Published: April 11th, 2007 Written by: Mark Millar Art by: Steve McNiven
Marvel Comics, 196 Pages
I loved Civil War when I first read it over a dozen years ago. It reignited my interest in Marvel Comics and I stuck with a lot of the core stories that were born out of these events.
For those that don’t know, this pits two factions of superheroes against each other: one group led by Captain America and the other led by Iron Man. It would also go on to inspire the movie Captain America: Civil War, nine years later.
Cap’s group is against a new law that would force superheroes to give up their secret identities and become agents of the government. Iron Man agrees with the law, after a group of C-list heroes are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of children. Spider-Man, the third central character, starts the story on one side and then switches after certain events give him newfound clarity.
The story, the idea and its execution are near perfect. In fact, I’m not sure how this wasn’t a story idea before this, as it seems like a natural development for the superhero genre. Regardless, Mark Millar penned magic here and this is, hands down, one of the greatest mega events in comic book history.
Having just read two of DC’s massive Crisis events and seeing how they were massive clusterfucks, this is the complete antithesis of those and goes to show how much better Marvel is (or was) at bringing a massive group of characters together.
I also really enjoyed Steve McNiven’s art and it fit the tone well. McNiven was one of the top artists at the time and his talent was put to great use here.
My only negative takeaway is that this story should’ve been longer than seven issues. It felt like there was a lot more story to tell. But then again, there are literally dozens of Civil War tie-ins that you can read for more context and to see what other heroes were up to during this saga. From memory, a lot of them were also pretty good.
Rating: 9.5/10 Pairs well with: all the other Civil War crossover tie-in trade paperbacks, as well as The Death of Captain America.
Published: 1995-1996 Written by: Scott Lobdell, Jeph Loeb, John Francis Moore, Mark Waid, Warren Ellis, Fabian Nicieza, Larry Hama, Howard Mackie, Terry Kavanagh Art by: Roger Cruz, Terry Dodson, Steve Epting, Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Carlos Pacheco, Joe Madureira, Tony Daniel, Salvador Larroca, Chris Bachalo, Ken Lashley, Steve Skroce, Ian Churchill, Joe Bennett
Marvel Comics, 1462 Pages
I’ve really only heard great things about The Age of Apocalypse storyline since it started back in 1995, an era where I wasn’t really reading comics for awhile, except for Dark Horse’s Star Wars stuff.
In fact, the last major X-Men related event that I had read before this was X-Cutioner’s Song, a pretty good epic. But shortly after that, I got pretty burnt out once the top Marvel guys went off to form Image and then those comics were constantly hindered by delays and irregular schedules.
Based off of all the praise I heard, I always wanted to read this but it was such a massive story, spread over multiple collected volumes that I never really wanted to fork out the over $100 it would cost to buy the whole shebang. So, all these years later, I took advantage of a massive X-Men sale on Comixology and got the entire saga with its prelude for about $20.
Now that I’ve read it, I’m glad I only spent $20 because like Game of Thrones, all my friends and all the critics lied to me about how great this was. It’s not, it’s a clusterfuck of biblical proportions showcasing a lot of the things that were wrong with mid-’90s comic book art from the major publishers.
I’ll start with the art and just come out and say that this was mostly an eyesore to look at. The biggest reason was the colors, which relied so heavily on what I assume are digitally created gradients and overly vibrant colors that this was like staring into the asshole of a tropical fruit salad for hours. Everything is too busy, every single issue collected is made to be overly grandiose and if everything is larger than life and overly vivid, then that becomes the norm and thus, makes everything kind of boring.
Additionally, there is such a mix of different artistic styles that it becomes jarring as these collections jump from issue to issue every twenty pages or so. Some of the artists had great pencils but many of them illustrated in a style that didn’t feel like Marvel and instead felt like the artists were trying to emulate indie comics from Image and Valiant. Besides, the stuff that was illustrated well, ended up being wrecked by the primitive gradients and crazy colors that looked like a giallo film puked all over a box of Prismacolor markers.
When it comes to the narrative side of this, that’s also a mess.
