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: Titans: The Lazarus Contract

Published: November 14th, 2017
Written by: Christopher Priest, Benjamin Percy, Dan Abnett
Art by: Brett Booth, Larry Hama, Phil Hester, Carlo Pagulayan, Paul Pelletier, Khoi Pham, Norm Rapmund

DC Comics, 132 Pages

Review:

I’ve read the entirety of Christopher Priest’s fifty-issue run on Deathstroke, which just finished, actually. So I did read his two issues that were part of this larger crossover arc but I missed the Titans and Teen Titans parts, as I wasn’t pulling those titles at my local comic shop. So this is the first time I’ve read this story in its entirety, which I should’ve done earlier as it would’ve added more context to the Deathstroke series, as a whole.

This is sort of a spiritual sequel to the famous The Judas Contract storyline from the Teen Titans comics in the ’80s while also connecting to the events of Deathstroke’s first appearance in The New Teen Titans issue 2 from 1980.

Here, Deathstroke wants to go back in time to save his son Ravager a.k.a. Grant Wilson. He blames the Titans for the death due to their involvement in the event, even though they’re not really responsible. So after learning about the Speed Force and its ability to send speedsters through time, he harvests that power from Kid Flash after winning over his trust.

That being said, we get a speedster Deathstroke, which is just really f’n cool!

Anyway, the story starts off with a bang and it brings in both the Teen Titans and adult Titans teams to deal with the threat. While it focuses mainly on a close knit group of main characters, all the others do get involved but mostly stay in the background, only adding their two cents when its needed to advance the plot or give a larger perspective.

However, even though the management of characters is well handled initially, this does become more of a convoluted mess as it gets towards the end. It just feels like there is too much going on and despite this having a lot of characters, it starts out feeling like a smaller, personal story.

Overall, this is still pretty good and all three writers (Christopher Priest, Dan Abnett and Benjamin Percy) did a good job working together.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the old Teen Titans story The Judas Contract, as well as Deathstroke/Teen Titans: The Terminus Agenda.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 7

Published: February 24th, 2010 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Ron Wagner, William Johnson, Arvell Jones, Marshall Rogers, Tony Salmons
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 235 Pages

Review:

I read through the first six volumes of the classic G.I. Joe comics run pretty quickly, several months ago. So I took a lengthy break to read a lot of other stuff before coming back to it. There are fifteen volumes in total, so I’m now about halfway.

This collection takes place around the time where almost all the iconic characters were going through redesigns. This also features a lot of the characters that debuted in G.I. Joe: The Movie. What I consider the truly classic era is pretty much over by this point, as we get the battle armor Cobra Commander, the gold headed Destro, as well as Jinx, Chuckles and other Joes from that time frame.

As far as the cartoon and the toyline, this is where things started to decline. However, in comic book form, this era ain’t half bad and I really enjoyed Larry Hama’s stories here.

The first big arc deals with Stalker and a couple other Joes who have been captured and are being held captive in a concentration camp in a fictional country ruled by a communist dictator. The story here is pretty dark. Granted, it’s not as dark as it could be but this is a comic written for pre-teen boys as a marketing vehicle to sell toys.

We also have the death of the original Cobra Commander in this collection, as well as the rise of the second Cobra Commander, the man who murdered the original. Tied into that is the continued story of the first Commander’s son, Billy. He continues to train under the Arashikage ninja arts with his teachers Storm Shadow and Jinx.

I guess the best part of the story, at least for me, is where Snake Eyes and Scarlett fake their own deaths in order to recuse their friends from the concentration camp. This does a great job of strengthening their bond, as well as giving us some solid character development for my favorite G.I. Joe couple, Flint and Lady Jaye.

This collection ends kind of open ended but that’s how these volumes go, as each one strictly covers ten issues. I think the last few volumes get a bit shorter though.

Ultimately, this was another solid string of stories in the ongoing G.I. Joe saga. It propels things forward, gives us some new material that feels fresh and has me hopeful for the other volumes that follow.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Vids I Dig 098: Comic Tropes: Rare ‘G.I. Joe’ Comics

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: This video is part of Cobra Convergence, a yearly event where content creators focus on G.I. Joe and their enemy, Cobra. This year, I take a look at some fairly uncommon comics. A European version of G.I. Joe that takes on a splinter sect of Cobra and is tied to the Marvel superhero universe; a G.I. Joe book illustrated by Todd McFarlane that Marvel decided to completely redo by another artist; and the origins of G.I. Joe’s Russian counterparts, the Oktober Guard.

Comic Review: Planet of Vampires

Published: 1975
Written by: Larry Hama, John Albano
Art by: Pat Broderick, Frank McLaughlin, Russ Heath, Neal Adams (cover), Dick Giordano (cover), Larry Lieber (cover)

Atlas/Seaboard Comics, 96 Pages

Review:

Since Atlas/Seaboard Comics only lasted for a year or so, I’ve been trying to round up as many of them as I can. This series was the first one that I completed, so I wanted to give it a proper review.

