6 issues).

Buuuuuut…

I enjoyed this issue.

I actually did!

We open on a quick scene, learning that mutant psychics all over the world are dying. Then we come to Betsy Braddock–Psylocke–who is one of the STRONGEST mutant psychics, and the force that’s killing the others isn’t able to subdue her until after she’s sent out a psychic cry for help. We’re also (re) introduced to Bishop; to Angel/Archangel, Gambit and Fantomex, Old Man Logan and Rogue; four of whom are on the receiving end of Psylocke’s cry for help; which draws them all in to her location. The force that’s been attacking the psychics is concentrated, and no longer constrained to just the local psychics. As the group converges, they must face the psychic energy-outlash while saving civilians and surviving themselves. Working together, the immediate, outward threat is resolved…but Betsy reveals that she now knows who is behind it–and that things are worse than even this was. Some of the group must go to the Astral Plane to stop the Shadow King. No time to seek shelter or plan–she sends them immediately, with Angel and Bishop remaining behind to protect them all. Meanwhile, we confirm that yes indeed, this is definitely Shadow King. And he’s got quite a secret…which provides a major “hook” for me regarding subsequent issues of this series!

While I was incredibly skeptical of X-Men Prime, X-Men Blue, and X-Men Gold, I bought the one-shot and #1s to “try,” to go against my anti-Marvel negativity and give the things “a shot,” an ISSUE, at least. And that way I could at least judge for myself how things seemed, and feel like I had more room to criticize–at least I’d have bought the big, over-priced first-issues, and have SOME hands-on “experience,” not just second-hand stuff.

And so, too, I figured for this. $4.99 is too much for a single issue, for a first issue. MAYBE for an Annual, or an oversized special/one-shot. But a $5+ issue should be rare and special…not plentiful as water. Marvel has abused the price point to where I virtually NEVER even bother to look at their comics, because I just KNOW they’re basically the most ridiculously-priced premium-priced things in the market. Real or perception, but that’s where I am.

But I’ve got the issue, I read it, and I actually enjoyed it. We have some prologue. We have character introductions. We have an immediate threat, and we see a group of disparate mutant figures come together, face the threat, and emerge victorious. We then have the setup for an even bigger threat–the one that carries beyond “just” this issue…and it looks to involve other nostalgic elements that work organically with the Shadow King character, as well as perhaps grabbing onto continuity and yanking on a loose thread, in preparation of some re-stitching and mending.

The story is engaging and keeps stuff moving; I can and will allow any “inconsistencies of character” to be credited to the last decade or more of mutant comics and lack of continuity and the apparent attempt here to play with the existing status quo. Visually, I dug this issue. Everyone’s recognizable and I like the visuals; there’s a sense of modernity with the aforementioned nostalgia; new and old, simply making this a good-looking comic. The multiple inkers do not take away from that–I only even know there were multiple inkers due to seeing the credits.

I don’t want to like any Marvel series right now. The X-Men are old favorites, and I’ve felt largely let-down by everything that’s been done with, to, and involving them for years, such that many of them are hardly recognizable to me anymore. I do not TRUST Marvel to not “yank the rug out” from under me, or some sorta bait-and-switch with this. I’ve already seen one or two of the other X-titles tie in to a major crossover event…and I want nothing to do with that, either. So…I might come back for the next issue of this arc, or at least check it out if I notice it on the rack. I am honestly very interested in what this particular story arc holds, and if I’m gonna pay Marvel‘s too-high inflated/”premium” price point, I can justify it a bit easier in smaller doses as single issues than collected volumes.

I actually don’t feel I can really speak to whether old fans or new fans or both would care or not care about this issue…I’m a weird creature when i comes to Marvel, and the X-Men. Suffice it to say that even at that $5 price point and $3.99 otherwise with possible bi-weekly shipping, I’m hooked here where even the likes of Blue and Gold didn’t grab me at this level. That makes this a definite “light in the darkness” of X-Books, and if you can stomach the $4.99 price point, this is about as good an issue for that as any that Marvel‘s put out of late!

astonishing_x-men_(2017)_0001_blogtrailer

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The ’90s Revisited: X-Men Series 1, Cards 10-18

Here we get into several of the characters I know a lot better, and definitely associate with the ’90s…though also one that I remember by name, but at a glance don’t even remember any details!

xmen_series1_full_010-018

We also see where this set seems to pre-date the "consciousness" of cards like this likely being stored in 9-pocket pages and the "use" of that structure. Given one page late in this series, they weren’t entirely without that, but having just one "landscape" card amidst eight "portrait" cards doesn’t exactly work well for the aesthetics of the "page"…

010a

Lockheed’s had a number of looks, and seems a bit malleable…at least to my conscious mind. This image makes him look a bit larger–so it’s the "conscious" knowledge of his being smaller that I can know that.

