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The ’90s Revisited: Dr. Strange #36

90s_revisited

dr_strange_0036Footnote to Infinity

Writers: Roy & Dann Thomas
Penciler: Dan Lawlis
Inker: Andrew Pepoy
Letterer: R. Parker
Colorist: George Roussos
Editor: Mike Rockwitz
Editor in Chief: Tom Defalco
With Special Thanks To: Jim Starlin, Advisor
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: December 1991
Cover Price: $1.50

I bought this issue completely outside of any kind of context for the Dr. Strange: Sorcerer Supreme series. It initially caught my attention specifically for the presence of Adam Warlock on the cover with the Infinity Gauntlet. The corner blurb that this is an Infinity Gauntlet "Epilogue" solidified it for me. I’ve read The Infinity Gauntlet a couple times (though it’s been a number of years now and I’m due for a re-read–as if I’m not extremely far behind on all my NEW reading) and early issues of Warlock and the Infinity Watch. But I’d never read this issue, and I was curious as to exactly how it was addressing Infinity Gauntlet, its place in the timeline. I’m glad to say that my curiosity was satisfied.

We open on Dr. Strange arriving back home, reuniting with his supporting cast. It’s an impromptu party, and among other reunions we see Strange and Clea (who is the only other person in the room that remembers what happened). As they dance around the subject and share the joy of everyone being present, Wong announces that he’s engaged…and moments later, Pip the troll and Gamora appear, disrupting things–they’re here for Dr. Strange, hoping he might aid them in dealing with a driven-mad-with-power Warlock. Strange confronts Warlock, and winds up having to use every resource available to him, basically, just to hold his ground. After he’s "survived" attacks involving the other Infinity Gems (yes, this is back when they were GEMS, not STONES), he turns the tide by going after the Soul Gem–the one most closely linked to Warlock…and manages to get through to him, helping him see what’s happening, and stand down. After thanks, a friendly handshake, and promises to see things stay on the right path, everyone parts ways…though Strange gets a brief encounter with Eternity…the cosmic being representing the universe itself. Eternity intends to claim the Infinity Gems, by bringing Warlock to some cosmic trial…but that’s not for Strange to deal with, and he finishes his return journey home.

I’m sure I would have enjoyed this issue more if I was "up" on contextual continuity for this series at the point this issue falls. I basically remember THAT Strange was involved early on, being maybe the first Silver Surfer made contact with of the Earth heroes regarding Thanos having assembled all the Gems; and then with Warlock and the "behind the scenes" crew in taking on Thanos. I also vaguely remember that Wong was one of the "half the living entities in the universe" that were blinked out of existence at the start of Infinity Gauntlet. I’m not invested in any of the supporting cast or cameo appearances. And I felt like Warlock was extremely out of character, given the out and out attacks directed at Dr. Strange…and it all rang as the old cliché "hero vs. hero" and such that I really don’t care about. At least here, though, the situation is resolved within the same issue, it does NOT take up the ENTIRE issue, and certainly does not become an entire story arc for a mini-series or title. I was glad to see stuff resolved here, and where I was curious going in as to WHERE exactly this took place in "the timeline," the end of the issue with Eternity suggests to me that this essentially led into Warlock and the Infinity Watch #1.

Story-wise, this felt like "the next issue" of the title. That is, it didn’t waste time trying to retell that which is told elsewhere, nor did this feel like just some "middle chapter" or such of a serialized graphic novel. There are details that are obviously "subplots" being moved along, while the main focus of the issue is an encounter that is begun, run, and resolved within this issue. For a reader perhaps checking this out BECAUSE of seeing Strange in Infinity Gauntlet, it seems to have him pulling out all the stops, and in a way "showing off" for the newer readers, while perhaps reminding older readers of what he can do on his own, as more than just a single character of a huge ensemble cast in a Marvel Universe event.

Visually, I liked the art for this issue overall. For one thing, I felt like I recognized everyone I would expect to–particularly Dr. Strange himself, Pip, Gamora, and Warlock. I attribute this to a "house style" that I feel like I recall being prevalent in the early ’90s; at the least, everyone looks familiar enough that I had no problem with their appearances and nothing messed with my memory of how they "should have" looked or whatever.

