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New "Old" MiniMates: Wolverine and Sabretooth

I’m definitely a fan of miniature figures of favorite characters. Tonight while checking a local Barnes and Noble for the squarebound edition of DC Universe: Rebirth, I spotted a huge clearance table…and ultimately settled on a couple things.

minimates_wolverine_sabertooth_box01

I have not much cared for the newer iterations of the costumes for Wolverine or Sabretooth…I’m very much rooted in their early-1990s appearance, as depicted on the X-Men animated series. While there may be slight differences in details, I’m quite happy with this pack.

minimates_wolverine_sabertooth_loose01

I’d forgotten that MiniMates come with stands…I’ll definitely need to utilize them to display these guys at work. They barely balanced for this photo, and would topple if a slight breeze hit them, it seems.

For $5…I’m quite happy with ’em…even though they were not something I’d set out to locate/purchase.

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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Astonishing X-Men #4

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astonishingxmen004Plot/Dialogue: Scott Lobdell
Pencils: Joe Madureira
Inks: Townsend/Milgrom
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings, Comicraft
Cover: Madureira, Townsend, Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Doing what comics did well BEFORE they were commonly written-for-the-trade, this issue picks up a bit after the previous issue’s cliffhanger. Where there we saw Blink horrified at finding the eviscerated body of Sabretooth, here we find that she’s gotten over that shock and is now confronting Holocaust over the issue. The "Infinite factory" has been taken apart, and she’s soon joined by the rest of Rogue’s group of X-Men, and together they face Holocaust, each with plenty of reason to take the Horseman apart. The monster holds an ace in the sleeve, though, and escapes…but not before revealing to Rogue that her husband, son, and the stranger Bishop have been taken by Apocalypse…and setting her on a determined course.

Yet again, I found myself enjoying Madureira‘s art in this issue. By name, I’m inclined to want to avoid it in contemporary comics…but here, it’s very good and I enjoyed it. Twenty years ago, it just WAS…and with no name recognition I was–and still am–good with it. There’s a definite "feel" of it being ’90s art–particularly Holocaust’s appearance with the shoulder armor and such–but I’m definitely ok with that.

The story itself moves things along a bit and ties some things up–Sabretooth’s fate, the team’s handling of it, the immediate threat of Holocaust himself, the team dealing with the Infinites, etc. I nearly chuckled at the "smart-arse" back and forth between Rogue and Holocaust, and remember truly laughing out loud in the past when I’d read the scene. "From where I’m standing…" and Holocaust simply punching Rogue away "Then stand over there!" Childish perhaps, but a nice bit of levity within the already dark story.

While functionally a 4-issue mini-series and this is the "finale," the story doesn’t actually end here…just the chapter. The issue ends with a note to follow things into Amazing X-Men #4 and then X-Men: Omega…and that’s what all the AoA series do. We started with X-Men: Alpha with a singular whole, splintered off to the 8 (or 10) minis, and everything re-converges for the true finale in X-Men: Omega.

Were this a contemporary issue/contemporary end-of-a-miniseries, I’d be very annoyed, I think. As-is, seeing this as simply a part of the larger whole and having ZERO expectation of Astonishing X-Men wrapping up as a full self-contained thing, I’m perfectly fine with this, and suspect that (as with this issue) the rest of the #4s will be similar: each leaving me all the more eager to get to the grand finale, having journeyed through the separate sub-stories that make up the overall Age of Apocalypse story.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Astonishing X-Men #2

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astonishingxmen002No Exit

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Joe Madureira
Inkers:
Dan Green & Tim Townsend
Color Art: Steve Buccellato & Digital Chameleon
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover: Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Rogue’s team finds themselves in the remnants of Chicago about to be trampled by its fleeing human population. Sunfire lashes out, determining that he MUST take the fight to Holocaust…but Rogue winds up stopping him, keeping her team together to help the humans here, now…not fly off half-cocked to be slaughtered. Meanwhile, Bishop finds Magneto sitting quietly alone while his young charges race around the globe, and chastises him…before realizing he is functionally saying goodbye to the infant son whose very existence will be sacrificed by "remaking" the world to what it should have been. Further meanwhile, Sabretooth enlists Blinks help to take the fight to Holocaust, eluding Rogue where Sunfire did not…and battling the monstrous son of Apocalypse…a battle that goes roughly as he planned, but not before sending Wild Child away with valuable information to survive the encounter.

