Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Credits:  Ian Edginton & Dan Abnett (writers), Darick Robertson, Mark Pacella, Greg Luzniak, & Rob Haynes (pencilers), Tom Wegrzyn, Art Thibert, Larry Stucker, Bob Wiacek, Phillip Moy, & Bob Almond (inkers), Vickie Williams (letterer), Rob Alvord & Malibu (colors)

Summary:  An alien mothership marooned on Earth sends a probe into space, looking for a power source.  The weakened barrier between universes allows the probe to make contact with the Phoenix Force.  Inside the Marvel Universe, the X-Men meet with Banshee, who’s concerned about Gateway’s recent behavior.  He shows the team a painting made by Gateway, depicting the X-Men and Ultras surrounding the Phoenix.  While the team studies the painting, Gateway abruptly teleports them to the Ultraverse.  The X-Men witness the mothership shoot energy out into the cosmos, which soon seizes the Phoenix.  Prime suspects the X-Men are responsible for the strange event and picks a fight with them.  A wounded Phoenix falls to Earth and selects Prime as its new host.  Ultraforce arrives to defend their teammate Prime, unaware of the danger posed by the Phoenix.  Eventually, the Phoenix leaves Prime and searches for a new host.  While watching the battle on television, teenager Rose Autumn collapses.  Later, in New York, Amber Hunt of the Exiles is selected by Phoenix as its next host.

Continuity Notes:  
  • The X-Men appearing this issue are Storm, Wolverine, Bishop, Beast, and Rogue.  Banshee and Jubilee are also teleported away by Gateway.
  • As established in previous Marvel/Malibu crossovers, Marvel heroes “operate at reduced power in this reality” for reasons that aren’t explained here.
  • The Phoenix is searching for a host in order “to survive, to mend, to heal.”  Phoenix is acting erratically due to “the great ship's stabbing probes.”
  • The alien mothership is responsible for the creation of Ultras (the term for superheroes in the Ultraverse), as revealed in the Break-Thru miniseries.
  • Rogue shouldn’t be a member of the team this point, unless the story is set before the “Age of Apocalypse.”  Given the looks of Storm, Wolverine, and Bishop (with the long hair), this story would have to take place a year before it was published.  Another continuity problem, however -- Wolverine didn’t rejoin the X-Men until right after the “Age of Apocalypse” event ended.  Wolverine and Rogue weren’t teammates simultaneously during this era until she reappeared during “Onslaught.”  By the time Rogue had rejoined, Storm, Wolverine, and Bishop all had new looks.

Production Note:  Inker Bob Almond’s name was accidentally left off the credits this issue.  He’s given credit in a later issue.

How Did This Get Published?:  That is not the Phoenix emblem on the top of the cover!

Review:  Let’s be frank…no one expects this miniseries to be any good, right?  It has everything going against it.  It’s a forced cross-continuity crossover, generated by higher-ups in order to sell hardcore Marvel fans on an unrelated superhero universe.  Someone’s decided to release the double-sized issues on a biweekly basis, ensuring that each chapter has enough pencilers and inkers to start their own softball league.  No one inside Marvel editorial seems to have the slightest interest in its events, and Marvel’s actual comics only acknowledge its existence by running ads for mail-order firms like American Comics, who are promoting variant cover exclusives.  

All that said, the first official is downright readable.  Not the highest compliment, I realize, but I have to confess that the story is not only coherent, but interesting enough to carry the reader on to the next issue.  There’s no creative experimentation with the form, which is to be expected, but it is a competently executed superhero comic that does what it set out to do -- have heroes from different universes meet and fight each other.  

I was dreading the use of the Phoenix, assuming that the creators would present a dumbed-down interpretation of the concept and just dump it into the story as a universe-melding plot device.  Edginton/Abnett actually stay pretty loyal to the original premise and develop internally logical justifications for its place in the story.  Apparently, this is a payoff to a storyline that’s been building in the Malibu books for a few months, with the barriers between universes weakening just as the Ultras learn the full origin behind their powers.  Now, the cosmic force responsible for creating the Ultras has encountered the Phoenix, driving the Phoenix to search for a new host, which naturally leads to a hero vs. hero fight scene.  That’s the most boring aspect of the issue; thankfully Edginton/Abnett keep the fight relatively short, then move on to some character interaction scenes and a moral debate over whether or not the heroes can justify killing the Phoenix’s host if it means sparing the Ultraverse.  Honestly, so far, this seems more coherent than any Phoenix story Marvel’s published in the past fifteen years or so.  The art is as inconsistent as I was expecting, but there are only a few drawings so freakishly “x-treme” that they distract from the story.  I’m skeptical if the rest of the event rises to the great heights of “readable,” but I have to admit that it’s off to a surprisingly decent start.

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