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The ’90s Revisited: X-Men #41

90srevisited

xmen041Dreams Die!

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Art: Ron Garney, Andy Kubert, Matt Ryan
Color: Kevin Somers/Digital Chameleon
Letterers: Oakley / NJQ
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This issue is one of THE iconic issues of my youth. I’ve read and reread the issue countless times. It sticks in my head, and is one of the key issues I think of when considering X-Men stories. The cover image is iconic, as is the silver-ink coloring on the cover (shockingly enough in a way, there’s no foil to the cover.) I have a number of copies of this issue in my collection, as I often buy it from quarter bins for the nostalgic factor. And if only "mentally," the cover combined with my recollection of the issue really lends a bit of finality to the thing, like this really could be a "final issue." (Perhaps that’s also helped by the fact that Marvel doesn’t seem to like any of their titles getting much past 30 these days).

We open this issue with the four time-lost X-Men staring in disbelief at the scene that surrounds them–of Legion and Magneto trading blows in the skies over Haifa, their memories having finally returned (for all the good it does them). They seek out young Xavier, and take turns taking on Legion themselves, before Iceman finally manages to freeze him solid. Meanwhile, in the present, everyone comes to accept that despite their best efforts–of the several X-Men "tagging along" to the past as well as the attempt with Cable to contact them–they’ve failed and the finality of their universe rapidly approaches.

In the past, things come to a head as Legion pounces on Magneto, planning to kill him with a psionic blade…but young Xavier throws himself at them, and is the one killed. But with a dead Xavier, there never would be a David Haller. No David Haller means no X-Men-in-the-past. For that matter, no X-Men. No X-Men, no world where the X-Men have been around to save it umpteen times. Etc. Reality ends. With only moments to react, everyone faces the crystallization wave, taking their final moments in their own ways.

The world ends with neither bang nor whimper…but in an eerie, silent, shimmering shroud of glass. A world, which like one man’s dreams–proved to be such a delicate thing. And when not handled with enough care…is so easily…shattered…

I’d forgotten or not really noticed before how much the art of this issue was broken up. I REMEMBER it as a cohesive whole…and this time through, even, just reading through, I didn’t consciously note any particular "breaks" in one penciler over the other. I just kept right on going, and would actually have to go back through very specifically to pick out which pages were by which team. Which is the way it SHOULD be, for this sort of thing. Garney and Kubert certainly complement each other with a similar enough style–whether one veered toward the other or not, I don’t know.

That goes into the story side as well…namely, that this was such a monumental thing for me back in the day, that even reading it now, it simply IS. I flew through the reading, remembering all these little parts as I went along, as I came to them. Yet the art never jumped out at me or turned me off for anything…it was just there, consistent enough that it definitely worked for me.

Huge as this issue is for what happens, it’s a quick read, and reeks of a foregone conclusion. The cover itself proclaims To All Things–An ENDING!" and we see a beaten Magneto holding the body of Xavier (not entirely accurate as Erik wasn’t yet Magneto and all that, but the cover gets plenty across symbolically with the costume’s presence).

The issue’s narration is particularly poignant to me even if it is a bit heavy on the "telling instead of showing" thing. By the final couple pages we see bits showing how fully in-continuity this is for the X-Books (though it didn’t affect the non-X books of the time).

It strikes me that for a contemporary comic of this magnitude, this would have been a foil-enhanced cover for sure, probably $4.99 to $5.99 and a Very Big Deal despite "only" ending the "prologue" to the main event it’s setting up: the massive Age of Apocalypse, with the entirety of the X-books going on hiatus for a third of the year, replaced by four-issue mini-series on a one-for-one basis.

This issue ends Legion Quest, and as an ending to that story, and as an issue taken by itself, it works well for me. With modern comics it seems like story endings are merely backdoor prologues for the Next Big Event. While, yes, this "leads into" Age of Apocalypse in general, the issue itself ends, with finality. Legion Quest is the story of Legion going back in time to kill Magneto, with several X-Men hitching a ride back to stop him, while the rest gather and try to "help" as they can from present-day…but as a whole, the entire thing fails–including Legion himself…which ends their reality.

So far as we see and "know" within the story, everything ends. No broken timestream–just an ending. No revelation of some alternate timeline, no popping-in of some hero from another timeline to save things at the last second, no deux ex machina resolving things in the final panel, no crap ending to an otherwise decent story…this could very well have simply been THE end.

And for the kid I was, this was exciting stuff, and took me "all in" for Age of Apocalypse, and combined with Superman and Batman stuff in the couple years prior made for a massive touchstone in my experiences as a comics reader that holds over into the present.

As my rambling on this issue shows…I’m hardly unbiased, and have loads of thoughts and memories associated with this. But having now covered this issue…next week, I look at X-Men: Alpha and then on into the Age of Apocalypse itself!

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The ’90s Revisited: Uncanny X-Men #321

90srevisited

uncannyxmen321Auld Lang Syne

Plot: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Penciler: Ron Garney
Inkers: Townsend, Green & Ruinstien
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Though–like other issues of this story–this issue’s cover doesn’t stand out too much to me, it’s definitely familiar seeing it…and the orange background also reminds me of a couple of key Superman comics of the ’90s as well. Before I even started actually reading the issue, the first page had the credits, and while looking to those, I spotted a small notice: "X-Fans! With This issue You MUST Read Cable #20!"

