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Uncanny X-Men #600 [Review]

uncannyxmen600Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Sara Pichelli, Mahmud Asrar, Stuart Immonen, Kris Anka, Chris Bachalo, David Marquez, Frazer Irving
Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger, Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin
Colors: Marte Gracia, Jason Keith, Chris Bachalo, Frazer Irving
Cover: Chris Bachalo
Lettering & Production: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Assistant Editors: Christina Harrington, Xander Jarowey
Editors: Mike Marts and Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel
Cover Date: January 2016
Cover Price: $5.99

Winter Carnival

Writer: Mary Jo Duffy
Penciler: George Perez
Inker: Alfredo Alcala
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Cover Art: Paul Gulacy
Associate Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor: Dennis O’Neil

The first X-Men comic I clearly, consciously remember getting is Uncanny X-Men #300. The costumes, the characters, the cover–it fit the then-current animated series on tv that I was getting familiar with, and had a nice shiny cover to draw extra attention (to say nothing of being a thicker cover physically, making for a durable, high-quality issue to hold).

Several years later I picked up #400, and then years after that 500–though I hadn’t kept up with every issue of the title.

So again now, I bought #600 despite not being entirely current on the title (and overlooking the multiple reboots between the last legitimately-numbered issue and this) because of having bought the last several 100-issue round-number issues when they came up. Some 22 years after getting #300, here I am with #600.

My understanding is that this is Bendis‘ final X-Men issue, as far as being the driving force behind the main X-books. Despite catching up a fair bit on Uncanny X-Men and All-New X-Men recently via Marvel‘s Digital Unlimited, I’m still a bit out of the loop on whatever’s transpired between where I left off there and stuff immediately prior to Secret Wars and the Last Days stuff. But I do know the characters and the bulk of recent stuff in the most general of terms.

This issue finds Beast (Hank McCoy) experiencing an “intervention” by his teammates, forcing him to confront what he’s done of late–with emphasis on having time-traveled to bring the original X-Men into the present where they’re now stuck. Amidst the intervention/confrontation, we get some flashes to a number of smaller interactions–“original” Jean wants to leave the group for awhile; “original” Bobby confronts current Bobby on repressed feelings; Kitty, Colossus, and Illyana catch up with each other, and so on. Meanwhile, we also see Scott Summers’ recent dream to fruition…and it proves to be just a bit different than we’ve been led to believe.

We also get a lengthy “backup story” by Perez, a solo Iceman thing, that while it looks good does not feel particularly relevant nor current. It seems set in the early 1970s, though it feels like a more recent piece. The art is very good–I usually do enjoy Perez‘ art–though I don’t entirely appreciate the black-and-white instead of color. Perhaps it was intended this way, maybe it was a stylistic choice, but that contributes to it not feeling like it belongs in this issue.

The main feature’s story is solid enough, and though it doesn’t feel like an ongoing issue but more like a one-shot, it works decently enough as itself, as what it is. At the same time, I’m not thrilled at what appears to be Bendis trying to cement several key points just before taking off, like he has to solidify or shoehorn in some stuff to force subsequent writers to address things or leave Bendis‘ work to be an absolute character element. I do definitely approve of the supposed conclusion of the Cyclops arc, and hope to see stuff picked up on, that it’d “redeem” the villanous element applied to the character over the last several years.

Visually…while I appreciate the CONCEPT of letting a bunch of artists work on the issue as “the” big anniversary issue…I can really do without it. The shifting visual styles is distracting and draws attention to stuff in a way that takes away from the otherwise-natural shifting nature of the story, giving us some smaller character moments while addressing the larger overall confrontation with Beast.

I definitely enjoyed Perez‘ work on the Iceman story…but it’s such an unrelated thing that I’m honestly resentful at its inclusion, at this issue being over-priced at $6 over the “standard” $4 just for the story’s inclusion. Better a $3.99 issue without it than $5.99 WITH. That said, the story would work as some bonus/extra cheap attraction, as it really has nothing to do with current continuity, and has no likely/obvious ongoing elements to contribute to stuff, other than being a ’70s-looking/’70s-sounding story.

The main story’s art was distracting…and I was reminded how recognizable and unwelcome (to me) Bachalo‘s art is amidst it all…especially for the cover. It’s also very disappointing that the cover looks like it’s half of or one of several “panels” of a larger image, without even a wraparound…only a bunch of variants.

