Friday, April 17, 2015

X-MEN FOREVER 2 #11 - January 2011

The Gathering Storm
Credits:  Chris Claremont (writer), Rodney Buchemi (pencils), Greg Adams (inks), Wilfredo Quintana (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters)
Summary:  The Ghost Panther attacks the plane taking the captive ‘Ro from Japan to Wakanda.  ‘Ro awakens in the Genoshan underground.  Lockheed, who has secretly followed her the entire time, is there.  Callisto and the Ghost Panther explain to ‘Ro that’s she’s needed to stop Perfect Storm.  Meanwhile, the X-Men meet inside the Starjammer in Summers Cove.  Shadowcat reveals that she traveled to Japan to find Wolverine’s clone.  Using the Starjammer’s technology, Havok tracks ‘Ro to Genosha.
Continuity Notes:
  • The narrative captions refer to Ghost Panther as a “he” -- which is a cheat given future revelations.
  • Havok says that he’s still officially a Genoshan magistrate, which will enable the X-Men to search Genosha for ‘Ro.  Whether or not Havok and Polaris are supposed to be members of X-Factor in this reality is never clear.
Creative Differences: Apparently, the originally solicited cover for this issue was scrapped and used in issue #13.

Review:  The glacial pacing has returned, even though the title is only a few issues away from cancellation.  Almost half of the issue is devoted to getting ‘Ro from Japan to Genosha, all to learn that she’s to play an unrevealed role in the next issue.  The opening fight scene with Ghost Panther runs a little long, but that’s somewhat forgivable considering Claremont’s using this opportunity to sell the ruse that Ghost Panther is somehow a resurrected Black Panther.  But the pages wasted on ‘Ro being shackled for no reason by the Morlocks in Genosha, and then escaping and sneaking around their base, are inexcusable.  Ghost Panther, Callisto, and the Morlocks are on ‘Ro’s side.  That’s made clear in the opening scene, then repeated explicitly by Callisto after ‘Ro is “caught.”  There’s no reason for her to be shackled, other than to kill a few more pages before the issue’s over.
And the pages that aren’t devoted to ‘Ro consist of the various cast members talking about ‘Ro.  Numerous pages in the story are spent on Perfect Storm in Wakanda and the X-Men in Alaska discussing events we’ve already seen, developing theories, and then making plans for the future.  The most grating scene has Mariko condescendingly mocking Perfect Storm for losing ‘Ro, since Claremont has somehow decided that Mariko should now have the White Queen’s speech pattern.  Even if Claremont intended this to be a possessed, brainwashed, or evil doppelganger version of Mariko, this wouldn't be any less annoying, since the title has already seen so many “evil” versions of established characters suddenly appear.

The only genuine human interaction in the issue comes from Shadowcat’s revelation to the team that Sinister made a Wolverine clone, and even that seems needlessly melodramatic.  (Surely the X-Men are used to the concept of cloning by now.)  It’s not as if Claremont hasn’t already set up around eighty other plots in this title so far; maybe a few of them could’ve received this attention instead?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

