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Cover Gallery: Gambit and the X-Ternals

Amidst all the reviews and such, for me (at least) sometimes it’s just really fun to look at a bunch of comics’ covers together, whether it’s admiring a run of a series, or seeing a full story, or some other ‘theme’. Here are the covers to the Gambit and the X-Ternals issues from the original Age of Apocalypse event in 1995 (and as a shameless plug, click on the cover and that should take you to my Age of Apocalypse Revisited coverage of the issue).

 

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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Gambit and the X-Ternals #4

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gambitandthexternals004The Maze

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Salvador Larrocca
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Marie Javins
Cover: Salvador Larrocca, Al Milgrom
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

We pick up some time after the previous issue, and find our focal characters split. Dazzler and Exodus appear, and find the remains of the Nanny robot that was tasked with protecting Rogue and Magneto’s son. We then change scenes to later and elsewhere, to Apocalypse personally interrogating Rictor over his failure. We flash back from there to Gambit and Lila running from Rictor and those characters’ confrontation…and back to Apocalypse. Another flashback shows Jubilee with a child running from Guido (Strong Guy) who has apparently betrayed the group. We see more of the interrogation, and flash back to Rictor vs. Strong Guy and Strong Guy vs. Gambit. Gambit is forced to make a decision…and we move back to Apocalypse and learn of Rictor’s outcome as well as Strong Guy’s…and end on Gambit and Lila.

This issue is a great illustration (no pun intended) of how great single-issue comics can be when treated AS a single issue, even if it’s part of a larger story or mini-series or such. The storytelling is stylistically quite different from the previous issues…instead of things simply unfolding chronologically, this issue picks up "at the end" and while we learn of where things ARE we’re caught up on how things got there from where we ended from the previous issue. Though the characters, their mission, and this 4-issue series are part of one ongoing story, this is "just" one more issue, existing AS an issue, as its own entity, rather than simply being the fourth chunk of a singular story that was split into four equal pieces to be serialized.

I really enjoyed this shift in style, despite a bit of confusion at first. I certainly would have benefitted from a "Previously…" page as I did not recall the ending of the previous issue; but as this issue unfolds and we have the flashbacks and glimpses of the present, one is caught up rather easily (though Guido’s betrayal is still a bit iffy to me).

I was distracted enough by the story that the art was just "there," good and all but it didn’t distract me. I simply followed the story and appreciated the visuals for what they were.

I did not recall the events of this series or issue, but here found it a fitting end…concluding the adventure, leaving things at a place simultaneously dark and light, and directing readers to the end of the Age of Apocalypse itself by way of Amazing X-Men #4 and then X-Men: Omega.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Gambit and the X-Ternals #2

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gambitandthexternals002Where No eXternal Has Gone Before!

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Tony Daniel
Inkers: Conrad, Milgrom, Christian
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Marie Javins
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Cover: Tony Daniel
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Picking up immediately on the heels of the previous issue, our point of view is back with Gambit and his group, as they suddenly find themselves farther from home than they ever could have imagined being…and facing what they come to learn is the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard. The encounter is not encouraging, and Gambit has the group retreat. Rictor–who tagged along in their cross-galaxy space-hop–goes with the Imperial Guard. While he meets with a certain brutality interacting with the Guard, Gambit and co. meet a local who brings them up to speed on the situation they’ve found themselves in on this alien world. Rictor soon leads the Guard back to the X-Ternals, and the fight again does not go well, but this time the group is rescued by another group–calling themselves the Starjammers…who explain the danger facing all existence.

The art in this issue seems somehow "off" on this read-through…I’m sure it’s not all that different from the first issue, but as has plagued many of the #2s, there’s something to not being the opening chapter, nor penultimate or final chapter that leaves me a bit dissatisfied with the issue and more negatively critical of stuff that wouldn’t otherwise bother me. On the whole, the art works, the characters are familiar and mostly distinct…though just paging through the issue there’s a strange sort of blend to the visuals that–at least just for this issue–seems "off" to me.

The story itself is good, though a bit fast-paced and feeling quite a bit the opposite of "decompressed." This issue’s events could easily (by contemporary standards) be stretched to at least 2-3 issues–as we meet the Imperial Guard, see a fight and retreat, meet another new character and get exposition, see Rictor interrogated, another fight, meet another group, get further exposition, and finally a declaration to end the issue. That a lot is packed into the issue is good, and feels like a lot is going on, keeping things moving forward and giving a bit of that sense of hecticness the characters must be feeling, trying to find their bearings in this screwy new setting they’re thrust into.

With the Age of Apocalypse story exploring a number of different facets of the X-Universe, this series gets to do the "cosmic" side of things. It’s not entirely to my liking, nor is it necessarily a disliking. Though I’ve read some of the stuff with "X-Men in Space" I’m not really used to THESE X-characters "in space" so that throws me off a bit.

All in all, the issue’s rather average; neither landing as something crummy and distasteful nor anything of great significance or notice. It simply is what it is. We have plenty of action and story advancement and are moved into the heart of things away from the simple "premise" of this mini as spun out from X-Men: Alpha.