This suffers from trying to be way more ambitious than it needed to be. The whole story is comprised of about seven or eight different subplots that are and aren’t intertwined. Some of them merge towards the end into the bigger story but some stuff just happens within this new timeline. But the story jumps around so much that it makes the whole thing hard to follow as a singular body of work. This is the same problem I have, right now, with all the new X-Men related titles that are tied to a bigger narrative but don’t feel connected as much as they should. But this is what happens when you have a half dozen different titles and different writers, all of whom want to explore different territory in their own way while being trapped within a common framework.
In fact, the only plot I actually enjoyed was the one that dealt with the characters that aren’t tied to the X-Men.
There was a two issue miniseries called X-Universe, which focused on what other Marvel characters were up to during this event. We check in on this timeline’s version of Gwen Stacy, some of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom and a few others. I found this more interesting and it showed me that this alternate timeline could provide the right sort of environment for cool and refreshing takes on old characters.
While I should probably feel the same way about all the X-Men related characters and their stories, it is hard to focus on any of them because of how this jumps around so much. When I got to the non-X-Men characters, it felt like a nice break from the X-clusterfuck I was pushing myself through.
Ultimately, I was really disappointed in this. I kept powering through it because I was hoping that all these subplots and characters would unify into something coherent that clicked at the end but that didn’t happen. We eventually get to a resolution but it’s not all that satisfying.
On a side note (and spoiler alert): the way that Magneto kills Apocalypse is pretty f’n badass.
Rating: 5/10 Pairs well with: other big X-Men crossovers of the ’80s through ’00s.
Also known as: X-Men: The Animated Series Original Run: October 31st, 1992 – September 20th, 1997 Created by: Eric Lewald, Sidney Iwanter, Mark Edens Directed by: Larry Houston Written by: various Based on:X-Men by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby Music by: Ron Wasserman, Shuki Levy, Noam Kaniel, Amotz Plessner Cast: Norm Spencer, Cathal J. Dodd, Lenore Zann, Iona Morris, Alison Sealy-Smith, George Buza, Chris Potter, Tony Daniels, Alyson Court, Catherine Disher, Cedric Smith
This animated show was the absolute highlight of my week back when it first came out and for a few years until high school took over my life and with it, the pursuit of other things. Honestly, I kind of checked out on this show around the same time that I checked out on comics because I was playing sports and trying to impress girls.
I did end up watching the show in its entirety, years later, after it was all available to stream on Netflix some time ago. I liked it and I thought that the show mostly maintained its consistency till the end, minus a few bad episodes, here and there.
Now that it’s on Disney+, I felt compelled to revisit it, as its been awhile and my memories of it are so fond.
However, despite still recognizing its greatness, it doesn’t quite resonate the same way for me anymore. I don’t blame the show, though, I blame the age of the viewer: me.
As I’ve gotten older, it’s harder for me to sit through long bursts of animation. I’m not sure why but I watched a handful of episodes and found my mind wandering, looking at my phone, looking at the clock and then thinking that I’d rather just read the comics that these stories are trying to adapt.
Again, it’s not X-Men, it’s me.
I then talked to a friend about it and he said that he feels the same way with most of the cartoons he used to watch. He’s 44 and I’m now 41. So I wonder if 40 is some sort of point where the mind severs itself from this type of entertainment? But then, I can still watch Batman: The Animated Series and the Marvel/Sunbow era of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.
That being said, I can’t shit on the show for my personal inability to sit through it now.
It’s a stellar animated series, one of the best of its era. The stories were well adapted, even if they took a lot of liberties and didn’t follow the same sequence as the comics.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: the other Marvel animated shows from the ’90s.
Published: June 24th, 2019 – October 9th, 2019 Written by: Jonathan Hickman Art by: Pepe Larraz
Marvel Comics, 400 Pages
Let me preface this review by saying that this is the best new comic book story that I have read in ten years.
That’s absolutely a bold statement but let’s be honest, Marvel and DC haven’t really been bringing their A game for awhile, other than a few things, here and there.
