Tag Archives: x-men

Underrated: Age Of Apocalypse

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Age Of Apocalypse. And no, not the movie.



aoa.jpgThe year was 199-something, and Charles Xavier had been murdered by his son, Legion, who had attempted to go back in time to kill Magneto before he became a villain. When he was still Xavier’s friend. That obviously didn’t turn out so well. In this reality Apocalypse attacked ten years before he did in the “main” Marvel Universe and conquered North America, although he is opposed by various mutant groups, he ultimately succeeds in instituting his Survival Of The Fittest mantra within his realm.

For four months Age Of Apocalypse took over the regular X-Men books, replacing the likes of Uncanny X-Men with Astonishing X-Men, Wolverine with Weapon X and so on across the board. I won’t list all of the series substitutions because you can find that on Wikipedia, and I’m lazy. No, today I’m not talking about the story told in a comic, but rather the way the story was presented to us, the readers. You see too often these days a major event spanning 6-10 issues in an entirely separate miniseries that will vaguely tie in to the ongoing series. No, instead Age Of Apocalypse replace the current ongoing series for four-ish months, only for those to pick back up again at the conclusion of the story.

In a rather shorter Underrated than normal (maybe? I don’t track the length as much as I should), I wanted to talk about this method of delivering an event story. What was essentially a collection of miniseries that each told a piece of the story replacing the comics you would be buying anyway is, to my mind, a genius idea. In theory, you have those buying the monthly comics already picking up the event as a continuation of the series they read and collect as well those who are curious about the event diving in and, hopefully, sticking around after it ends.

Obviously the opposite is equally true; the temporary cessation of the X-Books would have allowed those to ignore Age Of Apocalypse only to resume when the X-Books returned with their regular numbering (Wolverine #91*  would have been released in February, with Wolverine #92* appearing in July – *exact numbering may be different). This is something that I’ll be looking into in the future and exploring further outside of this column. In the meantime, I still maintain that the idea of stopping the monthly series is, at the very least on paper, an underrated idea.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Review: Dazzler X-Song #1

In the one-shot Dazzler X-Song #1, writer Magdalene Visaggio, artist Laura Braga, and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg deliver a powerful story about facing down hate and bigotry using the power of music (and cool light shows) just in time for Pride Month. (I seriously wish that Alison Blaire’s new band Lightbringr was playing my local Pride festival.) They use the “rivalry” between mutants and Inhumans that has been simmering in stories like Death of X, Inhumans vs. X-Men, and even in the recent Secret Warriors series as a metaphor for intersectionality in marginalized communities adding layers to the frankly, quite old mutant=minority. And, along the way, Braga and Rosenberg craft hip, energetic visuals and an explosive color palette worthy of the disco Dazzler even though she’s going by Alison these days and doesn’t really want to be a superhero or X-Man for now despite Colossus begging her to join the new look team.

Visaggio and Braga kick off the book with a beautiful establishing page: a four panel entry into the world of Alison and her bandmate Farley setting up for their show; an Inhuman Nora, who has similar powers to Dazzler, and her pal Zee getting ready for the Lightbringr gig, and a member of the Mutant Action ready to get his hate on. Dazzler X-Song #1 has plenty of stylized music video touches, especially in Rosenberg’s colors when the crowd at Alison’s show is overwhelmed by pink, but the narrative is fairly grounded in overcoming  hatred through the power of music. Alison wants the “others” of the Marvel Universe to enjoy their music and have an opportunity to be themselves for one amazing night. But, sadly, like the “no fats, no femmes”, white gay men on dating apps (and sometimes at the club), some folks just wanted to be bigoted and not share the love and enjoy the scene.

One interesting part of Dazzler #1 is Magdalene Visaggio and Laura Braga’s nuanced approach to violence. Many X-Men comics are known for their big, pitched battles to show off the various mutants’ cool powers, but Alison only fights when it’s necessary. Thanks to a sobering tip from Nora after a show, she is aware that the Mutant Action members are at her show and staves them off with a no violence tolerated policy and focusing on the music and de-escalation. In the long run, this doesn’t work, and the Mutant Action starting act worse and even bring power dampeners to gigs so they can assault Inhumans. Seeing a helpless Nora causes Alison to return into action in a a powerful splash page from Braga where you can see the Mutant Action member’s cheek wobble as she decks him Richard Spencer style with Rosenberg adding pink speed lines. Maybe, Alison isn’t ready to put on a spandex costume yet, but she has a good heart and cares about protecting people, who are discriminated against. And her fans end up giving her an assist in the big climax where their vocals amplify her light abilities, and Alison scares away Mutant Action once and for all.

