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The ’90s Revsited: Captain America #12

90s_revisited

captain_america_(1996)_0012Heroes Reunited part 4 of 4: Let It Be

Story: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Joe Bennett, Ed Benes
Inks: Homage Studios
Colors: Nathan Lumm & Wildstorm FX
Letters: RS & Comicraft/Albert Deschesne
Editors: Mike Heisler & Mike Rockwitz
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: October 1997
Cover Price: $2.99

Here we are with Captain America #12. An "anniversary" issue, double-sized (and extra-priced for its time), yet it is "only" $2.99…cheaper than something HALF its size even twenty years later. This is chapter 4 of the 4-part Heroes Reunited arc that spanned Fantastic Four (1996) #12, Avengers (1996) #12, Iron Man (1996) #12, and this issue.

We open on Rikki Barnes–a girl that’s apparently been Cap’s partner of late, a new "Bucky"–as she discovers a mess of a break-in at her grandparents’ house. This turns out to be Dr. Doom, who goes on about her being some chronal anomaly that shouldn’t exist. Captain America arrives and saves her, confronting Doom, as things start to come out. The Fantastic Four are currently battling Terrax in Central Park (presumably from where Fantastic Four (1996) #11 had left off…or one of the #11s); there are other heralds as well, and the FF WILL perish. Doom has already seen the Earth destroyed three times, and now his time-travel device is damaged and can’t be counted on for a fourth trip. Galactus prepares to consume the Earth after his heralds soften things up a bit…and only by trusting Doom and the information he brings to the table can the heroes hope to prevail. While the "Knights of the Atomic Round Table" work on a solution and build on Banner’s idea that they find a way to "overload" Galactus, Rikki ponders her place and the personal idea of how she’s not supposed to even exist. The Silver Surfer arrives and tries to get her to convince the others to evacuate what people they CAN from Earth before its destruction. When he flies off, she manages to grab his board; Cap gives chase and pleads with her to let go (mirroring what we know of his facing the original loss of Bucky in WWII). Galactus blasts her, apparently perturbed that a human would dare to touch the Surfer, and thus something that belongs to Galactus. Of course, this becomes some poignant bit that makes the whole thing PERSONAL for the heroes, prompting them to want all the more to take down Galactus (as if the entire WORLD being at stake wasn’t enough). So, too, does the Silver Surfer join in, seeing the injury of one human where he was ok with billions being not just injured–but killed. The Surfer becomes the key, bearing the heroes’ devices and artifacts, betraying Galactus, and though he dies, Galactus is destroyed as well. Doom refuses to stay with the heroes even in friendship; and a brief epilogue, Cap meets James Barnes and Peggy Carter Barnes, with Fury explaining that he knew them but can’t be told how/when…and as Cap prepares to take off, The Watcher talks about how all this has been only one of many tales of heroes reborn.

I felt like more than the previous three chapters of this story, this one had a lot of "splash pages" and "double-page splashes" and such…a bit of a "cheat" regarding the page count, propping that up to a higher count but not really increasing the "value" of the amount of story contained in the pages. The art itself is quite good, and I enjoyed it…once again, despite multiple pencilers I didn’t notice any overt, clear shift from one to another…I simply read the issue, followed the story, and nothing wonky or weird jumped out screaming "this is a different visual style here from that last panel/page" or such. One can do a heckuva lot worse than to have Ed Benes art in an issue…and for my not noticing any stand-out difference, I’d have to say that at least here, the same goes for Joe Bennett.

heroes_reunited_04

The cover is part of a 4-part image…something I’ve pointed out in the previous chapters’ write-ups; and something I far, far, FAR prefer to contemporary practices that would see something like this done all on one single issue, forcing one to buy 4 copies of just one issue to get the full image. Here, the buyer is rewarded: buy all 4 chapters of Heroes Reunited, get this bigger 4-piece image.

