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The Weekly Haul – Week of June 20, 2018

This was a mixed week, and included a rather unexpected purchase on my part!

weeklyhaul_06202018a

For one thing, I seem to have missed Executive Assistant Iris from Aspen twice. And where I’d meant to get the new issue of that, I actually bought the new Fathom #1 instead, because of getting the 25-cent Primer.

Then there’s X-Men Gold #30. I haven’t touched the series since #1, and had zero intent to–even with the wedding in question. But I’d discovered a major spoiler on Bleeding Cool that made me decide I very definitely wanted to get this issue. This doubles in the unexpected category for the cover: this is an extremely RARE example of my opting to buy a variant over a standard cover. Given the spoiler, it’s this bagged variant that has the image that I wanted. I may well talk about the issue later, but not passing the spoiler along for now.

Then there’s the new Man of Steel and Batman issues for the week…getting us ever closer to the end of Man of Steel and the return of ongoing Action Comics and Superman titles, and leaving us with the very next issue of Batman being the 50th…and "the wedding issue."

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I also opted to partake in a sale, with three $34.99-cover-priced books for $6 apiece. I don’t do much Marvel these days, but for this sort of pricing, and the material in question…very much worth it, ESPECIALLY considering each was a mere $1 more than a standard Marvel #1 issue.

Nothing huge beyond that…definitely a simple-ish week!

Next week looks to be a bit bigger…hopefully not in a major sticker-shock sort of way!

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True Believers – Wolverine: Fatal Attractions

With all of the Return of Wolverine stuff going on and more mini-series and such than I can keep track of, Marvel has also been putting out a wave of Wolverine-centric True Believers issues lately.

True Believers – Wolverine: Fatal Attractions reprints the 1990s X-Men #25, part of the 30th-anniversary celebration/story arc X-Men: Fatal Attractions. This is also a key issue as it’s the actual issue where Wolverine lost his adamantium–this was where Magneto had had enough, and liquified the metal and forcibly removed it from Wolverine’s body…nearly killing him in the process.

My original post about X-Men #25 is archived here.

true_believers_wolverine_fatal_attractions

I covered this issue back in 2012, when I covered the entire Fatal Attractions event.

This issue–the “final battle” between Xavier and Magneto, was along with Magneto’s character in Age of Apocalypse and the 1990s animated series a crucial part of my understanding of Magneto. It’s actually kind of fascinating to me to consider that the Magneto in contemporary X-Men comics is the same character that appears here. Of course, we’re talking nearly two full decades of character development between this and now–but it goes to show what can be done with these characters and time. (While I’ve yet to really read any of the classic Rogue issues, I’m also interested in the fact that the Rogue I grew up reading was herself once a villain in the Marvel Universe. If her character can be handled as it has, it’s not too far fetched to think the same can be done with Magneto.)

I also recall thinking it sort of odd that such a huge thing would happen to Wolverine here rather than in his own title…but then, Wolverine wouldn’t even have a title of his own without the X-men.

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On the back cover, we have an ad for some current-ish volumes featuring Wolverine that Marvel wants to push at the moment.

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Though it’s sorta odd to be glad to pay a whole $1.00 for an issue I’ve pulled multiple copies of from 25-cent bins…this issue has such a place in my memory from reading it as a kid that I’m happy to get this “new edition.” There’s something cool to seeing it with a “regular” cover, too, and not the cardstock of the original; and just to see it as a new issue again for the first time in nearly a quarter-century.

I don’t agree with the ad here claiming these to be some of the “best” stories. I think I’d leave Fatal Attractions on there; I’d put the Larsen story with Wolverine going into space in here; probably Not Dead Yet, and almost certainly the stuff from when he got the adamantium back and the whole Death thing from 1999. I might even put the early Greg Rucka stuff from the renumbering back in 2003/4 or so.

I also don’t care for them pushing a vol. 2 over a vol. 1 (suggests to me that vol. 1 is already out of print). The Venom volume doesn’t even look to be Wolverine-focused, just that maybe it guest-stars the character…Wolverine doesn’t even make the cover (unless in that tiny image it’s actually a “Venom-ized” Wolverine). And I don’t remember the actual Wolverine being a major part of the early Exiles issues, though I think I remember there being a story where they guest-starred a bunch of Wolverines?