What makes Dazzler #1 refreshing is that Magdalene Visaggio and Laura Braga gives readers a mutant/Inhuman perspective on the Marvel Universe in a way that doesn’t involve folks wanting to be superheroes in a similar manner to the late, great Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat. Nora doesn’t want to beat up supervillains; she wants to use her light abilities to make the dance floor an even more epic place. However, when threatened by mutant bigotry (In a great metaphor for white members of the LGBTQ community being racist towards people of color.), she confronts it directly without getting all superhero clubhouse about it, and Dazzler does the same and even makes a big speech about how mutants and Inhumans can stand together and be powerful without being a part of a superhero team. Their abilities might be fantastic, but they can find community in a way that doesn’t involve costumes, codenames, and Danger Room training.

Dazzler X-Song #1 light show visuals from Laura Braga and Rachelle Rosenberg that perfectly fit a book starring Alison Blaire and a strong message of pride and intersectionality from Magdalene Visaggio. It shows that cool mutant/Inhuman powers, social commentary, characters arc, and sassy humor can co-exist in one great comic book. Now, I need a follow up comic where Alison meets Karen O…

Story: Magdalene Visaggio Art: Laura Braga
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg Letters: Joe Sabino
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Carmen Carnero Joins X-Men Red

Marvel has announced that this July, artist Carmen Carnero will join X-Men Red as the series’ regular artist alongside writer Tom Taylor. Carnero’s work for Marvel includes Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Cyclops, and The Punisher (where she holds the distinction of being the first female artist to ever draw the character’s ongoing series.)

Don’t miss Carmen’s debut in X-Men Red #6, available this July 18th at your local comic shop!

Review: X-Men The Wedding Special #1

Full disclaimer: for a long time, Kitty Pryde was my all time favorite Marvel superhero thanks to her awesomeness in X-Men Evolution and Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men run, and there is a Marvel Legends figure of her sitting on my bookshelf right now as I write this.

Even though Kelly Thompson, Marika Cresta, and Federico Blee end up almost saving the day with a fun tale of X-Women out on the town with pretty, shiny art to match, X-Men The Wedding Special #1 is a big stinker of a “special issue.” Greg Land’s stiff art style isn’t a good fit for a raucous bachelor party, Chris Claremont can’t rekindle his old magic, and this book doesn’t really have much for long time X-Men fans who might be a little lapsed (Like yours truly.) and definitely not new or casual fans. Why are Kitty and Piotr even getting married? Maybe, the X-Men Gold  hardcore readership will find something to love here.

In the first story, Kitty Pryde’s co-creator/father of the X-Men Chris Claremont returns to Marvel with his Nightcrawler collaborator Todd Nauck and skilled colorist Rachelle Rosenberg.  However, after having Nauck re-draw Kitty’s greatest hits courtesy of John Byrne, Dave Cockrum, John Romita Jr., Alan Davis, and others, he makes the story all about Kitty’s relationships with the dead men in her life, namely, her dad, Wolverine, and some guy from a 1999 time travel miniseries called X-Men True Friends. Claremont is a still verbose prose stylist, Rosenberg is game with the bright colors of the different eras, and Nauck turns in some gorgeous dualistic compositions contrasting the triumphs and trials of Kitty Pryde’s life as an X-Man.

But there isn’t really a coherent story to channel these skills and traits into as Claremont abruptly cuts from Kitty recounting her life story and feelings about being phased through a bullet (Thank you, Joss Whedon.) to randomly talking about Wolverine and the aforementioned guy from a time travel story. Plus I guess I missed the issue of X-Men Gold where she worked as a bartender at the Hellfire Club themed branch of Coyote Ugly as Claremont and Nauck cut to this, and Nightcrawler has some great lines about faith and facing challenges. There are a few good ingredients, a few bad ones, and sadly, the story doesn’t touch on the great female friendships (and possibly romances) that Claremont set up for Kitty with Magik, Storm, and Rachel Summers among others and focused on ghostly men instead. It’s like a great slice of Chicago deep dish (Shoutout to Deerfield, Illinois resident Kitty Pryde.) that’s completely burnt to a crisp too bogged down in a continuity to have any real emotion or even nostalgia.