Story-wise, this was a mixed issue for me. It felt a bit choppy and bigger on ideas while constrained by space: we have a bit of "subplot" of Rikki contemplating her existence just because a supervillain claims she shouldn’t exist…and there’s not much room for that to really be explored and all–for the character, for Cap, for anyone. For the story essentially picking back up with the Fantastic Four facing Terrax, it seems like we get to a resolution with Galactus being destroyed a little too easily and conveniently; though we have the "shorthand" of being able to just be SHOWN different heroes facing different heralds, and "assuming" that (if one’s read the previous three chapters of Heroes Reunited) we’ve already seen the action/details, we don’t have those details actually within this issue itself. It also hasn’t entirely felt like we’ve had any real focus on Doom gathering pieces of information through the previous chapters in a way to fit stuff…more like he gleaned a bit of extra info from SHIELD in the Iron Man issue and now put it to use (though we don’t really get clued in on the exact data).

As a whole, though…this caps off the four part story with Doom bringing what’s needed after several failed attempts, that allows the heroes to destroy Galactus withOUT destroying Earth. We get a rather arbitrary/sudden turn of the Silver Surfer for this being a new iteration of his seeing the heroes, rather than a continuation. But the issue ultimately stands somewhat alone; one gets context of what’s gone on, so you don’t NEED TO have read the previous chapters. You’ll just "get" more out of this issue if you have, and appreciate the overall story a bit more, I think.

I guess I feel like this is like far too many epic stories: the setup in the first chapter can be great and full of potential…but fails ultimately to live up to the potential in MY mind. That we get an epic story on this scale in only 4 issues (though they’re the size of 8 regular-sized issues) with no other tie-ins and such is something that would be completely "impossible" today, and so even a "choppy" issue is preferable to avoid umpteen tie-ins and expanded chapters and such.

I’d bought this originally when it was a brand-new issue; but the copy I read this time is one I got from a quarter-bin; and certainly is well worth the 25 cents if only for the amount of time it took to just READ the issue (even WITH double-page splashes!). And to get all 4 issues of this Heroes Reunited arc for $1, for the reading experience, I definitely enjoyed this stuff…maybe a little more for the art than story, but I hadn’t realized quite how much this story had stuck with me, of seeing the heroes lose–die–multiple times before achieving victory.

There were 13th issues for all four series, as another 4-part story, with the Marvel characters and this Heroes Reborn universe merged with the then-Wildstorm Universe; and then there was the 4-issue Heroes Return mini-series that bridged the characters from these series back to new series in the main/actual Marvel Universe.

But on the whole, this story served to "end" this iteration of the series, and works well enough on its own to be well worth reading for a bargain price (25 cents, 50 cents, $1-ish). I’d say if you find it for 25-50 cents it’s definitely worth reading Captain America #12 on its own; but it’s best read along with the other #12s, and a real treat for $1 or less an issue (making for a reading experience 8 times as long as a contemporary regular Marvel issue for the same price as the contemporary issue!)

captain_america_(1996)_0012_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Iron Man #12

90s_revisited

iron_man_(1996)_0012Heroes Reunited part 3 of 4: Matters of the Heart

Plot: Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee
Script: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Ed Benes, Terry Shoemaker, Mike Miller
Inks: JD & Homage Studios
Colors: Wildstorm FX
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne
Editor: Ruben Diaz
Inspiration: Special Thanks to Scott Lobdell
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: October 1997
Cover Price: $2.99

[ Heroes Reunited part 1 of 4 was in Fantastic Four (1996) #12  |  Heroes Reunited part 2 of 4 was in Avengers (1996) #12 ]

This felt like the most "standalone" issue of this 4-parter so far, and felt a lot more tied to previous issues than the other chapters. This issue has several references to the previous issue, beyond simply THAT a conflict had begun or stuff come before.

We open on Tony Stark being brought into a meeting involving The Fantastic Four and the "Hulkbusters." As he gets up to speed on the overall situation, a fight breaks out between the Thing and Hulk, eventually interrupted by Invisible Woman separating them in invisible force-shield bubbles. Cosmic readings are picked up, and the group finds several entities headed to Earth. Tony cuts out–leading the others to think maybe he hasn’t changed as much as thought…but we find that he’s actually checking in on Happy and Pepper–actually caring about others beyond himself. The FF went into action against the heralds of Galactus while Tony’s (separately) kidnapped from Happy’s hospital room by Dr. Doom…while Pepper frets over this, Happy seems fine, figuring it’ll all be resolved within the day. Doom takes Stark to the Helicarrier; meanwhile, Liz gets past security and interacts with Hulk–who reverts to Banner. On the Helicarrier, Stark suits up as Iron Man and confronts Doom before they’re joined by Fury, who lays things out before assembling other heroes, and breaking the news that the Fantastic Four have been (by then) killed in action. The remaining heroes head out to make true their name as "Avengers" and engage the heralds in battle, before Hulk and Iron Man attempt to take on Galactus himself. As he sees them fail, Doom activates his device, and armed with the new knowledge of this latest go-round, disappears back in time for another attempt at stopping Earth’s destruction.