Overall, modern comics just aren’t great anymore. But this is in a league of its own, as Sean Gordon Murphy’s recent Batman work at DC Comics is also on its own plane of existence when compared to what else is coming out from its publisher the last few years.
That being said, it’s been a really long time since I’ve been engaged by X-Men stories. That’s kind of depressing, as the X-Men pocket of the larger Marvel universe is one of my favorite franchises of all-time.
Jonathan Hickman has made me care again.
In fact, this made me care so much that I added every new X-comic to my pull list, as I am hoping that this carries over into something larger, richer and more spectacular. This sort of prologue to the larger X-universe is going to be a hard thing to beat or live up to over the long haul but it’s obvious that Hickman has a plan and I want to see how this all unfolds.
There are some things in this story that seem weird and out of place and I believe that these things are intentional. Primarily, many of the characters are acting uncharacteristic. I don’t think it’s an oversight or the product of a writer that doesn’t know what he’s actually writing about, as many modern writers seem to do.
If I’m wrong, I’ll be pissed and heartbroken but there is real intelligence to this writing and Hickman has a fantastic track record.
Also, this is a great jumping on point. You don’t really need to read what happens before. This is a true starting point for new readers or old readers that tapped out on the X-Men books long ago.
Plus, Pepe Larraz’s art is some of the best I’ve seen in a long time.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: old school X-Men mega crossover events.
Published: 2016-2017 Written by: Chad Bowers, Chris Sims Art by: Mirati Firmansyah, Coby Hamscher, David Nakayama (cover) Based on: the X-Men animated series by Fox Kids
Marvel Comics, 240 Pages
If you were a kid in the ’90s, you probably watched the X-Men cartoon that used to be on Fox on Saturday mornings. It was solid, did a pretty good job of adapting some of the comic book’s big storylines and introduced a lot of non-comic reading kids to the X-Men franchise.
It ended after a few seasons and never really had a proper follow up. Well, that is until recently, as the show moved into the medium it was born out of: comic books.
Maybe this took its cues from DC Comics and how they came out with Batman ’66, a comic book series that revisited the 1960s Adam West Batman TV series. But one can’t deny that Batman ’66 was a cool comic, a great idea and with that, should have inspired other comic books that continued the stories of comic book characters as they were presented in other mediums. Hell, I’m still waiting for that Batman ’89 comic that was once teased and then had those teases retracted.
But this is about X-Men ’92, which was a decent follow up to the animated series.
Overall, this was a fun read but it didn’t wow me in the same way that Batman ’66 did. Where that Batman comic felt tonally right and as if it was a true continuation of the series, X-Men ’92 throws some weird curveballs and also tries to force in way too many characters just for the sake of the creators trying to give you the animated series’ versions of these characters.
Maybe they knew this series would be short lived and therefore, they wanted to wedge in every character they could but it really becomes too much to process in the second half of this series. Also, I wasn’t a fan of devoting so much time to a Dracula/vampire story. None of that was central to the core of the cartoon and it shouldn’t have been central to the core of this comic.
Also, this feels like it is just borrowing the visual style of the TV show but it doesn’t seem to understand the tone or the spirit of it.
It’s still entertaining for fans of the source material but I wouldn’t call it a must read or all that necessary. Die hards should check it out but I can see why this didn’t make it a year where Batman ’66 has still been hanging on for quite awhile with a long running series and several crossovers.
Rating: 6.75/10 Pairs well with: the animated series it’s based on, as well as ’90s X-Men comics and various spinoffs.
Published: 1992-1993 Written by: Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Peter David Art by: Brandon Peterson, Andy Kubert, Jae Lee, Greg Capullo
Marvel Comics, 336 Pages
This was one of my favorite big crossover events when I was really just getting deep into comics. This blew my middle school mind at the time and it had a lot of influence over my creative output in the comic book medium.
I was worried that revisiting this story would be a big disappointment. A lot of the stuff from this era that I reread now, usually lets me down, as my palate is more discriminatory than it was at thirteen years-old.
I’m happy to say that this was still pretty f’n solid!