The second story by X-Men Gold writer Marc Guggenheim, the aforementioned Land and inker Jay Leisten, and colorist Jason Keith tells the story of Colossus’ bachelor party and except for the part where Piotr throws an anti-mutant alien monster around a casino, it’s cliched, heteronormative, and just plain bad. In keeping with his introverted nature and desire to be faithful towards Kitty after decades of breakups, reunions, and the original Secret Wars crossover, Colossus wants a chill night out and not the typical strippers/booze/brawling trifecta of a normal bachelor party. But Nightcrawler, Gambit, Iceman, and the “boyo” overusing new-look Pyro have other ideas for him including Bobby lecturing Piotr on traditional masculinity and making me glad that Sina Grace had almost exclusive creative control over him for a year. The story follows a limp, through line of getting Colossus to “lighten up”, and you have to buy a whole other comic to see how the story ends. It’s pretty terrible except for the huge smile on Nightcrawler’s face as he ushers his squad into Las Vegas and beams that there is a casino run by demons so he doesn’t have to feel weird or different while having a good time for once. Kurt is such a great character that he shines even in subpar stories like the first two in X-Men Wedding Special #1.

The final story in X-Men Wedding Special #1 is a fun, cute, grownup version of the “X-Men go to the mall” plotline as Storm, Rogue, Jean Grey, Psylocke, and others take Kitty to karaoke, which is actually “stripperoke”. However, there are both male and female strippers at the club, which Kitty is cool with. And it’s also this issue’s only nod at the bisexual subtext surrounding her since the late 1980s. In a similar way to Piotr, Kitty is introverted and more than a little Type A so the cocktail of strippers and karaoke is pretty lethal for her, and she spends most of the issue hoping for a fight.

Kitty does end up doing hand to hand combat with Callisto, who I think had a crush on Colossus, in the 1980s, and her resolves shows how much she has grown in 38 years from the X-Men’s kid sister to their leader. It also shows that artist (and star in waiting) Marika Cresta has a knack for fight sequences as well as conversation, beautiful faces, and high fashion. The bright filters used by Federico Blee and soft lighting definitely give this issue a very laidback field even if Kitty is freaking out a little bit about her wedding. The Kitty/Callisto derails the story a little bit, but Thompson and Cresta easily counterbalance with great moments like Storm rocking the karaoke stage, and Rogue and Kitty having a true heart to heart that reminded me of a more mature version of their bond in X-Men Evolution.

X-Men Wedding Special definitely lessened my faith in the marriage between Kitty and Colossus as well as heterosexual, monogamous marriage as an institution in general. Okay, maybe not completely, but the Marc Guggenheim and Greg Land story is a great example of how bachelor parties are dated and played out. However, Marika Cresta is a real find as an artist in the final story and should definitely be the main artist on one of the big X or Marvel books.

Story: Chris Claremont, Marc Guggenheim, Kelly Thompson
Art: Todd Nauck, Greg Land with Jay Leisten, Marika Cresta
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg, Jason Keith, Federico Blee Letters: Clayton Cowles

Story: 5.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 5.0 Recommendation: Pass

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Marvel’s Answer to Cambridge Analytica, Musings on X-Men: Red

I’m a bit late to the party but I must say it is very good to see Jean Grey back in the realm of the living! The character brings this nostalgic warmth that has been missing in the X-Men for some time, and this warmth is reflected by her current mission and approach to mutant-human relations as seen in X-Men: Red.

We’ve seen multiple iterations of anti-mutant sentiment in the X-Universe. We’ve seen it in the form of an ancient bacteria, (John Sublime) hysteria borne from mutagenic viruses (i.e. the Legacy Virus and later Mpox) We’ve even seen it sourced and fueled from a telepathically empowered Nazi. (The Red Skull). The latest iteration of anti-mutant sentiment seems to take a page from the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal. With Jean Grey back among the living, the eminent telepath has set her sights on fixing the ills of the world she’s been away from for so long. This includes a plan hatched from a telepathic survey of the minds of humanitarians, and cultural influencers, as well as the formation of a new X-Men team.

Jean Grey’s resurrection is met with the return of a classic X-Men villain and the discovery of an elaborate social media campaign to stoke the fires of anti-mutant furor. The campaign’s target of individuals with known biases and its use of social media is a clear reference to the Cambridge Analytica operation, which sought to influence those with prejudiced proclivities with targeted advertising and fake news.  This is not the first time Marvel has used its stories to as social commentary on real-world issues. Back in 2009 in the lead up to the Utopia Storyline, Simon Trask advocated for Proposition X a proposal for a policy that would have forced mutants, to undergo mandatory birth control procedures. This mirrored the controversial proposition 8 in California that would have seen the LBGT community denied the right to Marriage.