X-MEN FOREVER 2 #10 - December 2010

Friends -- No More!
Credits:  Chris Claremont (writer), Mike Grell (pencils), Nelson & Hennessy (inks), Veronica Gandini (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters)
Summary:  Wolverine’s clone interrupts the meeting between Silver Samurai and Matsuo, and after he kills their guards he quickly turns his attention towards Shadowcat and ‘Ro.  Shadowcat uses her powers to escape, taking ‘Ro to a bullet train.  Wolverine tracks them but is pushed out of the train with Lockheed’s help.  Shadowcat and ‘Ro are arrested when the train stops and later bailed out by Mariko.  They soon learn, however, that Mariko is now the leader of the Consortium, and by extension, SHIELD.  Gambit and Jean Grey suddenly arrive to rescue their teammates, but during their fight, Mariko sneaks away with ‘Ro.  Via satellite, Matsuo offers a partnership to Perfect Storm, who’s persuaded when she discovers the Consortium now has ‘Ro.  Meanwhile in Genosha, Ghost Panther meets with Dr. Strange.
Continuity Notes:
  • The recap page claims that the cloned Wolverine wants his adamantium claw “back” from Shadowcat.  I don’t recall this as his stated motivation in the previous issues, but he does mention it in the actual story this time.
  • To escape Wolverine, Shadowcat uses her powers to somehow phase within the earth’s rotation and essentially teleport, the same stunt she used in Wolverine #125 that drove people nuts.
  • Ziggy Trask blames the X-Men for the death of her mother…but wasn’t her mother watching over her in the hospital just a few issues ago?  Apparently, this was a misdirection.  Amelia, not Ziggy, was actually the female in the hospital bed and Mariko was the mystery woman watching over her.
  • The Consortium have a power neutralizer that they use against the X-Men during their fight this issue.  How long it’s supposed to last isn’t established.
Review:  Yeah, I think the Wolverine clone has overstayed his welcome by now.  I can understand why Claremont would use him just to tease the idea that perhaps Wolverine isn’t dead, but that cliffhanger was several issues ago (and wasn’t very convincing anyway), so why is he still around?  His previous motivation was that as a dark copy of Wolverine he desired to kill anyone close to Logan, which is fine, but now he’s babbling about taking back that adamantium claw from Kitty's body -- how could he even do that, and what would he do with the claw even if he retrieved it?  The only real conflict he introduces into the story is Kitty’s angst over whether or not she can bring herself to kill the clone, assuming she's physically able in the first place, and that idea is barely touched upon during the issue.  I didn’t mind the diversion with Clonverine in the previous issue, but it’s clear now that the book has much more pressing issues to attend to.

As for the Yashida Clan/Hand/Consortium alliance…where is this coming from?  The idea actually does have promise, in the sense that it is fun when Claremont pulls from the various corners of X-canon, but the execution has been far too rushed to give the development any impact.  Getting the characters to this point so quickly requires the reader to ignore anything we know about Mariko, who was last seen pledging to break her family’s ties to organized crime and prove herself worthy to Wolverine.  In the space of a few pages, her family has sealed an alliance with the Hand, and apparently joined the Consortium on the same day, all based on her jealousy over Wolverine and Jean’s affair.  An affair that only consisted of one kiss on the beach, by the way, a kiss Mariko couldn’t reasonably know about.  (Also, Wolverine was more than friends with Tyger Tiger during the early issues of his solo series -- was Claremont plotting a jilted lover story with Mariko all the way back then?)  This isn’t the only problem with the plot development; how does joining the Consortium automatically give Mariko authority over Ziggy Trask?  Why is Ziggy already having inner monologues about her desire to overthrow Mariko?  Isn’t this something she would’ve had a say in before it happened?  How exactly is Mariko going to be taking over SHIELD?   Even if Claremont’s new interpretation of Mariko is an intentional feint, like “Evil Storm” from the earlier issues, that wouldn’t address all of the wonky plotting this issue.  After a run of entertaining issues that read smoothly and stayed true to the premise of the book, we’re now back to some of that rushed, muddled storytelling that marred the earlier issues of the title.

