Wednesday, March 3, 2010

ASKANI’SON #1-#4, February - May 1996

The Shadow Lengthens

Credits: Scott Lobdell (plot), Jeph Loeb (script), Gene Ha (penciler), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Kevin Somers & Malibu (colors)

This is more of a sequel to The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix than The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix turned out to be. The creative team of Scott Lobdell and Gene Ha is reunited, with Jeph Loeb relieving Lobdell of scripting duties. The story takes place a few years after the initial miniseries, presenting the world that’s developed after the death of Apocalypse. The New Canaanites run the corrupt government, a snotty teenage Cable is rebelling against the Askani teachings, and Apocalypse’s former aide Ch’vayre is trying to raise Stryfe. Since Cyclops and Phoenix, the retconned mentor Blaquesmith was introduced in Cable, making him a natural inclusion for the series. After Teen Cable and his friend Tetherblood are arrested for suspected ties to the Askani, they meet Blaquesmith in prison. Blaquesmith uses his mystic powers to release the Professor from Cable’s techno-organic mesh, and is apparently killed covering his escape. Meanwhile, a government official named Umbridge is assigned to apprehend Cable, while Stryfe and Ch’vayre create the Zero robot.

I’ve avoided reading this for years, as I’ve never cared for any of the stories about Cable’s future and I find pretty much anything relating to the Askani incredibly boring. Leaving my biases aside, I did find myself enjoying this issue. Revealing that Cable is angry after being abandoned by Redd and Slymm is a decent starting place, and I’m glad the story isn’t opening with him as the hardcore anti-Apocalypse rebel since we’ve already seen that a million times. The conflicts are set up well and there’s only a minimal amount of new age gibberish dialogue from the Askani. Ha’s art is successful in creating this new world, and it just feels like there’s more going on here than Cyclops and Phoenix, which sometimes felt aimless.

A Tiny Spark

Credits: Scott Lobdell (plot), Jeph Loeb (script), Gene Ha (penciler), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Kevin Somers & Malibu (colors)

The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix often seemed like an excuse for Gene Ha to show off his idiosyncratic design sense, and this issue follows slightly in those footsteps. However, there is a sense that things are actually happening, as the major characters are all pointed towards the remnants of the Askani Clan in Ebonshire. The individual scenes of Umbridge, Cable, and Stryfe learning of Ebonshire are all fine, and Ha is given the opportunity to draw strange landscapes, weird technology, and a (disgusting) failed attempt at human cloning along the way. We also learn that Blaquesmith is still alive, which I would’ve expected to be a final issue reveal.

An Ember Glows

Credits: Scott Lobdell (plot), Jeph Loeb (script), Gene Ha (penciler), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Kevin Somers & Malibu (colors)

The issue opens with Teen Cable coming across the wreckage of a ship, which has been destroyed by some kind of monster called a Daegon. Cable wants to rescue the sole survivor of the crash, which as fate would have it, is Umbridge, the Canaanite agent sent to kill him. After defeating the monster, he meets his future wife, Aliya, who mistakes him for a pirate. Both Cable and Umbridge are injured, so Aliya takes them away to safety. This is a solid action opening, bringing together some of the plotlines and creating a nice dynamic between Cable and Aliya. It also gives Gene Ha some crazy monsters to draw, which is fun. On the way to Aliya’s home, we see a Psimitar lance for the first time, which surprised me. I always thought it was something pulled out of the air during Joe Casey’s run on Cable. The story ends with Aliya taking Cable and Umbridge home, where she’s been training under Sanctity, the last of the Askani. Sanctity immediately recognizes Cable as the fabled “Askani’son,” which is where this mystical savior nonsense begins. Meanwhile, Ch’vayre attempts to assassinate Stryfe, but he’s powerful enough to sense the attack before it happens. I like bratty teenage Stryfe, even though he hasn’t topped the ridiculous rants on the back of those “X-Cutioner’s Song” trading cards yet.

A Bright and Shining Light

Credits: Scott Lobdell (plot), Jeph Loeb (script), Gene Ha (penciler), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Kevin Somers & Malibu (colors)

In the final chapter, Sanctity presents the Askani’son to her followers, who seem to have blossomed in-between issues. The New Canaanites attack, as Umbridge reveals her true loyalties. Teen Cable and Aliya are saved by Tetherblood, while Stryfe abducts Sanctity. He offers her a partnership, and because she’s usually portrayed as insane, she agrees. I’m a little disappointed that Stryfe’s story arc just seems like a setup for a future miniseries, and I’m not sure if anyone did anything with the Stryfe/Sanctity partnership anyway. Cable, Aliya, and Tetherblood form the Clan Chosen, establishing the group we saw Cable fight with in the early issues of his regular series. I’m stunned this mini didn’t establish Apocalypse’s return, since Cable allegedly spent his life fighting him, but I’m also glad the series didn’t go in a too obvious direction. I am surprised at how much I enjoyed this. Gene Ha was given more interesting things to draw this time, and I think Lobdell and Loeb were able to make the main characters engaging enough to follow throughout the four issues. Usually, stories about Cable’s future involve characters with dumb names wearing dumber outfits shooting Liefeld-guns at each other on barren battlefields. This is definitely an improvement.

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