I always enjoy when this art form uses its narrative to represent or pose solutions to real-world problems of this kind. Not only does this connect the reader to the protagonists, it cements the superhero genre as a medium of productive wish fulfillment. Jean’s Grey mission is very wide in its scope and returns an advocative flourish that has been missing from the X-Men for some time.  Whether her team’s mission succeeds or not, it will definitely provide an opportunity for learning and reflection. What I have always enjoyed about the X-Men franchise, is the flexibility of Mutanthood as a metaphor. The team’s recent recruit Trinary, is a South Asian, mutant, who uses her techno-digital manipulating powers to rectify the gender-based pay inequity in India. The fallout from this protest leads to her joining Jean Grey and her team. Trinary’s powers help to bring awareness of this social media campaign to the fledgling X-Men team and raises some interesting questions on how this current predicament will be fought going forward.

Who wouldn’t want to develop powers, to combat the spread of Banonism that has latched on the ever-present “Fear of the other” in the United States? Or to develop a telepathic insight into how mental laziness, propaganda, and malice feed into systematic violence and disenfranchisement? What is so beautiful about this current run, is how it eloquently uses the mutant metaphor, to ponder or creatively inspire holistic solutions to society’s most chronic ills. Instead of reacting the way we always do,  with offense and subsequent attack. (methods anticipated and desired by those driving such conflict) the story in X-Men Red encourages us to move forward with strength in other matters, using understanding and creativity to tackle or disrupt problems that always recur and takes new forms this is essentially the heart of Jean Grey’s mission and it will be inspiring as well as instructive to see how it pans out.  If you’re a fan of Jean Grey, or just want to see a nuanced and timely story addressing difference, fear, and conflict, this is a title that is definitely worthy of your attention.

Around the Tubes

The weekend is almost here and Deadpool 2 is opening! Who’s going to see it this weekend? Sound off in the comments below! While you wait for the weekday to end and weekend begin, here’s some comic news from around the web.

CBR – How Neal Adams’ First X-Men Issue Helped Change Comic Book Coloring – Interesting.

ICv2 – Publishing Declines Continued in IDW’s Q1 – Ruh Roh.

Newsarama – iZombie Renewed For Fifth (But FINAL) Season – That’s two that’ll wrap up next year.

Preview: X-Men: Red #4

X-Men: Red #4

(W) Tom Taylor (A) Mahmud A. Asrar (CA) Travis Charest
Rated T+
In Shops: May 16, 2018
SRP: $3.99

• JEAN GREY and her team of X-Men are trying to save the world…but one mutant could spoil that for everyone.
• When an old friend of Jean’s is corrupted and turned against her, will Jean have to do the unthinkable?

Preview: X-Men Wedding Special #1

X-Men Wedding Special #1

(W) Marc Guggenheim, Kelly Thompson, Chris Claremont (A) Greg Land, Marika Cresta, Todd Nauck (CA) J. Scott Campbell
Rated T+
In Shops: May 16, 2018
SRP: $4.99

CHRIS CLAREMONT RETURNS TO THE X-MEN!
One of the biggest milestone events in X-Men history is almost here! Kitty Pryde and Colossus are finally about the tie the knot…but what’s a wedding without the respective bachelor and bachelorette parties? Join Marc Guggenheim and Kelly Thompson for two parties that can only be celebrated Marvel style! All this, plus, a Kitty and Colossus story by legendary X-Men scribe, Chris Claremont!!!

Preview: Astonishing X-Men #11

Astonishing X-Men #11

(W) Charles Soule (A) Ron Garney (CA) Greg Land
Rated T+
In Shops: May 02, 2018
SRP: $3.99

XAVIER VERSUS PROTEUS!
In the penultimate issue of this high-stakes X-Men story, PROTEUS and CHARLES XAVIER face off in a psychic battle for the ages with nothing less than the fate of all free-thinking people at stake. With PSYLOCKE, GAMBIT, ROGUE, OLD MAN LOGAN and BISHOP by his side, will this team of heavy hitters be able to take Proteus down once and for all?

Review: X-Men: Domino

It’s Wednesday which means it’s new comic book day with new releases hitting shelves, both physical and digital, all across the world. This week we’ve got Domino!

X-Men: Domino collects Domino (1997) #1-3, Domino (2003) #1-4, X-Force: Sex and Violence #1-3, material from X-Force & Cable Annual ’95, A+X #10, and Uncanny X-Men Annual (2016) #1 by Ben Raab, Joe Pruett, Brian Stelfreeze, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Todd Dezago, Adam Warren, Anthony Piper, David Perrin, Gabrielle Dell’Otto, and Daerick Gross.

Get your copy in comic shops and in book stores today. To find a comic shop near you, visit www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon/Kindle/comiXology or TFAW

 

 

Marvel​ provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review
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