Monday, April 13, 2015

X-MEN FOREVER 2 #9 - December 2010

Blood Debt!
Credits:  Chris Claremont (writer), Mike Grell (pencils), Nelson (inks), Veronica Gandini (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters)
Summary:  Shadowcat has a nightmare about Wolverine’s clone returning to Summers Cove and killing her friends.  Convinced the clone is still alive, she uses the Starjammer’s technology to track him down.  She discovers he sailed to Japan on a stolen fishing boat.  Shadowcat sneaks away in the Starjammer’s skimmer, unaware that ‘Ro and Lockheed are inside.  She travels to Japan to warn Mariko that she could be the clone’s next target.  Instead of finding Mariko, Shadowcat discovers the Silver Samurai forming an alliance with Matsuo of the Hand.  Meanwhile in the mansion, Mystique trains with Nightcrawler and Rogue, while Cyclops suffers a head injury while playing basketball with Daisy.  The injury unlocks his childhood memory of Robyn Hanover.
Continuity Notes:
  • The recap page claims that Mr. Sinister is suffering from Burnout, which would seem to directly contradict information given in previous issues.
  • Jean Grey is staying with Gambit, ‘Ro, and Lockheed in Alaska to be with Shadowcat while she recovers from her injuries.  The ending of the previous issue didn’t make clear that she would be a part of this group.
  • Jean notices that Robyn Hanover has unusually strong mental barriers.
  • Mike Grell draws Wolverine’s claws extremely off-model.  Instead of coming from his knuckles, they extract from his wrist.
  • Mystique’s (extremely gaudy) new costume debuts.  She also has pupils now for some reason.
  • Daisy refers to Sabretooth as “Victor,” indicating that Claremont has accepted the real name given the character after he left the title.
Review:  It’s hard to complain about getting Mike Grell as a fill-in artist, but that off-model Wolverine is difficult to overlook.  Although, looking at the cover of the next issue, I see that Tom Grummett is also drawing Wolverine’s claws extracting from the wrist, so who knows where this is originating from.  It’s a strange move to make (why change where Wolverine’s claws appear now after all these years?), almost as unfathomable as the decision to change Mystique’s classic costume into this bizarre gold-plated ‘70s stripper/Bond Girl ensemble.  And Mystique with pupils always looks wrong to me.  The movies might be able to get away with it (live actors with no pupils might be excessively creepy), but I can’t understand why anyone would think this is acceptable in the comics.  Those are all fanboy complaints based on the way I’m used to seeing things, of course, and not a comment on the actual quality of the art.  It’s a nice looking issue, although it takes a few pages to adjust to the fact that Grell’s style is based more on traditional illustration and not superhero art.
The story continues the ongoing Shadowcat plot, which is probably my least favorite storyline from this series.  Kitty’s actually written rather well for the majority of the issue, I’ve just yet to hit a moment in the story that convinces me that turning her into a partial clone of Wolverine is a good idea.  The potential romance between Gambit and Kitty is also touched upon, with Gambit now deciding that he can’t get involved with Kitty while she’s going through an identity crisis.  I’m not sure if there ever was a real point behind bringing them together, aside from Claremont just proving that he can because this is a new continuity, but I suppose this offers some insight into Claremont’s characterization of Gambit.  He’s certainly not Dirtbag Gambit, unless Claremont intends a major fakeout later.  Honestly, if this is the end of their flirting, I’m perfectly okay with that.  The story might initially seem needlessly decompressed, given that it opens with a six-page dream sequence, but the pace picks up admirably and Claremont packs enough into the issue to make it pretty satisfying.  Probably the weakest moment of the issue would be the quick check-in on the mansion, which brings us a ridiculous scene of Cyclops spontaneously remembering who Robyn Hanover is after getting fouled in basketball.  I really have no words for this.  It’s not ridiculous enough to affect my judgment of the entire issue, but it is one of the most awkwardly composed scenes during the entire run of this series.

Friday, April 10, 2015

X-FACTOR FOREVER #5 - September 2010

Collateral Damage
Credits:  Louise Simonson (writer), Dan Panosian & Eric Nguyen (art), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Jim Charalampidis (colorist)

Summary:  Apocalypse interrupts X-Factor’s battle with Mr. Sinister.  After using Sinister’s technology, he’s convinced Christopher isn’t Sinister’s creation.  He gives the infant to Cyclops and tells him to present Christopher to the Celestials.  X-Factor leaves inside Ship, while Apocalypse and Caliban stay behind to face Sinister’s army.  Sinister’s base explodes, killing everyone inside.  X-Factor arrives in Manhattan and gives Christopher to the Celestials, who judge him favorably.  Unexpectedly, the Celestials teleport away to Genosha.  After reading Apocalypse’s journal, recently unearthed by Ship, X-Factor realizes that the Celestials will destroy Genosha, as they eliminated Lemuria years earlier.  The Celestials eradicate Genosha and then teleport away.  With Ship’s help, X-Factor rescues hundreds of Genoshan citizens.

“Huh?” Moment:  The Celestials’ positive judgment is represented by a literal “thumbs up.”

Review:  I realize that everything is written for the trade these days, but there are two major plot points in the main story that make no sense unless you’ve read every chapter of the miniseries so far.  Just to be clear, the Celestials judge Christopher worthy (he’s a “talisman” according to Apocalypse) because he’s the first viable offspring of mutants created with no outside interference.  Next, the Celestials destroy Genosha due to Sinister’s genetic manipulation of its populace, a practice that offends the Celestials.  (Strongly, it would seem.)  If you’ve read every issue leading up to the finale, you can infer these points, but it’s surprising that Simonson doesn’t spell them out in greater detail.  

