Comic Review: X-Cutioner’s Song

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

Review:

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.

Comic Review: New Mutants, Vol. 2: Necrosha

Published: September 8th, 2010
Written by: Zeb Wells
Art by: Niko Henrichon, Diogenes Neves, Paul Davidson, Alvaro Lopez, David Lopez

Marvel Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t super big into the volume before this one. That could also be due to me not really liking the Legion character, who had a major presence in that book.

This volume finds its footing a bit more and I enjoyed both stories that were collected here.

I like this team, overall, and their dynamic. There are interesting twists to the story but the first half of this collection ties into a crossover event where some of the context is lost, due to this not featuring the parts of the story that weren’t specifically published as New Mutants issues. Also, this volume leads into the big Second Coming event.

Regardless of this being tied to and setting up other stories, I like the chemistry within the group and how the characters are written and how they’re evolving here. In fact, I assumed I’d give up after this volume but I think I’ll give the third one a read too.

I’m a big New Mutants fan and always have been. I just haven’t been very satisfied with their comics since the original run in the ’80s and early ’90s. Zeb Wells’ run seems to be carving out its place in the larger mythos though.

Plus, I dig the art.

All in all, not a bad book, better than most New Mutants collections after the original run and I’m at least interested in sticking with it beyond this chapter in the series.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the volume before this story, as well as most New Mutants stories featuring some of the key original members.

Comic Review: New Mutants, Vol. 1: Return of Legion

Published: April 28th, 2010
Written by: Adam Kubert, Zeb Wells
Art by: Diogenes Neves, Cam Smith

Marvel Comics, 131 Pages

Review:

I’m an old school O.G. New Mutants fan. I’m also a bitch for nostalgia. So I often times pick up New Mutants titles whenever they have brief resurgences. And usually, I regret it after the fact.

Reading the first volume of this short lived New Mutants incarnation didn’t leave me with buyer’s remorse though. However, this also didn’t wow me in any way.

Some of the key members get back together to do a mission for Cyclops. Cannonball is put in charge of the team, which is fine but anytime Magik is put on the backburner, I tend to get fussy. She’s one of my all-time favorite Marvel characters and a big reason why I read New Mutants.

Sure, Magik still plays a part in this story but it feels pretty secondary.

This arc also brings Legion into the mix and he’s never been a character I’ve been that fond of.

While this was an entertaining read, there wasn’t much here to justify a return of this team. Although, this does setup the second volume and hopefully that gives this chapter in this two part saga more meaning. However, this still didn’t leaved me too enthused about continuing on.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the follow to this story, as well as most New Mutants stories featuring some of the key original members.

Comic Review: X-Force/Cable: Messiah War

Published: 2009
Written by: various
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 243 Pages

Review:

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.

Comic Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

Published: 1980-1981
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: John Byrne

Marvel Comics, 176 Pages

Review:

I read the collected trade paperback of this famous story but I was surprised to find that Days of Future Past is only a two issue story arc. The majority of this collection is padded out with a few different stories around that saga. However, everything in this collection directly follows The Dark Phoenix Saga.

Days of Future Past is a story I have never read, until now, but it’s been heralded as on of the best in the decades since it came out. But if I’m being honest, I didn’t think it was a real classic of a story. At least, not in how it has been sold to me over the years.

It’s a good, fun story but I think it’s severely over hyped. I think that it’s fondly remembered because it introduced the idea of possible dark futures to the X-Men mythos and that’s a storytelling device that never really went away after this tale. We’ve had time travelling characters showing up in X-Men stories all the time ever since Days of Future Past.

That being said, one can’t deny the impact that this story had and anything with lasting power like that is going to always be a pivotal point for fans to go back and reference. But looking at it objectively, without any actual nostalgia for it, allows me to rate the story on its own merit, detached from decades of nostalgia and hype.

Also, maybe I’m a bit less impressed than I should be because I read this just after The Dark Phoenix Saga and that story is legitimately a real classic, in my eyes. But that’s not to say that Days of Future Past isn’t a milestone, it is.

Ultimately, this is still a solid collection of stories where the two issue Days of Future Past story arc is the high point. But I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t a long, massive epic like I always thought that it was.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other X-Men stories from the Chris Claremont/John Byrne era.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Sinister Six

Published: June 1st, 1964
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Steve Ditko

Marvel Comics, 75 Pages

Review:

This story premiered in the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual. Plus, it was written by Stan “The Man” Lee and drawn by the great Steve Ditko.

The plot is pretty standard fair for ’60s Marvel and it sees six of Spider-Man’s toughest villains come together to form the original version of the Sinister Six. That being said, the Sinister Six have been one of my favorite villain groups of all-time and this storyline didn’t just create a supervillain team to test a single hero but it created a trend in the comic book medium that saw other heroes have to take on similar teams of multiple rogues.

I like how the plot was structured, in that Spider-Man had to run the gauntlet on the Sinister Six and fought each one individually. This is actually a great setup for the future, which would see the Sinister Six up the ante and take on Spidey all at once. However, in future battles, Spidey would get some help of his own.

This group consisted of Doctor Octopus, The Vulture, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, Mysterio and the Sandman. While the group would rotate some other villains in over the course of time, I really liked this group and how having them come together in this story made it feel like a Spider-Man themed Royal Rumble.

For a first time reader, this had to be a fun read, as it forced Spider-Man to face multiple challenges in the same story. Plus, it just looks great with the Ditko art.

This is not my favorite Sinister Six story but we wouldn’t have gotten the other ones without this happening first. Plus, it’s quintessential Stan Lee in how this all plays out.

It’s hard not to love this.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Stan Lee and Steve Ditko era Spider-Man comics.

Comic Review: X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

Published: 1980
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: John Byrne

Marvel Comics, 200 Pages

Review:

Does it make me a terrible X-Men fan that I have never actually read The Dark Phoenix Saga?

I’ve tried to round up all the single issues over the years but some of them are pricey and there’s nine issues that make up this arc. But in my defense, I know the story very well, as it has been referenced a million times over throughout X-Men history. I’ve also seen various interpretations and adaptations of the plot. Granted, none of them are really accurate in regards to this, the source material.

This is free for Comixology Unlimited subscribers though, so I thought that delving into it was long overdue and that I really didn’t have an excuse anymore.

I expected this to be enjoyable but it still took me by surprise, as it was better than what I anticipated and all the years of hype I’ve experienced, didn’t diminish it in anyway.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is quintessential Chris Claremont. I can’t say that this is where he peaked but this is certainly a very elevated highpoint in his long run writing X-Men related stories.

This also came out in a time when Marvel wasn’t addicted to big crossover mega-events. This was a mega-event for its time but it wasn’t marketed or structured in the way that these things are now. It was just a good, lengthy story, limited to one already existing comic that found a way to utilize a lot of characters but in a way that balanced them all out and made them all useful to the plot.

One cool thing about this arc, is it also features the first appearances of Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, the Hellfire Club and Dazzler. There’s a bunch of stuff going on within this story but it doesn’t off track and still builds towards the big battle between Jean Grey as Dark Phoenix and her X-Men family. It’s, at times, heartbreaking and tragic but it also makes you love all these people all over again in an organic, natural and emotional way. This hits emotional notes in the reader in ways that comic books never seem to come close to in 2019.

I can’t just give credit to Chris Claremont and his stupendous writing though. The art by John Byrne is absolutely superb and it is just as rich, colorful and meticulously crafted as the story its telling.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the greatest Marvel stories ever told. It’s classic Marvel and truly represents what I loved about the era and how I fell in love with this creative medium in the first place.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other early Chris Claremont X-Men comics.