In fact, I think it is slightly better than X-Tinction Agenda, which I used to place ahead of this one.
What I really liked about it, is that it features three of my absolute favorite villains: Apocalypse, Mister Sinister and Stryfe. They are all well balanced and they aren’t here to come together in an effort to finally take out the X-Men, X-Factor and X-Force (formerly the New Mutants). Each one of these baddies has their own purpose and agenda within the story and it all just comes together in a really cool way that even sees the X-Men have to turn to Apocalypse in order to stop Stryfe’s chaos.
This is the best big story to come after the epic Chris Claremont run on X-Men. But if I’m being honest and this certainly isn’t a dig at the legendary Claremont, whose work I love, X-Cutioner’s Song was really refreshing and it showed that new blood could liven things up. Granted, Peter David didn’t hang around too long, Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza also moved on to other things, but this was a weirdly perfect storm considering all the changes happening on Marvel’s X-books following Claremont’s departure and many of the top creatives leaving for the newly formed Image Comics.
The art is also top notch, but Brandon Peterson, Andy Kubert, Jae Lee and Greg Capullo are all fantastic and three of those men have become somewhat legendary in their own right.
X-Cutioner’s Song is well crafted, well balanced and it should be a primer on how to write massive crossovers featuring dozens of characters all competing for their moment.
Rating: 9.25/10 Pairs well with: previous big X-Men crossover events like X-Tinction Agenda, Muir Island Saga, Inferno and Fall of the Mutants.
Published: 2009 Written by: various Art by: various
Marvel Comics, 243 Pages
This takes place between the major X-Men events Messiah Complex and Second Coming. And like those two events, I liked this story quite a bit. However, this is also a mixed bag as far as art and some of the writing.
Most of the story was well written but this story also crossed over multiple titles with different creative teams. Sometimes that works, sometimes it makes things disjointed and uneven. Now while I thought the overall narrative was good, some of the dialogue was cringy in parts. But this only happens in a low percentage of the issues collected here.
Like that cringe dialogue, some of the art in a few of the issues is also distracting. I think that this book has mostly good art but there is a strong variance in styles and going from one chapter to the next can be kind of jarring in this book. Additionally, the first few chapters looked the worst and things actually improved as the book went on.
The story follows Cable and young child Hope Summers as they keep jumping further and further into the future. In pursuit is former X-Men member Bishop, who is trying to kill Hope in order to save the future. Or is it the past, at this point?
The story also adds in X-Force, the version of the team that Cyclops used to do black ops. Here, it consists of Domino, Wolverine, Archangel, X-23, Warpath and a few characters that are pretty unknown and don’t matter much to this plot. Then Deadpool shows up and we also get very important appearances by Stryfe and Apocalypse.
Like the stories that sandwich this one, Hope Summers is pretty much the MacGuffin of this tale. Half the people want to protect her and the other half want to use her or kill her.
This is a good, dark, balls to the wall X-story. I love that it adds more context to the bigger X-Men stories about Hope Summers, as well as strengthening the rivalries between Cable and Stryfe, as well as Archangel and Apocalypse.
Despite issues with some of the dialogue and art, this was a really good read. It was certainly my cup of X-tea.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: the stories that sandwich it: Messiah Complex and Second Coming.
Published: March 29th, 2008 Written by: various Art by: various
Marvel Comics, 344 Pages
This follows the major event in X-Men and Avengers lore that was House of M, which itself followed Avengers: Disassembled. While the Scarlet Witch is no longer the focal point here, the effects of what she did in the two previous stories is still felt and the central focus of this large crossover event’s plot. This is also an X-Men-centric story as it doesn’t crossover with Avengers characters or titles this time.
In a way this does a good job of closing out what some call the House of M trilogy but it also sets up an event that is a direct sequel to this called Second Coming.
The story is pretty good but it may be hard to follow for someone who just jumps in or for an old school X-Men fan that will be bombarded with a bunch of newer characters, as this came out when The New X-Men was going strong.
Overall, this is pretty good but the story jumps around a lot and if you don’t binge through it fairly quickly, you’ll probably forget some details. Also, some threads within the larger plot aren’t as great as others.