Ultimately, Apocalypse gets to play the role of hero, even though Cyclops is quick to point out that he always has an angle and most likely isn’t dead, nor was Apocalypse purely altruistic in the first place.  X-Factor Forever turns to be a fairly interesting Apocalypse story, and even though I’m still apathetic towards the Celestials, I have to say that providing Apocalypse with a more coherent motive is a step in the right direction.  Simply establishing that he’s obsessed with “survival of the fittest” but never really saying why has always done the villain a disservice.  

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I think Simonson’s character subplots were the true highlight of her run, so I’m a bit disappointed that supporting cast members like Opal were shunted offstage so quickly.  I don’t know if there was an alternate way to structure the story, but I wish Simonson could’ve found a better balance between the fight scenes and the character moments.  While I’m also speaking in hypotheticals, I’ll mention again how disappointing it is that Dan Panosian couldn’t pencil the entire issue.  He only shows up for seven pages this issue, which is especially frustrating considering that this is an out-of-continuity miniseries.  Was there no way for Marvel to wait on Panosian to pencil the entire book?  Why not wait until the series is finished before soliciting it?

The Apocalypse Journal V
Credits:  Louise Simonson (writer), Aluir Almancino (penciler), Terry Austin (inker), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Dan Jackson (colorist)

Summary:  Fearing that mutants cannot reproduce, Apocalypse creates his Four Horsemen to give mutantkind an edge.  When the Celestials unexpectedly call upon Ship to leave Earth, Apocalypse fears that their judgment is coming centuries ahead of schedule.  He leaves X-Factor his journal, telling them that the future is in their hands.

Continuity Note:  The Celestials called Ship away from Earth in X-Factor’s “Judgment Day” storyline.

Review:  While the earlier chapters provided an alternate origin for Apocalypse, the final “Apocalypse Journal” consists of recaps of late ‘80s X-continuity.  Not really a story so much as a brief summary of other stories.  Now that we’ve reached the final issue, I’ll mention something that’s bugged since these back-ups began.  As Apocalypse says this issue, he’s “force-grown” the development of mutants and now fears the Celestials’ judgment for creating a non-viable offshoot of humanity.  I’ve yet to read anything in this serial that indicates how Apocalypse is responsible for “fostering” mutantkind.  I haven’t gotten the sense that he knows how to mingle human DNA and breed mutants, only that he’s been taking care of the strong humans.  Maybe this is what Simonson meant by “strong” all along -- humans with the genetic potential for mutantcy within them.  As I’ve read it, however, Apocalypse took a liking to physically strong humans and kept them as his own tribe.  When other mutants appeared centuries later after the dawn of the Nuclear Age, Apocalypse was pleased, but he wasn’t directly responsible.  Now, maybe Simonson also meant that Apocalypse pushed humans towards developing that technology (he does mention breakthroughs in technology as one motivation for fostering war for centuries), but it’s not explicitly said during this serial.  It’s possible I just haven’t been reading in-between the lines and other readers picked up on points I considered too vague.  Regardless, for a serial dedicated to the origin of Apocalypse and an elucidation of his philosophy, I would’ve preferred more concrete answers.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

X-FACTOR FOREVER #4 - August 2010

Credits:  Louise Simonson (writer), Dan Panosian & Eric Nguyen (art), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Jim Charalampidis (colorist)

Summary:  Caliban speaks to X-Factor, offering some insight into Apocalypse’s motives.  He lures the team to Mr. Sinister’s hideout inside a decommissioned nuclear silo in Nebraska.  While Sinister and his cloned army are distracted by X-Factor, Apocalypse enters with Christopher.  Cyclops briefly burns his powers out fighting Sinister, but Marvel Girl encourages him to keep fighting and reaffirms that she loves him.