What drew me to it was both the premise and the fact that it was written by Larry Hama. Granted, Hama only wrote the first issue, so that was a bit of a disappointment when I got to issue numero dos.

Another disappointment was that the third issue, the series’ last, is not a final issue or a conclusion to the story. It leaves you anticipating a fourth issue but one never came. So like all great things in my life, this ended on an unresolved cliffhanger.

But let’s be positive!

The cover art of the first issue was done by Neal Adams and man, it’s a dynamic, energetic and colorful image that hits the right notes for me. If I was a kid in 1975 (3 years before my birth) I would’ve been all over this book like I was all over Image Comics in 1992.

What I really dug about this is that Earth in this story felt a lot like the movie version of Logan’s Run, except overrun by vampires. What’s cool about that is that this comic was out a year before that film.

The story sees astronauts return to Earth from a mission that kept them in space for several years. Upon returning, the Earth looks like it was ravaged by war. The newly arrived astronauts are saved from ravenous humans but soon find out that their heroic hosts are alien vampires that farm humans for blood.

On paper, this comic has just about everything I could want in a ’70s, pulpy, sci-fi, horror story. It was like Buck Rogers meets Hammer Horror.

However, despite the fun story, solid art and my engagement in both of those things, it was pretty sad that it didn’t have a proper conclusion.

I’ve heard negative things about the quality of Atlas Comics’ releases but had they finished this tale, it would be considered a fairly satisfying comic.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Atlas/Seaboard comic releases.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: Silent Option

Published: September 19th, 2018 – March 13th, 2019
Written by: Larry Hama, Ryan Ferrier
Art by: Netho Diaz, Kenneth Loh
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 151 Pages

Review:

This four-part miniseries is the latest G.I. Joe story from longtime G.I. Joe writer Larry Hama. It is also the first IDW G.I. Joe story that I’ve read in several months, as I was starting to get burnt out on the franchise due to how IDW has handled it since Chuck Dixon and Mike Costa left the series.

Larry Hama is still writing the regular ongoing series that started at Marvel in the early ’80s but it just doesn’t have the same magic it used to and so much has changed for the worse that I don’t much care for Hama’s ongoing continuity even though his work, decades ago, is what initially got me into buying comic books to begin with.

I wanted to check this out, though. The main reason is that I’ve been yearning for a good G.I. Joe story and this miniseries is centered around Helix, a modern character but one I came to love in the IDW rebooted continuity. I know, I know, these multiple continuities can get confusing but I believe that this is technically Helix’s first appearance in the original Hama continuity, so I wanted to see how it played out.

Overall, her story was good but this complete story arc was pretty mundane. I’m an old school fan, so the lack of Cobra in this story sucked, as did the lack of old school Joes. Sure, the story featured Firefly but the villain was generic and just had some red ninjas to do her bidding and on the Joe side we got Alpine and tiny cameos from Hawk, Cutter and Shipwreck but this was pretty much a new Joe team featuring characters that are poor recreations of iconic Joe members.

Hell, we get two new versions of Snake Eyes here but neither of them are even 5 percent as cool as the original. I don’t dig the girl Snake Eyes and it seems like a cheap attempt by IDW at trying to create their own X-23 type of character. For those that don’t know, X-23 was a female clone of Wolverine in Marvel Comics titles.

I thought the art was mostly good and this had a harder edge to it than most of Hama’s G.I. Joe stories, as it dealt with human sex trafficking, but it lacked in badass points when compared to the Dixon and Costa G.I. Joe stories from the IDW reboot continuity.

This wasn’t a complete waste of time but it didn’t do much to motivate me to give G.I. Joe a seventeenth chance.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: any of the Larry Hama G.I. Joe stuff at IDW.

Comic Review: Generic Comic Book

Published: April, 1984
Written by: Steve Skeates, Larry Hama (editor)
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 22 Pages

Review:

Whew! This was a terrible comic. And oddly, it came to me as a recommendation.

Apparently, this was just a one-shot that served as some sort of legal scheme for Marvel to attempt to trademark the words “super-hero” and “super-villain”.

The comic is exactly what it says, “generic”. It’s actually generic as hell, boring, drab, unimaginative and a dud in every way.

This wasn’t a bad concept though, had Marvel actually done something cool with this and maybe cared about the project even a smidgen. They could have made this over the top, fun and actually invented some characters that could have gone on to exist as in-jokes within regular Marvel continuity.

But as is probably for the best, these characters never see the light of day again and this book is pretty damn forgettable.

I’m glad I own it though, as it’s just really odd and I like having oddball shit in my comic collection. At the very least, it’s a conversation piece.

Apparently, Larry Hama was the editor on this but I’ll forgive him as he was killing it on G.I. Joe at the same time.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: experimental Marvel schlock of the early ’80s.