I bought this issue personally for being the anniversary issue, being the actual high-number or “legacy-numbered” issue. That’s for the personal element of having got #300 off the shelf, and each subsequent 100-numbered issue. In and of itself, if you have followed Bendis‘ X-work, you’ll want to pick this up. Otherwise, this is quite skippable for whatever will be ‘current” moving forward. Outside of whatever closure you’d get having followed this series, and/or All-New X-Men, I’d suggest skipping this and waiting for whatever nearest #1 most directly follows and grabs your attention.

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Age of Apocalypse (2015) #1 [Review]

secretwars_ageofapocalypse001Sticks and Stones…

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Gerardo Sandoval
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Sandoval & Curiel
Asst. Editor: Xander Jarowey
Editor: Katie Kubert
Executive Editor: Mike Marts
Published by: Marvel
Cover Date: September 2015
Cover Price: $4.99

For what I believe is the first time in years, the “classic,” ORIGINAL Age of Apocalypse logo is back (though lacking the oval and “After Xavier: The“). For over a decade, it seems a newer logo/font has been the “in” thing for use with the branding, from the 10th anniversary-onward. Add to that the fact that we have Magneto and Rogue prominently shown as well as a gratuitous placement of Weapon X (Wolverine)’s hand and claws, and this is something that absolutely grabbed my attention. (There’s also the fact that I revisited the saga in its entirety earlier this year, too!). While the characters are a bit “off” in appearance on the cover, this is still a great image to me, and I especially dig this rendition of Rogue.

We open the story to find the Savage Land under attack by Holocaust–son of Apocalypse (and in this Secret Wars version of the world, Apocalypse is Baron of the realm, with only god Doom above him). Holocaust is also one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen, sent to retrieve the young mutant Doug Ramsey (aka “Cypher”). Storm and Quicksilver’s squad of X-Men arrive to fight the monster and save Cypher…though things quickly go pear-shaped for all involved. We then shift to the aftermath and find what Mr. Sinister, Dark Beast, and the Summers brothers are up to as well as learning more about the situation, as Cypher pieces together an important bit of information. And finally, we get to Magneto’s squad of X-Men…and are left hanging for next issue.

As mentioned above about the cover, Sandoval and Curiel‘s art has the characters looking a bit “off” to me…but despite that, the work is very good, and overall I like what I got in this issue. Maybe I would have enjoyed this even more with one of the “classic” artists that worked on the original 1995 Age of Apocalypse, but this IS a newer story, a new look at stuff, and is not actually that SAME Age of Apocalypse (evidenced especially by the presence of modern Tablets that didn’t exist in any sort of commonality back in ’95). There are some differences–Magneto seems overly muscled, Cyclops’ hair seems a lot thicker, longer, and far more wild, and Sinister’s coloring seems more muted than I expected–but in and of itself, I’m cool with it. I enjoyed the look and feel of this issue.

Another selling point for me was very definitely that Nicieza–one of the writers on the original story–is the writer here on this book now. I generally find that I am far more accepting of changes to core elements of a story in new “takes” on an original when an original creator is involved…it’s sort of their seal of approval, being involved.

As we only have a few issues for this story as opposed to several dozen for the original, Nicieza deals nicely with scaling down the cast for the main story while directing our focus a bit. There’s a certain familiarity here that I truly appreciate, while the differences seem to come primarily from the fact that this is an Age of Apocalypse that is part of Battleworld and not solely its own thing…so certain continuity elements simply don’t exist here that did in the original…and/or they flat-out don’t matter. The story rang true to my reading, even more than probably anything else done with the AoA in the past 10  years.

You don’t need to have read the original story to follow this…there’s plenty in-context to move things along. As a part of Secret Wars and the whole “NOW, ALL THAT REMAINS…IS BATTLEWORLD!” this functions believably as simply an alternate take on/situation for X-Men characters. If you’re familiar with and enjoyed the original Age of Apocalypse epic, this version of the characters seems plucked from the heart of that, rather than some new status quo picking up years after the original.

