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X-Men Legends #1 [Review]

xmen_legends_001The Burning Blood Part One: Shattered Crystal, Scattered Dreams

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Brett Booth
Inker: Adelso Corona
Colorist: Guru-EFX
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Assistant Editor: Lauren Amaro
Editor: Mark Basso
X-Men Senior Editor: Jordan D. White
Cover Date: April 2021
Cover Price: $4.99

Possibly my earliest conscious memories of X-Men comics are the X-Cutioner’s Song event/crossover issues polybagged with a trading card…because a friend was collecting that crossover. It didn’t mean anything to me at the time, personally…though I wasn’t too far behind getting in thanks to the then-new XTAS, and Fatal Attractions event/crossover. There’s still the nostalgia for me for those ranges of issues as such. Two of the earliest issues I can remember owning for myself are Uncanny X-Men #300, and X-Men #24. I do NOT remember "Adam X" nor much of anything about a "third Summers brother" at the time despite whatever issues I was reading…anything I DID know or think surely came from trading cards and/or Wizard Magazine. When Brubaker got to tackle the definitive answer to the question of that brother in 2005’s Deadly Genesis it also didn’t mean too terribly much to me for not being all that invested in there being or who was "the third Summers brother."

Anyway…X-Men Legends #1:

We open on Erik the Red directing his minions–the Crystal Claws–to attack Providence Hospital in Anchorage, Alaska. After much destruction and death, they find the people they’re after: Philip and Deborah Summers. The scene then shifts to find Cyclops and Havok–Scott and Alex Summers–back to back opposing a different wave of these Crystal Claw folks. Once victorious, they seek out Xavier for answers, given his relationship with a certain Shi’Ar. Before they get any, the brothers are called to Alaska where they learn of their grandparents’ kidnapping and ransom. The scene changes again to some flashbacky stuff of the childhood of a character calling himself Adam. He’s meditating in a field and when confronted, gets to show off his abilities with throwing weapons by killing a snake. Cable shows up and talks before giving Adam’s location to the Summers Brothers. While Adam deals with more memories, he finds himself set upon by Hepzibah and Raza of the Starjammers. Their fight is interrupted by Cyclops and Havok, and Adam fights them as well. When the three find themselves at a questionable stalemate, a ship decloaks to reveal Corsair–father of Cyclops and Havok. While he notes the confusion on their faces, Corsair reveals that he knows more than they do, and fires his weapon at them. To Be Continued…

There’s something refreshing and yet challenging about this issue. It’s refreshing to have an issue that has so much packed into it…rather than the decompressed, semi-cinematic, un-captioned, un-narrated, dialogue-less nature of too many modern comics. It’s refreshing to have a first issue start out right into action, rather than being all setup for the next five issues or so, as a mere 1/6th of a singular story. It’s refreshing to have editor’s notes and footnotes. And it’s darned refreshing to this fan of ’90s comics and ’90s X-Men to see Cyclops, Havok, and Xavier in their early-’90s look, not to mention an adult/older Cable, and various other touches that feel very reminiscent of the ’90s. It’s a bit challenging, however, coming 26-27 years after the comics it’s meant to fit around, and though familiar with the general time-frame, I’m not steeped enough in conscious memory of 1994 continuity, "Adam X," and the finer details of that. I don’t feel like I knew Erik the Red prior to Uncanny X-Men #350 in 1998 or so, and I’ve never been a huge fan of the Shi’Ar and such. I’ve also been conditioned especially over the past 20+ years to the decompressed format of modern comics, so found it a bit jarring to have so much going on in this single issue, jumping all over the place. For a new-in-2021-comic, it feels very out of place and a bit choppy/clunky.

The art team manages to capture a ’90s feel in addition to simply depicting the consistency of a ’90s-era "house style" of the characters’ costumes and such. It’s by no means a perfect fit, as it is still a comic actually published in 2021 with seemingly contemporary art, carrying with it a modern aesthetic I can’t quite put to words. The visuals are clearly intended to evoke the colorful, dynamic, over-the-top-ish frenetic action that I, at least, tend to associate by reputation with ’90s comics. This isn’t Jim Lee art by any means, but I liked it and found it rather enjoyable, particularly in the moment as I read this issue. At the minimum, the visual style helps the issue to show us this is a ’90s-era-style story, rather than just telling us the fact.