010b

I’d swear I’ve seen images of Lockheed on Kitty Pryde’s shoulder like a parrot…but 55 lbs? That definitely stretches stuff a bit. I don’t remember much detail of the character over the years, but this card’s info doesn’t seem to be contradictory to anything…just a bit outta date. And I knew how he got his name, but forgot til re-reading the card. I probably knew that originally from this card. Or Wikipedia.

011a

Given Xavier’s place in the X-Men story, I’m surprised he wasn’t the first card…but then, they’re not going alphabetically nor in order of first appearance and not even by team, so…yeah. This is a fairly typical image of the character, and though I have fond memories of the look (with the golden hover-chair) it seems so dated now, afer getting used to the character in actual wheelchairs or with his legs restored.

011b

Xavier’s description here is pretty generic…and certainly precedes Onslaught, the Illuminati stuff, and obviously the likes of AvX. Though I suppose as I think about it…those added a certain depth the character hadn’t had…even if retcons get old and stale fast.

012a

I’m sure I’ve seen this image–or at least the pose–a number of places other than this card. It’s typical Jim Lee, typical of this character (at least in this ’90s incarnation), etc.

012b

…but no mention on the card of her past, or that this (apparently) isn’t her original body and whatnot. I’m fuzzy on the details, not having read the "Siege Perilous" stuff first-hand as yet, even after all these years.

013a

While I’m sure I was aware of the character before then, I feel like most of my conscious memory of Domino came after the Age of Apocalypse stuff, in the Cable title. This image of her seems a bit harsher and more generic than what I picture in my mind when I think of the character.

013b

This card pretty much sums up what I’d be able to say about the character, despite remembering her from those issues of Cable. And I would not have been able to cite her first appearance or tell you offhand that she’d first appeared in New Mutants #98. This description seems "typical ’90s," as is fitting.

014a

My conscious introduction to Storm was the ’92 X-Men animated series…that look, and that voice are the definitive Storm for me. This card’s image is fairly typical for what I’d think of with the character, except I wouldn’t have recalled her cape having the purple tint or the gold trim.

014b

Nothing stands out much for this card (though I’m noticing the weights of characters seems rather questionable). Her "X-tra Fact" is something I don’t think I’d consciously realized until a recent-ish Nightcrawler series. I have the feeling by the time I’m done offering commentary on this series of cards, I’m gonna be thoroughly kicking myself for not (yet) having gotten to the bulk of the Claremont run.

015a

Meggan…ok. Blond Siryn? For all that my memory has on the character at a name and image.

015b

Huh. Ok, interesting–and here’s a character I’ve learned about by going through these cards. I also like the X-Tra Fact…that’s the sorta detail I definitely took to heart as a kid, and would hold as relatively "absolute" in terms of continuity.

016a

Feral! This is the character I previously couldn’t think of, that I always mix up with Wolfsbane! Two female were-wolf-like characters, X-characters at that, with association with X-Force…no wonder I’ve mixed them up!

016b

So, I probably mix up the names, but most often would think of Wolfsbane, when it comes to the two characters. More details here that I’d hold as certain and be disappointed to not see reflected in a generic, casual appearance of the character involving any kind of action or such.

017a

Now, Cyclops. Possibly my favorite X-character, and this is by far my favorite costume…though I’d swear I never consciously took in all the pouches in the early ’90s. I like the blue, and the gold; I’ll grant that the shorts are rather dated, but the contrast of yellow and blue–evoking prior costumes while becoming iconic for the ’90s–just works for me!

017b

This is another fairly generic description…and it’s quite interesting to see how MUCH the character has grown and changed since the early-1990s…though I really have NOT cared for what’s been done with him since AvX.

018a

I have a mixed bit of thought on Gambit…but he remains one of my definite favorites of the X-Men, for his role in the ’92 cartoon and the Fabian Nicieza series from ’99ish. This is a classic sort of look for the character, and the one I prefer…regardless of how dated or "’90s" it is.

018b

Interesting. Remy Lebeau. I just think of the name with the character…so to consider his name unrevealed (in any form) is a bit odd…but then, he was introduced at most two years before this card was printed, and I’ve been myself aware of the character for most of the last 25-ish years!