Given my current reading project–the entirety of Legion Quest–as well as already owning the issues involved and their being quarter-bin fodder and all that, I’m not even phased at a notice inside an issue being my first "official" notification of something being a "key" tie-in (as opposed to the cover blurb listing Legion Quest Part X of 4). Spring something like that on me in a contemporary $4 Marvel comic and I’d be quite put-off. Here, however, I love it! Not yet having moved on to Cable #20, I believe this was where we saw stuff–in this issue–from the time-lost X-Men point of view, while in Cable we get much more detail of his involvement and see things from HIS point of view.

This issue gives what feels to me like a much larger chunk of time spent with Xavier and Erik (Magneto) in the past, when their friendship was fresh and good, before anything had gone sour on them.

The two hang out in a bar, and wind up in a fight with some sailors when Xavier refuses to allow someone to get away with mocking a crippled beggar. He and Erik wind up fighting back to back, emerging quite victorious. In the present, the X-Men (and Cable) wait for the Shi’ar to finish cobbling together a device that will allow Jean, Cable, and Xavier to collectively reach back in time to the X-Men there and set them on their mission. Meanwhile, in the past the X-Men have taken on jobs while seeking to piece together their memories and purpose for being where they are. At the same time, the mysterious young man in the hospital–Legion–awakens and finds his mother. Cable’s psychic projection of sorts makes it to the past and encounters Bishop, while Legion’s woken and stirs trouble.

It seems there’s not an entirely stable creative team on this book at this time, as Garney is the third artist in as many issues. Yet, the visuals largely hold to a "house style" such that I honestly don’t believe I’d’ve really noticed withOUT paying attention to the credits. This is a good thing, as the characters all retain their familiar looks and nothing really seems out of place. I firmly enjoyed reading, and nothing about the art took me out of the story or distracted me–this being a definite success in terms of what I look for in art in any given comic.

The story itself is good, and I REALLY enjoyed the interaction with Xavier and Magneto. I can’t imagine these issues were not integral to why I so enjoy the notion of their friendship and the depth of characterization it provides. There’s one scene that I’m not 100% sure how to interpret—apparently Xavier and Gabby—that works in one way, but is EXTREMELY disturbing taken another. I’d like to think I’m just overthinking on that.

I’d been reading Uncanny X-Men regularly for over a year and X-Men sporadically in that time, as well as watching the Fox Kids animated series–all of which I believe converged in terms of showing the two men as old friends gone different directions, and greatly informed my views on–and interpretation of–the characters.

I feel like I could enjoy a bunch of issues just of Xavier and Eric interacting; slice-of-life sort of stuff. I’ve read plenty of stories of the two as foes, and of the X-Men, etc. so I know where they wind up; seeing more of their meeting and early interactions would flesh that out more.

As I reflect on this, it also puts me in mind of the recent 2011 and 2014 X-Men films involving the younger versions of Xavier and Magneto, and I have to wonder how much these issues may have influenced those; generic as the concept can be.

This is the penultimate chapter of Legion Quest proper…but there are still two more issues to go, with Cable #20 being an important tie-in, and then the final chapter in X-Men #41.

The ’90s Revisited: Hulk #8

hulk008Death Match

Writer: Erik Larsen
Pencils: Ron Garney
Inks: Sal Buscema
Letters: John Workman
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $1.99
Cover Date: November, 1999

It’s been quite awhile since I last read any Hulk comics. I think the last story I actually read all the way through was Planet Hulk, and that was probably 4-5 years ago now. But there was a time that I read Hulk on a regular basis–back in the late 1990s when Marvel rebooted most of its titles and I got in on the “ground floor” with a lot of them.

I pulled this copy of the issue from a 25-cent bin. Truthfully, it was Wolverine on the cover that grabbed my attention. While I don’t entirely care for the faces on the cover, the coloring really got me: the orange background and its contrast to the green Hulk, and the coloring of the Logo, and even the “Wolverine vs.” banner across the top, making this look like a one-shot/special.

The interior art is good stuff, with Garney and Buscema on pencils/inks. No real complaints there overall. The visuals slid right by, not distracting me from the story.

The writing by Larsen is so-so: I wasn’t blown away, but I wasn’t entirely turned off, either. Seems kinda fitting that Larsen brought Wolverine into the issue–I’d have to check to be sure, but I’m pretty sure he was the writer on the main Wolverine title at the time. We also get some hints at things that were brewing in the X-Men corner of Marvel at the time–such as the new Death, Horseman of Apocalypse.

Though it’s been a good 14 years now since being reunited with his adamantium-laced skeleton…this issue is from shortly before that: this is bone-claw Wolverine taking on the Hulk, and it was interesting to see this take on the character again, after having re-acclimated to the more contemporary Wolverine whose continuity doesn’t seem to even have any reference to the “bone-claws” era.

While I don’t much care for any of the issue’s subplots, hardly remember the context leading to this and remember nothing of what came after before Jenkins took over and the book added “Incredible” to its title again, I certainly got my 25-cents’ worth out of this. I wanted to see a Wolverine/Hulk fight, and that’s what I got, for much of the issue. At 1/16th the cost of a contemporary Marvel issue, and 1/8 the cost of this issue’s original price…25 cents very well spent.

A+X #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

AvX: Consequences #3 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

AvX: Consequences #2 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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