Nicieza‘s name was a huge selling point for me–he was one of the main X-writers when I first got into the X-Men in 1993 or so. Getting a new story from him that’s meant to fit right into existing continuity and that is not further-ballooning out modern elements was extremely appealing to me. I mentioned earlier that this issue felt very out of place and choppy/clunky. That’s in the context of being a comic published in 2021, based on modern 2021 comics tropes, generalities, and conditioning over much of the past several decades to the fairly strict, rigid decompression of every 6 issues being a single story, rather than having multiple core stories and numerous plot threads woven across 6 issues. The Summers brothers’ interactions; the quick shift to Xavier for information, the convenience of plot elements falling into place within pages…it worked for me.

If this was a modern issue, I’d expect a multi-page sequence of a mysterious ship approaching a planet that turns out to be Earth followed by multiple pages of attack and double-page spread(s) of the devastation left behind and a cliffhanger of two people with the surname SUMMERS being found. Instead, that’s just several pages’ prologue. In that regard, this issue could pretty easily–by modern standards–be broken out into 3-4 issues. At 30 pages of story in a $4.99 comic…it (grudgingly) actually seems worth its price compared to most same-length/same-priced comics.

This felt like a much longer read than I expected, and I enjoyed the details and captions and such…it’s not that the reader is spoon-fed, but the reader gets to read a story–they don’t have to participate, they don’t have to nitpick and think-deeply and pick stuff apart from subtle visual clues that lack any sort of dialogue or caption reference for key parts of the story…and the only "homework" the reader would need to do–if so chosen–is follow the editor’s notes to check back to X-Men #39 (immediately prior to Legion Quest and the Age of Apocalypse) and a Captain Marvel (Genis-Vell, I presume) issue. There are no "infopages" nor "infographics" interrupting the flow of the story, and really what you see is what you get.

This is by no means a perfect issue, and it is $4.99. But it’s an issue that I was looking forward to for awhile, based primarily on the concept and the cover; and that $4.99 gets you 30 pages of story rather than merely 20ish for $3.99; an extra 50% of story for only an extra 25% of price. The cover sports the "classic" bold, blocky 3-D-ish X-MEN logo certainly associated with the ’90s comics (and then some!) with "Legends" and "#1" worked into it…much the way the ’90s Superman comics fit "Action Comics" and "The Man of Steel" in against "Superman." The cover image of the main/standard/non-variant cover (pictured above) strongly evokes the ’90s to me and lent itself strongly to my sense of nostalgia and thus interest in checking this out…as a series, and certainly as a first issue.

Given that this is a story by a prior writer, meant to fit into a point of continuity nearly half the property’s existence in the past, this certainly won’t be for "everyone," nor will it appeal to everyone. It absolutely appeals to someone like me that grew up with the ’90s X-Men and looks fondly upon that period of the property. While likely a curiosity to readers brought in by Hickman‘s House of X Powers of X, Dawn of X/Reign of X/X of Swords and such…this is absolutely non-essential to what I understand of the current books, and more a chance for older, lapsed readers to get something new. Or for newer readers to get a taste of something out of the past that is actually new.

I’m certainly not keen on a comic’s being $4.99, but I definitely feel I got my money’s worth out of this issue and am really looking forward to #2 and beyond. Honestly, a telling point should be that I so thoroughly enjoyed this issue that it prompted this review at all, marking my first review of a "current issue" in maybe a year or more!

xmen_legends_001_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Fantastic Four (1996) #12

90s_revisited

fantastic_four_(1996)_0012Heroes Reunited part 1 of 4: Doomsday!

Plot: Jim Lee
Script: Brandon Choi
Pencils: Ron Lim & Brett Booth
Inks: Mike Miller, Tom Mcweeney & Homage Studios
Letters: Richard Starkings/Comicraft’s Dave Lanphear
Colors: Wildstorm FX w/Jessica Ruffner
Editor: Ruben Diaz
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: October 1997
Cover Price: $2.99

It’s probably been a good 20 years since I last read this story, but as I’ve yet to actually do a solid read-through of the entirety of the HEROES Heroes Reborn thing, so the sense of familiarity I had in the reading was a very welcome thing.

