Monday, August 10, 2015

THE PHOENIX RESURRECTION: AFTERMATH #1 – January 1996


Credits:  Ian Edginton & Dan Abnett (writers), Pino Rinaldi, Jeff Lafferty, John Cleary, & John Royle (pencilers), Phillip Moy, Jeff Whiting, Dennis Jensen, Leonard Kirk, Steve Moncuse, Bob Almond, & Tom Wegrzyn (inkers), Vickie Williams (letters), Mike Tuccinard & Malibu (colors)

Summary:  Rose awakes inside a hospital and soon realizes she’s traveled decades into the future.  Her room is attacked by a Progeny alien.  Rose stops the assault and is reunited with her father, who she learns is a robot “dragoon” created by Hawke, a leader in the Progeny resistance.  Hawke explains that she was created with spliced DNA from “Ultra genetic material” and “the morphogenic DNA of captured Progeny warriors.”  She was sent as an infant to the twentieth century, with robots as her guardians.  On the fated day the Phoenix appeared, Hawke knew her powers would be triggered.  Upset with this revelation, she leaves the hospital and wanders through the streets.  She meets a community of survivors and is greeted by their leader, Mother Courage.  Courage gives Rose an emblem to remember her by, shortly before the Progeny attack again.  She mimics the Progeny’s powers and defends the camp.  Rose returns to her father and apologizes, then offers to join the rebellion.  She joins a group of Ultras in attacking the Progeny’s orbital armada, but soon discovers that the Progeny are only following their instinct to survive.  Reluctantly, she follows Hawke’s plan and decimates the space station.  Later, she questions if she can find a home in the future.

Continuity Notes:  
  • The Progeny, according to a footnote, first appeared in Malibu’s Exiles #4, collecting flora and fauna and studying Ultra DNA.
  • Rose’s powers enable her to automatically speak alien languages.
  • Using information she’s gleaned, Rose reveals that a member of the resistance, Amber Hunt, is a traitor.  Amber Hunt is an Exiles member who has been possessed by a seemingly cosmic entity called, well, The Entity over the course of the previous decades.  The Entity is responsible for her changing sides.
  • The Progeny are killed in the end with a synthesized form of the theta virus, the virus that created the Ultras.  Their  living mothership seems to have a connection to the one seen in the previous issues of Phoenix Resurrection.

I Love the ‘90s:  Rose was sent as infant to the late 1970s so that she would come into contact with the Phoenix as a seventeen-year-old in 1996.

“Huh?” Moments:  The script refers to the Progeny’s death ray as red, but it’s colored neon green throughout the issue.  Also, the claim that this story is only set fifty years in the future is absurd, given that the planet is unrecognizable and English has mutated into a new form.

Review:  This is the starring debut of Rose Autumn, soon to be known as Foxfire.  The early marketing for this series heavily implied that Rose was the newest Phoenix avatar, linking Malibu’s Ultraverse even closer to the Marvel Universe.  I’ve discovered now that this was…less than honest.  I always thought it odd that Marvel practically ignored any of these attempts to integrate Marvel and Malibu, with the only mention of Firefox coming in the two-page Malibu hype pieces that briefly ran in Marvel’s books.  The Bullpen Bulletins didn’t care.  The actual X-books never mentioned this character.  Yet, it certainly looked as if Foxfire was the brand-new Phoenix!  That had to be a big deal!  

Rose’s origin is revealed this issue, and we discover that Rose merely has the ability to mimic the powers of those close to her.  She can easily take the form of the cyber-roach aliens seen this issue, just as she transformed into a very Phoenix-y avatar of light in her previous appearance.  That doesn’t mean she is the Phoenix, though.  Phoenix had a role in her origin, but the series itself has no ties to X-continuity.  Rose’s first solo story does incorporate ideas similar to the ones seen in ‘90s X-titles, however.  The anti-Progeny rebels are almost identical to the forgettable grunts Cable assembled in the future as the Clan Chosen, and the mysterious Mother Courage bears a striking similarity to Mother Askani of the Askani Clan.  What’s next?  The Burglars Guild and Murderers Guild, hiding out in the remains of future New Orleans?

The story itself is fairly standard dystopian, post-alien invasion sci-fi.  Rose comes across as a decent protagonist, when compared to the usual portrayal of teenage girls in superhero comics, and after the first couple of pages the cheesecake is mercifully toned down.  (Rose fights her opening fight scene in a hospital gown, so you can imagine how that goes.)  Everything that surrounds Rose, however, is either predictably cliché or just too dumb to be taken seriously.  All of the robot dad stuff is laughable, and there’s really nothing here to set this dystopian future apart from any of the million others.  There are also far too many characters and plot elements that add up to nothing, such as the introduction of “Earth Forces President” Glorianna Mundi, and all of the Amber Hunt/Entity material.  If you’re invested in existing Malibu continuity, maybe there’s something there, but I don’t think it stands up on its own.  The ending is surprisingly dark, with Rose making a connection with the aliens just as she’s given the order to exterminate them.  She questions how she can now live with “the blood of millions on my hands,” which is an unexpectedly deep hook for a ‘90s book starring a teen girl hero.  (The idea of a heroine living with an alien genocide on her conscious is another link to the Phoenix, of course.)

Like the previous Phoenix books, this is a jam issue, and it’s the worst one yet.  The art ranges from a passable Tom Grummett impression to a bad McFarlane impression to a sad Liefeld impression, and then the faux-graffiti art kicks in.  Do you remember books like Creed, which tried to incorporate then-trendy graffiti styles into comics?  This issue abruptly turns into one of them, with Rose morphing into a misshapen freak with gigantic forehead, sloping brow, and disturbingly wide eyes.  The actual texture of the inks is kind of nice, almost evoking Richard Corben’s work, but the abrupt change in character models is ridiculous.  I have no idea what anyone was thinking, releasing three biweekly, double-sized jam comics in a row, but the results are predictably chaotic.

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