The $4.99 cover price is a bit steep…and though I think I knew OF it a few weeks back looking ahead, I forgot about it, so was somewhat surprised when I re-realized what I’d paid for this. That’s probably also credit back to the cover imagery and logo and then my enjoyment of the story–I was distracted and not bothered by the price. We get about 30 content pages–more than the standard 20-22, so as much as any are these days, I’ll accept that as “justification” for the $4.99.

I thoroughly enjoyed the issue, and despite trying to shift to Marvel‘s Digital Comics Unlimited, I may actually keep current with this series. Highly recommended to Age of Apocalypse fans in particular…this may not be nearly as special as the original story, but as a new story it captures something that really works…at least to me.

Inferno (2015) #1 [Review]

secretwars_inferno001Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Art: Javier Garron
Colors: Chris Sotomayor
Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover: Javier Garro and Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Assistant Editor: Xander Jarowey
Editor: Katie Kubert
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

I have yet to read the original Inferno saga. I remember and recognize its logo from comics I first saw in a friend’s collection, though now know it more personally through comics in my own collection, issues I’ve seen in passing in back issue and bargain bins, and know of it historically through prior revisitations and references as well as the “after-effects” it left on the X-Men-universe. But as a sucker for classic X-stories (with added appeal of late for lack of great X-stuff to get into), I was quite interested in this, if only to “check it out.” I wouldn’t necessarily choose Inferno–it’s hardly at the top of my list of favorite X-stories–but this issue was yet a mostly enjoyable read for me.

Several years after the demons took over the city, we find the Colossus willingly submits to doing Cyclops’ bidding in exchange for being allowed to–one day per year–take a squad of X-Men into the Inferno to attempt to free his sister from the demons’ grasp. After a particularly costly such encounter, the losses are driven home all the more, and Colossus finds himself nearly cut off, faced with one final rescue attempt that does not go nearly as he had hoped.

The story itself is good, taking the core concept of the classic story and giving it a different ending, pulling a “present” timeline out of that change. I’m not consciously familiar with the art team, but there’s a definite air of familiarity to me with the visuals, reminding me (I think) of Chris Bachalo‘s work…though that’s not entirely a positive. The art is not horrible or anything but it’s not exactly to my liking. Stylistically, it fits the story pretty well, and much of its simplicity works for getting across what’s going on. It could certainly be a lot worse, a lot more jarring, so I’m good with it as-is.

Where The Infinity Gauntlet had originally been its own title, and the 2099 line was basically a bunch of books with the 2099 tacked onto something (Spider-Man, Punisher, X-Men, etc) and so works with the current Secret Wars as Secret Wars 2099, Inferno works a little less so as a standalone to me. The logo is familiar and simple but on the cover seems to just be floating. Perhaps it’s the lack of a Secret Wars or Battleworld logo stretched across the top, but this mostly looks like a Bachalo-esque image with the logo elements pasted onto it.

In and of itself, this was a good issue and I’m definitely interested to see what happens in the next issue. I liked the stand-alone nature of this book: consciously I know it’s part of Secret Wars, one of the realms in that world, but on the whole this could just be an introductory issue of some parallel reality with the X-Men characters…and that works in a good way.

Perhaps not entirely worth $3.99, but getting an older, more classic-ish X-story back in the forefront is good enough for me. And given the seemingly arbitrary pricing model of Marvel‘s collected editions, I’m definitely ok with buying this as singles. Recommended particularly to fans of the original story, or early-’90s/pre-’90s X-stuff.

Magneto #12 [Review]

magneto012AXIS tie-in

Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Roland Boschi
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles and Cory Petit
Cover: David Yardin
Assistant Editor: Xander Jarowey
Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

It’s the cover that did it. I’ve had absolutely no purchase-level interest in Axis nor any of its tie-ins…but the cover of this issue grabbed my attention. Onslaught, with the Red Skull’s face, dwarfing a defiant Magneto. Talk about hitting the right buttons for me. The original Onslaught story was HUGE in my youth–in scope, in tying back to Fatal Attractions, in tying into that X-Traitor subplot that even touched the cartoon series, that played with the matter of Xavier, his relationship to Magneto, to “The Dream,” etc. The reason Magneto as a character is interesting to me is the way the character was handled in Legion Quest and the Age of Apocalypse and afterward–as well as the “Joseph” period and all that. I’d also seen some sort of “preview” or “solicitation” text on the issue referencing Erik dealing with his friend, and all that–I recall an apparent plot point being the Red Skull stealing Xavier’s brain–so that plus the cover, and I couldn’t bring myself to NOT buy the issue.