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The ’90s Revisited: The X-Men Collector’s Edition #1

90s_revisited

xmen_collectors_edition_0001Slice of Danger!

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Andrew Wildman
Lettering: Rick Parker
Inker: Steven Baskerville
Colors: Jim Hoston
Editor: Glenn Herdling
Published by: Marvel Comics & Pizza Hut
Cover Price: "$1.50 Value"
Cover Date: 1993

Back in 1993, the X-Men were an extremely "hot property." Their comics were at a definite high, they had a new cartoon series, they had trading cards, they had action figures, they had all sorts of merchandising going on…they were Marvel‘s Merry Mutants and all that. And one of those merchandising deals was with Pizza Hut. For whatever the price of a kids’ thing, you got a pizza, a plastic cup (If I recall correctly), and one of four comic books, commissioned specifically for this promotion. (I believe available for purchase separately were two VHS tapes, each with two episodes of the still-new Animated Series (Night of the Sentinels parts 1 and 2 OR Enter: Magneto and Deadly Reunions); both of which contained a brief roundtable interview with then-current creatives on Marvel‘s X-Men and Uncanny X-Men titles and such.

Where it would have surely been simple to just slap a new art piece and title logo onto something with a reprint of X-Men #1 or X-Men Adventures #1 or such, new cover, new art, and a new story was produced across essentially a 4-issue mini-series; an all-new original adventure exclusively for Pizza Hut.

We open on the X-Men in the Danger Room as Professor Xavier calls them to his meeting room. He explains that something’s happened with Cerebro (the computer that allows the X-Men to make first contact with new mutants before the villains can recruit them) that endangers the machine’s continued functionality. To repair it, various things are needed…which results in the X-Men being broken off into several teams to each get or accomplish something necessary to the whole of repairing Cerebro. Starting off, as X-Men Rogue and Gambit attend to dealing with in-house wiring, the Danger Room is activated with sentinels from "a dark future" (that many readers will recognize to be intended as the future revealed in Days of Future Past). After the two eventually overcome a trio of these killer giant robots (the scene powers down), we get a brief glimpse at a shadowy figure watching all the X-Men in their current endeavor…suggesting some secretive, behind-the-scenes operator working against the mutants!

The art for this issue is what I would consider typical 1990s fare. It’s not bad, but it’s not wonderful. The X-Men are all in their "Jim Lee costumes," the familiar outfits they were in (I believe) as of late-1991’s X-Men #1, also the looks used for the Fox animated series. Everyone is very recognizable as who they are, though the details of the art aren’t my favorite take. This definitely goes on the notion of a "house style" (as opposed to the artist of whatever book simply giving us "their take" on characters). Like a number of "fringe" titles/issues, this both looks like an actual Marvel issue while carrying a sort of generic feel that sorta/kinda/mostly fits with what was being published at that time without being entirely beholden to it nor affecting/impacting any of the "real" stuff.

Story-wise, this is pretty basic, simple stuff. Open on the X-Men in action. Show off one-liners and two-dimensional "character beats" to remind us of attitudes or such, "establishing" these as the characters that were being showcased in the animate series. Split the characters into separate groups to pad out several issues’ worth of content while allowing for "extended spotlights" on characters in manageable chunks. Showcase "key" expected stuff associated with the franchise/highlight all the characters and "locations" of the franchise.

So we get that–from Cyclops vs. Wolverine, to Wolverine’s random outburst, Jubilee’s snarkiness, Xavier having this dire situation but disappearing "to let" Cyclops and Storm handle stuff, to (particularly for this issue’s focus) Rogue and Gambit flirting, etc. The "characterization" in the issue seems generic and surfacey…but I don’t think it’s meant to be anything else. As something that would be reaching (primarily) kids for whom this might be their first/only experience with actual comics, it was important to give them stuff they recognized, both in the characters’ appearance and their behaviors. So the "character shorthand" stuff is prevalent; showing this mini time-capsule of stuff about them at the time, but not really building, changing, or directing anything new about them.