Re-reading the Age of Apocalypse epic issue-by-issue in single-issue format for the first time in nearly two decades has been a true delight, taking me back at once to my all-time favorite X-Men story, period…as well as a nostalgic, simpler time when I found the X-Men comics to BE fun and enjoyable and a real treat to read…a time before the Internet and daily spoilers and the Next Big Event being hyped hardly halfway into the Current Big Event…when the Current Big Event mattered, was huge, was all-encompassing, was…THERE.

This issue embodies all that. We have favorite characters–Rogue, Magneto, this version of Sabretooth, Blink, Bishop…we have the latest chapter of an epic adventure, the last adventure, the One That Will Change Everything…as we witness the twilight of the Age of Apocalypse, the last-ditch effort of all those involved to make a difference in this darker world. And while the darkness and death is by no means a fun thing, a fun setting…the story itself, reading this…is.

Madureira’s art works really well for me with this issue…the entirety of the issue just looks very good, affirms my (perhaps altered-by-recently-re-read-issues) memory of how much I loved the look of the book at the time as I quite enjoy it here. The characters are all familiar, successfully distinct where I’d expect and any similarities or indistinctness is minimal and only noticed by looking back through for such things and never took me out of the "reading experience."

The writing–the story–simply "is" for me. And that’s a good thing. I read the issue, and was sucked in and maintained page after page, knowing I’ve read this, vague memories creeping up and ever so slightly reminding me that something happens to this character, or that character actually does survive, etc. But by and large the "details" have been forgotten and so are read here anew as a fresh story that is quite enjoyable. This issue fits the ongoing narrative of the epic, gives a number of characters some significant facetime, and unfolds details that add further depth to them…from Rogue’s reluctance to use her powers on a teammate or see any of ’em throw their lives away; to Magneto struggling with the reality he knows versus the knowledge that everything he’s known for two decades can be (MUST be) somehow undone; to Sabretooth and what he means to Blink as well as seeking to atone for his past.

The reading of this issue "kicks off" Month #2 for me in this journeying back through the Age of Apocalypse…and leaves me extremely eager–moreso than I’ve been so far–to get through the entirety, wishing I had the time to just sit and devour the saga…and yet all the more curious (just for myself) at what the overall experience will be and how my own reading is impacted by taking the time between the reading of each issue to write these reviews, forcing myself to think and self-analyze, at least–on what I’ve read.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Men Chronicles #1

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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.

Wolverines #1 [Review]

wolverines001Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Nick Bradshaw, Alisson Borges
Inker: Walden Wong
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Editors: Katie Kubert and Mike Marts
Cover: Nick Bradshaw, FCO Plascencia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

In a lotta ways, I’m lost. I recognize some characters, of course (at least by name/vague recollection)…but it’s rather difficult to reconcile this as taking place in the same continuity as the stuff I grew up reading in the ’90s and early/mid-2000s. It’s also quite a challenge to consider that Wolverine–Logan–is really, truly, permanently, not-coming-back-ever-never dead-is-dead DEAD. Moving on…

Thankfully, the “Previously…” page is there–I don’t have to track down all those Death of Wolverine follow-up minis I skipped. Sure, they’d flesh out the DETAILS, but for where this series and this first issue in particular picks up, that’d be superfluous for me.

We open on a bloodied Mystique getting psyched to go through a door; then jump “back” to present. Where we find Mystique, Sabretooth, Daken, and X-23 being forced to work with some escapees from Dr. Cornelius’ experimentations. The mission is to locate/retrieve an object to help them survive. Unfortunately, the Wrecking Crew has also appeared in the vicinity, and confrontation ensues. Though the object sought is located–the adamantium-encased remains of the late Wolverine–this success is short-lived with the appearance of an old villain I certainly would not have suspected. The villain absconds with precious bounty, leaving our protagonists’ situation in disarray.

I picked this up to give it a shot–I’m currently buying all 3 weeklies from DC Comics, might as well give Marvel‘s a try. Moreso than that, though…the cover intrigued me. Kinda generic in a way, but it certainly grabs my attention, seeing the adamantium-encased body of Wolverine surrounded by individuals tied to him (from life, and from what he gave it for). We only get the arms of Deathstrike, Sabretooth, Daken, and X-23 (with a couple of the Weapon X kids in the background)…no Mystique. But that’s not something I even noticed until writing this review.

