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The ’90s Revisited: The Phoenix Resurrection – Genesis

90s_revisited

phoenix_resurrection_genesisGenesis

Writrs: Ian Edginton, Dan Abnett
Pencillers: Darick Robertson, Mark Pacella, Greg Luzniak, Rob Haynes
Inkers: Tom Wegrzyn, Art Thibert, Larry Stucker, Bob Wiacek, Philip Moy
Letterer: Vickie Williams
Color Design: Robert Alvord
Interior Color: Malibu Color
Asst. Editor: Scott Bernstein
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

As Marvel publishes Phoenix Resurrection in the present, 22 years ago it published The Phoenix Resurrection through Malibu ComicsUltraverse line. Malibu Comics, which Marvel had purchased in order to keep DC Comics from buying the smaller publisher. And with the smaller publisher in-hand…looking back through this issue at least, it seems Marvel had no idea what to do or have done with the small superhero universe it now had in addition to its own.

This Genesis issue was preceded by a month-long promotion in which each of the 7 then-current Ultraverse titles had a 3-page flipbook segment showing the characters encountering some kinda reference to a phoenix, though taken as a whole that made for a disjointed mess. The seven chapters were reprinted/collected into a single issue in The Phoenix Resurrection: Red Shift.

Getting into the main/actual story of the "event" now with this issue, we get a prologue of the Phoenix Force being discovered by some probe from another universe. Before long, through machinations of the Gateway character, a squad of X-Men find themselves once more in a parallel universe that they’ve become increasingly familiar with (a footnote reference to the Mutants vs. Ultras special issue, itself collecting several previously-exclusive American Entertainment editions such as Prime vs. Hulk, Wolverine vs. Night Man, and All New Exiles vs. X-Men).

While bystanders and news media are focused on something coming from the sun, Ultra hero Prime engages the X-Men in combat, because of course they’ve gotta fight. The source of the aforementioned probe–a mother ship that’s buried in the ocean–reunites with a counterpart in the sun, and brings the Phoenix Force to this Earth, and then tries to drain its energy–its life–causing the Phoenix entity to be driven insane with pain. The entity bonds with Prime as a host body, and continues to fight the X-Men, as other Ultras are brought to the scene. (It should be mentioned that apparently the mutants’ powers are severely dampened in this reality…but that’s a crutch that doesn’t much matter for discussion of this particular issue). Eventually, the Phoenix and Prime are separated, and the Phoenix takes a new host, as the issue ends (to be continued in Phoenix Resurrection: Revelations).

Maybe it’s that I look back on the likes of Prime, Mantra, and Rune with memory of more complex, authentic-sounding stories and characters, as well as the same from the X-Men books from the early/mid-’90s (particularly stuff like Fatal Attractions or the Age of Apocalypse and immediate aftermaths) but this just does not feel like it has much depth, nor is there–even in an extra-sized issue like this–much characterization. It’s like the characters were chosen for the book by "popularity" and "mainstream-ness" (plus, of course, being characters appearing in books that survived into the pared-down 7-book line of Black September-onward), and not really for much else. We have a squad of X-Men and some major Ultraverse characters thrown together, but I get no real sense of depth, development, or motivation. The probe and mother ship have a far-too-convenient means of getting the Phoenix to Earth, Gateway seems nothing but "convenience" personified, and we’re told rather than shown that the mutants’ powers are lessened here. Prime comes off as nothing but some petulant kid–while he IS a kid, he’s lacking a depth I feel like I remember from his own original title. Bishop seems to be present for appearance’s sake, and with the mutants not even really trying to use their powers, there’s no particular point to any specific character’s presence…they’re interchangeable.

With the art, I recognize Darick Robertson and Art Thibert as names if not an actual art style here; but having numerous artists on this single issue doesn’t particularly do it any favors…at least for me reading it in a fair bit of isolation here–perhaps they’re the artists on the main books, in which case I’d welcome that (in idea at least), but just jumping into this issue after the Red Shift collection of 3-page shorts, I’m not thrilled with the visuals. I recognize the various characters–there seems to be an attempt to have them all look a certain way, perhaps using a "house style" or such–but virtually nothing stands out to me. Everyone is for the most part a generic iteration of iconic appearance (for lack of better phrasing). The only real stand-out bit for me was the large image of the Phoenix-possessed Prime (though zero mention or visual reference from the Ultraverse side OR X-Men side of the Prime body being healed/repaired after an obvious significant slash from Wolverine’s claws and Jubilee’s reaction to the green goop).