As said, this issue feels the least connected to the overall story/pattern. Doom is there, and we have reference to stuff, but that’s almost incidental. This feels like it probably could read pretty well without the first two chapters, and only earlier issues of this very series (Iron Man) for context. I both like that and yet don’t at the same time. The story title of the issue and the title/credits page don’t even have any reference to Heroes Reunited, unlike the first two chapters; almost like this story was written with a few story-beats required but otherwise completely independent of the overall 4-parter.

heroes_reunited_03

With the art, there are multiple pencilers…but that again didn’t bother me as nothing really seemed to jump out at me or have any jarring differences in appearances. Simply reading the issue, I’d only know there were multiple pencilers because of looking at the credits. I’m a reader-first, so when the art is at least "similar" enough that I don’t really notice it change–that is a good thing. I suspect at least part of that is also due to the consistent inks, colors, and lettering; perhaps heavier handed inking and no huge variation of colors can well hide the different pencils. All that said, I enjoyed the art on this issue! I don’t know how I’ve gone all these years without noticing it, and I didn’t notice it on the interiors, but the EAR on Iron Man on the cover just looks extremely odd and "off" to me and is really the only thing that totally "threw" me off with the visuals. Also as said with the previous two chapters, I’m quite glad the cover can work as it does on its own, yet is part of a 4-part image; as opposed to any one of the chapters having 3 extra variant covers to make up the singular image. Get all four chapters of this four-chapter story and have 1 full image; get any single issues and you have a cover that has the characters in the issue and can be its own thing.

As with the Fantastic Four and Avengers issues of this story, this works well enough as a one-off issue…it’d be worth getting even by itself if you found it for 25-50 cents or so; even up to $1ish. Any more than $1-$2 and I’d recommend definitely getting it as part of a set of the four issues of Heroes Reunited. Despite working alone, I’d recommend this more as part of a set for the "experience." I’m glad to have read it, and somewhat surprised at the details I remembered from whenever the last time I read this was–possibly only back in 1997!

iron_man_(1996)_0012_blogtrailer

From the Archives: Batman/The Spirit #1

batman_the_spirit_0001Crime Convention

Storytellers: Jeph Loeb & Darwyn Cooke
Inks: J. Bone
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Comicraft
Assoc. Editor: Tom Palmer, Jr.
Editor: Mark Chiarello
The Batman created by: Bob Kane
The Spirit created by: Will Eisner
Special thanks to: Denis Kitchen
Cover Art: Darwyn Cooke
Publisher: DC Comics

[ This review originally written for and published at comiXtreme/cxPulp some time back while the issue was new–within the first days to a week that the issue was available for sale. ]

I don’t know where this story takes place in continuity exactly (or even whether or not it IS in-continuity). But thankfully, that doesn’t really seem to matter.

Essentially, we get a story opened by the meeting between Gordon and Dolan, and their discussion leads into us (as the readers) discovering the story of “How the Spirit met Batman…” The story itself doesn’t seem particularly deep, and actually evokes a classic Silver-age feel, when events were just taken at face-value, simplistic, silly, and new as they might be.

A bunch of Batman’s rogues and a bunch of the Spirit’s rogues get together; and it’s up to Batman and the Spirit to foil the baddies’ plans. While things are going on, the vigilantes’ confidantes are each ‘seduced,’ and play their own role in the story’s ending.

I know next to nothing about The Spirit as a character. I know that he was created by Will Eisner, and something about the creator adding the mask to please someone with a say over the character being published or not (someone correct me if I’m wrong). The character’s identity, supporting cast, rogues, adventures, and in-continuity history are a mystery to me. Batman, on the other hand, I do know.