As a single issue, this isn’t enough to "sell" me on Dr. Strange’s series…I’m in no particular hurry to find out what happens with the next issue (though I’m "curious" at the tease of "Frankensurfer" and wouldn’t be entirely opposed to keeping an eye out for the issue in a passive sense) nor do I feel any great need to rush out and get previous issues. That said…this seemed a solid issue, a decent follow-up to Infinity Gauntlet, and probably not the worst thing one could read from Marvel for the early 1990s. I enjoyed it enough to have more than justified the 25 cents I spent for it, and I’m glad to have read this.

dr_strange_0036_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Quasar #59

quasar059Brothers in Arms

Writer: Ron Marz
Penciler: Andy Smith
Inker: Ralph Cabrera
Letterer: Diana Albers
Colorist: Paul Becton
Editor: Mike Rockwitz
Group Editor: Ralph Macchio
EIC: Tom DeFalco
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1994
Cover Price: $1.25

This issue grabbed my attention for the Thanos reference on the cover. By the coloring of Thanos’ head/face in the background, I would not have recognized the character from any other random Marvel Cosmic character while simply flipping through issues in a 25c-bin, so seeing Thanos’ name is what caught me. Contextualize it further with rather ticked-off looking Starfox and Quasar, and there was little that would convince me to NOT buy the issue.

I’ve recently been building up my Thanos/Warlock/Infinity ______ library, which also contributed to this grabbing my attention. Despite the cover, this issue was really not what I expected…whatever it was that I WAS expecting.

We open with Quasar telling someone he’d be there soon…and then find the very IMPRESSED Quasar marveling at Titan. He’s there to meet up with Starfox–Eros–for a bit. After greetings and brief showing off, Eros asks Quasar to join him for an errand, that turns out to be an annual tradition. Despite whatever bitter blood between the two, Eros and his brother Thanos put aside their differences for one day a year to spend time as brothers. While Thanos extends their truce to include Quasar, our hero is none too happy to be in the presence of one of the biggest threats to the universe he’s ever known. As the brothers exchange gifts, a squad of alien authorities show up…Thanos’ gift was stolen, and they’ve arrived to take it back (dealing death as penalty for the theft). The trio fights back, and the authorities are eventually sent off, nudged a bit by Eros’ powers of suggestion. As Eros and Quasar leave, we see Thanos…still in posession of the stolen item.

Quasar looks a bit “off” to me somehow…which is particularly noticeable to me as I’m not OVERLY familiar with the character. I just know that he doesn’t look quite right to my eye throughout this issue. On the other hand, Starfox doesn’t look that bad. And Thanos looks pretty good to me. Everyone is recognizeable so there’s no harm there, and I never had to pause to figure out what was going on or wonder at confusion at something shown in a panel. 

Story-wise, this is rather throw-away and generic, with no real change to any of the characters, their status quo, no tie to some bigger event or story…and yet I really, truly quite enjoyed this.

As stated above, I’m not overly familiar with Quasar, but I know of the character and while I have no idea as of this typing where the character is at present in 2015, he’s perfectly standard in the Marvel Universe I recall from the 1990s.

This issue is functionally a standard-sized issue one-shot. There’s no note saying this is continued from anywhere else, and the final panel of the final page clearly states END (though we can wonder exactly what Thanos is up to in the grander scheme of things). And particularly for only costing me 25 cents…I’m very happy with this being a one-shot. I’ve got characters I’m familiar with, as well as one I’m particularly interested in at present (Thanos), no catch-up or follow-up to do based on this issue, and it was an enjoyable read that didn’t leave me scratching my head.

I’m aware of having read a fair bit of Ron Marz‘s work–on Green Lantern as well as (I believe) Silver Surfer, and other stuff through the years. I certainly prefer Jim Starlin‘s Thanos to most…but Marz‘s take on the character seems very Starlin-esque to me and does nothing to make me question this appearance of the character. I’m not consciously familiar offhand with the art team…but this is from the mid-90s and I associate the period with a huge body of creatives that never stood out to me at the time, and apparently never made a name for themselves or stuck around for me to be familiar with contemporary work.

This is from mid 1994, putting this after the three Infinity Events (Gauntlet/War/Crusade) yet ahead of the Onslaught, Heroes Reborn, and Heroes Return stuff. While if I thought hard enough i could probably find (an) example(s) otherwise, I largely have a several-year blind spot with Thanos that this falls into. 

If–like me–you just want to read a “random” Thanos appearance (and I don’t know that this is reprinted or collected anywhere) this is certainly a fun one-off. All the better if you’re a fan of Quasar and/or Starfox. Though I wouldn’t see this as anything much more than a bargain-bin book (worth little more than 25-50 cents) I definitely recommend this as something worth the time it takes to read, just for the fun of it.