Continuity Notes:  
  • According to Caliban (who’s received this info from Apocalypse), mutants are unable to create viable offspring.  The few examples of healthy mutant offspring all involve magic or science, such as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.  As for Legion, Caliban dismisses him as insane and now comatose.  Legion was actually quite active at this point in continuity, which is set before “The Muir Island Saga.”
  • Caliban cites the way Marvel Girl’s powers repel Christopher’s as evidence that she is his biological mother.  The fact that Cyclops isn’t repelled by Christopher’s forcefield leads Caliban to believe that Christopher was genetically manipulated by Sinister. The idea that the mutant powers of relatives repel each other is news to me; based on Cyclops and Havok, I thought mutant relatives were immune to each other’s powers, which isn’t quite the same thing.
  • Sinister’s cloned army includes a brown-haired Cable and a white-haired Wolverine.  Marvel Girl’s powers bounce off Cable; Sinister says this proves that Cable is Nathan (Christopher) all grown up.

Review:  Okay, more fight scenes, and more monologues intended to convince the reader that mutants can’t make babies, even though we’ve seen mutants make some babies before.  (Well, I guess we haven’t actually seen it, outside of a MAX book.)  To be fair to Simonson, it seems as if she’s already anticipated the readers’ counterarguments and is explaining away the exceptions to the rule pretty quickly.  (Claremont waited several issues before acknowledging the exceptions to Burnout, which is one of the reasons I had a difficult time buying into the premise initially.)  Since most of this exposition is delivered by Caliban, I had to pause and remind myself that Simonson’s Caliban wasn’t childlike and was pretty far removed from Jeph Loeb’s reinvention of the character.  His speech pattern does seem to have been toned down in order to deliver this info dump, however, and it’s hard not to notice that two issues in a row have consisted of characters making broad statements about mutantkind in the midst of fight scenes.  The only real emotion in the story is at the very end, when Jean spontaneously declares her love for Cyclops and inspires him to keep fighting.  The sentiment is nice, but the timing is questionable.  This all occurs in the middle of a fight scene, but judging by the staging, it would seem Sinister and his flunkies are just big softies since they stop the fight in order to give the lovebirds their space.  Ideally, this miniseries could’ve been structured in a way that enabled Scott and Jean to resolve their relationship issues over the course of more than one page.

Regarding the addition of Mr. Sinister, I confess that I had a bit of a fanboy moment this issue.  Sinister’s motivation for wiping out the Morlocks and other random mutants was never properly explained during the ‘80s.  While rereading the original “Mutant Massacre” issues a few weeks ago, I noticed that the only motive given in the actual storyline comes from the X-Men speculating that the Marauders want to “rule the world” and are eliminating mutants who might be in their way.  That’s rather lame, and I imagine it was only thrown in because Claremont just wanted to kill off the Morlocks and was going to come up with a story justification for it later.  This issue, Simonson has Sinister declare that his work will leave Earth “in human hands…where it belongs.”  Was this an idea Claremont and Simonson kicked around in the ‘80s?  Sinister is an anti-mutant human, one who uses mutant clones to wipe out the mutant population?  It might sound ridiculous now, but it does read as consistent with the way the Marauders were originally portrayed.  Whenever the Forever books come across as honest continuations of the old stories, that’s when they’re the most entertaining.

The Apocalypse Journal IV
Credits:  Louise Simonson (writer), Aluir Almancino (penciler), Terry Austin (inker), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Dan Jackson (colorist)

Summary:  Sinister grows impatient with Apocalypse’s slow, furtive attempts to advance evolution.  While Apocalypse is distracted, Sinister advances his own studies.  On the island of Genosha, he breeds more mutants and develops a way to enslave them.  Apocalypse realizes that Sinister resents his power and views mutants as a threat to humanity.  He imagines a future where Sinister’s actions threaten mutantkind.  

Review:  Apparently, Simonson introduced Sinister to use him as a foil for Apocalypse, the one who inspires him to ensure that mutants will rise above humans.  I don’t have a real problem with this, since I have to accept within the main story that Sinister is an anti-mutant bigot in the timeline Simonson’s created.  Ideally, Simonson’s Sinister would overlap more neatly with Claremont’s original plans for the character, but I recognize that’s a trivial thing to care about.  Simonson has also worked in an explanation for why Genosha had so many mutants, and it’s a rather painless one as far as continuity implants go.  (Plus, it’s a plot problem that I don’t recall anyone addressing in the past.)  Is any of this alternate continuity better than what we received in the mainstream universe?  Probably not, but there are moments that make you feel as if you’re getting the “real” origin of Apocalypse.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

X-FACTOR FOREVER #3 - July 2010

Unexpected Host
Credits:  Louise Simonson (writer), Dan Panosian & Eric Nguyen (art), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Jim Charalampidis (colorist)

Summary:  Various heroes appear in Manhattan and rescue civilians from the flood created by Arishem the Judge’s arrival.  X-Factor returns to Ship and discovers Caliban and Apocalypse inside.  Apocalypse reveals that Ship has sent a census of mutantkind to the Celestials and that their judgment is at hand.  He grabs Christopher away from Cyclops and flies away.