I fondly remember this period of the X-Men; and this promotion (I still have the VHS tapes and recall really enjoying the round table interviews, and those four episodes are particularly ingrained in my memory from this time). I even have one of the large promotional pieces that someone got ahold of for me some years back.

In and of itself, though, there’s nothing special about this issue, or this mini-series; it’s generic, surfacey stuff that doesn’t particularly draw from any deep continuity (despite the "references" to Days of Future Past), and it certainly doesn’t add anything TO the continuity. I certainly appreciated some of Gambit and Rogue’s flirting in this issue, and was surprised at one comment that certainly was "over my head" in 1993 that got a "Wow, they went there?? They said that ON PANEL?" reaction from me in 2018.

This is a fun novelty thing…hardly essential, but fun to have. I have the original copies I got from Pizza Hut in 1993, and I’m pretty sure I’ve come across these just a couple times over the years in bargain bins (maybe twice or so); the copy I read for this post came from a convention dollar-bin, I believe. So you’re not missing out on anything whatsoever in this issue or any of the other three, and I would not consider them to be "worth" anything much except for nostalgia. For that, they’re certainly worth $1-$2ish each. I don’t feel these are typical quarter-bin fare, not seeing them often…but they’re by no means anything high-ticket or worth $5+ an issue idly.

The cover states these are "A $1.50 value," representing the then-standard cover price of Marvel single issues. With a double-gatefold cover and interior cover, being full-sized issues both in dimensions and page count, written by one of the actual regular writers…this is a fun issue to have, and worth getting; though definitely most satisfying as part of a full set of all 4 issues.

xmen_collectors_edition_0001_full_front

The cover is a double-gatefold; four "panels" including the front cover. When unfolded completely, this is the full image.

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And the flipside of the double-gatefold, viewed from the inside is this image, spotlighting Rogue and Gambit.

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The ’90s Revisited: X-Men Series 1, Cards 28-36

Looks like my "schedule" with covering this card set is slipping! As it’s been several months since I last touched on this, I’ll "lead" with the links to the previous posts in the series!


Cards 1-9  |  Cards 10-18  |  Cards 19-27


xmen_series1_full_028-036

This is another page of mostly characters I’m at least familiar with, if not entirely informed on. Jubilee, of course, catches my attention as having been one of the primary characters in the ’90s Fox animated series, as does Rogue! Forge I always remember from the same animated series, despite being placed in a different time for that.

On with the individual cards…

028a

I think I’m actually most aware of Boom Boom from Nextwave by Warren Ellis. Here she has the "typical" look, and I think I might slightly recognize her by the bubblegum-bubble, but overall would likely not have recognized her without the name prominent on the card!

028b

And right here on the card-back is more information than I could have told you myself off the top of my head. I’d’ve thought she was a character introduced at the end of New Mutants if not X-Force #1. And I knew she could blow stuff up, but would not have recalled the "time bomb" aspect.

029a

Jubilee was a "point of view" character in the ’90s X-Men cartoon series…she was the inexperienced one, the one who could ask the same questions the viewers would have, and have stuff explained without talking down to said viewers. My first introduction to her was the cartoon, and it wasn’t until later that I first "met" her in the comics. I was aware of her earliest-on in the comics in an issue of Wolverine as well as the Uncanny X-Men issue that saw a "death" of Illyana Rasputin (Colossus’ sister) at the time.

029b

Jubilee is another character that was still very new when I came in, despite now being close to 30 years old! Nothing much new for me information-wise on this card outside of the term "plasmoids"…perhaps a way of making something sound scientific regarding her powers? I always forget if her first appearance was #242 or #244 of Uncanny X-Men, so there’s a handy reference to have.

030a

Shatterstar is a character who epitomizes "the ’90s" for me, as a character, and as a part of X-Force, and the actual X-Force title as it stood in the early-’90s. I mainly only knew the character for awhile from the Spider-Man/X-Force crossover that was collected in a tiny 3-issue volume back in the day.