I’m more aware OF the "early" stuff with the character, not having actually read his first appearance as yet and "met" the character via the animated series, and he’d already undergone some development well before I realized how "new" a character he was at the time!


Here’s my last post, comments covering the first 9 cards of this series.

The ’90s Revisited: Uncanny X-Men #320

90srevisited_thumb[2]_thumb_thumb

uncannyxmen320Legion Quest part 1: The Son Rises in the East

Plot: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Penciler: Roger Cruz
Inker: Tim Townsend
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: January 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Making me think I missed a chapter, this issue opens on the action, as a squad of X-Men are in the midst of a “battle” with Legion–one in which they’re throwing everything they can at the boy, and the boy’s not even acknowledging them. The issue cycles between this battle and flashbacks to what brought the X-Men to this point–Gabrielle Haller and X-Factor reached out, and so these X-Men came to Israel to see what they could do. Legion finally acknowledges his attackers, jumping back in time with Storm to show her the moments before a jet’s crash that killed her mother. Returning to the present, Storm–despite her hurt and anger–pieces things together, and with the help of Psylocke and Bishop gets the group psychically tethered to Legion just before he makes his main jump back in time. Having used her own powers to anchor herself in the present, Jean is left behind with just enough consciousness to contact Xavier to let him know the X-Men and Legion are gone. Finally, in the depths of space, Lilandra, queen of the Shi’ar, is informed of the beginning of all that is.

This issue had several editions. The X-books at the time were presented in “Deluxe” and “standard” editions–the deluxe having higher quality paper, while the standard was the cheaper paper and (I believe) carried a cheaper cover price. The non-deluxe editions have never been on my radar, and so are being soundly ignored.

With the deluxe edition, there was the regular edition one would buy in comic shops…and there was a “gold edition” that was included in an issue of Wizard magazine. Not just some “ashcan” or “preview” or such, it was the issue in its entirety.

Other than that, there’s nothing (to me) all that remarkable about the cover or anything “iconic” to it. Though I recognize it on sight due to its place in my own life, it doesn’t otherwise stand out in and of itself.

The art is solid, and doesn’t particularly stand out to me, taken by itself. It’s certainly familiar, with the X-Men particularly recognizable, and really the only oddity to me is Iceman’s costume…I don’t recall this costume/appearance, and so at one point I was left wondering who he was while out of his iced-over form. Other than realizing that and wondering who the guy in the unfamiliar costume was, nothing else took me out of the story visually.

The story itself is quite good. I’d noticed Mark Waid‘s involvement with X-Men: Alpha or X-Men: Omega several years ago…and his name again stands out here. Lobdell provides us the plot while Waid supplies the dialogue…yet other than the names in the credits telling me that, I doubt I’d’ve noticed either one of them. For me, going back 20 years, the story just WAS. These were the X-Men, and I took ’em at face value.

Once I realized I had NOT missed a chapter and that we were being presented with some action before the “gap” was bridged with flashbacks, I was ok with the flow of the issue. I doubt this issue’s structure would fly in contemporary comics, as contemporary comics seem primarily written for the trade, and this structure would not play out in a single issue (there’d be an entire issue of action, then an issue of flashback, etc). It’s also sort of odd seeing so few characters involved, despite having appreciated that in the previous issue. But that was part of the premise, I believe–with two X-Men books, each would typically focus on a smaller set of characters from the overall continuity of the whole.

That also poses a bit of a problem here with no explanation given to Bobby’s linking back up with these characters, and where Archangel and Rogue went between the end of #320 and the start of this. However, this opens well given the context of the X-Factor issue, as we go from Legion flying off talking of making things better, and being confronted here with the flashbacks showing that he’s already been setting his plans in motion.

All in all, not a bad opening chapter with plenty of action and context as well as driving the story as a whole forward by the end of the issue. I definitely enjoy that within the pages of a single issue’s pages multiple scenes unfold…that this seems written as a full single issue rather than “just” a chapter of a six-issue arc.

The ’90s Revisited: Uncanny X-Men #319

90srevisited

uncannyxmen319Untapped Potential

Words: Scott Lobdell
Guest Penciler: Steve Epting
Inkers: Dan Green & Tim Townsend
Colorists: Buccellato, Becton, Hicks
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: December 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

There’s something simply “familiar” about sitting and reading this issue, that brought back a lot of memories, and a certain feeling. This came out in late 1994–I was 13 at the time. (I’m 33 now). To that barely-a-teenager me, this was just another issue of an X-Men series I’d been following for over a year even as other X-books had lapsed.