Continuity Notes:  
  • The various heroes that appear in the opening don’t exactly match their 1991 counterparts.  Iron Man and Thor have the wrong looks, for example, and Hulk is in his childlike “Hulk smash!” persona.  Medusa is also in Manhattan, for some reason.
  • During his battle with X-Factor, Apocalypse explains that he’s encouraged the growth of mutants for centuries, in the hopes that all humanity will be deemed worthy by the Celestials.  (“Humanity” defined as neither Eternal nor Deviant.)
  • Apocalypse is now claiming that no mutant has ever reproduced.  (Last issue, his theory was that no two mutants have created children together.)  Apocalypse fears that mutants' inability to procreate will cause the Celestials to judge against them.

Review:  It’s an all-action chapter, with a lengthy monologue by Apocalypse covering much of the fight scene.  This kind of economical storytelling was common during Simonson’s days at Marvel, and it suits this particular chapter pretty well.  The story doesn’t stop to dwell on the implications, but Simonson gives the reader enough information to begin to perceive Apocalypse’s previous actions in a different light.  He’s megalomaniacal, yes, but if his ultimate goal all along was to spare humanity the Celestials’ judgment, then he’s not such a one-note villain after all.  It’s hard to reconcile this idea with how the audience perceives Apocalypse today, but it’s worth remembering that Simonson’s Apocalypse didn’t have such a grandiose speech pattern (dramatized so well in the ‘90s animated series), and that she never portrayed him as the genocidal warlord seen in the “Age of Apocalypse.”  Her Apocalypse was more cryptic, and arguably, more human than the later interpretations.

The action this issue is mainly handled by Eric Nguyen, who seems to have improved since the previous chapter.  His art is reminiscent of Whilce Portacio’s more recent work, and while it’s occasionally stiff, there’s some personality here.  (Colorist Jim Charalampidis also deserves a lot of credit for the moody atmosphere he creates during the team’s fight in the dark against Caliban and Apocalypse.)  Most of Dan Panosian’s pages are in the opening, which gives him an opportunity to draw a variety of Marvel superheroes.  It’s like browsing through a really nice DeviantArt gallery for a few pages, which is fine by me.

The Apocalypse Journal III
Credits:  Louise Simonson (writer), Aluir Almancino (penciler), Terry Austin (inker), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Dan Jackson (colorist)

Summary:  Apocalypse continues to foster war, hoping that it will force humanity to grow stronger.  Growing lonely, he takes in the surviving ancestor of a family he admired in Atlantis.  Apocalypse experiments on the young man, Nathaniel Essex, slowing his aging and giving him the ability to change his form.

Review:  For reasons I don’t quite understand, the origin of Apocalypse is interrupted so that Mr. Sinister can waltz onstage.  Why exactly Simonson felt the need to incorporate Sinister into the story is a mystery to me.  The centuries-long connection between Apocalypse and Sinister is an invention of the Bob Harras-driven '90s, isn’t it?  I’ve never imagined her original plans for Apocalypse involved Sinister at all.  Regardless, Sinister is here to receive his third published origin in a Marvel comic.  And that’s only counting the ones I’m aware of.  Didn’t Earth X establish that Sinister was actually Colossus?  