The ‘90s Revisited: December ’94 X-Books

As the events of Legion Quest were reshaping the ENTIRE line of X-books for the start of 1995, even the titles not directly involved in Legion Quest itself reflected the fact that story was going on, with each title ending with the reality-ending crystallization wave washing over things, most of the books being left on a cliffhanger. While I wasn’t originally going to cover these other titles due to not being direct tie-ins/chapters of Legion Quest, I figured I’d touch briefly on them after all. Here are the resultant five “mini-reviews” of the rest of the December 1994-shipping X-Books.

WOLVERINE #90

wolverine090The Dying Game

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Inks: Mark Farmer & Dan Green
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Coloring: Marie Javins
Cover: Adam Kubert, Greg Hildebrandt, Tim Hildebrandt
Editor: Bob Harras

This is one of the more "iconic" issues of this series for me–and certainly harnesses the "feel" of this "era" of the comic for me. The cover is the first thing that stands out, with a hybrid Kubert/Hildebrandt Bros. image–the distinctive Hildebrandts image that would be great on its own, with Kubert‘s art overlaid to the side, and the series logo is almost an afterthought or a formality.

The issue’s story is fairly simplistic, with Wolverine returning to the X-Mansion to keep an eye on the imprisoned Sabretooth while everyone else is away. Wolverine starts out refusing to fight, but pieces things together about the time Sabretooth pulls an escape, and the two brawl. Ultimately they wind up with Wolverine on top, having popped two claws, one to either side of Sabretooth’s head. The villain taunts Wolverine, threatening everyone he loves and cares about, and right as Wolverine pops the third claw–into Sabretooth’s brain–the crystallization wave hits and this never happened, as this universe ends.

While not on the same level as X-Men #s 25 or 41 or Wolverine #75, this is an issue that’s long stood out to me. The ending plays very well with the pre-Age of Apocalypse cliffhanger thing, leaving us hanging a bit on the supposed fate of Sabretooth, what it means for Wolverine to have at long last apparently killed his old foe, etc. (However, the popularity of the characters renders this cliffhanger moot, where some of the "lesser" characters/titles have faded over the years and hold far less memory).

X-FACTOR #111

xfactor111Explosive Performance

Plot: John Francis Moore
Script: Todd Dezago
Pencils: Jan Duursema
Inks: Al Milgrom
Colors: Glynis Oliver
Letters: Starkings/Comicraft
Cover: Tom Grummett, Al Milgrom
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras

This issue is one of the more memorable cliffhanger-issues for the month’s X-books, with Guido (Strong Guy) falling to a heart attack, and Reality ends before we learn if he’s actually dead or not.

I remember THAT I’d read a handful of issues of the title from #92-onward thanks to my introduction via the Fatal Attractions crossover the year before. However, other than apparently having read the END, I don’t recall THIS issue’s story prior to reading it this time around.

On the whole, this was a solid enough jumping-in issue…helped perhaps by having read #109 (the Legion Quest Prelude). As I read this issue, I kept mixing up Lila Cheney with Dazzler…two characters I’m familiar enough with name-wise but not so much story-wise. And though I didn’t totally follow–there’s a definite sense I missed plenty with skipping #110–I didn’t feel "lost" or have any particular problem with reading this issue.

That’s probably primarily helped by the fact I read this solely for its "tie-in" to Legion Quest and specifically TO get to the cliffhanger, to have the sense of where the title left off immediately preceding the shift into the Age of Apocalypse itself.

GENERATION X #4

generationx004Between the Cracks

Story: Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo
Inks: Mark Buckingham
Colors by: Steve Buccellato
Lettering: Richard Starkings/Comicraft
Cover: Chris Bachalo
Editing: Tom DeFalco, Bob Harras

I’ve yet to *really* ever read any issues of this title–I couldn’t say for sure if I’ve ever actually read an issue, including this one. I remember getting this when it came out, though, so I probably did read it…just without knowing much about the characters. I’d only partially followed the Phalanx Covenant stuff that led to Generation X, and didn’t yet know (m)any of the new characters. This issue’s very stylistic, which I’m not all that enamored with. The story itself isn’t bad, though I don’t much care for the page borders or the little character wandering said borders and holding up page-number signs. It’s an interesting thing to do, and I can appreciate it setting this title apart, as well as the "meta" nature of it. Perhaps it was even "fun" at the time. It just doesn’t do much for me.

Reading this issue for its "lead-in" to Age of Apocalypse was quite disappointing, as it also "bucked the trend" of the other X-books in doing its own thing and then a tacked-on bit to account for the ending of the universe. Not bad in and of itself–a good way to get around being totally formulaic, but my appreciation does not equal enjoyment–and this was the least-enjoyable of the non-Legion Quest X-issues heading into the big event.