Getting into the issue was a different matter. I haven’t read anything else involved with this Axis “event”–Axis itself or tie-in issues–nor have I read the last 8-9 issues of this series, so my reading this issue was functionally jumping in “cold,” so to speak.

Apparently Magneto’s already mid-battle with “Red Onslaught” (how original, that name), and he’s gathered other “villains” and allies (Carnage, Doom, Scarlet Witch, Dr. Strange, etc) to combat the Red Skull in Onslaught mode. He has his daughter (Scarlet Witch) cast a spell meant to access whatever there is of Xavier and bring that to the forefront. While this is going on, he recalls a happier time, in his younger days, when he and Xavier were new friends in Israel. The issue goes back and forth, present to flashback and we see an episode where Magneto revealed his powers to Xavier as they fled Baron Strucker and the two men sought to save Xavier’s lover Gabrielle Haller. Something happens and Magneto’s knocked unconscious, coming to to find the other villains gone and the Avengers present. As he wonders if the Scarlet Witch’s spell worked, he encounters the mind of Xavier–apparently the spell worked–and the two converse, the psionic image of Xavier essentially passing the torch to Magneto and telling him his way was right all along.

The art for the issue isn’t horrible, though I’m not terribly impressed–particularly compared to the cover. I know my attitude toward the visuals is partially the actual style and partially that I don’t care for some of the character designs or “new looks” or such. It’s also “tainted” by my presently re-reading old X-Men issues from late 1994 and loving those–for the nostalgia and the art and familiarity from my past. There’s really no way this issue can hold up visually to the likes of Kubert or Jim Lee or other artists whose work I particularly enjoyed twenty years ago. Yardin‘s cover drawing me in the way it did makes me think I’d enjoy his work on the interior, though.

The story itself seems solid enough, and I was absolutely THRILLED at the actual use of CONTINUITY, that the notion of Xavier and Magneto having become friends while working at a hospital in Israel is still there, and the presence of Gabrielle Haller. Stuff that I’d almost have “expected” to be swept under the rug in favor of some other “take” on the characters’ relationship, some other period of time instead of something that’s been touched on before. While I don’t care whatsoever for the Baron Strucker stuff, and struggled to recall what little I knew/know or thought I knew/know, I know the characters didn’t jump from what we see in Legion Quest to a “present day,” and so it makes sense they’d have other adventures and such. I just don’t much care for the constant “inbreeding” of the same body of established characters being constantly revealed to have had earlier and earlier and earlier interactions/involvements with each other, knowingly or otherwise.

But ultimately, while I WANTED to like this issue, it manages to fall short of my expectations–perhaps because this IS just a single chapter of something much larger, and I’m out of the loop and all that. I’m not overly thrilled to have spent $4 on the issue and had so little Magneto/Xavier as well as so little Magneto vs. Red Skull in direct confrontation, etc. I might be somewhat interested in this Axis event later if I can get a collected volume or the single issues cheaply, but despite being a bit intrigued (was it actually Magneto that set the entire Axis thing in motion, I’m curious about and don’t know from just this issue) I’m not motivated by this issue to chase down anything else for Axis, nor am I left with any particular desire to get the next issue.

This is probably a great issue for ongoing readers of the title; I can’t speak to its place or value in the overall Axis story, though…this doesn’t seem to convey anything one can’t get from the main series, and I actually have the feeling one would appreciate this issue more WITH the main Axis series being read.

There are worse issues one could randomly grab from the middle of a run, inside the middle of an event, I’m sure. But unless you’re specifically following the event or this title anyway, this does not seem particularly worth its $3.99 cover price and I am not going to keep chasing the bait of hoping to see more Magneto/Xavier stuff.

