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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

X-Men #16 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Rating: 3.5/5

Sigil #1 [Review]

Writer: Mike Carey
Pencils: Leonard Kirk
Inks: Ed Tadeo
Colors: Guru eFX
Letters: Rob Steen
Cover: Jelena Djurdjevic
Production: Irene Y. Lee
Asst. Editor: Sebastian Girner
Senior Editor: Nick Lowe
Published by: Crossgen/Marvel Comics

I’ve missed Crossgen. However, until this issue, I don’t recall ever reading an issue of Sigil. So, with this being a new take on things and not a continuation of the old…I come to it fresh. And perhaps for that, I greatly enjoyed this issue.

The issue opens with some disembodied voices talking about some past events, and we gradually move to seeing someone who turns toward the camera with surprise, and cut to a high schooler–Samantha Rey–waking suddenly from the dream, to an impatient father trying to get her up for school. She has an important history exam that day, and we learn she’s having trouble with school since losing her mother. Further exposition follows as daughter/father talk, and then as Sam stops by the cemetery on her way to school. Once at school, we see some of what Sam’s high school life is like, as an encounter with a bully forces her to race to class, where her teacher is not happy at her tardiness. Beginning her history exam, she blacks out to a vision, and finds an hour passed, leaving her in hot water with the teacher. We’re introduced to other students, and then Sam’s bully instigates a situation that causes Sam’s birthmark to flare up, and she finds herself facing the realization that her birthmark is something far more.

The art–perhaps simply for Sam having red hair–reminds me a bit of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, and the high school setting certainly contributed to that as well. The art seems fairly simple…smooth, and the coloring somehow lighter or “brighter” than I think I’m used to. Overall, nothing struck me in a negative light, and I had zero issue with the art. The entire art team provides a great piece of work that clearly conveys everything going on, and I really liked the art overall.

The story is quite solid. It’s got a lot of exposition to bring us up to speed on the main character in particular, to work us into her world, and while it’s rather noticeable as exposition…it still works for me. It seems the most important, core elements are presented in this issue as we should get from any first issue. The story provides a nice hook at the beginning, introduces us to the main character, to her family, to her school life, and then takes that extra little leap into what makes this story more than just some slice-of-life about some random high school girl. The cliffhanger leaves me eager for more, and yet I don’t feel shortchanged by what story was provided in this issue by itself.

Overall…this is a fantastic start to the series. For some reason, I have it in my head that this is just a mini-series…but I for one would absolutely love to see this as an ongoing, if every issue was up to the quality of this one.

As said above…I come to Sigil fresh. I recognize the name of the ship Sam sees–and caught myself grinning when I recognized it. Major plot point or simple nod to the past, its presence is a welcome inclusion. The use of the sigil itself reminds me of early issues of the original Crossgen stuff without feeling out of place…perhaps for its stylized modification from the original.

I also come to this just totally thrilled that it carries a $2.99 price.

I don’t often talk about a comic’s cover…but I really like the layout of this, what I believe is the “trade dress” for the new Marvel Crossgen stuff. Having Marvel‘s logo at the very bottom puts it virtually out of site, allowing the Crossgen sigil to stand as its own thing at the top, allowing the “branding” to stand on its own. The logo seems familiar, though I can’t presently recall the original to know how it compares to that. The main image draws the eye to the sigil, as a whole emphasizing that. There’s something to be said about such a close-up on the character, but the image doesn’t truly stray into particularly questionable territory.

This is a complete, totally fresh start…there is zero need to have ever read anything else before this. The art is easy on the eyes, and the story draws one in. While fans of the original Crossgen work may be disappointed at this not being a return to the original series…I think it likely that those fans will be able to appreciate this new start. And for anyone considering this…I highly recommend it! As a whole, I consider this a fantastic first issue that is more than the sum of individual story/art ratings…as seen below.

Story: 8/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9.5/10

Fall of the Hulks: Alpha [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Meeting of the Minds

The Leader and his group of intellectual villains work behind the scenes through Marvel’s history to assemble the lost knowledge of the Library of Alexandria.

fallofthehulksalphaWriter: Jeff Parker
Penciler: Paul Pelletier
Inker: Vicente Cifuentes
Colorists: Guru eFX
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Cover: Ed McGuinness, Mark Farmer, Dave Stewart
Production: Irene Y. Lee
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Associate Editor: Nathan Cosby
Senior Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this issue, except perhaps a jumping-on point in preparation for the coming Fall of the Hulks "event." What I did not expect was what seems to essentially be an "Illuminati" of intellectual Marvel villains and their "backstory" throughout Marvel’s past.

This issue basically follows The Leader, M.O.D.O.K., Egghead, The Wizard, The Mad Thinker, The Red Ghost, and Dr. Doom as they assemble the contents of the formerly-believed-lost contents of the Library of Alexandria through the years. Their first mission is an incursion into the home of the Eternals. Here the protagonists discover there are other locations around the planet with further Alexandrian contents, including Wakanda and Atlantis. Bucking the silver Age trend of simplicity, here we see that it takes months and years for the protagonists to prepare to actually launch a mission to gain the knowledge they’re after, as well as the explanation that allows for what we’ve already seen in the last half-decade of continuity regarding these characters. As the issue closes out, we get some info regarding the Red Hulk, which actually intrigues me after never before this having any interest in even the concept of that character.

The story is pretty good in and of itself. It’s not spectacular, and I’m not a huge fan of retcons…but for my understanding of things, the backstory that is here inserted into existing continuity seems to work. Additionally, I feel like I have a better understanding of who The Leader and The Red Ghost are now than I ever did before.
The art is also quite solid…while keeping its own feel, it also evokes some of the feeling of the different eras the story touches upon.

Though I came to the issue familiar with little more than the characters’ names and visual representations (excepting Dr. Doom), everyone was quite recognizable, and I really enjoyed the visuals.
Even though I’ve not followed the Hulk side of the Marvel Universe since World War Hulk ended, I still really enjoyed this issue and found that I didn’t need to know recent events. I’ve often enjoyed stories that flesh out villain characters and give them depth and motivation, and true explanation for why they would door act as they do, and this is one such issue.

I expect this is little more than set-up in the grand scheme of things, but if you want a Leader story involving a teaming-up of supervillains (including death and betrayal) reminiscent of 1980s stories but with a modern feel, this is a great issue for that.

Ratings:

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Fall of the Hulks: Alpha [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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