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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Men Omega

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xmenomega001_front…Endings

Story: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Pencils: Roger Cruz
Inks: LaRosa, Townsend, Kesel, Candelario, Hanna, Milgrom
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Colors: Steve Buccellato, Electric Crayon
Cover: John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

While not nearly as "iconic" as the Alpha issue to me…this issue is still one of THE most iconic comic issues of my youth. Though the majority of the context comes from the various individual titles that make up the Age of Apocalypse, this is THE issue they all led into, after spinning out of X-Men: Alpha. As such, while I didn’t remember details of most of the individual series, I remembered where things wound up because of this issue.

We open on a full-page of Magneto, bloodied and energy crackling around him, standing defiantly against an off-page foe, who we find is Holocaust, battering the leader of the X-Men for Apocalypse’s amusement before the villain reveals his final plans. Meanwhile, Angel finds Karma, while in the pens, the X-Men arrive via Blink’s portals. As they contemplate the lack of opposition and come across Beast, we move to see Cyclops and Jean leading freed humans across the bridge away from Apocalypse’s stronghold. Apocalypse’s forcefield is taken down by Angel’s suicide bomb…his sacrifice allows Nate (X-Man) access to Apocalypse…where he finds and is recognized by Magneto as The One that Forge had long ago promised to deliver.

while Nate takes on Holocaust, the X-Men have found the M’Kraan crystal, and Destiny confirms Bishop’s claims and everything comes down to Illyana choosing to help restore broken reality. The three enter the crystal, leaving the X-Men to fight Apocalypse’s forces. On the bridge, Jean realizes the bombs have been launched and throws up a psi-shield…holding them back as long as she can. In the crystal, Destiny guides Illyana in unlocking her powers, getting Bishop back to the moment things went wrong. Back on the bridge, Havok reveals himself, unleashing his powers to take out Jean and Scott before being taken out himself by Weapon X. The X-Men rescue baby Charles, mess up Beast’s escape attempt, while others have fallen in battle and misunderstanding.

In the past, Bishop confronts his past self and Legion, preventing Legion from killing anyone…and closing a loop that sees the X-Men ripped back to their own time and the chronal energies erasing their presence and Legion’s from the memories of all left behind…that events would unfold as they had with no taint from Legion’s obtrusive presence.

Nate finally gets to Apocalypse before being attacked again by Holocaust…using a shard of the M’Kraan crystal he and Holocaust are unexpectedly removed from the equation. The distraction is enough for Magneto to summon the power to rip Apocalypse apart, finally killing the evil mutant and ending his reign. In the last few moments left to him, he rejoins Rogue and his son, while reflecting on the importance of one man to the world itself…as the nuclear blast is about to engulf them. Hope is left behind, in Bishop accomplishing his mission…and preventing any of this from ever having happened.

This issue being what it is, as mentioned above…there’s little separating its nostalgic and emotional, lasting impact on me from the technicalities of the issue itself.

At this typing, I don’t particularly recognize Cruz‘ name or art…and would have sworn there was someone else on the art. Looking back, Cruz contributed to a couple previous X-issues, and was the penciler on the Alpha issue as well…so while the art isn’t ENTIRELY consistent with the individual series, it provides a definite consistency to the other bookend issue of this entire mega-arc. In and of itself, I really don’t have any complaints on the art…everyone is recognizeable and obvious for who they are…and though many of the characters don’t look quite as well-done as they were in the individual books, given this issue involves so many without being a "jam book," that’s hardly an issue for me. We have numerous inkers and a full roster of Letterers and Colorists…whether that was to get the book out "on time" or to allow more hands to touch the project, be a part of it, I don’t know. It’s really something I mostly notice for specifically scoping out the credits to write this up.

Story-wise, I see Mark Waid on dialogue, as with X-Men: Alpha…which is interesting again as before given I wasn’t consciously aware of him 20 years ago but know him as a writer whose work I like present-day…and realize how much I like his dialogue through this issue, hokey and cheesey as parts are. Magneto’s final moments in the issue resonate particularly for me.

Given the specific issues that things unfolded in, this is the first we’ve "seen" of the "regular" X-Men in the entirety of the labeled Age of Apocalypse issues. The brief bit we get with them–specifically of Storm realizing the true battle was fought elsewhere–is something that has stuck with me since originally reading the issue, and worked its way into my head over the years as a concept that truly influences my understanding and conception of time travel and alternate reality stories…really in a way I can’t quite put to typed words.