One might expect that to detract from the story, but it doesn’t. I got the feeling that a lot of characters were almost analogues of one another, in the way that one could compare Green Arrow and Hawkeye, Aquaman and Namor, and so on. Given that, you need only really know one side or the other to “get” the most basic concept of characters, and have at least some idea of what they’re all about.
The art seems at points almost overly-simplistic at first glance, but that (like the story itself) lends beautifully to a “classic” feel. Additionally, upon slightly deeper examination, it reminds me of the “Animated DCU” visually, which lends further enjoyment and timelessness to this story.

Overall, the issue reads rather like an extra-length episode of Batman: The Animated Series…and for me, at least, that is far from a bad thing. Possibly the worst thing about this issue is the price. I looked past the price due to the novelty of these two characters being thrust together and wonder at how (or even if) this will have any play in the new The Spirit ongoing. Was it worth it? Yeah…I’d say so.

This is a fun read, not so completely hokey as to make one check the date in the indicia, but by no means as serious-toned as a lot of other recent stuff coming out of DC. I can’t speak to longtime/familiar fans of the Spirit, but just for knowing the Batman-side of things, this seems like quite the enjoyable, faithful sort of mushing together of two characters who’ve never (to my knowledge) met prior.

The ’00s Revisited: Superman: Lex 2000 #1

superman_lex_2000Triumph Over Tragedy; One or the Other; Where Were You?; He KNows; Lana’s Story

Written by: Jeph Loeb, Greg Rucka
Pencils by: Tony Harris, Dwayne Turner, Doug Mahnke, Ed McGuinness, Todd Nauck
Inks by: Ray Snyder, Danny Miki, Dwayne Turner, Walden Wong, Cam Smith, Klaus Janson
Colors by: Tanya Horie, Richard Horie, Rob Schwager
Lettering by: Comicraft
Cover by: Glen Orbik with assists by Laurel Blechman
Assistant Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Executive Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 2001
Cover Price: $3.50

This issue is split into several smaller stories, as a sort of "bridge" issue from one status quo into the next, and as something NOT just another issue of any of the then-current four ongoing Superman titles. We have a short piece as the WGBS special recounting Luthor’s life for the public, and get Luthor’s feedback on it. We get a scene between Luthor and Batman as Batman demands "the ring" or the Presidency, setting up some future conflict. Another story has Jimmy talking to Lois and Clark about where they were when they heard Luthor was running for president…and then, as the race is called, we get another short story seeing Superman venting his rage at the news. The issue closes with a short piece between Superman and Lana, acknowledging continuity back to Superman #2, reminding us of the long history between characters and some important dynamics between the characters. Sprinkled throughout, we have some in-universe ads.

When I read Superman #164, I intended that to be an isolated thing. And reading just that, just one single issue, it was what it was. Reading this rekindles something for me, as I’m exposed to multiple creative teams within the then-current overall Super-team of creators. I’m reminded of just how much the supporting cast played into the comics, with actual Lois, Clark, AND Jimmy getting page-time, along with Luthor, Cat Grant, Perry White, and so on. It’s also easy to forget both No Man’s Land as well as the fact that in the early 2000s, Luthor and Batman had quite a thing going, with Luthor starting to seem almost as much a Batman foe as Superman (to say nothing of the DC Universe as a whole, all the more becoming THE US President of the DC Universe continuity!).

This is functionally an "anthology" issue, in terms of having multiple shorter stories and multiple creative teams, and though the stories all play together, all form part of the continuity of the issue, and all advance the overall story, each giving us some progression, it’s still different from a standard single-story issue. But for what it is, I definitely like that! The writing all works together, and while not all the art is 100% to my liking (at least now in 2016), it all works well enough. The only jarring part to me is the initial piece with Superman punching an asteroid when we shift into flat-out, unapologetic Ed McGuinness art…a style that doesn’t work as well for me now, being used to contemporary stuff, but does an excellent job of bringing that feeling back of reading these comics and others of this time period as they came out.

I honestly did not remember what this issue held, what to expect of it: I’ve had the cover to go on for awhile, but until I actually sat down to read this, I couldn’t remember if this was in the style of the Newstime: The Death of Superman issue or not…I was quite glad to find this was not like that one, outside of the magazine-style opening page, and some of the "ads" throughout.