Ultimately, offhand, I didn’t so much "not enjoy" this as I "didn’t ENJOY" it. It’s cool–at least conceptually–to see the mix of characters thrown together and all. But after 17+ years of having "decompressed stories" that are clearly serialized graphic novels, I definitely am expecting much more depth of character and stuff from two sides like this to be brought out.

This is a definite novelty, one certainly worth 25 cents or so as a bargain-bin purchase, if only for the time it takes to read making it more worthwhile than most anything of its size published in present-day. You can definitely dive into this issue withOUT reading anything before it…the "crossover" stuff from the Red Shift 3-page segments are little but token reference-points thus far, making this a better "starting point" if only for having a big chunk of a single story that’s not jumping to a new setting/character every 3 pages. You could do worse than this issue…but much as I’m down on modern Marvel, if you’re looking for "return of Phoenix" stuff, you’d be better served with the contemporary Return of Jean Grey story in the 2017/2018 Phoenix Resurrection, or in 2012’s AvX event series.

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The ’90s Revisited: The Phoenix Resurrection: Red Shift #0

90s_revisited

phoenix_resurrection_redshiftRed Shift

Writers: I. Edginton, J. Smith
Pencillers: J. Royle, P. Peletier, C. Wojtkiewicz, R. Green, B. Murray, R. Haynes
Inkers: P. Moy, S. Moncuse, M. Farmer, T. Austin, G. Martin
Letterers: P. Owsley, V. Williams
Color Design: R. Alvord
Interior Color: Malibu
Asst. Editor: S. Bernstein
Editor: H. Kanalz
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: n/a (American Entertainment Edition)

I remember the Black September ‘event’ back in 1995. Perhaps for its timing–Black September, this new era for the Ultraverse, this reboot/relaunch/renumbering–coincided with my entering high school, so for me my own life was starting a brand new direction and all that. I also remember stuff about this particular trail through the Ultraverse titles post-Godwheel heading into the event, though I missed out on the Ultraforce/Avengers issues, and so dropped in "cold" on the black-cover "Infinity" issues that September (with #1s in October). At the #2s in November, each book had a 3-page "flip book" chapter of this Phoenix Resurrection thing, in much the way Rune had premiered a couple years earlier. Then there were the larger issues Phoenix Resurrection: Genesis and Revelations, and Aftermath…and they led into some other title, Foxfire.

But I don’t recall if I ever got around to actually reading them all, or particularly caring about them all–this was late 1995, and rapidly heading toward one of my "off periods" with comics where I barely kept up with anything for about a year. So reading this now is like reading a whole new thing for me–I was aware of its existence, but have no conscious memory of actually reading the thing. And this Red Shift issue is something I don’t recall being aware of at the time in 1995–I discovered it some years after.

Red Shift is actually a collected edition of sorts: it collects the seven 3-page segments, making up a 21-page single-issue comic. The indicia shows it to be an American Entertainment edition–and its lack of cover price indicates this to be a special issue that would have been available through the mail-order comics company. This issue turns a ten-comic "event" into a 4-issue thing…making for a line-wide event of only 4 issues…something virtually unheard of in present-day, particularly from Marvel!

Marvel had bought Malibu by this point, and though the Malibu Comics logo remained on the covers, there were a number of Marvel characters that had crossed over into the Ultraverse, perhaps most notably Avengers character Black Knight, and X-Men villain Juggernaut. There were a number of other specific-story crossovers, where characters would cross for the story but not as a status quo.

Red Shift feels like what it is, as a collection of 3-page snippets, with numerous visual styles, and nowhere near enough room for any true story to develop, as they’re basically short little vignettes contextualizing each title’s "recent" prior experience heading into the main event story. Had I bought all seven issues specifically for the flip-book/backup, I’d have been sorely disappointed. Though I know the characters from my own prior experience reading Ultraverse stuff, as a standalone issue, this felt like a real mess trying to read it, and I really had to rely on memory of status quo from 22 years ago to have any slight idea what was going on.