And like many other issues in the Age of Apocalypse stuff, I find this current re-reading to be almost new as it’s been so long since the last time I read through the entire story that I’ve forgotten details even if I’ve retained broad strokes.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Gambit and the X-Ternals #1

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gambitandthexternals001Some of Us Looking to the Stars

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Tony Daniel
Inker: Kevin Conrad
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Marie Javins
Cover: Tony Daniel
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This was twenty years ago, real-time. Gambit was ‘only’ introduced about 4-5 years prior to this issue’s original release, and there have been several “ongoing” Gambit books in the interim, so it’s no longer a ‘special’ thing that Gambit’s headlining a series. Nor is the character the same sort of “mystery” he once was.

But for the time, this was the character leading a ragtag group of rebels, having himself split off from the X-Men due–in large part–to “losing” Rogue to Magneto.

We meet Jubilee running from an Infinite before they’re intercepted by Guido. The two are joined by Sunspot and the momentary battle is over. On returning home they’re met by the most dangerous man they know–Magneto. Who is there with Gambit…and the team’s led to their new mission. After a fight in the Morlock tunnels they’re made aware of the wider universe…and with the unleashed power of Lila Cheney, the team is sent to the other side of the galaxy, after the M’Kraan crystal. Magneto–on Earth–realizes just how fragile all his machinations truly are.

I find myself less impressed in this issue with Daniel‘s art. It’s not bad by any means…but it’s not as good as I’d expect presently on name alone. Then again…this is from two decades ago. There’s a certain style to the linework that registers this firmly in my mind as a ’90s comic without even having to see the cover, indicia, or anything else officially dating it. There’s certainly plenty of comic art out there far less appealing to me, but by and large this issue does not thrill me visually.

Story-wise this is much of what I’d want in a first issue, particularly the sort this actually is. This is coming out of the events of X-Men: Alpha which has set “everything” in motion for this epic Age of Apocalypse ‘event’ and itself introduces us to “new” characters beyond Magneto and Gambit, and their role in things. We’re introduced to the mission itself and the means by which the characters are able to have any chance of cosmic reach in a ruined world…and we’re given the wonder of just what they’ve gotten themselves into: events that we’ll see play out in coming issues.

I’m more enamored with the “idea” of this book than the execution…yet, on the whole I enjoyed this. But then, I’m quite enjoying the entirety of my re-reading of these Age of Apocalypse issues, and this definitely rides that wave a bit. I don’t know that I find this issue singularly important in a stand-alone sense, but it works in the grander scheme of the present X-Universe these are taking place in and given I do not recall details…I’m definitely interested in revisiting this group of characters and their Shi’Ar adventure.

Completing Action Comics…and the Regular Wednesday Haul

The other day I considered driving across town to check another comic shop in my eagerness to “complete” my “From Crisis to Crisis to Flashpoint” run of Action Comics.

I reviewed Action Comics #890 just over three years ago, but with other stuff going on at the time, that wound up being my last issue of the title; I took the plunge and just dropped all the Superman titles altogether, gravitating toward non-DC (and non-Marvel) books. I returned the next year for #900 for the sake of it being the first-ever legitimately-made-it-to-900 American comic, and then stuck around for 901-904 as the series’ end heading into The New 52.

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Of course, three years’ time means #890 is buried somewhere in one of many longboxes, and to expedite reading the entire Black Ring saga in one go, I simply purchased a new copy of the issue (satisfyingly enough, these several years later, at a mere PENNY above cover price…WITH a bag and board!).

#891, though–the “treasure” (so to speak)–completes my run. I now own #583 (Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?) through #904 (Reign of Doomsdays) and the end of the pre-New 52 DC Universe.

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I still flipped QUICKLY through the bargain bins to see if anything “new” or interesting caught my eye. I did spot a couple of the Age of Apocalypse minis, but as usual let ’em go (I’m not interested in hunting individual issues). However, seeing all 4 of Gambit and the X-Ternals I pulled ’em. Not bad, considering it’s an entire mini-series for a whopping $1!

Assuming I can do so for 25 or 50 cents an issue, definitely interested in seeing how quickly I can build another full set of the original Age of Apocalypse…though I might go as high as $1/issue for X-Universe, as I rarely see either of those issues in bargain bins.

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…and the main haul of the week: Higher Earth #9 (final issue), Cyber Force #5, Legends of the Dark Knight #11, Shadowman #9, and Quantum and Woody #2.

I’m rather non-plussed at Higher Earththis issue was (based on original solicitations) due out in January…7-8 MONTHS ago! Even Hypernaturals has since ended at #12, and I believe IT got its start after Higher Earth. Until very recently when #8 showed up, I actually thought these issues had already come out, as I pretty much put them aside in frustration at the cancellation.

Cyber Force I’ve been picking up but not reading…I believe this issue completes the first arc, so now I’ll read. (And given the series has been pushed as “free,” or in the case of Kenmore, 50 cents, I’m all for a ~$2.50 5-issue story!).

I’ve decided to jump on the print editions of several of the DC Digital-First titles…caught up on Legends of the Dark Knight #s 8-10 this past weekend (a shop had all 3 at cover price), just in time for this new issue.

And of course…I get all standard-cover Valiant issues.

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