This was an extra-sized issue, and extra-priced, too…carrying a whopping $3.50 cover price (to the then-usual $2.25!). I am not sure if I have any duplicates of this issue…this being one of those in-continuity "specials" that kinda took the place of or rendered the Superman: The Man of Tomorrow title moot, I don’t feel like I see these in bargain bins as often as standard issues. Reading this after having just read the issue preceding it, I feel like one would certainly appreciate this a lot more with context of surrounding issue. Yet, ultimately, this does stand alone pretty well in that the stories are not continuing off some previous cliffhanger, nor do they end on a "to be continued" or such. They pick up on existing plot threads, and play with those, and move stuff forward.

I would have little problem recommending this issue up to a dollar bin purchase (beyond your standard 25 or 50 cent bin), though I’d recommend making sure you’re interested in READING it if you do.

The ’00s Revisited: Superman #164

superman_0164Tales From the Bizarro World

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Ed McGuinness, Carlo Barberi
Inks: Cam Smith, Juan Vlasco
Jimmy Olsen’s Pal: Joe Casey
Letters: Richard Starkings
Color: Tanya + Richard Horie
Assistant Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 2001
Cover Price: $2.25

This issue opens with Jimmy Olsen getting into some trouble, requiring rescue by…well, Superman would be great, but he’s saved by Bizarro #1 instead! While Jimmy deals with the wackiness that his life quickly becomes with Bizarro’s presence, we see Superman and Lois met by Batman, who confirms that there’s no way for them to prove Luthor’s not who and what he claims to be…they can’t throw any last-second interruptions into Luthor’s bid for the presidency. Later, we find Superman watching numerous news reports of the unfolding election night, and J’onn offers a moment of levity against Superman’s rising stress. Meanwhile, Jimmy again finds himself in need of rescuing…this time, an unfamiliar Supergirl shows up. Though the two share a bit of a connection, that’s quickly interrupted by Bizarro. A slugfest ensues, ultimately stopped by Superman…whose presence is a bit unsettling to Jimmy. Finally, we end with the question: is Lex Luthor about to be the President-Elect?

I certainly never appreciated this issue when it came out, back in November of 2000. And I actually recall feeling like I missed an issue somewhere, between this and the one that came the following week. Now, of course, it feels quite appropriate, and I dug it out for a re-read specifically for the timing here…November 2016.

The art is solid enough, though a bit cartooney…as is McGuinness‘ style. I didn’t care for it much back then, and don’t find it entirely appropriate here…but it works, and the art has certainly grown on me…if only for the nostalgia-effect. This issue came out sixteen years ago, and I remember this issue and this period of Superman comics when I was getting the issues brand-new each week.

The story works quite well for me here, and I rather appreciate the glimpse into Jimmy’s side of things. It also gives the reader an entry-point that made this work pretty well as an isolated read, recalling solely that Luthor was running for president, and that this takes place within a couple issues of the Emperor Joker stuff. Which of course explains the new-ness of Bizarro to Jimmy; and this also seems to take place around a major change in the then-current Supergirl title…a lot of changes coming together in one issue.

It’s eerie how appropriate the story is at present, given the nature of the 2016 US Presidential Election. And I think it’s safe to guess that pretty much everyone sees "a Luthor" in the race.

Given all he knows about Luthor, Superman still trusts "the people" and "the system" to see that Luthor can’t possibly actually be elected President. And despite the obvious in terms of relating to someone of his position and powers and all that (to say nothing simply of being a fictional character!)…I find it quite relatable seeing Superman’s reactions in this issue. Then there’s knowing how it all goes, and even ultimately turns out in issues succeeding this one.

This worked far better than I would have expected as an isolated one-off. It’s by no means a jumping-on point in an ongoing sense…but I would say is one of the better issues to just sit and read. You have Superman himself as well as primary supporting characters, and this draws on subplots that’ve built up and also sets things for issues to come. Common as the comparison’s become…it’s like watching an episode of an old tv series one remembers, and enjoying the episode as itself, recalling enough to get by but not necessarily being fully immersed in the ongoing story anymore.