030b

Reading the back of this card gives me more information than I ever could have given specifically about the character off the top of my head. It’s interesting that there are so many time/dimensional refugees that multiple characters up and down the timestream of an alternate reality found their way into the "main" one. Part of the convoluted nature of ’90s X-stuff, I guess. Also interesting to consider how relatively cliché it is that a character travels back in time to get help and simply joins the group they went back to interact with…or even some other group! Readily-assimilating (-ish) into a time not their own seems relatively common (Shatterstar, Bishop, Cable, Rachel Summers, etc to name just several!).

031a

Strong Guy I’m most familiar with from the then-current iteration of X-Factor, around the 30th anniversary of the X-Men and the whole Fatal Attractions crossover; though he became more of a standout to me due to the cliffhanger leading into the original Age of Apocalypse saga.

031b

There’s not a lot of depth to my knowledge of Strong Guy, and this card doesn’t really change that. It’s handy to see the first appearance…that’s a factoid I did not know off the top of my head. I did know he used to be a bodyguard.

032a

Captain Britain is a character I feel like I’ve been "familiar with" in terms of the character existing much more than I am with the character himself. He’s got a distinct look, and I’ve long associated the character with Excalibur–at least early issues that I’d been aware of.

032b

I’ve known about (but forgotten til reminded here) that stuff with Captain Britain is where we got the "616" designation of the "main" Marvel Universe. I can’t say this card really tells me much, but it’s such a little block of text for a fairly complex character, even back in 1992!

033a

I first "met" Forge in the X-Men animated series; though in that he was a character whose present seemed to be "The Future." Not long after that I learned a bit more about him, at least in his existing in the present-day in the comics, and there having been something between him and Storm.

033b

…and there we go: another character I’ve learned more about from a card than I might’ve been able to easily convey myself off the top of my head. I did not remember (if I even knew) of the character’s involvement with the Vietnam war (something that dates the character a bit).

034a

I don’t remember for certain when I first became aware of Multiple Man (Jamie Madrox), though it was probably somewhere around X-Factor‘s 100th issue when the character had "died" at the time. I think I’d gotten the issue as part of one of those department-store 3-packs or "boxed set" of a couple issues leading into/including the 100th issue.

034b

The main thing I learn from this card in 2018 is the first appearance of the character…I would have assumed he first appeared in an X-book. But Giant-Size Fantastic Four? Ok.

This mutant power is one of my go-to "super-powers" in answer to the question "If you could have one character’s power, which would you want?" (and excluding the likes of Superman with multiple powers).

035a

I can’t remember when I first became aware of Quicksilver…it was probably around 1993’s X-Men #25 (part of the Fatal Attractions crossover). I recall a bit of ‘hype’ around "that" issue of X-Factor where Peter David left a huge mark on the character: giving a great analogy from the character’s point of view as to why he’s always seeming like a jerk. (Something about standing in line behind someone that doesn’t know what they’re doing, and to imagine being surrounded by people who don’t know what they’re doing, every moment of every day).

035b

I’d forgotten Quicksilver started as part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants with his sister, the Scarlet Witch. I also forgot (or hadn’t realized) that he had a stint as an Avenger. Same for how early he first appeared in the X-Men series…

036a

Ah…Rogue. One of my favorite X-characters, largely thanks to her depiction in the X-Men animated series. It’s safe to say that as fictional characters go, she was a definite "crush" as a kid. This is my favorite design of the character (matching the cartoon series); and though I don’t mind some of her other costumes, this one’s the one I most think of for her.

036b

I learned of Rogue’s backstory from the animated series, as well as elements from the mini-series in the earlier ’90s. I’m pretty sure I "discovered" Ms. Marvel from the animated series before any appearances in the comics. It’s interesting to see that a major part of Rogue’s character is basically non-existent in the present; same for the impact on Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel). While one of my "grail" comics is Uncanny X-Men #266 (the only issue I’m missing from having a run from #240ish to 500 or so), I’d also be quite interested in getting Avengers Annual #10 for Rogue’s first appearance.