The Age of Apocalypse ends, the "true reality" is restored…but this story left lasting repercussions (and characters) on the X-universe and the Marvel universe in general. Fitting in a way, perhaps, that present-day 2015 we’re about to get major changes to the very fabric of the Marvel universe, as I’ve just finished re-reading this tale.

xmenomega001_full

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.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Men Alpha #1

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xmenalpha001Beginings…

Story: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Pencils: Roger Cruz w/Steve Epting
Inks: Tim Townsend w/Dan Panosian
Letters: Starkings w/Comicraft
Colors: Steve Buccellato w/Electric Crayon
Editor: Bob Harras
Cover: Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

The cover proclaims A NEW World! A NEW Beginning! This issue sports a fancy "chromium" cover, and is itself a rather iconic image–to me, at least–of the "new" X-Men, as brought together by Magneto. We see Weapon X (Wolverine) front ‘n center on the front panel of this wraparound cover. Blink, Sunfire, Bishop, Rogue, Magneto, Jean Grey, Quicksilver, Nightcrawler, and Gambit round out the bunch here. Open the issue up to see the back cover as well and we see Apocalypse in the background, with Sabretooth and Wild Child in the foreground, Jubilee and Colossus behind, and some flying stormtroopers (Infinites, I believe) filling out the sky-space of the image.

There are no ads in this issue. 48 pages of story, plus the cover–that’s it. For "only" $3.95. Sorta pricey "back in the day," but quite a bargain by today’s standards. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like this priced around $9.99 by Marvel nowadays–and shocked to see it under $7.99.

Though this issue kicks off the Age of Apocalypse epic, it does not itself carry an Age of Apocalypse badge–this is a "bookend" issue that serves as a prologue to the entirety of the event encompassing ten or so titles across the four months.

We open on a wasteland, where we meet Bishop–whose mind was damaged by the energies that ripped Legion and the other X-Men away in X-Men #41. We find that he’s wandered for the 20 years since. Here, he’s become the focus of an attack from Unus and his troopers who were chasing a young human who found momentary hope in Bishop. The X-Men arrive–Magneto’s X-Men–and the battle is joined. Emerging victorious, the X-Men are then confronted by Bishop, who recognizes Magneto and levels some major accusations at him. Magneto sedates him and they take Bishop for questioning.

Meanwhile, we meet Beast–Henry McCoy–a mad scientist figure experimenting on mutants. Havok touches base, and the mutant (Blob) being experimented on attacks, and the pair are "rescued" by Cyclops–with long hair and only one eye, and see that he and Havok have a horrible relationship. The two are part of Apocalypse’s group, by way of Sinister–who arrives and chastises the two for fighting, and then speaks cryptically and leaves. The scene shifts to a bar maintained by Angel–Heaven–where he’s confronted by Gambit, who is looking for Magneto. We shift to the X-Men, questioning Bishop, then to Apocalypse and his upper ranks as he reveals plans to destroy the last of humanity.

The story shifts to Weapon X and Jean meeting up with the Human High Council, and then back to Magneto’s group. "Feedback" from Rogue touching him leads to Magneto seeing fragments of a universe that might have been, leaving the older mutant troubled. He immediately sends Nightcrawler to seek Destiny in order to get confirmation of his vision. Meanwhile, Sinister’s gone missing, and Apocalypse nudges things into motion. The X-Men know "something" is up, but not specifics. While off in space, a certain crystallization wave heads toward Earth.

I don’t usually like summarizing an issue so thoroughly–but there is a LOT going on here. And it all works, for me. There’s a lot of vagueness and toss-off references scattered throughout that don’t necessarily make a lot of sense now, in context of just this one issue–but having read this before and knowing the characters, I follow them quite well. This sets up the various books that make up the Age of Apocalypse saga, introducing us to core elements–the characters and places that will have significant roles in the story to come.

There’s a definite sense of "history" here, and it feels like this could easily BE just a random issue I picked up, amidst an ongoing continuity and not the first actual glimpse at the entirety of said continuity. This is–to the reader–a new world, a beginning of an "Event," but for the characters involved this is simply the present, 20 years after a key incident in Israel.

I remember being quite eager to get into the Age of Apocalypse as a whole and being fascinated by this new version of all the characters. Despite the dark setting of the story, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, with a familiarity and warm sense of nostagia as I did so.

The art is slightly stylistic at points, and I’m not particularly familiar with Roger Cruz‘s name…but this issue being what it is, none of the art bothered me…I was simply a kid again, enjoying seeing all these characters and where they were, and trying to glean where the story was going from this single issue.

It’s refreshing to read this issue again, and getting a sense of pureness or "authenticity" from what I so enjoyed about this event…before everything that’s come in the past ten years or so as things were changed, pulled from, and generally mucked about with in attempt to get as much out of this story as possible beyond its relatively self-contained nature in 1995.

In short, this issue holds up extremely well to my memory, is still very enjoyable, and leaves me eager to get into the heart of the story.

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

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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.

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