If you’d find this in a bargain bin, it’s well worth getting, particularly 25 to 50 cents. Above $1 I’d avoid it for casual readers…fans of Superman in general, McGuinness‘ visuals or this period of the character might be more interested.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Man #4

aoa_revisited_logo

xman004The Art of War

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Steve Skroce
Inks: Bud LaRosa
Colors: Mike Thomas, Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings, Comicraft
Cover: Skroce, LaRosa
Editors: Lisa Patrick, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Clearly, Apocalypse has no problem "shooting the messenger," and thus–it’s safe to say no one should look forward to being the bearer of bad news. Fortunately, the Shadow King is capable of surviving this particular wrath of the mutant master, who delivers the news that Domino has failed to remove the telepath she was sent to deal with. We then cut back to Nate battling Sinister over the death of Forge. Sinister killed Forge to remove what he saw as a detrimental attachment, and now faces the rage of his most powerful creation. Talking Nate down, Sinister reveals the young mutant’s origins, though still finds himself subject to Nate’s wrath. After bidding his remaining friends farewell, Nate heads to Apocalypse’s stronghold, where he bumps into would-be allies…faces from Sinister’s revelation. However, he keeps to himself, determined to chart his own course, to take out Apocalypse himself.

The cover is rather generic yet spoiler-y…showing an enraged Nate victorious over Sinister. It’s also relatively patriotic (to the US) with a general white background, red 3-D to the white and blue-ish logo, as well as the blues of Nate’s getup and Sinister’s blue and red. Generic as the image is, I do like it…enough that I’m talking about it here where I’ve not made a point of discussing EVERY cover of this Age of Apocalypse event.

The interiors work quite well, also. There’s something that seems a bit simplistic about the way Nate looks in certain panels, but aside from simply noticing and thinking that, the art team does a very good job with this issue. Nothing jumped out at me as atrocious or distractingly weird, and I never had to pause to ask myself what exactly just happened or try to piece it together contextually. As such, the art certainly did its job at the minimum, and since I enjoyed it overall, I must say that the art exceeded expectations.

This is a good "next chapter" to Nate’s story, following the events of #3…but there’s not much sense of things being tied up here outside of Sinister’s apparent fate. The wording there was a bit awkward…obviously going for the dramatic effect. But, being a nitpicker in wording, I found myself a bit distracted by the phrasing on Sinister’s final page. While the other Age of Apocalypse series are functionally mini-series…Nate’s four issues are more functionally a single arc. The X-Man title actually carried on after the Age of Apocalypse business, and ran about 75 issues if I recall correctly. So this "final issue" within the event is fairly well suited as simply a "next chapter" rather than having a conclusion…just that from issue 4 to 5 one pretty much has to read X-Men: Omega.

All in all, this is another good issue that gets Nate to where his story can converge with the others into a single, epic issue in X-Men: Omega.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Man #3

aoa_revisited_logo

xman003Turning Point

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Steve Skroce
Inks: Bud LaRosa and Mike Sellers
Colors: Mike Thomas
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover: Steve Skroce
Editors: Lisa Patrick, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: May 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

I miss the single-issue titles and creative presentations of credits…maybe it’s reading so many of these 20-year-old comics lately and barely touching contemporary Marvel books, but it really seems that these aren’t done like this anymore. I appreciate the "Previously…" Pages that catch you up, and avoid disrupting the story or filling it with exposition that (in the inevitable collected volumes) can seem rather silly at points. But that’s part of the fun of revisiting the Age of Apocalypse and pointedly doing so on an issue-by-issue basis rather than via any of the collected editions or digitally.

This issue’s cover is relatively generic…yet, I like it. There’s no real background to it (though the title’s logo takes up most of the space where there otherwise WOULD be background, so there’s not much point to it), and we see Forge with Nate, both men standing together, eyes gleaming, ready for battle. Not terribly dynamic or iconic or stand-out, but works for the issue…and as said, I like it.

The art for the issue continues–as with previous issues–to work well for me, getting things across and not distracting me from the story.

The story itself is solid, and does well as a third issue of a four-part story, building on the previous chapters and leaving things at a tipping point for the fourth issue to wrap up.

Forge and the group find themselves facing Domino, Grizzly ,and Caliban–agents of Apocalypse–and fight. The trio is dealt with, Nate "tasting blood" (so to speak) as he dispatches Domino rather harshly. As the group deals with what they just went through, Forge discovers Brute’s fate as well as the truth behind his suspicions of Essex. Forge’s fate, in turn, is felt by Nate due to their psychic link…and despite Forge’s dying words, Nate faces the killer and discovers the cold truth of Essex himself.