The differing art styles seem–especially looking back–to be absolutely very "’90s" in style…with some generic and gratuitous posing, quasi- or wannabe "iconic" images, and so on…nothing overly dynamic or bad, exactly, but nothing great, either. Most of the creative team are names I don’t recognize (though I recognize several, as this would be early work by them before going to higher profile stuff). That leaves things to the characters, who are mostly recognizable, albeit as their relaunched looks, which were less distinctive and striking than their 1993/1994 debut appearances.

Story-wise, again, these were way too short and disjointed to really have any significance or development. Had they been simply 3 pages apiece within a main issue, worked into 3-page-longer-than-usual issues, they might have had more significance, serving as a universe-wide subplot, rather than being isolated out of whatever story was beginning in the respective titles.

All in all, I’m far from impressed by this issue, outside of the novelty of having these disparate segments brought together in a single issue like Rune #0. The art isn’t horrible but isn’t anything wonderful, and the story doesn’t do anything for me and doesn’t really do anything for the characters except provide a slight reference point. If you’re not already into these characters, I’d avoid this issue; there’s almost certainly more to be had in the "main" Phoenix Resurrection issues.

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The Weekly Haul – Week of April 20, 2016 (Bargain Bins)

Along with my ‘regular’ purchases, stopped off at the other local comic shop, looking primarily for the Superman/Wonder Woman issue I was now missing in the current storyline…or so I thought. (Turns out the missing chapter is an issue of Batman/Superman, which would have been a really useful bit of information to have consciously had!

Not finding what I was there for, I hit the bargain bins and found a bunch of 25-cent comics of interest.

I also found another Ultraforce figure that I don’t believe I’d found before: Topaz.

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Best thing is the figure was only $2…a real “no brainer” for me for sure!

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I came across a bunch of Showcase issues. Here are the handful of Showcase ’93 and the couple Showcase ’96 I found. The Two-Face one–a chapter of Batman: Knightfall–is a duplicate, but one worth having, if only for filing purposes.

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And the gem of the bunch, the back half of Showcase ’94…making it relatively easy to mentally track…I just need to find issues 1-5!

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Most of Strangers 1-16. A bunch of those early issues are apparently ‘variants’ in that they have the UPC/barcode on the covers instead of “nothing” or a non-barcode that many “direct market” books had from this time period. Normally I’m not one for variants, but finding a near-complete run of a bunch of issues make it well worthwhile, especially for the price of one single contemporary Marvel issue.

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Turok, Sovereign Seven, and The Man of Steel were lone #1 issues…but what the hey? I’m half interested in how many copies of Turok I can amass; and the others never hurt to have extras. The “ashcans” were cool finds–I have ’em all somewhere, but they’re rather rare (in my experience) due to their size…either not being filed with comics that are then sold, or “hiding” because they’re smaller and thus passed over…at least in bargain bins.

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I know I have at least a couple of these Justice League America issues, but while pulling them I’d hoped there would be more, and then figured until I get my collection actually sorted again, not gonna hurt too much to have a larger isolated ‘run’ for now.

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I found myself working toward an ‘even number’ for my mental math of my stack, so grabbed a couple random-ish issues. One of the store workers was sorting through a small box of comics and tossed some more “recent” releases on the quarter bins…functionally giving me first crack at ’em, so I snagged the bottom row above.

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Whether I get around to them sooner than later or not, I always enjoy finding Superman comics from before the Death of Superman, and then several of the others are just ones I like, particularly for the iconic covers from an age when such things could stand uniquely and not be lost in an overwhelming sea of variants.

The older issue of Action Comics where Clark tells Lois he’s Superman is a first print…I recall there being at least two printings, so it’s cool to snag an extra copy of a first print like this.

Not that I’m unaware of it or anything, but I’m such a sucker for the ’90s, and continue to enjoy these finds much more than most new comics.

And while I recognize that I’m rather “spoiled” right now with relatively easy access to a number of shops with 25 and 50 cent bins and various bargain-bins…it’s still apalling to consider that I can buy 64 such comics like this…for the same price a mere FOUR new Marvel comics of 20 pages each. 80 pages of story, or 64 entire issues? Not hard to see the better value when one enjoys the bargain-bin finds.

I just wish I had so much more time to actually dig in and read and re-read stuff more frequently.