Amazing X-Men (2013) #1 [Review]

amazingxmen(2013)001The Quest for Nightcrawler part 1 of 5

Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciler: Ed McGuinness
Inker: Dexter Vines
Colors: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover: McGuiness & Gracia
Assistant Editor: Xander Jarowey
Associate Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Nick Lowe
Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $3.99

I bought this because of Nightcrawler, and because of the cover. Well, the regular cover, anyway–the wraparound/double-page-spread-sized image (see below). I usually hate the “return” of dead characters, but given recent indoctrination to the “well, how LONG are they gonna STAY dead?” thing I’ve simply been waiting for this; knowing it WOULD come about, just not sure which year it’d be (turns out, 2013 into 2014). And darn, that’s a nice cover!

My expectation for this issue was pretty low going in, despite recognizing the potential, and “knowing” this is the “return of Nightcrawler,” from snippets I’ve spotted online–that I’ve come across without specifically seeking out. I figured hey, I’ll give this issue a shot. ONE issue, a first issue of a new series…a few pages to “convince” me to come back for another issue, without leaving me further disillusioned with Marvel Stuff.

The issue opens with an extremely basic summation of Nightcrawler, then picks up with Nightcrawler himself, and the beginnings of this grand adventure. Some demons launch a raid on the edge of this afterlife realm, and Nightcrawler fights back. Turns out his father–Azazel–is leading the campaign. Of course, Nightcrawler opposes him, a yet-unfinished task before he can “move on.” Back on Earth, Angelica Jones (Firestar) arrives at the Jean Grey school as a new member of the staff…but finds things are not nearly as simple as she’d expected. Amidst other goings-on, the staff–led by Beast–find that the Bamfs infestation is much more significant than they’d thought, and leads them to realizing something rather big is touching off.

Now, my first thought, slightly tangential: if there are plus Bamfs for sale anywhere, I totally want a blue one! I don’t know when these things showed up, but I think I was only just aware enough of their existence that I’m not scratching my head here…maybe I’m drawing on some metatextual knowledge as well that made ’em amusing…and Really Darned Cute!

Visually, I highly enjoyed this, from the cover on through. As said above, the cover “sold” me on this issue, and the art fit the cover and the story, and I was never once taken out of the story by some weird panel or not being able to follow what’s going on. (And darn if those Bamfs aren’t cute lil’ critters!) I don’t care for Storm’s look, but that’s the mohawk and such, not the art itself. Despite Beast’s relatively new look, I had to remind myself that it WAS his new look…he just looked like Beast. And I couldn’t help but grin at Nightcrawler getting the swords and swinging into action…the cover isn’t itself an exact scene from the issue, but it conveys some of the spirit of what went on.

Story-wise…The characters themselves are not (yet) reunited with Nightcrawler, sure. But we (the readers) get the first few pages of this issue to spend with him, before being “stuck” with the non-Nightcrawler characters of the title. We get Firestar brought into things, some context of her past with the characters (including Iceman), and stuff like that; context that Bamfs have been around the Jean Grey School for awhile and not a major problem til now. And by issue’s end we can see what’s coming, and left off with a cliffhanger that I don’t HAVE to see the resolution to…it’s a cliffhanger I WANT to see the resolution to.

The issue begins the return of Nightcrawler. We get Nightcrawler IN THIS issue–no waiting for #2 or #3 to so much as see the character. We get a great cover that fits the issue. We get immediate gratification while being primed for more to come. It’s a great balance. We get exposure to other characters that will feature in this title, despite also being featured in other titles…we get setup for coming issues.

I had planned to skip this issue. I’m tired of $3.99, I’m tired of double-shipping books (no clue offhand if this is going to be a double-shipper or just an old-style once-a-month title), but couldn’t resist checking this out. And for this first arc at least, I’m on-board. The story’s good and gives plenty I like in my first-issues; the art’s very much to my liking (and I don’t remember specifically liking McGuinness‘ work this much previously), so all in all I’m quite satisfied with the issue and definitely looking forward to the next issue.

All in all, you don’t really need to be up on a lotta current continuity, I don’t think. Knowing all the recent goings-on throughout the X-books will surely lend a richer experience and contextual knowledge. But the core stuff is given in this issue and/or looks likely to be able to be picked up further as the arc continues. Especially if you’re a fan of Nightcrawler, whatever you thought of his demise in Second Coming, this is very much an issue to get. And even taken alone, this is a solid first issue if you want to jump into an X-book fresh with a #1 issue. Highly recommended!

amazingxmen(2013)001(full)

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