Knowing what comes next honestly "taints" my enjoyment of this issue. It’s a good issue, with plenty of forward movement and development for the characters. But important as the issue’s events are for Nate, I get a different feel from this third issue than I have others–and I’m reminded that just as these minis "spun out" from X-Men: Alpha…so, too, do they dovetail back into it, and thus while there may be endings to the 4th issues, the characters’ stories all go on to an overall conclusion apart from the individual minis.

All that aside…I enjoyed the issue and do look forward to the continuation of this story and the Age of Apocalypse in general.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Astonishing X-Men #3

aoa_revisited_logo

astonishingxmen003In Excess

Plot: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Joe Madureira
Inks: Townsend/Milgrom
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover: Joe Madureira
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: May 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

With this issue, we head into the final half of the Age of Apocalypse story. We pick up on Wild Child being pursued and brought down…and when about to be killed, realize that Rogue and her group of X-Men have arrived to rescue him. On figuring out that something’s happened to Sabretooth, they mount yet another rescue mission. We also find out about Blink and Sabretooth’s past–what has so bonded the two; and we get a moment with Magneto and Bishop discussing Bishop’s ability to take a life, should it be possible to actually send him back in time–as it’s likely he would have to kill Legion to stop him.

This issue is definitely one where Morph stands out–and while I initially suspected this might’ve been where I started to REALLY notice the character, I recall that this series came a couple years AFTER the Fox animated X-Men tv series where we’d had a Morph, and this AoA character is actually the ‘derivative’ of sorts, at least by name.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit (with the USUAL caveat of that being in spite of the dystopian environment and dark situations the characters are actually in). At the time (in general) Rogue was one of my favorite characters…and this version of the character is rather "classic" to me…and in some ways even more interesting to me than the regular version at the time, and certainly moreso than recent years in the contemporary X-books. It’s also kind of odd to see Bishop struggling with the notion of taking a life, given the way he’s portrayed years later and most of the last decade.

I also continue to be amazed at how much a part of the X-universe Jeph Loeb was, prior to having real "name recognition" for me with comics…and sad to notice the contrast in how much of his ’90s work I enjoyed and how little I’ve enjoyed his contemporary stuff, myself.

This begins the third quarter of the Age of Apocalypse story as originally presented, and this 3rd of 4 issues hits a high gear. Given this is a mini-series, and a "temporary universe" as far as we’re (as readers) concerned…given so much is already "different" from the "regular" universe…there’s a heightened sense of "anything can happen" and that it’s pretty certain not everyone’s going to survive the series–they don’t need to, as the ongoing/perpetual nature of the X-Men property in general doesn’t apply to this. Even if major, core characters die, if we’re back to the "regular" books in a month or two, they’ll be "back" and none the worse for wear.

While I haven’t cared much for Madureira‘s contemporary work–looking "too stylized" for my personal tastes–the art works really well on this issue and I definitely enjoyed it. Though the cover isn’t nearly as "iconic" as the first issue, looking at it sitting here while I type, I like this one…both the focus on Rogue (despite some wonky perspective with her legs) and the coloring of the logo, playing off the foreground and the generic-ish background.

Definitely a good issue, enjoyable to read and look at, with a nice balance of characters, and keeping the story moving forward while giving a dark cliffhanger that promises an interesting 4th issue.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Man #2

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xman002Choosing Sides

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Steve Skroce
Inkers: Mike Sellers, LaRosa, Conrad, Hanna
Colors: Mike Thomas, Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover: Steve Skroce
Edits: Lisa Patrick, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

We pick up a bit after the last issue–Forge’s group has continued their usual, but there’s a growing rift where Nate is gravitating toward the newcomer–Essex. Essex is pushing Nate to use his powers to their fullest, while Forge wants him to keep restrained and not draw attention. Theresa with her newfound powers has adopted the name Sonique and is closer to Nate than the others. Essex leads the group to a factory–if they take it out, they’ll be hitting Apocalypse where it hurts. On seeing the facility, Nate leaps into action, seeing too much of his own past here and refusing to allow it to happen to anyone else. Though the group emerges intact, things seem to be getting out of hand. Meanwhile, Nate takes Sonique with him on a psychic journey to investigate the mansion he’d seen, and she recognizes the figure as Magneto…just before their presence is detected and she breaks their psi-link. Brute pieces things together and finally recognizes Essex, and things kick into gear for the back half of this 4-part arc.

