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.

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-Men: Second Coming

Published: June 22nd, 2011
Written by: Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Matt Fraction, Zeb Wells, Mike Carey
Art by: David Finch, Terry Dodson, Ibraim Roberson, Greg Land, Mike Choi, Rachel Dodson, Sonia Oback

Marvel Comics, 360 Pages

Review:

I went into this thinking that I would like it for the most part. The events that precede it were pretty good reads. What I didn’t expect was to be blown away. But in the end, I have to say, this was one of the absolute best X-Men crossover events that I have ever experienced. Seriously, this was nothing short of superb.

More than anything, this story made me love Cable more than ever and it got me to love Hope Summers, who I would say is one of the best characters to come out of the last decade, even though she previously appeared as a baby before this in Messiah Complex.

This had a lot going on in the story but there was room for it all. Plus, all the key players were well balanced throughout and it gave most of the top characters a real purpose and mission.

There are real consequences in this story, as some key X-Men figures die. Granted, one could argue that those consequences are never real because no one truly dies in comics and the two biggest victims of this story are already alive and well, once again. But despite that, it felt like a real blow within this narrative. It didn’t lose its impact knowing that they’d eventually be back.

Second Coming carries all the doom and gloom of Messiah Complex over and it brings more doom and gloom but it ends in a way that finally sees a glimmer of “hope” appear in the darkest time of the X-Men franchise. I don’t want to spoil too much because I’d rather people give this a read.

Being that this is a crossover event, there is a mix of art styles. All of it works for me though, even if there are noticeable style shifts from chapter to chapter. Ultimately, the tone stays about the same from beginning to end.

This is a fairly long read but none of it is boring or filler. It moves at a brisk pace, keeps you engaged and makes you cheer for these heroes in a way that you haven’t since the early ’90s.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the stories that precede it: Avengers Disassembled, House of M and X-Men: The Messiah Complex, as well as the one this leads up to: Avengers Vs. X-Men.

TV Review: Legion (2017- )

Original Run: February 8th, 2017 – current
Created by: Noah Hawley
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Legion by Chris Claremont, Bill Sienkiewicz
Music by: Jeff Russo
Cast: Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Bill Irwin, Jeremie Harris, Amber Midthunder, Katie Aselton, Jean Smart, Navid Negahban, Jemaine Clement, Hamish Linklater

26 Keys Productions, The Donners’ Company, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Kinberg Genre, Marvel Television, FX Productions, 20th Television, 19 Episodes (so far), 44-68 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

With two seasons in the bag, that bag is a mixed one.

Legion is a mindfuck of biblical proportions. And while that works for the show, it also works against it.

The problem with Legion is that if you zone out or miss something for five minutes, you’re totally lost and it’s hard to reel yourself back in.

This show has some very strong positives, however. The cast, for the most part, is f’n stellar. Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza are exceptionally fantastic in this. But I can’t dismiss the work of Rachel Keller, Jean Smart and the always entertaining Jemaine Clement. All the other players deliver as well.

Legion also has great cinematography, set design and sort of exists in a very vivid world that is one part fantastical and one part realistic. There is a balance in the show in storytelling, style and overall tone between the fantastical and the real. It works quite well, as long as you don’t get lost in the details and the weirdness of what’s unfolding on screen.

But with all those positives, the show is also hard to watch at times. For me, it gets too strange at certain parts and the narrative gets lost in the weirdness, just as the viewer might.

Point being, this can be a very confusing show and sometimes details come so fast that you might not grasp them all. What may look profound on paper, in this case the script, might not translate well to screen. It doesn’t matter that the screen is littered with a visual smorgasbord of incredible and creative images. It almost feels like all that stuff distracts from the most important thing that this show needs: story. And not just story but a coherent story that flows at a proper pace and doesn’t come across as some dreamlike clusterfuck.

I wish that this show would find a way to tighten up it’s superficial bullshit and be a bit more accessible because ultimately, it can continue to be a total mindfuck but it won’t maintain an audience and generate the ratings it would need to continue.

Legion isn’t beyond fixing but after two seasons, I kind of don’t care about it anymore. With season one, I was able to look past the flaws because it was so nice to look at but season two was tough to get through and every time a new episode popped up, it felt like a chore I had to push through.

This should be better and it can be better but it almost feels pretentious in a lot of ways and I hate saying that but it’s definitely putting art over substance and that doesn’t work too well in television, where people have to be enticed to keep coming back.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other recent Marvel shows: The GiftedThe Runaways and Cloak & Dagger.

Comic Review: Cable & The New Mutants

Published: 1992
Written by: Louise Simonson
Art by: Rob Liefeld

Marvel Comics, 154 Pages

Review:

Being that Cable is going to make his live action debut in Deadpool 2, I wanted to pick up an old collection that I bought back when I was still in middle school in 1992.

This book kicks off with Cable’s first appearance in The New Mutants #87. It then collects the six issues after it, where Cable takes the teenage mutant team under his wing and eventually turns them into X-Force, who would then get one of the best-selling series of its time.

Cable was created by Rob Liefeld, just before he gave us Deadpool. The two characters have been sort of locked together since the early ’90s and it all started right here.

The story kicks off with Cable fighting the Mutant Liberation Front and also gives us the first appearance of their leader, Stryfe. We also see Freedom Force, a group of villains somehow employed by the government. I completely forgot about Freedom Force but then quickly remembered how much I loved Pyro and the Blob in their roles within the group.

The series of seven issues collected here has a lot of cameos. You get to see the original X-Factor team, Caliban, the Morlocks, Sabretooth, Wolverine, Legion, Moira MacTaggert and Sunfire.

Picking this up, so many years later was fun. It obviously wasn’t as good as my young brain thought it was back in the day. However, it’s still a good introduction to Cable and Stryfe and the real starting point of all the events that would eventually lead to the big X-Cutioner’s Song mega event which spanned all of the X-Men titles at the time. This is also a milestone in that it closes out the long running New Mutants series and brings about the genesis of X-Force.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Rob Liefeld’s run on X-Force.