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: The Fall of the Mutants

Published: 1988
Written by: Chris Claremont, Peter David, Louise Simonson, Steve Englehart, Mark Gruenwald, Ann Nocenti
Art by: Marc Silvestri, Todd McFarlane, Bret Blevins, June Brigman, Kerry Gammill, Jon Bogdanove, Kieron Dwyer, Keith Pollard, John Romita Jr., Walt Simonson

Marvel Comics, 803 Pages

Review:

This was a story so big that it was collected into two massive volumes. But I figured I’d read both and give the whole thing a single review, as one body of work.

But that may have not been the best approach, as this crossover doesn’t really crossover in a way that makes one big story. This is more like an anthology of events that were going on in all the different X-books at the same time. And weirdly, this isn’t collected in chronological order but as separate stories without much overlap or characters meeting.

This big event also has some short stories focused on Hulk, Captain America, Daredevil, Black Widow and the Fantastic Four. In those tales, it shows what they’re up to during the events of what is happening in some of the X-books.

The Fall of the Mutants takes place between Mutant Massacre and Inferno. It is also the last of the ’80s X-Men crossovers that I hadn’t read in its entirety.

Out of all the tales here, I thought the X-Factor one was probably the best as it concludes the Apocalypse and Angel storyline, as it introduces Archangel for the first time. Also, the X-Factor arc showcases Cameron Hodge turning on the team, revealing his true agenda to set up what would eventually be the superb crossover event X-Tinction Agenda.

The New Mutants part was the weirdest but it also featured Hodge’s heel turn and kind of sets things in motion for X-Tinction Agenda and Inferno. This is also where the New Mutants dump Magneto as their teacher and return to the ways of Charles Xavier.

Ultimately, this was kind of a mess when read as one body of work. But it does do a proper job of bridging the gap from Mutant Massacre and the next two big events to follow.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other major X-Men crossover events from the ’80s and ’90s.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 6 & 7: Final Execution – Books I & II

Published: April 10th, 2013, August 29th, 2013
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Mike McKone, Phil Noto, Julian Totino Tedesco, Jerome Opena, David Williams

Marvel Comics, 271 Pages

Review:

Well, I have finally reached the end of Rick Remender’s highly respected Uncanny X-Force run.

I’ve got to say that this end was fairly satisfying and that the series, as a whole, was good. However, I don’t quite feel the same about it as many of the others who hyped it up for me. I mean, I’ve only heard great things about it. But I wouldn’t call it great, I’d just call it good, sometimes solid but sometimes aimless. Or, at least, sometimes it felt aimless.

And I guess that some of what seemed aimless wasn’t but not all of those things were resolved and some of them didn’t really seem to have much of a point when looking at the whole picture.

The series, I thought, ended up putting so much emphasis on Psylocke that this didn’t feel like a team book. It felt like a Psylocke book with recurring side characters. That’s not to say that Wolverine, Archangel, Nightcrawler, Fantomex, Deadpool, etc. weren’t pretty involved in the proceedings but it’s to say that sometimes I forgot they were involved unless I was reminded by them showing up in a panel.

Ultimately, this is a neat series with an ending that tied up the important bits but I don’t feel like it adds much to the X-Men mythos and that it spent more time trying to be edgy and cool than actually trying to better the X-franchise.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the earlier volumes in Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.

Comic Review: X-Men: Mutant Massacre

Published: 1986
Written by: Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson, Ann Nocenti
Art by: John Romita Jr., Walter Simonson, Sal Buscema

Marvel Comics, 319 Pages

Review:

Well, not all giant X-Men crossover events can be created equal.

This one started off with a bang though. Sadly, it withered away in the second half, as it crossed over into non-X-Men-related titles and became a narrative clusterfuck that slowed down the story’s momentum to a complete halt.

The main reason I wanted to read this was to have a bit of background context before jumping into the following big event The Fall of the Mutants. While I had never read either crossover in their entirety, I had read parts and I knew that the stories had a very close association.