Story-wise, this is a fairly "compressed" issue without being dense. I like that there’s been some passage of time since the first issue–that’s allowed for more development and we get to skip nuanced details and such (like Nate actually meeting Essex and whatever awkwardness may have been there). It allows us to get further into the story and what’s going on, bypassing that and seeing contextually that much has transpired. Yet we still get reference back to the previous issue, tying things together and keeping this from being adrift in a limbo of continuity.

The art’s not bad, though doesn’t really do much for me positive or negative here: it just "is," and keeps the look/feel I associate with the characters here FOR this title. It may not be my favorite, but it definitely does its job, and a good one at that, overall. And though there are multiple inkers…I only notice that specifically from looking at the credits; I don’t think I even picked up on that otherwise.

I find myself considering that this title carried over beyond the Age of Apocalypse, which in a "meta" sense affects my (re)reading of this chapter of what is essentially just an opening arc for the character, introducing him and setting up motivation/context that would be fleshed out later.

While this is paced well for a 4-issue arc, it’s still "interesting" to consider that "only" two chapters in, this series is already HALF done…given the contemporary state of things where a 6-issue arc is the norm/expectation.

Despite the cliffhanger, I don’t feel all that "eager" to get to the next issue…though I’m not dissuaded, either. As a second issue, this lacks the newness of a first issue, the anticipation brought by a third/penultimate issue, as well as being far from a finale. That’s sort of a tough spot for all second issues of four-issue arcs/series.

But for all it may not be structurally, it’s a strong issue in and of itself and an enjoyable read within the ongoing whole of the Age of Apocalypse.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Man #1

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xman001_thumb[5]Breaking Away

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Steve Skroce
Inks: Sellers, Smith, Larosa, Conrad
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Colors: Mike Thomas
Editor: Lisa Patrick
Cover: Steve Skroce, Cam Smith
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Well. That was a surprisingly fun re-read. X-Man #1…an issue I knew was–for purposes of this Age of Apocalypse Revisited project–at the head of the list, something I’d have to read pretty much first thing…but was thankful Astonishing X-Men was in that first bit as well. Though the cover is distinctive, I had it in my head to somewhat dread reading this issue.

The cover is rather simple yet quite iconic. I like the bold red (plain as it is) of the background, with a powered-out Nate Grey (the X-Man) standing there over what is either simply rubble or rubble and an Infinite that he’s taken down. It’s bright, it grabs the attention, and is (based on the editions I have) the only one of these first issues to not carry the "badge" of ENTER NOW: THE AGE OF APOCALYPSE. This issue’s cover simply proclaims THE AGE OF APOCALYPSE BEGINS NOW! And as such, with no other fancy logo-ing, the typical (for the time) X-Men corner-box and such, this appears simply to be a premiere issue for something new and long-lasting…little did I know at the time I first read it 20 years ago.

The issue’s story picks up with what appears to be a flashback (turns out to be a memory) as we get a glimpse of Nate’s escape, as well as his "discovery" of the Xavier mansion as Magneto’s mission-setting wraps up. His walk on the astral plane or psychic projection or such is cut short by Forge, as we see Nate has unleashed an incredible amount of energy, causing plenty of destruction and possibly jeopardizing his friends. With apologies he resumes his usual role, and the group makes their way to another town for the night’s performance–they’re rather effectively masquerading as a simple traveling theater company. Of course, this being a first issue of the last days of the AoA, things are bound to "happen" and the group is attacked and Nate leaps into action to defend those he can…and as he does, a young mutant discovers she IS a mutant as she leaps to warn him of an attack from behind.

I really dug the art on this issue. Skroce‘s work really stood out to me. I particularly liked the look of Cyclops and Magneto…and all the other characters are quite well-done as well. There’s a look both familiar yet distinctive about them, and I consider myself quite impressed–to my surprise–at the visual feel of the issue.

As indicated above–this was quite a surprise to me as a whole, that I really enjoyed this issue. While I know what comes down the road, in and of itself this issue hooked me. As a start to the Age of Apocalypse proper–the "extended universe" of sorts, beyond Magneto’s group, I think this did a great job.

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