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Some Reflecting on Recent Phoenix-y…Stuff

phoenix_resurrection_0005I’d had high hopes for Phoenix Resurrection/The Return of Jean Grey series. I was especially looking forward to the return of the character, period. But this 5-issue "event comic," quasi-weekly series gave me two $4.99 books with three $3.99s tossed in, and other than "Psychics disappear, X-Men encounter several foes thought dead, and find out Jean is living in a Phoenix-created artificial reality," not much seemed to really happen. Add to that some half-arsed (to me) marketing about a Jean Grey tie-in issue where I thought I had missed something at the start of the ‘event’ and then made darned sure to grab when it actually came out the week of the finale, and I wasn’t overly keen on it.

Then for that supposed-tie-in to basically have nothing at all to actually do with the Phoenix Resurrection series/event itself, it’s like…why, exactly, was I just conned into buying the final issue of a series, when it’s not the end of the character, not about the character I wanted, and doesn’t offer anything meaningful to my reading of the earlier issues of Phoenix Resurrection? It seems that the Psych Wars arc had stuff earlier that did pertain to Phoenix Resurrection, and I didn’t get those; but this is tangential at best.

jean_grey_0011Once several issues were out, I wasn’t going to "just" hold off for a paperback–gotta give Marvel "credit" for that–pumping this out as a weekly thing rather than monthly. Rather than "have to" wait even just a couple months for a collected edition, seemed simpler to just continue with the singles, getting to read the serialized story closer together at least. But there’s also the fact that we knew blatantly from the start well before the first issue even hit that yes, this WOULD actually have the REAL return of the REAL Jean Grey…so it’s not like it was, say, a decade-later third mini to go with Phoenix: Endsong and Phoenix: Warsong, where we could "wonder" if it would actually end with Jean back among the living or not, or leave her dead. Like reading something called The Death of Superman, you know the outcome…and so the journey there, the details become all the more important. And for me, frankly, this series failed to deliver on that. Nothing much in it was singularly memorable, really; except the confirmation that yeah, Jean’s back, and a brief cameo near the end of the final issue..

We had the surprise of a temporarily-resurrected Cyclops (and then being left with a corpse, not even "just" the renewed absence of the character). Sure, Jean wanted "one last talk" with her husband/former husband/whatever they considered themselves. But how fitting would it have been to have also brought him back, with her? Resurrecting her, bringing him back, them having to learn to deal with each other again after how things were going with them just before her death, to say nothing of the actions Cyclops himself took after M-Day and AvX and all of that? (‘course, with Xavier apparently being back, too…almost seems "no harm, no foul" or such…) But it was basically "just" a cameo.

jean_grey_10_psych_warsI suppose I figured with a weekly 5-issue series titled with The Return of Jean Grey, we’d get MORE in the way of a contained "struggle" with her of simply being back; like they’d find her during issue 2, have 3-4 with stuff going on and her re-meeting the still-living, and perhaps by 5 have some big crisis come about because she IS back, where she’d have to face it and maybe face the likelihood of being killed again or something. As such, with the various X-characters dealing with missing psychics, the appearance of characters thought dead, etc. it seems like this would have worked far better as a bunch of subplots perhaps scattered across several titles, that would all then lead together into a one-shot issue; where the characters–having been brought together by events–would be there, and Phoenix Resurrection #5 could have been the oneshot or whatever.

A couple weeks back–the week after Phoenix Resurrection #5–I saw a lone copy of Jean Grey #10 remaining, and flipped through it and saw Phoenix stuff, so went ahead and bought it, feeling rather curious/suspicious. Sure enough, that one issue, not even branded as part of Phoenix Resurrection, had more conflict with the Phoenix Force and such, was more satisfying (BRIEF though it seemed!) than the entirety of the actual Phoenix Resurrection event/mini-series.

xmen_red_0001Then there was X-Men: Red #1. A bit larger physically, and $4.99 as a single issue…like last year’s X-Men: Prime, X-Men: Gold, and X-Men: Blue #1s. It’s got Nightcrawler, and our returned "real" Jean Grey, the adult, original, non-time-traveling character. Something to the issue as a whole has me considering getting #2, though I was not overly impressed with the issue or this newer take on Jean. I wanted her back as part of a team, back interacting with Cyclops, Wolverine, and various other ’90s mainstays…or something. On the five issue mini-series and now "headlining" a new series…I’m not seeing anything but "nostalgia" to "sell" me on the character. Like…great, now she’s back, but now what? What makes her singularly interesting and worthwhile TO get this sort of treatment?