The cover itself hit me with all sorts of deja vu…and seems like something that in some ways could qualify as a favorite or “iconic” cover…at least because hey–you have the Fantastic Four in full-on attack mode against a distressed Galactus, who is quite recognizable as the giant purple Kirby-entity that he is. I’d actually forgotten until looking at the other issues in this 4-part epic that the cover joins with the other 4 chapters to forma larger 4-part image. Which, of course, would virtually never happen today, 20-some years later, when any potential for such things absolutely MUST be used all on the same exact issue as variant covers, instead of a fun “bonus” or “reward” of getting one copy of an entire story!

After the front cover itself, the next thing to immediately grab my attention was the fold-out nature of the cover. This is from a brief period when Marvel utilized the cover to provide both a page giving the premise of the title and a list of core characters and another page to recap what’s come before as one heads into the issue. Though Marvel has since gone through other things and seems to primarily at present do a “page” with this sort of info as just a text piece, I can definitely say I’d prefer this overall…at least by comparison.

In a way, this issue is rather simple, despite its extra length that allows quite a bit of detail to unfold. Dr. Doom returns to New York, and the final piece of a device he’s been working on is finally in reach. Meanwhile, the Fantastic Four continue a standoff with the heralds of Galactus, before their master summons them away, and the FF are picked up by SHIELD. Nick Fury has also gathered Iron Man and Captain America–Avengers–as things are bigger than they appeared. Probes that had been launched earlier penetrate Galactus’ space and reveal his ship, and the release of devices to several points on Earth. This leads to the various heroes splitting off, each to attend to the building situation in different places. Johnny Storm–the Human Torch–goes to the Himalayans with the Inhumans to face Firelord and one squad of Avengers goes to Monster Island to face Plasma (and by extension of being on Monster Island, the Mole Man). The fight with Firelord winds up falling to Black Bolt, who is able to destroy the device, but its energy emission on destruction kills the Inhumans and Human Torch. Meanwhile, Namor sacrifices himself to neutralize the device guarded by Plasma. As the fight moves to Galactus himself, now on Earth, the SHIELD Helicarrier is compromised…and after it’s evacuated, Nick Fury and the Countess steer it into Galactus’ ship, giving their lives. Unfortunately, Galactus survives. In the ongoing battle, we get surprising twists and turns…and deaths. The Thing and Black Panther are killed, and as the situation deteriorates further, Doom enters the fray, determined to gain the Power Cosmic for himself…and his interference screws things up further for the heroes. As Reed appeals to Doom’s better side, it becomes apparent that the situation is hopeless. As the world dies, Doom alone escapes via his device.

heroes_reunited_01

This issue alone would in present-day terms be an entire event in itself, at least for the most part. I know where things go, and why this is “only” part 1 despite the deaths and then destruction of Earth itself. The extra size to the issue, with plenty of dialogue and captions and such certainly gives us more in a single issue than we’d likely feel we got in an entire event in the present.

The story seems to mostly be its own thing…there are “moments” and plenty of references that would probably mean more to me if I’d read the previous few issues, or the entire series so far; but I felt comfortable jumping in here and just seeing characters behaving largely to form, regardless of their depth.

The art is excellent–for the most part, I felt like Lim and Booth gave some of my favorite appearances to characters throughout the issue. Overall I didn’t notice much of a change between the two…the only point I really felt like I noticed an actual/major difference is in one panel having a large, majestic Captain America, and then another panel with him looking maybe half the size and pretty much TOO “lean.” The entire visual team seemed to work quite well together here, at least in my reading: I enjoyed that this did not feel like it had multiple teams on it.

As series go, this is “functionally” the last issue of this version of the Fantastic Four. There is a 13th issue, but due to its crossover with the then-part-of-Image Wildstorm universe prior to Wildstorm‘s being bought by DC Comics, that issue has not (to my knowledge) been reprinted or the story “acknowledged” in-continuity/etc…making it a sort of one-shot and curiosity.