Simonson’s origin leans a bit closer to the “official” origin revealed by Peter Milligan in the Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix miniseries.  Sinister is Nathaniel Essex, a human from Victorian England taken in by Apocalypse, as opposed to Claremont’s interpretation of a (presumably American) mutant scientist who cannot age.  Simonson tries to leave room for the hints dropped during “Inferno” to work, regarding Nathan as Cyclops’ childhood friend/bully, but the art botches the job.  Aluir Almancino’s interpretation of Nathan looks around twenty when we meet him in Victorian England, so it’s hard to imagine him passing for an eleven-year-old in an American orphanage decades later.  (In my ideal fanboy world, Almancino would’ve been given reference on Nathan’s appearance in those Classic X-Men back-ups before penciling the story.) Ultimately, it’s hard to justify this diversion, unless you happen to think Sinister is essential to Apocalypse’s backstory.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

X-FACTOR FOREVER #2 - June 2010

Credits:  Louise Simonson (writer), Dan Panosian & Eric Nguyen (art), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Jim Charalampidis (colorist)

Summary:  Apocalypse implants Cameron Hodge’s head into Master Mold’s remains to create Master Meld.  He teleports it into Manhattan, where X-Factor attends the birthday party for Charlotte’s son, Tim.  X-Factor defends the city from Master Meld while Apocalypse and Caliban break into Ship and search his database.  Master Meld is finally defeated when Iceman freezes Hodge’s head, but the team is in for another shock when a Celestial appears in the sky.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Cyclops ignites Tim’s birthday candles with his optic blasts, which is something he shouldn’t be able to do since his powers don’t generate heat.  (This mistake appears sporadically. Cyclops once melted a SHIELD agent's gun on a Captain America cover.)  Simonson does have someone point out that these are trick candles, but that doesn’t exactly cover for the mistake.
  • Apocalypse asks Caliban if any of the Morlocks gave birth to a mutant child.  He says it never happened, which supports Apocalypse’s theory that two mutants can’t create another mutant.  What about Nathan Christopher?  Apocalypse says that since his mother was a clone of a mutant, her genes could’ve been manipulated.
  • Baby Nathan (or Christopher, or Nathan Christopher) uses his long-forgotten ability to create a forcefield bubble when Master Meld attacks.  Marvel Girl’s telekinetic powers always repel his forcefield, for reasons no one quite understands.

Review:  The biggest disappointment this issue is discovering that Dan Panosian is missing for much of the page count.  Even though the inking style is fairly consistent, Eric Nguyen’s art is clearly not compatible with Panosian’s cartooning.  Nguyen’s work is in the vaguely realistic, modern day Photoshop style, while Panosian is obviously going for something else.  (Looking at Nguyen's DeviantArt page, he's certainly capable of going in a cartoony direction, so I'm not sure why this style was chosen.) I have no idea how many pages Panosian can finish a month, or what his deadline was, but it’s a shame that even with a back-up, he still isn’t penciling the entirety of the main story.

Speaking of which, Simonson uses the fight scene as a diversion (it’s right there in the title) while Apocalypse searches Ship’s database and provides some hints for the future.  Much like Claremont’s work in X-Men Forever, Simonson is using her series to make rather sweeping statements about the overall status of mutantkind.  Her premise is that mutants can’t reproduce, which is of some concern to Apocalypse, for reasons we’ll discover later.  I tend to dislike this kind of over-generalization; it’s like the writer is just begging the reader to punch as many holes as possible in the premise.  I will say that Simonson is easing into the premise and not overselling it, so I’m willing to see where this goes.  So far, the miniseries really does feel like a continuation of the original X-Factor run; there’s enough goodwill generated to give her the benefit of the doubt.

The Apocalypse Journal II
Credits:  Louise Simonson (writer), Aluir Almancino (penciler), Terry Austin (inker), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Dan Jackson (colorist)

Summary:  Apocalypse gains some control over Ship and travels around the Earth.  He gathers a group of humans he deems fit and takes them to the island of Atlantis, which is eventually invaded by the Deviants.  Apocalypse pits the Deviants against each other in retaliation, and begins to understand the value of evolution.

Review:  I’ve never read the original Eternals series, but I’m assuming this is Louise Simonson’s attempt to retcon Apocalypse “behind the scenes” of Kirby’s origin stories.  On a certain level, this is a defensible choice, since Ship always had a connection to the Celestials and Simonson exploited this fact in previous X-Factor stories.  So I have to acknowledge the decision to tie Apocalypse in with Eternals continuity isn’t totally arbitrary.  My personal bias as a reader hasn’t changed, however.  I’m not invested in the Eternals and Deviants, and when I discover facts like Apocalypse was the founder of Atlantis, I have no real response outside of “Uh, surrre….”  At least these info dumps are left as backup stories, and they are mercifully short.