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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Men Omega

aoa_revisited_logo

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: Astonishing X-Men #4

aoa_revisited_logo

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 #3

aoa_revisited_logo

astonishingxmen003In Excess

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

With this issue, we head into the final half of the Age of Apocalypse story. We pick up on Wild Child being pursued and brought down…and when about to be killed, realize that Rogue and her group of X-Men have arrived to rescue him. On figuring out that something’s happened to Sabretooth, they mount yet another rescue mission. We also find out about Blink and Sabretooth’s past–what has so bonded the two; and we get a moment with Magneto and Bishop discussing Bishop’s ability to take a life, should it be possible to actually send him back in time–as it’s likely he would have to kill Legion to stop him.

This issue is definitely one where Morph stands out–and while I initially suspected this might’ve been where I started to REALLY notice the character, I recall that this series came a couple years AFTER the Fox animated X-Men tv series where we’d had a Morph, and this AoA character is actually the ‘derivative’ of sorts, at least by name.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit (with the USUAL caveat of that being in spite of the dystopian environment and dark situations the characters are actually in). At the time (in general) Rogue was one of my favorite characters…and this version of the character is rather "classic" to me…and in some ways even more interesting to me than the regular version at the time, and certainly moreso than recent years in the contemporary X-books. It’s also kind of odd to see Bishop struggling with the notion of taking a life, given the way he’s portrayed years later and most of the last decade.

I also continue to be amazed at how much a part of the X-universe Jeph Loeb was, prior to having real "name recognition" for me with comics…and sad to notice the contrast in how much of his ’90s work I enjoyed and how little I’ve enjoyed his contemporary stuff, myself.

This begins the third quarter of the Age of Apocalypse story as originally presented, and this 3rd of 4 issues hits a high gear. Given this is a mini-series, and a "temporary universe" as far as we’re (as readers) concerned…given so much is already "different" from the "regular" universe…there’s a heightened sense of "anything can happen" and that it’s pretty certain not everyone’s going to survive the series–they don’t need to, as the ongoing/perpetual nature of the X-Men property in general doesn’t apply to this. Even if major, core characters die, if we’re back to the "regular" books in a month or two, they’ll be "back" and none the worse for wear.

While I haven’t cared much for Madureira‘s contemporary work–looking "too stylized" for my personal tastes–the art works really well on this issue and I definitely enjoyed it. Though the cover isn’t nearly as "iconic" as the first issue, looking at it sitting here while I type, I like this one…both the focus on Rogue (despite some wonky perspective with her legs) and the coloring of the logo, playing off the foreground and the generic-ish background.

Definitely a good issue, enjoyable to read and look at, with a nice balance of characters, and keeping the story moving forward while giving a dark cliffhanger that promises an interesting 4th issue.

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: Uncanny X-Men #325

uncannyxmen325Generation of Evil

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Joe Madureira
Inkers: Townsend & Ryan
Colors: Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon
Leters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Editor and Chief: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.95
Cover Date: October, 1995

This issue always throws me, just from the cover. This is from that period of time when Marvel apparently thought the covers’ numbers didn’t matter and would have the issue’s number in tiny print somewhere in the UPC box, at the bottom of the cover, rather than somewhere near the upper part with the cover logo. For this cover, they actually hide all of that–the title logo folded to the inside, and the UPC to the back cover, so all you have is Storm, Colossus, and Wolverine attacking someone off-panel, and a tiny banner at the top specifying this as a Special X-Men Anniversary Issue. (20th anniversary of the “All-New” X-Men from Giant-Size X-Men #1)

While the issue opens on the X-Men playing baseball, the bulk of the issue features a “return” of Morlocks, apparently in the wake of some of their number taking on the name “Gene Nation” or such and executing terrorist acts around the city. Leader of the Morlocks Callisto shows up and explains it’s the “younger generation” that feels the older has failed them, failed to act–and seeks to rectify the issue. This also brings up Storm’s “history” as a former leader of the Morlocks (having once challenged and beaten Callisto FOR said leadership), and what that means for her in the face of the current situation.

Story-wise this is a solid issue; nothing horrible about it to me; but nothing fantastic, either. However, having the baseball game is a great moment…the sort I recall truly enjoying in the X-books…just seeing the characters relax and not have to be fighting the villain of the month/issue…I’d probably thoroughly enjoy a full issue that’s nothing but the characters just being who they are, interacting with each other; no villains or any particular antagonist, period. I like that the issue is definitely set in continuity, dealing with the history of the Morlocks, as well as keeping several subplots moving (Gambit, and Rogue/Iceman).

Visually this is a mixed thing for me: the style is a bit cartoony at points and feels a bit “off” to my sensibilities with these characters, and yet it totally brings back (good) memories OF this era of X-Men comics, and works in that regard.

For an issue fished out of a 25-cent bin, certainly well worth the purchase and reading. There’s no funky foiling on this copy, so I think this is the “newsstand” edition where the original copy I bought when it came out new I’m pretty sure was the “direct edition” or otherwise had shiny-ness about it. (Which works for my interest in “converting” FROM shiny covers to standard/newsstand editions for my various “runs” of series). It’s also worth noting that these days, this would probably be at least 2-3 variant covers, rather than the 4-panel wrap-around/fold-out this actually carries.

Given the lengthy role Marrow (I believe) went on to play in the X-Books, this is a good jumping-on point to see where she comes from and (presumably) changes. All in all quite a high-quality bargain-bin purchase!

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