While I’d initially checked out the first issues (as of this writing, I honestly don’t recall if I’d followed the next few issues of FF or not but recall #7 or so for sure) I was quite a bit “behind” by the time of this crossover. I imagine that I was aware of things coming up, thanks presumably to Wizard Magazine, which was probably part of my getting this story as the issues came out…gearing up for the end of Heroes Reborn and the return of the characters to the main Marvel universe.

This issue more or less works on its own, though it ends on quite the bad note if read in isolation. If you can find all four of the #12s for Heroes Reunited, though, they make quite a set, and just from this first chapter, I’m eager to get into the rest.

fantastic_four_(1996)_0012_blogtrailer

Futures End: Booster Gold #1 [Review]

Futures End Booster Gold #1Pressure Point

Written by: Dan Jurgens
Art by: Moritat, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Will Conrad, Steve Lightle, Stephen Thopson, Mark Irwin, Ron Frenz, Scott Hanna, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund
Colors by: John Kalisz
Letters by: Taylor Esposito
Cover by: Jurgens, Rapmund & Hi-FI
Editor: Joe Cavalieri
Asst. Editor: David Pina
Group Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

[———- Please note: I will spoil this issue’s ending below, denoted by a further note. ———-]

I wasn’t going to cover any of these Futures End one-shots as a singular/full review, but then, that was partially due to the fact that all these others have just been the month’s iteration of an ongoing monthly book. But to the best of my knowledge, Booster Gold has not had an ongoing series since that final issue that tied into Flashpoint pre-New 52; and I haven’t a clue where he wound up via Justice League International and whatnot.

But knowing his creator–Dan Jurgens–was the writer on this issue in that way alone made it a no-brainer for me to pick this up, once I’d given in on getting ANY of these one-shots. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the issue and hadn’t seen anything for it in promotional stuff outside of the title itself. So seeing the cover was a thrill–this is definitely one of my favorite covers of the month. I’ve always loved the blue-and-gold contrast…the pairing of Booster and the Ted Kord Blue Beetle as well as simply the contrast of the two colors against each other. That makes for a striking cover. It’s also great to see the same title logo used as the last ongoing series…it lends an extra bit of recent-nostalgic familiarity to this.

As this isn’t just the month’s “five years later” glimpse of an ongoing character/series, we actually get a look at a Booster bouncing through time/dimensions trying to remember a mission, as we see Booster imprisoned, being interrogated for something…and eventually see that rather than some disjointed story there’s more going on than it seemed initially…and certainly gives me a “selling point” to catch up on and keep up with Futures End.

I was initially put off looking at the issue’s credits seeing a number of artists credited with ranges of pages…couldn’t one person (say, Dan Jurgens himself) do the entire issue? But I almost immediately realized then that hey…multiple worlds/dimensions…different artists lend some variance to the worlds, and contrary to my initial snap-judgment, I quite enjoyed that element here.
Booster himself looked familiar, yet there was something a bit different to the character that I couldn’t place…I vaguely recalled that he’d had a “new” costume in the New 52, so I wasn’t sure where this fit. Thankfully, that actually worked with the story.

After all these years, I really enjoy seeing Jurgens work on the character–particularly the story, but the art as well. There’s also that Booster Gold is one where time-travel is an intrinsic part of the character himself…which adds to the logic of this issue’s existence. Even if the character does not have an ongoing and may or may not (for my ignorance) be a regular part of any ensemble cast of an ongoing book–for anything involving time travel, I’d expect him to be a part of it in some form.

[——————————— Spoilers below ———————————]

By the end of this issue it became apparent that this was not a matter of Booster being imprisoned and the bouncing-through-time-and-worlds-and-dimensions being merely a mind-thing with someone screwing with him to convince him to give up a secret. We’re actually dealing with the New 52 Booster Gold as well as another version…and it seems to me that this other version is either THE pre-52 version or darned close to it. I don’t know where DC officially stands anymore on stuff, but this “hint” that the DC Universe *I* grew up on is still out there is a welcome treat, whether isolated to this title, this issue alone, or something bigger.