The focal point of the story shows the Marauders invading the Morlocks’ sewer hideout where they murder the shit out of them. Only a few actually survive and that’s mostly due to the X-Men, X-Factor and the New Mutants involving themselves in the ordeal.

As this collection rolls on, the story spins off into issues of Thor, Daredevil and Power Pack. This is where the narrative starts to become a mess. And once we get to this point, a lot of the issues rehash some of the same shit, over and over.

What I was excited to see was Apocalypse show up and the actual breaking of Angel. I thought that he would actually be turned into Archangel in this story but I guess that happens just after, which was kind of disappointing, as I’ve never got to read that actual story. I assumed it would happen here once Angel had his wings destroyed and was nailed to the sewer wall with about half the story left.

There were a lot of deaths in this but none that really hold any weight or matter to the bigger picture.

But I guess this helped plant the seed for The Fall of the Mutants and the introduction of both Archangel and Mister Sinister.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other big X-Men crossover events from the ’80s and ’90s.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 5: Otherworld

Published: November 21st, 2012
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Phil Noto, Billy Tan, Greg Tocchini, Dean White

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

Coming off of a pretty big epic story that took up two separate trade paperbacks, this chapter in Rick Remender’s X-Force run was still entertaining but also sort of a bridge between the The Dark Angel Saga and the finale (also spread over two TPBs) Final Execution.

This sort of wraps up some of the stuff from the previous saga while building towards a big crescendo.

The bulk of the story takes place in Otherworld where Captain Britain leads his own corps. It pits twin sister, Psylocke, against twin brother, Captain Britain, while also throwing in their older brother Jamie Braddock Jr.

This also further develops Fantomex’s character, as well as his relationship with Psylocke.

If I’m being honest, things happen here to set the stage for the finale but ultimately, this was kind of boring when compared to the previous chapters. It seems to tap into a lot of Excalibur nostalgia. Now I did like that comic series, as well as Captain Britain, but I never read enough of it and it’s been a really long time.

Still, if you’ve made it this far into Remender’s mostly solid run, this is a necessary step on the way to the big, two-part finale.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 3 & 4: The Dark Angel Saga – Books I & II

Published: May 23rd, 2012 (Vol. 3), August 15th, 2012 (Vol. 4)
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Rich Elson, Billy Tan, Mark Brooks, Scot Eaton, Andrew Currie, Andrew Hennessy, Jerome Opena, Robbi Rodriguez, Dean White

Marvel Comics, 274 Pages (total)

Review:

This is the big story arc where this highly regarded comic series really came together for me. I was patient, I liked the build of the two volumes before this and I was happy to discover that this was going somewhere solid.

The Dark Angel Saga is broken out into two volumes but I’m reviewing it as one body of work because that’s the best way to talk about it and because these Uncanny X-Force TPBs are too short.

Overall, the story reminds me of the late ’80s/early ’90s X-Men crossover events. This is actually smaller in scale and didn’t crossover with multiple books but it just had that feel, as the story itself is pretty grandiose. And frankly, I’m surprised it was contained in just one comic.

Rick Remender had a vision for this title and this is where that truly becomes clear.

This is a team made up of several characters I love, as well as Fantomex, who I didn’t know before this but have grown to like over the course of this comic.

The focus of the story is on the continued inner turmoil of Angel/Archangel. Now that Apocalypse is dead, his body and mind are slipping into darkness, as he is supposed to evolve into the next Apocalypse.

The story also takes us into the dimension from the Age of Apocalypse epic. Our X-Force team finds allies in the X-Men team of that dimension, which adds some really cool subplots to the story, as characters are reunited and some are very different than their regular versions.

The Dark Angel Saga is well choreographed and written, balancing a ton of characters, introducing new ones but still giving us something pretty focused that tells its story well and isn’t bogged down by a large ensemble and the problems that come with that.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.

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.