X-FORCE #43

xforce043Teapot in a Tempest

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Tony Daniel
Inker: Kevin Conrad
Coloring: Mike Thomas
Cover: Tony Daniel, Kevin Conrad
Editor: Bob Harras

I definitely don’t remember this issue’s story as something I’d read before. I’m familiar with a number of the characters–perhaps from stuff I’ve read in the last 20 years, where I can’t say for sure I’d’ve been familiar with them at the time. I liked the art for this issue, and it’s interesting to see that it’s Tony Daniel, whose work I enjoyed on Batman a few years back. In addition to appreciating the art, I enjoyed this snippet of story–it was cool seeing a number of different characters/situations without them all having to be together in one space; with these multiple ongoing subplots weaving about. The Reignfire reveal seems like it was rather huge at the time, though not recalling anything of the character tells me that’s not something that’s particularly carried to this day.

That the issue involved communication with Cable and was affected by his absence due to things going on in Legion Quest was a definite treat, showing how the various characters tie together and that this issue is not something "on the fringe" of the X-universe of the time but was still closely affected.

EXCALIBUR #86

excalibur086Back to Life

Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencil Artist: Ken Lashley
Ink Artist: Tom Wegrzyn
Letterer: J. Babcock
Colorist: J. Rosas
Cover: Ken Lashley, Tom Wegrzyn
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Group Editor: Bob Harras

While I certainly did not pick up on the significance of things at the time, rereading this issue brought back snippets of memory–particularly Kitty’s threat to put Wisdom’s cigarette out, and the issue’s end with the jet crashing.

I do not recall consciously noting before now that this was a Warren Ellis-written issue, though somewhere along the way I became aware of his having been the writer in this general time, and being the one behind the Pete Wisdom character. That this seems to be Wisdom’s first appearance is rather cool.

This issue was a welcome glimpse back to the then-status-quo, and a reminder that Kitty and Nightcrawler had a period of time where they were NOT part of the X-Men themselves. I’d also forgotten about other characters, as well as how much I "miss" Moira’s presence in the X-books. Of course, given contemporary things, that’s practically a generational factor.

The cliffhanger of the characters facing a crash-landing that they weren’t certain of surviving was compelling even back in the day, and has me curious about how the point was resolved when everything returned after the Age of Apocalypse…I’m partially torn on digging that issue out to find out versus allowing myself the wondering until after covering the event itself.

Fatal Attractions Revisited: X-Force #25

Back to Front

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Art: Greg Capullo
Inkers: Wiacek, Green, Ryan, Palmiotti, Hanna, Conrad, Milgrom
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: George Roussos
Editors: Bob Harras, Tom DeFalco
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Dated: August, 1993

Twenty-five issues…big number, huh? Well…maybe not. I’ve seen this title repurposed for awhile, then renamed X-Statix and that ran for a couple years. Then post-Messiah-CompleX another X-Force ran for a couple years, and the current Uncanny X-Force has run about 30 issues. But y’know, back in the day, this was a common anniversary–a whopping 25 issues.

As with X-Factor #92, I re-read this and much of it was like I was reading it for the first time…certainly the first time with much comprehension of who these characters were. This was even before Cable first got his own series, which ran for over 100 issues (followed by Cable & Deadpool that ran about 50 and the more recent Cable series with Hope than ran about 25).

This issue seems to be the introduction of Exodus. A sticker on the bag this copy of the issue was in when I bought it stated “Exodus 1st App.” Back in the day, I didn’t pick up on that, and just thought he was another one of these “Acolytes” and didn’t dig or think any deeper. It’s also the “return” of Cable, apparently the first he’d shown up since the X-Cutioner’s Song crossover few months earlier.

The new mutants–the X-Force–return home from a mission. However, someone else is there–and the battle is quickly joined…though it turns out their mentor–Cable–has returned. Some are glad to see the man, others not so happy–but all listen as Cable explains a bit of where he’s been and what he’s learned since the events that seperated him from his pupils. Exodus arrives, inviting Cannonball and Sunspot to Heaven, but pre-emptively attacks the group for thinking of attacking him. Cannonball eventually agrees, but the team follows, and all find themselves aboard what apparently used to be Cable’s base, known as Graymalkin, with a sentient computer program called “The Professor.” After more fighting, Cable gets his young charges off the ship, and seeks to “rescue” the computer program that’s apparently been a father figure to him–and finds himself confronting an enemy all thought dead. This fight is much shorter, all but disassembling Cable before he escapes (nearly as a corpse) to rejoin X-Force.