$2 UltraForce Jackpot

I think I went into the comic shop looking for a TMNT comic I missed. Found a newly-purchased collection, and some extremely well-priced UltraForce toys. $2 apiece!

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I’m usually NOT a fan of “variant” figures. Polar Prime? Nighstrike Prime? Yeah, kinda dumb. But then I realized that hey…the character can generate a different body every time he “Primes,” so this actually works! And that Night Man just looked cool.

Plus…given I’ve only really this year been coming across these, PERIOD…I’m not gonna pass one up for only $2!

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The “gem” tonight, though, was NM-E. Even the packaging is in better condition than the other figures (though eventually that won’t matter, as I’ve every intention to have these all outta the package once I find the proper display space!)

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I still think NM-E looks like an Alien,but hey…still one of my favorite (and more “iconic” Ultraverse villains. I just wish there was a Rune figure.

While I wouldn’t mind getting the whole set of these, having the “regular” Prime and Night Man already and now NM-E, I’m mainly going to be looking for Hardcase and Prototype.

Scoring All-American Prime for $2

After half-heartedly “keeping an eye out” for UltraForce toys, this year’s been pretty good actually finding them in-person. Typically I’m not a huge fan of variant figures (duh) but for $2 and it’s Prime? Yeah. Now, I still definitely want several of the other figures from the line–Hardcase, NM-E, and Prototype for sure.

I found this in a toy bin at JC’s in Cuyahoga Falls…a very pleasant surprise, which offsets a LITTLE bit of my frustration at the hassle of tracking down a NON-variant copy of Action Comics #34 this week.

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Though the packaging is worn, doesn’t particularly bother me–I’m not looking for “mint in package” or “mint on card” or whatever…I just want to have the figures themselves.

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I wouldn’t mind getting the whole line–Ghoul, Topaz, and Attalon–though I have no interest in the “vehicles”…it’s the characters that have meaning, not some random (pointless) vehicle(s).

Ultraforce Action Figures…After All This Time

While I’ve been aware of them for at least 15 years (and I’m pretty sure I was aware of them earlier than that), it’s taken until just this Spring for me to finally acquire any of the Ultraforce action figures.

ultraforcenightmanandprime

Several years ago I ordered a Prime and Hardcase figure on eBay, but that never quite worked out (and shame on me for never pursuing the issue). But then just a couple weeks ago, a friend led me to a vintage toy store, where I found the Night Man figure for $3. And then barely a week later at a local one-day show, I found Prime also for $3.

Certainly a couple of my coolest “finds” in a long while…and can’t beat the price (especially with them still being on the card!) Thing is, my apartment’s such a mess, while I don’t relish leaving them packaged, I probably will until I can do some major cleaning and rearranging to properly display the various figures–including these.

Recent Acquisitions: Older Books

Along with the various “free” comics I picked up on Free Comic Day, I also snagged a couple other bargains: a fresh copy of the Superman Tribute issue from Wizard that came out after The Death of Superman stuff; a hardcover The Trial of Captain America, and most surprising of all (to me) a $5 copy of Solar, Man of the Atom: Alpha and Omega still in the original bag with a poster! (originally cover-priced $10 on initial release back in 1994). The Captain America book was also $5, and the Wizard issue was a mere 25-cents.

FCBDnonfreebooksI’d also found myself that Saturday revisiting eBay, checking on the current pricing of the Ultimates 2 hardcover. I’d snagged the first hardcover in early May last year, paying a bit of an unwelcome “premium” for it including shipping, on the expectation that its price would skyrocket with the Avengers movie as “everyone” would want the darned thing. I wound up getting Ultimates 2 (also out of print like Ultimates) including shipping for well under cover price, giving me the two-volume set I’ve wanted to have for years.

ultimatesHaving managed to track down the Ultimates 2 volume, I turned my attention to tracking down the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy hardcover. I’d first seen it at a Books-A-Million a number of years ago while visiting with a friend, and I passed on a $17 copy several years ago at Kenmore. Managed to get this copy, including shipping for under $14.

ultimategalactusandvaliantmastersI also have meant to get the Valiant Masters hardcover edition of Bloodshot since about the time the book came out last year. I wound up finding both it and the Ninjak volume, and got both–including shipping–for little more than cover price of either of the single volumes.

ultimategalactusandvaliantmastersstacked Continue reading

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