Now looking back, this was a key issue on a number of fronts–primarily being a pre-prologue lead-in to Legion Quest, which itself was a prologue to the four-month Age of Apocalypse saga. This was–at least as I recall from having just re-read this issue but nothing earlier, recently–the issue Archangel and Psylocke officially became “a thing,” a relationship that carried across the next 16 or so years til The Dark Angel Saga in Uncanny X-Force a few years ago.

We have three main plots running through this issue: Rogue and Iceman are traveling to Bobby’s parents’ house for a visit. Bobby obviously has stuff eating at him, and Rogue tries to be a friend and get him to open up on the issues. She doesn’t get the greatest welcome from Bobby’s dad, though his mom tries to be a lot more hospitable. The visit overall does not go well, and Bobby storms out on some angry words. Rogue leaves as well with a calmer (but no less sharp) sharing of words.

Meanwhile, Warren (Archangel) and Betsy (Psylocke) are on a date that goes quite well, and leads to the two going back to Warren’s place and (verbally) officializing their relationship.

Finally, we follow Xavier in a dream in which he speaks to Magneto, reminiscing on their time in Israel some 20 years earlier. As the discussion progresses, Xavier begins to realize something isn’t quite right, as the dream moves from reminiscence to nightmare, resulting in Beast jolting Xavier awake–and Xavier explains that he fears his son Legion has recovered and is now more dangerous than ever before.

The art team presents a strong issue. The look was familiar, I had no problem recognizing any of the characters…and really, I quite enjoyed the way they looked. While I could not have said off the top of my head that Epting did the art for this issue, had done art (guest penciler or otherwise) on X-Men stuff from ’94, I recall the look of the issue, and as I re-read it this latest time, the only problem I had at all was disliking the shift from upright pages to “widescreen” pages where I had to physically turn the book in order to read a page. (Of course, I’ll take that over umpteen pointless double-page splashes).

Story-wise, this kept things moving, and while three simultaneous plots only allow a few pages for each, they were woven together well, and I didn’t feel any of them were particularly shorted or such–they and the issue as a whole just “worked.”

Back in the day, I was not familiar with Legion, so reading this the first time I doubt gave me any particular cause to think something big was up just from story context. I imagine I knew a bit about Legion and such, though, from other issues that flashed back, or at the very least from stuff about the then-upcoming “death” of Xavier and all that.

As noted above, I simply ENJOYED rereading this issue. It was cool to see Rogue and Bobby hanging out, and I recognized/identified with the two as they interacted, in a way I never did before. I’d forgotten about their time here, remembering only their “roadtrip” after continuity returned from the Age of Apocalypse stuff. And it was the characterizing of Xavier/Magneto’s relationship heading into the Age of Apocalypse that is certainly my favorite, and was at the time instrumental in DEFINING their relationship to me.

Though this issue works well enough just on its own–perhaps aided by my own memories–it’s also helped by my diving in here just before Legion Quest and remembering the impact that story had on me and looking forward to key moments and then the Age of Apocalypse saga itself.

X-Men Series 1 Revisited, Part 2

010_018

This is an interesting grouping of cards. I consciously learned the origin of Lockheed’s name, which is a bit tangential in a way that I can appreciate for such names.

Most of the information on these cards I was already aware of present-day, though it’s cool to learn that Storm’s greenhouse is actually a long-established thing–I just learned of it several weeks ago with a scene in Amazing X-Men #3 where Nightcrawler flashes back to a moment with Storm.

Cyclops’ costume shown on his card here is his most “iconic” to me–this was his current costume in the comics AND the cartoon when I first discovered the X-Men, and as it was maintained throughout most of the ’90s, it had plenty of time to grow on me, and was part of many key stories that stick out for me and were important parts of my growing up.

Gambit was still quite new at this point–and knowing what I know now his card is rather bland and boring here…but that’s with the character having existed less than 2 years, and it’s been over 20 years now SINCE the card was published.

As noted last week, this grouping of cards shows the lack of “awareness” of 9-pocket storage pages, as Lockheed’s car is “landscape” while all the others are “portrait” in layout.

Domino I was not all familiar with back in ’92/’93…but became a lot more aware of her in Cable’s own series in ’95/’96 after the Age of Apocalypse.

Click below to see the individual cards…

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Uncanny X-Force #11 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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