[——————————— Spoilers above ———————————]

All in all, like the Swamp Thing issue and the Supergirl issue, I ultimately found this to be an issue independently interesting and engaging (particularly by the ending and the “new view” of the earlier pages it generated for me), and very well worthwhile to have bought and read.

The “hope,” the potential weightiness of this single, short issue’s story…the possibility that I’ve just read a new Dan Jurgens story involving “my” Booster Gold…the attractive cover, the sturdiness of the physical cover…this all lends to the issue justifying itself and the $3.99 cover price (at least in this modern age of lesser-quality physical products for the price). Very definitely one of THE best issues of the month, and one I’d certainly recommend–whether the 3D edition or the standard cover edition.

Batman/Superman #3.1: Doomsday #1 [Review]

foreverevildoomsday001Tales of Doom

Written by: Greg Pak
Pencils by: Brett Booth
Inks by: Norm Rapmund
Colors by: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover by: Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea and Tomeu Morey
Assistant Editor: Anthony Marques
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

This issue is REALLY the entire reason I “bought into” Villains Month at all to begin with, prior to deciding to “also” check out the Cyborg Superman issue and everything snowballing from there. Doomsday is probably THE key character for me, even more than the Cyborg, when it comes to my history with Superman. Whether the actual Doomsday arc, the issue of Reign of the Supermen where the Cyborg throws his body into space, the Hunter/Prey mini-series, the Doomsday Wars mini-series, his appearance during Our Worlds At War or his “Jokerization” during Last Laugh…the creature is one that I’ve “always” taken note of. 

All that said, my initial take on this issue is extreme disappointment. Labeled Doomsday #1 for the issue, I expected actual details–of the creature, of its past, clarification of its involvement with Superman already –and perhaps something of what might yet be coming. While we do get a look at the past, with the creature inserted much more closely to Superman himself in the family history…it seems to almost “cheapen” the character, making it just another part of stuff carrying over from Krypton to plague Superman on Earth, rather than something that arrives out of nowhere or “legend” and all that.

Rather than any real background on the character or firm details of the creature’s origins, we’re given a glimpse of a past encounter with the creature involving Zod, and from Lara’s perspective.  We get some development of Zod’s history with Supergirl (Kara)…which works in context of showing the danger the creature can present, of its place in Kryptonians’ consciousness…but really does not seem to “matter” for an issue that’s supposed to “focus” on the creature. This story seems like it would be far more appropriate as an issue of Supergirl, showing her remembering what she’s learned of the creature. Though the creature’s prominence on the cover is apt, this issue doesn’t really feel like it lives up to its “title,” and certainly fails to live up to my own expectations.

Despite that, had this simply been a random issue of Supergirl and I saw the creature so prominently placed on the cover, I’d’ve likely found this a rather enjoyable “one-shot” of sorts. And with the Zod/Kara stuff, it’s seeming likely that the entirety of Villains Month MIGHT actually drive me to checking out the Supergirl title.

The story itself is solid; I do like the art in and of itself. I don’t mind the reconfiguration of the bone protrusions from Doomsday, except the cheek-horns that just look totally ridiculous to me and seem a pointless addition to the face. While I’ll read about “any” Doomsday, this is somehow probably my least-favorite of all the looks the character’s been given.

All in all…I suspect if you’re a fan of the Supergirl series, you’ll enjoy this. Ditto if you’re a fan of Pak or Booth, or just want the cover to look at. With the apparent “consolidation” of titles for this month, I don’t know where Doomsday is likely to next show up (if at all), but this issue feels like it’s pointing me to the Supergirl title. If you’re expecting to find out where Doomsday came from in-continuity of New 52 or the New 52 “past” of the creature and Superman, you’ll have to look elsewhere or stretch a between-the-lines interpretation.

As a $3.99 one-shot with the fancy 3-D cover…if you can find this at cover price (or opt for the “standard” edition or digital edition), and don’t hold high expectations (or my comments have dispelled those expectations), it’s not bad and I have to “grudgingly” admit I’d recommend it as an expectation-less standalone.

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