I didn’t care so much for the New X-Men Team and was more intrigued by what was going on with the main X-Men and the Marauders. Although, I had hoped that Mister Sinister would really get his moment to shine brightly and he’s just sort of there, leading the Marauders, and then he’s out of the story. Although, the twist that sees him taken out of the plot was pretty neat and it’s not something that I saw coming.
If you like classic X-Men, this more modern event will still probably resonate with you. It feels more like a ’90s X-Men event than something made within the last decade or so.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with: Avengers: Disassembled and House of M.
Published: October 3rd, 2018 – December 12th, 2018 Written by: Clay McLeod Chapman Art by: Stefano Landini, Will Robson, Paolo Villanelli, R.B. Silva (covers)
Marvel Comics, 94 Pages
Typhoid Fever was a series of three one-shots but they were all part of a single story. The series focused on Typhoid Mary, who is traditionally a Daredevil villain. However, Daredevil wasn’t involved with this story and instead, the focus as far as the hero side of the story was on Spider-Man, Iron Fist and the X-Men.
With these being one-shots strung together as a sort of mini event, I felt that the time between the release of each issue was too long. Reason being, I read a ton of comics and by the time I got to each new issue, I barely remembered what happened in the one preceding it. Which also reflects on the writing, as nothing seemed memorable or all that noteworthy.
I just read this and I really only recall the details of the final issue, which featured Iron Fist. I did enjoy it better than the other two issues though with the Spider-Man one being okay and the X-Men one making me want to quit this miniseries before the final chapter.
The issues were just inconsistent and even though the last issue was the strongest, it didn’t really improve the other ones by tying things together in a nice, fluid way.
The art was also just okay. It didn’t blow my socks off but it wasn’t terrible. It was pretty standard and didn’t have any sort of stylistic flourish to it, which is an issue I have had with a lot of modern Marvel books. Everything just seems to be passable and lacking personality and flair.
I’m not even sure why this series was made. It didn’t do much to make Typhoid Mary a more interesting character. Maybe they did this because she debuted in live action form, earlier this year in the Iron Fist TV show. But if that’s the case, they should have released this six months earlier.
Rating: 5.5/10 Pairs well with: Charles Soule’s recent run on Daredevil. Also, any Typhoid Mary story arc from Daredevil since her debut in the late ’80s.
Published: February 1st, 2006 Written by: Brian Michael Bendis Art by: Oliver Coipel
Marvel Comics, 280 Pages
This picks up after the events that happened in Avengers: Disassembled. This story also has effects that will go on to be felt in Marvel’s Civil War event, as well as X-Men: The Messiah Complex.
So following the tragic events of Avengers: Disassembled, the Avengers and the X-Men meet to discuss the fate of the Scarlet Witch. Wolverine leads the charge pretty much calling for her death, as the potential for what she can do with her powers is too great. Other Avengers and X-Men disagree but ultimately, you get the idea that this is going to go somewhere really friggin’ dark.
After that, Wolverine wakes up in an alternate reality and is aware that he’s not where he’s supposed to be, even though all of his allies are buying into the mystical charade. Wolverine has to go against his friends, search for answers and has to convince his allies that something happened that completely changed reality.
In the end, the Scarlet Witch only leaves like ten percent of the mutants in the world with their powers intact. So Wolverine saves the day, essentially, but the Scarlet Witch with her insane powers is still a crazy bitch.
This story was a cool idea but it didn’t really move forward in a way that excited me. Granted, I wasn’t too fond of Avengers: Disassemble, which lead to this.
This is one of the big Marvel stories of the ’00s and it is certainly better than the schlock they are synonymous with now but it still pales in comparison to the great epics that came before this. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel has some events that were duds in the old days too but this book just missed the mark and frankly, it could have been longer and probably needed to be, as the pace was insanely quick.
I really enjoyed Oliver Coipel’s art, though.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with:Avengers: Disassembled, The Messiah Complex, also it has ramifications that carry over into the Civil War event.