The actual story is ok enough…where I’d thought the premise of the series might be the characters tracking the body, the cover suggested otherwise, which was why I bought this. And since (thankfully!) the cover suggests these characters around the body and the opening of the issue has them seeking it…hardly spoilers to say that yeah, they find the body IN THIS ISSUE. However, the villain that showed up and left the group in bad shape gives the characters a new quest/hunt, which should sustain the weekly nature of the series for a bit.

I appreciate Soule being on this, given my understanding that he’s the architect of the death of Wolverine…good to see that he’s the one to follow-up “long term” on the development, rather than just killing the character and moving on. And while I wouldn’t think I’d care about the characters involved, have not kept up with them (for example, the last I recall of Sabretooth, he was beheaded by Wolverine…though I’m loosely aware there was a recent-ish story that saw his return) the interactions are not too bad here and I’d be interested in seeing more, seeing these characters in a world without Wolverine.

The issue’s visuals are not bad…there’s a cartooney quality at points that’s mildly distracting and reminds me of Humberto Ramos‘ work. Not a terrible thing, but not entirely my cup of tea. On the whole this simply has the look of a comic book…I credit that to the strong linework (and I suppose that’s a shared credit with the inking). Ultimately the art’s relatively neutral for me…neither a significant turn-off nor a draw. It’s just there, it does its job, and I’m satisfied with it.

Had Marvel priced this at $2.99 as an enticement to investing in FOUR issues monthly, I might’ve been tempted to give it a shot on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, this is a $3.99 book…and a large contributing factor to my having been almost completely driven me away from Marvel stuff is their pricing. Their $3.99 price point combined with frequent double-shipping was a huge turnoff…and if 2 issues at $3.99 apiece each month is enough to frustrate me away from Marvel books, DOUBLING that frequency does nothing positive to my mindset.

I did see somewhere (Bleeding Cool, perhaps) that this series is scheduled to be collected in monthly volumes…provided those are not $20 apiece and I can find ’em at a discount, there’s a possibility I’ll go a bit further into this series that way…or perhaps consider an advance/pre-order for a discount on almost certainly inevitable Marvel Omnibus.

If you don’t mind the $3.99 and are a fan of Soule‘s work with Wolverine and/or Wolverine’s death so far, this may be a decent series to consider. As a single issue this fits the norm…the overwhelming part of the price comes from the realization of the series’ shipping frequency.

[ My thoughts on the final issue of The Death of Wolverine (the week it came out) ]

Marvel Universe Series IV Revisited, Part 17

There’s not really a whole lot to say about these cards, except that they were among some of the most informative cards of the set, for me, detailing the various conflicts, which included background on some of the characters and their relations to one another.

I think of these nine, my favorite cards are the Spider-Man vs. Carnage, Cable vs. Stryve, Wolverine vs. Sabretooth, and Spider-Man vs. Venom.

Additionally, the War Machine card reminds me that I have yet to read the issue and “experience” Iron Man of this period rather than being aware of Iron Man of this period.

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Marvel Universe Series IV Revisited, Part 4

This is one “full” image that doesn’t really fork for me as a whole…it’s more like a couple images crammed together…probably because of Deadpool, Cannonball, and Slayback being in the air  and not looking like they have any context (such as rooftops).

That said, outside of Slayback, I’d consider myself pretty familiar with the other characters to varying degrees. I got to know Cannonball and Shatterstar in old X-Force comics, and was aware of Sabretooth and Apocalypse from the X-Men cartoon series. I knew OF Cable and Stryfe and Deadpool thanks to my friend (I remember him having collected the X-Cutioner’s Song arc as it came out…something I never collected/read until quite a few years later in 2005/2006!).

Of course, Deadpool’s gone from what I remember as a relatively popular “minor” character to being one of “THE” characters in the Marvel Universe; especially a few years ago when he was carrying something like 3-4 ongoing series!

I haven’t seen much of Sabretooth that I can think of lately; ditto Stryfe. Mr. Sinister has been through some changes, and I recall seeing his newest incarnation(s) last year in AvX. Apocalypse, too, has been through some changes, and last I recall of him offhand was Kid Apocalypse, probably also while reading tie-ins to AvX.

And it’s quite interesting to see the evolution of Cable through the years–from typical ’90s oversized body, shoulderpads and gigantic guns to more rounded/developed character in recent years, into his current role with a new X-Force.

Continue reading

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