Comic Review: X-Men: The Age of Apocalypse – The Complete Epic

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

Review:

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.

Comic Review: X-Men: Mutant Genesis

Published: 1991
Written by: Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, Fabian Nicieza, Whilce Portacio, Peter David, Len Kaminski
Art by: Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, Kirk Jarvinen, Tom Raney, Terry Shoemaker, Paul Smith, Andy Kubert, Jerry DeCaire, Ernie Stiner, Steven Butler, Art Thibert

Marvel Comics, 437 Pages

Review:

I’m pretty excited for the current Jonathan Hickman run on the X-Men titles. I haven’t started reading them because the two miniseries that are coming out are doing so just about weekly. So I want to wait to have all twelve issues before giving it a read. But from what I’ve heard, it’s absolutely solid and quite refreshing.

However, before getting into the new stuff, I wanted to travel back to the height of my time reading and buying X-books: 1991.

The reason I wanted to go back there was because it was a transitional period, as the original X-Factor team came to an end, the New Mutants became X-Force and two new X-Men teams formed, each with their own ongoing monthly series. It was also a transition from the Chris Claremont era into the era of Jim Lee.

This thick trade paperback collects multiple story arcs but all of the arcs are unified in their purpose, which was to end an era and to create a new one.

Here we have the final stories of the first X-Factor team, as well as stories involving the newly formed X-Force and New Warriors, Freedom Force and the X-Men team as it existed when Claremont moved on from the series.

This almost feels like an omnibus.

It also features a lot of great creatives on the writing side and art side.

Ultimately, this was a hell of a fun read that flew by despite its meaty 437 pages.

We get dozens of heroes and a whole slew of major X-villains like Magneto, Apocalypse, the Shadow King, Proteus and Fabian Cortez, just to name a few.

While a lot of the ’90s comics I go back to don’t have the same effect on me as they did when I was twelve, this is a solid f’n read. Seriously.

And what’s really surprising is that it has all these creatives working on it and it still turned out to be a really well managed and fully realized vision that brought an era to its end, quite epically, and generated real excitement and enthusiasm for what was to come.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other major X-Men crossover events from the era: X-Tinction Agenda, X-Cutioner’s Song, etc.

Book Review: ‘The Joy of Joe: Memories of America’s Movable Fighting Man from Today’s Grown-Up Kids’

This pretty short book is a collection of a few dozen essays written by some fairly notable people, about their childhood love of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Some essays are about the old ’60s toys but most are about the ’80s version of G.I. Joe and all of it’s forms: toys, comics and the cartoon.

Fabian Nicieza even contributed to the book, which was cool as I’ve been a big fan of his comic book writing since the early ’90s.

This obviously won’t mean much to non-G.I. Joe fans but for those of us who have a love of the franchise, it was really nice reading about how passionate these writers are about the toyline and everything that came with it.

In the end, it’s just nice being reminded from time to time that you’re not alone in your love of something that feels long gone, that will probably never be the same, even after several attempts at resurrection.

Rating: 6.5/10

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: Conan Chronicles – Epic Collection I: Out of the Darksome Hills

Published: February 19th, 2019
Written by: Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza
Art by: Cary Nord, Thomas Yeates, Greg Ruth, Tom Mandrake
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Dark Horse Comics, Marvel (reprinted), 496 Pages

Review:

Few things in life are actually “epic as fuck”. This hefty collection of Kurt Busiek’s Conan run is one of those things.

This collects twenty comics worth of Conan stories and even throws a Fabian Nicieza one in for a little extra cherry on top of this badass sundae.

Every story in this collection is good. I’m not just saying that. Busiek understands the character of Conan, his world and really goes to great length at penning some fabulous story arcs.

This even gives us a good story featuring Thoth-Amon, one of Conan’s biggest villains over the years.

Kurt Busiek should be proud of his run here. He has written several stories that are good enough to stand alongside Robert E. Howard’s original work. Busiek gets Conan and the character’s audience.

Additionally, most of the art in this is perfect. There are a few single issues mixed in that have art that isn’t as good but those were mostly filler issues where the main artist was probably off working on another title.

All in all, this is a great Conan collection and the first part of one of the absolute best runs on the character in the comic book medium.

I have the second collection, which I will read and review in the near future.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Kurt Busiek’s Conan run, as well as other Conan comics from the Dark Horse era.

Comic Review: Deadpool Classic, Vol. 1

Published on: May 7th, 2008
Written by: Fabian Nicieza, Joe Kelly, Mark Waid, Joe Madureira
Art by: Rob Liefeld, Ian Churchill, Lee Weeks, Ed McGuinness

Marvel Comics, 264 Pages

Review:

I recently re-read Cable & The New Mutants, which collected Cable’s first appearance and his first big story arc as the new leader of the New Mutants team before the roster was shaken up and rebranded as the original incarnation of X-Force. I enjoyed revisiting it, so I figured that I’d also pick up the earliest stories of Rob Liefeld’s other greatest creation, Deadpool.

This collection really does start at the beginning, as the first chapter is issue #98 of The New Mutants, which was the first appearance of Deadpool. Who, awesomely enough, showed up to kill Cable.

The New Mutants #98 was also the first appearance of two other Liefeld creations: Domino and Gideon. However, and not to spoil anything, but this isn’t the real Domino, we wouldn’t meet her for another two years and this character was Copycat posing as Domino. Copycat, for those who don’t know, is actually Vanessa Geraldine Carlysle… the same Vanessa that’s played by Morena Baccarin in the Deadpool movies.

After Deadpool’s quick debut, we get into The Circle Chase storyline, which was Deadpool’s first solo story and his debut self-titled series. This takes place after 20-plus issues of X-Force, as Copycat has been exposed and is parading around as herself in this story. This tale also features the villain team up of Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut with a bunch of other villains and assassins also thrown into the story.

The story after that features Black Tom and Juggernaut again but this time Deadpool has help from Banshee and his daughter Siryn. In this story, Black Tom is being torn apart from his strange physical condition and he needs Deadpool’s DNA to cure his painful ailment.

The last story is just the first issue of what was the first ongoing Deadpool comic book series. It’s a quick read but the highlight is seeing Deadpool square off with Sasquatch of Alpha Flight.

These early stories were cool to revisit but Deadpool, as a character, hadn’t quite been fleshed out to his regular level of greatness by this point. But being that he is a unique character, it took the writers some time to figure out what he was supposed to be.

Deadpool hadn’t found his groove yet but this is still entertaining and a precursor to the character’s greatness. And thing’s do get better after this.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The end of the original New Mutants run and the first two years of the original X-Force run.