I guess time will tell.

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The ’90s Revisited: The Phoenix Resurrection – Revelations

90s_revisited

phoenix_resurrection_revelationsRevelations

Writers: Ian Edginton & Dan Abnett
Pencillers: Kevin West, John Royle, Randy Green, Rick Leonardi
Inkers: Tom Wegrzyn, Philip Moy, Rick Ketcham, Jeff Whiting
Letterers: Vickie Williams, Patrick Owsley
Color Design: Mike Tuccinard, 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

This issue was a bit of a challenge to read. In it, much as I hold very fond memories of the Ultraverse, this really drives home the notion that my fond memories precede the Black September event, that they come from the "original" Ultraverse, before it "rebooted" into a "Marvel-Lite" imprint sorta thing. And just looking at the credits, if only from a 2018 standpoint, this reeks of non-priority to the publisher. I recognize several names that SHOULD have meant this was an excellent issue–especially seeing Dan Abnett‘s name as a writer. But when you have two writers, four different pencillers and 4 different inkers, two different letterers, two different colorists…this screams "piecemeal" and generic incoherence.

Story-wise, we basically have these characters from two different universes spouting off at each other, commiserating generically over stuff (the X-Men recognize Black Knight, for one and he them). But once again, there doesn’t seem to be any real INDIVIDUALITY to any of the characters. Night Man shows up outta nowhere and Wolverine welcomes him as if totally expected…just pieces being moved around the board, so to speak. And then for as big a threat as the Phoenix is supposed to be, everyone winds up just throwing their powers or fists at it to drive it through a portal back into its own (the X-Men’s!) universe, and the problem’s solved? If it’s a threat here, surely it’s a threat there…

We get "big" story beats in stuff like Rex Mundi’s "Alternate"–somehow because he–in this universe–did such a perfect job of cloning himself, the Phoenix–brought into this universe from another–subdivides itself to match. We "see" Mantra, and get a moment of her seeing/thinking she’s been "warned" about Topaz, but why does she get the look she does? But there’s zero explanation as to who/what she is, or the relationship…and if nothing’s going to be expounded on, why include it to begin with?

Probably another problem with this comes with reading it now in 2018, after 15+ years of being conditioned to 6-issue (minimum, mostly) story-arcs and year-long mega-crossover-events and the like. As something spanning two teams from two universes, plus so many ancillary characters from one, with a huge, cosmic, universe-threatening entity…it just seems impossible for anything to be done justice. Something like this really WOULD be fairly justified to have AT LEAST one full issue apiece for each of the Ultraverse titles, a couple "main" issues for everyone, and even an X-Men tie-in or few. Not full 3-4-6-issue arcs per title, but at least a few more full-length issues. Everything crammed into just a couple issues after just a couple pages per title…it’s rushed, and sloppy, and overall just generic and mostly incoherent.

As I’ve read these, I’ve become all the more convinced that the beauty and depth and such of the Ultraverse–the "heart" of the Ultraverse–is definitely in its first couple years, its run of titles when they were actually their own thing, before being wholly given over to Marvel and all that.

I had a hard time getting through this issue–I think it took me at least three times situating myself with it to read to get through the whole thing. Where often that would seem a compliment to a well-done, dense comic proving its 2018 "value" of a $4 cover price, this happened for lack of engagement and interest. Really, I forced myself through the issue simply to have read it (and now typing all this, which is far from my favorite sort of review/write-up!)

The cover-art, and the CONCEPT is sound; and the idea of some crossover between the X-Men and most of the Ultraverse, and their facing the Phoenix Force, and it having counterpart/ties within the Ultraverse isn’t all that bad. But this execution of it all is not much to my liking, and really feels like the sort of thing I’d say one is better off passing on. Of course, if you find it in a 25-cent bin–the whole ‘event’, anyway–it might be worth $1 or so to get all four issues; but I’d encourage one to seek out older Ultraverse stuff if you’re just interested in "trying" an Ultraverse title.

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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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