As said above, I didn’t really “get” this issue when I first read it, when it came out. I recall (with a bit of deja vu) the ending with Cable, but not much else. I certainly lacked the context of Cannonball and Sunspot being part of the New Mutants prior to Cable’s 1st appearance and that title ending to be replaced with this one. I had not yet read X-Cutioner’s Song–or at least, not more than maybe a couple chapters (it was only about 6 or 7 years ago that I finally tracked the story down and read it all the way through) so I didn’t even have that context of what had happened to Cable, though from what trading card or another or Marvel Handbook/profile special (Stryfe’s Strike Files?) or Wizard or some such, I knew of Stryfe as being Cable’s clone from the future.

I hadn’t realized either, at the time, that Magneto had “died,” though from in-story context I picked up on the characters having thought him dead…but his death/etc was more of a “meta” thing than I was aware of as a 12-year old at the time.

This issue’s story is another that stands alone well enough, though it continues to build foundation for what I consider the “heart” of Fatal Attractions in X-Men #25 and Wolverine #75. The art is good, and somehow extremely familiar to me. This visual rendition of X-Force just is what it is, and I like it.

I’m a bit less impressed with the overall cover of this issue than I was with the X-Factor issue; but in a way the fairly close-up image of Cable with one of those HUUUUGE guns he carried is rather iconic, which makes this a more full cover from the front for me than the X-Factor issue. Of course, this cover (and the hologram) also totally gives away from the get-go that Cable is back, but especially near 20 years later, I’m not bothered by that at all.

I’ve snagged this issue from bargain bins–turns out I actually wound up with 2 copies of this issue for roughly $.75 total in the past month. Well worth getting, if only for the hologram, particularly if you can snag it from a bargain bin. Cover price was $3.50, which again is 50 cents cheaper than cover price of a standard Marvel comic nowadays, and this has a cardstock cover, hologram, and 48-ish pages (some of them ads).

Last Planet Standing #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Last Planet Standing (1 of 5)

Reed Richards makes a disturbing discovery, the Avengers mobilize, and the Shi’ar face Galactus…

lastplanetstanding001Script, Plot & Pencils: Tom DeFalco & Pat Olliffe
Finished Art: Scott Koblish
Colors: Avalon’s Rob Ro
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Molly Lazer
Editor in Chief: Joe Quesada
Cover Art: Patrick Olliffe
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Reed Richards off in space investigating some ‘cosmic’ situation? Check. Trouble for Richards and Sue leads to Torch and Thing mounting a rescue mission? Yup. Seeing Avengers in action against a team of villains? Yeah, that’s familiar, too. The Shi’ar face some cosmic threat? More familiarity. Spider-[girl] annoying thugs in an alley while [she] beats ’em up? Hmm…some of the characters look different, and a bunch of them ARE different…but the feel is familiar.

It’s been quite a number of years since I’ve read an ‘MC-2’ comic, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect coming in to this issue. What I’ve found is a relatively accessible debut issue of a mini-series that feels like a crossover’s ‘core mini’ and yet…isn’t.

The story here works quite well, and is pretty accessible. If one is familiar with the ‘normal’ Marvel Universe these characters are easy to "get." The premise–a renewed threat involving Galactus–doesn’t seem all that original. And the familiarity may reek of retread in itself. But this issue is a refreshing change from the "usual" of the last couple years.

The art fits the story very well, with the characters all maintaining their distinct appearances, and it’s clear what’s going on panel-to-panel. Nothing seems over-crowded, and the overall tone is bright and open.
While the story is likely to take a much more serious turn later in this mini, right now it reads like a story reminiscent of what one might’ve found in the late 80s or early 90s when I first got into comics–before the big speculator boom and bust. The visuals somehow are also reminiscent of this, and results in a nice, clean, ‘fun’ issue that promises a big story involving a lot of characters, affects a comics universe, but there are only five issues total to the story, as opposed to a huge crossover involving multiple titles and mini-series.

I’m not sure if this issue follows up on last year’s Last Hero Standing in anything other than title, but I did not feel lost reading this issue. There’s no "Previously: in the MC-2 universe…" page, but there is a full page of character head-shots with names and abilities that serves to introduce readers to the main players of the issue…and I suspect that even if one has never before read any of the MC-2 titles, this is a decent point to jump on, especially if you just want one, single story.
In an age of waiting for the collected volumes, this series looks to be one that’ll be fun to follow incrementally, and is worth getting as singles. Regardless of format, this is definitely one to check out.

Ratings:

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

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